Biden’s DOJ sues Texas over floating barrier, update on ‘fake electors’: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: President Biden’s Department of Justice is suing Texas over a floating border barrier

The Department of Justice files suit against the state of Texas. Plus, Israel’s Parliament approves a law that weakens Supreme Court oversight of the government, USA TODAY Justice Department Correspondent Bart Jansen on the Trump campaign’s alleged recruitment of fake electors, Ohio voters show strong support for a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights, and USA TODAY Climate Correspondent Elizabeth Weise says that climate change is reshaping the employment landscape.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below.This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Dana Taylor:

Good morning. I’m Dana Taylor, and this is 5 Things you need to know Tuesday, the 25th of July 2023. President Biden’s Department of Justice is suing Texas over a floating border barrier, Israel’s parliament passes a law limiting its Supreme Court’s power, sparking mass protests, and we go inside Donald Trump’s bid to have fake electors overturn the 2020 election.

The Department of Justice filed suit on Monday against the state of Texas after its governor refused to remove a floating border barrier that the Biden administration says was unlawfully put into place. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke to the issue during yesterday’s daily briefing.

Karine Jean-Pierre

When we moved forward with a plan – a plan of deterrence, diplomacy, and also enforcement with how we were going to move forward after Title 42 was lifted – we actually saw the numbers go down. We actually saw the president’s plan working. And what you see the governor doing is dangerous and unlawful and it’s actually hurting the process.

Dana Taylor:

The Department of Justice claims that the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging US foreign policy. Republican Governor Greg Abbott defied the DOJ’s request and told the president he would see the Biden administration in court. The White House says that Abbott’s actions are making it difficult for federal officials to patrol the area and access the Rio Grande River, where four migrants have drowned.

Israel’s parliament approved divisive legislation yesterday that remakes part of the country’s justice system. The law weakens Supreme Court oversight of the government, a move that critics claim will erode Israel’s democracy and threatens the secular character of its state institutions. It was approved despite months of protests, the biggest in Israel’s history, that have engulfed the nation’s military, business, and legal communities. Opposition lawmakers who boycotted the vote shouted “shame” as the bill was approved. The judicial overhaul has divided Israel, rattling the cohesion of its powerful military and repeatedly drawing concern from its closest ally, the United States. It is being driven by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which is made up of ultra nationalist and ultra religious parties. They argue the reforms are necessary so that their rights and interests are protected. Protestors have blocked a road leading to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, yesterday. Police used water cannons to push them back. Businesses across the country shuttered their doors in protest of the vote. The vote passed despite a warning from Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Monday, that Israel was in a “state of national emergency.”

Donald Trump’s campaign recruited fake electors to overturn the 2020 election in an effort one GOP chairwoman called insane and inappropriate. For more on the fake electors story, we’re joined by USA TODAY’S Justice Department Correspondent Bart Jansen. Thanks for coming on the show, Bart.

Bart Jansen:

Thanks for having me.

Dana Taylor:

So you’ve been looking into the fake electors story. First, can you give us a snapshot of where we are with criminal cases across the country? Where did this happen and where have there been charges brought?

Bart Jansen:

Well, the fake elector’s plan was hatched in the days after the 2020 election. It covered generally about seven states, seven pivotal battlegrounds where the results were the closest between then President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who of course won the election. The idea was to have alternate slates of electors in seven states that Biden won. The Republican electors show up, vote, and then if they won legal challenges in those states, that those electors could step up and potentially continue to have Trump as president.

The January 6th committee investigated this. They called the thing, the strategy, illegal. A U.S. judge who reviewed it as part of a civil lawsuit said that it was clearly unlawful. And so several states have been investigating since then. Now, last week, Michigan’s attorney general has indicted the 16 Republican electors, fake electors in that state saying that they basically committed forgery and fraud. And the fake electors remain under investigation before a Georgia grand jury in Fulton County, where a district attorney is investigating former President Trump and others for potential election fraud. And more importantly, at the federal level, Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating fake electors as part of his broad investigation of potential election fraud from the 2020 election.

Dana Taylor:

So Bart, the electors just met without any authorization and voted for Trump and then sent those votes to Washington, DC?

Bart Jansen:

They absolutely met and they sent their certificates, basically fraudulent certificates. In one case in Georgia, a guy, one of the organizers, bought a new printer at Target and had a little trouble setting it up. One of the other electors was saying that it took him 20 minutes to set it up and caused some eye rolling at the meeting. But yes, they met. And in several occasions, in contravention of state laws about how these meetings happen. I mean, from the start, the electors are supposed to be the people who are on the side of the winning popular vote in that state. So in each of these seven states, state laws tend to say that they will meet in the State House, in the Capitol building. The meetings nationwide in 2020 were on December 14th.

And different laws in different states proved to be hurdles for the Republican electors to meet because in Michigan, for example, the electors were supposed to meet at 2:00 PM on December 14th in the Senate Chamber. And we have a former Republican Party chairman in that state. Laura Cox told the congressional investigators that one of the organizers came to her before this meeting to ask, “Hey, can we get into the Capitol? Can you help us get into the Capitol the day before, so we could stay there overnight to make sure we’re inside the building to hold our meeting on the right day?” And she told the person that that was insane and inappropriate, and she did not help them do that. So the Republican electors who now have been charged met nearby in the Republican Party headquarters in the basement there. And of course, under state law, that’s not in the building, it’s not at the right time. So there are these hurdles that are in state law, and that’s why even some of the organizers of this strategy acknowledge that some of the phrases that they used with that were it would be “somewhat dicey to do this strategy in Georgia,” and “otherwise problematic in some of the other states.”

Dana Taylor:

Thanks for being on the show, Bart.

Bart Jansen:

Thanks for having me.

Dana Taylor:

Sweeping support for a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights spotlights the potential power of the issue to drive voter turnout and affect races up and down the ballot, even in Republican leaning states. A new USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University survey of Ohio showed the amendment guaranteeing access to reproductive services backed by a double-digit margin, 58% to 32%. Significant support crossed partisan lines, including a third of Republicans and a stunning 85% of Independent women, a key group of persuadable voters. The battle in Ohio, the only state likely to have an abortion measure on the ballot in November’s off-year election, is being watched by activists nationwide who are considering a push for state-based initiatives in the next election cycle to codify or restore abortion rights. That could include swing states such as Arizona and red states like Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Need a job? Climate change is reshaping the employment landscape. With more on that, I’m joined by USA TODAY’S Climate Correspondent Elizabeth Weise. Elizabeth, thanks for jumping on the show.

Elizabeth Weise:

Oh, you’re so welcome. Glad to be here.

Dana Taylor:

Elizabeth, you write that climate change work is opening up a broad opportunity for job seekers. Don’t I have to be a scientist for those kinds of jobs?

Elizabeth Weise:

Well, you might think so, but you would in fact be wrong. This story actually came out of two stories I’ve written. One, which looked at the tremendous number of college students who are going into fields that start with things like ecology and sustainability and climate change and climate; and then another I’d done about people working on wind turbines, which is actually a great and fascinating field, especially if you’re not afraid of heights. But I got a lot of pushback from people in other fields who said yeah, we’re going to need a certain number of climate scientists. And yes, we’re going to need a certain number of people to climb up wind turbines. But really, the things that we need are things you might not think about. So that’s how this story came about.

Dana Taylor:

So should I be thinking about going back to school?

Elizabeth Weise:

You don’t necessarily have to. And this is not to say that having a college degree wouldn’t get you into a great field. If you’re concerned about the climate and you want to spend your workdays doing something to help repair the problem, then there are a whole lot of options out there. Not all of which require that you be a climate scientist. And a lot of them don’t even mean you have to go to college.

For example, plumbers are going to be needed to install all the heat pumps that we are going to install in the U.S. in the next 20 years. There is an incredible dearth of electricians, and as we electrify everything, we are going to need thousands of more electricians. And both of those jobs are ones you can do a two-year course at a community college and then go work for a company and get apprentice training, or you can just go straight out of high school and apprentice yourself at a company and get the necessary certifications. Takes longer, but you’re earning money while you’re doing it.

Dana Taylor:

Are these jobs all recession-proof jobs?

Elizabeth Weise:

Yeah. In a way, most of them are because hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to rethink what their yards look like in the next 20 years as droughts become more common. And they realize that that beautiful lawn perhaps doesn’t make sense. So people who know how to do zeroscape, people who know how to plant native plants that don’t require a ton of water, people who know how to install drip irrigation systems. Those are going to be steady work for a long time.

Dana Taylor:

What are the most surprising jobs you found?

Elizabeth Weise:

For those who were in college, thinking of college, talking to young people who are thinking of colleges, there are also jobs that, again, you might not think of as being climate centered, but are really going to be, like engineers. We’re going to need a lot of mechanical engineers, people who can design systems that cope with the changes that the climate will bring both to our infrastructure. So there’s jobs for folks who are going to college. There’s jobs for folks who aren’t going to college. They all pay pretty well, and we are going to need a ton of them.

And plant breeders. So as we have more drought, one of the things we’re going to need is plant breeders, because any farmer will tell you that you’re always looking for the latest and greatest seed that’s going to give you the best yield for your weather conditions. Well, plant breeders are the ones who sit around and they’re working four or five, seven, eight years out figuring out okay, I’m going to create the wheat and the corn and the soy and the canola that can grow in that now, so that we’ll have seed for the farmers when they need it. And that’s going to be a big field. And people, again, it’s not something you think of as climate adjacent, but it really is.

Dana Taylor:

Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us.

Elizabeth Weise:

As always, a pleasure.

Dana Taylor:

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. I’m Dana Taylor filling in for Taylor Wilson. If you like the show, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review on Apple podcast. If you have any comments, you can reach us at podcasts@usatoday.com. Join us again tomorrow for another episode of 5 Things.

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