In this corner: Wisconsin enters the ring for next round in abortion bout

In this corner: Wisconsin enters the ring for next round in abortion bout

What would normally be a relatively low-key election for a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has gone national as one of the candidates, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, has turned it into a referendum on abortion.

She’s actively campaigning on her pro-choice stance and abortion-rights supporters have flocked to her banner, hoping she’ll be the deciding vote as the state tries to figure out where its abortion policy lies after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, leaving the issue to the states.

Her rival, former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, is pro-life but has taken a lower profile on the issue while accusing Judge Protasiewicz of injecting politics into a job that should be about the law.

“She is playing to a political base,” said Brian Fraley, a Wisconsin-based GOP strategist. “He’s playing to the Constitution.”

The April 4 election is shaping up as the next big test of abortion politics after the issue helped limit Democratic losses in November’s midterm congressional elections.

But locals say there’s more at stake for the state’s high court, which is supposed to be nonpartisan but has been drawn into all manner of hot-button issues. A victory by Justice Kelly would preserve the court’s current 4-3 ideological split in favor of conservatives. Should Judge Protasiewicz win, it would flip the balance.

“Given the issues that increasingly come before the court, the ideological majority is seen as very important,” said Charles Franklin, a political science professor and director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

He said the court will likely have to rule on partisan legislative districts drawn by a GOP-led legislature that strongly favor Republicans, despite the overall purple tinge to the state.

“The current maps were approved in a controversial 4-3 decision that could be reconsidered if the election results in a liberal majority,” Mr. Franklin said.

He also figured the high court will have the final say on an 1849 abortion law that says: “Any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony.” The law have been unenforceable until Roe was struck down.

A Class H felony is punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Conservatives and Republicans also fear a liberal-leaning court will reverse their gains on school choice, tort reform and limiting the power of public sector unions.

Seeking to tap into those concerns, Justice Kelly has warned Judge Protasiewicz is “going to steal the legislative authority and use that in the courts.” 

“Political questions belong in the Legislature — we all know that since grade school with ‘Schoolhouse Rock,’” he said in a recent debate in which he also highlighted cases where she let criminals back onto the streets as a way to cast her as soft on crime.

Democrats figure those issues can’t match up against the strength of sentiment over abortion and redistricting, where Waukesha County Democratic Party Chair Matt Mareno said Judge Protasiewicz’s message resonates.

“She is kind of understanding that voters are tired of people getting on the court by saying they are going to be non-partisan when they have made up their minds already on things like abortion,” he said. “A lot of the messaging is: Do you want ‘Judge Janet’ who is living in 2023 and wants to put Roe back on the books, or do you want someone who wants to go back to 1849?”

National Democrats are weighing in, with no less than former President Barack Obama urging voters to cast ballots as early voting began on March 14.

The race has shattered the state’s record for spending on a Supreme Court seat.’s recent analysis shows roughly $30 million had been spent.

Judge Protasiewicz, in a debate, defended her outspoken focus on abortion, saying she wanted to be upfront with voters. But she said her rulings from the bench would be based solely on the law and the Constitution.

“My personal opinion is that should be the women’s right to make the reproductive health decision. Period,” Judge Protasiewicz said. “If my opponent is elected, I can tell you with 100% certainty, that 1849 abortion ban will stay on the books,” she said.

Justice Kelly says that was one of many lies Judge Protasiewicz has spread about him.

“So you don’t know what I’m thinking about that abortion ban. You have no idea,” he said.

He said Judge Protasiewicz sounded like she wanted to run for the state assembly, not a judgeship.

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Reports: U.S., Canada strike new migration deal to calm the border

Reports: U.S., Canada strike new migration deal to calm the border

The U.S. and Canada have reached a deal to try to stop what’s become an increasingly chaotic border between the two nations, according to news reports from both countries.

The deal was struck just before President Biden arrived in Canada for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Both countries will do more to keep people from jumping across the boundary and claiming asylum in the other country. And Canada will take an additional 15,000 asylum-seekers from across the hemisphere.

Immigrant-rights advocates were furious at the terms of the deal, saying it’s the latest retreat by Mr. Biden on his campaign promises of a more-welcoming immigration system.

“Asylum seekers flee violent conditions to build better futures for themselves and their families — they undergo extreme journeys across thousands of miles in search of safety and relief,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “To now restrict the movement of asylum seekers is to recklessly endanger their lives.”

He called Canada’s 15,000 asylum target “a slap in the face” and said Mr. Biden seems to be trying to “take pages out of the xenophobic Republican playbook for political gain.”

The U.S. and Canada have long had an asylum deal limiting illegal immigrants’ claims. But the countries say migrants have found loopholes.

In Canada, for example, migrants who cross through legal ports of entry and ask for asylum can be returned to the U.S. But those who sneak across are allowed to lodge claims.

One crossing into Quebec has gotten so bad that Canada, taking a page from Republican-led U.S. states, began busing the migrants to other locations to try to spread the pain of welcoming the newcomers.

Meanwhile migrants have been pouring from Canada into Vermont, New Hampshire and northern New York.

That comes on top of a southern border that has been out of control for most of Mr. Biden’s tenure, shattering records for illegal flows of people and drugs.

The Border Patrol’s chief testified to Congress earlier this month that about half of the southern border is not secure, and neither is the northern border sector that’s seeing all the action.

Mexican and Central American migrants who in years past would have suck across the southern border are now making their way into Canada and entering the U.S. from the north.

Smugglers from along America’s eastern seaboard — often illegal immigrants themselves — are driving to meet them and ferry them to locations across the eastern part of the U.S.

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FBI officials weren't sold on AG Garland's school board memo, emails show

FBI officials weren't sold on AG Garland's school board memo, emails show

FBI officials were seemingly blindsided by Attorney General Merrick Garland’s 2021 memo directing federal law enforcement resources to be trained on parents who protested against local school officials, newly obtained documents show.

An email chain from Oct. 4, 2021, the day Mr. Garland issued the now-infamous memo, reveals that some senior officials were not on board with the directive and pushed for the Department of Justice to reconsider.

“Making sure you all saw this from today,” wrote FBI Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director Timothy Langan. “I’m trying to track down additional on this from today.”

A senior FBI attorney chimed in minutes later, noting that the memo had just been brought to his attention, adding: “I hope DOJ reconsiders.”

Another employee wrote in a follow-up email that the Office of General Counsel “is going to engage with [the Office of the Deputy Attorney General] to request that it be reworded.”

In response, an employee from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys copied USAEO Director Monty Wilkinson on the email chain, writing: “It’s too little too late.”

The emails, which were released on Thursday, were first obtained this week by America First Legal in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request submitted days after the memo was issued.

The revelations echo a House Judiciary Committee report issued earlier this week that concluded the  Biden administration had “no legitimate basis” to deploy federal counterterrorism resources against parents.

Citing a trove of recently obtained documents, lawmakers behind Judiciary’s weaponization subcommittee probe into the controversial memo said the Biden administration “misused federal law-enforcement and counterterrorism resources for political purposes.”

“The Justice Department’s own documents demonstrate that there was no compelling nationwide law-enforcement justification for the Attorney General’s directive or the Department components’ execution thereof,” the interim report reads.

The panel released documents on Tuesday that show “strong negative reactions” to Mr. Garland’s memo by local law enforcement officials days after it was issued.

Several U.S. Attorneys reported back to Justice Department headquarters with objections from their local law enforcement counterparts on issues involving local school board meetings in the weeks following the memo.

William Ihlenfeld II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, wrote in a report to Justice headquarters that there had been “a handful” of local school board meetings where attendees had “been boisterous and disruptive,” but that those incidents should be handled by local police.

U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft of the Southern District of Illinois reported that Mr. Garland’s memo was “very poorly received” among local law enforcement officials, some of whom described the threats outlined in the memo as “a manufactured issue.”

“No one I spoke with in law enforcement seemed to think that there is a serious national threat directed at school boards, which gave the impression that our priorities are misapplied,” Mr. Weinhoeft reported to DOJ headquarters.

“Some expressed concerns that the federal government was meddling in an area where it does not belong,” he wrote.

Despite the lack of a compelling need for federal resources, the FBI acknowledged to the House panel that it opened 25 threat assessments, known as “Guardian assessments,” in response to concerns raised over threats against school boards, six of which were conducted by the FBI Counterterrorism Division.

“These admissions supplement whistleblower disclosures about the FBI’s actions, including disclosures the FBI investigated a mom because she belonged to a ‘right-wing mom’s group’ and ‘is a gun owner’ and a dad because ‘he rails against the government,’” the committee said in Tuesday’s report.

None of those investigations have resulted in federal arrests or charges, the panel said in the report.

Mr. Garland issued his memo ordering the Justice Department to sniff out “threats” against school boards in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association demanding that federal authorities crack down on parents who, according to the school boards group, were becoming upset at local school board meetings. Among some of the issues generating heated criticism were concerns about the teaching of critical race theory, masks in schools, and requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and testing.

Lawmakers on the House panel accused the White House and the Education and Justice departments of coordinating among themselves and with the NSBA before the release of the memo.

The report claims that Chip Slaven, interim director and CEO of the NSBA, emailed the NSBA’s letter to the White House and Department of Education before it was released publicly.

In an email to Biden administration officials, Mr. Slaven outlined his specific request that “federal law enforcement and relevant agencies work with state and local authorities and public schools to address these ongoing threats.”

Documents released in Tuesday’s report also show that the NSBA coordinated with the DOJ before the release of Mr. Garland’s memo.

In an email to Mr. Slaven before the memo’s release, Alivia Roberts from the DOJ’s Public Affairs office thanked the NSBA for raising its concerns.

“We hope to continue this dialogue as this is a very important issue the department is committed to addressing,” Ms. Roberts wrote.

Mr. Slaven replied that the NSBA “stand[s] ready to work with you on efforts going forward. Please let us [know] how we can support your efforts.”

The DOJ, NSBA, White House, and Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.

The lawmakers behind the report accused the Biden administration of attempting to silence critics of “its radical education policies.”

Mr. Garland says he did not order parents investigated for expressing concern over their children’s education. He said he intended to root out “violence and threats of violence against a whole host of school personnel.”

He acknowledged he was prompted “in part” by the NSBA letter, but said he was also reacting to news reports about violence.

“Nothing in my memorandum says to investigate parents who are angry, quite the opposite. It says that the First Amendment protects that kind of vigorous debate,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. “The only thing we wanted was for an assessment to be made out in the field about whether federal assistance was needed to prevent violence and threats of violence.”

Lawmakers on the House weaponization panel aren’t buying the explanation and have committed to continuing the probe “until all responsive documents are produced and interviews with the necessary parties take place.”

“Americans deserve to have confidence that the enormous power and reach of federal law enforcement will be used fairly and free of any indication of politicization,” the report reads. “The Committee’s and the Select subcommittee’s work is not complete.”

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Biden's approval falls to 38%, nears record low: Poll

Biden's approval falls to 38%, nears record low: Poll

President Biden’s approval rating dropped to 38% in March, nearing the lowest rating of his presidency, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs and Research said Mr. Biden’s approval rating slipped from 45% in February.

Fears of an economic recession triggered by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank contributed to the drop, the survey found.

Among those surveyed, 31% approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the economy. Mr. Biden did fare much better among Democrats with 63% approving of his economic performance. But only 3% of Republicans said the president was doing a good job on the economy, according to the poll.

Respondents were also more pessimistic about the direction of the country than they were a month ago. The poll found that just 21% of the public say the country is headed in the right direction, down from 28% in February.
Only 37% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction, the poll found.

The March approval rating is Mr. Biden’s lowest since July 2022 when record high gas prices and soaring inflation left 36% of voters approving of how he was doing his job.

Not since August 2021 has Mr. Biden had a net-positive approval rating — that is, an approval rating higher than his disapproval rating. The bungled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan sent his approval/disapproval numbers underwater and it has remained there since.

The poll of 1,081 U.S. adults was conducted March 16-20 and has a 4 percentage-point error margin.

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'Vacuum cleaner of personal data': Researcher rebuts TikTok's use of team's work

'Vacuum cleaner of personal data': Researcher rebuts TikTok's use of team's work

Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert wants TikTok to stop characterizing his team’s research as exonerating the China-founded app from allegations that it snoops on Americans and cooperates with China’s communist government.

Mr. Deibert said TikTok was a “vacuum cleaner of personal data” similar to other social media platforms, in response to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew citing the Toronto-based research group’s work in testimony to House lawmakers.

“Our analysis was explicit about having no visibility into what happened to user data once it was collected and transmitted back to TikTok’s servers,” Mr. Deibert said Wednesday night on Twitter.

“Although we had no way to determine whether or not it had happened, we even speculated about possible mechanisms through which the Chinese government might use unconventional techniques to obtain TikTok user data via pressure on ByteDance.”

TikTok has come under fire from policymakers for its data security practices amid concerns that the app may expose Americans’ data to the Chinese government. China’s policies of civil-military fusion force businesses to work with the government, and TikTok’s parent company ByteDance was founded in China.

Mr. Chew’s written remarks published by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, in advance of a hearing, point to Citizen Lab’s March 2021 report to bolster TikTok’s argument for distancing itself from China.

SEE ALSO: TikTok CEO defense of China-linked app doesn’t persuade lawmakers: ‘Your platform should be banned’

“A 2021 report from Citizen Lab, an internationally renowned security research laboratory, found that there was no overt data transmission by TikTok to the Chinese government and that TikTok did not contact any servers within China,” Mr. Chew’s written testimony said.

Leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings showed engineers located in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022, according to recordings accessed by BuzzFeed last year.

ByteDance said last December it fired four employees who accessed data on journalists from BuzzFeed News and The Financial Times while attempting to track a leak of confidential information.

TikTok’s connections to China may not be limited to the technical realm.

Pressed at Thursday’s Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on whether the Chinese Communist Party advised the TikTok executive about his testimony to Congress, Mr. Chew avoided answering directly.

Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican, asked whether the CCP had discussed the hearing with Mr. Chew or TikTok management, and the TikTok CEO would only say he did not have contact with Chinese government officials.

“What about the Chinese Communist Party itself, have any of those officials discussed this with you?” Mr. Burgess said.

“Like I said, I have not had any discussion with Chinese government officials, I don’t know the political affiliation of everybody I speak to,” Mr. Chew answered. “So I can’t verify the statement.”

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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Biden uses Obamacare anniversary to ding GOP budget plans

Biden uses Obamacare anniversary to ding GOP budget plans

President Biden will mark Obamacare’s 13th anniversary on Thursday by highlighting coverage gains while accusing the GOP of plotting to chip away at the landmark program’s benefits.

Mr. Biden is seeking leverage in negotiations with GOP who insist on spending cuts in exchange for lifting the nation’s debt limit. He’s painting Republican negotiators as a direct threat to health benefits in key programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats muscled to passage in 2010 while Mr. Biden was vice president.

“Not only has virtually every Republican budget or fiscal plan over the last decade included repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and deep cuts to Medicaid, but House Republicans putting together their budget are reportedly drawing heavily on a plan that includes both,” a White House fact sheet said Thursday. “And in recent weeks, they’ve reiterated that both Medicaid, including the ACA’s expansion of coverage to low-income adults, and ACA tax credits that help people afford coverage are on the chopping block for cuts.”

Vice President Kamala Harris will join Mr. Biden in the White House East Room for a celebration of Obamacare. Mr. Biden held a similar celebration with former President Barack Obama last year on the cusps of the midterms.

This time, Mr. Biden will point to reports that House Republicans are eyeing ways to limit Medicaid, either through work requirements or by reeling in Obamacare’s expansion of the program.

The White House also highlighted a House Republican Budget Committee plan that would “limit Obamacare to its original purpose” by returning subsidies on the program’s exchanges to earlier levels.

Democrats extended supersized subsidies through 2025 as part of Mr. Biden’s tax and climate legislation last year. The bigger subsidies made the program more attractive and bolstered signups for this plan year.

About 16 million people have signed up for private insurance on the law’s portals, compared to 11 million when Mr. Biden took office. Another 22 million have joined Medicaid because the law expanded coverage in most states.

Mr. Biden is using the specter of Obamacare cuts as a cudgel against Republicans alongside his claims the House GOP majority wants to rein in Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans say entitlement programs for seniors are off the table in negotiations. 

However, GOP lawmakers have criticized the federal largesse provided by Obamacare, saying health reforms should target the underlying cost of health care instead of throwing more money at subsidies or ballooning Medicaid rolls.

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