On Thursday, President Joe Biden nominated Phoenix attorney Roopali Desai as a candidate for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Desai is best known for her election law work. Some of Desai’s most prominent recent work included her representation of the Arizona Secretary of State’s office after the 2020 general election. Desai served on Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ transition team from December 2018 to January 2019.
In court filings to the Arizona Republican Party’s challenge to the state’s mail-in early voting system, Desai characterized challenges to election integrity as “legally baseless” means to an end of restricting voter rights. In her work, she echoed progressive challenges to election integrity doubts as a threat to democracy.
“Their claims are part of a broader ongoing effort to sow doubt about our electoral process to justify infringing voting rights,” wrote Desai.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruled earlier this month that mail-in voting didn’t violate the state constitution.
Desai also sued to stop the State Senate’s Cyber Ninjas-led audit on behalf of the Arizona Democratic Party. That lawsuit failed; Desai then sued for open records access to the audit. That case is still underway.
Desai also served as counsel for Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) successful challenge to the state’s mask mandate ban last November, a ruling that overturned a number of laws tied to the state budget.
On other school matters, Desai defended a challenge to Prop 305 in 2017 — a ballot initiative brought by Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS), a public school activist organization opposing school choice expansion. Voters rolled back school choice expansion through the ballot initiative in November 2018. Desai joined SOS’s board of directors in January 2019, and has served on it since.
Desai wrote the 100-word ballot initiative summary for Prop 208, then defended challenges to it. The Arizona Supreme Court sided with Desai on the ballot initiative summary. However, the Maricopa County Superior Court struck down Prop 208 as unconstitutional in March.
Desai also wrote the 100-word ballot initiative summary for Prop 207, which legalized marijuana for adults over 21 years old.
In the past, Desai served as legal counsel for the campaigns of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona (PFFAZ), and the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.
USA Today named Desai one of their 12 national honorees for 2022 Women of the Year. Desai is also a professor of practice with the University of Arizona (UArizona) James E. Rogers College of Law. Desai earned her bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from UArizona, later earning her Master of Public Health and a law degree from the university.
Along with Desai, Biden’s circuit court nominees were Eastern District of Louisiana Judge Dana Douglas for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Department of Justice (DOJ) Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bradley Garcia for the D.C. Circuit.
Biden’s latest district court nominees were Puerto Rico District Court Clerk María del Antongiori-Jordán for Puerto Rico District Court, Puerto Rico Court of Appeals Judge Gina Méndez-Miró to the Puerto Rico District Court, Puerto Rico District Court Magistrate Judge Camille Vélez-Rivé for Puerto Rico District Court, and attorney Jerry Blackwell for the Minnesota District Court.
Earlier this month, the Arizona Democratic Party hired a new staffer, Josselyn Berry, known for her support of defunding police and the infamous cop killer and FBI Most Wanted Terrorist, Assata Shakur. After escaping from prison, Shakur received political asylum in Cuba where she resides currently.
Up until recently, Berry served as the communications director for the Arizona State Senate Democratic Caucus. She assumed that role in March 2020. It was less than two months into that job and several days after George Floyd’s death that she quoted Shakur, whose remarks were loosely paraphrasing the final sentences in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ Communist Manifesto.
The Arizona Senate Democrats also shared the quote on their Twitter feed. They later removed the offending tweet and issued a formal apology after it stoked controversy. Berry didn’t delete her tweet.
In their apology statement, the Arizona Senate Democrats claimed ignorance of Shakur’s criminal history and status as a wanted terrorist.
“This is a quote used frequently in social justice and activism circles and we know her as an author and well-known commentator on civil rights. Yet it has come to our attention her past criminal conviction and current status,” wrote the Arizona Senate Democrats. “The use of the quote was not intended as an endorsement, but to emphasize issues of social justice and we regret the inclusion of the quote, but stand by the rest of the statement. We remain focused on the murder of Black Americans and finding solutions to address systemic racism in this country.”
Berry graduated from Arizona State University’s (ASU) Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she was also a Barrett, The Honors College student.
One of the most prominent lawyers for the Democratic Party (DNC), Marc Elias, announced last Friday that he submitted a motion to intervene in a case challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s no-excuse mail-in voting system. Elias filed on behalf of the Senate Democrats (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and the Arizona Democratic Party in the case Arizona Republican Party v. Hobbs.
Not only does Elias specialize in election litigation, he’s been involved in the elections themselves. His December 2017 testimony detailed his role in Hillary Clinton’s Russigate hoax: how he came to hire the intelligence firm Fusion-GPS for the DNC and Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, who then ordered the debunked dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and sourced by analyst Igor Danchenko, a Russian citizen who resided in Virginia. The FBI arrested Danchenko for the “Steele dossier” early last November.
Elias could be considered a fixture within the Democratic Party establishment. The Jewish New York native worked with the DNC since 1993, notably serving as general counsel for two of the last three Democratic presidential candidates’ campaigns: John Kerry in 2004, then Hillary Clinton in 2016. Elias also followed former President Barack Obama from his days in the Senate all the way to the White House, earning a distinction by 2011 relayed in a Politico profile of being Obama’s “top lawyer.” Although lawyer Bob Bauer was technically Obama’s general counsel, Elias was a critical player.
Those are just the biggest names in American politics — the entire Democratic Party reportedly relies on Elias as their “go-to lawyer.” This was confirmed by fellow establishment members of the Democratic Party, such as former Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairman, Obama advisor, and Biden campaign counsel Robert Lenhard.
“For members of the House and Senate, there is no Democratic-side campaign finance lawyer who is more important than Marc Elias. That is without a doubt,” Lenhard told Politico. “While Bob Bauer served as White House counsel, Marc led that practice group and it thrived under his tutelage.”
Elias has been on all sides of the 2020 presidential election controversy, a predictable involvement considering his decades of redistricting fights, post-election litigation, and work with Big Tech giants Facebook and Google. Elias earned Google a win to effectively manipulate its search results with preferred candidates through its pay-per-click advertisement system, AdWords. The woman behind AdWords, Sheryl Sandberg, was picked up by Facebook in 2008.
Elias founded Democracy Docket on March 5, 2020, a Democratic Party voting advocacy group formed about a week after former President Donald Trump declared the ongoing national state of emergency over COVID-19. Democracy Docket operates out of Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, the group has been involved in nearly 330 cases, 150 of which they’ve won.
Last August, Elias left his legal firm of 28 years, Perkins Coie, to form his own: Elias Law Group.
Elias pledged to sue Arizona if the state legislature approves certain election integrity laws, such as: HB2596, which never made it to committee; HB2238, which passed the House and has yet to be considered in a Senate committee; HB2237, which passed the House and will soon be considered on the Senate floor; SB1058, approved by a Senate committee last month but not yet considered on the Senate floor; HB2170, which passed the House but has yet to be considered by a Senate committee; and HB2243, which passed the House and will soon be considered on the Senate floor.
The Arizona Democratic Party accepted $10,000 ahead of the 2020 election from Chamath Palihapitiya — co-owner of California’s NBA team, the Golden State Warriors — who made viral remarks over the weekend that neither he or anybody else cares about the Uyghur genocide, and that the United States is no better than China. He further stated that he doesn’t believe China is a dictatorship, and dismissed claims that the Uyghur concentration camps are comparable to the Holocaust. Palihapitiya explained that he defends the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) because he doesn’t believe in moral absolutism.
AZ Free News inquired with the Arizona Democrats about Palihapitiya’s remarks and his donation. They didn’t respond to us by press time.
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay?” said Palihapitiya. “The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things I care about, yes, it is below my line.”
Palihapitiya said that if an issue isn’t at the forefront of someone’s mind, then it isn’t considered caring. He said he cared more about the supply chain crisis, climate change, our flagging health care infrastructure, and how China’s potential plan to invade Taiwan may capsize our economy. He insisted that prioritizing human rights over tactical, strategic issues and believing that every individual is entitled to a basic set of human rights is a “luxury belief.”
“If you’re asking me, do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us. And I think a lot of people believe that, and I’m sorry if that’s a hard truth to hear, but every time I say that I ‘care about the Uyghurs,’ I’m really just lying if I don’t really care. It’s not a priority for me.” said Palihapitiya. “The reason I believe it’s a luxury belief is because we don’t do enough domestically to actually express that view in real, tangible ways. So until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with us sort of morally virtue signaling about somebody else’s human rights track record is deplorable. Look at the number of black and brown men that are incarcerated for absolutely ridiculous crimes.”
Palihapitiya is also the CEO of Social Capital, a California-based venture capital company, and the board of directors chairman of Virgin Galactic, a California-based spaceflight company founded by Virgin Group founder and business mogul Richard Branson.
Following Palihapitiya’s remarks, Virgin Galactic’s stock price was halved.
Since 2020, Palihapitiya has increased the frequency of his sizable campaign contributions. Prior to that, he gave selectively. While working for Facebook in 2011, Palihapitiya donated $5,000 to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). From 2011 to 2019, Palihapitiya would go on to donate to various Democratic candidates, giving $30,700 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 and $5,000 to Florida Democrats in 2018. Then in 2020, Palihapitiya decided to give nearly $180,000 to Democrats’ state organizations. Over $5,300 each went to Alabama, West Virginia, Kansas, Vermont, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Delaware, New Jersey, New York.
The Arizona Democratic Party was just one state to receive the bigger $10,000 allotments of Palihapitiya’s 2020 donations to state parties, alongside North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, and New Hampshire.
President Joe Biden’s campaign received a total of $255,600 from Palihapitiya.
Following outcry, Palihapitiya walked back on his remarks. He tweeted a brief explanation sans apology, and insisted that he believes in the importance of human rights. Palihapitiya didn’t mention the Uyghurs in his explanatory statement.
“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely,” wrote Palihapitiya. “As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”
Although the entire scope of the Uyghurs’ situation remains shrouded in secrecy under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), evidence has surfaced that the Uyghurs have been subjected to a myriad of nearly all conceivable human rights abuses while imprisoned in concentration camps for “re-education,” including: forced sterilization and abortion, torture, sexual abuse and rape, forced labor, and even death.
Ahead of the anniversary of January 6, the Arizona Democratic Party’s (ADP) tone concerning the fateful rally-turned-riot shifted from somber to opportunistic. The ADP sent out a fundraising email this week requesting $10 or more donations to flip voters like the January 6 incident did, they said.
The ADP informed recipients that over 20,000 Arizona voters switched from Republican to Democrat following the January 6 riot, which they referred to as an insurrection. They emphasized the importance of financing their grassroots efforts ahead of Thursday’s anniversary.
“Starting today, just before the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, we’re using our Project 15/30 organizing program to reach out to every single one of those 20,000. We want to thank them for their courage and for standing up for our democracy,” read the email. “Team, efforts like this show that through Project 15/30, we’re fighting for every single vote in AZ. But running special programs like this takes people and resources to work. Can you donate $10 today so voter outreach programs like this one are successful?”
Project 15/30 intends to increase voter registration and strengthen party numbers in the 15 counties and 30 legislative districts across Arizona. The ADP launched the initiative early last August.
ADP’s latest messaging conflicts with its previous rhetoric on the subject of the Capitol Hill riot. Throughout last year, the ADP honored the Capitol police officers that responded to the break-in.
“We will never forget the events that took place in our Capitol on January 6, 2021,” wrote the state affiliate. “We stand with the heroic officers who risked their lives.”
The ADP also called for the punishment of Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04) repeatedly.
President Joe Biden plans to give an address on Thursday to commemorate last year’s riot. During the White House daily briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki promised that President Joe Biden would speak extensively on how former President Donald Trump was solely to blame for the January 6 riot.
“The president is going to speak to the truth of what happened, not the lies that some have spread since — and the peril opposed to rule of law and our system of democratic governance. He will also speak to the work that we need to strengthen our democracy and our institutions to reject the hatred and lies we saw on January 6 to unite our country. I’d also note that President Biden has been clear-eyed about the threat the former president represents to our democracy and how the former president works to undermine basic American values and rule of law. And President Biden has spoken repeatedly about how the president has abused his office, undermined the Constitution, and ignored his oath to the American people in an effort to amass more power for himself and his allies. He sees January 6 as the tragic culmination of what those four years under President Trump did to our country and they reflected the importance to the President of winning. What he has called many times the battle for the soul of our nation. So just as you heard him say on January 6 of last year, I would expect that President Biden will lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility that President Trump has for the chaos and carnage we saw, and he will forcibly push back on the lies spread by the former president in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters, as well as in respect to his role in what happened.”
Psaki couldn’t answer as to whether Biden will call out Trump by name because they were finalizing the speech.