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Jeff Sessions Was ‘Trump Before Trump.’ Will Alabama Voters Remember?

Westlake Legal Group merlin_167654064_45fe2826-8e60-4bcd-864e-5f274ececbb0-facebookJumbo Jeff Sessions Was ‘Trump Before Trump.’ Will Alabama Voters Remember? Voting and Voters United States Politics and Government Tuberville, Tommy Trump, Donald J Sessions, Jefferson B III Senate Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Republican Party Moore, Roy S Elections, Senate Conservatism (US Politics) Byrne, Bradley Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — It was another era, in another Republican Party. Jeff Sessions was a backbench senator from Alabama who defied the Republican president and doomed a bipartisan immigration bill with claims it would let terrorists and child molesters pour across the border.

Donald J. Trump was working on the seventh season of his reality TV show “The Apprentice” and was still registered in New York State as a Democrat.

Thirteen years later, after serving a brief and tormented tenure as President Trump’s attorney general, Mr. Sessions wants his old job in the Senate back.

But he is vexed by a bitter irony as he competes against several other Republicans in a March 3 primary. The Jeff Sessions of the past, who became a beloved figure on the right and helped fuel a populist brush fire that challenged Republicans over the very issues that are now at the heart of Mr. Trump’s nationalist agenda, is a distant memory for many Alabama voters.

Ask Republicans today what they think of Mr. Sessions, who represented Alabama in the Senate for 20 years, and many of the same belittling adjectives that Mr. Trump has hurled at his former attorney general come spilling out.

“He was weak,” said Stasia Madej, the owner of a women’s clothing boutique in Huntsville. She was in between bites of her barbecue dinner on a recent weeknight at a Republican candidates’ forum where four of Mr. Sessions’s opponents were speaking.

“I was hoping he’d be here tonight so we could hear answers to all of the questions we want to ask. I have doubts since he recused himself,” added Ms. Madej, who declared, “I love Trump,” as she started in on Mr. Sessions.

The episode to which Ms. Madej was referring may be the one act in Mr. Sessions’s long career that tips his Senate run in Alabama: his recusal from the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia in 2016. That prompted the appointment of Robert S. Mueller as special counsel and enraged Mr. Trump, who continued his public taunts and insults of the former attorney general — “VERY weak” and his “biggest mistake” as president — long after he forced him out in November 2018.

Mr. Sessions’s predicament says a lot about a Republican Party that Mr. Trump has turned into a vessel for his own political security, held together not by shared beliefs but instead by fealty to him. No one was more of an evangelist for the ideas Mr. Trump ran on than Mr. Sessions. Yet his political fate is now threatened because the president has declared him disloyal.

“We live in a time now when if you don’t fall on your sword for the president, you’re done,” said John Castorani, a candidate for Congress from the Mobile area and a self-described moderate Republican, who said Mr. Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. “I was proud to be from Alabama — for a moment,” added Mr. Castorani, a 27-year-old veteran and former intelligence officer.

“When we criticize Trump, we are no longer patriots, we are country-hating liberal hacks,” he said. “I’m not going to fall on my sword for him. And if that keeps me from getting elected, I’m O.K.,” he said.

The negative effect of Mr. Trump’s barrage against Mr. Sessions became clear in interviews with 20 Alabama voters. Most brought up the recusal with no prompting. Many said they held it against their former senator, though some admired him for sticking to his principles. And even those who couldn’t recall what exactly Mr. Sessions did had heard enough to understand that whatever happened was bad for the president.

“I know he did something that made the president mad,” said Susan Woodman, a retired speech therapist who came away from the Huntsville event undecided but impressed with one of Mr. Sessions’s rivals, Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach.

Mr. Tuberville introduced himself to the audience by saying his biggest reason for wanting to serve in Washington was “to help Donald Trump” — be it on trade or foreign policy or fighting political correctness in schools that he complained teach “climate change, diversity and all that crap.”

All of the candidates have pledged in no uncertain terms to help Mr. Trump and his agenda if elected. Mr. Sessions’s bet is that he can claim something more convincing: He was on board with that agenda first.

“I have a certain authenticity on this that I will acknowledge I don’t think others have,” Mr. Sessions said in an interview at a “Pork & Politics” mixer in Mobile recently. Referring to his opponents, he said there was a difference “between demagoguery and honest advocacy for the American people’s interests.”

“They’re good people,” he added of his rivals. “I just don’t think any of those candidates understand the significance historically of the issues that we are talking about.”

The last time Mr. Sessions ran for Senate, in 2014, he was considered so unbeatable that no one ran against him on either ticket, Republican or Democratic. He was famous for railing against Wall Street bankers and Silicon Valley executives as villains from a Tom Wolfe novel, calling them “masters of the universe” who were putting “the parochial demands of a few powerful C.E.O.s ahead of an entire nation’s hopes.”

During the Obama administration he opposed fellow Republicans who wanted to negotiate new agreements to lower barriers to trade, saying in 2015, “I think we are at a point in history where we cannot afford to lose a single job in this country to unfair trading practices.”

He also broke with his party on Social Security and Medicare spending, favoring an approach that would avoid the steep cuts that party leaders like Paul D. Ryan had supported as a matter of fiscal responsibility.

Working in Mr. Sessions’s office at the time as his communications director was Stephen Miller, now the White House adviser most associated with Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration.

In February 2016, when most of Mr. Sessions’s colleagues still considered Mr. Trump a joke, he became the first senator to endorse him for president.

There is a depth to Mr. Sessions’s early bond with Mr. Trump that none of his rivals can challenge. Mr. Tuberville has never held political office. Representative Bradley Byrne, who represents a district in southern Alabama, won his seat in 2013 after beating a Tea Party insurgent, thanks in large part to a flood of money from major corporations like Pfizer, Caterpillar and AT&T. After the “Access Hollywood” tape came out a month before the 2016 election, Mr. Byrne called on Mr. Trump to step aside for Mike Pence.

Lately, Mr. Byrne has wrapped himself in the president’s agenda. At the Huntsville forum, his campaign literature fanned out on the tables declared, “We can trust Bradley to stand with President Trump.” He managed to insert Mr. Trump’s name into almost every answer he gave that night, starting with his introduction to the crowd: “I’m a Christian. I’m a conservative,” he said. “And I vote with President Trump 97 percent of the time.”

So far, polls show Mr. Sessions leading Mr. Byrne, Mr. Tuberville and a third opponent, Roy S. Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court whose campaign for Senate in 2017 unraveled amid accusations that he had forced himself on teenage girls, costing Republicans the seat.

Mr. Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet about this year’s race. Should Mr. Sessions prevail in the primary next month but not win an outright majority, a runoff election would not happen for several weeks. And that prospect makes Mr. Sessions’s allies nervous because of the ample time it would allow the president to call off his cease-fire.

Though Mr. Trump is famous for disregarding advice, he has heeded warnings so far from numerous advisers about attacking the former attorney general. According to several people familiar with the conversations, his aides have pointed out that any attempt to interfere could backfire, as it did in 2017 when Mr. Trump backed two candidates in Alabama who lost: Luther Strange, who lost in the primary to Mr. Moore, and then Mr. Moore.

With the exception of a few influential conservatives — including Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who in an interview last year with the Huntsville radio host Jeff Poor said that “Sessions was Trump long before Trump,” and Laura Ingraham, who in 2014 said Mr. Sessions should be president — most Republicans seem to have conveniently forgotten Mr. Sessions’s contributions to Trumpism. Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham remain fans. And since Mr. Sessions announced his campaign in November on Mr. Carlson’s show, he has been on their prime-time Fox programs a total of nine times.

When the Sessions campaign released a list of 11 former Senate colleagues who were endorsing him, they were all people who were safe from the reprisals and attacks from the president that most Republicans fear. None are running for re-election this year; two are retiring; two others are in their mid-80s; and one, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, already left the Senate at the end of last year because of health issues.

Though Mr. Sessions said he had not spoken to the president since he left the Justice Department over a year ago, preserving the themes of the 2016 Trump campaign inside a party that was often hostile to them is a major reason he wants to be in the Senate.

Asked whether he believed there were a lot of Republicans who would revert to the party orthodoxy on trade and immigration once Mr. Trump is out of office, he said: “That’s my concern. I think there are a number of them that are kind of looking for that wave to go away. And they’ll go back to business as usual.”

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Plans for Alabama’s Deadly Prisons ‘Won’t Fix the Horrors’

Westlake Legal Group 31ALABAMA-facebookJumbo Plans for Alabama’s Deadly Prisons ‘Won’t Fix the Horrors’ Prisons and Prisoners Justice Department Eighth Amendment (US Constitution) Alabama

WASHINGTON — After months of promising to fix Alabama’s dangerously violent prison system, a panel appointed by the governor issued recommendations this week that would do little to address the underlying problems identified last year in a scathing Justice Department report, which documented prisoners being routinely assaulted and tortured, sometimes with the knowledge and even participation of prison guards.

The plan calls for more oversight, new supermax facilities and a long-term reduction in the overall inmate population, but the panel acknowledged that those recommendations alone would not bring an end to the “severe, systemic” conditions that the Justice Department said violated the Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Alabama lawmakers have long declined to impose oversight or build new facilities, leaving existing prisons to crumble and allowing drugs and gang violence to flourish behind their walls. Conditions documented last year by federal civil rights investigators included overcrowding, understaffing, free-flowing weapons and drugs, corruption among management and staff, extortion, and facilities so bad that investigators had to walk past raw sewage during an inspection.

A failure to fix those problems could result in Alabama’s prison system being placed in the hands of an outside, court-appointed party that would control its budget and operations. Something similar happened to California in 2006, when a federal judge gave an outside authority control over the mental health system in its state prisons. And in 2011, the United States Supreme Court found the state in violation of the Eighth Amendment and ordered it to reduce the prison population.

The recommended solutions released on Thursday by the study group appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey hinge on the passage of laws that would impose additional oversight over the Corrections Department, reform sentencing guidelines to keep people out of prison, and create educational and training programs that would help inmates achieve parole.

“Many of the recommendations are sensible, common-sense steps that the state should be doing,” said Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “But they won’t fix the horrors laid out by the Justice Department.”

The working group conceded that its suggestions could not fully address the severe problems that have gripped the state’s prisons. Rather, it hoped to create ways for lawmakers to address a system “in which these inmates become more violent while in prison and then commit new crimes upon release from prison only to return to prison.”

The top recommendation was to give the Legislature more insight into what is happening behind bars.

“Right now there is no oversight of conditions on the inside and no reporting on suicides, murders, inmate violence or officer violence,” said Cam Ward, a Republican state senator and chair of the prison oversight committee. “We can’t come in and investigate. We have no way to make them give us the numbers.”

Mr. Ward said he would support a bill drafted by Representative Chris England, the chair of the state Democratic Party, that would provide additional oversight.

Jeff Dunn, the state’s corrections commissioner, said in a statement that his department was “committed to transparency” and would “agree and look forward to working with the Legislature on increased oversight.”

Alabama’s prisons have deteriorated over decades, as low pay for corrections officers and the growth of the prison population coincided with the expansion of a robust black market for contraband and drugs, sometimes aided and abetted by prison officials and employees.

Buildings, which are not air-conditioned, fell into disrepair. Locks stopped working, and mirrors and cameras were rarely used. Murder, rape, torture and other forms of retribution and terror became a way of life. Homicides and suicides exceeded the national average, and in February 2019, a judge found that the system’s conditions for mentally ill inmates were unconstitutional.

During a single week, the Justice Department chronicled at least four stabbings, one fatal; four beatings, one that involved a sock full of metal locks; a prisoner’s bed being set on fire while he slept; three sexual assaults, including a man being forced to perform oral sex on two men at knife point; and a death by drug overdose.

Investigators said the state had been “deliberately indifferent” to these conditions. Several corrections officers have been arrested over the past year and charged with crimes including bribery and drug trafficking.

The department gave the state a five-page list of remedial actions it needed to undertake. By last October, the Corrections Department was supposed to have commissioned a study to assess transferring eligible prisoners out of the system to relieve the overcrowding and hired at least 500 additional employees.

It is unclear how many of the department’s 25 immediate recommendations and 18 long-term measures the state has undertaken. Both agencies declined to comment because the recommendations are part of continuing legal discussions. But the problems that the Justice Department identified have only increased in the nine months since its report.

At least 29 people have died of suicides, stabbings and other preventable deaths since the beginning of 2019, in a system that houses nearly 28,000 people, according to Alabamians for Fair Justice, a prison reform and watchdog group. The national average for prison homicides in 2014 was seven per 100,000 prisoners, according to the Justice Department.

The prison population has risen by more than 1,000 people over the past fiscal year, according to the Corrections Department. And the overcrowding will become even worse; the state decided this week to close most of Holman Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison that houses death row inmates and is one of the state’s oldest facilities.

The Justice Department was not pleased that Alabama did not consult with its officials on the decision to close the prison, which is sure to exacerbate the crowding issue. Jay E. Town, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, issued a statement that said, “I am disappointed that we were not privy to the decision to close Holman at the time such a decision was being considered.”

Mr. Ward, the state corrections commissioner, said security protocols around the movement of inmates prevented the state from informing the Justice Department of its decision. But he acknowledged that Alabama faces significant risk if its prisons continue to violate the Constitution.

“We don’t want to be put into receivership and have someone come in and oversee the system,” he said. “Then the state loses control.”

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How a Divided Left Is Losing the Battle on Abortion

ATLANTA — The pin was small, and rusted on the back. Sharon Wood had packed it away in 1973 as a relic of a battle fought and won: the image of a black coat hanger, slashed out by a red line.

Then this spring, her home state, Georgia, joined a cascade of states outlawing abortion at the earliest stages of pregnancy. Ms. Wood did what she never imagined she would need to do again. She dug it out, and pinned it on.

“Don’t ask me how it all happened,” Ms. Wood, 70, a retired social worker northeast of Atlanta, said one Sunday afternoon, the pin on her dress. “I know so many people who said they woke up when Trump was elected. Well, they shouldn’t have been asleep.”

For years, abortion rights supporters like Ms. Wood believed the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling had delivered their ultimate goal, the right to reproductive choice. Now, they are grappling with a new reality: Nationwide access to abortion is more vulnerable than it has been in decades.

In a six-month period this year, states across the South and Midwest passed 58 abortion restrictions. Alabama banned the procedure almost entirely. Lawmakers in Ohio introduced a similar bill shortly before Thanksgiving. And in March, the Supreme Court will hear its first major abortion case since President Trump added two conservative justices and shifted the court to the right; how it rules could reshape the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.

For abortion opponents, this moment of ascendancy was years in the making. Set back on their heels when President Barack Obama took office, they started methodically working from the ground up. They focused on delivering state legislatures and gerrymandered districts into Republican control. They passed abortion restrictions in red states and pushed for conservative judges to protect them.

And then unexpectedly, and serendipitously, Mr. Trump won the White House. Ending legal abortion appeared within their reach.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164983881_f3dce501-2691-4cd2-bb5f-cd3f48488180-articleLarge How a Divided Left Is Losing the Battle on Abortion Women's Rights Women and Girls Wen, Leana United States Politics and Government Richards, Cecile Presidential Election of 2020 Planned Parenthood Federation of America Naral Pro-Choice America McGill Johnson, Alexis Law and Legislation Democratic Party Birth Control and Family Planning Alabama Abortion

Sharon Wood supported abortion rights in the early 1970s. Now she worries that those rights are vanishing across the country.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

As Planned Parenthood and its progressive allies have rallied the resistance, the shift in fortunes in the abortion wars has been mostly attributed to the right’s well-executed game plan. Less attention has been paid to the left’s role in its own loss of power.

But interviews with more than 50 reproductive rights leaders, clinic directors, political strategists and activists over the past three months reveal a fragmented movement facing longstanding divisions — cultural, financial and political. Many said that abortion rights advocates and leading reproductive rights groups had made several crucial miscalculations that have put them on the defensive.

“It’s really, really complicated and somewhat controversial where the pro-choice movement lost,” said Johanna Schoen, a professor at Rutgers University who has studied the history of abortion.

National leaders became overly reliant on the protections granted by a Democratic presidency under Mr. Obama and a relatively balanced Supreme Court, critics say, leading to overconfidence that their goals were not seriously threatened. Their expectation that Mr. Trump would lose led them to forgo battles they now wish they had fought harder, like Judge Merrick B. Garland’s failed nomination to the bench.

Local activists in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota and Missouri where abortion was under siege say national leaders lost touch with the ways that access to abortion was eroding in Republican strongholds.

“Looking at the prior presidential administration, there was a perception that everything is fine,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, an independent clinic in Atlanta that has provided abortions since 1976. “We were screaming at the top of our lungs, everything is not fine, please pay attention.”

Discord at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest and most influential abortion provider, exacerbated the problem. In July the group’s new president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out in a messy departure highlighting deep internal division over her management style and how much emphasis to place on the political fight for abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood’s acting head, Alexis McGill Johnson, said that Mr. Trump’s election, new abortion restrictions and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court provided a wake-up call to many national leaders, including herself, that forced them to confront the entrenched challenges of class dividing their movement.

“A lot of us are awakening to the fact that if you are wealthy, if you live in the New York ZIP code or California ZIP code or Illinois ZIP code, your ability to access reproductive health care is not in jeopardy in the same way that it is in other states,” Ms. McGill Johnson said in an interview.

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The right is pouncing on this moment of tumult, threatening to wield abortion politics to its favor in the 2020 presidential race. A leading anti-abortion political group, the Susan B. Anthony List, has more than doubled its campaign budget, from $18 million in 2016 to $41 million this cycle. Its goal is to reach four million voters, up from 1.2 million in 2016. The group says surveys it has conducted in swing states like Arizona and North Carolina show that portraying Democrats as supporters of infanticide — an allegation the left says is patently false — can win neutral voters to their side.

“They have fallen from that pinnacle of power to this,” Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group that opposes abortion, said of the abortion rights movement.

“I hope they continue doing what they are doing,” she said of the left’s political strategy. “We’ll run the table in 2020.”

On the campaign trail, national Democrats have responded by making unqualified support for abortion a litmus test to shore up a progressive base, boxing in moderate candidates in red states and leaving little room for the complex views on the issue that most Americans hold.

In June, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. reaffirmed his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions, he was harshly criticized by supporters of abortion rights, including from within his own campaign; within a day he had changed his stance. In November, the Democratic Attorneys General Association announced it would support only candidates who support abortion rights and access.

Amid the high political maneuvering, there are fundamental internal divisions that the abortion rights movement has not resolved, especially between Planned Parenthood and the independent clinics that perform most abortion procedures.

This past summer, for instance, after Alabama passed its near-total abortion ban, celebrities and liberal donors opened their checkbooks en masse to support Planned Parenthood. The founder of Tumblr gave $1 million. The pop star Ariana Grande held a benefit concert.

At the same time, Gloria Gray, who heads the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, said she couldn’t afford to give her staff raises or pay for a $20,000 fence to keep the daily protesters off the property. Her crowdfunding effort produced about $4,000.

Ms. Gray’s clinic performed about 3,300 abortions last year, more than half of all the procedures in Alabama. Planned Parenthood’s two clinics performed none.

“With the national organizations,” she said, “we seem to be left out.”

The cultural and financial disconnect between regional clinics and national leaders in the abortion rights movement has been brewing for years. Tammi Kromenaker, who runs the only remaining abortion clinic in North Dakota, said she saw the national crisis coming in 2013, when North Dakota became the first state to enact a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

At an annual working group meeting with abortion rights leaders — “folks from the coasts,” she recalled — the conversation centered not on the challenges to abortion rights in her state but on whether artwork conveying female power in a New York clinic’s waiting area was too provocative and would alienate its changing patient base.

A short time later at a different annual meeting, an activist from California suggested North Dakota advocates should have had a better messaging strategy to prevent the ban. “You don’t think we have the right message?” Ms. Kromenaker remembered in exasperation. “We have given every message.”

“They are never threatened, so they never have to think the way we do,” she said, referring to national leaders.

Independent clinics like Ms. Kromenaker’s and Ms. Gray’s in Alabama — unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood — perform about 60 percent of the country’s abortion procedures, according to groups that track the data. Those clinics have essentially no lobbying or political power.

Few state activists want to question Planned Parenthood or its strategy publicly, especially when they are allies in court and some receive financial support from the national organization. Planned Parenthood affiliates, with plaintiffs like the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued to block the restrictions this year in eight states, offering legal muscle many independent clinics cannot provide for themselves. Some laws have been temporarily blocked from going into effect in the lower courts, though they could end up being decided by the Supreme Court.

Many people interviewed acknowledged the unique pressures Planned Parenthood faced, especially as conservative activists made defunding the group a top policy objective in recent years.

Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that independent clinics “absolutely” needed to be better funded, but that ultimately protecting the clinics depended on bigger changes.

“I don’t think they will be able to continue to operate at all if you don’t shift the culture and politics,” she said. “The trajectory we are on will outlaw service.”

Still, some worry that Planned Parenthood and other national groups have overly prioritized politics and power instead of patients and providers. Though Planned Parenthood is perhaps best known as the nation’s largest abortion provider, it provides a range of health services across more than 600 centers across the country, including contraception; testing for sexually transmitted infections; and hormone therapy for transgender patients.

The tension between Planned Parenthood’s political goals and its mission as a health provider was one of the main reasons Dr. Wen, with a background as a physician, had such a stormy tenure as president.

Pamela Merritt, who co-founded a reproductive rights group called Reproaction in 2015, compared Planned Parenthood’s legal priorities to a lobbyist for a commercial enterprise like McDonald’s, focused on protecting its own business needs. Activists refer to the organization and its outsize influence, she said, as “the big pink elephant in the room.”

“The movement needs independent providers that provide most abortions to be loud and out front,” said Ms. Merritt, who described herself as an “unapologetic lefty.”

For many of those independent providers, the problem extends well beyond politics.

In Alabama, Ms. Gray’s biggest challenges are practical. Drug prices for medical abortions are high, she can’t find a physician to replace her aging medical director, and an electrician recently refused services because he opposed abortion, she said.

Amid these pressures her client base has grown, especially because Planned Parenthood has not provided abortions in Alabama since March 2017, according to state department of heath data, though it advertised the service. Critics say that Planned Parenthood has been more focused on using the political climate in Alabama to raise money than on providing health care services.

After multiple inquiries over several weeks from The New York Times about when and why Planned Parenthood clinics stopped providing abortions in Alabama, the regional affiliate president, Staci Fox, said the group planned to resume providing abortions later this year. The group also removed web pages advertising the procedure in Birmingham and Mobile.

Planned Parenthood health centers are all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, but 85 percent of independent clinics are not, according to the Abortion Care Network, the national association for community-based abortion providers, which has 13 staff members and no political advocacy arm. Clinics like Ms. Gray’s are for-profit businesses that rely on payments for services to stay open.

The financial challenges are daunting. In Arizona, independent clinic leaders are expanding the Abortion Fund of Arizona, a NARAL project that provides direct assistance to abortion patients; it has received about $50,000 in donations this year, said Donna Matthews, the fund’s treasurer. In Arkansas, the Little Rock Family Planning Services, a small for-profit that offers the only surgical abortion services in the state, received a $30,000 grant from the National Women’s Law Center.

Ms. McGill Johnson of Planned Parenthood pushed back against criticism that her group was inattentive to the needs of small abortion providers. The broader reproductive rights ecosystem, she said, was crucial. “We recognize that Planned Parenthood is one small piece of the work to defend access,” she said.

“Pitting us against each other makes it impossible to provide health care,” Ms. McGill Johnson added. “The only way we survive is by building the strongest network possible.”

Still, the fragmentation in the movement has persisted. In Alabama, that was evident in the growing popularity of the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit started in 2017 that covers medical, travel and other costs for low-income abortion patients. After Alabama’s ban was enacted, prominent national groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well Democrats like Senator Bernie Sanders, rushed to support the group.

The Yellowhammer Fund raised $4 million in 10 weeks, and its director, Amanda Reyes, said about $500,000 was budgeted to cover abortion procedures. Ms. Gray and the two other independent clinic directors in the state had hoped more resources would be directed to meet their needs. But Ms. Reyes has put forth a different vision to address broader challenges that women of color and low-income families might face, like access to financial and health care resources to care for additional children.

Yellowhammer is planning to support other aspects of reproductive rights, like doula care, she said, and hopes to build new “reproductive justice centers” designed to compete with anti-abortion pregnancy centers by providing things like diapers and pregnancy tests.

Their efforts are a sign that the left knows it needs new strategies, but also of the wide disagreement over what they should be. In describing her vision, Ms. Reyes used language some say is similar to the rhetoric frequently deployed by abortion rights’ fiercest opponents.

“If all we do as an organization is pay for abortions for low-income people, we are eugenicists,” Ms. Reyes said. “That is not transformational work. That is slapping a Band-Aid on a huge problem.”

At a NARAL town hall event with Bernie Sanders this summer, Karina Chávez rallied a crowd in a Des Moines ballroom by describing how she had an abortion at age 14. The father, her boyfriend, would become a drug addict, and her Catholic parents fiercely opposed abortion. The procedure itself, she said, was the easier part.

“Making a decision about your reproductive health doesn’t need to be a traumatic life experience,” Ms. Chavez, a Sanders supporter, told several hundred voters.

Her position reflects a wing of the reproductive rights movement that encourages women to “Shout your abortion,” and that believes building cultural support for the procedure depends on destigmatizing it.

“Going moderate, it is not a winning strategy,” said Jessica González-Rojas, who leads the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Politically, that means mirroring the right’s successful tactic of doubling down on a firm position — and using energy from the liberal base instead of building bipartisan, cultural support.

This has led to close alignment with the Democratic Party. In recent years, Planned Parenthood has become one of the biggest sources of volunteer power for Democratic campaigns. In 2018, the group’s political arm gave more than $1.1 million to Democrats and just $5,735 to Republicans, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic Party has rejected the message that drove its politics since President Bill Clinton’s administration — that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” — and embraced abortion rights with few stipulations. Every leading Democratic presidential candidate has fallen in line.

But unlike support for same-sex marriage, which rose drastically before it was legalized nationwide, Americans’ views on abortion have remained relatively consistent since 1975. A majority of Americans believe the procedure should be legal — but only in certain cases, according to Gallup’s long-running tracking poll.

Some abortion rights supporters worry that establishing abortion rights as a Democratic litmus test is too inflexible for Americans conflicted over abortion. They fear that it could hurt the party in rural areas and the more moderate, suburban districts that may hold the key to regaining the White House, and where many of the remaining vulnerable abortion clinics are.

Only five Democrats who oppose abortion rights remain in Congress, according to congressional votes tracked by NARAL, and at least two are facing primary challenges from women who have made support for abortion rights a key part of their campaign. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a rare Democratic officeholder in the South, won re-election last month after campaigning on his support for a state law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

J.D. Scholten, a Democrat running to replace Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican, said that about 60 percent of voters in his culturally conservative district considered themselves “pro-life.”

“Where I’m from, we have a pretty big tent,” he said. “We can’t be writing off people. I need all the votes I can get.”

But many activists dispute the notion that compromise with abortion opponents constitutes a success. Appealing to the middle prioritizes the views of white moderates at the expense of the health care needs of women of color, critics like Ms. Merritt of Reproaction say.

“You have to change the structures,” she said. “We have ceded ground we didn’t need to about the power of our ideas.”

Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood and the woman most associated with the reproductive rights movement under President Obama, has shifted her efforts and formed a new organization, Supermajority, that casts abortion as part of a wide range of issues affecting women.

Over a breakfast of eggs and biscuits in Birmingham, Ms. Richards and two of her co-founders said they saw an opening to talk about female empowerment instead of narrower debates like when pregnancy termination should be allowed. That means building an interracial alliance with activists working on issues like immigration, economic justice and gender equality.

“Look, movements ebb and flow, it does not mean that movement was a failure,” Ms. Richards said. “We can learn things from the past, and we can also do things differently.”

All of these efforts will be tested in the coming months, as both parties move into the pressure cooker of a general election and a series of court battles, where abortion politics will be front and center. For Ms. Wood, the woman with the rusted pin, the conflict feels familiar.

As she waited for the kickoff event of the Supermajority tour, she compared the moment to the pre-Roe years. Abortion rights advocates must rebuild their grass-roots power, she said, or risk suffering the consequences.

“I’ve stayed politically active,” Ms. Wood said as she stood in the half-empty hall. “But without a movement around you, it’s hard to feel empowered.”

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Watch: AL Congressional Candidate Jessica Taylor Vows to Take on AOC, and Build Squad of Her Own If Elected

Westlake Legal Group JessicaTaylorAL-620x350 Watch: AL Congressional Candidate Jessica Taylor Vows to Take on AOC, and Build Squad of Her Own If Elected The Squad Social Media republicans Politics North Carolina Jessica Taylor Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Featured Post elections democrats Culture Congress Campaigns Allow Media Exception Alabama 2020 Elections 2020

Jessica Taylor, Republican candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Screen grab via her YouTube page.

Back in July, Republican Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) announced she would be retiring from Congress at the end of her term after serving since 2011.

Since that time, a number of GOP competitors have jumped into the primary race. But on Monday, a new candidate entered the race with a splashy ad that is turning heads and has people wanting to know more about her and what she stands for.

Jessica Taylor threw her hat into the ring, making herself the sixth Republican – and first woman – to declare their intentions for the Congressional seat. She vowed to take on AOC and the rest of the “Squad”, and declared that she is an unapologetic conservative and Trump supporter:

Prattville attorney and businesswoman Jessica Taylor announced her candidacy for Congress in Alabama’s 2nd District Monday, saying she wants to form a “conservative squad” to take on liberal Democrats led by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY.

In a campaign video, Taylor highlighted her rural Alabama roots, business career, and family with former State Sen. Bryan Taylor. But it’s her love of playing on the basketball team that Taylor connects to using teamwork to support President Donald Trump.

“I’m sick of arrogant socialists like AOC, who’ve never even run a lemonade stand, trying to tell us how to live in Alabama and that more government is the answer,” she says in the video.

“I have zero interest in being a professional politician, but conservatives like us need a squad of our own — and I’ll build it.”

Watch her debut ad:

She told “Fox and Friends” in an interview this morning that “We need somebody who can convince my generation and others that more government is not the answer. More government is the problem.”


The 2nd district is reliably Republican, and has been red since 1965, outside of Democrat Bobby Bright’s term from 2009-2011.

The Alabama primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020.

Hat tip: Twitchy

— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 16+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –

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Beto O’Rourke Told a Room Full of Democrats That You – Yes You – Are a Racist

Westlake Legal Group beto-orourke-dh-620x443 Beto O’Rourke Told a Room Full of Democrats That You – Yes You – Are a Racist racism Politics Front Page Stories elections democrats Beto O'Rourke Allow Media Exception Alabama 2020

Beto O’Rourke by DonkeyHotey, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Democratic 2020 candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is so woke that he’s officially become the wokest candidate among the pack. What’s more, he can’t wait to show you how woke he is.

While addressing the Alabama Democratic Conference’s semi-annual convention in Birmingham, Alabama, O’Rourke showed you just how racist he’s not by pointing out that everyone in America is a racist country because it’s racist at its foundations.

Bold strategy, Cotton.

“Despite my obvious pride in the role my community played in the civil rights history of America, despite what I think we represent to this country and the rest of the world — about the genius of America being able to integrate people who come from everywhere and call this country home…this country, though we may not be in El Paso, Texas, is still racist at its foundation, at its core, and throughout history,” said O’Rourke.

His calling this country “racist” naturally received applause from the Democrat attendees.

It’s odd to me that we still hear this kind of rhetoric from Democrats who currently govern a country where they elect minorities on both sides of the aisle. Democrats who live in a country where we just recently had a black president. Where we have celebrities, athletes, and business owners of every shade of skin color and ethnic background.

The institutional racism O’Rourke is mentioning here is nonexistent. A country that is racist at its core wouldn’t allow for any of the above. While it’s clear that many minority communities have their struggles, blaming it on some nebulous spirit of racism is like saying it rains because it does. The social justice left that O’Rourke belongs to would rather commit to the narrative that bad things happen to minorities because of racism, and not really look at the underlying causes as to why.

But the most insulting part is that in order for a country to be racist, there have to be practicers of racism. According to O’Rourke, that’s you. You’re racist. Maybe you don’t think you are, or maybe you don’t mean to be, but O’Rourke and woke Democrats like him are here to tell you that you’re just the worst.

In short, he thinks you’re horrible and that the only way to fix you is to give him power over you.


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Trump: Have I mentioned lately that Jeff Sessions was a total disaster and an embarrassment to his state?

Westlake Legal Group ts Trump: Have I mentioned lately that Jeff Sessions was a total disaster and an embarrassment to his state? Trump The Blog republican Jeff Sessions impeachment gop endorsement disaster attorney general Alabama

Every time I start to sympathize with Sessions, I remember how important his endorsement of Trump was in the 2016 primary and end up wishing Trump would bite him harder. Like a real-life version of Trump’s favorite song.

If Sessions had stayed out of the primary he might never have been Attorney General. But he’d still be a senator from Alabama and a figure beloved by Republican nationalists instead of unemployed and a perpetual whipping boy for their new favorite politician. You knew damn well he was a snake before you took him in, Jeff. How much sympathy can we really have?

There are two things that make these comments newsworthy.

GORKA: Last two questions. How are we doing, Mr. President, in defeating the Deep State?

TRUMP: Well, I think, if it all works out, I will consider it one of the greatest things I’ve done. You look at what’s happened to the absolute scum at the top of the FBI. You look at what’s happening over at the Justice Department, now we have a great attorney general. Whereas before that, with Jeff Sessions, it was a disaster. Just a total disaster. He was an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama. And I put him there because he endorsed me, and he wanted it so badly. And I wish he’d never endorsed me.

I can think of at least one other person who wishes Sessions had never endorsed Trump. Anyway, that’s newsworthy in the first place because Sessions himself recently had occasion to comment publicly on Trump — and was characteristically gracious, ignoring the many months of Twitter tirades he endured as AG:

In a speech to Alabama Republicans at a fundraiser Tuesday night, the former longtime senator said despite nearly two years of being publicly berated by Trump, “I still do support him” and his policies.

Sessions said Trump continues “relentlessly and actually honoring the promises he made to the American people,” such as “boldly” asserting the principles of the Republican Party, despite being engulfed in scandal after scandal. Sessions praised Trump’s trade maneuvers with China and his foreign policy and immigration moves…

“There was one problem as attorney general, that’s for sure, as you well know,” he told the crowd. “I like to say a lot of people get fired from their work, but mine was a little more public than most. You do the best you can. At least they don’t shoot you when they fire you.”

Much has been written (including by me) about Trump’s transactional nature but his capacity to pursue a vendetta long after it’s stopped being useful to him is constantly amazing. The most notorious example is him wandering off-script at official events occasionally to remind the audience how much he disliked the now long-dead John McCain but his Sessions grudge is almost as weird. We get it — he resents the fact that Sessions did something ethical by recusing himself from the Russiagate probe instead of acting like a southern-fried Roy Cohn. He’s raged about it at length literally for years now. In the end Mueller didn’t charge him and didn’t even give Democrats enough to impeach him for obstruction, and Trump finally ended up replacing Sessions with a much more accommodating AG. You’d think he’d be ready to shift towards more conciliatory talking points about Sessions — “a good man, didn’t agree with his recusal decision, but I’ll always be grateful for that endorsement,” and so on. Nope.

Which brings us to the other reason this is newsworthy. Jeff Sessions has a lot of friends in Mitch McConnell’s caucus, having spent 20 years in the Senate before being named AG. No doubt many of those friends are unhappy with how Sessions was demagogued by Trump during the Russiagate process. There’s also no doubt that some will be annoyed to see Trump still flogging him, long after POTUS stopped getting any political mileage from it. Some might even draw a lesson in loyalty from it: Sessions, who stuck his neck out to become the only U.S. senator willing to formally support Trump in 2016, was rewarded in due time with endless abuse. His early, even singular loyalty earned him nothing from the president.

These are the people who’ll soon be rendering a verdict on impeachment.

You would think Trump would be willing to make a few small concessions to their sensitivities even knowing how unlikely it is that that they’d ever vote to remove him, but instead he seems willing to antagonize them repeatedly and gratuitously. There’s today’s pummeling of Sessions. There’s his decision to step aside in northern Syria and let Turkey mash the Kurds, a decision seen by nearly every Republican in Congress as a grievous betrayal. There were the antics last week on the White House lawn when he called publicly on Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens, making it that much harder for Republicans to spin his phone call with Zelensky. It’s not just right-wingers on the Hill whom he’s feuding with either. He’s decided to escalate his attacks on Fox News, a key messenger in his impeachment media strategy:

He decided to make an enemy of John Bolton too by firing him just as the Ukraine matter was coming to a head behind closed doors, despite doubtless knowing of Bolton’s willingness to settle scores with his enemies via leaks to the media. News broke just this morning that Bolton is already writing a book about his experiences with Trump; whether he’s also been a source of the many damaging national-security scoops that have ended up in newspapers lately remains an open question.

Meanwhile, rising support for impeachment is making it that much easier for Senate Republicans who are weary of the daily circus to give removal a second look.

All of this feels like a domestic version of Trump’s trade-war policies. In each case he’s facing a formidable adversary, China on the one hand and House Democrats on the other. The logical thing to do strategically would be to make nice with allies, offering concessions as needed in hopes of assembling a united front against the enemy. Instead Trump lashes out indiscriminately at everyone, slapping tariffs on allies in the trade-war context and slapping Jeff Sessions across the face today in print knowing that Senate Republicans won’t like it. There’s no eight-dimensional chess here; there’s not even checkers. In both cases the “strategy” is simply brute-force intimidation, believing in the case of trade that allies will have no choice but to acquiesce to the demands of the American superpower and believing in the case of impeachment that Senate Republicans will have no choice but to acquiesce to the will of his voters, which is to protect Trump at all costs. A little bit of honey would make his life easier but it’s all vinegar:

In private, Trump is increasingly leaning on the Republican leader in the Senate. In a return to the President’s panicked behavior during the height of the Mueller investigation, Trump is calling McConnell as often as three times a day, according to a person familiar with the conversations…

Trump has been lashing out at GOP senators he sees as disloyal, according to the person familiar with the conversations, telling McConnell he will amplify attacks on those Republicans who criticize him.

Maybe tomorrow he’ll dump on Ronald Reagan during a press conference or call George W. Bush some names. See if he can alienate every last remaining Republican on the Hill who’s kinda sorta well disposed to him.

As long as he has people like this in conservative media willing to treat him like an actual king, he may figure that intimidation on the Hill is destined to work. The cultier the party becomes, the greater the risk to anyone who tries to leave the cult. Why make concessions to get your way if you can get it with threats instead?

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NBA Legend Charles Barkley Slams Democrats for Only Talking to Black People ‘Every Four Years’

Westlake Legal Group basketball-330709_1280-620x465 NBA Legend Charles Barkley Slams Democrats for Only Talking to Black People ‘Every Four Years’ Uncategorized roy moore racism Race pandering Front Page Stories ESPN elections doug jones donald trump democrats charles barkley Campaigns Allow Media Exception Alabama



I like NBA legend Charles Barkley. He’s a guy who says what he thinks and doesn’t really care how anyone feels about it.

Not so long ago, that was called “strong.” These days, I believe it’s called being an insensitive jerk. For a significant other, that’s probably accurate, but when it comes to national personalities, to a point, I prefer the previous interpretation.

And on Wednesday, Charles had strong words for Democrats.

Speaking to Michael Smerconish on SiriusXM, the sports icon recalled his efforts for Doug Jones during the 2017 race against Republican Roy Moore.

Barkley explained that he pledged Doug his assistance but ripped Dems in general:

“I said ‘Doug, I’m going to support you. I’m going to try to get every black person in Alabama to vote for you.’ And it worked out. We won for the first time in 40 years. But I said, ‘We need to start holding you Democrats accountable’ because they’ve been taking black people’s votes – and they only talk to black people every four years. All of these politicians only talk to black people every four years because they want their vote.”

And they offer nothing:

“Oh, actually, the Republicans don’t, the Democrats do. But when they get elected, they do nothing in the four years in between.”

The Alabama man also asserted Trump supporters are being wrongfully characterized as racist:

“I don’t think everybody who voted for Trump is racist … I think some of them are, but I don’t think everybody who voted for Trump is racist. But this thing started way, way back. When we started shipping all our jobs overseas many, many years ago, it was really going to have a negative effect in the long run; you notice now that all these malls and places are closing because people are doing all their shopping online, that’s going to have a negative effect … that’s not the President’s fault.”

The power forward doesn’t like talk of race being inserted where it doesn’t belong. He made that clear in January of 2016, when he accused ESPN of extreme goofiness in its framing of the Broncos/Panthers game, featuring white quarterback Peyton Manning and black QB Cam Newton:

“ESPN has already started their crap about black versus white, good versus evil—and I know a lot of those fools over there got radio talk shows. … It really annoys the hell out of me. We really just can’t appreciate the greatness of Peyton. And, clearly, Cam is on the track to become one of the greatest players ever. You can already see them framing this narrative ‘black versus white, good versus evil.’”

He said race sells:

“The best way to make talk radio good is to make it racial. … I hate bringing up the race card because there’s more important race stuff, but race does have something to do with it. There is a racial component, but I hate talking about that because we, as black people, we got way more important things where race is a factor than something silly like sports.”

As for “more important things,” when Doug Jones toppled Roy during the special election two years ago, Charles told CNN he was proud of Alabama, but he also grilled Democrats then as well, saying they needed to “get off their a**”:

“I’m so proud of my state. I love my state. We got some amazing people here. Yeah, we got a bunch of rednecks and a bunch of ignorant people, but we got some amazing people here and they rose up today. … It’s time for [Democrats] to get off their a** and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor.”



See 3 more pieces from me:

Tim Scott Blasts Democrats For Constant & Ridiculous Claims Of Trump’s Racism – It’s The ‘Lowest Common Denominator’

Beto O’Rourke’s Latest Goofy ‘Man Of The People’ Video Continues His Tone-Deaf Race To 2020 Obscurity

Think You’ve Heard The Stupidest Thing Ever? I Disagree. Witness The Woke’s New Condemnation Of IKEA

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House Dems launch investigation into whether White House pressured weather service into backing Trump on hurricane’s path

Westlake Legal Group t-2 House Dems launch investigation into whether White House pressured weather service into backing Trump on hurricane’s path Trump The Blog nws noaa mulvaney hurricane House dorian democrats Alabama

It took 10 days but this fiasco is now a bona fide scandal, with the opposition party launching a formal probe about whether the White House interfered with the National Weather Service’s scientific judgments in order to protect the president’s ego.

The central mystery is why NOAA, which oversees the NWS, issued that strange statement last Friday night gently scolding the Birmingham office of the NWS for disagreeing with Trump’s forecast back on September 1. The president tweeted that morning that Alabama was one of the states that would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” even though the latest projections placed Dorian creeping up the east coast, away from the Gulf. Only a small corner of Alabama was at risk, and only with a 10 percent probability of tropical-storm-force winds. So the Birmingham office put out a tweet after Trump’s to try to calm people, stressing that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

After many days of Trump doubling down and the media tripling down and Trump quadrupling down on whether his initial tweet was right or wrong, the Times reported on Monday that none other than Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, had phoned NOAA last Friday and demanded that the agency put out a statement siding with Trump, reportedly even threatening to fire people if they didn’t. That’s what got Democrats’ attention: Exactly how far up the federal bureaucracy did this dispute, which was about nothing more than whether the president made a minor mistake in using outdated information in a tweet, go? Did the pressure on NOAA originate with Ross or did it go even higher?

Of course it went higher, claims WaPo in a new story this afternoon. This clusterfark is poles apart in significance from the aborted invite to the Taliban to come to Camp David but it’s similar in one important respect: There’s only one person in the federal government who conceivably could have thought it was a good idea. Wilbur Ross doesn’t care if the NWS corrected Trump on a mistake he made. Mick Mulvaney doesn’t care either. If you could ask them off the record, doubtless even Melania and the Trump children wouldn’t care.

Only one person cares.

President Trump told his staff that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needed to correct a tweet that seemed to contradict his statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1, in contrast to what the agency’s forecasters were predicting at the time. This led chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to call Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to tell him to fix the issue, senior administration officials said.

Trump had complained for several days about the issue, according to senior officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter…

Trump told reporters he did not direct NOAA to issue such a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “No, I never did that,” Trump said. “I never did that. It’s a hoax by the media. That’s just fake news, right from the beginning, it was a fake story.”

Trump didn’t directly deputize Ross, said the NYT in its own story about this. Mick Mulvaney was put on the case and then he got on the phone with Ross, albeit without demanding that Ross threaten anyone over it:

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters’ position that Alabama was not at risk. NOAA, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued an unsigned statement last Friday in response, saying that the Birmingham, Ala., office was wrong to dispute the president’s warning.

In pressing NOAA’s acting administrator to take action, Mr. Ross warned that top employees at the agency could be fired if the situation was not addressed, The New York Times previously reported. Mr. Ross’s spokesman has denied that he threatened to fire anyone, and a senior administration official on Wednesday said Mr. Mulvaney did not tell the commerce secretary to make such a threat.

Congrats to Mulvaney on finally achieving the highest aspiration of the tea party, bossing around weathermen for correcting the president on a minor factual mistake. If small-government fans can’t hold the deficit below a trillion dollars a year in an age of rapid economic growth, they can at least muscle some nerds into eating sh*t on a quibble over a hurricane projection.

You can read the full letter sent to Ross today by Democrats on the House Science Committee right here. Key bit:

Westlake Legal Group t-6 House Dems launch investigation into whether White House pressured weather service into backing Trump on hurricane’s path Trump The Blog nws noaa mulvaney hurricane House dorian democrats Alabama

Their first question for him is whether anyone in the Executive Office of the President communicated with him about leaning on NOAA on Trump’s behalf. What will he say?

I think there’s a nonzero chance at this point that Ross ends up quitting. Not because this is a mega-scandal — most people who pay attention to it will be dumbstruck by how small the stakes are — but because he’s 81, reportedly falls asleep in meetings, and Trump might relish the opportunity to install a hardcore protectionist at Commerce in Ross’s place who can help him sell the trade war to the public. Obviously Trump’s not going to fire him for carrying out the president’s wishes in this instance but the White House might use the controversy to gently suggest to Ross that he should consider retirement. We’ll see.

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Wilbur Ross Slaps Down Resistance Hurricane Hijinks and the Left Goes Bonkers

Westlake Legal Group AP_17285648923019-620x423 Wilbur Ross Slaps Down Resistance Hurricane Hijinks and the Left Goes Bonkers wilbur ross the resistance Politics noaa National Weather Service Hurricane Dorian Government Front Page Stories Featured Story donald trump Department of Commerce democrats Allow Media Exception Alabama

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. The Trump administration acknowledged on Thursday that billions more dollars are “urgently needed” to ensure a fair and accurate count during the 2020 Census. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Hurricane Dorian has provided one of the stupidest events I believe I’ve ever witnessed. Not only did we get a chance to see the “climate isn’t weather” goons in full bloom after a forecast that Florida was going to be hit within 24 hours turned out to be spectacularly wrong, we got a chance to see our national media at war with President Trump over him merely reiterating a forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On September 1, President Trump mentioned that Alabama might possibly be hit heavier by Hurricane Dorian than expected.

While the public NOAA forecasts until August 31 showed Alabama in the danger zone of the projected track, by September 1 the projected track had hung a sharp right turn and was paralleling the Eastern Seaboard.

Later that day, the forces of the #Resistance sprang into action

They claim they were being inundated by calls but that doesn’t pass the smell test. There is exactly one reason that a regional NOAA office would interject itself into a presidential conversation, some little Resistance toad taking the opportunity to try to make the President look bad for political reasons. Questions could have been answered by simply repeating the current forecast, if we believe enough people actually knew there is a National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, to actually make a difference in call volume. Later that day, NOAA headquarters issued a directive that they were not to offer opinions but were to stick with official NOAA forecasts…which, if they’d done that there would have been no controversy.

Instead of this being the nothingburger that it was, there was a perfect marriage of the climate change dunces who are still all gritty-panties over Trump calling bullsh** on their gravy train and their media enablers. The Alabama tweet became an exhibit in their Trump-is-stupid campaign. Trump dug in and I think on September 4 executed a trolling maneuver that went wrong. My assessment is that Trump and his advisers misread just how freakin stupid and vicious there opposition was and there was this incident:

To me, this is a pretty obvious poke at the controversy. With the White House graphics department available, it would have been child’s play to extend the line of hurricane effects had they intended for anyone to take it seriously. But they hadn’t counted on the sheer nitwittery of the people who hate Trump. By now, there was a range of morons claiming that Trump had broken federal law by issuing a fake weather forecast. In this case, issuing meant that it had never been issued and forecast meant that it was a single map with a Sharpie markings that was four days old.

By Friday, the White House was taking the damage seriously. A national security council staffer, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, issued a statement

The White House circulated a statement on official letterhead from Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser, who said he briefed Trump multiple times about Dorian as well as models that showed the potential path of the eye of the storm.

“These products showed possible storm impacts well outside the official forecast cone,” Brown said.

“While speaking to the press on Sunday, Sept. 1, the President addressed Hurricane Dorian and its potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama,” he continued. “The president’s comments were based on that morning’s Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.”

The statement marked an escalation of the White House’s efforts to defend Trump’s assertion that Alabama would be hit by the storm, despite a National Weather Service tweet stating otherwise. It came days after Trump originally made the claim and as the storm lashed the Carolinas on Thursday with heavy rain, intense wind and tornadoes.

Brown noted that Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas were originally predicted to fall in Dorian’s path, but that the storm shifted track.

He also referenced forecasts from the National Hurricane Center from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, noting they did show a chance of tropical storm force winds hitting parts of Alabama.

And NOAA issued this statement:

From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.

Now the story breaks that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross intervened, personally, to un-screw this mess.

The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts last Friday after the agency’s Birmingham officecontradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

You would have thought the world had ended:

Ross’s spokesman denies the story and the Commerce IG is investigating (this is literally a nothingburger beyond throwing a bone to the Resistance), but even if it is true, so f***ing what?

Political appointees are totally at-will employees and can be fired because you don’t like the color of lipstick or the style of shoes. If they don’t want to do what they’ve been told to do, they can quit in protest. Ross was well within his rights to bring the hammer down on a weak and gutless leadership team that not only allowed a field office to actively try to make President Trump look bad but stood by, while in possession of evidence that proved the silliness of the whole matter, and let it dominate a news cycle for a week. The real scandal is that these people are still employed and that the Birmingham NWS office hasn’t felt any negative repercussions for this douchebaggery. The reaction Ross drew is a function of him upping the ante for rogue federal emp

I must admit, I’ve had my doubts about how strong a secretary Ross actually is, but this shows that no matter how slow moving he appears, he can be motivated to crack the whip.

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Amazing: Wilbur Ross threatened to fire people at NOAA after they contradicted Trump on the hurricane

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What’s most amazing about this story, which began with nothing more important than whether a presidential tweet had accidentally included outdated information about a storm’s projected path?

The fact that it’s somehow now in its second week, thanks to Trump’s and the media’s mutual refusal to concede?

The fact that it’s caused a political crisis at NOAA and NWS, two federal agencies focused on … weather?

Or the fact that, against all odds, this has now blossomed into a genuine scandal involving a member of the cabinet allegedly threatening to fire scientists for the crime of contradicting the president?

It’s become one of the most revealing and embarrassing episodes of Trump’s presidency precisely because the stakes are so low. There’s no money involved here, no electoral repercussions next fall, nothing that would obviously explain why the White House is completely committed to “winning” the argument. It’s pure vanity. Trump tweeted on September 1 that Alabama could be affected by the storm; that information was outdated so the Birmingham chapter of the National Weather Service politely contradicted him in its own tweet; and here we are eight days later, with the NYT breaking news about Wilbur Ross warning that heads would roll at NOAA if they didn’t take the president’s side in that dispute.

There’s no reason for any of it except vanity on Trump’s part and sycophancy on Ross’s. And so it’s become a measure of just how deep the Trump cult of personality within the administration extends. Is it so deep and petty that professional meteorologists will be forced to alter their own forecasts retroactively to protect the president’s ego?

Mr. Ross, the Commerce Secretary, intervened … early last Friday, according to the three people familiar with his actions. Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode. Unlike career government employees, political staff are appointed by the administration. They usually include a handful of top officials, such as Dr. Jacobs, and their aides.

Jacobs caved. NOAA issued a strange statement on Friday night, just when it seemed like the hurricane story was petering out, criticizing the NWS Birmingham office for having spoken “in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time” when it corrected Trump. You see, there was a 5-10 percent chance of tropical-storm-force winds in a tiny corner of Alabama when Trump tweeted on September 1 that the state would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” To Trump and Ross, that means Trump was technically sort of right. To everyone else, it means Trump’s tweet way overhyped the threat to the state based on stale info and the NWS crew in Birmingham tried to calm people by reassuring them there was no threat. NOAA’s managers sided with Trump and Ross because, at the end of the day, they’ve got to pay the rent.

The chief scientist at NOAA is now promising an internal investigation for the understandable reason that a weather bureau that makes forecasts based on the president’s mood instead of the actual weather isn’t serving the public. Presumably the next phase in this ridiculous story is Trump or Ross firing this guy for daring to try to protect the integrity of the agency’s meteorological methods:

“The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should,” [acting chief scientist Craig] McLean wrote. “There followed, last Friday, an unsigned news release from ‘NOAA’ that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political.”

He also wrote that “the content of this news release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.”

“If the public cannot trust our information, or we debase our forecaster’s warnings and products, that specific danger arises,” McLean wrote.

As a result, McLean told his staff that “I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity.”

I’d love to hear the conversation in Pelosi’s office about this. The entire saga is so preposterously petty that there may be no way to hold hearings on it without Democrats coming off as ridiculous as Trump. Imagine the casual voter who hasn’t followed the story trying to process it. “They’re investigating Trump for … tampering with weather reports? What?”

On the other hand, you’ve got the Commerce secretary instructing a scientific agency to undermine the conclusions of one of its own branches for nakedly political reasons. If Trump decides tomorrow that the moon is made of green cheese, is NASA duty-bound to issue a statement saying “it’s possible” so that the president doesn’t lose face? Does the CDC have to adjust its conclusions about the safety of vaccines because Trump has expressed skepticism about that in the past? Democrats would be laughed at if they tried to impeach Trump over this. If they tried to impeach Ross, I’m not so sure.

As chance would have it, the National Weather Association’s annual conference is happening today — in Alabama — and the head of the NWS, Louis Uccellini, was invited to speak. Would he side with the Birmingham office of NWS that contradicted Trump or the people at NOAA who criticized the office after being threatened by Ross?

He asked employees from the Birmingham office to stand for a standing ovation and they got one, so that’s how this is playing within NWS. Fun fact: Jacobs, the NOAA administrator who reportedly bowed to Wilbur Ross, is set to speak tomorrow. So yes, this story will drag on yet another day.

“[I]f #Sharpiegate can be said to serve any non-embarrassing function,” said a columnist at Slate over the weekend, “it’s as a test of another kind, to see which institutions and people have rotted under the president’s hysterical commands and which ones haven’t.” Ross failed the test. Exit question: How come Uccellini or other dissenters haven’t resigned? Is it because they fear they’d be replaced with garbage political cronies who *will* put out the “moon is made of green cheese” statement if commanded to do so?

The post Amazing: Wilbur Ross threatened to fire people at NOAA after they contradicted Trump on the hurricane appeared first on Hot Air.

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