News Roundup: Supreme Court Ethics, Abortion Ban in Florida, and the Persistent Threat of Election Denialism

The fallout continues from last week’s report on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ problematic friendship with billionaire Harlan Crow. Now, ProPublica has reported that in 2014, one of Crow’s companies bought property in Savannah, Ga., from Thomas and his relatives — and the justice never disclosed the sale, despite federal law requiring justices and other officials to do so.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee has vowed to hold a hearing on Supreme Court ethics.
  • The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center has called on the Justice Department to investigate Thomas for failing to disclose the luxury trips he received from Crow.

Since last summer’s Dobbs decision, there has been a spiral of new abortion bans and restrictions to reproductive rights in states across the country, and this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law. 

  • The Washington Post published a story on the experience of two friends in Florida who were denied care following the state’s enactment of last year’s 15-week ban, one of whom almost died.
  • Following a federal appeals court’s decision on Thursday setting significant restrictions on the abortion medication mifepristone, the Biden administration said it would ask the Supreme Court to restore full access to the drug. More stories about attacks on abortion and reproductive rights are below.

In Virginia, incessant voter fraud allegations have driven all of Buckingham County’s election staff to quit in the past two months. “The four departures left residents without a functioning registrar’s office; there was no way to register to vote or certify candidate paperwork, at least temporarily,” reported NBC News. Here are some recent headlines related to the persistent threat of election denialism:

  • Arizona House expels GOP lawmaker over unproven claims (Associated Press)
  • Trump’s response to criminal charges revives election lies (Associated Press)
  • Key conservative group joins attacks on partnership that improves voter rolls (Guardian)
  • Cochise supervisors ordered to pay legal fees in election certification suit (Arizona Mirror)

On the Records

Election Deniers’ Contacts with Wisconsin Lawmakers
Records obtained by American Oversight shed more light on the level of influence that prominent election deniers have with lawmakers in Wisconsin, including state Rep. Janel Brandtjen and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

  • One email — reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — shows that, during the final weeks of Johnson’s reelection campaign, his deputy chief of staff reached out to Peter Bernegger, a discredited conservative election activist, to ask for his legal opinion on a voter registration effort aimed at increasing Black voter turnout.
  • Also in October, according to the records, Bernegger sent Brandtjen an email in which he alleged that a Dominion Systems voting machine had insecurely transmitted election results to the nonprofit WiscNet. 
  • It appears from the records that instead of sharing the allegation with the Wisconsin Elections Commission or other authorities, Brandtjen’s office issued a press release the next day saying she had “received credible information” of the machines being connected to the internet. WiscNet later responded to Brandtjen’s claims, saying it hadn’t received any such transmissions.
  • The records also include an undated set of text messages between Brandtjen and Harry Wait, the leader of the Wisconsin-based conservative group HOT Government who was recently charged with fraud and identity theft for illegally requesting absentee ballots.

Family Separation
The New York Times reported this week that the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which separated thousands for migrant children from their families, also resulted in U.S. citizen children being removed from their parents. “Hundreds, and possibly as many as 1,000, children born to immigrant parents in the United States were removed from them at the border.”

  • Visit our extensive timeline of the Trump administration’s communications about the family separation policy, including its public statements, internal discussions we uncovered through FOIA, and public reporting.

Other Stories We’re Following

Voting Rights
  • Gov. Youngkin slows voting rights restorations in Virginia, bucking a trend (NPR)
  • How Ron DeSantis waged a targeted assault on Black voters: ‘I fear for what’s to come’ (Guardian)
  • Advocates warn that voters could more easily fall off the rolls under a new GOP election bill (Florida Phoenix)
  • Election officials have ideas for stopping a 2024 crisis before it even starts (Politico)
Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller spends six hours at federal court where Jan. 6 grand jury meets (NBC News)
  • Special counsel focuses on Trump fundraising off false election claims (Washington Post)
  • Trump files long-shot appeal of judge’s order for Pence to testify in January 6 probe (CNN)
  • Coalition of media companies sues for Jan. 6 tapes given to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson (NBC News)
  • Georgia looms next after Trump’s indictment in New York (New York Times)
  • Bragg sues Jim Jordan in move to block interference in Trump case (New York Times)
National News
  • Biden announces plan to expand health coverage to DACA recipients (NBC News)
  • Biden signs bill ending Covid national emergency (NBC News)
  • White House launching $5 billion program to speed coronavirus vaccines (Washington Post)
  • Judge limits Fox’s options for defense in Dominion trial (New York Times)
  • Witnesses asked about Trump’s handling of map with classified information (New York Times)
  • Trump says he won’t drop presidential did if criminally convicted (New York Times)
  • Trump to sit for deposition in high-stakes civil lawsuit threatening the fate of his business empire (CNN)
  • Supreme Court won’t block student loan class-action settlement (New York Times)
  • The Army increasingly allows soldiers charged with violent crimes to leave the military rather than face trial (Texas Tribune)
In the States
  • Second of two Tennessee lawmakers expelled by Republican majority reappointed Wednesday (USA Today)
  • DeSantis pushes toughest immigration crackdown in the nation (New York Times)
  • Names of Florida Governor’s Mansion guests would be shielded under this bill (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott seeks pardon for man convicted in murder of Black Lives Matter protester (ABC News)
  • Former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters sentenced to home detention, community service in obstruction case (Colorado Sun)
  • Sex abuse, beatings and an untouchable Mississippi sheriff (New York Times)
  • North Dakota governor signs trans athlete bans into law (Associated Press)
  • Florida Republican apologizes after calling transgender people ‘mutants’ (Politico)
  • Emergency rule seeks to limit access to certain procedures for transgender Missourians (Missouri Independent
  • Missouri House Republicans vote to defund libraries (Heartland Signal)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • Unpacking the flawed science cited in the Texas abortion pill ruling (Washington Post)
  • Concerned about the courts, some states and universities are stockpiling abortion drugs (CNN)
  • Over 66,000 people couldn’t get an abortion in their home state after Dobbs (FiveThirtyEight)
  • Iowa won’t pay for rape victims’ abortions or contraceptives (Politico)
  • Iowa Supreme Court hears Reynolds’ request to reinstate ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law (Iowa Public Radio)
  • Florida abortion clinics monitored, fined — and struggling to stay open (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Idaho AG rescinds legal opinion that said health care providers can’t make out-of-state abortion referrals (CNN)