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Opinion: Will voters get the message that our judicial system is on the 2024 ballot too?



Opinion: Will voters get the message that our judicial system is on the 2024 ballot too?

Democrats will be lucky to keep control of the U.S. Senate after November’s elections. Yet Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. lately has shown again why that’s imperative: A Republican-run Senate would confirm more far-right ideologues like him to the federal bench if Donald Trump is once again choosing the nominees, or block many of Joe Biden’s picks if the president is reelected.

First for the Alito story: An upside-down U.S. flag flew in his front yard for days in January 2021, the New York Times first reported. That such a thing would happen at any time at a Supreme Court justice’s home is abhorrent. That it did so when the inverted flag served as a banner for the mobs who’d just besieged the Capitol and tried to subvert an election is not only arguably unethical (the Supreme Court was hearing cases related to the Trump-inspired “Stop the Steal” effort, and still is) but downright seditious. No matter if the hoisting was his wife’s doing, as Alito ignobly claimed.

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Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.


Then on Monday, Chris Geidner, in his Substack publication Law Dork, disclosed that Alito last year appeared to have joined the Bud Light boycott protesting that brand’s advertised support for transgender people.

According to federal disclosure reports that Geidner posted, Alito sold shares in Bud Light’s maker, Anheuser-Busch, at the height of the controversy last summer and bought stock in competitor Molson Coors. The transactions didn’t involve large amounts of money, but here again, cases related to transgender rights were — and are — making their way through the courts to the Supremes.

To make matters worse, on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that another protest flag associated with right-wing, pro-Trump sentiment flew from the Alitos’ New Jersey vacation home last summer.


Alito’s apparent blindness to conflicts of interest and his penchant for peevish shows of right-wing partisanship are second only to those of his Republican-appointed colleague Justice Clarence Thomas, spouse of “Stop the Steal” schemer Ginni Thomas. Both justices reject calls to recuse themselves from pending cases stemming from Jan. 6. Both are complicit in, and perhaps responsible for, the court’s unconscionable delay in deciding whether Trump is immune from criminal prosecution for his role in the insurrection attempt. We might get its ruling by July, likely too late for a trial before November.

Also, both justices are in their mid-70s. And that’s where political calculations about the Senate come in.

It’s widely believed among court watchers and pundits that Alito and Thomas might well retire if Trump wins another term, so he could nominate much younger versions of themselves who could serve for many more decades to come alongside Trump’s trifecta of 50-somethings: Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Trump could elevate younger judges such as those he tapped for lower federal courts say, 40-something district court judges Aileen Cannon, who helpfully suspended his classified documents trial indefinitely, and Matthew Kacsmaryk, whose ruling outlawing a pill used for most abortions is currently before the Supremes.

A Republican-controlled Senate presumably would fast-track Trump’s high court nominees, and perhaps more than a couple hundred others for the lower federal courts — just as it did the first time around for Trump. A Senate still under Democrats’ control, however, could presumably force a reelected Trump to tap more moderate judicial candidates, and, if he refused, could slow-walk, shelve or reject extremists. Like more Alitos and Thomases.

Lest anyone doubt that Republican senators would be a conveyor belt for right-wing judges under Trump, or a blockade against Biden nominees if he wins a second term, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered a reminder of their MAGA-apologist mindset on Wednesday. When a reporter asked him to weigh in on the Alitos’ flag, McConnell snapped, “I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”


Talk about misplaced indignation.

More voters, Democrats as well as independents and moderate Republicans who oppose right-wing activists throughout our judiciary, must cast ballots for the Senate as well as for president with the composition of the courts in mind — as conservative voters did for decades, successfully. Democratic candidates, including Biden, are doing more to raise awareness. But it’s not enough. The message has to be explicit, and frequent: The courts are on the ballot too.

A big test is in Democratic-blue Maryland, of all places. Larry Hogan, the popular former governor and probably the only Republican in the state who could get elected to the Senate, last week won his party’s nomination to fill the seat that Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is giving up. The Democrats have to defend that seat along with those of incumbents in red states Ohio and Montana, and swing states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The party, with just a two-vote majority now, has already written off the Senate seat that Democrat Joe Manchin III is vacating in Trump-loving West Virginia, so every seat is crucial.

Hogan, a personable pragmatist and Trump critic, appeals to some Maryland Democrats despite his party label, and to moderate Republicans and independents who’ve otherwise soured on the Republican Party in the Trump era. Many of them backed him for governor, and might for senator. To entice them, the former “pro-life” governor has flipped to declare himself a “pro-choice” Senate candidate.

Yet because the Senate stakes are so much bigger than just Maryland, Hogan’s Democratic and other anti-MAGA fans should resist his charms this time. His victory would make it that much more likely that Republicans will capture control of the chamber with power to confirm federal judges and justices. His Democratic opponent, widely respected county executive Angela D. Alsobrooks, shows early signs of hammering that point.


Her challenge is to get voters who like Hogan to instead think strategically and do their part to help keep the Senate out of MAGA-fied Republicans’ control. The makeup of that other branch of government — the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal bench — could depend on it. That should be the thumb on the scale.


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Biden campaign manager dodges question on whether immigration executive order will get president more votes



Biden campaign manager dodges question on whether immigration executive order will get president more votes

President Biden’s campaign manager on Wednesday appeared to dodge questions about whether the president’s new executive order giving illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship was a political move aimed at shoring up more votes before Election Day on Nov. 5. 

Julie Chavez Rodriguez appeared on CBS News’ “America Decides” for an interview with Fin Gomez that aired Wednesday evening. 

Gomez asked Rodriguez why the president’s new policy was implemented now “four and a half months out from the Nov. 5 election.”

President Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program at the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Rodriguez said immigration reform has been a major priority of the Biden administration since day 1. She also bashed former President Trump for encouraging Republicans to vote against a bipartisan immigration bill earlier this year.


Gomez asked whether Rodriguez believed Biden’s new policy would encourage “mixed-status families” who benefit from this to vote for the president.

Rodriguez said families who are eligible for Biden’s executive order “will be able to sleep better tonight knowing that they have an opportunity to help ensure that they are not separated by cruel policies.”


“They will be able to hug each other a little bit tighter knowing that they can remain together as a whole family in this country as a result of this executive order. Those are the things that matter most,” Rodriguez said.

Gomez noted that many Latino voters are turning away from President Biden and asked Rodriguez to respond to critics who say the executive order is a “political move to maintain support among Latino voters.”

Biden DACA event

President Biden is announcing new changes to keep families together who have DACA Dreamer spouses seeking to change their immigration status. (Andrew Leyden/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Rodriguez again invoked the president’s track record on immigration since taking office, including expanding the Affordable Care Act for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

At no point was the issue of border security brought up in the interview. Fox News Digital has reached out to Biden’s campaign team and the White House for additional comment.


Biden announced Tuesday that his administration will allow U.S. citizens’ spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country for up to 10 years. About 500,000 immigrants may benefit, according to senior administration officials.

To qualify, an immigrant must have lived in the U.S. for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday. 


Immigration rights activists take part in a rally in front of the Supreme Court in 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Obama-era DACA program, which has shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as young children, required applicants to be in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and continuously for the previous five years.

More than 1 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. are married to American citizens, according to advocacy group, meaning hundreds of thousands won’t qualify because they were in the U.S. for fewer than 10 years.

About 50,000 noncitizen children with parents who are married to a U.S. citizen could also potentially qualify, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. 

Biden also announced new regulations that will allow some DACA beneficiaries and other young immigrants to more easily qualify for long-established work visas.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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California races roiled by border, immigration. It could tip control of the House



California races roiled by border, immigration. It could tip control of the House

On a recent overcast Saturday in the manicured backyard of a constituent’s home, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) told several dozen supporters about his efforts to bring more sand to local beaches, reduce veteran homelessness and prevent gun violence.

From the crowd, Peggy Aveni whispered to her friend: “What about immigration?” When Levin began taking questions, she immediately raised her hand.

“I am concerned about the immigration thing,” Aveni told him. “I know that the Republicans have tried to squash anything from happening. So, will anything happen before the election?”

With immigration at the forefront of the presidential election, the U.S.-Mexico border has become an increasingly significant political issue in downballot races. In California, where the San Diego region is now a top destination for arriving migrants, a handful of competitive House races could help determine control of Congress.


A handful of California Republicans appear vulnerable in the November election, including Reps. David Valadao of Hanford and Ken Calvert of Corona, and their defeat could help Democrats reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives.

But there are also Democrats — including Levin — who are clinging to their seats.

“Right now, the border is the No. 1 issue impacting this district,” said Levin’s Republican opponent, retired businessman Matt Gunderson. “The San Diego County line has become the epicenter of border crossings. Until we secure the border, all our other issues, in terms of public safety and public health and inflation, kind of fall to the wayside.”

Immigration is becoming a higher priority for Levin, whose maternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with parents who had work permits.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Levin, an environmental lawyer who has served the 49th District in Congress since 2019, represents most of northern coastal San Diego County and parts of southern Orange County. His top priorities are fighting climate change, supporting veterans and protecting democracy, though immigration has increasingly crept up his list.

At the Encinitas campaign event, he told the crowd that the asylum system is broken. It has become easier for people to pay thousands to a cartel or get step-by-step instructions on social media than to enter through a legal pathway, he said.

He reminded them that Republicans, heeding the demands of former President Trump, killed a bipartisan border security bill after months of negotiations. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and conservative news outlets have used politically divisive issue of immigration as a cudgel to attack President Biden.

“We do have a genuine crisis,” Levin said. “It is not necessarily what Fox News makes it out to be. But it’s unacceptable. It’s untenable.”


Aveni, 70, who is an independent voter, said she supports Levin but found his answer to her question evasive. She said she supports legal immigration.

“My friends in general, even the more liberal ones, understand that this is a big issue for Southern California,” she said. “I want something done, and it’s just too bad that it took three years in the Biden administration to even get there.”

In an interview after the event, Levin said that his grandparents on his mother’s side immigrated from Mexico with their parents, who had work permits. He said their experience might not have been possible today.

Matt Gunderson and a man in a green uniform and tan cowboy hat looking around by a white government pickup near a border wall

Republican Matt Gunderson, who’s challenging Levin, says that until the border is secured, “all our other issues, in terms of public safety and public health and inflation, kind of fall to the wayside.”

(Gunderson Campaign)


Levin said he wants to expand legal pathways to citizenship, particularly for so-called Dreamers and others who have lived in the U.S. for decades.

The failed border security deal marked the first time most Democrats supported immigration legislation that did not include a legalization component. Still, he said, it was a good-faith negotiation that included necessary funding for more border agents, asylum officers and immigration judges.

“It’s true that it’s a political issue,” he said, but “it is genuinely a national security concern that should be treated as such. For me, that prioritizes where it ranks on the continuum of all the variety of other things that voters may care about.”

At the White House three days after his meet-and-greet, Levin stood near Biden, just behind Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, as the president announced his executive order limiting asylum at the border. The order raises the legal standard for asylum claims and blocks access for those crossing outside legal points of entry when their numbers average more than 2,500 a day.

Asked how he felt about Biden leaning on the same legal provision that Trump used to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries, Levin said he hopes Biden is using it “for far different purposes.” The historic numbers of arrivals in the last few years, he said, show change is necessary.


But Gunderson, Levin’s Republican challenger, said the president’s order had come too late. The former car dealership owner, who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2022, has focused his campaign largely on affordability for the middle class.

The Biden administration dismantled Trump’s border policies just to “inch their way back” as the election nears, Gunderson said.

“No recent ‘come to Jesus’ perspective is going to change what they’ve done over the last three and a half years,” he said.

Immigration is factoring into other California races, too. In the 45th District, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel of Seal Beach faces Democratic challenger Derek Tran, an Army veteran and Orange County business owner whose parents were Vietnamese political refugees.

Tran recently faced heat from Asian American community leaders for telling Punchbowl News that Steel “tries to run on that she’s a refugee” though “she came to this country for economic gain.” Her family fled communist North Korea for Seoul before she later moved to the U.S. for college.


For her part, Steel has criticized Democrats for their handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, saying her constituents had arrived legally.

And in the 41st District, Calvert, the longest-serving Republican member of California’s congressional delegation, faces Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor who helped prosecute Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

A redrawing of congressional maps divided the once solidly GOP district in Riverside County. Though both candidates have advocated for securing the southern border, Rollins also supports a path to citizenship for certain immigrants and says those arriving at the border should be treated humanely.

Dave Wasserman, senior editor and elections analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said that while immigration has been one of Biden’s weakest issues in approval polls, “Democrats down ballot have been somewhat successful in establishing independence from the White House on this issue.”

The issue has become a lightning rod in districts and states not just along the border, but also across suburbs farther north due to the strain that recent arrivals have placed on municipal budgets, Wasserman said. He pointed to Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who jabbed at the administration as being slow to respond to the issue, while also blasting Trump and Republicans for sabotaging the bipartisan compromise.


“Generally swing voters are supportive of tightening the border or going further than Biden and Democrats have gone in the last three years,” Wasserman said. “Whereas the focus in 2016 was on Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and immigration in a way that polarized Hispanic voters against him, the focus now has been on the humanitarian crisis stemming from record numbers of illegal crossings.”

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Indiana Republican says US attorney 'declined' to prosecute threat against his daughters and wife



Indiana Republican says US attorney 'declined' to prosecute threat against his daughters and wife

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., is questioning why a federal prosecutor declined to bring charges against a man who threatened his family while the Justice Department has prosecuted similar threats against Democrats – but the DOJ is denying a double standard.

Aaron Thompson, 33, of Fort Wayne, pleaded guilty in October to felony and misdemeanor charges after he left menacing voicemails with Banks’ office. Allen County prosecutors pursued the case and Thompson was sentenced to two years probation, but a letter Banks sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanded to know why the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana did not file federal charges.

“I’m thankful for Allen County Prosecutor Mike McAlexander and Deputy Prosecutor Adam Mildred for taking these threats seriously and for enforcing the law impartially,” Banks told Fox News Digital. “I want an answer from AG Garland explaining why he ignored threats against my family but prosecuted similar threats against Democrats. It appears to be just another example of the Biden administration’s political weaponization of our justice system.”

Reached for comment, a Justice Department spokesperson pointed to over a dozen prosecutions of individuals who threatened Republican members of Congress, including threats to Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., and Clay Higgins, R-La.

The DOJ “investigates threats to public officials regardless of their party affiliation, and we have prosecuted multiple cases of threats made to both Republican and Democratic” congressional lawmakers, the DOJ spokesperson said, adding that Garland “has told Congress that he views threats to public officials as threats to our democracy and the department will continue to treat them as such.” 


In interviews with U.S. Capitol Police, Thompson admitted to making at least eight calls to Banks’ D.C. office. He said he was intoxicated at the time and that he disagreed with the Republican lawmaker’s political positions.


Rep. Jim Banks sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking why a man who made threats against his family was not charged by federal prosecutors. ( Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In one such call, Thompson said he owns a gun and gave Banks a choice between his or his daughter’s lives. Banks has three young daughters.

“Here’s the choice. Your daughters grow up without their dad, or you grow old without your daughters,” Thompson said, according to an affidavit for probable cause. “… [B]oom, boom you pick…”



In the letter, which was sent in December but not publicized until this week, Banks said FBI agents visited Thompson’s home in Fort Wayne to investigate the threats. 

“Thompson, who previously posted on social media encouraging his followers to ‘Vote Democrat,’ admitted he had threatened me and my family with violence because he disagreed with my political beliefs,” Banks wrote. 


Aaron Thompson

Aaron Thompson, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, called Rep. Banks’ office at least eight times in April 2023 and left threatening messages. (Allen County Sheriff’s Department)

“When Capitol Police referred the criminal case against Aaron Thompson to the U.S. Attorney for Northern District of Indiana, they declined to prosecute despite clear evidence that Thompson violated federal law.” 


Court records show Thompson pleaded guilty to a state felony charge of intimidation and a misdemeanor charge of harassment. Intimidation is a Level 6 felony in Indiana, while harassment is a Class B misdemeanor. 

Banks, who is running for an open Senate seat in Indiana, quoted public statements Garland has made reaffirming DOJ’s commitment to prosecuting violent threats made against public servants and questioned why federal charges weren’t brought against Thompson when similar threats made against Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi were prosecuted. 

Most recently, a Texas man received a nearly three-year jail sentence after his criminal conviction for leaving threatening and racist voicemails for California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. 


Merrick Garland testifies

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on June 4, 2024, on Capitol Hill. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Last week, Garland penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that decried political violence and condemned any suggestion that his department has politicized its work.


“Disagreements about politics are good for our democracy. They are normal,” Garland wrote. 

“But using conspiracy theories, falsehoods, violence and threats of violence to affect political outcomes is not normal. The short-term political benefits of those tactics will never make up for the long-term cost to our country.” 

Mike Ferrara, a partner at New York firm Kaplan Hecker & FInk LLP and former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, told Fox News Digital it can sometimes be difficult for prosecutors to bring charges for menacing statements. 

“The federal threat statutes can be tricky to charge because they require prosecutors to prove very specific things about what the perpetrator intended. It’s not enough to prove that someone hearing the words would’ve perceived them as a threat. Instead, federal prosecutors have to prove, for example, that the perpetrator made the threat to impede the performance of the official’s duties, or intended his words as a threat, or knew that the person to whom the words were directed would take them as a threat. These proof problems are especially complicated in a case like this one where the perpetrator’s defense is that he made the statements because he was drunk,” Ferrara said. 


“States, of course, have an entirely different set of statues they can choose from to prosecute threats, which might not have those proof issues and might be a better fit for the perpetrator’s conduct. I’m not familiar with Indiana’s statutes, but if the state brought a criminal prosecution against the perpetrator using state laws, then it would be pretty unremarkable – and I think a good exercise of prosecutorial discretion – for the federal government to defer to the state prosecutors.”

Fox News Digital’s Joe Schoffstall contributed to this report.

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