Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. A Coalition of 16 States Files Suit Against Trump Administration for its National Emergency Declaration
In a widely-expected move, a coalition of 16 states filed a federal lawsuit on February 20 to block President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress, arguing that Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought by states with Democratic governors (except for Maryland) seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent the President from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts. The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, a San Francisco-based court whose judges have ruled against an array of other Trump administration policies, including on immigration and the environment.
Accusing President Donald Trump of “an unconstitutional and unlawful scheme,” the suit says the states are trying “to protect their residents, natural resources, and economic interests from President Donald Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles ingrained in the US Constitution.” The complaint, filed by the attorneys general of nearly a third of the states and representing millions of Americans, immediately became the heavyweight among a rapid outpouring of opposition to the President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration. When announcing his declaration, President Trump announced he was instituting a national emergency at the US-Mexico border because Congress did not provide enough money for a wall, that has stood as one of the most enduring promises from his 2016 campaign.
In filing the case in the San Francisco-based Northern District, the attorneys general chose a jurisdiction that has repeatedly been at odds with the president. The court’s judges have ruled against the Trump administration in at least nine important cases. Judges there, for example, have ruled against efforts by the Commerce Department to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, numerous rollbacks of environmental regulations, and efforts to curtail asylum for migrants and the Department of Homeland Security’s revocation of special “temporary protected status” for hundreds of thousands of immigrants legally living in the US. Cases appealed from that court go to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has become a whipping post for President Trump, who has derided it as “a complete and total disaster” and “a thorn in our side.”
President Donald Trump has said that his declaration is allowed under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 and that the law has been used dozens of times under Presidents ranging from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, to Barack Obama. Outside analyses, including by the Brennan Center for Justice, have shown that virtually all such emergencies involved sanctions against foreign governments and groups for reasons such as human rights violations, rather than to spend money Congress intended for other purposes.
2. House Democrats Introduce Legislative Effort to Ensure the Release of Robert Mueller’s Report on Trump Campaign’s Supposed Election Meddling
House Democrats introduced new legislative efforts to ensure special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report regarding possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia will be publicly released. Congressmen Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and David Cicilline (D-Ri) inroduced the Special Counsel Transparency Act on February 26. It is a companion to an identical bill introduced in the Senate by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (usually a strong supporter of President Donald Trump) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release any unclassified portions of Robert Mueller’s final conclusions. The DOJ would also have to provide a written explanation to Congress should it determine any piece of unclassified information is not appropriate for the public.
“Ensuring Trump cannot build a wall around the Special Counsel’s work is essential to preserving our democracy,” Doggett said in a statement. “For the rule of law to stand, the Administration cannot be allowed to sit on the report. This legislation safeguards over a year of taxpayer-funded law enforcement work and assures the right of Americans to see justice served. I hope the House can give strong approval to this reasonable legislation that already enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate.” The legislation would also require Robert Mueller’s team to provide the House and Senate Judiciary committees with explanations regarding the decision to pursue or decline prosecution and any discussions it had with the DOJ about the scope of the probe. It also mandates that a report to Congress include an annex of classified materials.
Attorney General William Barr will decide whether the Mueller report is made public. He did not commit to making the full report public during his confirmation hearings. However, he has vowed that the White House would not be able to “correct” anything in the report and that he would try to release as much as he can. “Sadly, Attorney General Bill Barr made it clear during his confirmation hearing that he plans to abide only by Department of Justice policies that are convenient for he and President Trump,” said Congressman Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “He should not be the person who decides what Congress and the public get to see.” Six Democratic House committee chairmen sent a letter to Barr last week demanding the probe’s final conclusions be released “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.” Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), a signatory of the letter and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also threatened Sunday to subpoena the report if its findings are not publicized.
3. North Carolina Orders New US House Election After ‘Tainted’ Vote
North Carolina’s elections board on February 21 ordered a new election for a House of Representatives seat after officials said corruption surrounding absentee ballots tainted the results of a 2018 vote that has embarrassed the Republican Party. The bipartisan board’s 5-0 decision came after Republican candidate Mark Harris, confronted by days of evidence that an operative for his campaign orchestrated a ballot fraud scheme, called for a new vote in the state’s 9th Congressional District. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” Harris said on the fourth day of the hearing in Raleigh, the state capital. Elections Board Chairman Bob Cordle said, “the corruption” and “absolute mess” with absentee ballots had cast doubt on the entire contest. “It certainly was a tainted election,” Cordle said. “The people of North Carolina deserve a fair election.”
The Congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District is the last unsettled 2018 congressional contest, and the outcome will not change the balance of power in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Evidence of voter fraud by the Harris campaign turned the tables on the Republican Party, which has accused Democrats with little evidence of encouraging individual voter fraud in races such as the 2016 presidential election.
Harris’ request for a new vote came as a surprise after he spent months trying to fend off a recount. Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of 282,717 ballots cast on November 6, but elections officials refused to certify him the winner because of allegations of irregularities in the vote. Mark Harris capitulated after his son testified he had warned his father of potentially illegal activity by Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless. North Carolina law requires that a new primary nominating election also
4. Muhammadu Buhari Elected to Second Term as Nigeria’s President
On February 25, Nigerian election officials declared that Muhammadu Buhari had won a second term as president of Africa’s most populous country, where voters rejected a corruption-stained candidate in favor of a leader who promised to continue a campaign to eliminate graft. Not long after the polls closed, election officials found it apparent that Buhari had defeated the leading candidate, Atiku Abubakar, by a wide margin in an election that was marred by violence. In his post-election statement, President Buhari said he planned to keep working to improve security and the economy, and to fight corruption. He asked supporters “not to gloat or humiliate the opposition. Victory is enough reward for your efforts.”
In response to the results, Atiku Abubakar released a statement calling the results a “sham election” and saying that he would contest the outcome in court. He cited what he called a “statistical impossibility” of the results in some states, where turnout was high despite the fact that life there has been upended by war, as well as anomalies in states that are opposition strongholds. Referring to violence in some states in the south where, he said, soldiers had fired on civilians, Abubakar added, “The militarization of the electoral process is a disservice to our democracy and a throwback to the jackboot era of military dictatorship.” Local civil society groups had also ticked off lists of irregularities during the voting. At one point Abubakar demanded a halt to the counting.
Nigeria’s Presidential election was in many ways a referendum on honesty, as voters once again embraced a candidate who declared to reduce the rampant levels of corruption that gave Nigeria a mediocre reputation in the past. Additionally, the election served as a referendum on the policies of President Buhari. Despite some questionable policies and poor poll numbers, Buhari was able to secure a second term due to a lower than expected turnout and lack of enthusiasm on the part of Abubakar supporters. Another factor that influence turnout was the fact that election officials decided to delay the vote by a week just hours before polls were to have opened. Numerous registered voters had made long journeys to their home districts to vote because Nigeria has no absentee balloting system. When officials postponed the election, many people gave up and returned home.