MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The Supreme Court considers the dilemma of the rogue elector. Meaning: In our system of picking a president, what requirements do the Constitution place on the Electoral College?
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also today, on the Monday Moneybeat, unemployment and incentives to stay that way.
And, our first-ever serialized story, a four-day, four-part series by WORLD correspondent Kim Henderson: a story of murder and a grieving community’s recovery.
And Les Sillars on UFOs.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, May 25th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: All 50 states now taking steps to reopen » All 50 states have now at least partially reopened to some extent easing coronavirus lockdowns.
Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Sunday that the state is moving to Phase 3 of its recovery. Beginning Friday, many businesses will turn the lights back on.
PRITZKER: That includes retail, offices, service counters, personal care business, manufacturing, some health and fitness centers, youth sports, and restaurants and bars for outdoor dining.
But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the state’s biggest city will lag behind the rest of the state.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said beginning this week, professional sports leagues can begin training camps in the state.
CUOMO: Sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it! Do it! Work out the economics if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports.
Major League Baseball will reportedly present a new economic proposal to the player’s union tomorrow as the two sides work toward starting a shortened 2020 season.
In Florida, the Universal Orlando theme parks will reopen June 5th, with limited capacity and a range of new safety measures.
FBI launching internal probe of Flynn case » The FBI will conduct an internal review of the bureau’s handling of the Michael Flynn investigation. The probe will reportedly examine whether current FBI employees “engaged in misconduct.”
The Justice Department recently moved to drop charges against the former national security adviser, citing wrongdoing within the FBI.
And GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn said Sunday the Senate Judiciary Committee should also question those involved.
BLACKBURN: It is about time that they did an investigation. And we need to bring all these people before us at Judiciary. If we need to do criminal referrals, we will do those.
Trump administration officials are arguing that Obama-era former national security adviser Susan Rice’s now-public email shows how Democrats controlled the Russia probe back in 2017.
Meantime, a federal appeals court is ordering the trial judge in the Flynn case to explain himself. When the Justice Department asked Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to drop the Flynn case, the judge instead hired a prosecutor and a former judge to argue against dropping it.
Judge Sullivan’s unusual move came after more than 2,000 former DOJ officials publicly condemned the decision to drop the charges against Flynn. Now, Sullivan has hired a high-profile trial lawyer to defend his actions.
Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Sunday that the judge does not have discretion to overrule the Justice Department.
WHITAKER: I think ultimately, it’s going to be a strange proceeding when the appeals court gets their filing from the judge trying to defend his actions. But General Flynn will be—the case will be dismissed and the charges will be no longer held against him.
Flynn pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI. But recently revealed evidence suggests a deliberate effort to entrap him.
Netanhayu corruption trial begins in Jerusalem » AUDIO: [SOUND OF DEMONSTRATION]
Those were the sounds heard outside of a Jerusalem courtroom on Sunday. Hundreds of impassioned supporters and critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered to mark the start of his corruption trial.
Netanyahu entered the courtroom wearing a blue surgical mask and refused to sit until TV cameras left the room.
The prime minister declared “I stand before you with a straight back and head raised high.” He maintained his innocence and said the trial is a power play by political opponents.
Netanyahu is accused of accepting gifts and offering favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his family.
China: U.S. pushing countries toward new Cold War » Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Sunday that the United States is pushing the two countries to—quoting here—“the brink of a new Cold War.”
Beijing is becoming increasingly rankled as U.S. leaders continue to condemn China’s handling of the coronavirus and other actions. Wang said some in Washington are “taking China-U.S. relations hostage.”
His remarks came as U.S national security adviser Robert O’Brien spoke about a proposed Chinese law that will crack down on liberties in Hong Kong. He said that could make it tough for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to certify that China is respecting democracy in Hong Kong.
OBRIEN: Under the current circumstances, especially if the law is passed, it’s hard to see how Secretary Pompeo could make that certification. If he fails to make that certification, there are consequences that come with it, sanctions and others.
Wang claimed many in the United States are fueling—quote—“countless lies and conspiracy theories” about China’s handling of the coronavirus.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Legal Docket.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: It’s Memorial Day Monday, the 25th of May, 2020. Good morning to you, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Hey, welcome back. You’ve had your nose in law books and working on your Legal Docket podcast we’re planning for July to run through the summer. But you’ve been missed, and I get lots of email saying so.
Well, the Supreme Court is still chipping away at its docket. It has 57 cases this term and we have a few more teleconference arguments to analyze for you.
Today, two disputes over the Electoral College. Not over its existence, but what to do about Electoral College members who don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Namely, they refuse to vote for the candidate who won their state.
REICHARD: These are so-called “faithless electors.”
By way of background: the Electoral College has its authority in the U-S Constitution. Article II directs each state legislature to decide how to choose its own electors. That and the 12th Amendment mentions electors, but beyond that, the constitution gives no other guidance.
Here’s how it works. Each state has as many electoral votes as it has representation in Congress. For example, in my state of Missouri, we have 10 electors. That’s two for each senator, and eight more for each of Missouri’s house delegation. And that number is based upon the population count every ten years, the Census.
In total, the country has 538 possible electoral votes, and to win the presidency, a candidate must receive a total of 270 of them. A national popular vote doesn’t win American presidential elections; 270 electoral votes wins, and that helps to ensure a geographically broad base of popular support in such a diverse country.
EICHER: That’s the context. Now the facts.
Back in 2016, each state’s popular vote was winner-take-all: either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Taking all the votes together, especially given her landslide wins in heavily populated California and New York, Clinton supporters trumpeted that their candidate won the popular vote, if not the electoral vote.
That angered one elector from Colorado. So he instigated a plan: convince several electors pledged to vote for Trump to vote for someone else. That could create an electoral deadlock, bring Trump’s electoral number below 270, and toss the election into the House of Representatives to choose a president. The Constitution provides for that alternative.
REICHARD: But of the 10 electors who wound up casting ballots for candidates other than the popular vote winner in their states, it cost Trump only two votes. Trump’s margin was 36, so it didn’t ever seriously threaten the outcome.
But it did result in the electors being either removed from their posts or fined $1,000.
And that’s what the dispute is over: whether under threat of punishment, state laws that require electors to vote as state law directs amounts to a violation of the First Amendment rights of electors.
I will use audio from both cases interchangeably as the legal questions are similar, although each arose from opposite rulings in courts below. One’s out of Colorado where the 10th Circuit sided with the rogue electors; the other from Washington state where its supreme court upheld the fines against them.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered what any outcome really means in this question to Colorado’s attorney general, Philip Weiser. He argued in favor of forcing electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote.
GINSBURG: How would a ruling against you actually alter our democratic processes? Most states already require elector pledges. And faithless voting throughout the years has always been rare. So how much difference does it make?
WEISER: Your Honor, the chaos that could result is one that could occasion a constitutional crisis…
Weiser going on to say that not forcing electors to vote for his or her state’s popular vote winner is a “dangerous time bomb” and a “treacherous experiment.”
But lawyers for the electors who voted their own way argued otherwise. Listen to lawyer for the faithless electors from Washington, Lawrence Lessig:
LESSIG: There is no tradition in America, maybe in the Soviet Union as Justice Kagan suggests, but not in America, of a government exercising control over a vote, over an elector. That power doesn’t exist. Therefore, it’s not a question of whether it was taken away by the federal government. It wasn’t there before.
Yet several justices could imagine the problem of corrupted electors. Here’s Justice Samuel Alito who asked the same question twice. Here, the answer is from Jason Harrow, lawyer in support of the rogue electors:
ALITO: Suppose an elector is bribed between the time of popular vote and the time when the electors vote. Can the state remove that elector?
HARROW: No, we don’t think so, Your Honor. And that’s consistent with the treatment of every other elected official. Senators and representatives cannot be removed for a supposition of bribery, a mere whisper of it. They have to be removed for proof of it. And the same thing would be true here.
Justice Clarence Thomas imagined a scenario with a certain hobbit from middle earth. Here again with Harrow, lawyer in support of the rogue electors.
THOMAS: You know you mentioned with respect to the state that after someone dies, that their system is so rigid that you can’t make changes because of the death of the candidate. But I think that on your side … you have a similar problem because the elector who had promised to vote for the winning candidate could suddenly say you know I’m going to vote for Frodo Baggins. I really like Frodo Baggins. And you’re saying, under your system, you can’t do anything about that.
HARROW: Your Honor, I think there is something to be done because that would be the vote for a non-person, you know, no matter how big a fan many people are of Frodo Baggins.
The other side favors enforcing state laws that require electors to vote for the popular vote winner. Here’s Washington Attorney General Noah Purcell:
PURCELL: More Americans participate in this election than in any other democratic process in our system of government. But, under Petitioners’ theory, this entire process is irrelevant and always has been, because all that matters is who the electors prefer. On their view, the electors can choose whoever they want to be president, regardless of any voluntary commitments they made to secure their position, regardless of how their state voted, and regardless of whether they are being bribed or blackmailed for their vote. That is not the law….states are allowed to require presidential electors to vote for the candidate chosen by the state’s voters and to enforce that requirement.
A strong thread of federalism rose up, from an unexpected place. Here, liberal-leaning Justice Elena Kagan, who didn’t think the Constitution offers much guidance in this matter.
KAGAN: What would you say if I said that if I think that there’s silence, the best thing to do is leave it to the states and not impose any constitutional requirement on them?
HARROW: Your honor I would push against because I don’t think that there’s silence.
Harrow underscored that the Founders meant for the Electoral College to be independent. No less than Alexander Hamilton said so, as an intermediary between the people and the presidency.
But Justice Alito had some qualms:
ALITO: We have to interpret the Constitution to mean what it means, regardless of the consequences, but I am interested in at least understanding what the consequences of your position would be…There’s the fact that in most states the electors are not even listed on the ballots and therefore the voters have no way of trying to ensure that the electors who were chosen are electors who really will honor the wishes of the voters. So do you really deny that this is where your argument would lead?
HARROW: We do deny it, Justice Alito…
But the states argued Hamilton’s view on this wasn’t shared by everyone of his fellow Founders. The Constitution isn’t all that clear about it, and the political parties we have now weren’t anticipated by them.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh came back several times to the question of what is the purpose of the Electoral College in the first place?
Colorado’s attorney general Weiser answered that the Constitution was designed for states to make their own choice: electors to vote as proxy voters on behalf of the public, or as free agents.
Justice Kavanaugh referenced the 10th Amendment’s statement that any power not specifically given to the federal government by the Constitution belongs to the States.
KAVANAUGH: The question here is not whether the Constitution requires the states to bind electors, of course. It’s whether the Constitution permits states to bind electors. And on that question, why doesn’t the 10th Amendment as the states’ authority, pre-existing authority, as Justice Thomas was suggesting, come in?
Lawyer Lessig answered the state didn’t raise the 10th Amendment and even if it did, tradition doesn’t align with forcing electors to vote according to state law.
And back and forth it went.
The larger issue here of course is the movement by some Democrats to get rid of the Electoral College altogether and elect the president by nationwide popular vote.
This case isn’t about that, but it does foreshadow battles to come.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.
MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER: Let’s dive right in with financial analyst and adviser David Bahnson—joining us each week since the financial crisis that grew out of the COVID-19 policy response. David, good morning to you.
DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Well, good morning, Nick.
EICHER: Well, I see a small drop in claims for unemployment once again: 2.4 million last week. Now, you said that you’re really waiting to see those claims fall below a million and I understand that.
I wonder about this week’s number, though, David, because it does technically mark eight weeks in a row where the number has dropped. Because I also read that this is the first week in which gig workers and self-employed are not included in the total.
So, it’s possible unemployment claims may have gone up, and maybe at this point that big national number is not as important a number as more of a state-by-state view, as the economy starts to reopen.
BAHNSEN: Yeah, I think that there is some hair on the number every week around various nuances. But, look, there’s no bigger wildcard to the unemployment claims week by week than what the federal government’s going to do about the $600 per week subsidy. If they extend that and make it dependent on not having a job, then that is going to be millions of people that are financially better off to not be working.
And so there’s a number of different things on the table for whatever the next government program’s going to be. But the future of the unemployment numbers, to your point, is going to have a lot to do with the state by state reopenings and then—particularly in the food and beverage, hospitality, and service businesses—but then I think the second wildcard is around the federal government subsidy of unemployment.
EICHER: Well, since you brought that up, let’s go ahead and talk about Stimulus II in Washington. The Senate adjourned for the holiday and took no action on it.
But you’re talking about the additional $600 per week tacked on to unemployment checks from Stimulus I, the Paycheck Protection Program, that makes not working—purely from a dollars-and-cents perspective—a more attractive proposition to going back to work.
Clearly Congress is going to do something additional here, given the unprecedented times, but what’s your sense of it?
BAHNSEN: So, the way I’m summarizing it for people, and this is fallible, Nick, I don’t think I have perfect political prognostication skills, but I think that the House Democrats are going to get what was most important to them, which was direct support to states and local governments, and they’re going to get another direct payment to taxpayers, which was the $1,200 to single, $2,400 married couple, $3,400 to a family of four. And just yesterday or the day before you saw President Trump saying he’s open to doing that. Those are the big markers for the Democrats. The Republicans, it’s liability protection for businesses so they can be free and safe to reopen without fear of the trial lawyers.
But then the two areas that I just simply don’t know the answer and that I’m utterly obsessed with getting the answer to is where this will go on the unemployment benefit, which was part of the House bill, and the payroll tax cut, which the White House has said is a sine qua non for them. But the Senate Republicans have not. And there’s been quite a bit of pushback from Democrats.
So, what we have is kind of one area I really think the Democrats are going to get. Another area I really think the Republicans are going to get, and two areas that I just think are two be determined.
EICHER: Let’s, before we go, talk about the week on Wall Street. Good week. Major indexes picking up three percent or more on the week and, yet, a major bankruptcy that we just read about: Hertz Rental Car company.
Now, I understood that the company’s financials were not very strong and they were not very strong for a long time going into the economic lockdown. So, you can talk about that if you choose. But are you seeing any signs in the corporate world of business reawakening, the supply side that you’ve been looking for?
BAHNSEN: Yeah, I’m seeing a lot of signs of it. We’re seeing two things right now that are positive. One is some of the businesses and sectors and areas just beginning to pick up, to get off of those bottoms and see some bit of activity. And then number two is we’re seeing a lot of data of area that weren’t ever as bad as had been feared, including some businesses that actually came out of the whole COVID lockdown with revenues higher.
The Hertz issue was very well expected. Look, if you have bond yields trading at 20 percent, the company’s going bankrupt. So, so far the bankruptcy filings have been much less than what we expected. But, you have to remember, most of the courts are closed, so I think there’s actually administrative delays in getting to some of the bankruptcy filings that will end up happening.
But the green shoots for the economy, it’s still too early to get very excited. But I think that just simply having some businesses reopen is better than where we were a few weeks ago. And, like I said, there continues to be certain areas in which the numbers never really got as bad as has been expected. And that’s something giving me a little bit of optimism.
EICHER: David Bahnsen, financial analyst and adviser. David, thank you so much and Happy Memorial Day to you.
BAHNSEN: Likewise, Nick. Take care.
NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, May 25. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help get your Memorial Day started. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Moving forward after unimaginable loss.
2017 was the year. A lone gunman snuffed out eight lives in rural Lincoln County, Mississippi. And it happened three years ago, during a Memorial Day weekend rampage. The attacks left the community reeling.
EICHER: Over the next four days WORLD correspondent Kim Henderson will detail what happened. Together, we’ll discover how a close-knit community deals with such unbelievable pain.
APEL: I’m Therese Apel, here for The Clarion-Ledger…
KIM HENDERSON, CORRESPONDENT: Therese Apel is a career journalist with a resume spanning three decades.
In 2017, she was working as a crime reporter for Mississippi’s top newspaper when she covered the state’s largest mass shooting. Her Twitter profile still shows photos of the eight victims.
APEL: I think it’s a mixture of that being one of the biggest things that’s happened in my life, but also because I don’t want them to ever be forgotten. I’ve got, you know, stuff at the house that will always remind me of, of those days, um, surrounding that.
Her Twitter page also includes a quote from Martin Luther.
APEL: Yeah, it’s “peace if possible, truth at all costs.” And I think as a reporter, um, that’s something that we’ve lost. There are people that are at fault in ways that maybe they didn’t intend, but it was, you know, lax on their part. And then you know, you’ve got the truth of this, which is there are eight lives that were cut short that didn’t need to be.
So what did happen that Memorial Day weekend? Here’s what we know. The shootings took place at three different homes over a span of about 6 hours, and most of the victims were related to the killer by blood or by marriage.
It all started when 35-year old Cory Godbolt went to his in-laws’ home where his estranged wife, Sheena, was staying. When he said he wanted to take their two children home with him, trouble ensued. Someone called the sheriff’s department.
After a deputy arrived, there was some discussion, then Godbolt pulled out a gun. He shot at least 32 rounds, killing his mother-in-law, his wife’s sister and aunt…and the deputy.
About 3 hours later, crime reporter Apel got a call from one of her sources.
APEL: He said, “I just need to make sure you know we’ve got a deputy dead and possibly three others. I said, “Wait, what?” And he said, “you might want to get down here.”
So Apel jumped in her car and left the capital metro area headed south—
APEL: —and I was going 105 miles an hour and I had troopers passing me not looking at me, and I knew that was something real…
Meanwhile, Godbolt was on his way to the home of his cousin, Shon Blackwell. Shon is a preacher, and he and his wife, Tiffany, spent time with the Godbolts. They encouraged the struggling couple to come to Sunday school and church services.
But Cory Godbolt resented Tiffany Blackwell’s friendship with his wife. So he got to their house but found out Shon and Tiffany weren’t there. They’d gone to comfort Sheena, Godbolt’s wife, at the first crime scene.
The house wasn’t empty though. Shon and Tiffany’s son and nephew were there, along with some other children.
APEL: …he kills Jordan Blackwell, who is shielding his 15-year-old cousin from the bullets, and he kills Austin Edwards, who’s 11 years old.
Next, Godbolt headed to the home of Ferral and Sheila Burage–his wife’s cousin.
APEL: Ferral returns fire, and it’s the only wound that Cory had from that night, but he is outgunned. And then Cory goes to the bathroom where he executes Sheila Burage.
That’s eight shooting victims, all of them dead.
Godbolt targeted people he believed were interfering in his marriage. In the middle of his rampage, he got on Facebook and sent a message to Tiffany Blackwell. Now, she’s his cousin’s wife, the preacher’s wife. The one who’s just lost a son.
AUDIO: [SOUND OF NEWSCAST]
2017 went on record as the deadliest year of mass shootings in U.S. history. It’s when a gunman mowed down hundreds at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas—killing 58—and when another madman massacred 26 inside a Texas church.
While the motives for the Las Vegas shooting are still a mystery, the November attack at First Baptist Sutherland Springs shared a connection with the one that happened five months earlier in Mississippi. In both cases, the shooters had a history of domestic violence.
A recent study published in Criminology and Public Policy indicates that many mass shootings have a domestic violence thread running through them. In the Sutherland Springs case, the shooter had sent threatening texts to his in-laws, who sometimes attended services at the church.
In Mississippi, Cory Godbolt had been convicted of assaulting at least two of his wife’s family members.
APEL: If you look into Godbolt’s past, there were some situations where, you know, the police were called and maybe the charges were dropped or maybe they weren’t. There weren’t charges pressed. Um, I happen to know that a few weeks before this happened, um, Sheena was driving and he was following her and she called the police department…
In other words, there were warning signs–lots of them. It’s one of the tragedies of these crimes.
THERESE: To me, the whole thing could have been avoided if there would have been in places, you know, maybe some other action taken.
But Apel didn’t have time to think about any of that when she came face-to-face with the killer.
EICHER: Tomorrow, Kim Henderson returns with part two of our serial story: “A Community Grief,” as police capture Godbolt and a small town wakes up to devastating news
NICK EICHER: Today is Monday May 25th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. With so much news on COVID-19 drowning out everything else last month, the military quietly released some videos of UFOs taken by Navy jets.
Many Christians dismiss the idea of alien life as silly or demonic or unbiblical. But WORLD’s Les Sillars says that, for a world soaking in science fiction, maybe there’s more to say.
LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: One of my earliest memories is standing at my bedroom window when I should have been asleep, gazing at the stars. And then …
MUSIC: [Star Wars theme music]
Star Wars came out in 1977. I was 10. It rocked my world. And it kicked off my interest in science fiction, from Arthur C. Clark to The X-Files to The Avengers. I loved the idea of exploring the universe.
But aliens for real? Area 51? Nah.
So what about those three UFO videos from the Department of Defense?
AUDIO: [Pilot chatter]
Navy F-18s took the videos in 2004 and 2015. One shows an object flying in front of the jet for a while, then it just zips away. Another tracks an oblong blob making a sharp turn in tandem with the jet. “There’s a whole fleet of them up here,” says one flier. And then,
AUDIO: Look at that thing, dude … It’s rotating.
He said, “Look at that thing, dude … It’s rotating.”
As journalist Tom Rogan told The Federalist, nobody we know of has the technology to do what radar showed these things doing. Instant acceleration to hypersonic speed without jet propulsion.
C.S. Lewis pointed out in his essay “Religion and Rocketry” that the Bible doesn’t rule out the possibility of alien life. It would certainly affect how we understand the Incarnation, he wrote. But he figured we can worry about aliens when we know they exist.
That’s fair, but consider the terrific Mel Gibson movie “Signs.” It’s about an Episcopal priest named Hess whose faith is shattered by his wife’s horrible death in a car crash.
He’s living a hollow existence on a farm with his two kids and his younger brother Merrill, a failed pro baseball player. And then crop circles appear in his field. The aliens aren’t far behind.
The plot turns on his wife’s dying words:
AUDIO: Tell Merrill to swing away.
The ending brings together Merrill’s home run power, the son’s asthma, and the daughter’s penchant for leaving half-drunk glasses of water all over the house.
Here’s the point.
GIBSON: The question you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, see miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky?
In the end, Hess regains his faith amid an alien invasion because he sees that there are no coincidences.
Some think that if aliens exist, it’s proof that God doesn’t. I doubt there are aliens.
But either way, our faith depends not on a lifeless universe but on the living God who came down to walk among us. As John’s Gospel shows, we just have to see the signs.
I’m Les Sillars.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: all this time at home has given rise to some new hobbies. Sourdough bread, anyone? We’ll tell you about what people with extra time have been doing with it.
And, we’ll get an update on a discrimination case against Christian foster and adoption agencies in Michigan.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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