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vote-recount

MI AG Bill Schuette Is Always on the Wrong Side of History — So I Now Enthusiastically Back MI’s Recount

As I’ve noted in bmaz’ posts opposing Jill Stein’s recounts in WI, MI, and PA (comment, comment), I did not start out opposed to the recounts. While I agree that the recounts are unlikely to change the outcome, I think getting in the habit of doing unexpected recounts is a necessary thing to ensure the integrity of the counting software.

I got more interested in the recount when I learned former MI Democratic Chair Mark Brewer was representing Stein in her challenge in MI. Brewer is a serious lawyer and a numbers genius. His involvement gave me confidence that it will be legally competent.

I also think the recount may help explain the big jump in undervotes this year. As Charles Gaba demonstrated, ballots in this year’s presidential election showed far more ballots in which there was no vote cast for President than in previous years.

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While I think the historic unpopularity of the candidates may explain this, such an explanation would be more convincing if MI had had an important statewide election this year that might explain why people took the trouble to vote but didn’t vote for President. But we didn’t — we’re on the off-cycle for Senator, for example.

Add in the state’s effort to eliminate straight ticket voting and the way that voters are supposed to be able to vote a straight ticket but with one counter-party vote, along with Hillary’s underperformance in swing suburbs, and I think it possible the recount may show something of interest.

Plus, Trump won by less than 11,000 votes, so it wouldn’t take too much to flip the outcome.

Then I saw the reaction of both parties. Both the Republicans and Democrats are taking this recount more seriously than I expected, leading me to believe that both parties have some unstated reason to believe this recount may reveal problems with the election. There were also a few other details about the actions of GOP Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that I have questions about. So my interest grew.

But I was always a bit lukewarm on the recount, at least considering the objections of people like bmaz.

Until now.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette just filed a motion to have the courts force the Board of Canvassers not to count the vote. Schuette cited the risk that the recount might not be finished within the safe harbor period (though any delay and lawsuit just makes that more likely). But he also claimed the recount might cost the state “millions of dollars.”

Schuette’s intervention is, by itself, enough to convince me the recount is a good thing. The man is always on the wrong side of history. Plus, his choice to be on the wrong side of history has itself cost Michigan millions of dollars. We know his efforts to prevent loving couples from marrying cost the state almost $2 million. I don’t think we yet know the full cost of his failed effort to prevent Michiganders from voting a straight ticket, which he also argued all the way to the Supreme Court.

Bill Schuette should not attempt to argue that a legal challenge will cost the state too much money with a straight face, because he has already squandered millions of our tax dollars on his own challenges.

Meanwhile, Schuette is issuing this challenge even as his party is in the middle of rushing through a strict new voter suppression bill that — because it was written to avoid a poll tax challenge — will cost the state undetermined funds, all to combat a voter fraud problem that doesn’t exist. The MI GOP is arguing that the costs of suppressing the vote are worthwhile, while costs of counting it are not.

Finally, all this is taking place even as the MI legislature is rushing through $300 million in new tax cuts for businesses. If we can’t afford to recount the vote, we surely can’t afford to give businesses new giveaways.

So all that has convinced me. If Schuette is opposed to this recount — and if he wants to make up transparently bullshit excuses about costs to make that argument — then I’m now an enthusiastic supporter of it.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

DEQ Employees Seem Unwilling to Take the Fall for Flint

During yesterday’s Congressional hearing — and really, since the Governor’s hand-picked Task Force first gave him an interim report in December — employees from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality have come in for most of the blame for poisoning Flint.

But today, Progress Michigan published some emails that suggest DEQ’s employees are unwilling to take the fall, at least not by themselves. They show that in March of last year, a supervisor in Gennesee County’s health department wrote people in Flint and at DEQ asking for help with data on water quality after getting no response to a FOIA in January 2015.

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In the email, the supervisor noted that a spike in Legionnaires coincided with the switch to Flint’s water. Jerry Ambrose was then the Emergency Manager of Flint; it’s unclear why he was using a GMail address as EM.

In the next few days, officials at DEQ exchanged some panicked emails, pretty much blaming Flint for the non-response, noting that DEQ “became peripherally aware” of the spike in Legionnaires, but also bitching about the Genesee County supervisor suggesting that it might be tied to the switch to Flint river water.

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It appears that panicked email was printed out by then DEQ Director Dan Wyant’s assistant, Mary Beth Thelen, then initialed by Wyant, presumably indicating he had read it.

Also included on that email, though, was Harvey Hollins.

As I noted here, in December, in response to a recommendation from Governor Snyder’s hand-picked Flint Task Force, the governor picked Hollins to be the single “independent” person overseeing response to the Flint crisis. It was absurd to pick him in the first place, because (as this shows) Hollins had been personally involved all along. But he is, at least on paper, in charge of response.

In other words, the email chain shows that both Snyder’s hand-picked EM and the guy in charge of liaising with Flint knew, over a year ago, that Legionnaires (which has since killed at least 9 people) might be tied to the water switchover.

Progress Michigan doesn’t note how they came by this email. But it’s pretty clear it was Wyant’s personal copy of it. In December — in response to another suggestion by the Task Force — Snyder had Wyant resign. Since then, Attorney General Bill Schuette pointed to Wyant’s resignation (which he originally expressed sadness about) to justify opening up his own investigation into the crisis.

All of which suggests to me that Wyant is unwilling to be the sole scapegoat for this crisis.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bill Schuette’s Bogus Excuse for His Belated Investigation into Flint

This morning, Michigan’s Attorney General and aspiring gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette appointed a lawyer who has donated $10,200 to his own state-wide elections and chunks more to other Republicans (as well as a smaller donation to Jennifer Granholm in 2005) to lead the “state” investigation into Flint (this is, of course, an investigation carried out by two private citizens granted the authority of the state, not the state itself — yet more private contractors who will make money off the screw-ups of Snyder’s emergency managers).

Just as interesting as the financial ties Todd Flood has with the Republican party is the excuse Schuette gave for all of a sudden deciding he needed to conduct an investigation just after the story leaked on January 5 that Detroit’s US Attorney, Barb McQuade, is investigating. Schuette said he decided to act in the wake of some resignations from staffers from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Initially Schuette had declined to investigate the Flint water crisis, but said that in early January new information including the resignation of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials had changed his mind.

This claim suggests some pretty whacky timing. The DEQ employees who had resigned by the time Schuette announced his investigation on January 15 were DEQ Director Dan Wyant and Spokesperson Brad Wurfel (Snyder subsequently announced the suspension of two unnamed DEQ employees on January 22).

But Schuette sure as hell didn’t sound like he thought Wyant’s resignation merited an investigation on December 29, when he released this statement.

I am saddened to hear of the resignation of Department of Environment Quality Director Dan Wyant. In my 20-plus years of knowing him, Dan has been a hardworking, dedicated public servant. I am committed to working with all parties, including the legislature and Governor, to ensure the public’s health and the well being of Michigan residents.

On the contrary, Schuette sounded like it was a terrible thing that those mean poisoned Flint kids brought about a career setback for his buddy.

Moreover, the emails Snyder released make it clear that the “resignations” and “suspensions” of these DEQ fall guys was very closely orchestrated.

The day before the governor’s Task Force on Water (directed by a GOP partisan but including the leader of an environmental group and some health academics) formally delivered an interim report to Snyder, December 28, someone sent an advance copy to the governor. (See PDF 269 for the advance copy and discussion that followed, and PDF 265 for the formal conveyance of the report to the governor.) Snyder’s Chief of Staff, Jarrod Agen, his legal counsel, James Redford, his Director of Urban Initiatives, Harvey Hollins (who was involved in the Flint issues throughout, and whom Snyder laughably appointed as the “independent” person to oversee the Flint response in December), his privately-paid bully “Transformation Manager” Richard Baird, and his Communications Director Meegan Holland had a conference call to figure out how to respond. Agen’s email to Snyder makes it clear that before that call, there had already been a plan to make “structural changes” at DEQ.

Attached is a letter from the Flint Water Task Force which will be formally sent to you tomorrow. The Task Force then plans to release this letter publicly on Wednesday morning.

You will see the letter is harsh against DEQ.

Rich, Redford, Harvey, Meegan, and myself all just gathered on a conference call to discuss our upcoming actions regarding Flint. While we don’t think this letter should change any of our actions, we agreed we may need to accelerate some of the structural changes at DEQ.

Our suggestions:

1) Make structural changes at DEQ as early as tomorrow: The recommendations in this letter suggest profound change at DEQ and openly criticize Director Wyant. If this is the path that the Task Force is on, it is best to make changes at DEQ sooner rather than later. That likely means accepting Dan’s resignation. It also means moving up the termination of the 3 DEQ personal previously planned for Jan 4 to tomorrow.

His notes also make it clear that there was already a plan to terminate 3 other DEQ personnel on January 4 (which presumably would be Wurfel and the two staffers who got suspended on January 22).

There’s no indication that Schuette was involved in these discussions (though given that he was already defending Snyder in multiple lawsuits, you would think he was in communication with Redford).

Still, it’s quite clear that the “resignation” of DEQ staffers was planned well in advance.

So why wasn’t Schuette’s investigation planned before it became clear that the US Attorney is also investigating?

At a time when MI is facing a $1.9 million bill for Schuette’s personal tirade against equality and can’t pay to fix its roads, Schuette has launched this private investigation that will need a separate appropriation to compete with the pre-existing federal one.

He did not put a timeline or cost estimate on the investigations, though he said he was in discussions with legislative leaders regarding a possible need for additional appropriation to fund the operation.

Schuette’s belated interest in seeing if any laws have been broken sure does stink.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bill Schuette Labels Random Serial Shooting Terrorism

For a period last fall, someone–allegedly 43-year old stay at home dad named Raulie Casteel–repeatedly shot at motorists driving along one of MI’s main east-west freeways. Altogether, there were 24 shooting incidents, with one man injured in his buttocks.

Late last year, MI Attorney General Bill Schuette took over prosecution of the case, reportedly at the request of the county prosecutors. Shortly thereafter, Schuette added terrorism to the existing charges against Casteel.

“These were acts of domestic terrorism against Michigan citizens and we are prosecuting them as such,” Schuette said in a statement.

[snip]

Casteel is suspected in 24 shootings that occurred on or around the I-96 corridor in October. He was already charged with 60 counts related to shootings in Oakland County.

Schuette added those charges at a time when prosecutors weren’t offering any claims of what Casteel’s motive was.

Here’s how the MI law defines terrorism:

Senate Bill 930 would createthe “Michigan Anti-Terrorism Act” as Chapter 83-A of the Michigan Penal Code (MCL 750.543a et. al.). The bill would prescribe criminal penalties for various violations involving an “act of terrorism”.

An “act of terrorism” would mean a wilful and deliberate act that is all of the following:

  • an act that would be a “violent felony” under Michigan law, whether or not committed in Michigan (“violent felony” would mean a felony in which an element was the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against a person, or the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a harmful biological substance or device, a harmful chemical substance or device, a harmful radioactive substance or device, an explosive device, or an incendiary device);
  • an act that the person knew or had reason to know was dangerous to human life (“dangerous to human life” would mean that which caused a substantial likelihood of death or serious injury or that was a violation of Section 349 or 350 of the penal code); and,
  • an act that was intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion. [my emphasis]

That is, the state law–like federal terrorism law–requires an intent to intimidate and/or influence either civilians or the government. It requires a specific kind of intent.

Now, I don’t want to downplay how much having a random shooter targeting random drivers frightened–“intimidated”–people (the flat I lived in at the time was very clearly in view of a spur of this freeway, putting my office in within range of random shots from the freeway, though the shootings were east of here).

But calling this kind of randomized violence terrorism–divorced as it is, thus far, of any ideological side–stinks of political demagoguery. Schuette has tons of other charges to prosecute Casteel on. The assault with intent to murder charge–which perfectly describes his alleged crime–also carries a potential life sentence.

Moreover, treating this as terrorism risks lowering the bar for terrorism charges in the future, such that any very scary crime can be labeled terrorism so as to pathologize the alleged criminal.

Now, maybe Casteel has spent the months he’s been in jail ranting about government conspiracies; some reports say he is a grand conspiracist. Maybe there is a basis to call him a terrorist. But thus far, this seems like an effort on Schuette’s part to increase the media coverage of the prosecution he’s leading.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.