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In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP)

As Court struggles, Grassley argues hearings are expensive

10/24/16 11:20AM

The U.S. Supreme Court has had a vacancy since February, and President Obama's compromise nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, has been pending since March. Nevertheless, by all appearances, the Senate Republicans' unprecedented blockade against any Obama nominee will continue through at least 2016 (and if Sen. John McCain is to be believed, perhaps longer).

The practical effects of the GOP's radical strategy are plainly evident, with the Associated Press reporting on Friday, "The Supreme Court is offering new evidence that the short-handed court is having trouble getting its work done." It includes the justices finding themselves unable to schedule cases for argument that have already been granted review by the court.

And yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn't even bothered to give Garland a hearing. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sat down with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register last week, and one of its members asked, "[W]hat would be the harm in simply holding a hearing on him and coming to your own conclusions as a committee?"

The typical Republican response has been there's no point in holding a hearing for a nominee the GOP majority simply refuses to consider, but Grassley went in a different direction.
"Sure, sure. Umm, I suppose, the tradition is -- and I'm not sure I would follow this tradition because I know who I have on my staff, I know how deep you have to go into going through a person's record, in order to hold a hearing that's worthwhile. And so you appropriate -- you get special, not appropriations -- you get 'special' from the rules committee; additional money to hire additional legal people. My staff tells me that's about a half a million to $750,000 to hire people to maybe work for three or four months to do it.

"And so when 52 senators say they aren't going to take it up, should I spend that money and have a hearing?"
I think this is the first time I've heard such an argument: senators could to their job and meet the constitutional obligations, but the process is too expensive to bother.
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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by his family after the third and final debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Reuters)

List of Trump's women accusers continues to grow

10/24/16 10:40AM

Donald Trump declared Saturday that each of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct are "liars," whom he intends to sue after the election. If the Republican candidate follows through on the threat, his lawyers will apparently be quite busy -- with another woman coming forward soon after Trump delivered his speech.
Adult film star Jessica Drake alleged at a Los Angeles press conference that in 2006 Trump hugged and kissed her and two female companions in his hotel room without permission. She also charged that after she left the room, Trump or someone acting on his behalf called her and offered her $10,000 to return.

"Collectively, his words and his actions are a huge testament to his character: That of uncontrollable misogyny, entitlement and being a sexual assault apologist," said Drake.
The Trump campaign, as in every previous instance, denied the allegations, calling Drake's claims "false and ridiculous." For her part, Drake insisted on Saturday she's seeking neither money nor attention. "I understand that I may be called a liar or an opportunist," she said. "But I will risk that in order to stand in solidarity with women who share similar accounts that span many, many years."

Her allegations follow related claims from Karena Virginia on Thursday, which Trump's campaign also dismissed. "Give me a break," Jessica Ditto, Trump's deputy communications director said in a statement. "Voters are tired of these circus-like antics."

As for just how many women have now raised allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, I've seen a couple of different counts, but I think this is the full list to date:
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Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala. (Photo by Butch Dill/AP)

Alabama's Roy Moore, suspended, doesn't want to leave

10/24/16 10:00AM

About a month ago, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended from the bench following his effort to defy federal court rulings on marriage equality. It marked an ignominious end to a controversial legal career for the right-wing jurist.

Or at least, it was supposed to. Late last week, reported late last week that Moore is ignoring requests that he leave.
Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore says he did not respond to the acting chief justice's request to clean out his office on or before Tuesday.

Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart sent a letter to Moore last week asking him to clean out his personal items and turn over his keys to the state judicial building in the wake of his recent conviction by the Court of the Judiciary on judicial ethics charges.
Moore, true to form, has said he intends to ignore the acting chief justice's request because, as he sees it, she doesn't have any authority in the matter. And so, Moore's holding onto his keys and keeping his stuff in the office he's supposed to vacate.

It's the kind of move that might make things a little tricky going forward.
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Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks to supporters at a reception, May 29, 2004, in Kenner, La. (Photo by Burt Steel/AP)

David Duke, former KKK leader, qualifies for Louisiana debate

10/24/16 09:20AM

Former KKK leader David Duke has maintained a higher media presence than usual this year, with the Louisiana Republican touting Donald Trump's presidential campaign and even recording automated calls on the candidate's behalf. The attention even prompted Duke to launch a U.S. Senate campaign in the Pelican State earlier this year.

And while Duke is not expected to seriously compete for the open Senate seat, Politico reported that he has qualified for a debate and will share the stage with the other major candidates.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has qualified for a televised debate in Louisiana's Senate race after a new poll showed him drawing 5 percent of the vote.

Duke, a white supremacist, announced he was running late this summer, saying GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump had inspired him and drawn more followers to his cause.
It's worth emphasizing that Duke's candidacy has been disavowed by state and national Republican officials, and the former Klansman hasn't mounted much of a campaign, raising very little money and organizing no real statewide operation.

Nevertheless, there was a 5% threshold for participating in the upcoming Nov. 2 debate, and a Mason-Dixon poll found the white supremacist made the cut.

And just in case this wasn't quite outrageous enough, the Baton Rouge Advocate added that the debate will be held at Dillard University -- a historically black institution in New Orleans.
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Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chairman Sheldon Adelson speaks to students at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada in Las Vegas, April 26, 2012.

Sheldon Adelson's newspaper comes through for Trump

10/24/16 08:40AM

When it comes to the presidential campaign and the media, one of the more amazing aspects of the 2016 race is the degree to which newspaper editorial boards have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Papers that have spent generations supporting Republican presidential nominees have argued that Clinton must defeat Donald Trump.

But the sentiment is not literally unanimous. As Rachel noted on Friday's show, while nearly all of the nation's editorial boards have expressed support for the Democratic nominee, three fairly small newspapers with modest circulations -- one in Santa Barbara, California, one in St. Joseph, Missouri, and one in Waxahachie, Texas -- have bucked the trend and encouraged readers to cast their votes for Trump.

Over the weekend, as the New York Times noted, they received some notable company.
With polls showing him sliding nationally, Donald J. Trump received a bit of welcome news on Sunday in one battleground state as the editorial page of Nevada's largest newspaper, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, endorsed him for president.

It is the first major newspaper to give Mr. Trump its blessing, though it may come with something of an asterisk: The Review-Journal was bought late last year by the casino magnate and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Trump supporter and longtime Republican benefactor.
The editorial itself, which is online here, is not without unintentional humor.
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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Donald Trump at Gettysburg, with malice towards many

10/24/16 08:00AM

At a North Carolina on Friday, Donald Trump conceded that he likes to ignore good advice from his campaign aides. "I like to deny things," the Republican presidential hopeful said. "Like, I like to deny -- because -- but they say, 'Oh, talk about jobs.' But these [ads from Hillary Clinton's campaign] are so false. All of these things, they're so false. They're such lies."

The GOP nominee could talk about important issues, but Trump wants voters to know he prefers to talk about campaign commercials he doesn't like. He's one of those very rare candidates who not only avoids discussing job creation, but openly acknowledges that he'd rather focus on something he finds more interesting: TV ads.

Trump just can't get out of his own way. The problem was even clearer a day later in Pennsylvania.
Near the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, Donald Trump laid out his strategy Saturday for the battle ahead. But what was billed as a "roadmap" to a Trump administration was a further escalation of the GOP nominee's scathing rhetoric against his foes in a presidential election that he has likened to a war.

His remarks, which included threatening to sue the women who have accused him of sexual assault in years past, were cast in the light of a campaign still battling for votes Nov. 8 -- and suggesting a battle even beyond this election.
In theory, the point of Trump's speech was a perfectly sound idea: the address was supposed to focus on the policies he intended to pursue in his first 100 days in office. As a campaign strategy, it makes a lot of sense for Trump and his team to look forward and focus as much attention as possible on the kind of measures the Republican would prioritize if elected.

And while he did eventually get around to sharing some bad ideas -- Trump seems to be quite excited about term limits all of a sudden, despite his previous opposition to the idea -- the GOP nominee also stepped all over his own message. After talking at length about how "rigged" the election is, he vowed, in reference to the women who've accused him of sexual misconduct, "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."

Or put another way, the first 100 days in a Trump administration would be ... litigious.
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A composite image of three launches: Antares (Oct. 17, 2016), Shenzhou 11 (Oct. 17, 2016), Soyuz (Oct. 19, 2016)

Week in Geek: All space, all the time edition

10/23/16 12:11PM

There were so many things going on in space this week I almost forgot about Earth! There were three rocket launches (two crewed), a mission to Mars, and all sorts of space science results announced at the Division of Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress that took place this past week in Pasadena, CA.

Let's begin with things that started on Earth and went to space. The only uncrewed launch of the week was Orbital ATK's long awaited launch of their Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply module to the International Space Station. Orbital ATK (along with Space X) are the two major resuppliers of the space station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. This launch was the highly anticipated return for Antares after the rocket exploded on the launch pad just under two years ago. Luckily this time, everything went smoothly and Orbital ATK demonstrated they had gotten the Antares back on track.

The two crewed launches were both to space stations in orbit around our planet, one by the Chinese and one by the Russians. Last Sunday, China launched two astronauts aboard Shenzhou-11 which then rendezvoused with their space station, Tiangong-2, where they will stay for the next month. The second crewed launch took place in Kazakhstan where three astronauts, two Russians and one American, headed to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz rocket, joining another three astronauts who have been aboard the station since July. In less than a week, the latter three will return to Earth also aboard a Soyuz.

Moving farther afield, the European Space Agency put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars and attempted to land one as well as part of its ExoMars program. Sadly, the landing didn't go so well, but the orbiter was the primary mission so all is still well.

If you're not spaced out yet, here are some fun results from that planetary science meeting:

Here's some more geek from the week:

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Rev. Pat Robertson, center, talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. on Jan. 16, 2010. (Photo by Clem Britt/AP)

This Week in God, 10.22.16

10/22/16 08:28AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a story about Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump continuing to focus attention on the religious right movement as Election Day draws near.

The GOP nominee has already appeared at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, which axed an anti-Trump piece from the student newspaper this week, and today, the candidate will appear at the other major university founded by a Virginia televangelist: Regent University, created by TV preacher Pat Roberson. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is returning to Virginia this weekend for a rally at Regent University in Virginia Beach, the strongest signal yet that his campaign has not given up on Virginia.

The rally at the Christian university is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Trump’s official schedule.
It's not clear what role, if any, Pat Robertson will play at the event, but the radical televangelist has made no secret of his support for Trump. As Right Wing Watch explained, "Robertson has emerged as one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders on the Religious Right, claiming that the business mogul is facing satanic attacks and dismissing the tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women as simply 'macho' talk."

It may seem odd to think prominent evangelical leaders from a social-conservative movement would be so enthusiastic about a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who'd never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith. But Robertson has long prioritized partisan politics over theological principles. In fact, in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, the TV preacher threw his support behind Rudy Giuliani -- another secular, thrice-married adulterer.

There is, however, a generational problem that's emerged this year between the religious right movement's politically connected elite -- Robertson, Falwell, Tony Perkins, et al -- and many principled, rank-and-file evangelicals who have no use for partisan expediency.

The fissure has already emerged as a problem at Liberty University; it'll be worth watching to see if a similar dynamic unfolds at Regent University.

Also from the God Machine this week:
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