CFRW Capitol Update January 22, 2024

California Federation of Republican Women
Officially Chartered by the National Federation of Republican Women
and the California Republican Party

From the Desk of Lydia Kanno, CFRW President
Submitted by Jeanne Solnordal, CFRW Legislative Analyst
January 22, 2024

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Critical decisions the Supreme Court must make in 2024

Supreme Court Building
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By SUSAN SHELLEY | [email protected] | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: January 13, 2024 at 7:30 a.m. | UPDATED: January 13, 2024 at 11:28 p.m.

If the U.S. Supreme Court was hoping to stay out of election disputes, it’s too late now.

This year, the justices are hearing four cases that could directly or indirectly affect the outcome of the 2024 presidential race.

Back in December 2020, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Texas vs. Pennsylvania, in which Texas and other states asked the Supreme Court to temporarily prevent Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin from certifying their election results. The lawsuit argued that courts and various election officials in those four states had made changes to election procedures that violated the Constitution, which says only the state legislatures may determine the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.”

The procedures at issue were such things as changing deadlines, relaxing signature verification requirements, adding new voting locations and installing ballot drop boxes, in violation of state laws.

The justices ducked the issue, declaring that Texas did not have “standing” to challenge the election procedures in other states.

But they’re not ducking now.

On Jan. 5, the justices agreed to hear former President Donald Trump’s appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling disqualifying him from the ballot under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868 following the U.S. Civil War.

Section 3 bars certain former officials and officers from holding certain federal offices if they engaged in “insurrection.” Whether it even applies to the president or the presidency is disputed by legal scholars, and neither Trump nor anyone else has been charged with the crime of “insurrection.” Regardless, there are dozens of these ballot disqualification lawsuits in multiple states. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Feb. 8.

The justices also agreed to decide whether the government can muscle social media companies into censoring and deplatforming certain individuals and conversations. On Oct. 20, the justices said they would review Murthy v. Missouri, previously known as Missouri v. Biden. Evidence presented to lower courts has already convinced four federal judges that the U.S. government was engaging in conduct that likely violated the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction— on the Fourth of July — ordering the government to knock it off.

But instead of denying it, the Biden administration appealed, saying it needed the power to prevent Americans from hearing “misinformation” while the trial proceeds. Now the case is before the Supreme Court, where the justices have agreed to decide not just the matter of the injunction, but the underlying case itself.

In yet another case that could affect the election, the Supreme Court got involved by not getting involved. On Dec. 22, the justices turned away a request from special prosecutor Jack Smith to speed up consideration of Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from prosecution for official actions. Smith has charged Trump with four felonies in connection with his actions on January 6, and he wanted a quick answer, but he didn’t get one.

Trump was scheduled to go on trial in this case on March 4. That’s not at all likely. Along with the presidential immunity case, there’s another relevant case pending, arguably even more significant.

On Dec. 13, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Fischer v. United States. The justices will decide whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was wrong in the way it interpreted and applied a law that prohibits anyone from corruptly obstructing an official proceeding.

If that sounds familiar, it’s a felony frequently charged by the Biden administration’s Department of Justice prosecutors. It has lengthened the prison sentences of hundreds of people arrested for their actions at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It is also the basis for two of the four felony counts in the case against Trump.

The law is 18 U.S.C. Section 1512(c)(2), and the question before the Supreme Court is whether it was violated by the people who went to the Capitol and allegedly or admittedly tried to stop the “official proceeding” of certifying the 2020 election.

Section 1512 is a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, passed in response to financial and investment scandals. These included the bankruptcy of Enron, an energy company that once had $60 billion in assets and then collapsed amid what the Encyclopedia Britannica gently describes as “a series of events involving dubious accounting practices.”

The law made it a very serious crime to tamper with evidence used in an investigation. Section 1512(c)(1) states, “Whoever corruptly alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or….”

And then Section (c)(2) adds, “otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

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Federal prosecutors and judges have locked people up for long sentences by interpreting that law, which clearly is about tampering with documents and other evidence in an official investigation of financial crimes, to apply to people like Joseph Fischer. He was charged with “civil disorder,” “assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers,” “entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds,” “disorderly conduct” and “parading” in a restricted building. And he was also charged with violating Section 1512(c)(2). U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols dismissed the 1512 count, but an appellate court reinstated it.

Now the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether that law can be applied to “acts unrelated to investigations and evidence.” The decision could mean that hundreds of people were wrongfully prosecuted for “corruptly obstructing an official proceeding.”

So that’s four cases the Supreme Court will have to decide by the end of June, all of them potentially having a significant impact on the 2024 presidential race.

That’s what they get for trying to stay out of it.

Write [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

California could give Trump early boost, poll says

Picture of Trump from behind
Two-thirds of Californians most likely to vote in the Republican primary intend to cast their ballots for Trump, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times (Associated Press)

No matter the results of the Iowa caucus on Monday night, new polling suggests that Republicans vying for the presidential nomination face the equivalent of a brick wall on Super Tuesday in the form of former President Trump.

In California, one of 15 states holding Republican primaries on March 5, two-thirds of voters considered likely to take part in the Republican primary said they would cast their ballots for Trump, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. That’s up from an already dominant 57% in October.

The poll, taken Jan. 4-8, suggests that California conservatives could provide a significant boost to Trump’s efforts to clinch his party’s nomination early in the primary season, despite his relatively light presence in early primary states.

This year’s primary is the first under new “winner-take-all” rules set last summer by the California Republican Party, which allocate all 169 delegates — the most of any state — to a candidate who wins more than 50% of the vote.

California’s delegation accounts for nearly 14% of the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. “It’s now a different ballgame, and it certainly benefits Trump if he can follow through on these numbers,” said Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Berkeley IGS poll. “If Trump carries California, he’s a long way toward securing the nomination.”

Previously, Republican presidential candidates received three delegates for each congressional district they won in California, meaning several candidates could make gains in the Golden State.

Trump holds similarly large leads in several other Super Tuesday states, according to recent polls. All told, just over one-third of the delegates to the GOP convention will be settled that day. Trump’s strategists hope to win enough of them to put the nomination out of contention at that point, which would be before any of the four criminal trials he faces are scheduled to begin.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is now Trump’s closest competitor in California, but she is running a distant second place, with support from 11% of likely voters, the new poll found.

Haley backers hope  that a strong showing in Iowa coupled with a possible win in New Hampshire this month could give her enough momentum to truly challenge Trump for the nomination.

The poll suggests why that will be so difficult. She performs best among the relatively small segments of California Republicans who described themselves as politically moderate or liberal and those with a postgraduate education. Among self-described “strongly conservative” voters, who play an outsize role in Republican primaries, 5% back her.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in February of last year was leading Trump in California, is “falling like a stone,” DiCamillo said. DeSantis is now the choice of 8% of the state’s likely Republican voters.

The general election is a different story. The outcome of the race has been clouded by Trump’s legal battles, President Biden’s sinking popularity among younger voters and Latinos, and the presence of third-party and independent candidates, including progressive activist Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The poll suggests that support for Biden in California continues to be tepid, despite the state’s deep-blue politics. Half of California voters have a favorable view of Biden, while 48% say their view is unfavorable. His job approval among all registered voters — 44% approve and 52% disapprove — hasn’t moved significantly from October, when, for the first time, a majority of Californians disapproved of Biden’s job performance. “He’s underwater, which is not a great place to be in a blue state,” DiCamillo said.

Biden’s support has eroded more among some voter groups, including Latinos. Democrats have a 2-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans among Latinos in California, DiCamillo said. But the poll found that just 38% of likely Latino voters in California have a favorable view of Biden.

That number falls to 34% among Latinos for whom Spanish is their dominant language, a group that in past elections has tended to be more Democratic than other Latinos.

Biden is also struggling to retain the support of young voters. Just 4 in 10 likely voters younger than 30 have a positive view of Biden, compared with 6 in 10 likely voters older than 75.

“Those are big changes, and they’re typically a very key Democratic constituency,” DiCamillo said.

Asked about a hypothetical five-candidate field that includes West, Kennedy and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the poll found that Biden would hold a 16-point lead over Trump in California, 47% to 31%, significantly less than his 30-point victory margin in 2020. The poll found 6% support for Kennedy, 2% for West, and 1% for Stein, while 12% of likely voters remained undecided. 

In a head-to-head contest with no third-party candidates, Biden’s lead over Trump would increase to 19 points, 56% to 37%, with 7% undecided, the poll found. If Vice President Kamala Harris were the Democratic nominee, she would beat Trump in the state by an almost identical margin, 55% to 37%. Biden would also beat Haley in California, 51% to 34%, but with 16% of voters undecided, the poll found. 

Younger voters’ and Latinos’ souring on Biden is not unique to California. In some swing states, where the contest is much closer, polls have found Biden trailing Trump in hypothetical 2024 matchups. But the mixed reception for Biden’s job performance is better than how voters in California see Trump: 34% positively, 63% negatively, including 58% whose view of the former president is “strongly unfavorable.”

Kennedy, who is running as an independent, has clocked double-digit support in some polls of swing states. That isn’t the case in California, where he is polling at 6% among likely voters. 

Kennedy worked as an environmental lawyer in New York for years, but now lives part time in Los Angeles with his wife, actor Cheryl Hines. He has played up his California ties since he launched his campaign, recording videos at the Venice Boardwalk and in the Santa Monica Mountains and hosting fundraisers with Westside yoga teachers.

That appeal hasn’t seemed to have worked in California, where his approval rating is 31%, the poll found. 

Nearly two-thirds of California Democrats report disliking Kennedy, who spent decades as a Democrat and ran as a Democrat in the presidential primary until he launched his independent bid in October. 

“Republicans are much more positive in their views of Kennedy” than Democrats or voters with no party preference, DiCamillo said. “It’s really interesting.”

The poll found that 50% of California Republicans have a strongly favorable or somewhat favorable view of Kennedy, who founded the anti-vaccine organization Children’s Health Defense. 

Among conservative voters, Kennedy is the second-most popular political figure, following Trump, suggesting that he could be an option for disaffected Republicans. West, who launched an independent bid for the presidency in October, is far less known among California voters than Kennedy. The poll found 15% of likely California voters with a favorable opinion of the progressive activist, while 27% say they see him unfavorably, and 58% don’t have an opinion.

Iowa caucus results 2024

By Caroline Linton, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, Kaia Hubbard, Caitlin Yilek
Updated on: January 16, 2024 / 12:14 PM EST / CBS News

Former President Donald Trump won the Iowa caucuses Monday night, capturing the first state in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating process as he seeks to quickly dispatch his rivals and consolidate his control over the party.

With 99% of the results in, Trump had 51% of the vote and the largest margin of victory in a competitive GOP race in Iowa history. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won the coveted battle for second place over former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

Over 110,000 voters participated in the 2024 caucuses, falling well below the high expectations for turnout. Just 40 delegates — out of over 2,400 nationwide — were at stake in the contest, the first measure of how the Republican field stacks up in the 2024 primary season.

Trump won the Iowa Republican caucuses with strong support from White evangelicals and very conservative voters — key voting blocs in these caucuses — and groups he lost in 2016 when voters were less convinced of his conservative credentials, according to interviews with caucus goers as they went in.

Trump’s support was widespread: he won men, women, older voters and younger voters, and he improved on his 2016 performance with all of these groups.

Most Iowa caucus goers largely dismissed Trump’s legal woes, with most saying he would still be fit for the presidency even if he were convicted of a crime.