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    Tucker Carlson for president?: Politics Weekly Extra

    As rumours swirl that Fox News’s primetime show host might run to be Republican nominee in 2024, Jonathan Freedland speaks to former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer about the danger this would pose to American democracy

    How to listen to podcasts: everything you need to know

    Tucker Carlson is in the news a lot these days. Depending which side of the political divide you are on in the US, you will find millions on the right adore him, or millions on the left loathe him. So what would happen if Carlson announced he was going to run for presidency in 2024? Would the Republican party back him? Would he simply be the second incarnation of Donald Trump? Jonathan and Tara discuss this rumoured prospect, delving into the history of this divisive figure and how he came to be the ratings powerhouse he is today. Read David Smith’s piece on 200 years of Guardian US coverage Read analysis of Facebook’s decision to extend Donald Trump’s ‘indefinite suspension’ from the platform Send us your questions and feedback to Help support the Guardian by going to More

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    Trump asserts power over Republicans as Liz Cheney faces ousting

    Donald Trump is poised to tighten his grip on the Republican party with the ousting of one of his most prominent critics in Congress.Liz Cheney, the only woman in Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, is widely expected to be voted out next week by members loyal to Trump.Cheney is a diehard conservative and daughter of George W Bush’s vice-president, Dick Cheney. Her removal for refusing to parrot Trump’s “big lie” that last year’s election was stolen would exemplify how the Republican party remains beholden to the disgraced ex-president.“The whole @RepLizCheney saga has been so clarifying,” David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, tweeted on Thursday. “She’s as conservative as they come. Her only sin was to call BS on Trump’s election fraud. For that, she will be expelled as a @GOP leader. The party is branding itself.”Multiple courts, as well as state and federal election officials, have rejected Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud. But Republican-controlled state legislatures are using his allegations to justify legislation imposing new restrictions on voting.And far from backing down, Trump has issued several public statements in three days reiterating his baseless claims that Joe Biden’s 7m vote margin of victory was the result of fraud while attacking Republicans who refuse to buy into this narrative.He also joined Republican House leaders in backing Elise Stefanik, a pro-Trump congresswoman, for Cheney’s job as chair of the party’s conference. A vote could come as early as next Wednesday.Stefanik, 36, whose status in the party rose after she aggressively defended Trump during congressional hearings ahead of his 2019 impeachment, reportedly spoke to the former president by phone on Wednesday.Trump said in a statement: “Liz Cheney is a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership … Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair.”Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, appears to have calculated that embracing Trump offers the party’s best chance of winning back the House in next year’s midterm elections. McCarthy was caught by a “hot mic” on Fox News saying of Cheney: “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence.”A statement from the office of Steve Scalise, the number two House Republican, made it explicit: “House Republicans need to be solely focused on taking back the House in 2022 and fighting against Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair.”Congressman Jim Jordan, an outspoken Trump loyalist, insisted that “the votes are there” to oust Cheney. “You can’t have a Republican conference chair reciting Democrat talking points,” he told Fox News. “You can’t have a Republican conference chair taking a position that 90% of the party disagrees with, and you can’t have a Republican party chair consistently speaking out against the individual who 74m Americans voted for.”During Trump’s presidency, Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. They are now looking to claw back narrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in the midterm elections next year.But Cheney, the No 3 Republican in the House, is not going down without a fight. In an opinion column in the Washington Post on Wednesday, she urged her colleagues to reject the “dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality” in order to save the party, warning: “History is watching”.Cheney wrote: “Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work – confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.“The Republican party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the constitution.”Cheney, 54, held off an initial challenge to her leadership position earlier this year after she was among just 10 House Republicans to back Trump’s impeachment for inciting supporters to attack the US Capitol on 6 January. But she has few public supporters this time, dashing hopes that the former president might finally be losing sway.Tara Setmayer, a former Republican communications director on Capitol Hill, said: “Most of the Republicans were just too cowardly to speak what Liz Cheney has been saying publicly, which is why she survived the vote of no confidence the first time. She’s not going to survive it this time because it’s been clear that Donald Trump still has that hold on the party and they need him to raise money.”Stefanik, who represents an upstate New York district, began her House career in 2015 as a moderate who spoke out against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.Setmayer added: “Elise Stefanik was an up-and-comer, a moderate who a lot of people saw potential to be a leader in the party. She was young, she was smart and she made a calculated decision to hop on the Trump train to bolster her political fortunes and if that’s not an example of selling your soul for political expediency, I don’t know what is.”Biden, meanwhile. said a “mini-revolution” over identity appeared to be under way in the Republican party. “Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point,” he told reporters at the White House. More

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    Texas lawmakers race against the clock to push through new voting restrictions

    Texas lawmakers are racing against the clock this month to ram through legislation that would further restrict voting access, leaning on procedural moves to avoid public testimony and keep 11th-hour negotiations behind closed doors.“No rules are going to contain them. No norms are going to protect us. They’re gonna do whatever they want to, and whatever they can, to get these bills through,” said Emily Eby, staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project.Specious talking points about whether last year’s presidential contest was stolen – propagated and disseminated by Texas’s top Republicans –have created an army of voters who falsely believe that widespread election fraud is a real issue.That, in turn, has ostensibly given politicians a pretext for trumped up reforms at the ballot box, in a state already infamous for being the hardest place to vote nationwide.“There’s not really a big problem with election fraud, right? That’s not actually a huge problem that we need to solve. But the public thinks it is, because they’ve been told that it is,” said Clare Brock, an assistant professor of political science at Texas Woman’s University.Texas legislators have used the lightning rod of “election integrity” this year to introduce at least 49 bills with restrictive voting provisions – the most anywhere in the United States, the Brennan Center for Justice reported.Twenty-nine bills “seek to create new barriers to voting while also creating or enhancing criminal penalties attached to them”, according to data compiled by Progress Texas. Among those, more than three-fourths of the penalties are felonies.When Texas businesses and voters pushed back against the hard-line legislation last month, the state representative Kyle Kacal wouldn’t go so far as to explicitly come out against Senate Bill 7 (SB7), one of the two omnibus bills that have taken center stage this cycle.But he did express skepticism about its provisions, seemingly endorsing practices – like extended voting hours during the pandemic – that his colleagues were actively trying to curb.“I don’t know if the measures that are being talked about are necessary,” Kacal admitted. “I don’t know how much fraud there really is, but people need the opportunity to vote.”Both SB7 and the other high-profile, sweeping proposal, House Bill 6 (HB6), spell a harder and scarier voting process for the state’s most vulnerable residents, while outlawing common sense innovations that Houston’s Harris county tried to implement last year.From broadly silencing public officials who want to proactively solicit or distribute vote-by-mail applications to doing away with drive-thru voting and limiting early voting hours, the suggested changes could disproportionately affect elderly and differently abled Texans, as well as voters of color and city dwellers. The new policies would also embolden partisan poll watchers to police voters, stoking concerns over intimidation tactics after a history of vigilantism.“This is targeted legislation at restricting specific voting practices that occurred in specific places, and a lot of those places are places that leaned Democrat,” Brock said. “Which then makes it feel a lot more like voter suppression and a lot less like voter integrity.”After SB7 advanced through the senate while HB6 dragged, house Republicans used a routine elections committee hearing last week to link the two, circumventing outside input from citizens in the process.Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates excoriated the move, which they noted was unwontedly sneaky for legislators who supposedly had a mandate from their constituents.“This is a massive overhaul of the election system in Texas, affecting almost every area of our election code,” said Charlie Bonner, communications director at civic engagement nonprofit Move Texas.“That is something that should be well-considered, and that is something that should go through the full process, and the public have every opportunity to speak out.”Instead, the committee gutted the senate’s text for SB7 and replaced it with a copy of HB6, effectively turning one bill into the other.But, if the House passes that version, any differences between the two chambers’ priorities will likely be reconciled in a conference committee. There, appointees could splice the proposals together for one behemoth, rife with restrictions.Voting rights proponents are already alarmed by the mystery that would shroud those talks, where, they explain, the Republican-controlled legislature could check off their wishlist with no accountability.“I think it is extremely undemocratic. It completely lacks transparency. This is not how democracy and open government are supposed to work,” said Carisa Lopez, political director of the Texas Freedom Network.Critics of SB7 are still holding out hope for errors that could make it procedurally dead by the end of the legislative session later this month. But they’re outraged that stakeholders – who had anticipated another platform to voice their opposition before the bill became law – will no longer get that opportunity.For weeks, impassioned outcry from state residents and Texas-based corporations has already bogged down the controversial reforms, stalling their passage longer than some voting rights advocates originally expected. The public provided more than 17 hours of divided testimony on HB6 alone, according to the Texas Tribune.Meanwhile, local businesses, chambers of commerce and major national companies – including Etsy, American Airlines, Warby Parker, Microsoft and many others – have called on Texas’s elected leaders to oppose any changes that would make it harder to vote.“This is a state in which these lawmakers run every lever of government,” Bonner said.“The fact that we’ve been able to delay – and the fact that we have seen amendments that have reduced the harm of these pieces of legislation – is a testament to the work and the people speaking out.” More

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    Florida governor signs new restrictive bill in ‘blatant attack on right to vote’

    The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, has signed a bill imposing new limits on voting by mail and using ballot drop boxes, the latest Republican-backed voting restrictions to become law in a US election battleground state.The White House swiftly criticized the law, saying Florida was “moving in the wrong direction”.The new law restricts the use of absentee ballot drop boxes to the early voting period, adds new identification requirements for requesting such ballots, and requires voters to reapply for absentee ballots in each new general election cycle. Previously, Florida voters only had to apply once every two election cycles.The law also gives partisan election observers more power to raise objections and requires people offering voters assistance to stay at least 150ft (45 meters) away from polling places, an increase from the previous 100ft radius.The deputy White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, blamed the new voting restrictions on Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” – the baseless assertion that there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.“There is no legitimate reason to change the rules right now to make it harder to vote,” Jean-Pierre said. “The only reason to change the rules right now is if you don’t like who voted. And that should be out of bounds.”Republican legislators in dozens of states have pursued measures to restrict voting rights in the aftermath of former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud. Lawmakers in the Texas house of representatives were poised on Thursday to advance sweeping new voting limits despite opposition from numerous businesses.Minutes after DeSantis signed the law, the League of Women Voters of Florida and two other civil rights groups sued Florida’s 67 counties to try to block the new restrictions. They are represented by Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who also sued Georgia over voting limits the state passed in March.The Florida branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Disability Rights Florida and the good government group Common Cause also sued the state on Thursday, arguing the limits would disproportionately hurt Black, Latino and disabled voters.Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the move a “blatant and calculated attack on the right to vote” and a “horrifying reminder” of the “fragility of democracy”.Republican lawmakers have cited the unfounded claims made by Trump, a Florida absentee voter himself, after his decisive loss to Joe Biden.Judges rejected such claims in more than 60 lawsuits that failed to overturn the election result. Lawmakers in Republican-controlled states, including Georgia, Texas and Arizona, nevertheless proposed legislation they said was necessary to curb voter fraud, which is extremely rare in the United States.Local news outlets were barred from DeSantis’s signing of the bill on Thursday. The governor, who is expected to soon announce his re-election campaign, instead gave Fox News an “exclusive” of the event.“It was on national TV, it wasn’t secret,” DeSantis told reporters.The governor’s unusual decision to grant only Fox access to the event prompted complaints from journalists that DeSantis was preventing the public from witnessing crucial government business.DeSantis acknowledged in February that Florida had “held the smoothest, most successful election of any state in the country”, but said new limits on absentee ballots were needed to safeguard election integrity.DeSantis, who signed the law in an appearance on the Fox News Channel show Fox & Friends, said, “Me signing this bill here says, ‘Florida, your vote counts, your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency.’”Mail-in ballots or absentee ballots were used by Democratic voters in greater numbers than Republicans in the 2020 election, as many people avoided in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.Florida Republicans used mail-in voting slightly more than Democrats in the 2014, 2016 and 2018 general elections. But in November, Democrats submitted 2.2m mail-in ballots compared with 1.5m from Republicans, state records show, after Trump falsely asserted for months that mail voting was rife with fraud.In March, Georgia’s Republican governor signed a law that tightened absentee ballot identification requirements, restricted ballot drop-box use and allowed a Republican-controlled state agency to take over local voting operations.Democrats and voting rights advocates sued Georgia over the measure, saying it was aimed at disenfranchising Black voters, who helped propel Biden to the presidency and deliver Democrats two US Senate victories in Georgia in January that gave them control of the chamber. Top US companies also decried Georgia’s law, and Major League Baseball moved its all-star game out of the state in protest. More

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    Texas senate passes bill allowing permitless carry of handguns

    Texans will soon be able to openly carry a handgun without a license after the state’s legislature passed a bill that repeals requirements for carrying a handgun.Though some Republicans voiced hesitancy over the bill, it ultimately passed the Texas senate on Wednesday in an 18-13 vote along party lines. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said he supports the bill and will sign it into law once it reaches his desk.Current law requires fingerprints, four hours of training and the passing of a written exam and shooting proficiency test in order to carry a handgun. The state does not require any license to carry a rifle.Charles Schwertner, a Republican state senator, said that the bill is “a restoration of the belief in and trust of our citizens”.“We cannot allow another session to come and go where we pay lip service for the second amendment by failing to fully restore and protect the rights of citizens granted by the constitution.”Polling in the states suggests a majority of Texans do not support unlicensed carry, with 59% of those polled in a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll saying they oppose the policy. The poll found that the vast majority of Democrats, 85%, oppose it, while a smaller majority of Republicans, 56%, support the measure.Beverly Powell, a Democratic senator, echoed safety concerns from some law enforcement groups and license-to-carry instructors that opposed the bill.“If I sit down at a restaurant with a gentleman or a woman who has a holster on their side and a gun in it, I want to know that person is well-trained in the use of that gun,” she said.Texas has seen a number of mass shootings in the last several years, including two mass shootings in August 2019 that left a total of 30 people dead, a shooting at a high school in May 2018 that saw 10 people dead and a third at a church in November 2017 where 27 people were killed.Though mass shootings have continued in the country, with the recent shootings in Atlanta and Denver, Texas is not alone in looking to loosen its gun restrictions. A handful of other states are looking to allow permitless carry, including South Carolina and Florida. More

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    Tim Scott says ‘America is not a racist country’ – the data says otherwise | Mona Chalabi

    His choice of words was categorical. When Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, responded to Joe Biden’s speech to Congress last week, he said: “America is not a racist country.”But racial disparities exist in the US healthcare system, its criminal justice system, its educational system and its economic system. Those gaps are wide. They are persistent. And, in some cases, racial disparities have grown over time rather than narrowed.Dataset after dataset, from non-partisan thinktanks to government sources, consistently show these racial disparities. And, unless one believes inherent, biological differences exist between racial groups in the US that would explain their differing success in the country (a belief that would, by the way, be racist), the only possible explanation for all this is structural racism.These differences exist from the moment that a child is born in the US. One in every seven Black babies has a low birth weight compared with one in every 15 white babies, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2019.And the gaps remain. Black, Hispanic and Native American children are more likely to live in poverty than their white, Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander counterparts, as census data from 2020 reveals.By the time that graduation rolls around, just 74% of Native American or Alaska Native children will complete their public high school education, compared with 79% of Black children and 89% of white children. These statistics come from the US Department of Education, 2017-2018.In adulthood too, racial discrimination affects just about every aspect of a person’s life. The 2018 American Community Survey (conducted by the Census Bureau) reveals that people of color are most likely to work in low-paid frontline jobs.And tragically, though not surprisingly, these are the jobs that often have the greatest exposure to the risks of Covid-19. Black people in the US are almost 1.9 times more likely to die from the disease than their white counterparts. For Hispanic or Latino people, the risk is 2.3 times higher, and for Native Americans it’s 2.4 times higher than white people.Crucially, these statistics can not be treated in isolation. Health is affected by poverty. Poverty affects educational outcomes. Education affects economic security and so it goes on.Research has shown that Black babies are more likely to be born at a low birth weight because of the physical demands of the low-paid work that many of their mothers are doing. That low-paid work can make it harder to get health insurance too. While just 5% of white people in the US don’t have health insurance, that share doubles for Black people (10%) and doubles again for Hispanic people (20%), according to the census. And of course, a lack of access to healthcare puts an individual at greater risk of dying from Covid-19.To say that the US is not a racist country is to make a statement that exists outside of reality. It is a fantasy to which many people, especially white Americans, would like to cling. More

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    Facebook is pretending it cares how its platform affects the world | Siva Vaidhyanathan

    The world is a lot better off without Donald Trump as president of the United States. And Facebook is a lot more peaceful without Trump’s unhinged calls for vengeance against his political opponents and fabricated tales of voter fraud echoing across the platform. What’s more, the world is a lot better off now that Trump can’t use Facebook to execute his plans.The Facebook Oversight Board, a company-selected team of free speech experts, ruled on Wednesday that while, based on Trump’s statements, the company was justified in banning Trump for some period of time, doing so indefinitely meant the company was treating Trump differently than it does other users and other world leaders. The board kicked the decision back to Facebook, meaning that this saga is far from over.“In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the 20-member board ruled. “The board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.” The board then demanded that Facebook come up with a clearer and more fair penalty within six months.The board deliberated for four months after Facebook itself appealed its own January ban of Trump. Trump had praised and encouraged the invasion of the US Capitol building on 6 January when five people died in the violence, in what was a clear assault not only on the process of legitimately selecting Trump’s successor but on American democracy itself.In doing so, the board not only came to the most obvious short-term decision, it exposed the limits of its utility. Instead of considering more important questions about the role Facebook plays in politics and political violence around the world, or about how Facebook amplifies some messages and stifles others, or – crucially, in the case of Trump – how a political figure or party exploits Facebook’s features to degrade democracy or exact violence, the board took on the narrowest of questions: the regulation of particular expressions.The decision to ban Trump and his pages in January was a significant reversal of company policy. For years Facebook had treated Trump gingerly, scared of blowback from Republican legislators and the Trump administration itself. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, had also for years extolled the platform’s alleged neutrality when it came to controversial speech, going so far, at one point, as to defend the policy of letting Holocaust deniers promote their expressions on Facebook. Clearly Facebook executives considered not only the gravity of the assaults of 6 January, but the fact that Trump would only be president for three more weeks and that Republicans had lost control of the US Senate. It was a safe and almost obvious decision to quiet Trump.The oversight board content director, Eli Sugarman, stated on Twitter that the indefinite penalty, issued without standards by which Trump could correct his behavior and restore his status, was quite different from how Facebook handled misinformation about Covid-19 in March from the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro. Facebook froze Maduro’s page for 30 days and then left it up as “read-only,” limiting posting.“This penalty is novel and smacks of political expediency,” Sugarman wrote about the indefinite banning of Trump, compared to the limited penalty on Maduro.The problem is, Trump is almost novel – or at least he is among a select class of want-to-be tyrants capable of stoking massive violence and undermining democracy with years of corrosive messages. Maduro is no Trump. Comparing the reach and influence of Maduro to Trump makes no sense. And perhaps Facebook made a mistake by making Maduro’s penalty too short and light.Trump’s strategy of fully leveraging Facebook for propaganda, fundraising, organization, and stoking violence against opponents was mastered in 2015 by the leader of the Bharatiya Janata party in India, the current prime minister, Narendra Modi. It was repeated in early 2016 by Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Jair Bolsonaro used it in Brazil. Modi, Duterte and Bolsonaro are still active on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The board has no power to insist that Facebook now treat those leaders like they did Trump. The board may only rule on accounts and content that Facebook decided to ban.Most significantly, the board did not consider the macro effect of Trump on Facebook, on the US, or on democracy. The board is not designed to. The board framed this question as one of expression, as if expression is the only consideration for a company like Facebook. The board was meant to ignore the ways Facebook actually works in the world and the ways some of its most influential users actually use Facebook.The reality is that Trump used Facebook most effectively as an organizing and fundraising tool. Trump’s entire political organization depended on Facebook from the start. Through Facebook, Trump built a fundraising base, recruited volunteers, filled his rallies with supporters and targeted advertisements to small slices of potential voters. Facebook is how Trump prevailed in 2016. Only the fact that Trump failed spectacularly as president to keep the US healthy and prosperous kept him from being re-elected in 2020.Even though he is no longer president and may not ever run for office again, Trump has the means and motivation to expand his political machine. Perhaps it would be to maintain his influence in the Republican party. Perhaps it would support some of his children or their spouses in their political campaigns to come.We should not expect consistency from Facebook going forward … Ultimately, Facebook is too big and too complicatedThe oversight board is committed to rule-based deliberation. It seeks consistency and predictability from Facebook. But Facebook is facing a series of unique challenges, very few of which are like the others. Rule-based deliberation forces the board to imagine that world leaders are somehow the same or even in the same situations. It also assumes that language works the same way in different contexts. Overall, it makes the board focus on the micro – the expression itself – not on the macro effects over time of a leader’s full activity on Facebook.Even comparing Modi, who has been pressuring Facebook to scrub criticisms of his government from the platform, to Trump, who has not and cannot, has its limitations. Facebook has so far failed to take Modi seriously as a threat to the lives and health of both people and democracy. But then again, India is Facebook’s largest market and Modi is close to both Zuckerberg and the chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.We should not expect consistency from Facebook going forward. We should not even demand it. Ultimately, Facebook is too big and too complicated. And so is the real world. Any attempt to change Facebook for the better to bolster the fate of democracy must come with a full acknowledgment that whether one account is up or down or one post is deleted or not does not matter that much. The oversight board is a weak attempt by Facebook to look as if it takes seriously its effects on the world. We should not give it that much credit. More