Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand
Joe Biden has denied a former Senate aide’s allegation of sexual assault, releasing a 1,000-word statement on Medium and appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday. Biden called for the release of the official complaint that his accuser, Tara Reade, has said she made with the Senate at the time. (Reade told The Associated Press on Friday that she did not directly mention sexual assault or harassment in the complaint, a copy of which has not surfaced.) Processing Biden’s first public statements on the allegation, both Democrats and Republicans battled over the weekend to control the narrative. Biden has said that a copy of Reade’s complaint could be housed only in the National Archives, which keeps records of such official documents. But Republicans are pushing for the release of Biden’s personal Senate papers, which are housed at the University of Delaware and were not intended to be opened until after Biden’s political career ended. Biden told MSNBC those files would offer unfair ammunition to Republican strategists, who could deploy them “out of context” as “fodder in a campaign.”
Some of Biden’s opponents already think they have solid ammunition in the form of his statements on behalf of Christine Blasey Ford in 2017, when she accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault before his confirmation to the Supreme Court. “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts,” Biden said at the time. But many Democrats also appear confident in their ability to respond: Pot, kettle, black. They point to more than a dozen women who have accused President Trump of sexual assault and misconduct — including E. Jean Carroll, a writer who last year accused Trump of rape. And in response to Republicans’ calls for Biden to release his personal papers, Democrats have repeated their years-old demand that Trump release his tax returns, something that he has refused to do but that was standard practice for presidential candidates before him.
Reports emerged last week that senators were planning to return to Washington without first being tested for the coronavirus. That prompted the Department of Health and Human Services to devise an emergency plan to send 1,000 tests to Congress. But over the weekend, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi issued a rare joint statement turning down that offer. “Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly,” they wrote. But even as McConnell announced plans to bring the Senate back into session, the House’s Democratic leaders have decided against reconvening their chamber. “The House physician’s view was the risk to members was not one he would recommend taking,” Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, told reporters in a conference call last week.
George W. Bush released a nearly three-minute video on Saturday paying tribute to the medical workers who have led the response to the pandemic, and pointedly challenging Americans of all political persuasions to ditch partisan sniping in favor of solidarity. “In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants; we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God,” he said. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.” That seemingly tender message apparently rubbed Trump the wrong way: He complained on Twitter that Bush had been “nowhere to be found” during the president’s recent impeachment trial.
As Pelosi pushes for a $1 trillion infusion of funding for state and local governments, the administration is considering including a stipulation that would prevent so-called sanctuary cities and states from receiving funds. (Those are jurisdictions whose governments decline to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.) “Regarding the states, as you know, the president has from time to time spoken about linking that to sanctuary cities,” Larry Kudlow, the White House’s chief economic adviser, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “I don’t think anything’s been decided yet,” Kudlow added. Demanding that this kind of language be included could serve twin purposes for Trump: penalizing local and state officials who oppose his policies, while also elevating the issue of immigration — one of his favorite campaign topics.
Photo of the day
President Trump at the White House on Sunday after spending a few days at Camp David.
Why is the Federalist Society fighting a proposed rule on federal judges? Our colleague Rebecca Ruiz explains.
A big part of McConnell’s push to get the Senate back in session is his desire to build on a cornerstone of his legacy, confirming conservative judges to the federal bench — many of whom are now awaiting a vote.
And many of those judges have come through the ranks of the Federalist Society, a right-leaning legal group that exerts a heavy influence on conservative thought in the 21st century.
But as Rebecca R. Ruiz and Ben Protess report in a new article, the federal judiciary’s ethics advisory arm recently proposed a new rule that would limit the Federalist Society’s involvement in politics. It would prevent federal judges from belonging to the organization or to its liberal (and slightly less established) counterweight, the American Constitution Society. More than 200 judges have signed a letter opposing the proposal, including Justin Walker, a McConnell protégé who is nominated for a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Rebecca kindly agreed to answer a few questions for On Politics about how the Federalist Society has become such a force in American politics, and what implications such a rule might have for the federal judiciary.
The Federalist Society is hardly a new phenomenon in American politics. For readers who may not be familiar with it, how has the group become so influential in conservative circles?
You’re right: The organization has been around since 1982, when conservative law students created what they saw as an antidote to the mainstream legal establishment. Advocating “some of the ideas that President Reagan was bringing to Washington” and a strict interpretation of the Constitution as written, the group gradually gave similar constituencies scattered across the country strength in numbers and became a breeding ground for conservative judges. Republican presidents like George W. Bush certainly drew from the membership roster in making judicial appointments, but Trump has accorded even more influence to the organization. More than 80 percent of the judges he has named to the nation’s appeals courts have ties to the group.
An ethics panel within the federal judiciary is proposing to ban judges from belonging to the Federalist Society, as well as from the liberal American Constitution Society. Can you explain why the panel is doing this? Many judges have long had ties to both organizations, right? Why change course now?
The judicial ethics committee has justified its suggestion by pointing to public perceptions, explaining its view that “a reasonable and informed public” might view judges affiliated with either group as being advocates for conservative or liberal interests. While there has long been debate about the appropriateness of a judge’s belonging to either the Federalist Society or the younger American Constitution Society, the proposal cited “changing circumstances” and noted that the conduct committee “continues to receive inquiries regarding these organizations.” Over the past three years, as Trump has appointed judges at a record pace, the Federalist Society has regularly figured into confirmation hearings and news media reports.
Over 200 judges have signed a letter opposing the proposed ban, including 45 of Trump’s 51 confirmed appointees to the appellate bench. Why does this concern them so much? Why does it matter to the Federalist Society that sitting judges be allowed to participate as members?
The objecting judges argued that the ban would unfairly limit their right to engage with the legal community. They said the ethics panel had misunderstood the Federalist Society, which, they said, “facilitates open, informed and robust debate.” The judges asserted the ethics panel was treating the group differently and setting an impossible standard, jeopardizing judges’ affiliations with law schools or religious organizations. “If the public comes to perceive certain law schools as liberal or conservative, must judges resign their posts?” the judges wrote. “Surely judges can be members of their churches, temples and mosques; to suggest otherwise would raise serious constitutional questions.”
How does Judge Walker come into play here? Is his career a good metaphor for the broader issues being discussed?
Judge Walker has been a member of the Federalist Society since he was in law school 14 years ago, and in recent years he served on the executive board of his local chapter in Louisville, Ky. His confirmation to the appeals court — much like his confirmation to a federal trial court just last year — is strongly opposed by Democrats and strongly supported by Republicans. In the same way that the selection of judges loomed large in the 2016 election, Trump’s rightward overhaul of the judiciary is already central to his 2020 campaign. His appointment of people with bona fide conservative credentials is a big part of his pitch for re-election.
Northern Ireland after coronavirus: three scenarios for politics and peace – The Conversation UK
When it comes to disruptions from outside, the Northern Ireland conflict has a reputation for being immune to them. Winston Churchill observed this after the first world war, in one of the most quoted remarks on Irish politics:
… as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.
A century later, the “integrity of their quarrel”, for the most part, remains. That said, external developments like the US civil rights campaign, the end of the cold war and the EU have influenced events in the region.
So far, the coronavirus pandemic has interacted with Northern Ireland politics in some intriguing ways. At the beginning of the crisis in mid-March, the cross-community executive became split on whether to follow Dublin’s lead in immediately closing schools or stick with the UK’s more relaxed approach.
Yet since then, the first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, have maintained a mostly united front. This has been in contrast with the three years before January 2020, when their parties wouldn’t work together, leaving Northern Ireland without devolution. The mere sight of Northern Ireland’s provincial politicians, schooled in the tribal minutia of a nationalist conflict, battling a global natural disaster has been arresting.
North-south co-operation has also been in the spotlight. This is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement. While Belfast and Dublin agreed they would share information on the virus, deficiencies in coordination have been exposed.
Another feature of the crisis in Northern Ireland has been the outpouring of support for the NHS from across society. Remarkably, murals praising this (British) institution have appeared in both unionist and nationalist areas.
Does any of this matter? When the deluge of COVID-19 subsides, there are three possible scenarios. The first is, of course, that there won’t be any long-term consequences of the pandemic and that political life picks up mostly where it left off.
However, the pandemic could, on the other hand, worsen divisions. Stormont now has its own roadmap out of lockdown, which is different to those of both London and Dublin. This has cross-community support but there is still plenty of room for unionists and nationalists to split over virus policy.
Anger at the Conservative government’s handling of the crisis, and the prominence of the devolved administrations, could hasten the end of the UK, with all the tumult that would bring to Northern Ireland. Paramilitary murders and threats have continued during the shutdown. And the dreary steeples of Brexit have never been fully out of view.
A chance to change
But a third possibility – and narrowly, the most likely – is that the virus, overall, has a stabilising influence. It could put political identity politics into perspective.
While COVID-19 is an external shock, it has shone a light on existing social realities: inequality; challenges in education; the quality of people’s environment, lifestyle and relationships; and above all, the health service. Public interest in these issues may increase over Orange-Green politics.
As the success of the non-aligned Alliance Party and Greens in the 2019 election showed, this process was already under way. Before the crisis, the main parties knew that the current period of devolution could be the last chance they get to show the public that they can govern effectively. The socio-economic damage of the shutdown may stimulate bold, unprecedented policy solutions.
Irish republicans have argued that the pandemic, which respects no borders, proves the illogic of partition on a small island. But pandemics, we hope, will not be something Ireland or any country has to face often. And the problem of differing strategies between neighbouring countries is not unique to Ireland, but has been felt across Britain and Europe. The crisis may actually slow the momentum of the Irish unity discussion, which had been given so much oxygen by Brexit, especially given the looming financial pressures.
When the dust settles, Northern Ireland could have a stable executive focused on everyday politics in the north, pragmatically aligned with Dublin or London or Brussels on particular issues. In other words, the region could find itself closer to the vision of the Good Friday Agreement than it has been for some years.
What is beyond doubt is that sectarianism, Northern Ireland’s local brand of social distancing, offers no protection from an infectious disease. Whatever its legacy, COVID-19’s indiscrimination proves that the physical space is in fact a shared one. Those who live in that space share the same fate, no matter the imagined national communities to which they purport to belong.
Politics – Moe must continue to remember his roots – Yorkton This Week
More so than just about any business you can think of, politics is all about knowing whom you are and where you have come from.
The problem, however, is that it’s quite easy to forget all that, even under normal circumstances.
And with the stakes so high in this COVID-19 crisis, it’s likely even harder for our leadership to remember the fundamentals of this province.
As such, Premier Scott Moe had some mixed results in being able to do so.
There is one area in which Moe has been rather successful in remembering where he has come from and reminding all of us in Saskatchewan of exactly who we are.
The Premier recently wrote: “Hats off to our farmer for perseverance and hard work this season” to congratulate that seeding was at the five-year for this date.
In a world where nothing seems normal – Saskatchewan lost a staggering 53,000 jobs in April – agriculture saw a 1.4-per-cent increase in employment in April as seeding got into full swing.
It’s done so without receiving anything resembling the federal subsidies other business are getting. So far, only $252 million has been made available to farmers across the country to deal with effect of COVID-19 – very little of which has made its way to western farmers and ranchers. Moreover, it’s only one-tenth of what the Canadian Federation of Agriculture requested.
Yet farmers are demonstrating what Moe aptly described as “perseverance” in carrying on with seeding that will be an estimated 37 million acres this year. Some of them have had to leave last year’s crop in the field because of horrific harvest conditions last fall.
Agriculture is simply soldiering on, pumping millions into the local economy as farmers buy seed, fertilizers, chemicals and fuel.
The net result is that Saskatchewan has seen an increase in exports in the first quarter of 2020, largely due to canola, pulse, agricultural machinery, oats and soya beans sales.
It is important for Moe and others to acknowledge what we are – especially, in these tough times when the impact of the pandemic is taking its toll on all of us.
However, Moe and his government hasn’t always been quite so successful at remembering its roots, as was demonstrated by the recent Saskatchewan Health Authority driven decision to temporary close to 12 rural hospital emergency rooms as part of the SHA’s pandemic readiness plan.
One gets the need to prepare health staff everywhere in the province for the potential impact of a COVID-19 outbreak.
But the simply fact of the matter is there has been no more than one active COVID-19 case in all of central and southern rural Saskatchewan for a month. To even “temporarily” completely close rural ERs during seeding poses a very real problem.
That it comes from a government that represents all 29 rural seats is even more bizarre.
It took a letter from 21-year Arm River-Watrous MLA Greg Brkich to the SHA and to his own cabinet before the Sask. Party administration seemed to realize this.
In his letter, Brkich expressed frustration over the temporary closure of the Davidson Hospital ER – the only hospital between Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Outlook.
“Local folks are being short changed again in rural Saskatchewan” by being left without quality emergency care, Brkich wrote.
Given the history of the closure of 52 rural hospitals by the former NDP government 27 years ago, it’s especially strange that the Sask. Party government would have missed the significance of what it was doing.
To his credit, Moe took responsibility for the “communication” problem and offered assurances the closed ERs would be re-opened in mid-June.
But it does seem to demonstrate how important it is for politicians to remember where they come from.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics since 1983.
Politics This Morning: Parliamentary group calls for creation of special Hong Kong envoy – The Hill Times
Good Thursday morning,
A handful of Parliamentarians from Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. have banded together to call on their governments to establish a special envoy for Hong Kong to address the situation in Hong Kong, where a new national security law from China that bypasses the city’s legislature is expected to come into effect this fall. Liberal MP Michael Levitt, the Canadian representative of the group, issued a press release saying “we must move rapidly to ensure there is a system in place for the observation and transparent reporting of the true impact this new law will have on currently legal freedoms in Hong Kong.” The group sent letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and UN Secretary General António Guterres, appealing to them for their support in providing a mandate for an envoy to be deployed when the special session convenes later this month.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that foreign detractors who are raising alarm over the new law are applying “blatant double standards.” She argued that China within its rights to introduce the law because of the local resistance.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, in a press briefing, said the some 300,000 Canadians living abroad in Hong Kong are “very, very welcome to come home anytime.” She was asked whether the government is considering following the U.K.’s lead in pledging to admit three million people from Hong, making what he called would be one of the “biggest changes” to the country’s visa system. Ms. Freeland declined to say whether it’s being considered, only noting that “Canada continues to be a country that welcomes immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world.”
A joint Canada-U.S. study found that hydroxychloroquine—the drug frequently touted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a preventative medication for COVID-19—is ineffective at inoculating one’s self from contracting the virus. Mr. Trump had made the claims about its effectiveness without scientific basis, saying that he was taking the drug himself.
Canada’s Supreme Court is ready to make the switch to virtual hearings amid the pandemic. Starting next week, the top court will be conducting hearings over Zoom.
All four police officers at the scene where George Floyd died now face charges for their alleged role in his death. The lesser charges include aiding and abetting, while Derek Chauvin, the white officer who was first charged, is now facing second-degree murder, which was upgraded from third-degree murder.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day stepped down from his post as a board member of Telus amid outcry over his comments equating racism with getting teased for wearing glasses during an interview with CBC. The telecom giant issued a statement distancing itself from Mr. Day, saying his views “are not reflective of the values and beliefs of our organization.” In a tweet, retreating from his remarks the previous day, Mr. Day said, “by feedback from many in the Black and other communities I realize my comments in debate on Power and Politics were insensitive and hurtful.I ask forgiveness for wrongly equating my experience to theirs.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to deliver remarks during the virtual Global Vaccine Summit, which the U.K. is hosting. The summit kicks off at 8 a.m.
In other scheduled events, the House Affairs and Procedure Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. to hear from former Speaker Bill Blaikie and former acting clerk Marc Bosc, among others. The House Finance Committee, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. to hear from a range of witnesses, including Genome Canada and the Colleges and Institutes Canada.
The Human Resources Committee, meanwhile, will meet at 4 p.m. to hear from groups such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.
The Hill Times
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