Michael Flynn expected to invoke Fifth Amendment, source says

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn won’t provide records to the Senate intelligence committee and will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to a subpoena from the committee, according to a source close to Flynn.


Three years after almost beating Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel seems to have become an afterthought

After coming close to toppling Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 GOP primary, state Sen. Chris McDaniel has been flirting with challenging Roger Wicker, Mississippi’s other Republican senator. McDaniel said back in March that he hopes to decide in October, but Wicker’s team is out with a late April poll from Public Opinion Strategies urging him not to bother. The survey gives Wicker a 55-30 lead, including a 47-37 edge with “strong Republicans favorable to the tea party.”

As we’ve noted before, Wicker looks to be a much tougher opponent than Cochran was for McDaniel. While Cochran dithered about whether to seek re-election and began his eventual campaign with relatively little money, Wicker has already kicked off his bid for another term and had $2 million in the bank at the end of March. But more importantly, while Cochran was loathed by tea partiers, Wicker doesn’t seem to have made any real enemies in the GOP.

The Clarion-Ledger‘s Geoff Pender also argues that McDaniel squandered the chance to be a major figure in the state GOP after his narrow 2014 loss to Cochran. McDaniel spent months trying to overturn Cochran’s primary win (and as far as we know, he has yet to acknowledge he lost), and Pender writes that in the process, he “likely burn[ed] up some political capital along with financial capital.” McDaniel also didn’t do much to try and extend his influence in state politics afterwards. The state senator did not play much of a roll in the 2015 state legislative primaries, and he “was about as effective and dynamic as his chair in the state Senate this legislative session.” Ouch.


Huge win: Supreme Court upholds ruling striking down North Carolina GOP’s racist congressional map

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a 2016 district court ruling that struck down the congressional map that North Carolina Republicans drew in 2011 for unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, dealing a major voting rights victory against what is arguably the most brutally effective congressional gerrymander of the modern era. As shown on the map at the top of this post (see here for a larger image), Republican legislators used surgical precision to pack black voters into just two districts, the 1st and the 12th. The lower court found that these districts unconstitutionally segregated voters on the basis of race, which effectively prevented black voters from electing their preferred candidates in neighboring seats.

When Republican legislators drew this map in 2011, they increased the black population proportion in both of the 1st and 12th from pluralities to majorities. Republicans claimed that the Voting Rights Act forced them to do so in the 1st and that they drew the 12th on the basis of party alone. However, both districts had already long elected the candidate preference of black voters, and the Supreme Court has consistently rejected the argument that there must be a mechanical majority threshold in related cases. Because Republicans so flagrantly disregarded traditional redistricting criteria with the 1st and could have achieved their partisan objectives by different means with the 12th, the court held that race unconstitutionally predominated in the redistricting process.

This invalidated congressional map was one of if not the very most aggressive partisan gerrymanders in modern history. North Carolina is a relatively evenly divided swing state, yet this map had 10 safe Republican districts and just three lopsidedly Democratic ones. More so than any other gerrymander in the country, all 10 Republican districts hit the so-called sweet spot of GOP support between 55 and 60 percent, a level that is high enough to be safe yet not so high as to waste partisans who could have helped win other districts. This map additionally brutally cracked the three Piedmont Triad cities, but as we’ve demonstrated, uniting them in a nonpartisan manner could have elected a third African-American representative in the state.

Unfortunately, Republican legislators swiftly replaced this map with an equally brutal partisan gerrymander in 2016, as we have previously analyzed and have shown below. This map maintained the same split of 10 Republicans and three Democrats last year. Heinously, Republican state Rep. David Lewis explicitly defended the redrawn map as a partisan gerrymander, stating unequivocally that it was intended to maintain the maximum possible GOP partisan edge. This shockingly undemocratic admission is part of a legal tactic intended to insulate the new map from racial gerrymandering claims, but it opened up the map to lawsuits alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court will likely hear over the coming term.

Monday’s ruling is a significant victory in the state that has been ground zero in the battle over voting rights. This decision will make it easier to challenge GOP racial gerrymanders elsewhere, which is significant because Republicans in nearly every Southern state could have drawn another congressional district that would elect the candidate preference of black or Latino voters after the 2010 census, while North Carolina also likely has an upcoming Supreme Court case regarding illegal racial gerrymandering of its state legislature. However, there’s still a long way to go before North Carolina Republicans might be forced to implement a new congressional map that undoes the devastating racial and partisan harm of their record-setting 2011 gerrymander.