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Wisconsin GOP leader defends keeping election records secret

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Wisconsin GOP leader defends keeping election records secret

By SCOTT BAUER

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday defended not releasing documents related to an ongoing investigation he ordered into the 2020 election, saying he believes the election was “tainted” but that President Joe Biden won.

A judge earlier this month ordered Vos to release records requested by a liberal group under the state’s open records law. The group, American Oversight, filed a second lawsuit on Tuesday seeking records solely in Vos’s possession. The judge who ordered Vos to release the requested records scheduled a Nov. 5 hearing on the initial lawsuit.

Vos, in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, said turning over records now would be like an investigator looking into a murder putting out what he knows before his work is done.

“They do not put out for public display, for everyone to read, who they’re talking to and who they’re investigating, giving an advantage to people who actually committed the crime to avoid prosecution,” Vos said. “That’s exactly what would happen if we decided to put all the documents out and that’s why liberals are asking for them. They want to try to torpedo our investigation.”

A spokesman for American Oversight did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Vos’s criticism.

Vos hired retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead the ongoing investigation into the election. The budget for the probe is $676,000 in taxpayer funds. Vos said Tuesday he expects it to be complete by the end of the year. A separate investigation by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, also ordered by Republicans, is expected to be complete and released this fall.

Vos said the costs of the Gableman investigation could grow.

“It really depends on how we keep going forward,” he said. “We are discovering more and more on a regular basis about things that happened during the election.”

Vos said it was important that “everybody knows whoever wins the election has done fair and square and that through some kind of manipulation of the system.”

Biden’s roughly 21,000 vote win over Donald Trump has withstood recounts and multiple court rulings. There was no widespread fraud. To date, only four voters out of about 3.3 million who cast ballots in the election have been charged with election fraud.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, last week called the Gableman probe a “fake investigation” and called for it to stop. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has called it a “boondoggle” and waste of taxpayer money.

Vos repeated that he thinks Biden won but that there were also problems with the way the election was run in the state.

When asked for examples of wrongdoing during the election, Vos referenced some local election officials telling voters they could claim they were “indefinitely confined” due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to vote absentee without having to produce a photo ID.

Vos also referenced $6.3 million in grants that were awarded to the heavily Democratic cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to help run the election.

The grants were funded by donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In total , more than 200 communities across the state were awarded $10 million in grants.

Vos said the largest funding going to the five largest and heavily Democratic cities helped boost turnout for a “certain demographic” of voter.

“Imagine if it happened in reverse, where the Koch brothers gave millions of dollars to only turn out people of white background in the suburbs,” Vos said. “People would say, ‘That is crazy.’ Well, that’s exactly what happened with the money from Zuckerberg in reverse, where they focused only on turning out minorities in large cities.”

Officials in Green Bay have refuted Republican claims about how the grant money was used in their city. Also, smaller communities that voted for Trump also received funding from the same organization.

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Shelley Joseph’s appeal goes before First Circuit Court of Appeals

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Shelley Joseph’s appeal goes before First Circuit Court of Appeals

Suspended Newton Judge Shelley Joseph’s case finally went before the First Circuit appeals panel with justices questioning why she let an illegal immigrant escape from ICE agents in her court.

The panel questioned the intent behind Joseph’s actions, according to the National Law Journal. “Judicial immunity” was front and center at the hearing Monday.

“The way you laid out the case, you would say that there was no possible argument for corruption. But suppose that that is a jury issue, and the government says, ‘Actually we can and we’ll make a case of corruption.’ And so there are issues of fact, and that makes this fall into the usual category that you can never dismiss an indictment if there are issues of fact,” said Judge Sandra Lynch, the Journal reported.

No decision was announced. Joseph is trying to overturn a lower court’s denial of her appeal to have all her charges dismissed.

Joseph, still receiving her $184,000-a-year paycheck while facing a federal obstruction of justice charge, is accused of aiding an illegal immigrant’s escape from an ICE agent in her Newton district courtroom in 2018.

Retired court officer Wesley MacGregor is also facing the charge for allegedly leading the illegal immigrant through the courtroom’s lockup and exit.

The Journal reported the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts has argued that Joseph and MacGregor were corrupt because the purpose of their actions was to “frustrate the ICE agent.” The feds add judicial immunity typically extends only to civil cases, not criminal ones.

In a motion filed last year, Joseph criticized an alleged “extraordinary sweetheart deal” granting immunity to the illegal immigrant’s defense attorney, who Joseph pins as the “architect and ringleader” of the plan to allow his client’s escape through the courthouse lockup.

Joseph’s motion filing also alleged claims of bias by then-U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a Herald op-ed and television interview as well as former President Donald Trump’s public criticism of judges.

Thomas Hoopes, Joseph’s attorney, also cited in the motion 16 interviews of Todd Lyons, ICE Boston acting field director, by Herald columnist Howie Carr dating back to September 2018.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins has been nominated by President Biden to take over at the federal court in Boston now that Lelling is gone. A vote on her appointment is now heading to the full Senate. Rollins advanced through a preliminary vote in the U.S. Senate last week.

But Republicans, most centrally Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, are seeking to make an example out of the progressive Rollins, making her the avatar of what Cotton characterized as “pro-criminal Soros prosecutors” hell-bent on “destroying our legal system from the inside.”

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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

Mayor Michelle Wu is calling the reinstatement of a police officer who was accused of calling a group of Roxbury Prep students racial slurs “unacceptable” but said her hands are tied by union contract language that prevents her from intervening.

“It’s unacceptable that this officer was brought back on after the actions that were taken and that the city’s department took as well. An important part of how we are looking to contract negotiations for public safety will involve changes in policy here,” Wu told a Herald reporter, following an unrelated event at City Hall on Monday.

The Herald first reported on Friday that Officer Joseph Lynch is in the process of being reinstated following a decision in September, per a November memo from the city’s legal department obtained by the newspaper.

An arbitrator ruled that the Boston Police Department must reinstate Lynch, saying that the officer was just giving a “truthful accurate report” to school staff at the time of the alleged incident in the summer of 2019, per the memo from legal adviser Anthony Rizzo.

Lynch was fired following a BPD investigation for conduct unbecoming a department employee, unreasonable judgment, and the use of racial epithets, but the arbitrator ruled the department “did not have just cause to terminate.”

Boston Police union contracts expired in June 2020 and remain unfinished business. For the newly sworn-in Wu administration, negotiations represent an opportunity to inject unprecedented levels of police accountability and transparency in a department rife with scandal.

Wu said current contract language prevents her “from stepping in on situations where an arbitrator has made a decision.”

Union officials did not respond to questions.

The last year has exposed a police overtime abuse, covering up of allegations of child rape by former Boston Police Patrolman Association’s former president Patrick Rose and buried reports of domestic abuse by former Police Commissioner Dennis White, who was quickly appointed by former mayor Martin Walsh on his way out the door to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary in Washington.

Lawmakers in Boston and on Beacon Hill have taken steps in the past year to bring greater accountability and consequence to police forces long protected by powerful unions and the contracts they procure.

A state-run Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission will begin certifying police officers next year and decertifying those with serious disciplinary allegations deemed credible. In Boston, a Civilian Review Board charged with reviewing and recommending action on complaints will be up and running “soon,” according to Wu.

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote a French essayist in 1849, and the expression has become part of our common parlance. But it isn’t always true, and recent events have demonstrated that if the saying once applied to the norms of Massachusetts political life, it no longer does.

Ranked 15th among the states in population, the Bay State always punches well beyond its weight on the scale of national impact, which is why its political doings receive outsized attention. This makes sense: what happens in Massachusetts doesn’t always stay in Massachusetts, politically speaking. Four of America’s 46 presidents were born here, and seven others studied here. In the last nine presidential elections, three major party nominees – Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney – were Massachusetts politicians. In 2020 alone, five candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination – Elizabeth Warren, Deval Patrick,  Michael Bloomberg, Seth Moulton and Bill De Blasio – were either Massachusetts officeholders or were raised here.

Then there are the armies of campaign operatives and public policy types that hail from the state. The result: Massachusetts politics is not only a local blood sport but an ongoing national spectacle. Just as a now defunct financial services company’s advertisements once proclaimed “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen,” so too do political professionals ascribe tea leaf qualities to what happens here.

Two recent developments have generated national attention. The election of 36-year-old City Councilor Michelle Wu as Boston’s new mayor has excited young Bostonians and communities of color, punctuating their ascendancy. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu’s election has made it clear that the days when white men ruled Boston’s roost are over. “The old Boston is gone,” Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh told the Washington Post last month, “and there’s a new Boston in terms of political power.”

Census figures tell part of the story. In 1970, 79.8% of Boston’s population was comprised of non-Hispanics whites. Now it is 44.6%. Only 2.6% of Bostonians were Hispanics; now it is 18.7%. Asian Americans numbered only 1.3% of the city’s population 50 years ago. Their proportional representation has increased almost tenfold since then.

Wu’s election has electrified Bostonians. Whip smart and seemingly limitless in her energy, the mother of two small children has been everywhere since winning the mayoralty four weeks ago. She doesn’t appear to have much choice in the matter: every group in every neighborhood in the city has been clamoring for her appearance at every ceremony that Boston’s robust holiday season has to offer, and there are a lot of them. This goes beyond the normal “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the mayor come?”; there is a slightly frenzied “Do you think we can get Michelle?” aspect that has taken hold. Nor is this simply a testament to Wu’s personal vibrancy. Her push for free public transportation, cost containment for renters and environmental protection has resonated widely.

Also marking the end of a political era was Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that he would not seek reelection. Baker is the latest in a long series of moderate Republicans who have won the governorship in dark blue Massachusetts over the past century, and he may be the last. Since his election in 2014, Baker has been one of the country’s most popular governors, not merely projecting but displaying a steady hand, decency and thoughtfulness. These qualities have not endeared him to his own state party which, like the Republican Party generally, is now dominated by election-deniers. The odds that Baker would have lost his own party’s nomination for a third term were likely a big factor in driving a good man from public service.

In Massachusetts, the Gods of Good Governance have both given and taken away, all in the same month. It’s plain that politics here has actually changed and not stayed the same.

Jeff Robbins is a Boston lawyer and former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission

 

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