Friday, March 17, 2017

Peter Thiel’s Palantir Faces an Escalating Court Battle With an Early Investor

  • Company thwarted stock sales, guarded results, suit says
  • Palantir accused investor last year of stealing trade secrets

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By Lizette Chapman

The battle between Palantir Technologies Inc. and a longtime investor just got nastier. KT4 Partners LLC, which first backed Palantir more than a decade ago, sued the privately held data analytics company, saying attempts to sell shares were thwarted and that financial information was withheld.
The suit filed by KT4 Partners in Delaware asks to inspect Palantir’s books and records. It comes six months after Palantir sued KT4 Partners, its managing member Marc Abramowitz and a charitable trust operating in his name. Palantir claimed Abramowitz stole trade secrets and falsely filed five patents in his name for work completed by the company.
“This lawsuit is nothing more than a blatant attempt to distract from Mr. Abramowitz’s unlawful and egregious theft of our intellectual property,” Palantir wrote in an emailed statement. “His allegations are without merit, and needless to say, Palantir will continue to aggressively pursue its existing legal action against him.”
Founded in 2004 by tech businessmen including billionaire Peter Thiel, Palantir is among Silicon Valley’s most highly valued and secretive companies. In addition to KT4 Partners, an early investor was the venture capital arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Palantir’s customers include government spy agencies around the world. It was most recently valued at $20 billion by investors, and it’s well-positioned to cash in on more government work thanks to Thiel’s relationship with President Donald Trump.
The legal fight highlights the contentious relationships between startup investors and companies that want to maintain tight control of stockholders. Investors rarely get company updates even from mature ones worth billions.
Mary Jo White, the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, flagged these risks during a presentation last year at Stanford University. Although problems of unequal disclosures have been detailed in lawsuits by early investors, the SEC hasn’t issued guidelines to reform the growing private market.
A heavily redacted version of KT4 Partners’ lawsuit was filed last week. The firm’s stake in Palantir was recently valued at more than $60 million, according to the suit.
The Delaware case is KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies Inc., 2017-0177, Delaware Court of Chancery. The California case is Palantir Technologies Inc. V. Abramowitz, 16CV299476, California Superior Court, Santa Clara County (San Jose).

Trump: Don't Blame Me When I Quote Fox News

They report, we repeat.

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Donald Trump does not like taking responsibility for White House screwups. He'll blame anyone else he can think of—even his friends at Fox News.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer set off an international incident when he suggested that British intelligence might have spied on Trump during the campaign in response to a request from President Barack Obama. Spicer made this remark while once again trying to defend his boss, who two weeks ago tweet-claimed—without offering any evidence—that Obama had "wiretapped" him at Trump Tower during the 2016 election. Since then the GOP chairs of the congressional intelligence committees (and many others) have declared there is no proof to back up Trump's reckless charge, which apparently was based on a Breitbart news story that itself was based on a statement (or rant) by right-wing radio talker Mark Levin.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
The obvious conclusion is that an angry Trump had tweeted out fake news falsely accusing his predecessor of criminal activity. But Spicer has continued to contend that Trump's allegations had a factual basis of some sort. And at the Thursday briefing he cited Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, who claimed on that network that Obama had used the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)—the British version of the National Security Agency—to eavesdrop on Trump with "no American fingerprints on this." (Napolitano is no credible source. Like Trump, he has appeared on the radio show of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. In 2010, Napolitano told Jones' audience that it's "hard for me to believe" that World Trade Center Building 7 "came down by itself" and that the 9/11 attacks "couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us.")
Yet here was the White House depending upon a conspiracy theorist to charge that Obama enlisted the Brits to conduct illegal surveillance against Trump. The GCHQ went into a tizzy. Breaking with its tradition of almost always staying silent on public controversies, the British spy agency released a statement that said, No way! It called the allegation Spicer embraced "ridiculous."  (British journalists were shocked to see any response from the supersecretive GCHQ.) And British officials told reporters they had privately received some form of apology from White House officials.
Yet on Friday afternoon, at a short press conference with German leader Angela Merkel, Trump indicated that he believed there was nothing to apologize for. Asked by a German reporter about the wiretapping allegation, he made a reference to "fake news" without addressing the matter. When a second German reporter pressed Trump on the issue, Trump first made a joke that he had something in common with Merkel. (The NSA had listened in on her cellphone.) Then he dismissed the significance of Spicer's citation of the Fox News report: "We said nothing. All we did was quote…a talented lawyer on Fox." The German reporter, Trump said, "shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox."
Fox News, for its part, wasn't sticking to Napolitano's crazy story. Following the press conference, Fox anchor Shep Smith reported the network "has no evidence of any kind" to support the notion that Obama (with or without the Brits) had spied on Trump.
Shepard Smith just said Fox News has “no evidence of any kind” that Trump was surveilled “at any time, any way."

To sum up, the White House was citing phony information from Fox that Fox wouldn't stand by. And now Trump was basically saying, You can't hold me and my White House accountable for what we say. If someone says it on Fox News, that's good enough for us. In other words, they report, we repeat.

This is a stunning statement and admission from a president: There is no need for me to confirm anything before tossing it out from the bully pulpit. It may not be a big news flash at this point, but Trump was eschewing any responsibility for White House statements. This is apparently Trump's standard: If an assertion appears on Breitbart or on Fox News—if a conspiracy theory is spouted by a right-wing talk show—then it can be freely cited by the president of the United States without any consequence. With this stance, Trump has fully embraced his position as fake-newser-in-chief.


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CARL ICAHN, THE high-stakes financier who has been using his position as a Trump adviser to push for a major rule-change affecting the ethanol industry, is now literally betting millions of dollars on financial markets that Trump will take his advice.
As previously reported at The Intercept, Icahn has pushed to get the Environmental Protection Agency to shift responsibility for blending the required amount of renewable fuel into gasoline. Right now, that obligation lies with oil refiners; Icahn wants it shifted to wholesalers.
As an unpaid but influential “special advisor to the president on regulatory reform” who vetted EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Icahn has plenty of clout to get this done.
Icahn stands to profit enormously from such a move in the long run; he is majority owner of CVR Energy, a refiner that lacks the infrastructure to blend ethanol. This forces the company to purchase “renewable identification numbers” (RINs), credits that allow it to comply with the obligation. The wholesalers sell the RINs after blending the ethanol themselves.
If Icahn succeeds in his quest, CVR would no longer have to buy RINs, which cost them $205.9 million last year. Icahn already told the Renewable Fuels Association — the leading lobby for the ethanol industry — that the Trump administration would absolutely make the change, leading RFA to agree to a deal reversing their previous position, and supporting the rule.
The change would also collapse the market for RINs, because refiners wouldn’t have any reason to buy them anymore.
And Icahn isn’t waiting to cash in. While pushing to crash the RIN market, Icahn has placed major bets that he will win.
Icahn is effectively short-selling RINs.
Bloomberg reported on Friday that Icahn acknowledged that he’s betting on a decline in the RIN market.
“This is what I do in the market. I’m taking a chance,” the billionaire investor said.
First, he’s directed CVR Energy to delay its RIN purchases, while expecting prices to fall. CVR also sold off large numbers of the RINs it had previously purchased in two dumps last year, including one right after the nomination of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.
CVR must by law purchase RINs within a year of selling fuel to wholesalers; delaying or selling off purchases can move markets, as can news of an imminent change in the point of obligation.
This has already paid off: RINs sold for 91 cents each on Election Day, and now track at 36 cents, according to Bloomberg data. If CVR had to buy the same amount of RINs that they did last year, that translates into a savings of roughly $144 million.
Icahn general counsel Jesse Lynn claimed in a statement that Icahn never had “material non-public information” about what the Trump EPA would do on the point of obligation, and that he merely offered the White House his public position on the matter. But Icahn’s company’s SEC filing lists him as a “special adviser to President Donald J. Trump.” And the Renewable Fuels Association has confirmed that Icahn spoke as “a member of the administration” when he told them that the point of obligation would soon change, leading to their deal with Icahn supporting the change.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that Icahn is merely a private citizen who receives no compensation as a public official. But that could make him an unregistered lobbyist, according to a complaint from watchdog group Public Citizen. The violation could trigger a $200,000 fine and a prison sentence up to five years, if the lobbyist “knowingly and corruptly” failed to comply. Icahn called the complaint “fake news.”
Or, by providing advice on regulatory matters, Icahn could be acting as a “special government employee,” even if he’s unpaid. That also could yield criminal violations, if he’s participating in issues where he has a conflict of interest.
Icahn’s stake in CVR has also gained $500 million in on-paper value since the election.


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DOZENS OF PRO-IMMIGRANT demonstrators took to the street last Saturday outside the San Francisco home of Trump adviser Peter Thiel to protest his firm Palantir Technologies’ involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Protesters carried signs reading “Make America Mexico Again” and “No Ban No Wall No Surveillance State.”
“The reason we’re here,” said one speaker, “is to call upon the people who are complicit in what Trump is trying to do.”
As The Intercept reported on March 2, Palantir is building a $41 million data platform called Investigative Case Management (ICM) that allows ICE agents, including those in the agency’s primary deportation force, the Enforcement and Removal Office, to query information across several large government databases simultaneously. Documents newly obtained by The Intercept state that Palantir software also permits ICE agents to access information from the Central Intelligence Agency.
ICM makes available to its users a separate ICE system, also built by Palantir, called FALCON. This system was created for ICE’s office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is generally tasked with pursuing serious cross-border crimes like drug trafficking, child pornography, and terrorism, but has also been behind some of the most controversial deportation actions under Trump and Obama.
HSI agents can use FALCON, a customized version of Palantir’s Gotham software, to pull data from offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and other sources that include information on foreign students, family relationships, employment information, immigration history, criminal records, and home and work addresses.
According to a set of FALCON funding documents from 2013 that were obtained by The Intercept, immigration officials can also use FALCON to access data held by agencies that possess highly classified intelligence, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center.
“Palantir enables ICE/HSI to secure information sharing with other law enforcement agencies in real-time to include Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Custom & Border Protection (CBP), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCC), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),” a 2013 funding document states. “This will give ICE an open platform that will be interoperable and have the ability to cross use capabilities such as federated search, mapping and geospatial capability, unstructured search function, visual linking with these agencies and also have the capability to fully scale the solution to enable large entity exchange (e.g. petabytes of data) between our agencies.”
Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, worries that this type of data sharing, even if justifiable in certain circumstances, could potentially be repurposed to support ICE’s daily immigration policing.
“It seems like there could be very reasonable purposes for which the CIA would exchange information with ICE,” said Stanley. “These kind of information exchanges are often initially based on particular, hair-raising scenarios, but then the routine tool is created and ends up being used for all kinds of everyday petty enforcement.”

The funding documents were provided to The Intercept by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, and the records detail the government’s reasons for choosing to retain Palantir as the only vendor to support some primary functions of FALCON. The documents cover two types of FALCON data: One relating to international trade used to identify money laundering and tax evasion, and another containing information “relating to the investigation, arrest, booking, detention and removal of persons encountered during immigration and criminal law enforcement investigations and operations conducted by ICE.”
Much of the document is devoted to justifying FALCON’s heavy reliance on Thiel’s firm. “Palantir has stated that only Palantir is the authorized seller and distributor of its software products and provider of any required maintenance services for its software,” the document states. “Palantir has also not authorized any other vendor to provide training services on Palantir or FALCON.”
ICE provided a general response to a request for comment. FALCON is used by “ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the criminal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for investigating a wide range of domestic and international activities arising from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within and out of the United States,” an agency spokesperson wrote in an email. “In order to protect the integrity of our investigations, ICE generally does not discuss law enforcement tools and techniques.” ICE did not answer questions about what limitations govern its use of CIA data.
ICE has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the circumstances under which FALCON can be used by agents from the Enforcement and Removal Office. One of the 2013 documents state that “an individual or subset of users” could be restricted in which databases they access within FALCON, although it provides little elaboration. Palantir did not respond to a request for comment.
In response to a February Freedom of Information Act Request asking for internal rules or restrictions on FALCON’s use, ICE stated that no such documents had been found.
A slide from a 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement document outlining capabilities required by the agency’s proposed Investigative Case Management system.

One of the 2013 funding documents states that in addition to providing Homeland Security Investigations agents access to CIA data, FALCON also acts as a portal to data gathered under the now-defunct National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, the controversial George W. Bush-era system that required visa-holders from two-dozen predominately Muslim countries and North Korea to register with federal authorities. FALCON users can also access the Student Exchange Visitors Program, an ICE system that tracks foreign students, as well as the controversial ICEGangs database that critics allege can trigger deportations of immigrants based on tenuous evidence of gang affiliation.


FALCON will eventually give agents access to more than four billion “individual data records,” according to the 2013 funding records, and gives its users the ability “to follow target telephone activity and GPS movement on a map in real time.”
The immigration agency emphasizes that an important aspect of FALCON is the ability — provided by Palantir’s trademark Gotham software — to allow agents to seamlessly search between multiple large databases at once. “The Gotham software upon which FALCON is based does not segregate data contained within individual data sets when searches are performed,” the document states. “Rather, if a user searches on a particular Person, Event, or Object, all records connected to that Person, Event, or Object which are accessible to FALCON are called up.”
The ICE documents underline Palantir’s singular role in underpinning these capabilities within FALCON, a system it says will become accessible to a growing user-base over time. ICE identifies continued access to Palantir’s software updates, for instance, as being critical to the success of FALCON.
“Without updates to the software, there is an increased risk that the FALCON system could stop working properly or could be made unstable or compromised by invasive software viruses or other malware,” the document states. “Use of Palantir Gotham and the FALCON system is intended to increase over the life of the order.”

UN official resigns over Israel apartheid report

ESCWA leader Rima Khalef says she resigns after UN leaders forced her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid.

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The head of the United Nations' West Asia commission, Rima Khalaf, has resigned over what she described as the pressure to withdraw a report that was critical of Israel.
The report accused Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on Palestinians. Lebanon-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report on Wednesday and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.
"It was expected that Israel and its allies will exercise pressure on the UN secretary general to distance himself from the report.and that they will ask him to withdraw it," Khalaf said at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.
"The secretary general issued his orders to me yesterday morning to withdraw the report. I asked him to review his position but he insisted," she said. "Therefore I submitted to him my resignation from the UN."
Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Beirut, said that Khalaf clearly stated that she was still standing by the report, which in very explicit terms accused Israel of pursuing apartheid policies in the Palestinian territories.
"The Israeli government was very critical of the report even describing it as 'Nazi Propaganda' and one would imagine that they made it very clear to the UN leadership that that is how they saw it," the Al Jazeera correspondent said.
"So, one would also imagine that is perhaps why the UN secretary general is demanding this report to be withdrawn from ESCWA website." 
At the time of the publication, the report titled "Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" was not on the website of the UN agency, with the link for the report now directing to a web page that consists ESCWA's prior publications.
A UN spokesman on Friday claimed the issue with Khalaf was not the content of the report but as a result of her failure to follow the necessary procedure before the publication . 
"This is not about content, this is about process," said UN chief Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
"The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorise the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself," he told reporters.
Al Jazeera's Tyab said it was "highly unlikely" that the UN leadership was unaware of the report's existence or the language inside it before its publication.
"The curious thing here is that Al Jazeera and many other news organisations had been aware of this report for several days now," he said.  
"In fact most news organisations were invited to the press conference that was held around 24 hours ago where this report was released and members of the media were also given an embargoed advance look at this report.
"So it is very curious that the UN is now saying that the official procedures hadn't been followed, that they were not aware of the language inside the report, when even many in the media were aware of its publication and its contents."
"This feels like yet another chapter in the very strained and complicated relationship the UN has with Israel."

In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts

Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.

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By Ari Berman

Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote.
But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration.
When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!”
In another e-mail, when von Spakovksy said he was participating in a “Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Conference” at the Justice Department, Gorsuch wrote, “Sounds interesting. Glad to see you’re doing this. I may try to attend some of it.” Though the Justice Department was supposed to investigate both voting discrimination and voter fraud, the latter cause took priority and eventually led to Republican US Attorneys’ being wrongly fired from their jobs for refusing to prosecute fraud cases.
At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week.
Though the e-mails sound mundane, they’re much more important when you consider what was happening at the Justice Department during the time Gorsuch overlapped with von Spakovksy. In 2005–06 Gorsuch was principal deputy to the associate attorney general and von Spakosvky was special counsel to Brad Schlozman, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, who said he wanted to “gerrymander all of those crazy libs right out of the [voting] section.” It was a time when longtime civil-rights lawyers were pushed out of the Justice Department and the likes of Schlozman and von Spakovsky reversed the Civil Rights Division’s traditional role of safeguarding voting rights. When von Spakovsky was nominated to the FEC, six former lawyers in the voting section called him “the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights.”
In particular, von Spakovsky manipulated the process to approve Georgia’s strict voter-ID law in 2005, which was among the first of its kind. (I tell this story in great detail in my book Give Us the Ballot.) Von Spakovsky had been an advocate of such laws nationally and in Georgia specifically, where he was from, since the 1990s. “Requiring official picture identification such as a driver’s license with a current address would immediately cut down on a large amount of fraud,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 1995. Two years later, he recommended, “Georgia should require all potential voters to present reliable photo identifications at their polling locations to help prevent impostors from voting.”
Georgia’s voter-ID law was submitted to the Justice Department in 2005 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required states like Georgia with a long history of voting discrimination to approve their voting changes with the federal government. The sponsor of the law, Republican Representative Sue Burmeister, told department lawyers, “If there are fewer black voters because of the bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said when black voters in her precinct are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls.”
Her racially inflammatory assertions set off alarm bells among the team reviewing the submission, indicating that the law may have been enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Department lawyers feared the bill would disenfranchise thousands of voters.
Atlanta’s Mayor, Shirley Franklin, told the story of her 84-year-old mother, who had recently moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta and could not obtain a new photo ID for voting. Her expired Pennsylvania driver’s license was rejected as sufficient documentation to obtain a Georgia ID card, and she was told to produce a copy of her birth certificate. But Franklin’s mother had been born at home in North Carolina and, like many elderly African Americans who grew up during Jim Crow, never had a birth certificate. After voting for 40 years, she would be disenfranchised by the new law.
Citing the high number of voters without ID, the disparate rates of ID possession among blacks and whites, the number of DMV offices that did not issue IDs, the cost of the ID and the underlying documents needed to obtain an ID (ranging from $20 for an ID card to $210 for naturalization papers), four of five members of the Georgia review team urged that the law be rejected under Section 5. “While no single piece of data confirms that blacks will [be] disparately impacted compared to whites, the totality of evidence points to that conclusion,” they wrote in a 51-page analysis.
Yet von Spakovsky placed a conservative lawyer on the review team, Joshua Rogers, who argued that the law should be approved. Von Spakovsky began secretly e-mailing Rogers copies of his articles, and arguments and analysis in favor of the Georgia ID law. He told him to password protect his computer so that no other attorneys on the team could see their correspondence. “They chose to put him on the case because of his political leanings and personal connection with von Spakovsky,” said Heather Moss, a member of the review team. Rogers’s dissenting memo, which was drafted with von Spakovsky’s input, became the basis for the Justice Department’s preclearance of the law.
A year later, when von Spakovsky was nominated to the FEC, it was revealed that he published a law article praising voter-ID laws under the pseudonym “Publius” just a week after Georgia submitted its law for review. The article in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, a conservative legal journal, was titled “Securing the Integrity of American Elections: The Need for Change” and its author was identified as “an attorney who specializes in election issues.” Publius, aka von Spakovsky, wrote: “It is unfortunately true that in the great democracy in which we live, voter fraud has had a long and studied role in our elections,” the article began. It continued: “putting security measures in place— such as requiring identification when voting— does not disenfranchise voters and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.”
DOJ ethics guidelines clearly stated that von Spakovsky, given his longstanding advocacy for voter-ID laws and the strong viewpoints in his then-anonymous article, should have recused himself from consideration of Georgia’s law. Indeed, his ethical lapses and deceptive support for new voting restrictions were a major reason Senate Democrats blocked his nomination to the FEC and President Bush was forced to give him a recess appointment. (Then-Senator Barack Obama put a hold on von Spakovsky’s nomination and he withdrew in 2008, joining the Heritage Foundation, which has championed Gorsuch’s nomination.)
But that’s not all. In addition to the FEC, Von Spakovsky was also appointed to the advisory board of the Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act to analyze the country’s election problems. The commission hired two well- respected experts, Republican Job Serebrov and Democrat Tova Wang, to produce a comprehensive study on voter fraud. “There is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud, or at least much less than is claimed, including voter impersonation, ‘dead’ voters, non-citizen voting and felon voters,” a draft of the report stated. After von Spakovsky complained to the commission’s GOP leadership, the wording in the final report was changed to, “There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”
More recently, von Spakovsky has argued against that the Voting Rights Act was “constitutionally dubious at the time of its enactment” and praised Trump’s promised investigation into voter fraud, which has been widely panned by Democrats and Republicans. “The real problem in our election system is that we don’t really know to what extent President Trump’s claim is true because we have an election system that is based on the honor system,” he wrote with John Fund after Trump said with no evidence that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally.
Given that von Spakovsky hailed Gorsuch as “the perfect pick for Trump,” it’s safe to assume he believes that the Supreme Court nominee shares his views. The Senate needs to aggressively question Gorsuch to see if that’s the case.
Gorsuch has already cited Justice Antonin Scalia as a role model, who said the Voting Rights Act had led to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Gorsuch, if confirmed, could be the deciding vote on whether to weaken the remaining sections of the VRA and whether to uphold discriminatory voter-ID laws and redistricting plans from states like North Carolina and Texas. In many ways, the fate of voting rights in the United States hangs on this nomination.