Florida GOP Just Can’t Stop: New Bill Would Ban Virtually All Abortions

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Florida GOP Just Can’t Stop: New Bill Would Ban Virtually All Abortions

A Florida Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would essentially ban abortions altogether, going even further than the already draconian restrictions on the procedure in the Sunshine State.

State Representative David Borrero filed a bill Monday that would ban anyone from performing an abortion except to save the patient’s life. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or if the patient is a minor. The bill would establish that personhood exists from the moment of fertilization.

The measure (H.B. 1519) states that a qualifying medical emergency would be “an emergent physical condition in which an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” The bill makes no mention of what a patient should do if they miscarry and need to have the fetus removed, or if the fetus develops a fatal anomaly.

Under the bill, “performing or attempting to perform an abortion” is classified as a third-degree felony. Doctors who conduct abortions for reasons other than those allowed by the measure could face up to 10 years in jail, up to $100,000 in fines, or both.

The Florida Senate minority leader, Democrat Lauren Book, slammed the bill as a “desperate attempt at relevancy by the bill sponsor.”

“We are in arm’s reach of getting abortion on the ballot and restoring the rights they stole,” she told the Sun Sentinel. “Republican leadership knows this is no longer a winning issue for their party. Voters of all political leanings have shown and will continue to show their overwhelming support for women’s right to healthcare privacy and reproductive freedom.”

Florida currently bans abortion after 15 weeks. That law went before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds the law, then an even more restrictive measure banning abortion at six weeks—before most people know they are pregnant—will go into effect. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the hugely unpopular bill in April.

If Borrero’s bill becomes law—a possibility, with Republicans controlling both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s office—then it would supersede the six-week ban.

But there’s a chance that all of these laws will be defeated. Florida abortion advocates have collected enough signatures to put access to the procedure on the state’s 2024 ballot. The amendment would allow abortion access up until viability, or when the fetus can survive outside the uterus. This is generally estimated to happen at around 24 weeks.

The ballot initiative faces a major Republican challenge, though. State Attorney General Ashley Moody, a DeSantis ally, has asked the Florida Supreme Court to disqualify the amendment. She argues the language is misleading, claiming that the use of the word “viability” could have multiple meanings. The state’s high court will hear arguments on February 7.

More on Florida politics:

A federal judge on Tuesday set strict limitations on what Donald Trump and his attorneys can say during the former president’s upcoming trial for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll.

Trump will go on trial starting next Tuesday for comments he made in 2019, when he said Carroll accused him of raping her just to promote her memoir. Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan has already determined that Trump is liable for defamation, so the trial is primarily to set damages.

Kaplan issued an order Tuesday barring Trump and his lawyers from discussing Carroll’s choice of lawyer or who might be paying her legal fees. They are prohibited from making comments “concerning Ms. Carroll’s past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,” and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her.

Here’s the list of what he can’t offer as evidence, argument, or comments in the jury’s presence. And while it’s not everything Carroll’s side wanted, it might finally convince Trump that his testifying would be a bad idea. 3/ pic.twitter.com/XLayfVCVdA

— Lisa Rubin (@lawofruby) January 9, 2024

Trump’s legal team has argued that Carroll’s lawsuits are just another witch hunt against the former president. They claim her lawyer Roberta Kaplan (no relation to the judge) is biased because she has represented prominent Democrats, and that the whole lawsuit is being funded by a left-leaning billionaire.

Judge Kaplan had already ruled over the weekend that Trump can’t argue he didn’t rape Carroll. Although Trump was found liable for sexual abuse, Kaplan has repeatedly stated that Trump “‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape.’”

In May, a jury unanimously found Trump liable for sexual abuse and battery against Carroll in the mid-1990s and for defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault. He was ordered to pay her $5 million in damages.

Kaplan ruled in September that since Trump has already been found liable for sexual abuse, his 2019 comments are by default defamatory. Carroll is now seeking up to $12 million in damages.

Legal analyst Lisa Rubin noted Tuesday that Kaplan’s latest ruling might convince Trump not to testify in next week’s trial. Rubin explained that Trump’s testimony could result in higher punitive damages, and he might violate the order while on the stand.

Trump has already shown it will be difficult for him not to bring up Carroll’s past sexual experiences. Carroll wrote a popular sexual advice column in Elle magazine for nearly three decades. Just last week, over the span of about 30 minutes, Trump made 31 posts about Carroll on Truth Social. Among the many things he shared were media interview clips and social media posts that appear to come from Carroll, all stripped of context so as to paint her as some sort of sexual deviant.

More on Trump’s legal woes:

Less than three months into Mike Johnson’s tenure as speaker of the House, some House Republicans are already experiencing buyer’s remorse.

Texas Representative and Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy on Monday publicly raised the possibility of dumping Johnson as speaker.

Questioned by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Roy mentioned “colleagues that are really frustrated” with Johnson and alluded to “real conversations this week about what [House Republicans] need to do going forward,” calling the situation “[not] good.”

Collins: Does that include potentially moving to oust Speaker Johnson from his job?

Roy: Again, that’s not the road I prefer…

Collins: You said you don’t prefer it, but you did not say no. pic.twitter.com/59IqeIoLlo

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 9, 2024

And Roy is not alone. As Punchbowl News reports, some House Republicans have “significant concerns” about whether Johnson—the least experienced speaker in 140 years—is “in over his head.” At least one Republican claimed Johnson is “getting rolled even more than [ousted former Speaker Kevin] McCarthy did.”

Conservative dissatisfaction with Johnson stems from what some see as his acquiescence to President Biden and House Democrats on spending. Johnson over the weekend agreed to a $1.59 trillion spending deal for 2024. Under the deal, fiscal spending will be limited to what was mostly laid out in June’s Fiscal Responsibility Act, which averted a government shutdown at the time but also angered the Freedom Caucus and in part led to McCarthy’s ouster.

In the green but hard-line Johnson, Republicans like Roy saw a figure more amenable to their brand of austerity and obstructionism. Facing his first real test, however, Johnson seems to have failed in the eyes of some of his colleagues.

Now concerns over Johnson’s ability to lead are trickling out via anonymous quotes from “VERY well connected” House members.

Johnson’s rise from little-known Louisiana congressman to speaker of the House in the 23 days following McCarthy’s removal was seen as a win for the party’s right wing; Johnson’s 2020 election denial and social conservatism (he opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage and sees his election as divinely ordained) allowed anti-McCarthy holdouts to coalesce around his candidacy.

But the one-member threshold for vacating a House speaker, which McCarthy implemented and which led to his own ousting, is still in place.

And now, it seems Johnson’s days as speaker may be numbered.

One of Donald Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday made a shocking new defense of “presidential immunity”—and in the process accidentally destroyed one of the former president’s arguments for why he shouldn’t be charged for his role in the January 6 insurrection.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that he cannot be prosecuted for trying to overturn the 2020 election, because he has presidential immunity from criminal proceedings. His lawyers presented his case to a panel of three appellate judges in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

At one point, Judge Florence Pan asked if a president would be immune from criminal prosecution if he had ordered Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival. She noted that an order to Seal Team 6 would be an official act.

Trump’s lawyer John Sauer said the president could be prosecuted, but only if he had been impeached and convicted first.

That’s a terrifying interpretation on its own, but Pan took it one step further. She pointed out that this would mean presidents can be criminally prosecuted under certain circumstances. In other words, Trump does not have absolute immunity.

“Doesn’t that narrow the issues before us to…‘can a president be prosecuted without first being impeached and convicted?’” Pan said. “All of your other arguments seem to fall away.”

“Once you concede that there’s not this absolute immunity, that the judiciary can hear criminal prosecutions under any circumstances—you’re saying there’s one specific circumstance—then that means that there isn’t this absolute immunity that you claim.”

CLIP: Exchange on immunity between DC Circuit Court Judge Florence Pan and D. John Sauer, attorney for former President Donald Trump.

Judge Pan: “Once you concede that presidents can be prosecuted under some circumstances your separation of powers argument falls away…” pic.twitter.com/QYT8KoILkh

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 9, 2024

Pan also noted that Trump appeared to be trying to have it both ways. During his second impeachment trial, Trump and some of his Republican allies argued that the Senate shouldn’t convict him because he would face criminal prosecution later. But now, he claims he shouldn’t have to face prosecution, either.

If the appellate judges rule against Trump, then the case will likely head to the Supreme Court. This could delay Trump’s trial, which is currently set to begin on March 4, the day before Super Tuesday.

Trump was indicted in August for his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection and other attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He faces one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and has insisted the case should be dismissed altogether. He argues that former presidents can’t be criminally charged for actions related to their official responsibilities. He did not explain how overturning an election was related to official presidential duties.

While many critics say Trump’s immunity claim is a desperate attempt to avoid accountability, it could also be an attempt to ease his path towards increased power. As Greg Sargent writes for The New Republic, “If he wins on this front, he’d be largely unshackled in a second presidential term, free to pursue all manner of corrupt designs with little fear of legal consequences after leaving office again.”

More on the immunity claim:

X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday temporarily suspended the accounts of multiple prominent journalists and left-leaning commentators and comedians, many of whom were critical of X owner Elon Musk.

The social media platform gave no explanation for the sudden purge, saying only that the accounts “violate the X rules.” The X rules prohibit violent or hateful speech, child exploitation, private information sharing, and fake information.

But the accounts in question do not post that kind of content. The reporters who were banned include Steven Monacelli, a journalist at the Texas Observer who covers extremism, and Ken Klippenstein, who covers national security for The Intercept. Last year, Klippenstein published a piece on the errors with Tesla’s self-driving feature, and Monacelli noted that X shadow-banned the Intercept author since then.

MintPress News reporter Alan MacLeod, who recently has extensively covered Israel’s approach to the war in Gaza, and leftist podcaster Rob Rousseau were also suspended Tuesday.

They also got zei squirrel and Liam Nissan, both shit posting accounts that were critical of Elon and Bill Ackman. pic.twitter.com/xmqB4rlFAr

— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) January 9, 2024

The accounts for @liamnissan, @zei_squirrel, and the TrueAnon podcast were suspended, as well. The @liamnissan account posts mostly comedic commentary, including criticisms of Musk. The TrueAnon podcast provides left-wing analysis of current political events and conspiracy theories.

The @zei_squirrel account is another left-leaning commentator who has been critical of Musk in the past. In a post on their Substack Tuesday, the @zei_squirrel writer noted that they had recently begun to criticize Bill Ackman, a hedge fund billionaire and friend of Musk’s who helped lead the campaign against former Harvard University President Claudine Gay. Ackman’s wife was recently accused of plagiarism, the same charge that brought down Gay.

All of the suspended accounts were reinstated a few hours later, but initially with significantly lower follower counts than before.

This is at least the fifth time that X, under Musk, has purged accounts that are the slightest bit critical of him, his friends, or causes he supports. Shortly after taking the social network’s reins in October 2022, the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” banned the accounts of multiple actors and comedians who made fun of him.

Just a month later, accounts for people including Dean Baker, the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Andrew Lawrence, deputy director of rapid response at the left-wing watchdog Media Matters, were temporarily suspended. Both men have been critical of Musk. Also that month, the accounts for several high-profile journalists including Keith Olbermann, Aaron Rupar, Ryan Mac, and Drew Harwell were temporarily suspended.

Dell Cameron, a reporter for Wired, was banned in April last year for reporting on the hacker who targeted far-right commentator Matt Walsh.

Ironically, if X wants to ban an account that violates platform rules, the company need look no further than its owner. Musk’s personal account is a major source of hate speech and disinformation. In addition to aggressively antisemitic posts, Musk also regularly lets Nazis back on X, shares transphobic content, and spreads conspiracy theories.

This article has been updated.

Explosive new audio of Roger Stone reveals the longtime Trump ally was trying to plot the assassinations of two outspoken Democratic congressmen.

A few weeks before the 2020 election, Stone told a member of his security detail that he wanted either Representative Eric Swalwell or Representative Jerry Nadler (or both) killed, according to audio obtained by Mediaite. At the time, Nadler had just announced that the House Judiciary Committee, on which he and Swalwell serve, would investigate Trump’s decision to commute Stone’s sentence for federal crimes.

“It’s time to do it,” Stone told Sal Greco, then a member of the NYPD who was working as Stone’s security. “Let’s go find Swalwell. It’s time to do it. Then we’ll see how brave the rest of them are. It’s time to do it. It’s either Nadler or Swalwell has to die before the election. They need to get the message. Let’s go find Swalwell and get this over with. I’m just not putting up with this shit anymore.”

A source familiar with the conversation, speaking anonymously, told Mediaite they believed Stone was serious. “Stone had been at war with Nadler and Swalwell for years. He just hates them,” the source said. “He just wanted to get Trump back into office so these things would stop.”

Stone, a notorious conservative political operative, has long been a loyal Trump adviser and ally. Video footage released in August revealed that Stone began strategizing to overturn the 2020 election at least as early as November 5—two days before the vote had been called.

And Stone has been rewarded over the years for his loyalty. Stone was convicted in July 2019 in relation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of a proceeding.

Prosecutors wanted Stone to be sentenced to nine years in prison, but Trump’s Justice Department reportedly intervened to give him a shorter sentence. Then, just days before Stone was due to go to jail, Trump commuted his sentence entirely. Nadler announced the House Judiciary investigation into the commutation just a few days later.

Four of the prosecutors abruptly quit the case following the Justice Department’s intervention. At least one, Aaron Zelinsky, acknowledged he had left in protest. A separate audio recording revealed Stone wanted retribution against Zelinsky, as well.

“He needs to be punished,” Stone told Greco, who has not worked with the NYPD since August 2022. “You have to abduct him and punish him.”

Stone denied making the comments about Zelinsky, Swalwell, or Nadler and said the audio had been made with artificial intelligence.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft completely melted down on Monday when he tried to explain why it would be justified to kick Joe Biden off his state’s primary ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it would decide whether Donald Trump should appear on state ballots. The former president has already been kicked off the ballot in Maine and Colorado. Ashcroft responded by threatening to remove Biden from the Missouri ballot if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the other states’ decisions.

When CNN anchor Boris Sanchez asked Ashcroft what justification he would have for such a move, Ashcroft faltered.

“There have been allegations that he’s engaged in insurrection,” Ashcroft said of Biden.

When Sanchez pressed him to give more details, Ashcroft said he had “seen allegations from the lieutenant governor of Texas,” but then suddenly seemed incapable of stringing a sentence together.

BORIS SANCHEZ: What would be your justification for removing Joe Biden from the ballot in Missouri?

JAY ASHCROFT: There have been allegations that he’s engaged in insurrection

SANCHEZ: How so?

ASHCROFT: Um, I’ve seen allegations from the lieutenant governor of Texas pic.twitter.com/687uqKyCUw

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2024

Earlier in the interview, Sanchez asked why Ashcroft felt he had the authority to remove Biden from the ballot. The Missouri state Constitution says that the secretary of state cannot unilaterally disqualify a candidate and would need to challenge a candidate’s eligibility in court. Ashcroft accused Sanchez of lying.

Ashcroft’s main argument seems to be that Trump shouldn’t be disqualified from a state ballot because he has not yet been convicted of insurrection, only accused of it. Ashcroft also said that states should not be able to disqualify candidates from the ballot, failing to see the irony of his threat to do just that to Biden.

A major difference, though, is that Trump has been indicted twice, once at the federal level and again at the state level, for trying to overturn the 2020 election. And all of the evidence that has been reported so far seems pretty damning.

Trump was disqualified last month from the primary ballots in Colorado and Maine, after the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine secretary of state determined that he had engaged in insurrection and was therefore constitutionally ineligible to run for president.

Shortly after the Colorado ruling, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (whom Ashcroft referred to in Monday’s disastrous interview) threatened to kick Biden off the Lone Star State’s ballot in retribution.

The Florida Republican Party overwhelmingly voted on Monday to remove its chairman, Christian Ziegler, as police investigate him for a rape allegation.

More than 200 members attended the meeting, and almost all voted to oust Ziegler, according to multiple reporters on scene. The party had already suspended Ziegler last month when the rape accusation first came to light and demanded he resign, but he had refused.

Police in Sarasota, Florida, began investigating Ziegler late last year after a woman said he raped her at her apartment in October. Ziegler and his wife, Bridget Ziegler, a co-founder of the far-right group Moms for Liberty, have admitted they had previously had a consensual sexual relationship with the accuser.

The woman says she and the Zieglers had planned to have a threesome on October 2, according to police reports. Bridget Ziegler was unable to attend. Christian Ziegler allegedly arrived at the woman’s apartment alone and assaulted her.

Neither of the Zieglers has been charged with a crime, but Christian Ziegler is currently under investigation. He is also being investigated for “video voyeurism.” According to police documents, Ziegler allegedly filmed the sexual encounter and then sent it to the woman on Instagram using “vanish mode.” Messages sent in “vanish mode” disappear after a certain period of time.

The Florida Republican Party said one of its main reasons for asking him to leave was the concern the investigation would hinder his ability to successfully lead the party during a competitive election cycle. Ziegler has denied the allegations.

Bridget Ziegler was asked to leave the Sarasota School Board, but she has refused. The Zieglers have repeatedly pushed anti-LGBTQ laws and regulations, particularly in schools. Their consensual relationship with another woman has led many—including other conservative parental rights activists—to accuse Bridget Ziegler of hypocrisy.

A Florida Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it defamation to accuse someone of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia, a measure that would deal a devastating blow to freedom of speech in the Sunshine State.

The bill, which was introduced Friday, would make it much easier for someone to sue another person for defamation. The measure states that “an allegation that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se.”

Proving “actual malice” is one of the main requirements of a successful defamation case. And this bill would make that easier, setting up conditions for a fact-finder to automatically infer that actual malice took place after an accusation of discrimination.

In cases of alleged homophobia or transphobia, defendants charged with defamation are not allowed to use the plaintiff’s religious or scientific beliefs as part of their defense. If they are found liable for defamation, the defendant could be fined at least $35,000.

The bill applies to statements made in print, on television, or on social media. It also states that someone who is caught in a viral video engaging in allegedly discriminatory behaviors does not qualify as a “public figure,” giving those people even more grounds to sue.

Finally, the bill removes certain journalistic privileges, particularly the right to keep sources anonymous. Statements from anonymous sources would be considered “presumptively false,” making journalists reporting on discrimination vulnerable to lawsuits.

More attempts to chill free speech in the ‘free’ State of Florida,” Democratic state Representative Anna Eskamani tweeted about the measure.

The bill was introduced by state Senator Jason Brodeur, who, despite claiming he wants to protect free speech, has taken aim at the right to free speech multiple times. In 2023, he introduced a bill that would require paid bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the state. Such a registry of political writers and independent journalists would have allowed for increased surveillance.

Brodeur’s new bill is almost an exact copy of another measure introduced early last year. That original bill passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee but ultimately failed in the Judiciary Committee.

Florida increased its attacks on LGBTQ rights over the course of 2023. With Republicans holding both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s office, the new version might stand a chance.

If the new bill does become law, it is unlikely to survive a legal challenge due to its clear violations of free speech and anti-discrimination laws. But as with so many Republican culture-war laws, the point is not to create good legislation. The point is to scare people.

A new pro-Trump campaign ad is doubling down on the former president’s Hitler rhetoric—and attacking Nikki Haley over her stance on immigration.

Trump-allied super PAC MAGA Inc posted the video on X (formerly Twitter) Monday morning, marking the second time the group has specifically targeted Haley. The ad shows photos and video footage supposedly of the southern U.S. border, spliced with clips from a speech Haley gave in 2015.

“Drug traffickers. Rapists. Poisoning our country,” the narrator says. “But Nikki Haley refused to call illegals ‘criminals.’”

“Illegals are criminals, Nikki. That’s what illegal means,” the ad says, branding Haley as “too weak” and “too liberal” on immigration.

During a 2015 event in Colorado, Haley said it was “incredibly frustrating” to see the massive influx of undocumented immigrants, but warned it was “disrespectful” to dismiss them as criminals.

“We don’t need to talk about them as criminals, they’re not,” said Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants. “They’re families that want a better life and they’re desperate to get here.”

Monday’s ad is the second time MAGA Inc has taken specific aim at Haley. At the end of 2023, the super PAC spent nearly $3.5 million on anti-Haley ads, mailers, and text messages. Haley has seen a steady rise in the polls. RealClearPolitics’s rolling average of the last three weeks of polling currently has Haley in second place, ahead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was once touted as Trump’s natural successor. Trump still enjoys a hefty lead, though.

But more importantly, the ad is a clear sign that Trump and his supporters are totally fine embracing fascist rhetoric. Trump has previously claimed immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” When critics rightfully pointed out that this was language straight out of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Trump claimed he’d never read the Nazi manifesto, only to then immediately decry immigrants for “destroying the blood of our country.”

And the MAGA Inc ad similarly claims that immigrants are “poisoning our country.”

It seems that Trump is gearing up to keep that extremist train of thought going should he return to the White House, bragging in December that he would abuse his powers if reelected. He also might bring his former adviser Stephen Miller back as attorney general.

Miller, an open white nationalist, claimed in December that the United States is being overrun by immigrants and can only be saved by “massive” deportations.

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