Newswire: House Republicans elect Mike Johnson as new speaker after weeks of turmoil

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

U. S. Capitol
In a protracted and contentious process that ground Congress to a halt for over three weeks, House Republicans have finally chosen a new Speaker. Mike Johnson, R-La., a lower-ranking member of the GOP leadership and notorious right-wing election denier, emerged as the victor on Wednesday, succeeding the ousted Californian Kevin McCarthy.
The long and turbulent journey, which has lingered and prevented America from aiding its Israeli and Ukraine allies, saw Johnson become the party’s fourth nominee for the role since the MAGA wing of the caucus ousted McCarthy. On Tuesday morning, Republicans initially selected Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., as their nominee, only for him to withdraw later in the day, unable to muster the 217 votes required to secure the position.
With only 221 Republicans in the House, the margin for error was slim for any nominee vying for the top spot. While the GOP celebrated the long-awaited appointment of a new speaker, some members struggled to break old voting habits. GOP Rep. Kay Granger of Texas initially voted for Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama before eventually changing it to Mike Johnson.
In a routine unanimous show of Democratic support, all 212 members voted for New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Minority Leader, as Speaker.
As he noted about a potential Jim Jordan speakership, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California said Johnson would now preside over the counting of electoral votes in the next election. “After he was deeply involved in trying to overturn the last one. Just when you think they can’t be more irresponsible, they prove you wrong,” Schiff stated.
Similarly, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee expressed disbelief in a now-deleted social media post, saying, “I can’t believe this is happening after January 6. If Trump can get to another electoral college, House Speaker will be able to subvert votes of the people/ This is the first act in insurrection 2.0.”
Johnson, a pro-Trump election skeptic, now holds a position that could influence future election outcomes. Notable for his involvement in various controversial matters, Johnson pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland on a conspiracy theory involving the Justice Department and Hunter Biden. He also advocated for the expunging of Donald Trump’s first impeachment and pushed for a national abortion ban.
Johnson also took a more active stance in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. In 2020, he spearheaded efforts to rally House GOP members to support a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate election results in crucial states. Over 125 members eventually signed on.
Essentially, Johnson was at the forefront of rallying support for a controversial theory posited by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, aimed at overturning a U.S. presidential election. His instrumental role earned him recognition as “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” by The New York Times just a year ago.

Newswire: DOJ files suit challenging Texas’ redistricting plans citing violations of the Voting Rights Act

U. S. Attorney General Merrick Garland with Assistant U. S. Attorney Vania Gupta

By Anoa Changa, NewsOne

Controversy over redistricting and the development of statewide maps is not a new issue. But the increasingly partisan nature of redrawing district boundaries inconsistent with the population growth of communities of color raises possible concerns raised Texas violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice filed suit in federal court in the Western District of Texas. 

Since the Voting Rights Act’s gutting in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby v. Holder, the procedural guardrails that would flag issues like those in the Texas maps no longer exist. The Supreme Court has said partisan redistricting is fine, but when it is so extreme as to dilute the voting power and opportunity of voters of color.  
According to the DOJ, that is the exact situation in Texas. In its complaint, the DOJ alleges that the legislature intentionally disregarded the state’s non-white majority and constructed maps that would provide for minority control.  
Citing the population change between 2010 and 2020, as documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, the government pointed out that 95% of the population growth occurred in communities of color.  
“Texas also intentionally eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in Congressional District 23, a West Texas district where courts had identified Voting Rights Act violations during the previous two redistricting cycles,” the complaint read. “It failed to draw a seat encompassing the growing Latino electorate in Harris County. And it surgically excised minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) by attaching them to heavily Anglo rural counties, some more than a hundred miles away, placing them in a congressional district where they would lack equal electoral opportunity.”  
At the start of his tenure, Attorney General Merrick Garland committed to tackling threats to voting rights and free and fair elections. This is the second voting-related lawsuit filed by the DOJ against Texas this year. Last month, the DOJ filed a lawsuit challenging the voter suppression law passed by Texas for violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

“Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires that state voting laws – including laws that draw electoral maps – provide eligible voters with an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process and elect representatives of their choosing,” Garland said. “The complaint we filed today alleges that Texas has violated Section 2 by creating redistricting plans that deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority grou

Newswire: Justice Dept. opens policing probe over Breonna Taylor Death

Louisville demonstration for Breonna Taylor

By: Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police during a raid at her home, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday. It’s the second such probe into a law enforcement agency by the Biden administration in a week; Garland also announced an investigation into the tactics of the police in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd. The attorney general has said there is not yet equal justice under the law and promised to bring a critical eye to racism and legal issues when he took the job. Few such investigations were opened during the Trump administration. The 26-year-old Taylor, an emergency medical technician who had been studying to become a nurse, was roused from sleep by police who came through the door using a battering ram. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once. A no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home. Investigation looks for ‘pattern or practice’ The investigation announced Monday is into the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department. It is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping review of the entire police department. Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Breonna Taylor’s family, posted a celebratory message on social media shortly after the announcement. “Boom. Thank you,” he wrote. Aguiar and other attorneys negotiated a $12 million settlement in September with the city of Louisville over Taylor’s death. The investigation will specifically focus on whether the Louisville Metro Police Department engages in a pattern of unreasonable force, including against people engaging in peaceful activities, and will also examine whether the police department conducts unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures and whether the department illegally executes search warrants, Garland said. The probe will also look at the training that officers receive, the system in place to hold officers accountable and “assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race,” among other things, he said. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted last week of murder in Floyd’s death, but no one has been charged in Taylor’s, though her case, too, fueled protests against police brutality and systemic racism. “No-knock” warrants debated nationally Her death prompted a national debate about the use of so-called “no knock” search warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without waiting and announcing their presence. The warrants are generally used in drug cases and other sensitive investigations where police believe a suspect might be likely to destroy evidence. But there’s been growing criticism in recent years that the warrants are overused and abused. Prosecutors will speak with community leaders, residents and police officials as part of the Louisville probe and will release a public report, if a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct is discovered, Garland said. He noted that the department has implemented some changes after a settlement with Taylor’s family and said the Justice Department’s investigation would take those into account. “It is clear that the public officials in Minneapolis and Louisville, including those in law enforcement, recognize the importance and urgency of our efforts,” Garland said. Louisville hired Atlanta’s former police chief, Erika Shields, in January. She became the fourth person to lead the department since Taylor’s death on March 13, 2020. Longtime chief Steve Conrad was forced out in the summer after officers responding to a shooting during a protest failed to turn on their body cameras. Two interim appointments followed before Shields was given the job. Shields stepped down from the top Atlanta post in June after the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in a restaurant parking lot. Shields remained with the Atlanta department in a lesser role. Kentucky’s lawmakers passed a partial ban on no-knock warrants last month. The measure would only allow no-knock warrants to be issued if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the “crime alleged is a crime that would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.” Warrants also would have to be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.