#044 | Unpacking Trump's Latest Ballot Battle and The Recently Unsealed Epstein Documents
All of the top stories 📰 of the week to keep you in the know
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Trump's Ballot Battle: A Fight for Fairness in the 2024 Election
If you can't beat them, kick them off the ballot. The Democrats are doing everything possible to keep their aging puppet in office and defend "democracy" from former President Donald Trump by excluding him from the 2024 election ballots in Colorado, Maine, and several other states. Ironically, these alleged attempts to "protect our democracy" are seen by many as a direct assault on the democratic process and a violation of due process.
Maine's Maneuver: A Question of Eligibility
Maine's Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, appointed by the Democrat majority state legislature, declared Trump ineligible for the state's primary election ballot.
Bellows declared former President Donald Trump ineligible after Maine voters filed three challenges against Trump's nomination petition. In Maine, a challenge of a ballot of eligibility is brought before the Secretary of State and is not the state court. These challenges were based on various grounds, including allegations of Trump's involvement in the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, and claims about the 2020 election results.
Secretary Bellows concluded that Trump's primary petition was invalid because he was not qualified to hold the office of the President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. This section addresses those who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States.
The eight-hour hearing on December 15 was held at the State House and presided over by Bellows. The Secretary stated, "the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power"
Former assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig said to CNN's John Berman that the evidence would never be admissible in a regular court.
Honing said that Bellows "based her ruling on a lot of documents, but also YouTube clips, news reports, things that would never pass the bar in normal court. She's not a lawyer, by the way. It's a smartly written decision, clearly consulted with lawyers, but this is an unelected—she's chosen by the state legislature. Chosen, elected by the legislature, but not democratically elected."
Later in the segment, Honig said, "I do think the Supreme Court is going to take this case. I think tonight's ruling makes it even more likely."
Her decision has faced fierce opposition and is currently under appeal in state court.
Colorado's Court Conundrum
The Colorado Republican Party is appealing to the Supreme Court after the Colorado Supreme Court barred former President Trump from the state's primary ballot. The state court's decision, based on Trump's involvement in the January 6 Capitol riots, cites the 14th Amendment's "insurrection clause." This clause, which the Supreme Court has never interpreted since its ratification in 1868, is now at the center of this unprecedented case.
The Colorado GOP argues that the state court's decision is incorrect, claiming the 14th Amendment doesn't apply to presidential candidates. They also believe removing a major candidate like Trump from the ballot could harm American democracy. The party's attorneys warn that this could lead to lawsuits disqualifying political candidates based on insurrection claims, potentially distorting future elections.
Trump also plans to appeal, with both he and the state party named as defendants. If the Supreme Court upholds the Colorado ruling, it might encourage similar challenges nationwide.
The lawsuit that led to Trump's removal from the Colorado ballot was initiated by The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a group widely seen as a Democratic activist organization. They have a history of initiating legal actions that align with their Democratic-leaning agenda, and their involvement in this suit is unsurprising. Their actions raise concerns about the ethical implications of partisan organizations trying to manipulate elections. The attempt to disqualify Trump using the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause clearly shows how CREW utilizes legal avenues to advance its political objectives.
Trump has criticized these 14th Amendment challenges as "election interference," suggesting they're driven by Democrats' fear of his lead in polls and their dissatisfaction with President Biden. His campaign spokesman echoed this sentiment, accusing Democrats of trying to prevent voters from ousting them in the next election.
The case has divided constitutional scholars, and there's uncertainty about how the Supreme Court will rule.
Implications and Expectations
The efforts to exclude Trump from the ballots in Colorado and Maine are not just legal battles. They signify a more significant struggle for fairness and commitment to democratic principles in American politics. While opponents see these endeavors as blatant interference with the 2024 election and undermining due process, supporters argue they are necessary steps to uphold constitutional values. The irony is that they are violating constitutional values in order to protect said values.
As the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) gets ready to rule on these critical matters, the entire nation eagerly awaits the outcome. This decision will not only determine Trump's political future but also shape the course of electoral integrity in the country and likely have a long-reaching effect on future elections.
As we head toward the 2024 election season, it's interesting to note how Trump's legal challenges and continued popularity in the polls present a complex picture of the current American political landscape.
In summary, what is happening in Maine and Colorado is more than mere legal disputes; they are evidence of American politics's turbulent and unpredictable nature. As the situation continues to develop, it becomes increasingly evident that the path to the 2024 election will be far from uneventful.
Other attempts to remove Trump from the Ballot
Minnesota: The state Supreme Court ruled that presidential eligibility cannot be applied by their state courts to primary elections but did not rule on the issues for a general election.
Michigan: The Court of Appeals ruled that election officials cannot prevent the Republican Party from including Trump on their primary ballots. The decision left open the possibility of new challenges to bar him from the general election ballot.
Rhode Island: An attempt to remove Trump from the Republican primary ballot failed.
California: The Secretary of State announced that Trump would remain on the ballot, where election officials have limited power to remove candidates.
Oregon: A decision is expected soon, with the state Supreme Court considering a case to remove Trump from the primary ballot.
Lawsuits seeking to remove Trump from the ballot are also pending in several other states, including Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
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News of the Week
Jeffrey Epstein's Unsealed Documents
This week, hundreds of pages of court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein, the infamous financier and registered sex offender, were unsealed. Although the documents thus far reveal the names of largely already-known affiliations, they also provide a clearer picture of Epstein’s behavior.
A Glimpse into Epstein's High-Profile Connections
The Federal District Court in Manhattan released these documents, which offer more context to Epstein's relationships with influential figures like former presidents Bill Clinton, Donald J. Trump, and British royalty Prince Andrew. However, they provide limited new information for those who have been closely following Epstein's story since he died in 2019.
The Background of the Unsealing
The unsealed names mainly stem from a 2015 defamation suit by Virginia Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's associate, who was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. The documents were previously sealed or redacted to protect the identities of around 187 victims, associates, or friends. They've now been partially revealed. Judge Loretta A. Preska, overseeing the case, noted that many of these names had already surfaced in other lawsuits or news reports.
The Names Unveiled
Among the prominent names are Bill Clinton, Prine Andrew, and Leslie Wexner, none charged with crimes related to Epstein. The documents include passing references to these figures, like Wexner's financial dealings with him.
Donald Trump was briefly mentioned in relation to an unplanned visit to Atlantic City. It is worth noting that Trump had banned Epstein from Mar-A-Lago in 2007 and reportedly aided attorney Bradley Edwards in the case against Epstein.
Key Highlights from the Unsealed Documents
Bill Clinton: A 2016 deposition by Epstein victim Johanna Sjoberg said, “He said one time that Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.”
Prince Andrew: Sjoberg's testimony also brought Britain's Prince Andrew into the spotlight, alleging inappropriate conduct. This echoes previous accusations by Giuffre, who claimed she was trafficked to have sex with the prince.
Johanna Sjoberg, another Epstein victim, shared that he and Maxwell made a Prince Andrew puppet specifically for Prince Andrew. They showed it to him and manipulated him into taking explicit photographs with Sjoberg and Giuffre. “They put the puppet on Virginia’s lap,” Sjoberg testified, “and I sat on Andrew’s lap, and they put the puppet’s hand on Virginia’s breast, and Andrew put his hand on my breast, and they took a photo.”
Also, filings allege that Jane Doe #3 was “forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor in three separate geographical locations” and that Epstein told her to “give the prince whatever he demanded and required Jane Doe #3 to report back to him on the details of the sexual abuse.”
Thomas Pritzker: Billionaire and Executive Chairman of Hyatt Hotels, Pritzker was named by Giuffre as someone she had slept with once, adding to the list of high-profile individuals mentioned in the documents.
David Copperfield: A witness recalled meeting the magician at Epstein's house, where he performed magic tricks and inquired about girls being paid to recruit others.
Other notable mentions: The documents also referenced other celebrities, including the late Michael Jackson, with one witness recounting a meeting at Epstein's Palm Beach home. However, the extent of Jackson's involvement remains unclear.
Addressing Past Allegations
The documents also revisit allegations against Glenn Dubin, George Mitchell, Bill Richardson, Marvin Minsky, Jean-Luc Brunel, and Alan Dershowitz, all of whom have denied wrongdoing. Dershowitz, in particular, has been vocal about his innocence and urged the complete release of documents.
The unsealed documents thus far have provided some intriguing insights into Jeffrey Epstein's connections with various prominent figures and provide a more comprehensive picture of Epstein's sex trafficking practices and what many believe to have facilitated a blackmail scheme.
The documents have added questions, and future revelations could help compose a more comprehensive picture of Epstein and Maxwell's heinous activities and their associations with influential individuals.
Record-Breaking Surge at U.S. Southern Border: A Critical Examination of the Biden Administration's Immigration Policy
December 2023 saw an unprecedented surge in illegal border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, with over 302,000 migrant encounters reported. This staggering figure sets a monthly record and serves as a stark indicator of the escalating crisis at the southern border.
Illegal migrant encounters in December shattered previous records, reaching levels previously thought unimaginable. The current figures are ten times greater than those during the Obama and Trump administrations, where monthly encounters hovered around 30,000.
Since the fiscal year began on October 1, over 785,000 migrant encounters have been reported, marking the highest first-quarter total ever recorded.
Critics, especially Republicans, attribute this surge to the Biden administration's immigration policies, including the reversal of Trump-era measures. They argue that these policies have weakened border security and incentivized illegal crossings.
The crisis isn't limited to border states alone. Officials in Texas have been moving migrants to different parts of the country. There are reports of migrants being flown into Illinois and busloads of them stopping in towns in New Jersey, putting strains on predominantly Democrat communities and resulting in greater dissatisfaction with Biden's administration's handling of the situation from those within its own party.
Controversy Over Border Security Measures
Amidst a significant increase in illegal border crossings, the Biden administration has taken a controversial action by requesting the Supreme Court's permission for Border Patrol agents to remove razor wire along a 29-mile portion of the Rio Grande River, a security measure implemented by Texas. This request comes after a federal appeals court order prohibited agents from cutting the wire. Critics perceive this move as contradictory, given that the administration has yet to present specific solutions for effectively securing the border in the face of historically high levels of illegal crossings.
International Diplomacy Efforts
U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to tackle the crisis. The main discussion topics were finding solutions to the underlying reasons behind migration, stopping human smugglers, and supporting development in the region. However, some critics believe these efforts fail to address the urgent issues posed by the unprecedented increase in migrants.
The record-breaking number of migrant encounters at the U.S. southern border in December 2023 is a clear indication of an ongoing crisis. The Biden administration's immigration policies are under intense scrutiny, with critics labeling them as a national security threat. The recent request to remove security measures like razor wire while not providing alternative solutions for border security further exposes the administration's skewed priorities.
Harvard's DEI Experiment Fails: Claudine Gay's Resignation and the Decline of Academic Excellence
Claudine Gay, Harvard University President, was not only the first black individual to serve as Harvard University President but also now holds the record for the shortest tenure as Harvard President following her recent resignation amid a flurry of plagiarism allegations and controversy over her congressional testimony.
Gay's resignation followed heightened pressure after her appearance at a congressional hearing on December 4, where she faced scrutiny from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik over anti-Semitism on university campuses. Stefanik accused Gay of not effectively enforcing student code-of-conduct measures to stop anti-Semitic speech at Harvard. Particularly contentious was Gay's response to Stefanik's queries about phrases like "Intifada" and "from the river to the sea" chanted at pro-Palestine marches on campus. Gay did not provide clear answers about whether calls for "the genocide of Jews" would violate Harvard's conduct policy, stating that it would depend on the context.
Following her testimony, Gay faced multiple allegations of plagiarism in her academic work. Reports from the Washington Free Beacon and a Substack post by Christopher F Rufo highlighted alleged plagiarism in research papers dating back to 1993 and 2017, as well as in her 1997 Harvard dissertation. These allegations prompted an investigation by Harvard's board, which concluded that some articles by Gay required additional citations but did not violate their standards for research. Harvard Corporation stated that Gay requested four corrections in two articles to address omitted citations and quotation marks.
Later, six more plagiarism allegations were brought against Gay, including instances from a 2001 article where she reportedly lifted material verbatim from another scholar, David Canon, and did not properly attribute it. These new charges brought the total number of allegations close to 50, with half of her published works being implicated.
Claudine Gay's academic record, especially her published works, has been scrutinized due to its lack of quantity. Throughout her career, she has only published 11 peer-reviewed journal papers, which is significantly lower than what is expected of university presidents. To put this in perspective, this number would barely meet the requirement for a first-year tenure-track assistant professor at a state university. Many of her colleagues surpass this annual publication output throughout their careers. In comparison, top researchers in different fields have a publication record that far surpasses this, with some having over 1,500 journal papers.
The problems of plagiarism and the university president's apparent lack of academic achievements have raised doubts about her qualifications, leading many to believe that Gay was a DEI hire. Besides her unimpressive academic record, it is worth noting that the hiring decision for Claudine Gay took around five to six months from the start of the formal search process in July to the announcement in mid-December. Significantly shorter than the usual timeframe of one to one and a half years.
Harvard's governing board had previously acknowledged "inadequate citation" cases in her work but did not identify any new examples in the latest complaint.
Despite some scholars, like Canon, dismissing the seriousness of these allegations, the situation has raised questions about the thoroughness of Harvard Corporation's investigation into Gay's work. Some of Gay's faculty colleagues defended her, attributing the charges to political motivations and attacks on elite institutions. However, as more allegations surfaced, even some professors began to question the situation, pointing out the potential hypocrisy and double standards in Gay's treatment compared to undergraduate students at Harvard.
The situation has garnered widespread attention, with increasing numbers of Harvard students and faculty members speaking out.
Following her resignation, Gay released a statement that failed to acknowledge the plagiarism allegations and instead insinuated that she is a victim of "personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus."
DOJ Decision Not to Pursue Additional Charges Against Bankman-Free Raises Questions
Despite his earlier conviction for serious fraud, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has chosen not to press further charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of cryptocurrency FTX. This decision, which also encompasses not pursuing charges concerning illegal campaign contributions and bribery of foreign officials, has sparked intense debate and speculation regarding potential political motivations surrounding the actions of the DOJ.
The Background of the Case
Bankman-Fried, a prominent figure in the cryptocurrency world and a major Democratic donor, was found guilty on all seven counts in his first trial. These charges included wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy, painting a picture of significant financial misconduct. However, the DOJ's recent decision not to press further charges has caught the public's attention, stirring debates about the integrity and impartiality of the justice system.
The Allegations and Accusations
Critics swiftly highlighted the political implications of the DOJ's decision. It has been pointed out that Bankman-Fried was a Democrat megadonor, giving nearly $39 million to Democrat-aligned causes during the 2022 election cycle, including a substantial contribution to Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign. This has prompted accusations that the DOJ might be attempting to shield political figures who could be involved in bribery schemes. This perception is strengthened by the fact that Bankman-Fried openly brags about his political donations, highlighting his power and relationships in political circles.
The DOJ's Stance and Public Reaction
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has mentioned that there is no need to pursue additional charges because the first trial's evidence can be considered during Bankman-Fried's sentencing. However, despite this reasoning, many people still have doubts. They see the DOJ's decision as a missed chance to investigate more thoroughly and potentially reveal wider corrupt activities involving influential politicians.
Looking Ahead: The Sentencing and Its Implications
Bankman-Fried could potentially be sentenced to 115 years in prison, depending on the decision of federal judge Lewis Kaplan. His sentencing is scheduled for March 28 at 9:30 a.m. This situation raises important concerns about the fairness and objectivity of the justice system, particularly when it involves high-stakes political fundraising and influence.
The Department of Justice's choice to refrain from pursuing further charges against Bankman-Fried has sparked a complicated discussion regarding the convergence of justice, politics, and money.
The Beirut Bombing: Israel was Blaimed, but ISIS Claims Responsibility
The recent bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which resulted in the death of Saleh Arouri, a top Hamas official, sparked a whirlwind of speculation and geopolitical tensions, including accusations that Israel and the United States had used clandestine state actors to conduct the operation. However, in a surprising development, the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The official telegram account of the group released a statement referring to the attack as a dual martyrdom operation. It mentioned that two individuals caused the attack by activating explosives attached to themselves at two different spots during the ceremony held in remembrance of former Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Saleh Arouri, a key figure within Hamas, was confirmed killed in the bombing, alongside four other individuals. His death is a significant blow to the terrorist organization Hamas. Arouri's involvement in attacks against Israeli targets had made him a notable figure within the militant group.
Initially, there was speculation about Israeli involvement due to the precision of the strike, but Israeli officials have denied any responsibility. Ambassador Mark Regev, an adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, stated on MSNBC, "Israel has not claimed responsibility for this attack. However, it should be noted that whoever carried it out should understand that it was not an attack on the Lebanese state."
The revelation of ISIS's participation challenges the idea that a government entity carried out a secret operation. Both the Islamic State and the Sunni Islamic group have a long-standing history of opposing Iran.