Ruth Bader Ginsburg… If only she had supported equal rights for everyone


Ruth Bader Ginsburg… If only she had supported equal rights for everyone

Ruth Bader Ginsburg receives top Israeli award in Israel, July 4, 2018, after Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman had said “in good conscience” she could not accept it. (L-R: former Israeli Supreme Court Judges Miriam Naor & Esther Hayut; chairman of Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets; RBG; former presidents of Israeli Supreme Court Aaron Barak & Dorit Beinich.)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg commanded immense respect, adulation, and influence. She spoke out against racism and discrimination, and has been called ‘a revolutionary.’
Some have written: ‘Even to the end of her life, she remained committed to our mantra: None are free, until all are free…’ Progressive groups are sending out emails about continuing ‘her legacy’ of ‘fighting for justice…’ New York is planning to erect a statue in her honor…
Imagine the impact she could have had if she’d included Palestinians in her concerns, and spoken out against Israeli violence and apartheid, instead of remaining silent and endorsing Israel – established and maintained through ethnic cleansing

By Alison Weir

Recently, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, a major daily sometimes considered the New York Times of Israel, has published several eulogies to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg was extremely popular in Israel, and the love was returned. Former Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch writes that Ginsburg was “a true friend of Israel.”

Ginsburg’s commitment to Israel was exemplified in 2018, when she traveled to Israel for the fifth time. The purpose of her trip was to accept, in the words of Ha’aretz, an award from an organization “snubbed earlier this year by actor Natalie Portman.”

The action by Portman, an Israeli-American star, had caused major controversy in Israel. She had turned down what has sometimes been called “Israel’s Nobel Prize.”

Portman said that recent events in Israel had been “extremely distressing,” and she did “not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.” Portman said she could “not in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

Portman explained on Instagram that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s “mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities” had caused her to refuse the extremely prestigious prize – and one accompanied by two million dollars.

A follow up article in Ha’aretz about the controversy showed that on the day of Portman’s Instagram post about “today’s atrocities,” a UN envoy had blasted Israel for shooting children. Israeli forces had just shot dead four Palestinians, including a 15 year old boy, and wounded 156 others. (Over the past 20 years Israeli forces have killed over 2,000 Palestinian children, while Palestinian resistance groups have killed 134 Israeli children.)

The most recent deaths had taken place during during Gaza’s massive “Great March of Return,” an unarmed uprising in Gaza against Israel’s suffocating blockade and confiscation of Palestinian land. Thousands of Gazan men, women, and children had been protesting weekly since the end of March, and Israeli forces were shooting demonstrators every week.

Portman’s rejection of the prize, and Israel’s killing of unarmed demonstrators, didn’t stop Ginsburg from accepting the award. In fact, the outspoken Ginsburg doesn’t seem to have even commented about the Portman controversy, or Israel’s daily atrocities in Gaza.

Ginsburg’s silence is particularly noteworthy given her long history of advocacy for women, and an event that occurred the day before the awards ceremony: Thousands of Palestinian women and girls in Gaza had marched in a women’s march against Israeli oppression, while a group of Israeli women marched in Israel in solidarity with them.

According to reports, the Gaza marchers included“mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of those killed and injured during the Great March of Return protests, as well as female journalists and university students.”

Gaza women’s march, July 3, 2018. (Middle East Eye)

As usually happens in such protests, Israeli forces were immediately deployed against the nonviolent demonstrators, and soldiers used live ammunition, shooting three and injuring 130.

A Palestinian woman injured by Israeli forces while she participated in the women’s march in Gaza on July 3, 2018. ((MEE/Mohammed Asad))

The next day – the day that Ginsburg was to receive the award – Ha’aretz featured an article headlined: “Israeli Women Rally From Across the Border in Solidarity With Gaza Women’s March.” The article reported: “A group of about 50 activists gathered and marched in solidarity on Israel’s side of the Gaza border Tuesday evening during the first planned women’s march of the ongoing Gaza protests.” The article featured several photos, including one of a protestor wounded by Israeli forces:

An injured women lies on a stretcher in Eastern Gaza on July 3, 2018. (Ha’aretz)

Apparently untroubled by this violence against Palestinian women, that evening Ginsburg accepted her award in an elegant ceremony in Tel Aviv. According to AP, her acceptance speech “cited Holocaust diarist Anne Frank” and “touched on [Ginsburg’s] fight for women’s rights.” AP noted that she “often cites her Jewish heritage” as a source for her “sensitivity to the plight of oppressed minorities.”

The award honored Ginsburg “for her enormous legal contribution to advancing the protection of women’s rights, the right to equality and the rights of all human beings.” The Israeli audience gave her a “rapturous reception.”

Major celebrity, cultural icon, AIPAC

One of the recent Ha’aretz articles about Ginsburg states that she was “the first Jewish candidate to sit on the court since the resignation of Justice Abe Fortas in 1969.” (Fortas, who resigned amid accusations of corruption, had helped pave the way for dual citizenship with Israel in 1967.)*

Over the years, Ginsburg has become became a major celebrity. As Ha’aretz reports:

During her 27 years on the court, Ginsburg gained millions of fans and admirers around the world, and eventually became a cultural icon in the United States, the subject of movies, museum exhibitions, and books for adults and children alike. A 2019 film about her early professional life, “On the Basis of Sex,” was a modest box office hit, with actress Felicity Jones portraying the jurist. But it was the 2018 documentary about Ginsburg, “RBG,” that created a real artistic buzz, including an Academy Award nomination for best documentary.

At the same time, Ginsburg grew to be a major influence on the Supreme Court. Ha’aretz notes: “Ginsburg established herself as the de facto leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing. Together with justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor…”

One of the cases the court considered during this time concerned the notorious pro-Israel lobby organization AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC has long been considered the most powerful organization for a foreign country in the US.

In 1997 a federal court found that AIPAC and 27 pro-Israel political action committees were guilty of violating federal election laws. The individuals who had initiated the case were ebullient, believing that the ruling could help loosen the “stranglehold” that Israel’s lobby had on U.S. Middle East policy.

Their excitement was short lived, however. The next year the case went to the Supreme Court, which, with Ginsburg’s help, overturned the ruling, 6-3. Antonin Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion.

Separation of church and state?

The Jewish Forward reports: “Among the principles that were dear to Ginsburg’s heart as she presided in the Supreme Court for nearly three decades was a dedication to the separation of church and state.”

The article states: “The first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg dedicated herself to assuring that Christianity was not privileged by the government above other religions.”

Yet, the Israeli system is based on a close connection between religion and the state, and there is systemic discrimination against Christians, Muslims, and non-Jews in general. As a prominent Israeli author wrote, there is “no separation of synagogue and state” in Israel.

A few weeks before Ginsburg decided to accept the Genesis award, Israel blocked hundreds of Palestinian Christians from praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The month before, Christian leaders protested what they said was Israel’s flagrant attempt to “weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.” Such stories go on and on and on.

Changing ‘social norms’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with former Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, in Washington in 2017. Beinisch writes the Ginsburg was a “true friend” of both Israel and the Israeli supreme court. (Ha’aretz, Yaron Ron)

Former Israeli Supreme Court president Beinisch writes that Ginsburg has had historic influence:

“We often wonder how legal rulings can change social norms. These are long-term processes, and we do not always get to see the results. But Ginsburg was able to do so during her lifetime – to look back and to see her extensive influence…”

Beinisch notes: “I cannot think of another legal figure who had such a profound influence on and awareness of the daily lives of the society in which they lived as she did, or who was as popular as she was.”

If Ginsburg had joined the many Israelis, Jewish Americans, and others of all religions, races, and ethnicities who have begun to speak out against Israel’s long documented human rights abuses, and in affirmation of Palestinian rights, there seems little doubt that she could have had a significant impact. Yet, she remained silent.

But it’s not too late for others. When people proclaim that no one is free until everyone is free, they can truly mean everyone, including Palestinians.

Three years ago Kathryn Shihadah wrote an in-depth analysis of Ginsburg that provides much essential information:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: at 84, where does she get her PEP (Progressive Except Palestine)?

“Progressive Except Palestine” is real, and it has consequences. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not even know she has it, but she does.

by Kathryn Shihadah

The iconic and even trending  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (lovingly known to fans as Notorious RBG or Ruth Badass Ginsburg) came this close to receiving the 2018 Genesis Prize, aka the “Jewish Nobel,” awarded yearly to Jews who have attained excellence and recognition in their fields, and who inspire others in their dedication to the Jewish community, Jewish values, and the State of Israel.

The award comes with a $1 million payout, and there, as they say, was the rub.

Ha’aretz reports that the prize was taken away from Ginsburg (and given to Natalie Portman) because the committee’s legal advisor discovered a rule against awarding monetary prizes to US judges. She had already decided to donate half of her prize money to women’s groups in the US, and the other half to equivalent organizations in Israel. Apparently her office had even contacted the groups and told them they had some big bucks coming their way.

Well, the charities got stiffed, but Ginsburg got a consolation prize: a new and prestigious award was created for her – the Genesis Prize for Lifetime Achievement. She will receive the award during a ceremony next summer.

Does Ginsburg meet all of the qualifications for a Genesis award? She has indeed attained excellence and recognition; no doubt she has been an inspiration – to Jews and Gentiles alike – as she has beaten the odds and risen to the very top of her field. Is she “dedicated to Jewish community, Jewish values, and the Jewish State”?  Let’s do some sleuthing to find out.

A little background

Ginsburg was born on March 15th, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York.  She fought her way past gender discrimination (one of 9 women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School) and became only the second female and the sixth Jewish justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Religiously, Ginsburg became non-observant when, at her mother’s death, she saw up close the second-class role of women in Orthodox Judaism. She has worked tirelessly for women’s rights throughout her distinguished career.

Though she is secular, Ginsburg has always cherished her Jewish identity:

My heritage as a Jew and my occupation as a judge fit together symmetrically. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition. I take pride in and draw strength from my heritage, as signs in my chambers attest: a large silver mezuzah on my door post, [and the Hebrew words] from Deuteronomy: “Zedek, zedek, tirdof” — “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

Check the box  marked “Jewish values.”

Moving on to “Jewish community,” just look back to last September. Ms. Ginsburg surprised members of a Washington DC synagogue when she came to speak at their Rosh Hashanah service. She talked about faith, about her fellow Jewish justices over the years and the views they have shared. She reminded worshipers that “the Jewish religion is an ethical religion. That is, we are taught to do right, to love mercy, do justice.” And she remarked that their shared experience as Jews makes them compassionate: “If you are a member of a minority group, particularly a minority group that has been picked on, you have empathy for others who are similarly situated.”

Ginsburg has pursued justice wholeheartedly all her life, and has throughout her career advocated for progressive causes. In 1972, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and fought more than 300 gender discrimination cases between 1973 and 1974.

But these admirable convictions we see in Ginsburg that are common among many Americans – empathy toward the marginalized, advocacy for defenseless – suddenly evaporate in certain situations. Perhaps it’s subconscious, but there lurks another loyalty ready to override the cause of true justice and compassion. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is among the many influential members of the P.E.P. Club: Progressive Except Palestine.

For someone dedicated to liberty and justice for all, she is resoundingly silent on the issue of Palestine. Nowhere in her recently published collection of writings, My Own Words, do the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian” appear. Even “Arab” is nowhere to be found, although she discusses the Holocaust, Zionism, and Israel.

Ginsburg was poised to donate $500,000 to women’s organizations in Israel, a country which – surely she has heard – has been flagrantly violating the human rights of Palestinians for decades, denying them the most basic justice. This is a country in which many rock stars fear to book a concert, lest they be ostracized by the moral majority for pandering to an apartheid state – but Ginsburg was about to drop a cool half a mil.

“Zedek, zedek, tirdof” – “Justice, justice shall you pursue”…except Palestine?

Well, at least we can check the most important box of all: the one marked “dedication to the State of Israel.”

This leaning is no surprise, given Ginsburg’s admiration for one particular former US Supreme Court justice.

The Honorable Louis Brandeis

Louis Brandeis, associate justice on the US Supreme Court, 1916 to 1939

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a big fan of the Supreme Court’s first Jewish justice, Louis Dembitz Brandeis. Brandeis is revered today as a great judge, but at the time of his appointment – 1916 – he was recognized by some as “unscrupulous” in his methods and at times “unethical” in his behavior.

Distinguished historian Bruce Allen Murphy revealed that Brandeis was involved in some covert pursuits for many years, both before and during his time on the Supreme Court. The fact that he and his primary cohort, Felix Frankfurter, kept their work secret indicates that they knew it was – or at least looked – unethical.

Brandeis’ endeavors included (but were not limited to) advancing the Zionist agenda, both in the US and internationally. Murphy describes his work in general as “part of a vast, carefully planned and orchestrated political crusade.”

Israeli professor Dr. Sarah Schmidt described a clandestine society of which Brandeis was a part: “a secret underground guerilla force determined to influence the course of events in a quiet, anonymous way.” The most ambitious young Jewish men were recruited for the work. Their secret initiation ceremony included the charge:

You are about to take a step which will bind you to a single cause for all your life…[Y]ou will be fellow of a brotherhood whose bond you will regard as greater than any other in your life – dearer than that of family, of school, of nation. By entering this brotherhood, you become a self-dedicated soldier in the army of Zion. Your obligation to Zion becomes your paramount obligation…It is the wish of your heart and of your own free will to join our fellowship, to share its duties, its tasks, and its necessary sacrifices.

Brandeis also served as president of the Provisional Executive Committee for Zionist Affairs – essentially the leader of the world’s Zionists. He spent several months during 1914 – 1915 on a speaking tour to build a network of support for the “Jewish homeland,” underscoring the goals of self-determination and freedom.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson named Brandeis to the Supreme Court. As required, Brandeis officially resigned from his formal affiliations, including stepping down from his leadership role in Zionism. However, he zealously continued his work on a more informal basis, even from his Supreme Court chambers. Later, he would persuade the next 2 Jewish justices – Cardozo and Frankfurter – to join the ranks of the Zionist Organization of America, assuring a continued, subtle partiality toward the Jewish project.

Brandeis is tapped

In fact, Brandeis remained so deeply involved in Zionism that he was chosen by a leader of the movement for a very important job: that of, possibly, helping to turn the tide of World War I for the British.

Great Britain was in desperate need of an ally in the war, and the Zionists were in need of an ally in their quest for a homeland. Brandeis was tasked with delivering the United States as an ally to Great Britain; Great Britain would reimburse the Zionists with the Balfour Declaration.

Samuel Landman, secretary of the World Zionist Organization, claimed in a 1936 article in World Jewrythat it was “Jewish help that brought USA into the war on the side of the Allies.” The goal was not victory for the Allies, but real estate in Palestine, so Brandeis and associate Felix Frankfurter reportedly worked to ensure the war would last until Palestine was in the bag. They even reportedly sabotaged a potential opportunity to end the war in May 1917 (18 months early), which would have saved much destruction and many lives, including Brandeis’ fellow Americans.

Eventually, of course, Germany was defeated. According to historian Henry Wickham Steed, one of Germany’s top generals considered the Balfour Declaration to be “the cleverest thing done by the Allies in the way of propaganda,” and wished Germany had thought of it first.

Landman further stated that Germany was aware of the Jewish connection, and, chillingly, this “contributed in no small measure to the prominence which anti-Semitism occupie[d] in the Nazi program” only a few decades later. This horrific irony can not be overstated.

“Never again”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke of those days in 2004 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Hitler’s Europe, his Holocaust Kingdom, was not lawless. Indeed, it was a kingdom full of laws, laws deployed by highly educated people—teachers, lawyers, and judges—to facilitate oppression, slavery, and mass murder. We convene to say “Never again,” not only to Western history’s most unjust regime, but also to a world in which good men and women, abroad and even in the USA, witnessed or knew of the Holocaust Kingdom’s crimes against humanity, and let them happen…

In striving to drain dry the waters of prejudice and oppression, we must rely…upon the wisdom of our laws and the decency of our institutions, upon our reasoning minds and our feeling hearts. And as a constant spark to carry on, upon our vivid memories of the evils we wish to banish from our world.

And indeed, Ginsburg has famously spent years of her life checking America’s laws against the rubric of our Constitution to banish what evil she can from America.

But as a highly intelligent woman, in the Information Age, is it even remotely possible that she is not aware of the opinions of progressive Jewish anti-Zionist voices from the time of Brandeis, like Alfred Lilienthal and Rabbi Elmer Berger, or the historians of our time who have brought to light the folly of early Zionism, like Noam ChomskyNorman Finkelstein, and Ilan Pappé? (The Palestinian historians who first wrote about this, sadly, are less likely to have shown up on her radar.)

Can she not know about the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians in the Nakba? Or the Deir Yassin massacre? Or a hundred other stories of injustice imposed on a people because of where they lived by another people who had been mistreated because of what they believed?

Aharon Barak

To be passionate about justice and yet ignore this gross injustice requires a studied unconcern. “Progressive Except Palestine” has mentors in the highest places, and Ginsburg has a friend who may be among the best.

Meet Aharon Barak

Former Israeli supreme court president Aharon Barak, partly educated at Harvard, talks some good talk, the kind that would resonate with Americans:

Democracy has its own internal morality, based on the dignity and equality of all human beings…Most central of all human rights is the right to dignity. It is the source from which all other human rights are derived.[E]quality is a fundamental value of every democratic society…. The feeling of the lack of equality is the most difficult of feelings. It undermines the forces that unite society.

And he discusses his home country in language that sounds relatable:

The State of Israel is a State whose values are Jewish and democratic. Here we have established a State that preserves law, that achieves its national goals and the vision of generations, and that does so while recognizing and realizing human rights in general and human dignity in particular. Between these two there are harmony and accord, not conflict and estrangement.

The Israeli legal system is a young system, albeit one with deep historical roots that reflect its Jewish values. It is a legal system that guards its democratic nature despite the existential struggle it has faced since its founding.

No wonder Ginsburg and Barak are close: they share a deep reverence for democracy, and for the Jewish values they like to believe are inherent in their respective countries’ justice systems.

But Barak sees the Israeli court, and Israel itself, as an exceptional world. It is not a simple, safe democracy like America, but a “defensive democracy” that fights daily for its very survival. Barak lives under the delusion that nuclear-capable, Iron-Dome, cruise-missile, armored-personnel-carrier Israel, is under constant “existential threat” from rock-throwing, homemade-missile-launching, underfed Palestinians. Israel was created through ethnic cleansing and is maintained through illegal occupation and blockade, and when Palestinians legally exercise their right to resist, Barak sees this as “terrorism.”

Barak wrote in the Preface to his Yale Law School Faculty Scholarship Series article, “The Role of a Supreme Court in a Democracy,”

we have recognized the power of the state to protect its security and the security of its citizens on the one hand; on the other hand, we have emphasized that the rights of every individual must be preserved, including the rights of the individual suspected of being a terrorist (sic).

It sounds so ethical, but Gideon Spiro knew better and wrote eloquently about “The Barak Method”:

No doubt about it: Barak has succeeded in creating around him a “human-rights man” aura even outside Israel. This is a huge propaganda feat…considering that Barak is, to a large extent, the judicial designer, enabler and backer of the regime of human-rights abuses in the Occupied Territories. [He] legitimized almost all the injustices of the occupation. He has led Israel’s judicial system into the role of indentured servant to the security forces – the IDF, the Shin Bet (domestic secret service), the Mossad and the settlers.

Barak’s time on the bench is replete with examples of Supreme Court benevolence toward individuals suspected of being terrorists (i.e. pretty much every Palestinian who set foot in his courtroom). One such example happened in 1992.

Mass Deportation

Hamas had killed six Israeli soldiers, and in retaliation, the IDF arrested, blindfolded, and deported 415 Palestinians (believed to be Hamas members) to Lebanon.

Human rights organizations immediately petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court – Barak was on call that night – and testimony was heard. It was pointed out that the men had not been given a hearing before the deportation.

The Court ruled: Israel must grant the deportees a hearing – but it would take place a month later.

The deportees spent the month in freezing winter weather. The Red Cross asked to bring them medical aid, but Israel refused. The UN Security Council condemned the mass deportation (full text here).

On January 17, 1993, the hearing in Israel began. A few days later, the Israeli Supreme Court found – unanimously – that in one sense, the deportation orders were not valid, but in another sense, the orders were valid. (Obviously, this is a simplification; find details here and here.)

Punitive house demolition

Another area in which Aharon Barak labored to find the alleged balance between security and human rights is in the area of house demolition. His court recognized the need for proportionality, and concluded that “only when human life has been lost is it permissible to destroy the buildings where the terrorists lived.”

A relative of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who killed two Israelis last month, displays his portrait inside his family home after it was destroyed by Israel in E. Jerusalem. Nov. 19, 2014.

Back in the real world…

House demolition is a violation of international law, and in many cases is collective punishment, which according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, is a war crime. In spite of this – and in spite of the fact that it may actually incite violence instead of deterring it – the practice continues, sanctioned by Israel’s highest court. Nearly 50,000 structures have been demolished since 1967, according to ICHAD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Administrative detention

The struggle was real for Barak and the rest of the Israeli Supreme Court on the issue of administrative detention – holding people for months or years without even charging them with a crime. Once again, they had to choose between protecting fundamental human rights of the individual  or protecting “national security.”

They went with national security. And so the practice of administrative detention continues unchecked: Palestinians are arrested without charge and detained for 6 months; their case undergoes “judicial review,” in which a judge looks at their file (without representation from the detainee) and often approves another 6-month term, and another, and another. Some have been held for years. During Barak’s reign, well over a thousand Palestinians were held under administrative detention.

Since 1967, Israeli forces have arrested over 800,000 Palestinians – almost 20% of the Palestinian population. About 40% of the male Palestinians in the occupied territories have been arrested at least once.

The separation (aka apartheid) wall

It was on Aharon Barak’s watch that construction of the Wall was begun. Correction: “security fence to prevent terror.” The damage done by this “fence” – confiscating Palestinian land, cutting off children from their schools, patients from their doctors, workers from their jobs, families from each other, farmers from their land – this is what Barak termed “proportionate damage.” In 2004 and 2005 he and his Court dropped a few crumbs for the Palestinians in the form of rulings to alter the route of the wall a bit, but at no point did they address the legality of the wall itself.

The rest of the world, however, did address the issue. In 2004, the UN Security Council called on Israel to abide by international law; the General Assembly called on the International Court of Justice to rule on the wall. The ICJ complied, in 2004 finding the wall to be in violation of international law. The Israeli Supreme Court chose, as usual, to ignore near global condemnation, Barak himself claiming “factual superiority” over the ICJ.

Extrajudicial executions (aka targeted killing)

The final verdict of Aharon Barak’s career, the cherry on top of his years of whatever-that-was, looked just like the others. It was all about balance. Harm – even death – to civilians is permitted if there was no better way to manage the situation; harm must be proportionate, that is the civilian “damage” must be comparable to the military advantage achieved. In Barak’s own decisive words, “we cannot determine that a preventative strike is always legal, just as we cannot determine that it is always illegal.” So, kill if you must, and fall on the mercy of the Court (wink, wink).

Torture (aka moderate physical pressure)

Aharon Barak had a few words on the issue of torture, which Justice Ginsburg found compelling. She explained in a recent interview:

The police think that a suspect they have apprehended knows where and when a bomb is going to go off…Can the police use torture to extract that information? And in an eloquent decision by Aharon Barak, then the chief justice of Israel, the court said: ‘Torture? Never.’

Barak himself elaborated: “They act against the law, by violating and trampling it, while in its war against terrorism, a democratic state acts within the framework of the law and according to the law.”

An Israeli Peace activist demonstrate a torture techniques used by Shin Bet interrogators against Palestinian prisoners.

But once again, the actions of the State speak louder than the words of the Court.

The ruling to which Ginsburg referred left a “narrow opening for torture: a defense of “necessity,” which allows for interrogators, during “extraordinary circumstances” (for example, in a “ticking time bomb scenario,” when innocent lives, according to Israeli officials, are believed to be in the balance), to independently choose to break the no-torture law. Later, if torturers are taken to court for it, they may use the “necessity defense.”)

That “narrow opening” has proved to be wide and welcoming.

According to a 2016 Ha’aretz article, over 1,000 complaints of torture have been registered against Israel’s General Security Service, Shin Bet, since 2001. Not a single criminal investigation has ever been launched by the one investigator that the department employs.

It has been reported that 70-90% of the time, detained men, women and children are not permitted to speak to anyone – including a lawyer – until they have confessed. And once that confession has been obtained, whether it is genuine or not, there is no recanting.

Caution: PEP causes selective blindness

While Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has done great things for women and minorities, and is no doubt a woman of compassion and conscience, she shows all of the symptoms of P.E.P. Prognosis: if the anti-BDS law (Israel calls BDS an “Israel de-legitimization program”) comes before the Supreme Court, will she uphold it, limiting our free speech and support for human rights? Or if the Taylor Force Act comes up for judicial review – the law which would effectively deprive Palestinian widows of their “survivor benefits” (Israeli hasbara calls it a “terrorism incentivizing program”), would Ginsburg sympathize with women and orphans when they are Palestinian?

It is likely that she has seen reports of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the rampant and illegal settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but there is no indication that these issues have penetrated her consciousness. If they had, one expects she would be in a moral quandary –what does one do with a lifetime of unexposed bias when light finally shines on it?


Lady Justice is the traditional symbol of our judicial systems. Her attributes include a blindfold – to represent impartiality and a total absence of bias; a balance – to represent the weighing of the evidence as the only source of a decision of guilt or innocence; and a sword – to represent the authority of the court, and the swiftness of the meting out of justice.

“Progressive Except Palestine” is, sadly, a reality for too many people of all faiths and and people of no faith. The result? Where justice ought to be applied impartially, objectivity becomes impossible when Israel is part of the equation. Where guilt or innocence should be determined based on evidence, the label “terrorist” makes guilt a foregone conclusion. And where justice should be meted out swiftly, only injustice seems to move at that pace.

And when one of America’s Supreme Court justices is complicit in this, there is little hope of improvement.

* The situation has progressed substantially since Ginsburg’s 1993 appointment, when she was the only Jewish member of the Supreme Court. In recent years five of the nine Supreme Court justices have been minorities, including three Jewish justices, and If Obama’s nomination had gone through, there would have been four, while none of the Justices have been Protestant Christians, the largest religious group in the US – a situation that some felt was worthy of comment.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.

Kathryn Shihadah is a staff writer for If Americans Knew.

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If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?

Fallen voting booth with red emergency light

Illustrations by Guillem Casasús / Renderings by Borja Alegre

There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

AtlanticLIVE: The Election That Could Break America

Barton Gellman spoke with Adrienne LaFrance about what could happen if the vote is close, live on September 24.

If we are lucky, this fraught and dysfunctional election cycle will reach a conventional stopping point in time to meet crucial deadlines in December and January. The contest will be decided with sufficient authority that the losing candidate will be forced to yield. Collectively we will have made our choice—a messy one, no doubt, but clear enough to arm the president-elect with a mandate to govern.

As a nation, we have never failed to clear that bar. But in this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. Thus the blinking red lights.

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

lot of peopleincluding Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

“We are not prepared for this at all,” Julian Zelizer, a Prince­ton professor of history and public affairs, told me. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede.

Nineteen summers ago, when counterterrorism analysts warned of a coming attack by al‑Qaeda, they could only guess at a date. This year, if election analysts are right, we know when the trouble is likely to come. Call it the Interregnum: the interval from Election Day to the next president’s swearing-in. It is a temporal no-man’s-land between the presidency of Donald Trump and an uncertain successor—a second term for Trump or a first for Biden. The transfer of power we usually take for granted has several intermediate steps, and they are fragile.

The Interregnum comprises 79 days, carefully bounded by law. Among them are “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December,” this year December 14, when the electors meet in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to cast their ballots for president; “the 3d day of January,” when the newly elected Congress is seated; and “the sixth day of January,” when the House and Senate meet jointly for a formal count of the electoral vote. In most modern elections these have been pro forma milestones, irrelevant to the outcome. This year, they may not be.

“Our Constitution does not secure the peaceful transition of power, but rather presupposes it,” the legal scholar Lawrence Douglas wrote in a recent book titled simply Will He Go? The Interregnum we are about to enter will be accompanied by what Douglas, who teaches at Amherst, calls a “perfect storm” of adverse conditions. We cannot turn away from that storm. On November 3 we sail toward its center mass. If we emerge without trauma, it will not be an unbreakable ship that has saved us.

Let us nothedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.

Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.


Maybe you hesitate. Is it a fact that if Trump loses, he will reject defeat, come what may? Do we know that? Technically, you feel obliged to point out, the proposition is framed in the future conditional, and prophecy is no man’s gift, and so forth. With all due respect, that is pettifoggery. We know this man. We cannot afford to pretend.

Trump’s behavior and declared intent leave no room to suppose that he will accept the public’s verdict if the vote is going against him. He lies prodigiously—to manipulate events, to secure advantage, to dodge accountability, and to ward off injury to his pride. An election produces the perfect distillate of all those motives.

Pathology may exert the strongest influence on Trump’s choices during the Interregnum. Well-supported arguments, some of them in this magazine, have made the case that Trump fits the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy and narcissism. Either disorder, by its medical definition, would render him all but incapable of accepting defeat.

Conventional commentary has trouble facing this issue squarely. Journalists and opinion makers feel obliged to add disclaimers when asking “what if” Trump loses and refuses to concede. “The scenarios all seem far-fetched,” Politico wrote, quoting a source who compared them to science fiction. Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, writing in The Atlantic in February, could not bring herself to treat the risk as real: “That a president would defy the results of an election has long been unthinkable; it is now, if not an actual possibility, at the very least something Trump’s supporters joke about.”

But Trump’s supporters aren’t the only people who think extra­constitutional thoughts aloud. Trump has been asked directly, during both this campaign and the last, whether he will respect the election results. He left his options brazenly open. “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. Okay?” he told moderator Chris Wallace in the third presidential debate of 2016. Wallace took another crack at him in an interview for Fox News this past July. “I have to see,” Trump said. “Look, you—I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.”

How will he decide when the time comes? Trump has answered that, actually. At a rally in Delaware, Ohio, in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, he began his performance with a signal of breaking news. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today. I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election.” He paused, then made three sharp thrusts of his forefinger to punctuate the next words: “If … I … win!” Only then did he stretch his lips in a simulacrum of a smile.

The question is not strictly hypothetical. Trump’s respect for the ballot box has already been tested. In 2016, with the presidency in hand, having won the Electoral College, Trump baldly rejected the certified tallies that showed he had lost the popular vote by a margin of 2,868,692. He claimed, baselessly but not coincidentally, that at least 3 million undocumented immigrants had cast fraudulent votes for Hillary Clinton.

All of which is to say that there is no version of the Interregnum in which Trump congratulates Biden on his victory. He has told us so. “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said at the Republican National Convention on August 24. Unless he wins a bona fide victory in the Electoral College, Trump’s refusal to concede—his mere denial of defeat—will have cascading effects.

The ritual that marks an election’s end took its contemporary form in 1896. On the Thursday evening after polls closed that year, unwelcome news reached the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan. A dispatch from Senator James K. Jones, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, informed him that “sufficient was known to make my defeat certain,” Bryan recalled in a memoir.

He composed a telegram to his Republican opponent, William McKinley. “Senator Jones has just informed me that the returns indicate your election, and I hasten to extend my congratulations,” Bryan wrote. “We have submitted the issue to the American people and their will is law.”

After Bryan, concession became a civic duty, performed by telegram or telephone call and then by public speech. Al Smith brought the concession speech to radio in 1928, and it migrated to television soon afterward.

Like other rituals, concessions developed a liturgy. The defeated candidate comes out first. He thanks supporters, declares that their cause will live on, and acknowledges that the other side has prevailed. The victor begins his own remarks by honoring the surrender.

Concessions employ a form of words that linguists call performative speech. The words do not describe or announce an act; the words themselves are the act. “The concession speech, then, is not merely a report of an election result or an admission of defeat,” the political scientist Paul E. Corcoran has written. “It is a constitutive enactment of the new president’s authority.”

In actual war, not the political kind, concession is optional. The winning side may take by force what the losing side refuses to surrender. If the weaker party will not sue for peace, its ramparts may be breached, its headquarters razed, and its leaders taken captive or put to death. There are places in the world where political combat still ends that way, but not here. The loser’s concession is therefore hard to replace.

Consider the 2000 election, which may appear at first glance to demonstrate otherwise. Al Gore conceded to George W. Bush on Election Night, then withdrew his concession and fought a recount battle in Florida until the Supreme Court shut it down. It is commonly said that the Court’s 5–4 ruling decided the contest, but that’s not quite right.

The Court handed down its ruling in Bush v. Gore on December 12, six days before the Electoral College would convene and weeks before Congress would certify the results. Even with canvassing halted in Florida, Gore had the constitutional means to fight on, and some advisers urged him to do so. If he had brought the dispute to Congress, he would have held high ground as the Senate’s presiding officer.

Not until Gore addressed the nation on December 13, the day after the Court’s decision, did the contest truly end. Speaking as a man with unexpended ammunition, Gore laid down his arms. “I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College,” he said. “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

We have no precedent or procedure to end this election if Biden seems to carry the Electoral College but Trump refuses to concede. We will have to invent one.

Trump is, by some measures, a weak authoritarian. He has the mouth but not the muscle to work his will with assurance. Trump denounced Special Counsel Robert Mueller but couldn’t fire him. He accused his foes of treason but couldn’t jail them. He has bent the bureaucracy and flouted the law but not broken free altogether of their restraints.

A proper despot would not risk the inconvenience of losing an election. He would fix his victory in advance, avoiding the need to overturn an incorrect outcome. Trump cannot do that.

But he’s not powerless to skew the proceedings—first on Election Day and then during the Interregnum. He could disrupt the vote count where it’s going badly, and if that does not work, try to bypass it altogether. On Election Day, Trump and his allies can begin by suppressing the Biden vote.

There is no truth to be found in dancing around this point, either: Trump does not want Black people to vote. (He said as much in 2017—on Martin Luther King Day, no less—to a voting-­rights group co-founded by King, according to a recording leaked to Politico.) He does not want young people or poor people to vote. He believes, with reason, that he is less likely to win reelection if turnout is high at the polls. This is not a “both sides” phenomenon. In present-day politics, we have one party that consistently seeks advantage in depriving the other party’s adherents of the right to vote.

Just under a year ago, Justin Clark gave a closed-door talk in Wisconsin to a select audience of Republican lawyers. He thought he was speaking privately, but someone had brought a recording device. He had a lot to say about Election Day operations, or “EDO.”

At the time, Clark was a senior lieutenant with Trump’s re­election campaign; in July, he was promoted to deputy campaign manager. “Wisconsin’s the state that is going to tip this one way or the other … So it makes EDO really, really, really important,” he said. He put the mission bluntly: “Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes … [Democrats’] voters are all in one part of the state, so let’s start playing offense a little bit. And that’s what you’re going to see in 2020. That’s what’s going to be markedly different. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program, and we’re going to need all the help we can get.” (Clark later claimed that his remarks had been misconstrued, but his explanation made no sense in context.)

Of all the favorable signs for Trump’s Election Day operations, Clark explained, “first and foremost is the consent decree’s gone.” He was referring to a court order forbidding Republican operatives from using any of a long list of voter-purging and intimidation techniques. The expiration of that order was a “huge, huge, huge, huge deal,” Clark said.

His audience of lawyers knew what he meant. The 2020 presidential election will be the first in 40 years to take place without a federal judge requiring the Republican National Committee to seek approval in advance for any “ballot security” operations at the polls. In 2018, a federal judge allowed the consent decree to expire, ruling that the plaintiffs had no proof of recent violations by Republicans. The consent decree, by this logic, was not needed, because it worked.

The order had its origins in the New Jersey gubernatorial election of 1981. According to the district court’s opinion in Democratic National Committee v. Republican National Committee, the RNC allegedly tried to intimidate voters by hiring off-duty law-enforcement officers as members of a “National Ballot Security Task Force,” some of them armed and carrying two-way radios. According to the plaintiffs, they stopped and questioned voters in minority neighborhoods, blocked voters from entering the polls, forcibly restrained poll workers, challenged people’s eligibility to vote, warned of criminal charges for casting an illegal ballot, and generally did their best to frighten voters away from the polls. The power of these methods relied on well-founded fears among people of color about contact with police.

This year, with a judge no longer watching, the Republicans are recruiting 50,000 volunteers in 15 contested states to monitor polling places and challenge voters they deem suspicious-looking. Trump called in to Fox News on August 20 to tell Sean Hannity, “We’re going to have sheriffs and we’re going to have law enforcement and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys” to keep close watch on the polls. For the first time in decades, according to Clark, Republicans are free to combat voter fraud in “places that are run by Democrats.”Trump’s crusade against voting by mail
is the strategy of a man who expects to be outvoted and means to hobble the count.

Voter fraud is a fictitious threat to the outcome of elections, a pretext that Republicans use to thwart or discard the ballots of likely opponents. An authoritative report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank, calculated the rate of voter fraud in three elections at between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Another investigation, from Justin Levitt at Loyola Law School, turned up 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States from 2000 to 2014. Judges in voting-rights cases have made comparable findings of fact.

Nonetheless, Republicans and their allies have litigated scores of cases in the name of preventing fraud in this year’s election. State by state, they have sought—with some success—to purge voter rolls, tighten rules on provisional votes, uphold voter-­identification requirements, ban the use of ballot drop boxes, reduce eligibility to vote by mail, discard mail-in ballots with technical flaws, and outlaw the counting of ballots that are postmarked by Election Day but arrive afterward. The intent and effect is to throw away votes in large numbers.

These legal maneuvers are drawn from an old Republican playbook. What’s different during this cycle, aside from the ferocity of the efforts, is the focus on voting by mail. The president has mounted a relentless assault on postal balloting at the exact moment when the coronavirus pandemic is driving tens of millions of voters to embrace it.

This year’s presidentialelection will see voting by mail on a scale unlike any before—some states are anticipating a tenfold increase in postal balloting. A 50-state survey by The Washington Post found that 198 million eligible voters, or at least 84 percent, will have the option to vote by mail.

Trump has denounced mail-in voting often and urgently, airing fantastical nightmares. One day he tweeted, “mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud and abuse. it will also lead to the end of our great republican party. we can never let this tragedy befall our nation.” Another day he pointed to an imaginary—and easily debunked—scenario of forgery from abroad: “rigged 2020 election: millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others. it will be the scandal of our times!”

By late summer Trump was declaiming against mail-in voting an average of nearly four times a day—a pace he had reserved in the past for existential dangers such as impeachment and the Mueller investigation: “Very dangerous for our country.” “A catastrophe.” “The greatest rigged election in history.”

Summer also brought reports that the U.S. Postal Service, the government’s most popular agency, was besieged from within by Louis DeJoy, Trump’s new postmaster general and a major Republican donor. Service cuts, upper-management restructuring, and chaotic operational changes were producing long delays. At one sorting facility, the Los Angeles Times reported, “workers fell so far behind processing packages that by early August, gnats and rodents were swarming around containers of rotted fruit and meat, and baby chicks were dead inside their boxes.”

In the name of efficiency, the Postal Service began de­commissioning 10 percent of its mail-sorting machines. Then came word that the service would no longer treat ballots as first-class mail unless some states nearly tripled the postage they paid, from 20 to 55 cents an envelope. DeJoy denied any intent to slow down voting by mail, and the Postal Service withdrew the plan under fire from critics.

If there were doubts about where Trump stood on these changes, he resolved them at an August 12 news conference. Democrats were negotiating for a $25 billion increase in postal funding and an additional $3.6 billion in election assistance to states. “They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said. “It’s very simple. How are they going to do it if they don’t have the money to do it?”

What are we to make of all this?

In part, Trump’s hostility to voting by mail is a reflection of his belief that more voting is bad for him in general. Democrats, he said on Fox & Friends at the end of March, want “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Some Republicans see Trump’s vendetta as self-defeating. “It to me appears entirely irrational,” Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, told me. “The Trump campaign and RNC and by fiat their state party organizations are engaging in suppressing their own voter turnout,” including Republican seniors who have voted by mail for years.

But Trump’s crusade against voting by mail is a strategically sound expression of his plan for the Interregnum. The president is not actually trying to prevent mail-in balloting altogether, which he has no means to do. He is discrediting the practice and starving it of resources, signaling his supporters to vote in person, and preparing the ground for post–Election Night plans to contest the results. It is the strategy of a man who expects to be outvoted and means to hobble the count.

Voting by mail does not favor either party “during normal times,” according to a team of researchers at Stanford, but that phrase does a lot of work. Their findings, which were published in June, did not take into account a president whose words alone could produce a partisan skew. Trump’s systematic predictions of fraud appear to have had a powerful effect on Republican voting intentions. In Georgia, for example, a Monmouth University poll in late July found that 60 percent of Democrats but only 28 percent of Republicans were likely to vote by mail. In the battleground states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, hundreds of thousands more Democrats than Republicans have requested mail-in ballots.

Trump, in other words, has created a proxy to distinguish friend from foe. Republican lawyers around the country will find this useful when litigating the count. Playing by the numbers, they can treat ballots cast by mail as hostile, just as they do ballots cast in person by urban and college-town voters. Those are the ballots they will contest.

The battle space of the Interregnum, if trends hold true, will be shaped by a phenomenon known as the “blue shift.”

Edward Foley, an Ohio State professor of constitutional law and a specialist in election law, pioneered research on the blue shift. He found a previously un­remarked-upon pattern in the overtime count—the canvass after Election Night that tallies late-reporting precincts, un­processed absentee votes, and provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility needed to be confirmed. For most of American history, the overtime count produced no predictably partisan effect. In any given election year, some states shifted red in the canvass after Election Day and some shifted blue, but the shifts were seldom large enough to matter.

Two things began to change about 20 years ago. The overtime count got bigger, and it trended more and more blue. In an updated paper this year, Foley and his co-author, Charles Stewart III of MIT, said they could not fully explain why the shift favors Democrats. (Some factors: Urban returns take longer to count, and most provisional ballots are cast by young, low-income, or mobile voters, who lean blue.) During overtime in 2012, Barack Obama strengthened his winning margins in swing states like Florida (with a net increase of 27,281 votes), Michigan (60,695), Ohio (65,459), and Pennsylvania (26,146). Obama would have won the presidency anyway, but shifts of that magnitude could have changed the outcomes of many a closer contest. Hillary Clinton picked up tens of thousands of overtime votes in 2016, but not enough to save her.

The blue shift has yet to decide a presidential election, but it upended the Arizona Senate race in 2018. Republican Martha McSally seemed to have victory in her grasp with a lead of 15,403 votes the day after Election Day. Canvassing in the days that followed swept the Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, into the Senate with “a gigantic overtime gain of 71,303 votes,” Foley wrote.

It was Florida, however, that seized Trump’s attention that year. On Election Night, Republicans were leading in tight contests for governor and U.S. senator. As the blue shift took effect, Ron DeSantis watched his lead shrink by 18,416 votes in the governor’s race. Rick Scott’s Senate margin fell by 20,231. By early morning on November 12, six days after Election Day, Trump had seen enough. “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted, baselessly. “An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Trump was panicked enough by the blue shift in somebody else’s election to fabricate allegations of fraud. In this election, when his own name is on the ballot, the blue shift could be the largest ever observed. Mail-in votes require more time to count even in a normal year, and this year there will be tens of millions more of them than in any election before. Many states forbid the processing of early-arriving mail ballots before Election Day; some allow late-arriving ballots to be counted.“Any scenario that you come up with will not be as weird as the reality of it,” a Trump legal adviser says.

Trump’s instinct as a spectator in 2018—to stop the count—looks more like strategy this year. “There are results that come in Election Night,” a legal adviser to Trump’s national campaign, who would not agree to be quoted by name, told me. “There’s an expectation in the country that there will be winners and losers called. If the Election Night results get changed because of the ballots counted after Election Day, you have the basic ingredients for a shitstorm.”

There is no “if” about it, I said. The count is bound to change. “Yeah,” the adviser agreed, and canvassing will produce more votes for Biden than for Trump. Democrats will insist on dragging out the canvass for as long as it takes to count every vote. The resulting conflict, the adviser said, will be on their heads.

“They are asking for it,” he said. “They’re trying to maximize their electoral turnout, and they think there are no downsides to that.” He added, “There will be a count on Election Night, that count will shift over time, and the results when the final count is given will be challenged as being inaccurate, fraudulent—pick your word.”

The worst case for an orderly count is also considered by some election modelers the likeliest: that Trump will jump ahead on Election Night, based on in-person returns, but his lead will slowly give way to a Biden victory as mail-in votes are tabulated. Josh Mendelsohn, the CEO of the Democratic data-modeling firm Hawkfish, calls this scenario “the red mirage.” The turbulence of that interval, fed by street protests, social media, and Trump’s desperate struggles to lock in his lead, can only be imagined. “Any scenario that you come up with will not be as weird as the reality of it,” the Trump legal adviser said.

Election lawyers speak of a “margin of litigation” in close races. The tighter the count in early reports, and the more votes remaining to count, the greater the incentive to fight in court. If there were such a thing as an Election Administrator’s Prayer, as some of them say only half in jest, it would go, “Lord, let there be a landslide.”

Could a landslide spare us conflict in the Interregnum? In theory, yes. But the odds are not promising.

It is hard to imagine a Trump lead so immense on Election Night that it places him out of Biden’s reach. Unless the swing states manage to count most of their mail-in ballots that night, which will be all but impossible for some of them, the expectation of a blue shift will keep Biden fighting on. A really big Biden lead on Election Night, on the other hand, could leave Trump without plausible hope of catching up. If this happens, we may see it first in Florida. But this scenario is awfully optimistic for Biden, considering the GOP advantage among in-person voters, and in any case Trump will not concede defeat. This early in the Interregnum, he will have practical options to keep the contest alive.

Both parties are bracing for a torrent of emergency motions in state and federal courts. They have already been skirmishing from courthouse to courthouse all year in more than 40 states, and Election Day will begin a culminating phase of legal combat.

Mail-in ballots will have plenty of flaws for the Trump lawyers to seize upon. Voting by mail is more complicated than voting in person, and technical errors are common­place at each step. If voters supply a new address, or if they write a different version of their name (for example, by shortening Benjamin to Ben), or if their signature has changed over the years, or if they print their name on the signature line, or if they fail to seal the ballot inside an inner security envelope, their votes may not count. With in-person voting, a poll worker in the precinct can resolve small errors like these, for instance by directing a voter to the correct signature line, but people voting by mail may have no opportunity to address them.

During the primaries this spring, Republican lawyers did dry runs for the November vote at county election offices around the country. An internal memo prepared by an attorney named J. Matthew Wolfe for the Pennsylvania Republican Party in June reported on one such exercise. Wolfe, along with another Republican lawyer and a member of the Trump campaign, watched closely but did not intervene as election commissioners in Philadelphia canvassed mail-in and provisional votes. Wolfe cataloged imperfections, taking note of objections that his party could have raised.

There were missing signatures and partial signatures and signatures placed in the wrong spot. There were names on the inner security envelopes, which are supposed to be unmarked, and ballots without security envelopes at all. Some envelopes arrived “without a postmark or with an illegible postmark,” Wolfe wrote. (Watch for postmarks to become the hanging chads of 2020.) Some voters wrote their birthdate where a signature date belonged, and others put down “an impossible date, like a date after the primary election.”

Some of the commissioners’ decisions “were clear violations of the direction in and language of the election code,” Wolfe wrote. He recommended that “someone connected with the party review each application and each mail ballot envelope” in November. That is exactly the plan.

Legal teams on both sides are planning for simultaneous litigation, on the scale of Florida during the 2000 election, in multiple battleground states. “My money would be on Texas, Georgia, and Florida” to be trouble spots, Myrna Pérez, the director of voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center, told me.

There are endless happenstances in any election for lawyers to exploit. In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, not far from Wolfe’s Philadelphia experiment, the county Republican committee gathered surveillance-style photographs of purportedly suspicious goings-on at a ballot drop box during the primary. In one sequence, a county employee is described as placing “unsecured ballots” in the trunk of a car. In another, a security guard is said to be “disconnecting the generator which supplies power to the security cameras.” The photos could mean anything—­it’s impossible to tell, out of context—but they are exactly the kind of ersatz evidence that is sure to go viral in the early days of the Interregnum.

The electoral combat will not confine itself to the courtroom. Local election adjudicators can expect to be named and doxed and pilloried as agents of George Soros or antifa. Aggressive crowds of self-proclaimed ballot guardians will be spoiling to reenact the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the Bush v. Gore Florida recount, when demonstrators paid by the Bush campaign staged a violent protest that physically prevented canvassers from completing a recount in Miami-Dade County.

Things like this have already happened, albeit on a smaller scale than we can expect in November. With Trump we must also ask: What might a ruthless incumbent do that has never been tried before?

Suppose that caravans of Trump supporters, adorned in Second Amendment accessories, converge on big-city polling places on Election Day. They have come, they say, to investigate reports on social media of voter fraud. Counter­protesters arrive, fistfights break out, shots are fired, and voters flee or cannot reach the polls.

Then suppose the president declares an emergency. Federal personnel in battle dress, staged nearby in advance, move in to restore law and order and secure the balloting. Amid ongoing clashes, they stay to monitor the canvass. They close the streets that lead to the polls. They take custody of uncounted ballots in order to preserve evidence of fraud.

“The president can’t cancel the election, but what if he says, ‘We’re in an emergency, and we’re shutting down this area for a period of time because of the violence taking place’?” says Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. If you are in Trump’s camp and heedless of boundaries, he said, “what I would expect is you’re not going to do one or two of these things—you’ll do as many as you can.”

There are variations of the nightmare. The venues of intervention could be post offices. The predicate could be a putative intelligence report on forged ballots sent from China.

This is speculation, of course. But none of these scenarios is far removed from things the president has already done or threatened to do. Trump dispatched the National Guard to Washington, D.C., and sent Department of Homeland Security forces to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle during summertime protests for racial justice, on the slender pretext of protecting federal buildings. He said he might invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and “deploy the United States military” to “Democrat-run cities” in order to protect “life and property.” The federal government has little basis to intercede during elections, which are largely governed by state law and administered by about 10,500 local jurisdictions, but no one familiar with Attorney General Bill Barr’s view of presidential power should doubt that he can find authority for Trump.

With every day that passes after November 3, the president and his allies can hammer home the message that the legitimate tabulation is over and the Democrats are refusing to honor the results. Trump has been flogging this horse already for months. In July he tweeted, “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!”

Does it matter what Trump says? It is tempting to liken a vote count to the score at a sporting event. The losing coach can belly­ache all he likes, but when the umpire makes the call, the game is over. An important thing to know about the Interregnum is that there is no umpire—no singular authority who can decide the contest and lay it to rest. There is a series of lesser officiants, each confined in jurisdiction and tangled in opaque rules.

Trump’s strategy for this phase of the Interregnum will be a play for time as much as a concerted attempt to squelch the count and disqualify Biden votes. The courts may eventually weigh in. But by then, the forum of decision may already have moved elsewhere.

The interregnum allots 35 days for the count and its attendant lawsuits to be resolved. On the 36th day, December 8, an important deadline arrives.

At this stage, the actual tabulation of the vote becomes less salient to the outcome. That sounds as though it can’t be right, but it is: The combatants, especially Trump, will now shift their attention to the appointment of presidential electors.

December 8 is known as the “safe harbor” deadline for appointing the 538 men and women who make up the Electoral College. The electors do not meet until six days later, December 14, but each state must appoint them by the safe-harbor date to guarantee that Congress will accept their credentials. The controlling statute says that if “any controversy or contest” remains after that, then Congress will decide which electors, if any, may cast the state’s ballots for president.

We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.” How and when a state might do so has not been tested for well over a century.

Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.

To a modern democratic sensibility, discarding the popular vote for partisan gain looks uncomfortably like a coup, whatever license may be found for it in law. Would Republicans find that position disturbing enough to resist? Would they cede the election before resorting to such a ploy? Trump’s base would exact a high price for that betrayal, and by this point party officials would be invested in a narrative of fraud.

The Trump-campaign legal adviser I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people’s will. Once committed to the position that the overtime count has been rigged, the adviser said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters intended.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ” the adviser said. Democrats, he added, have exposed themselves to this stratagem by creating the conditions for a lengthy overtime.

“If you have this notion,” the adviser said, “that ballots can come in for I don’t know how many days—in some states a week, 10 days—then that onslaught of ballots just gets pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. So pick your poison. Is it worse to have electors named by legislators or to have votes received by Election Day?”

When The Atlantic asked the Trump campaign about plans to circumvent the vote and appoint loyal electors, and about other strategies discussed in the article, the deputy national press secretary did not directly address the questions. “It’s outrageous that President Trump and his team are being villainized for upholding the rule of law and transparently fighting for a free and fair election,” Thea McDonald said in an email. “The mainstream media are giving the Democrats a free pass for their attempts to completely uproot the system and throw our election into chaos.” Trump is fighting for a trustworthy election, she wrote, “and any argument otherwise is a conspiracy theory intended to muddy the waters.”

In Pennsylvania, three Republican leaders told me they had already discussed the direct appointment of electors among themselves, and one said he had discussed it with Trump’s national campaign.

“I’ve mentioned it to them, and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” Lawrence Tabas, the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s chairman, told me. “I just don’t think this is the right time for me to be discussing those strategies and approaches, but [direct appointment of electors] is one of the options. It is one of the available legal options set forth in the Constitution.” He added that everyone’s preference is to get a swift and accurate count. “If the process, though, is flawed, and has significant flaws, our public may lose faith and confidence” in the election’s integrity.

Jake Corman, the state’s Senate majority leader, preferred to change the subject, emphasizing that he hoped a clean vote count would produce a final tally on Election Night. “The longer it goes on, the more opinions and the more theories and the more conspiracies [are] created,” he told me. If controversy persists as the safe-harbor date nears, he allowed, the legislature will have no choice but to appoint electors. “We don’t want to go down that road, but we understand where the law takes us, and we’ll follow the law.”

Republicans control both legislative chambers in the six most closely contested battleground states. Of those, Arizona and Florida have Republican governors, too. In Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the governors are Democrats.

Foley, the Ohio State election scholar, has mapped the ripple effects if Republican legislators were to appoint Trump electors in defiance of the vote in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. The Democratic governors would respond by certifying the official count, a routine exercise of their authority, and they would argue that legislators could not lawfully choose different electors after the vote had taken place. Their “certificates of ascertainment,” dispatched to the National Archives, would say that their states had appointed electors committed to Biden. Each competing set of electors would have the imprimatur of one branch of state government.

In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who oversees elections, is a Democrat. She could assert her own power to certify the voting results and forward a slate of Biden electors. Even in Florida, which has unified Republican rule, electors pledged to Biden could meet and certify their own votes in hope of triggering a “controversy or contest” that would leave their state’s outcome to Congress. Much the same thing almost happened during the Florida recount battle of 2000. Republican Governor Jeb Bush certified electors for his brother, George W. Bush, on November 26 of that year, while litigation of the recount was still under way. Gore’s chief lawyer, Ronald Klain, responded by booking a room in the old Florida capitol building for Democratic electors to cast rival ballots for Gore. Only Gore’s concession, five days before the Electoral College vote, mooted that plan.

In any of these scenarios, the Electoral College would convene on December 14 without a consensus on who had legitimate claims to cast the deciding votes.

Rival slates of electors could hold mirror-image meetings in Harris­burg, Lansing, Tallahassee, or Phoenix, casting the same electoral votes on opposite sides. Each slate would transmit its ballots, as the Constitution provides, “to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.” The next move would belong to Vice President Mike Pence.

This would be a genuine constitutional crisis, the first but not the last of the Interregnum. “Then we get thrown into a world where anything could happen,” Norm Ornstein says.

Two men are claiming the presidency. The next occasion to settle the matter is more than three weeks away.

January 6 comes just after the new Congress is sworn in. Control of the Senate will be crucial to the presidency now.

Pence, as president of the Senate, would hold in his hands two conflicting electoral certificates from each of several swing states. The Twelfth Amendment says only this about what happens next: “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and the House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”

Note the passive voice. Who does the counting? Which certificates are counted?

The Trump team would take the position that the constitutional language leaves those questions to the vice president. This means that Pence has the unilateral power to announce his own reelection, and a second term for Trump. Democrats and legal scholars would denounce the self-dealing and point out that Congress filled the gaps in the Twelfth Amendment with the Electoral Count Act, which provides instructions for how to resolve this kind of dispute. The trouble with the instructions is that they are widely considered, in Foley’s words, to be “convoluted and impenetrable,” “confusing and ugly,” and “one of the strangest pieces of statutory language ever enacted by Congress.”

If the Interregnum is a contest in search of an umpire, it now has 535 of them, and a rule book that no one is sure how to read. The presiding officer is one of the players on the field.

Foley has produced a 25,000-word study in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal that maps out the paths the ensuing fight could take if only one state’s electoral votes are in play.

If Democrats win back the Senate and hold the House, then all roads laid out in the Electoral Count Act lead eventually to a Biden presidency. The reverse applies if Republicans hold the Senate and unexpectedly win back the House. But if Congress remains split, there are conditions in which no decisive outcome is possible—no result that has clear force of law. Each party could cite a plausible reading of the rules in which its candidate has won. There is no tie-breaking vote.

How can it be that Congress slips into unbreakable deadlock? The law is a labyrinth in these parts, too intricate to map in a magazine article, but I can sketch one path.

Suppose Pennsylvania alone sends rival slates of electors, and their 20 votes will decide the presidency.

One reading of the Electoral Count Act says that Congress must recognize the electors certified by the governor, who is a Democrat, unless the House and Senate agree otherwise. The House will not agree otherwise, and so Biden wins Pennsylvania and the White House. But Pence pounds his gavel and rules against this reading of the law, instead favoring another, which holds that Congress must discard both contested slates of electors. The garbled statute can plausibly be read either way.

With Pennsylvania’s electors disqualified, 518 electoral votes remain. If Biden holds a narrow lead among them, he again claims the presidency, because he has “the greatest number of votes,” as the Twelfth Amendment prescribes. But Republicans point out that the same amendment requires “a majority of the whole number of electors.” The whole number of electors, Pence rules, is 538, and Biden is short of the required 270.

On this argument, no one has attained the presidency, and the decision is thrown to the House, with one vote per state. If the current partisan balance holds, 26 out of 50 votes will be for Trump.

Before Pence can move on from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island, which is next on the alphabetical list as Congress counts the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expels all senators from the floor of her chamber. Now Pence is prevented from completing the count “in the presence of” the House, as the Constitution requires. Pelosi announces plans to stall indefinitely. If the count is still incomplete on Inauguration Day, the speaker herself will become acting president.

Pelosi prepares to be sworn in on January 20 unless Pence reverses his ruling and accepts that Biden won. Pence does not budge. He reconvenes the Senate in another venue, with House Republicans squeezing in, and purports to complete the count, making Trump the president-elect. Three people now have supportable claims to the Oval Office.

There are other paths in the labyrinth. Many lead to dead ends.

This is the next constitutional crisis, graver than the one three weeks before, because the law and the Constitution provide for no other authority to consult. The Supreme Court may yet intervene, but it may also shy away from another traumatizing encounter with a fundamentally political question.

Sixty-four days have passed since the election. Stalemate reigns. Two weeks remain until Inauguration Day.

Foley, who foresawthis impasse, knows of no solution. He cannot tell you how we avoid it under current law, or how it ends. It is not so much, at this point, a question of law. It is a question of power. Trump has possession of the White House. How far will he push boundaries to keep it, and who will push back? It is the same question the president has posed since the day he took office.

I hoped to gain some insight from a series of exercises conducted this summer by a group of former elected officials, academics, political strategists, and lawyers. In four days of simulations, the Transition Integrity Project modeled the election and its aftermath in an effort to find pivot points where things could fall apart.

They found plenty. Some of the scenarios included dueling slates of electors of the kind I have described. In one version it was the Democratic governor of Michigan who first resorted to appointing electors, after Trump ordered the National Guard to halt the vote count and a Trump-friendly guardsman destroyed mail-in ballots. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair in 2016, led a Biden team in another scenario that was prepared to follow Trump to the edge of civil war, encouraging three blue states to threaten secession. Norm-breaking begat norm-breaking. (Clinton herself, in an August interview for Showtime’s The Circus, caught the same spirit. “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances,” she said.)If you are a voter, think about voting in person. If you are at low risk for COVID-19, volunteer to work at the polls.

great deal has been written about the proceedings, including a firsthand account from my colleague David Frum. But the coverage had a puzzling gap. None of the stories fully explained how the contest ended. I wanted to know who took the oath of office.

I called Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor who co-founded the project. Unnervingly, she had no answers for me. She did not know how the story turned out. In half of the simulations, the participants did not make it as far as Inauguration Day.

“We got to points in the scenarios where there was a constitutional impasse, no clear means of resolution in sight, street-level violence,” she said. “I think in one of them we had Trump invoking the Insurrection Act and we had troops in the streets … Five hours had gone by and we sort of said, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ ” She added: “Once things were clearly off the rails, there was no particular benefit to seeing exactly how far off they would go.”

“Our goal in doing this was to try to identify intervention moments, to identify moments where we could then look back and say, ‘What would have changed this? What would have kept it from getting this bad?’ ” Brooks said. The project didn’t make much progress there. No lessons were learned about how to restrain a lawless president once a conflict was under way, no alternative moves devised to stave off disaster. “I suppose you could say we were in terra incognita: no one could predict what would happen anymore,” Brooks told me in a follow-up email.

The political system may no longer be strong enough to preserve its integrity. It’s a mistake to take for granted that election boards and state legislatures and Congress are capable of drawing lines that ensure a legitimate vote and an orderly transfer of power. We may have to find a way to draw those lines ourselves.

There are reforms to consider some other day, when an election is not upon us. Small ones, like clearing up the murky parts of the Electoral Count Act. Big ones, like doing away with the Electoral College. Obvious ones, like appropriating money to help cash-starved election authorities upgrade their operations in order to speed up and secure the count on Election Day.

Right now, the best we can do is an ad hoc defense of democracy. Begin by rejecting the temptation to think that this election will carry on as elections usually do. Something far out of the norm is likely to happen. Probably more than one thing. Expecting other­wise will dull our reflexes. It will lull us into spurious hope that Trump is tractable to forces that constrain normal incumbents.

If you are a voter, think about voting in person after all. More than half a million postal votes were rejected in this year’s primaries, even without Trump trying to suppress them. If you are at relatively low risk for COVID-19, volunteer to work at the polls. If you know people who are open to reason, spread word that it is normal for the results to keep changing after Election Night. If you manage news coverage, anticipate extra­constitutional measures, and position reporters and crews to respond to them. If you are an election administrator, plan for contingencies you never had to imagine before. If you are a mayor, consider how to deploy your police to ward off interlopers with bad intent. If you are a law-enforcement officer, protect the freedom to vote. If you are a legislator, choose not to participate in chicanery. If you are a judge on the bench in a battleground state, refresh your acquaintance with election case law. If you have a place in the military chain of command, remember your duty to turn aside unlawful orders. If you are a civil servant, know that your country needs you more than ever to do the right thing when you’re asked to do otherwise.

Take agency. An election cannot be stolen unless the American people, at some level, acquiesce. One thing Brooks has been thinking about since her exercise came to an end is the power of peaceful protest on a grand scale. “We had players on both sides attempting to mobilize their supporters to turn out in large numbers, and we didn’t really have a good mechanism for deciding, did that make a difference? What kind of difference did that make?” she said. “It left some with some big questions about what if you had Orange Revolution–style mass protest sustained over weeks. What effects would that have?”

Only once, in1877, has the Interregnum brought the country to the brink of true collapse. We will find no model in that episode for us now.

Four states sent rival slates of electors to Congress in the 1876 presidential race between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. When a special tribunal blessed the electors for Hayes, Democrats began parliamentary maneuvers to obstruct the electoral count in Congress. Their plan was to run out the clock all the way to Inauguration Day, when the Republican incumbent, Ulysses S. Grant, would have to step down.

Not until two days before Grant’s term expired did Tilden give in. His concession was based on a repugnant deal for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, where they were protecting the rights of emancipated Black people. But that was not Tilden’s only inducement.

The threat of military force was in the air. Grant let it be known that he was prepared to declare martial law in New York, where rumor had it that Tilden planned to be sworn in, and to back the inauguration of Hayes with uniformed troops.

That is an unsettling precedent for 2021. If our political institutions fail to produce a legitimate president, and if Trump maintains the stalemate into the new year, the chaos candidate and the commander in chief will be one and the same.

This article appears in the November 2020 print edition with the headline “The Election That Could Break America.”

BARTON GELLMAN is a staff writer at The Atlantic and author of Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State and Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.

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TODAY – #JusticeForBreonna Taylor: SF Solidarity March (from Adrienne Fong)


 SF Solidarity March 


Wednesday, September 23rd 


Meet at:

Mission Police Station
630 Valencia St.
(Valencia nr. 17th Street)


Host: Defund SFPD NOW!

The Jefferson County grand jury ruled that no officers were charged directly for murdering Breonna Taylor. We will never get justice from this racist system because it was built to brutalize us. Police will never be held accountable because the system is working as intended.

Reform is a distraction. Abolition is the only path to justice.

See more info below graphic…

Defund SFPD Organizers stress SFPD’s culpability in the brutal and racist system of American policing and the impossibility of police accountability or reform. Even though the City’s internal police accountability department found that the five officers who shot and killed Mario Woods in December 2015 all used “unnecessary force”, the officers walked away scot-free because they “deviated from no policies at the time.”

Despite the proven violence of SFPD and the Sheriff, as well as earlier commitments to reduce the size of the force, a progressive supermajority of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to approve a City budget that does not fire a single officer. 

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RBG’s passing invites a defense of her legacy

September 22, 2020

Justice Ginsburg was a jurisprudential giant: she leaves an incredible legacy in the law, particularly around reproductive justice and freedom.

These basic rights are now at risk, as our government revs up to nominate a new conservative Justice with mere weeks until the election.

Shahid has a long history of challenging Republican nominees to the court and defending the progress we’ve made as a society towards equity and basic freedoms.

We need congressional oversight and leaders that lead.


Team Shahid
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Articles ~ Actions ~ Ongoing action ~ Events for Tuesday, 9/22 – Thursday 9/24 (from Adrienne Fong)

Please include Accessibility and ASL info in your events! And if your action is ‘child friendly’

***Please let me know if you need ASL interpretation – and I’ll forward your request. ***

 Am NOT back posting!

Please post your actions on Indybay even if event is digital:

 See Indybay also for other listing of events.

Listing of other Bay Area Protests & Rallies


A. Cameroonian Granted Humanitarian Release From U.S. Immigration After Revealing Her Fallopian Tube Was Forcibly Removed in ICE Custody – September 22, 2020

B. DA says he’ll investigate ‘criminal offenses’ in San Francisco Department of Human Resources – September 21, 2020

C. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank Named in Money Laundering Report – September 21, 2020

D. ALLAN WERNICK: What you should know about Trump’s end to the Temporary Protected Status program – September 21, 2020

E. They Call for Assange’s Immediate Release: Lula, Rousseff, Morales, Zapatero, Corbyn, Correa, Paul, Galloway, Gravel, Varoufakis…– September 20, 2020

F. The Abraham Accords: A Fever Dream of Dictators, a Nightmare for Palestinians

G. Four officers found to have committed misconduct escape discipline – September 18, 2020


1. The people of Yemen deserve humanitarian assistance


2. Tell Congress to pass funding to make sure kids can keep learning


3. Tell Congress: Abolish the Federal Death Penalty 


  Scheduled Federal executions:

     William LeCroy, Jr., scheduled for September 22, in Georgia (Today)

    Christopher Vialva, scheduled for September 24, in Texas


Tuesday, September 22 – Thursday, September 24

On going action:

Occupy Antioch Police Department – 24/7 Occupation

Antioch Police Dept. (outside)
300 L Street

(nr. BART’s last stop in Antioch)


On Friday, September 4th, five young activists from the City of Antioch—Shagoofa Khan, Maria Brown, Michelle Parmenter, McKenna Peterson, and Lacey Brown—and Michael James, a former resident of the Mission District of San Francisco, now an East Bay resident, began a hunger strike.

On September 9th the Hunger Strikers officially ended the Hunger Strike but continue to OCCUPY the front of the Antioch Police Department 24/7.


1. The immediate termination of Officer Michael Mellone from Antioch Police Department for his known record of illegally using lethal force in the killing of Luis Góngora Pat in San Francisco, and new surfacing allegations of abuse of force in Antioch;

2. The immediate resignation of Steve Aiello as President of Antioch Police Officers’ Association for promoting violence against peaceful protesters;

3. The integration of community representatives as equal participants (unaffiliated with the City of Antioch & its government) to the “Bridging the Gap” forum during which a third-party facilitator will be assisting a discussion on racial injustice and police community relationships. We demand also that the next forum meeting happen within the following 30 days and be publicly announced through the appropriate outlets to maximize attendance.

This year it became known that Ofc. Mellone left the San Francisco Police Department on August 18th—a day before SFPD’s Internal Affairs was set to hand down a historic suspension for violating almost every SFPD rule in the book when he fired two different lethal weapons that resulted in the killing of Luis Góngora Pat—and began working days later with the Antioch Police Department. According to San Francisco D.A. Boudin “…the timing makes very clear that the resignation was aimed at and was effective at avoiding accountability.”

Since the activist started their demonstration they have received multiple threats, have had eggs thrown at them and have also received death threats.

Support welcomed!  


Tuesday, September 22

1.Tuesday, 8:00am, Indigenous Women of the Americas – Fall Equinox Treaty Action You can even do this after 8am!

Join the San Francisco Bay Area signatories on the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty on this Fall Equinox as we take action on September 22, 2020 from wherever we are! The Treaty obligates us to conduct a nonviolent direct action to protect the sacred system of life each solstice and equinox. Everyone is invited to participate. And, while Mother Earth is encouraging us to take a time out now, it is important to connect with each other to protect and defend all we hold dear.

Please join us in the following:

1.) Email and Call: We know who is causing the harms leading to climate chaos. Choose a corporation, elected official, or policy maker (fossil fuel corporation, bank, climate denier elected official, etc) causing harm (climate change, wildfires, flooding, drought, migration due to climate change, extinction of species, etc.) in your community. Do your research and find contact information of those causing or allowing the harms to continue. Invite people you know to join you. Share your personal concerns (and outrage). Please post your messages on the group page here:

Solidarity with Indigenous Women Defending Mother Earth Treaty.

– For those in the San Francisco Bay Area: In the SF Bay Area we are inviting you to contact the Refinery Manager at the Chevron refinery in Richmond –

2.) Create Art: Envision the safe, healthy, sustainable and equitable future that you long for. Create artwork such as drawing, sculpting, painting etc. Invite people in your family and community (especially children and young people) to participate.

Take a photo of your art and at the bottom please write out, “The healthy future I envision looks like (what that looks like for you).” with the hashtag #indigenouswomenequinox
Send a photo of your artwork along with the email you send on the equinox and post it to the Treaty group page:…/238480837538822/announcements

Host: Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty


2. Tuesday, 9:00am – 10:00am, #DefundPalantir – Twitter account action

Action for those with Twitter accounts!

Palantir, the data analytics company founded by Trump-supporter Peter Thiel, is going public on September 23.

 Palantir has contracts with ICE that are “mission critical” to the agency, contracts it has defended for years despite pressure from immigrants, activists, professors, students, and even their own workers.

We want to make sure that, in the days before Palantir’s public listing, the company knows that there are thousands of people demanding that it stop working for ICE and stop facilitating surveillance, mass raids, deportations, and de facto family separation.

3. Tuesday, 10:00am – 11:00am (PT); 1:00pm – 2:00pm (ET), Indigenous Rights & Women’s Leadership are Central to Divestment Strategies


Register here: ar/register/2015996599722/WN_TbIm23wcQEyUd1y8mP_J8Q

In light of the intensifying climate crisis and Covid-19 pandemic, it has never been more clear the importance of Indigenous rights and self-determination and women’s leadership as central strategies for justice and protection of Mother Earth. From the frontlines of extraction to the boardrooms of financial institutions to the halls of governments, Indigenous women are leading resistance efforts against the fossil fuel industry. Indigenous women and their allies are building critical strategies for divestment from fossil fuels, calling for justice and accountability from the financial sector, and advocating for a Just Transition that places people and planet first.

Worldwide, Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by ongoing extractive industries, which endanger human rights and neglect Indigenous People’s right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Fossil fuel extraction and pipelines often run through Indigenous territories where many Indigenous peoples have not given consent for extraction or construction, a clear violation of FPIC that puts Indigenous communities at risk of further environmental and cultural injustice.

Backed by banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, fossil fuel companies continue to push forward projects, further exposing Indigenous communities to environmental pollution and now also COVID-19. Along with extraction and infrastructure, fossil fuel companies also develop ‘man camps’, which house workers from outside the community and have been directly linked with increased rates of drug use, sex trafficking and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous women and their allies are demanding that financial institutions adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, protect the climate, respect the rights of nature, and the rights and lives of Indigenous communities experiencing the impacts of fossil fuel development. While much more is still needed, divestment advocacy, direct actions, and campaigning are having a critical impact on the fossil fuel industry regarding moving funds out from the dirty energy sector and generating policy changes to uphold Indigenous and human rights as we face the climate crisis.

Speakers include:
— Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation, long-time Native rights activist, Environmental Ambassador and WECAN Board Member

— Charlene Aleck, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, former councillor with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Trans Mountain pipeline expansion opponent;

— Monique Verdin, Houma Nation, Director of The Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange, Organizer with Another Gulf is Possible

— Michelle Cook, Diné, Founder of Divest Invest Protect, Founder and Co-Director of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations

with facilitation and comments by Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), Co-Director of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations.

Host: Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network


4. Tuesday, 4:00pm, TPS Forum

24th Street BART

Info: TPS Northern California

5. Tuesday, 4:00pm – 6:00pm, The nursing home crisis:  What’s gone wrong?  Can we fix it?  If so, how?


Zoom in:

or call in:  1 669 900 9128;  Meeting ID: 862 7850 8874;  Passcode: 491972

SF Gray Panthers Monthly meeting.

The current model of nursing homes is a deadly mess, failing residents workers and our society.  What can we do about it?


Pat McGinnis, executive director of CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform);

Jodi Reid, executive director of CARA (California Alliance for Retired Americans);  and

Marilyn Albert, a retired registered nurse, and former health care union staff member who works with HCN (Healthy California Now);

All will talk about the struggle for aging in place with dignity and good care for elders and the disabled.


6. Tuesday, 5:00pm (PT); 8:00pm (ET), Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation

Register for Zoom:

  Further info will be given after registration

Please join #nowaytotreatachild campaign co-leaders from Defense for Children International – Palestine and American Friends Service Committee. We will share updates on local advocacy efforts to end Israeli military detention of Palestinian children and tips on debunking opposition talking points.


Approximately 2.9 million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank, of which around 45 percent are children under the age of 18.

Palestinian children in the West Bank, like adults, face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.

Since 1967, Israel has operated two separate legal systems in the same territory. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers are subject to the civilian and criminal legal system whereas Palestinians live under military law.

Israel applies civilian criminal law to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. No Israeli child comes into contact with the military courts.

Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Israel prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts each year.

Ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process,” according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendations.

Children typically arrive to interrogation bound, blindfolded, frightened, and sleep deprived.

Israeli military law provides no right to legal counsel during interrogation, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude confessions obtained by coercion or torture.


7. Tuesday, 5:30pm – 8:30pm, How to Change the World in One Generation – DxE Intro Workshop


Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 840 1236 1059

Please sign up to our email list before you attend this event:

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is a grassroots network of animal rights activists. Through open rescue, demonstration, and disruption, we are creating a world where every animal is safe, happy and free.

 Workshop was created by DxE co-founder and former Northwestern law professor Wayne Hsiung. 

DxE cultivates a welcoming and supportive community. We ask that all those who attend our events (online and offline) respect our Code of Conduct which can be reviewed at

Info:   or

8. Tuesday, 6:30pm, Virtual Narcan Training by Punks with Lunch

Online via zoom – will be posted before event

How do I know if someone is overdosing? What’s narcan? How do I use it?

Punks with Lunch be answering these questions and guiding you through how to prevent and reverse an opiate overdose.

We will be providing specific information about where to get narcan in Oakland and the Bay Area, but the overdose prevention and reversal training will be relevant to any location.

This is not just for people who use drugs or have friends who use drugs because you never know when an overdose may cross your path.

Anyone can be a life saver!

Host: West Oakland Punks with Lunch


Wednesday, September 23

9. Wednesday, 8:00am – 8:00pm, Facebook Stop Censoring Palestine 


Digital action to bring attention to censorship of Palestinian voices and Palestine advocate

Host: Stop Censoring Palestine, Jewish Voice For Peace+ 12 Other groups


10. Wednesday, 12Noon – 1:00pm (PT); 3:00pm – 4:00pm (ET), BlackRock: Stop Forest Destruction

Online rally

 RSVP here:

we head to Boston and Liberia as Climate Finance Action, Friends of the Earth US, and Amazon Watch present Alfred Brownell, Liberian activist and scholar, and experts on the role of giant asset managers on global deforestation before we take action together calling and targeting BlackRock and other asset managers.

Hosts: BlackRock’s Big Problem, Friends of the Earth U.S., Amazon Watch, Stop the Money Pipeline,

Info:    or

11. Wednesday, 12:30pm – 2:30pm (PT); 3:30pm – 5:30pm (ET), Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled

Register in advance for this webinar:…/register/WN_ycpMqzqcReO3HCQJKShi5g

Join the open classrooms of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi (AMED Studies) and Professor Tomomi Kinukawa (Women and Gender Studies) for a historic roundtable conversation with Palestinian feminist, militant, and leader Leila Khaled, followed by Q&A discussion with students, activists, and scholars

Leila Khaled

Rula Abu Dahou, Acting Director, Institute for Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, Palestine

Ronnie Kasrils, Palestine solidarity anti-Zionist Jewish activist and member of uMkhonto we Sizwe, 1961-1990

Sekou Odinga, Black Liberation Army, 1960s & ‘70s, and 33-year prisoner in US jails

Laura Whitehorn, anti-Zionist Jewish activist, Co-founder of Release Aging People in Prison, RAPP, and 14-year-captive political prisoner

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi
Dr. Tomomi Kinukaw

Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, Eyewitness Palestine,
Jewish Voice for Peace- Bay Area, Jewish Voice for Peace- Boston, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
SJP at UCLA, Workers World Party, Within Our Lifetime, Yalla Indivisble



12. Wednesday, 4:00pm – 6:00pm (PT); 7:00pm – 9:00pm (ET), Crossing Borders in An Age of Anti-Immigrant Fascism


Register for the event on Eventbrite here:…/crossing-borders-in-age-of…

Watch the event on Wednesday on Facebook here:

Watch it on youtube here:

Part of the 60 Defiant Days from Revolution Books:

Talks, Dialogue, Performance — In the Name of Humanity, The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

* Julie Schwietert Collazo
Bilingual writer, founder of Immigrant Families Together, an organization dedicated to reuniting and supporting immigrant families separated at the US/Mexico border.

* Rosayra Pablo Cruz
Author of *The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Separation at the Border*
“[The] haunting and eloquent…narrative of a Guatemalan woman’s desperate search for a better life.”
-Kirkus Starred Review
TIME Magazine Best Books of Summer 2020

* Pamela L. Laskin
CCNY professor, author of *Why No Goodbye*, a YA novel in verse
“There has been a lot written about the Rohingya crisis in recent years, but nothing quite like this… Through verse, the author helps expose the painful wake of the world’s newest genocide.” 
—Matthew Smith, co-founder and CEO, Fortify Rights

* Pamela Kerpius
Founder, Migrants of the Mediterranean, a Humanitarian Storytelling organization that documents the journey stories of the people who’ve crossed continents, countries, desert and sea to reach Europe.

Hosts: Revolution Books NY & Revolution Books Berkeley


Thursday, September 24

13. Thursday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm (PT); 4:00pm – 6:00pm (ET), Full Spectrum Dominance: From AFRICOM to Indo-Pacific Command


Please register:

In 2009, China overtook the U.S. as the African continent’s largest trading partner, destroying the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. China’s $208 billion in trade with the African continent in 2019 dwarfed the United States’ $39 billion in 2017. The response from the West to this development has been a military one.

The U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, puts most African states under the effective military control of the United States. The Indo-Pacific Command is the counterpart to AFRICOM in the Asia Pacific and is being used to direct military aggression towards China.

Join BAP’s US Out of Africa Network for this virtual symposium about the connection between the expansion of AFRICOM and the growing U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific and the work to shut down AFRICOM, and defund, and abolish US militarism world-wide.


Aziz Fall, Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)

Bahman Azad, Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases

Danny Haiphong, No Cold War (China)

Affiong L. Affiong, Moyo Pan-Afrikan Solidarity Centre

MODERATOR: Margaret Kimberley, BAP Coordinating Committee

Host: Black Alliance for Peace, Institute for Policy Studies + 6 Other groups


14. Thursday, 2:00pm – 3:00pm (PT), State of Immigration & Asylum in the U.S.



Join us for a panel on the state of immigration policy and asylum in the US.

Our panel of experts will examine the on-going changes of immigration policy, the realities of unaccompanied minors, detention/ deportations, and the impact of the Remain in Mexico Program for asylum-seekers.

Featured panelists:

Camila Alvarez, Legal Director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA)
Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders
Karlyn Kurichety, Supervisory Attorney for Al Otro Lado in Los Angeles
Jasmin Tobar, Program Director for CASA LIBRE

Including testimony of MPP Family on Remain in Mexico Program



15. Thursday, 6:00pm, Slash SFPD Stash – Guns & Cash (meeting)



Join with community members and activists in the Slash SFPD’s Stash coalition, which is calling on the San Francisco city government to make major cuts to the police budget and to disarm the cops.

By decreasing the cops’ allotment by half or more, the racist practices of the police can be reined in. Funds should be re-directed to provide jobs, training programs, housing, education and healthcare, including mental health and nutrition programs, to the city’s most underserved communities.
All are welcome. Come share your ideas for making police disarmament and slashing SFPD’s budget to re-fund social services a reality.

16. Thursday, 6:30pm – 7:30pm, Virtual Speak Out: Tell UC Health System to Protect LGBTQ + Reproductive Healthcare

RSVP to Virtual Speak Out :

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that a patient’s health – not politics or ideology – must drive important medical decisions. And yet one of California’s largest healthcare providers is considering partnerships that would place discriminatory restrictions on the kinds of procedures they provide. Speak out now!

The University of California (UC) Health System is the fourth largest healthcare provider in California and the training ground for half of California’s medical students and residents. As a public entity, UC Health cannot and should not limit its care based on religious doctrine. And as a national leader in promoting comprehensive reproductive and LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare, UC must stand for both its own and California’s values.

Last fall, UC Health’s many community members asked the UC Board of Regents not to engage in any affiliations that subject its providers, staff, or patients to discriminatory restrictions on care. UC was supposed to vote on this issue in May.

UC has delayed this vote indefinitely, even though every UC campus with a medical center has already signed contracts that impose religious restrictions on UC clinicians, limiting their ability to practice evidence-based medicine and prohibiting them from providing essential reproductive and LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare to patients.

When the UC Board of Regents holds this vote, we must be ready to demand that the UC stand for ALL patients and protect reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive health care.

Host: ACLU Northern California


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Shahid Buttar on Nancy Pelosi/Dems Fumbling Supreme Court Fight

Status Coup Powered by Restream Status Coup’s Jenn Dize is live, covering Biden losing ground to Trump in key states, Joy Reid’s Islamaphobic remarks, Ed Markey’s big win and the fall of the Kennedys, and SCARY QAnon polling. SUBSCRIBE to this channel if you haven’t already–we’re on our way to 100K subscribers!

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Global banks enabled ‘Ponzi scheme’, moved vast sums of illicit money, leak shows

Issued on: 21/09/2020 – 04:39 (

A man wearing a protective mask walks past a logo of HSBC at its headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 9, 2020.
A man wearing a protective mask walks past a logo of HSBC at its headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 9, 2020. REUTERS – LIM HUEY TENG


Massive sums of allegedly dirty money have flowed for years through some of the world’s largest banking institutions, said an international journalism investigation published Sunday, which denounced shortcomings in sector regulations.

“Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in a Ponzi scheme were all allowed to flow into and out of these financial institutions, despite warnings from the banks’ own employees,” according to the probe from Buzzfeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The investigation, which was led by 108 international media outlets from 88 different countries, is based on thousands of suspicious activity reports (SARs) submitted to the US Treasury Department’s financial law enforcement agency, FinCEN, by banks from around the world.

“These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them,” wrote US outlet Buzzfeed News, in the introduction of its report.

The documents relate to $2 trillion in transactions that circulated between 1999 and 2017.

The investigation points in particular to five major banks — JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — accused of continuing to move assets of alleged criminals, even after being prosecuted or convicted for financial misconduct.

“The networks through which dirty money traverse the world have become vital arteries of the global economy,” Buzzfeed News reported.

In a statement, Deutsche Bank said that the ICIJ’s revelations were “well known” to its regulators. The bank also said it had “devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls,” as well as focused on “meeting our responsibilities and obligations.”

The investigation also highlighted the American authorities’ lack of power in regulating dirty financial transactions.

In a statement released prior to the investigation’s publication, FinCEN said that the “unauthorised disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States.”


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What’s at Stake in This Election? The American Democratic Experiment

Trump’s former director of national intelligence on how to firmly and unambiguously reassure all Americans that their votes will be counted.

By Dan Coats

Mr. Coats served as the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019.

  • Sept. 17, 2020 (
 Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

We hear often that the November election is the most consequential in our lifetime. But the importance of the election is not just which candidate or which party wins. Voters also face the question of whether the American democratic experiment, one of the boldest political innovations in human history, will survive.

Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.

If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh.

The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.

The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will.

Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.

Also, this commission would be responsible for monitoring those forces that seek to harm our electoral system through interference, fraud, disinformation or other distortions. These would be exposed to the American people in a timely manner and referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies and national security entities.

Such a commission must be composed of national leaders personally committed — by oath — to put partisan politics aside even in the midst of an electoral contest of such importance. They would accept as a personal moral responsibility to put the integrity and fairness of the election process above everything else, making public reassurance their goal.

Commission members undertaking this high, historic responsibility should come from both parties and could include congressional leaders, current and former governors, “elder statespersons,” former national security leaders, perhaps the former Supreme Court justices David Souter and Anthony Kennedy, and business leaders from social media companies.

This commission would be created by emergency legislative action. During that process, its precise mandate, composition, powers and resources would be defined. Among other aspects, the legislation would define the relationship between the commission and the intelligence and law enforcement communities with the capability necessary for the commission’s work. And it would define how the commission would work with all the individual states.

Congressional leaders must see the need as urgent and move quickly with common purpose. Seeking broad bipartisan unity on such an initiative at such a fraught time goes against the nature of the political creatures we have become. But this is the moment and this is the issue that demands a higher patriotism. No member of Congress could have any valid reason to reject any step that could contribute to the fundamental health of our Republic. With what should be the unanimous support of Congress, the legislation must call upon the election campaigns of both parties to commit in advance to respect the findings of the commission. Both presidential candidates should be called upon to make such personal commitments of their own.

If we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that.

Dan Coats was the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019. He served as a U.S. senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999 and again from 2010 to 2016. From 2001 to 2005 he was the U.S. ambassador to Germany. Currently, Mr. Coats is a senior adviser with the law firm King & Spalding.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:

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Shahid Buttar comments

September 20, 2020: On ABC’s This Week this morning, Pelosi is taking options off the table as Trump tries to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Ginsburg.

Less than 24 hours following Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump are already laying the groundwork for a nomination.

They aim to hold a full Senate vote before the next administration takes office. This is after blocking Merrick Garland, President Obama’s last nominee, from confirmation hearings for the better part of 2016.

Outrage is thoroughly appropriate. Everything, from the most basic rights of women to control their own bodies, to the right of communities to hold corporations accountable for labor or environmental abuses, hangs in the balance.

Yet, instead of keeping all the arrows in the constitutional quiver, Nancy Pelosi holds back as our Republic careens towards a predictable disaster.

During their interview, Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos that the American people should vote and hope that “…the president will see the light.”
That’s why we must replace her.
Pelosi and other corporate Democrats don’t have our communities’ interests—or their oaths of office—in mind. It’s time for new voices to do the job they’ve proven either unwilling, or unable, to do.

As the first Democrat to ever challenge Pelosi in a general election, I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent our city’s voice in Washington. Even though we’ve raised over twice the support of any previous challenge to Pelosi, we’re still outgunned over 15:1 by her corporate money machine.
Can you join us before the end of the quarter? We face a critical reporting deadline, and every contribution makes a difference.

With 44 days left, just $22 can pay for calls to 444 people.
📞 44 days, 444 calls for $22 💌
Can you chip in $22.00 today for 444 calls?
If you have payment information saved with ActBlue, your contribution of $22 will go through immediately. Thanks for your support!
Your voice in Washington,

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