A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Tennessee Be Tennesseeing
Just when you didn’t think it could get any worse, the GOP-controlled Tennessee House did itself one better.
Rather than expelling all three Democratic members it targeted for protesting school shootings, the GOP House only expelled the two young Black male members and left the older white woman alone.
The silver lining: It makes it crystal clear what this was really about.
In truth, they “did the racism” all afternoon long:
It was quite a day in Nashville:
Tip Of The Hat
For some time now, Ron Brownstein has been leaning hard into the notion that red states are building a nation within the nation. It’s one helpful organizing framework for what’s happening across the country right now. I count at least three items in today’s Morning Memo that are encompassed by this paradigm: the Tennessee House expulsions, West Virginia’s bans on transgender athletes, and the new Idaho abortion ban.
Where To Even Start With The Clarence Thomas Scandal?
ProPublica’s landmark exposé of the cozy ethically-challenged relationship between Justice Clarence Thomas and a billionaire backer of conservative causes broke just as Morning Memo “went to press” yesterday. So I noted it but wasn’t able to fully digest it.
Having had 24 hours to consider it, I don’t have much to add! Why? The story is so complete and well-reported, with few strings left dangling or loose ends unresolved, that it simply stands as is. Not much further explication required.
You could see how strong the story was because other news outlets took it at face value and immediately launched into getting reaction to it and building on it.
Well done all the way around by ProPublica.
The Scandal Within The Scandal
This “painting,” y’all …
8/ Inside Topridge hangs a photorealistic painting of one of Thomas’ visits to the 105-acre property in remote upstate NY.— ProPublica (@propublica) April 6, 2023
The painting shows Thomas enjoying a cigar alongside Crow and chatting with other conservative power brokers like Leonard Leo: pic.twitter.com/Bq4CYGew30
How To Rein In The Corrupt Roberts Court?
A clean, crisp thread on why Congress needs to step up to hold the Supreme Court accountable to the political branches:
SCOTUS Declines To Intervene In Trans Athlete Case
The Supreme Court declined to enforce a West Virginia law banning transgender girls from playing on school sports teams for girls.
This was a closely watched case both because of its implications for transgender athletes amidst a nationwide conservative attack on transgender people and because it was on the Supreme Court’s controversial and increasingly used shadow docket. As Nina Totenberg notes:
While the court’s conservative supermajority has come under considerable criticism for its aggressive use of the emergency docket to deal with controversial issues without full briefing and oral argument, this time the court stayed its hand.
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The case continues, and it or a similar case could wind up back before the Supreme Court in the future. But as of now, no circuit court has ruled on the legality of the anti-transgender laws sweeping the country, and it looks like the Supreme Court will hang back until the appeals courts weigh in on the issue.
Not Sure What To Make Of This
Experts are still evaluating the new rule proposed by the Biden administration interpreting Title IX as it applies to transgender athletes.
My sense yesterday of the coverage was an initial outcry that the Biden administration was going along with bans on transgender athletes, followed by a slight easing back from the worst case fears. I’m not a Title IX expert, but I suspect this is still shaking out in terms of what it means in practice.
The WSJ has a pretty holistic piece on the latest developments. One other caution here: It’s still very early in the rulemaking process, so this will play out and be tweaked over many months.
NPR Suspends Its Use Of Twitter
An NPR spokesperson confirms it has stopped tweeting from its house account since Elon Musk’s Twitter falsely labeled the public radio network “US state-affiliated media.”
This Dude Has A Lot Of Explaining To Do
A two-fer of news here so bear with me for a moment.
Trump-appointed DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari has been a magnet for controversy not because of his investigative work but because of his own conduct.
Cuffari is currently under investigation by a committee of inspectors general (which is who steps in when one of their own needs policing), but he and some of his top staffers have now sued to block the outside panel from investigating them.
In a very telling development, they are being assisted in their lawsuit by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a conservative non-profit backed by among others the Koch Brothers and Leonard Leo’s network that is waging a legal war against the “administrative state.” Sarah Posner wrote about the New Civil Liberties Alliance extensively for TPM last fall.
That’s the first bit of news.
The second bit of news, also very much in our wheelhouse: It was revealed this week in the civil lawsuit that the investigation of Cuffari has “expanded … to include his role in missing Secret Service text messages from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol,” the Washington Post reports.
On Monday, investigators demanded records related to the deleted texts from the Office of Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, an appointee of President Donald Trump whose office shut down an inquiry into the Secret Service messages last year amid the House’s probe of the insurrection.
The records request, which was revealed in a federal lawsuit this week filed by Cuffari and his staff against the panel of inspectors leading the probe, suggests new urgency in a high-profile investigation that began in May 2021 and has since evolved into a wide-ranging inquiry into dozens of allegations of misconduct, including partisan decision-making, investigative failures and retaliation against whistleblowers.
The Mystery Of That Party Switch In North Carolina
As you probably know by now, a recently elected state rep in North Carolina with longstanding and deep ties to the Democratic Party suddenly flipped to the GOP, giving it a supermajority that could override the vetos of Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC). It’s still not clear why she made the switch.
Idaho’s First-Of-Its-Kind Abortion Ban
TPM’s Kate Riga dives in.
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