Exploring the mind of the Special Master

Nathan Persily has been a staunch advocate for democracy for years:

Republicans don’t necessarily have a problem with Persily’s credentials, which are many, or his map-drawing chops, which are considerable. They worry about what GOP lawyer Phil Strach called “possible bias.” They’re right about that, but maybe not for the reason they think.

He has characterized gerrymandering as “partisan greed” – which happens to be true, regardless of which party is engaging in it. He has frowned at the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United because of the power it gave to the few – Democrat or Republican – who have a lot of money. He has argued against a Texas effort to draw districts based on eligible voters instead of total population, because it would dilute the voting power of a growing Latino population.

In summary, Persily has been laser-focused on defending the rights and Constitutionally-granted powers of individual voters, matters the NC GOP has worked against relentlessly since they were granted a majority by those same voters. Why would you do that? Why would you punish those who had entrusted you? The logical answer is: Because you knew from the start you were going to exceed your mandate, take steps that are clearly in violation of (at least) the spirit of the NC Constitution and your previously stated principles, and you wanted to make sure those voters would not be able to correct their mistake. Here's more on Persily:

Wednesday News: Can't win 'em all

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COURT REAFFIRMS DECISION TO DISMISS COOPER LAWSUIT OVER ELECTION BOARDS: "The merger of the Board of Elections and Ethics Commission ... is a political question and therefore a nonjusticable issue, and that this court lacks authority to review." Because of that, the judges said they were reluctant to address the merits of Cooper's case but did so because the Supreme Court asked them to do so. They determined that Cooper has the authority to appoint all members of the new eight-member board and to remove any of them for cause, but speculation that the board's Democratic and Republican members would repeatedly deadlock on issues doesn't meet the standard for finding the combination unconstitutional. "Were the Governor given the degree of control he seeks over either the Board of Elections or the Bipartisan Board in this case, neither board could continue to function as an independent regulatory and quasi-judicial agency," the judges wrote.
http://www.wral.com/judges-elaborate-on-decision-to-dismiss-lawsuit-over-nc-elections-board/17076112/

Tuesday News: It's Mueller time

TRUMP'S CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST IN RUSSIAN COLLUSION PROBE: With a double-barreled blast, Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed Monday that he has won the cooperation of a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who says he served as a go-between with the Kremlin in the spring of 2016. And Mueller heaped a 31-page indictment on former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates that contains the weight of conspiracy, money laundering and tax related charges in connection with an alleged scheme to launder millions of dollars through scores of offshore accounts. The charges seem designed to pressure them to cooperate, as well. It was a powerful public salvo after months of silence since Mueller took over the investigation of Russia’s election-meddling, a subject that has consumed the nation’s capital and haunted Trump’s presidency.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article181794041.html

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates taken into custody

Hopefully this is just the tip of the Trumpberg:

The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump's former Campaign Chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president's first year in office. Also charged was Manafort's former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protege and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies Mr. Manafort's firm set up in Cyprus, to receive payments from politicians and business people in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by the New York Times show. Mr Manafort has been under investigation for violation of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

This is good news, but if Mueller really wants to get into money laundering, he needs to take a look at condos and apartments Trump has been selling to Russian crime-lords. That's a big, stinking mess, and one that should have already gotten Trump put behind bars. *Edited to add* Here's a link to the indictment, and it's a doozy.

Monday News: Running scared

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TRUMP TWEETS OUT DESPERATE ATTACK ON HILLARY AS INDICTMENTS LOOM: President Donald Trump expressed renewed frustration Sunday over the investigations into alleged ties between his campaign associates and Russian government officials, saying on Twitter that the "facts are pouring out" about links to Russia by his former presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. "DO SOMETHING!" Trump urged in one of five morning tweets. Trump's tweets followed a CNN report late Friday that a federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first charges in a criminal investigation into Russia ties led by special counsel Robert Mueller. In a final tweet on the subject, Trump suggests that Russia's re-emergence into the conversation is no accident. "All of this 'Russia' talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!"
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article181635066.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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GENE NICHOL: PHIL BERGER RULES BY WHIM TO GAIN PARTISAN OMNIPOTENCE: State Senate leader Phil Berger and his crew have determined, apparently, that -- gerrymandering the judges’ districts; eliminating their primaries; restricting their powers of judicial review; ending public funding for their campaigns; manipulating the size of the Court of Appeals; stacking individual Supreme Court elections; and becoming the first state in a century to demand the partisan election of judges -- isn’t enough to deliver the precise courts the Republicans require. Clearing the whole offending slate and forcing them to run constant, expensive, relentless and hyper-partisan campaigns seems now to be the trick. No matter that judges take oaths to be accountable to the law and the Constitution, not to the voters. Or that our jurists would have little time for their actual work, given the demands of perpetual campaigning. Party fealty, again, is all that matters.
http://www.wral.com/gene-nichol-phil-berger-rules-by-whim-to-gain-partisan-omnipotence/17065670/

Saturday News: Lock 'em up

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MUELLER PROBE INTO TRUMP-RUSSIA COLLUSION YIELDS INDICTMENTS FROM GRAND JURY: The first round of charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election were approved Friday – but it's still not known what they are or who they target. A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., approved the charges, CNN reported Friday, citing sources briefed in the matter. The network said plans were being made to take anyone charged into custody on Monday. CNN said a spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment. The special counsel has been digging into allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign since May.
http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article181410621.html

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