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U.S. senators quiet on Scott Colom’s nomination to federal bench


U.S. senators quiet on Scott Colom’s nomination to federal bench

Scott Colom

Mississippi’s two U.S. senators have been non-committal on whether they will support Lowndes County District Attorney Scott Colom’s nomination as a federal judge.

The White House has announced Colom’s nomination to the U.S. District Court to fill the spot vacated by Michael Mills, who has taken senior status. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal first reported the nomination by .

The objection to Colom by the ’s two U.S. senators could doom his nomination under long-standing Senate traditions.

In an emailed response to Mississippi Today, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said, “Judge Michael Mills has left big shoes to fill. I look forward to speaking with District Attorney Colom about his nomination for this important vacancy.”

Mississippi’s junior U.S. senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith, has not publicly commented on the nomination.

Appointments to the federal judiciary, a lifetime appointment, require Senate confirmation.

It is customary for an individual senator from the home state of the judicial nominee to be able to block the Senate nomination through a so-called “blue-slip process.” It is uncertain whether Hyde-Smith or Wicker, both Republicans, would blue-slip Colom, who was appointed by the Democratic Biden.

Colom, a Columbus resident, has been the district attorney for the 16th Judicial District, which consists of Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Noxubee and Clay counties, since 2016. He previously worked for the and was a municipal court judge.

The other northern district judges are Debra Brown and Sharion Aycock. When appointed by former , Brown became the state’s first female African American chief federal judge. Colom would become the second Black judge in the state’s Northern District if he is confirmed.

Biden has yet to announce his nomination for U.S. attorney for the northern district of Mississippi. In September, Biden nominated Todd Gee to serve as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Mississippi, a post that has been vacant since appointee Mike Hurst resigned in January 2021.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Biden appoints U.S. attorney who will inherit welfare investigation


Biden appoints new U.S. attorney who will inherit welfare scandal investigation

has nominated Todd Gee to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, a post that has been vacant since appointee Mike Hurst resigned in January 2021.

Gee, a native of Vicksburg, has served as deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice 2018. He previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., from 2007 to 2015, and before that as counsel and policy advisor for the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.

Gee, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will take office as the federal government is reportedly investigating the massive welfare scandal in Mississippi, where his background in the Public Integrity Section of DOJ might come into play. The Public Integrity Section, created in 1976 after the Watergate scandal, prosecutes criminal abuses of public trust by government officials. It investigates and prosecutes alleged misconduct of public officials in all three branches of federal government, plus and local public officials.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs said he was pleased Gee received the appointment.

“He is a great person for that job,” Flaggs said. “He has always been an intellectual young man. Todd Gee will adhere to the law.”

Flaggs said Gee’s grandfather, Nathaniel Bullard, served as mayor of Vicksburg from 1973 until 1977 and also was a chancery judge. He had another relative who was a district attorney.

“He comes from a family of lawyers,” Flaggs said.

The Vicksburg mayor said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of the 2nd District of Mississippi, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee where Gee previously served as lead counsel, supported the nomination and recently announced the pending nomination at a civics club meeting in Vicksburg.

Earlier Thompson wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice following Mississippi Today’s series The Backchannel, which broke new details on the welfare scandal. In the letter, Thompson asked federal authorities to specifically investigate the role of former Gov. Phil Bryant in the welfare misspending or .

READ MORE: Congressman asks feds to investigate former Gov. Phil Bryant’s welfare spending influence

“My understanding is all of the allegations that have been made are currently under investigation,” Thompson told Mississippi Today Friday when asked if the U.S. had responded to his letter. “Actually there’s a report in the press that the FBI has already engaged some of the people … When the neediest citizens are compromised by what happened with the TANF (welfare) funds, we have to make sure that those perpetrators of that illegal activity are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Thompson continued: “I don’t care if you’re a quarterback on a football team, if you are governor of the state of Mississippi, or if you like volleyball — those things shouldn’t be spent and supported by TANF dollars. I have a very vulnerable district in the state. Those dollars were intended to make life better for families in need. I don’t know how those individuals who took that money can sleep at night knowing they took resources from the neediest people.”

READ MORE: Gov. Phil Bryant directed $1.1 million welfare payment to Brett Favre, defendant says

Biden also announced two nominees for U.S. Marshal for the Northern and Southern districts of Mississippi. Michael Purnell, who has served many years with the , was nominated for the Northern District. Dale Bale, a professional protection officer for a private security service in Hernando, was nominated for Southern District Marshal. Bale previously served with the and the Sheriff’s Department.

All the appointments announced Friday require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Other key federal posts remain open in Mississippi. Biden has not announced a nominee for U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Plus, a federal judgeship remains open in the Northern District. Judge Michael Mills of the Northern District announced in November he was taking senior status, creating an open judgeship.

READ MORE: Phil Bryant had his sights on a payout as welfare funds flowed to Brett Favre

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Rep. Thompson’s Mississippi colleagues have no comment on his Jan. 6 hearings


Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Mississippi colleagues have no comment on his Jan. 6 hearings

Even though a record number of Americans are watching U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson lead the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, his Mississippi congressional colleagues do not appear to be interested in his efforts.

None of Mississippi’s other five members of Congress — Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Reps. Trent , Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo — responded to questions from Mississippi Today asking for their thoughts on the often bombshell testimony that has come out of the Jan. 6 committee hearings.

The bipartisan committee was formed to investigate the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol by ’s supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Thompson, Mississippi’s sole Democrat in Washington, was tapped by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to chair the special committee.

The testimony is slated to continue tonight in primetime. One of the focuses of tonight’s hearing will be the 187 minutes that expired between when Trump urged his supporters during a Jan. 6 speech in Washington to march to the Capitol “to fight like hell” and when he finally asked his supporters who were ransacking the Capitol to go home. The hearings also come as it was announced that there will be a criminal investigation into missing U.S. Secret Service texts related to Jan. 6.

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson tells the world what happened on Jan. 6, 2021

While the congressional delegation did not respond to questions from Mississippi Today, Rep. Trent Kelly of the 1st Congressional District recently said of the hearings on the SuperTalk radio network: “Very little. I try not to. It infuriates me to watch. It is a joke. It is a stage show. It is almost like a TV trial show. They are showing one side of the evidence…

“This is just a witch hunt,” Kelly continued. “They are just trying to make sure President Trump doesn’t again in 2024. This whole Jan. 6 thing is a sham as far as I am concerned. We have already had the investigation. It was bad that day.”

Though their staffs wouldn’t acknowledge Mississippi Today’s questions, both Sens. Wicker and Hyde-Smith brushed off questions about the Jan. 6 committee when asked by congressional reporter Matt Laslo in Washington in recent weeks.

Wicker, when asked if he was watching the hearings, told Laslo: “I’m headed to this classified briefing. I have seven minutes, so let’s have a conversation later on about this.”

When Laslo caught up with Wicker less than an hour later, Wicker responded: “I’m actually not doing interviews today.”

When Laslo asked Hyde-Smith if she was watching the committee hearings, she repeated a typical refrain of hers at the Capitol: “I don’t do the hallway interviews.” Since she was elected in 2018 and again in 2020, Hyde-Smith has rarely participated in interviews of any nature.

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson, leading the public Jan. 6 hearings, has long worked to protect democracy

All five members of Mississippi’s U.S. congressional delegation other than Thompson are Republicans. Wicker was the only member of the ’s Republican congressional delegation not to cast votes on Jan. 6 challenging the election outcome. And all other than Guest opposed a plan to establish a bipartisan commission led by non-politicians to investigate the events of Jan. 6 and of efforts by Trump and his supporters to throw out votes and overturn the election.

When Senate Republicans, including Mississippi’s Wicker and Hyde-Smith, blocked efforts to establish a Jan. 6 commission, House Democrats formed the special committee comprised of House members. Thompson, the state’s only African American member of the Mississippi delegation, heads the special committee as chair. The vice chair of the committee is Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming.

Thompson is expected to miss tonight’s hearing because he recently was diagnosed with .

None of Mississippi’s five Republican members responded to questions about recent bipartisan efforts to put safeguards in place to make it more difficult for those attempting to throw out election results.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Trump hints at 2024 run during Saturday visit to Southaven, Mississippi

227 views – Memphis Commercial Appeal – 2022-06-19 07:42:36

Former teased a future for the White House during a visit to Southaven, Mississippi, on Saturday and continued to call the Jan. 6 Committee hearings a “witch hunt.” 

The former president, speaking during a stop on the for-profit American Freedom Tour, spent time lingering on his electoral defeat in 2020, disputing the results and repeating false claims of voter…

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Abortion provider travels to Jackson for likely final shift


With Roe on the line, an abortion provider travels to Jackson for what may be her final shift

Dr. Cheryl Hamlin once attended a demonstration against the Iraq War in the Boston Common, but she’s never felt like much of a radical. Then she started providing abortions in Mississippi. 

Hamlin, a 60-year-old OB-GYN at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., spends three days a month at the ’s only clinic in Jackson. Her work places her at the center of a decades-long national war that has culminated in the case poised to overturn the constitutional right to abortion: Dobbs v.

The job is too dangerous for local physicians, so she and other out-of-state doctors fly in on a rotation.  

Though Hamlin always thought being a doctor meant you were supposed to help people, she describes her career as “kind of ordinary.” A mix of idealism, principle and shock at the election of led her to start working in Mississippi in 2017. 

And last week, during what may well have been her final shift here, she wondered how far she would be willing to go to ensure access to abortion remains.

On Monday, June 6, a little before 4 p.m., she leaned over the steering wheel of her rental car as she pulled into the parking lot, in a hurry to get to her patients. They sat in idling sedans and SUVs, cranking up the air conditioning against a hot and sunny afternoon. 

Standing on the sidewalk just beyond the metal fence that surrounds the pink stucco clinic – known around Jackson as the Pink House – Pam Miller watched the doctor drive up. Miller, a 67-year-old grandmother of seven, is a regular presence outside the Pink House, wearing her blue 40 Days For Life baseball cap and clutching a stack of pro-life pamphlets. 

“That’s Cheryl Hamlin,” she said to Zach Boyd, another frequent protester. “She’s just now getting here.”

Hamlin didn’t notice them. And she wasn’t thinking about the seemingly imminent fall of Roe and the end to a constitutional right to abortion in the United States – at least not directly. 

She was thinking about her patients. She felt the extra pressure of knowing that clinics across the Southeast are packed with people seeking abortions, that some of them had driven hours for their appointments, and that soon it could be too late. 

A clinic staffer came out of the building to tell patients they could come inside.

Boyd held out a tan rubber fetus, smaller than his fist. 

“God’s going to judge you,” he called to the clinic employee.

“Why are you worrying about what I’m doing?” she shouted back. “Worry about yourself.”

If the final ruling in Dobbs hews to the draft opinion that leaked in early May, the Pink House will close. The clinic and some of the staff will move to New Mexico. Hamlin will join them there once a month, just as she has done in Mississippi for the last five years.

“I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on that fact,” Hamlin said of the possibility that this shift could be her last in Jackson. “But I guess I’ve been reading too much – it’s starting to affect my mind.”

While Hamlin began work inside the clinic, a young couple waited in their car down the block. As college students, they said, they’re not financially stable. They’re not ready to have a baby. The young woman had called Planned Parenthood in her home state, but they had referred her to Jackson. 

The pregnancy was already causing health complications, and they were thinking about their future. There was nothing any protester or pamphlet could say to change their minds. 

“I feel like everyone thinks that it’s an easy decision,” the woman said. “It’s really not.”

Dr. Cheryl Hamlin gets ready to drive to the airport after completing her shift at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, June 9, 2022. Dr. Hamlin travels from Massachusetts to Jackson to assist patients seeking abortions.

On Wednesday morning, six women sat in high-backed chairs arranged in a semicircle inside a narrow room in the back of the clinic. A purple sign taped to a door said “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion.” 

The patients gripped medical forms or held their hands together on their laps; one rocked back and forth in her seat, and another crossed her legs and jiggled her foot. 

“Hi ladies, how are you doing?” said Hamlin, taking her seat at the front of the room. The doctor has short hair and an air of friendly professionalism. 

“So, I’m Cheryl Hamlin, the doctor for the week, and I’ll be doing your counseling.”

She described the risks of the procedure: infection, blood transfusion, uterine perforation.

“To put it all in perspective, if you were giving birth, I would tell you you have all the same risks, but many more,” she said. 

She delivered the line required by Mississippi law, that abortion increases risk of breast cancer. 

“Nobody thinks it’s true. I’m pretty sure doesn’t think it’s true, but it’s a state law that I say those words,” she told them. She recited another required line: If the only reason for the procedure is financial, “there may be organizations that will assist you as well as the father of the pregnancy should be providing child support.”

Then she turned to what she called “the elephant in the room:” the Supreme Court’s impending decision in the case that started with this clinic. In the best case scenario, she said, the Court will uphold Mississippi’s law and allow it to forbid abortions after 15 weeks. 

Since the Pink House currently provides the procedure through 16 weeks, that outcome wouldn’t make a major difference for the clinic. 

“The more likely and worst-case scenario is they overturn Roe,” she continued. “This clinic, and every clinic through most of the South and Midwest, is going to close.”

She urged her patients to vote. Then she moved on to explain the process for surgical abortions and for medication abortions. 

Next came individual counseling. Each person had a number to indicate her turn in line. Hamlin told them to keep an eye on her office door. Lately, as abortion clinics across the country have cut back services, the Pink House has been busy, and the process is designed for efficiency.

“When she comes out, you go right on in,” she said. “You guys pay attention, don’t wait for me to call you, and we’ll get you right on out of here.”

The individual counseling room is a small office shared between the doctors when they come to the clinic for their shifts. Hamlin sat behind a broad, dark wooden desk. The patients sat in a chair across from her. 

None of the generic furnishings reflected anything of Hamlin; this was the clinic’s office, not hers. 

The fifth patient to talk to Hamlin was a young woman in running shorts.

“Come on in, how are you doing?” Hamlin said.

“Good,” the woman replied as she sat down. 

Hamlin looked at her medical records spread on the desk. 

“You’re 15 weeks, so you have to come…” She paused, glancing up at the monthly calendar taped next to her seat. It was June 8. 

The calendar showed Hamlin’s shift, which would end just before 1 p.m. the next day, and another doctor’s shift on June 10 and 11. But that doctor only performs abortions through 13 weeks.

“So it’ll be the next available…” Hamlin looked at the calendar again. “…is the 16th or 17th. Gosh. You’re 15 – we’re not going to get you in.”

The woman’s face betrayed no emotion. She explained that the nurse who performed her ultrasound had said the doctor might be able to do the procedure on Friday. 

“Aaah,” Hamlin said in a high-pitched tone. “Let me just make sure what I’m saying is true.”

She ran the math in her head: The woman was already 15 weeks pregnant. The next time a doctor at the clinic could perform the procedure, she would be more than 16 weeks pregnant – past the clinic’s cut-off date.

Hamlin left the room. The woman looked at her phone on her lap. 

Two minutes later, Hamlin came back. The patient wouldn’t be able to get an abortion in Jackson.

“But we can help refer you, we have a relationship with Huntsville, Alabama, that can do beyond (16 weeks),” she said.

“OK,” the woman replied. Hamlin guided her out of the room to talk to a staffer about the referral.

These were the limits of choice, even with Roe still technically the law of the land. 

The patient might have waited weeks to get her first appointment at the Pink House because Texans were streaming into every clinic in the South following that state’s recent ban on abortions after six weeks. Then she ran into Mississippi’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period. 

And the threats and harassment directed against local abortion providers meant that when Hamlin flew home to Boston, there would be no one in the state who could or would perform the procedure for days – critical days. 

The Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville, which performs abortions up to 21 weeks and six days, is more than five hours from Jackson by car. The clinic sees about five patients who have been referred from the Pink House every week, according to its office manager Makeda Harris. 

That state has a 48-hour waiting period, meaning Hamlin’s patient would likely have to spend two nights in an unfamiliar city or make a long round-trip drive twice. 

Hamlin felt terrible realizing that her patient would just barely miss out on being able to get an abortion in Mississippi. 

Cases like this one raised the question of how much she was willing to sacrifice. 

“I could do it today, but it’s a law that I can’t,” she said. “How many hoops do you jump through? … Should I stay a little bit later? I’ve done stuff like that, but you can also make yourself completely insane. If I miss my plane, I’ll be a really unhappy person … You can’t make yourself completely crazy.”

The constraints on the Pink House limit patient options in another way: Because there are so few slots available for surgical appointments, those whose pregnancies are under 11 weeks are urged to opt for a medication abortion. 

That process is safe, but it involves hours of cramping and heavy bleeding, and often lighter bleeding for weeks afterward. 

During Hamlin’s consultations on Wednesday morning, two patients whose pregnancies were early said they were scared of the pills and wanted a surgical abortion. Hamlin said she doesn’t hear that very often, and since the doctor coming in on Friday and Saturday could do the surgeries, she didn’t try to push them to take the pills.

“You want to give people all the choices,” she said. “If just one person does that, no big deal. But if people start coming in for their eight-week, seven-week surgical procedure, pretty soon we’re not going to fit all the 15-weekers in. So it’s always that balance of, how can you help the most people?”

Derenda Hancock, a longtime clinic escort, waits for patients to arrive at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, June 7, 2022.

The war outside the Pink House started years before Hamlin first arrived in Mississippi. 

In the 1980s, Mississippi had more than a dozen abortion clinics. Around the country, the number of providers began to fall as abortion opponents bombed clinics and harassed doctors. States also began imposing strict rules around clinic operations; in 1992, Mississippi passed the country’s first mandatory 24-hour waiting period. 

By the following year, there were only three clinics. And in 2004, the Pink House became the last clinic standing. 

Barbara Beavers, who has protested outside Mississippi’s abortion clinics for decades, remembers those days. She and her husband founded an anti-abortion pregnancy center in 1988. 

At one point, she was a frequent presence outside a building that housed an abortion clinic on the second floor. 

“Maybe a few times I did chase them up the stairs, and say, ‘Come home with us! Come home with us!’” she said, sitting in a camp chair outside the Pink House on Tuesday afternoon. “My husband liberated me to do that, and we’ve had girls in our home.”

“Here, we have to stand here,” she said, reminiscing about the days of easier access to patients. “We have to shout at them for them to hear us.” 

Since Derenda Hancock established the Pink House Defenders in 2013, the volunteers have served as a buffer between patients and the people aiming to dissuade them from entering the clinic. While escorts at other clinics may ignore protesters, the Defenders believe confrontation fights abortion stigma and can help change “the cultural narrative” around abortion.

Since the leaked opinion draft came out in early May, there have been relatively few protesters outside the clinic. Some of them are preaching and passing out supplies in Ukraine. Others, the street preachers, are using the early summer to do yard work. With June being LGBTQ Pride Month, some regulars are busy protesting those events. 

For the escorts, this is a bitter time. Hancock and Kim Gibson, who joined the organization in 2017, have felt for years that this day would come. Now, the world is watching, and it’s too late. 

They’re also exhausted, as the clinic’s operating days have increased from three days a week to five or sometimes six. They guide patients into the parking lot for up to 10 hours at a time while the temperature climbs into the 90s and the shade disappears. 

“We’re just sitting here waiting for the ax,” Hancock said. “It just needs to go ahead.”

When Hamlin started working in Mississippi in 2017, she was motivated by the desire to help people outside of her “pretty nice bubble” in Boston. 

She wanted to practice in a state where access to abortion is limited – so limited that advocates say many people already believe it is illegal here. 

On the morning of Hamlin’s first full day at the clinic, an anti-abortion demonstrator known to the escorts as “Stepper” took up her usual spot down the street from the parking lot entrance. She declined to share her name with Mississippi Today; the nickname comes from her tendency to pace up and down the block as she waits. 

“It’s a lot quieter than I thought it would be,” she said of the period since the leak. “I thought the community would have been all over this. That case is going to put Mississippi on the map.”

Around 9 a.m., a woman wearing a crucifix necklace got out of a car and headed toward the clinic. Stepper called out after her as the driver of the car idled outside the clinic. 

“Do know that God loves you and you can make a different choice,” she said. The woman didn’t look at her. 

“What is this?” asked the woman’s driver, a middle-aged woman who said she works for Uber, while gesturing at the Pink House. The passenger had told her she was going to work. 

“This is an abortion clinic,” Stepper replied.

“I thought they outlawed that,” the driver said.

Brooke Jones poses for a portrait in Pearl, Miss., Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Jones is a nurse at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Brooke Jones, a 28-year-old Jackson native and a nurse at the clinic, spent her afternoon break sitting on the patio with a bag of chips she decided she didn’t want to eat. 

Jones said it feels like everyone at the Pink House is thinking about the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, but not talking about it much. What would she do if Roe were overturned and the clinic closed?

“Cry,” she said. “And not just because this is my job. Because it’s the only clinic in Mississippi.”

Jones has always been pro-choice. She joined the Pink House staff two years ago, thanks to an acquaintance who worked at the clinic and curiosity about what took place there. 

Before that, she worked at group homes for kids. 

“I know the kids they want you to keep and tell you the state is going to help – they treat them like shit,” she said. 

If clinic director Shannon Brewer approves, Jones wants to move to New Mexico to work at the new facility Brewer and Pink House owner Diane Derzis are opening there. She’s made a list of pros and cons, and doesn’t see many cons. It’s a chance to keep doing the work she knows how to do and experience life in a new state. 

In the meantime, she keeps coming to work. Every morning and every afternoon, she walks past the protesters. She’s memorized their lines. 

“‘You can find something else, we can help you, let’s get you something else, you do not need the blood of innocent lives on your hands!’” she recited. “I’m like, ‘shut the hell up.’”

They don’t bother her, but patients sometimes say they were already scared and the protesters made it worse, she said.

Jones gestured toward Beavers, who was sitting in her camp chair by the fence. 

“She’s going to sit there until everybody clocks out and walks to their car,” she said. 

Then Jones went back to work to prepare for the afternoon’s surgical procedures. 

Beavers, a leader of the pregnancy center movement in Mississippi, was hoping to get women to turn toward the Cline Center, a crisis pregnancy center across the street from the clinic, where they could get a free ultrasound. Around the country, these centers aim to dissuade women from seeking abortions and often offer supplies and parenting classes. 

Now, they are the centerpiece of what Gov. Tate Reeves calls a “new pro-life agenda.” 

The state’s nearly 40 centers can receive up to $3.5 million in tax credits thanks to a bill passed in the most recent legislative session. They are not regulated by the state department of health, and there are no rules or reporting requirements on how they spend the money. 

Beavers said that after Roe falls, she wants to see the pro-life movement focus on helping women who have had abortions deal with “this hurt and this pain.” She has been praying for “revival.”

While Beavers has her priorities, Hamlin and those who work with her see a bigger problem to address: the lack of access in Mississippi, the state ranked at the bottom of most health indicators and one of only 12 that has not expanded .

When Hamlin started working in Mississippi, she was shocked to meet so many patients who didn’t have health insurance, which meant they couldn’t afford to see a regular OB-GYN and often weren’t sure how to get or pay for birth control. 

But Beavers doesn’t see much value in paying for people to get health care. 

“We’re giving money to have babies without husbands, in my opinion,” she said. 

“You can get health care in Mississippi,” she continued. “… They’re getting all their money from the government anyhow.”

Around 5 p.m., Beavers packed up and left for her weekly “post-abortion healing meeting” with women who have had abortions. They are told that accepting that they killed their child “is the first step in grieving,” according to a lesson plan Beavers shared.

Not long after Beavers left, a 24-year-old woman walked out of the clinic holding a bag of pills and started down the block toward her car. She had just taken the first pill involved in a medication abortion, and within the next 48 hours she would take the second set. 

“I’m young, and I already have children. I’m a single mother,” she said. “And it’s already basically hard for me. I’ve barely got my head above water, with the high gas prices and basically we’re in a recession, they just don’t want to admit it … I think it would be selfish to bring another child into this world, and I’m knowing that I’m not able, physically or emotionally or mentally.”

Even making $15 an hour, she was just scraping by, she said. 

Growing up in Jackson, she saw the anti-abortion protesters around town from time to time. They once posted up outside her high school with big posters of fetuses, which felt to her like harassment. 

She had mostly managed to ignore them walking into her appointments at the clinic. When she heard them offer help, she didn’t believe it. Would they help her pay for housing and child care? Would they do that for the dozens of people who visited the clinic every week? 

“Y’all don’t know us by a cat or a dog walking down the street,” she said. “When they go home, they’re living comfortably, without a care in the world, besides what’s going on with our bodies.”

If Roe falls, advocates expect the nearest abortion clinic will be in southern Illinois, a seven-hour drive from Jackson. Would she make trip? 

“I would go,” she said. 

A demonstrator stops a car as they arrive at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, June 7, 2022.

Just before 8:45 a.m. on what might end up being her final day working at the clinic, Hamlin turned off State Street and angled into the clinic parking lot. As the escorts waved her to her parking spot, 78-year-old David Lane left his place across the street and walked toward the driveway. 

“Cheryl, you need to quit killing the babies!” he called. “You’ll answer for every child you’ve ever killed. Won’t you repent and quit killing the babies?”

As Hamlin got out of her car, escorts stood nearby, eyeing Lane. Because the protesters aren’t allowed to cross onto clinic property, Lane kept shouting at Hamlin from yards away. 

“We know you make a lot of money, but it won’t do you any good when you’re in a casket and your soul burns in hell for dying as a murderer. Won’t you quit?”

Lane had no megaphone—the protesters who’d left for Ukraine typically brought that. Hamlin couldn’t even hear him, but that didn’t matter to Lane: He shouted at her as a matter of duty and custom. 

Hamlin disappeared into the clinic, and Lane shuffled back to his chair. He understands why the clinic’s doctors must travel from out of state. He helped make it that way. 

“Nobody will do abortions from Mississippi here because they’d get recognized. They don’t like people coming to their house,” he said. “We go to the neighborhoods and tell everybody in the neighborhood what they do. They don’t like that. But if it’ll get rid of them, and it’s legal, we’ll do it.”

The likely closure of the Pink House will change Lane’s life, and that of his brother, Doug, who also protests regularly. Before Doug left for Ukraine two weeks earlier, the brothers were driving down the road together. Doug put his arm around David’s shoulder, and David could tell he was about to cry.

“He said, ‘David, I’m sorry that we didn’t get to do what we planned,’” Lane recalled. “And our daddy raised us hunting and fishing. And what we wanted to do was retire one day, and go hunting and fishing. But now we come here.”

He paused to envision the world after the Court rules in Dobbs. 

“So I’ll, maybe I’ll get to do a little hunting, and maybe I’ll get to do a little fishing.”

Hamlin walked out of the clinic just before 1 p.m. on Thursday. The parking lot was nearly empty. The escorts had left for the day. There were no protesters damning her to hell. 

As she started the 20-minute drive to the airport, she thought about her work in Mississippi and what might come next. 

In what she considered an otherwise standard career, performing abortions in Mississippi had, from the very beginning, felt bold. When she applied for her license to practice here, she almost hoped it wouldn’t arrive. Then it came in the mail.

“I’m like, ‘OK, here we go,’” she said.  

Now, she was questioning how bold she was willing to be.

“I do feel like this is bigger than just abortion rights, and it really scares me,” she said. “And I’m feeling like … for the first time, questioning … How far am I going to take this? Would I do something illegal? I mean, I don’t know. Right now I don’t think I want to. I’m going to try to do everything through legal means. But…”

She paused.

“I guess at some point, if it’s really people’s lives at stake, I might.”

At the rental car drop-off, she got her duffel bag and backpack out of the Honda and retrieved a stray Earl Gray tea bag from the passenger seat. She walked across the parking lot into the airport, up the escalator and past the bust of Medgar Evers to security, a route she’s taken dozens of times before. She finished a can of seltzer, dropped it in a trash can, and headed for home. 

She wasn’t sure when she would be back in Jackson. If Roe falls, the Pink House will close, and she’ll go to New Mexico for her next rotation. 

But during her shift, she asked Brewer if she ought to buy tickets for July, just in case the Court doesn’t overturn Roe. Brewer said yes. So Hamlin left her spare t-shirts, running shoes, shampoo and toothbrush in the doctors’ shared apartment and booked her next trip to Jackson. 

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Thompson tells the world what happened on Jan. 6, 2021


‘An attempted coup’: Rep. Bennie Thompson tells the world what happened on Jan. 6, 2021

The eyes of the world were on Rep. Bennie Thompson, the longtime congressman from Mississippi, on Thursday night as the special House committee he chairs held a prime-time hearing regarding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Thompson’s bipartisan committee began laying out a seven-point case Thursday night they say will show former ’s efforts to overturn his defeat and keep himself in office.

“Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy,” Thompson said. “And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”

The committee showed dramatic of how the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, led the attack on the Capitol. They also heard the emotional testimony of a U.S. Capitol officer who suffered a brain injury during the attack.

“What I saw was a war scene,” said Caroline Edwards, one of the more than 150 officers injured in the rampage. “I saw officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up … I was slipping in people’s blood … it was carnage, it was chaos.”

Before the hearing — broadcast live on nearly every major American network with the exception of Fox News — began, Thompson convened the meeting with a powerful speech.

Below is a transcript of his remarks.

“Thanks to everyone watching tonight for sharing part of your evening, to learn about the facts and causes of the events leading up to and including the violent attack on January 6th, 2021 — on our democracy, electoral system, and country. 

I am Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6, 2021, Committee. I was born, raised and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River. 

I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of , the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021. 

Over the next few weeks, hopefully you will get to know the other members, my colleagues up here, and me. We represent a diversity of communities from all over the United States — rural areas and cities — east coast, west coast, and the heartland. 

All of us have one thing in common: We swore the same oath. The same oath that all members of Congress take upon taking office and afterward every two years if they are reelected. We swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic. 

The words of the current oath taken by all of us — that nearly every United States government employee takes — have their roots in the . Throughout our history, the United States has fought against foreign enemies to preserve our democracy, electoral system, and country. 

When the United States Capitol was stormed and burned in 1814, foreign enemies were responsible. Afterward, in 1862, when American citizens had taken up arms against this country, Congress adopted a new oath to help make sure no person who had supported the rebellion could hold a position of public trust. Therefore, congresspersons and U.S. federal government employees were required for the first time to swear an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic. 

That oath was put to the test on January 6, 2021. 

The police officers who held the line that day honored their oaths. Many came out of that day bloodied and broken. They still bear those wounds, visible and invisible. They did their duty. They repelled the mob and ended the occupation of the Capitol. They defended the Constitution against domestic enemies so that Congress could return, uphold our own oaths, and count your votes to ensure the transfer of power — just as we’ve done for hundreds of years. 

But unlike in 1814, it was domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed and occupied the Capitol, who sought to thwart the will of the people, to stop the transfer of power. And they did so at the encouragement of the president of the United States. The president of the United States, trying to stop the transfer of power — a precedent that had stood for 220 years, even as our democracy has faced its most difficult tests. 

Thinking back again to the Civil War, in the summer of 1864, the president of the United States was staring down what he believed would be a doomed bid for reelection. He believed his opponent, General George McClellan, would wave the white when it came to preserving the Union. 

But even with that grim fate hanging in the balance, President Lincoln was ready to accept the will of the voters, come what may. He made a quiet pledge. He wrote down the words, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the president elect….” It will be my duty. 

Lincoln sealed that memo and asked his cabinet secretaries to sign it, sight unseen. He asked them to make the same commitment he did: to accept defeat if indeed defeat was the will of the people. To uphold the rule of law. To do what every other president who came before him did, and what every president who followed him would do. 

Until Donald Trump. 

Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020. The American people voted him out of office. It was not because of a rigged system. It was not because of voter fraud. Don’t believe me? Hear what his former had to say about it, and I’ll warn those watching that this contains strong language. 

Bill Barr. On Election Day 2020, he was attorney general of the United States — the top law enforcement official in the country, telling the president exactly what he thought about claims of a stolen election.

Donald Trump had his days in court to challenge the results. He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States, law-abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country, that’s the end of the line. 

But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans — your votes, your voice in our democracy — and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended. 

Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy. 

Any legal jargon you hear about “seditious conspiracy,” “obstruction of an official proceeding,” “conspiracy to defraud the United States” boils down to this: January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup. A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, “to overthrow the government.” 

The violence was no . It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power. 

Now, you may hear those words and think, “This is just another political attack on Donald Trump by people who don’t like him.” That’s not the case. My colleagues and I all wanted an outside, independent commission to investigate January 6, similar to what we had after 9/11. 

But after first agreeing to the idea, Donald Trump’s allies in Congress put a stop to it. Apparently, they don’t want January 6 investigated at all. 

And, in the last 17 months, many of those same people have tried to whitewash what happened on January 6 — to rewrite history, call it a tourist visit, label it “legitimate political discourse.” 

Donald Trump and his followers have adopted the words of the songwriter: “Do you believe me or your lying eyes?”

We can’t sweep what happened under the rug. The American people deserve answers. 

So I come before you this evening not as a Democrat, but as an American who swore an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t protect just Democrats or just Republicans. It protects all of us. “We the People.” 

And this scheme was an attempt to undermine the will of the people.”

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson, leading the public Jan. 6 hearings, has long worked to protect democracy

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Rep. Bennie Thompson leads public Jan. 6 hearings


Rep. Bennie Thompson, leading the public Jan. 6 hearings, has long worked to protect democracy

Reuben Anderson, Mississippi’s first African American Supreme Court justice of the modern era, had the responsibility of introducing former President Bill Clinton at the recent memorial ceremony for his longtime friends, Gov. and First Lady William and Elise Winter.

Before making that introduction, Anderson said he wanted to recognize “my congressman.” He described 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson as “the most unusual politician you will ever meet. He is not interested in getting rich. He is not interested in a higher office, and he shuns publicity.”

Reasonable people can differ on whether Anderson was being overly generous of “a fella I have known for over 50 years,” but what is not debatable is that Thompson will not be able to shun publicity this week.

Thompson, the Bolton native who has held the 2nd Congressional District post since 1993, will be at the center of attention as the special committee he chairs holds prime-time hearings beginning Thursday on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by those trying to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election. A big part of the committee’s work centers around the role of former and his allies in the attack.

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson tapped to lead committee investigating Jan. 6 riot

Thursday’s hearing begins at 7 p.m. It and a separate hearing next week will be carried live by most major networks and cable channels — with the notable exception of Fox News.

“I want, as an African American, to be able to say to the world that I helped stabilize our government when insurrectionists tried to take over,” Thompson recently told CNN of the hearings.

Thompson — the dean of the Mississippi congressional delegation and indeed someone who has worked to avoid the limelight — has built his long political career on protecting democracy.

As a young adult in the 1960s, he worked to register African Americans to vote and to ensure votes were counted. Now leading the Jan. 6 Commission, he is effectively doing similar work: ensuring that legally cast votes are counted and that the nation’s representative democracy is protected from any future efforts to overturn the results of an election.

During a 2018 Mississippi Today interview, Thompson recalled in the 1960s as a Tougaloo College political science student working in the Mississippi Delta trying to register people to vote on behalf of icon Fannie Lou Hamer’s congressional bid.

“I was talking to my mother, and she was saying you know we don’t vote here in Bolton,” Thompson recalled. “It was a shock to me that I was up in Sunflower County helping register Black people to vote, and even in my hometown they didn’t enjoy the same luxury.”

Thompson’s auto mechanic father, who died in 1964 — the same year of passage of the federal Rights Act designed to ensure racial minorities were not denied the right to vote — never got to vote. His mother, a schoolteacher, did, and most likely her first vote cast was for her son when he ran and was elected to the board of aldermen in his hometown of Bolton in 1969.

While Thompson won that election, it took a ruling of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to ensure victory for him and for two other African Americans elected that year in Bolton.

Thursday’s Jan. 6 Commission hearings could be viewed as a continuation of Bennie Thompson’s life’s work in terms of trying to ensure fair elections.

“I’m a passionate believer that in a democracy you have to follow the rule of law,” Thompson recently told NPR. “It has nothing to do with individuals. It has nothing to do with wealth. It has nothing to do with status in the community. It’s the law. The law is colorblind.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Will Trump endorse in GOP midterm runoffs?


Trump coming to Mississippi. Will he endorse in GOP midterm runoffs?

Former , headlining his “American Freedom Tour,” is to be in Southaven on June 18.

This visit comes ahead of Mississippi’s June 28 GOP primary runoffs, with two incumbent Republican congressmen struggling to keep their seats. With Trump remaining popular with Mississippi Republicans, his endorsement in either race could be a deciding factor for incumbents or challengers.

Incumbent Rep. Michael Guest trailed Republican challenger Michael Cassidy in unofficial results from Tuesday 46.6% to 47.8%, forcing a runoff with no candidate breaking 50%. Cassidy, a former Navy pilot, tried to to the right of Guest, including criticizing Guest for with Democrats to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by those trying to overturn Trump’s loss to .

Incumbent Rep. Steven Palazzo is headed to a runoff with Sheriff Mike Ezell. Palazzo led Ezell 31.6% to 25.2% in unofficial results, with the two topping a crowded field of Republican challengers to Palazzo. Palazzo drew numerous challengers in part because he has faced an ethics investigation over allegations he misspent campaign and congressional money and misused his office.

Trump’s only endorsement in Tuesday’s Mississippi midterm primaries was for incumbent 1st District Rep. Trent , who handily won his primary with 90% of the vote.

Trump carried Mississippi with 58% of the vote in 2020, and to date, candidates he has endorsed and campaigned for here — including Gov. Tate Reeves and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith twice — have won. On Tuesday, all 16 candidates he endorsed for midterm primaries held by seven states won, although most were, like Kelly, strongly favored to win.

Trump’s American Freedom Tour event is billed as being for Memphis on the group’s website, but is set to be held at the Landers Center in Southaven on June 18 from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event includes some free access with pre-registration required, but also includes special paid access and seating ranging from $1,295 for the “chamber” level to $3,995 for the presidential level.

The daylong event schedule includes roundtable discussions, meet-and-greet and photo ops and speeches. Speakers include Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., former Secretary of Mike Pompeo, conservative commentators and authors Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Two of four U.S. House incumbents face runoffs


Two of Mississippi’s four U.S. House incumbents face runoffs

Two of Mississippi’s four incumbent U.S. House members on Tuesday were forced into June 28 runoffs with challengers.

Neither Michael Guest, representing the 3rd Congressional District based in central Mississippi, nor Steven Palazzo, representing ’s 4th Congressional District, could garner a majority in the Republican Party needed to avoid the runoff.

While it was expected that Palazzo would face a tough re-election campaign in a six-candidate primary field, Guest’s troubles were more surprising.

Based on late but incomplete results, it Guest will finish second in the three-candidate field. Michael Cassidy, a former Navy pilot who now lives in Meridian, was leading with 47.8% of the vote to 46.6% for Guest.

Guest, a former district attorney representing Rankin and Madison counties in suburban Jackson, is seeking his third two-year term.

The upstart Cassidy ran an aggressive campaign, loaning himself more than $200,000 to challenge Guest. He especially focused his campaign on the fact that Guest was the only member of Mississippi’s Republican congressional delegation to vote in favor of creating a special congressional commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. That attack was carried out by those trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Cassidy’s campaign has been aided by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign data specialist, who has been a leading voice in trying to perpetuate the myth that Trump won the election.

Cassidy held his own in Guest’s home turf in the Jackson metro area and dominated the vote count in the Meridian area and in many rural counties on the eastern side of the district.

In south Mississippi, Palazzo was leading Sheriff Mike Ezell 31.6% to 25.2% in late — but also incomplete — results.

Palazzo, a former House member who first was elected to the U.S. House in 2010, was believed to be vulnerable because of an ethics investigation over accusations he spent campaign funds on personal expenses. Palazzo has repaid some funds to his campaign and it appears that Palazzo will survive the investigation, though it is far from a given that he will succeed in his reelection effort.

Palazzo was the top vote-getter in most of the counties in the district, but not by wide enough margins to avoid the runoff.

Mississippi’s other two incumbents — Democrat Bennie Thompson of the 2nd District and Republican Trent of the 1st District — won by comfortable margins.

Thompson, the chair of the Jan. 6 Commission, won with 96% of the vote, while Kelly, a former district attorney in northeast Mississippi, garnered 90% of the vote.

All winners of this summer’s party primaries will face opposition in the November general election. The 2nd District, which includes much of the Jackson area and nearly all of the western side of the state along the Mississippi River, is viewed as a safe Democratic district while the other three are viewed as safe for Republicans.

It appears the Republican primary in the 2nd District will head to a runoff between Brian Flowers and Ronald Elder.

Diane Black was an easy winner of a two-candidate field in the 1st District Democratic primary, while Democrat Shuwaski Young ran unopposed in the 3rd. Johnny DuPree, a former Hattiesburg mayor and former candidate for governor and secretary of state, handily won a two-candidate race in the Democratic primary in the 4th District.

Primary runoff elections will be held June 28. The general election, pitting primary winners against one another, will be held on Nov. 8.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Wicker scoffs at Justice Thomas’ possible conflicts of interest


Wicker says leak could harm Supreme Court, but scoffs at Clarence Thomas’ possible conflicts of interest

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, believes the leak of the draft decision revoking a nationwide right to an is “an attack on a key institution” and “threatens (the) independence of the Court.”

But by Wicker’s estimation, the alleged conflict of interest created by Supreme Court Justice Clarence ruling on cases involving his wife Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and election denier, is no big deal and does nothing to hurt the Supreme Court.

“I’m not concerned about Justice Thomas and I disagree that there are apparent conflicts as you assert. His service to date has been beyond reproach,” Wicker said in response to a question from Mississippi Today.

The senior senator from Mississippi went on to add, “Mrs. Ginni Thomas is a free American entitled to her own views. She does not surrender her rights based on who her husband is.”

No one, of course, is questioning Ginni Thomas’ right to have a personal or public life of her own. What is at issue is whether Clarence Thomas, as one of the nation’s nine most powerful members of the judiciary, should be ruling on issues surrounding his wife’s public life.

Earlier this year, Thomas was the only member of the nation’s highest court to rule against releasing correspondence from the White House to a commission established by the U.S. House to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 presidential election.

That commission is chaired by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is the lone Democrat in Mississippi’s congressional delegation. It is of note than Wicker voted against forming the commission.

It is hard to fathom that when Thomas ruled on the case, he was not aware of his wife’s email correspondence with the White House in which she urged members of ’s team to do all they could to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

While Wicker sees no problems with the Thomases, he said if the draft opinion overturning was leaked by a Supreme Court law clerk, that person should be disbarred. If it was a Supreme Court justice who leaked the draft opinion, that justice should be impeached, Wicker said.

“This leak will severely damage that trust, putting at risk the ability of our nation’s highest court to function,” Wicker said in a commentary. “It will also set a disturbing precedent of inciting mob pressure to intimidate the justices before they issue a decision.”

On a conservative show, Wicker said, “I think Democrats and Republicans should have denounced the leak. So far it has only come from our side.”

Many believe both Republicans and Democrats also should be speaking up in favor of placing guidelines on Supreme Court justices for dealing with conflict of interest issues. There are guidelines for recusal from cases that judges are supposed to follow. But the Supreme Court is not bound by those guidelines.

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges that apparently does not apply to Supreme Court justices says, “A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.”

Perhaps such a code also should apply to the nine most powerful judges in the nation — those who make up the Supreme Court.

Fix the Court, a nonprofit advocacy group, cites about 60 alleged ethics violations by Supreme Court justices in recent years, including Thomas’ possible conflicts of interest related to his wife and other justices accepting gifts and travel from groups that might appear before the court.

“At a time when the Supreme Court has outsized power — over our personal privacy and decisions, over who can vote and who wins elections, over who can marry and who can unionize, and so much more — it is critical that the branch, including those at its apex, are subject to transparency and accountability rules that measure up to its might,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court.

Legislation is currently being considered by Congress that will address some of those conflict of interest issues facing the Supreme Court and will provide more transparency.

Whether that legislation will receive support from Republicans like Roger Wicker remains to be seen.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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