Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
First news item
President Biden will sign an executive order on Friday aimed at protecting abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the White House said.
Why it matters: Biden has faced intense pressure from his own party to act more aggressively on abortion. Many conservative states had “trigger laws” in place that banned or severely limited abortions in the days following the ruling and more bans are expected…
The Biden administration said the executive order would include “safeguarding access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception.”
The big picture: After the Supreme Court ruling, Biden has said that his ability to enshrine abortion rights is limited without congressional action.
“Until then, he has committed to doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion,” the White House said.
Second news item
Republican litmus test of lies in play:
A leading Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, continues to put lies about the 2020 presidential election at the center of her campaign — this week calling it “disqualifying” and “sickening” for a rival candidate not to say that the election was stolen, though it wasn’t stolen.
Lake said at a televised Republican debate on Wednesday that she would not have certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona, which was certified by term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as required by law. Lake, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, falsely said of Biden: “He lost the election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House.”
Lake asked the three other candidates on stage to raise their hands if they agreed that the election was corrupt and stolen. When her top competitor, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, was the only one not to do so — Robson said she wouldn’t participate in Lake’s “stunt” — Lake’s Twitter account called Robson’s refusal “disqualifying.” Lake’s account posted video of the exchange again on Friday, this time calling Robson’s refusal “sickening.”
Third news item
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that Ukraine is unwilling to cede any of its land to Russia, standing firm that a concession of Ukrainian territory won’t be part of any diplomatic negotiations to end the war.
“Ukrainians are not ready to give away their land, to accept that these territories belong to Russia. This is our land,” Zelensky said in an exclusive interview aired Thursday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“We always talk about that, and we are intending to prove it,” he added.
Meanwhile, Putin jibber-jabbers:
In his speech, the Russian president dared Western allies to beat Russia “on the battlefield” as his invasion enters its fifth month. “The West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian,” Putin said at a meeting with Russia’s top government officials. “Let them try. Everybody should know that largely speaking, we haven’t even yet started anything in earnest. At the same time we are not refusing to hold peace negotiations but those who are refusing should know that it will be harder to come to an agreement with us,” he boasted.
Fourth news item
Taking action on the Southern border:
Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order authorizing and empowering the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety to apprehend illegal immigrants who illegally cross the border between ports of entry and return them to the border. The Biden Administration’s decision to end Title 42 expulsions and the Remain-in-Mexico policy has led to historic levels of illegal crossings, with 5,000 migrants being apprehended over the July 4th weekend, creating a border crisis that has overrun communities along the border and across Texas.
“While President Biden refuses to do his job and enforce the immigration laws enacted by Congress, the State of Texas is once again stepping up and taking unprecedented action to protect Americans and secure our southern border,” said Governor Abbott. “The cartels have become emboldened and enriched by President Biden’s open border policies, smuggling in record numbers of people, weapons, and deadly drugs like fentanyl.”
Fifth news item
Misappropriating funds for pet cause:
San Francisco school officials used money voters approved for classroom and other facilities’ improvements to pay $525,000 in attorney fees to fight a lawsuit over the fate of a controversial Depression-era mural. The spending is now under review by an official oversight committee.
The district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, a statutorily mandated watchdog group, is currently looking at whether the district properly spent Proposition A funds, which were authorized by voters in 2016 to upgrade, modernize or build school facilities.
The committee’s interim chairman, Rex Ridgeway, said he doesn’t believe bond money meant to ensure safe and modern schools should have covered the cost of a lawsuit over the mural.
“I want them to put the money back,” Ridgeway said. “They’ve been using this as a slush fund as far as I’m concerned.”
District officials pulled the money from the bond program rather than using the General Fund, which covers salaries, classroom costs and other operating expenses at school and district offices. Yet, the school board was forced to make significant cuts in that fund to cover a $125 million deficit this upcoming school year…
District officials argue the use of bond money for the legal costs was appropriate because the mural is a part of a school building and “caused psychological harm to students,” and therefore presents a health and safety risk, said the district’s general counsel Danielle Houck, in a March letter to the oversight committee and school board. The bond program allows for remediation of health and safety risks as well as interior modifications, she said.
Sixth news item
A large-scale effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón submitted roughly 717,000 petition signatures to election officials Wednesday in hopes of putting the fate of the county’s top law enforcement officer in the hands of voters.
After announcing their initial plans to recall the D.A. back in late January, organizers are prepared to deliver a literal truckload’s worth of signatures to election officials at the county’s Registrar Office at around 2 p.m.
In all, the petition only needs 566,857 valid signatures — or 10% of the county’s registered voters.
Seventh news item
Records show Donald Trump left the board of his social-media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, in June, weeks before the company was subpoenaed by authorities.
According to a filing with Florida’s Division of Corporations dated June 8, the former president, his son Donald Trump Jr., Wes Moss, Kashyap Patel, Andrew Northwall and Scott Glabe all left the company’s board of directors. The “board of directors” page on the company’s website was blank as of Thursday night…
Trump’s social network, Truth Social, denied the report in a post Thursday, saying Trump remains on the board of Trump Media as its chairman. It did not explain the state filing.
Eighth news item
U.S. President Joe Biden’s public approval rating held at the lowest level of his presidency, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Wednesday.
Thirty-six percent of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of his job, according to the two-day public opinion poll. That’s down slightly from 38% a week earlier and matched the record low first hit in late May.
The president’s approval rating has stayed below 50% since August, a warning sign that his Democratic Party could lose control of at least one chamber of the U.S. Congress in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Harsh criticism from his own team:
“It’s infuriating,” one top Democratic strategist told The Hill, venting frustrations about Biden and his team. “Our house is on fire and it seems like they’re doing nothing to put the fire out. They’re just watching it with the rest of us.”
Ninth news item
The IRS said Thursday that it has asked a government watchdog to investigate how two former senior FBI officials frequently criticized by former President Donald Trump were chosen for intense audits.
In a statement, agency Commissioner Chuck Rettig said he had personally contacted Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration about the matter.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that former FBI director James Comey and his one-time deputy, Andrew McCabe, were both audited through the National Research Program in recent years.
As few as several thousand returns a year are chosen for those examinations, out of 150 million filed annually with the IRS.
The agency said it was “ludicrous and untrue to suggest” that it targeted Comey and McCabe for those audits, which help the department gauge taxpayer compliance and refine its tools for collecting more unpaid taxes.
But senior lawmakers said Thursday that it was hard to believe Comey and McCabe’s audits were coincidental, even if the IRS does have safeguards in place that are designed to prevent politically motivated tax examinations.
Tenth news item
In addition, the poll shows more Republicans regard Jan. 6 as a “legitimate protest” than a “riot.”
The poll asked people in June 2021 and June 2022 whether each of those labels were appropriate descriptors for what transpired on Jan. 6, 2021. And the GOP shifts are pretty uniform:
While 33 percent of Republicans said in June 2021 that Jan. 6 was an insurrection, that number is now just 13 percent.
While 62 percent of Republicans called it a “riot” back then, that’s down to 45 percent.
While 47 percent said it was a “legitimate protest,” that’s now up to 61 percent.
So whereas more Republicans once said it was a “riot” than that it was a “legitimate protest,” by a 15-point margin, that has been flipped, with Republicans favoring the “legitimate protest” label by 16 points. A majority of Republicans no longer even regard Jan. 6 as a “riot.”
Have a great weekend!