Florida election official Brenda Snipes’ constitutional rights violated when she was suspended, judge rules

Former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes may be getting redeemed, as a Florida federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Gov. and current Sen. Rick Scott violated her constitutional rights when he suspended and “vilified” her without first allowing her to make her own case.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said newly inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis must grant Snipes a “meaningful opportunity to be heard” regarding her suspension by March 31.

Snipes came under fire during the contentious recount that followed the 2018 elections and a legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate.

In the aftermath of the November election, Snipes said she would resign on Jan. 4, but Scott immediately suspended her. Snipes then tried to rescind her resignation and challenged the governor’s suspension as “malicious” and politically motivated.

Walker ruled that Scott’s decision was an “effective termination” and violated Snipes’ due-process rights. The judge also said Scott’s order suspending Snipes contained “falsehoods.”

Still, Walker said he did not have the authority to reinstate Snipes, writing that the court was “not determining what the ultimate outcome will or should be.”

Snipes sued both Scott and the GOP-controlled Florida Senate. The lawsuit named the Senate because that chamber’s Republican leader said there wasn’t time to investigate the allegations against Snipes before her resignation took effect. Florida law requires the Senate to either remove or reinstate county officials suspended by the governor.

Snipes had been the top elections official in Broward County since 2003, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her. She had been elected three times and her current term was not scheduled to end until 2020.

Attorneys for Scott had argued the governor had the authority to remove her from office. Neither Scott nor DeSantis immediately responded to requests for comment on the decision.

Scott suspended Snipes for misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty, and appointed his former general counsel to take her place. In his executive order, Scott cited problems during the recount, including reports of more than 2,000 ballots being misplaced.

Snipes’ attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, contended that some of the problems cited by Scott were not caused by her client.

Daniel Nordby, who has been Scott’s general counsel, said the governor took action when he did because he “determined the people of Broward County deserved a supervisor of elections” who could prepare for upcoming spring municipal elections in a “competent manner.”

Second death, more accusations sharpen focus on Ed Buck, California Democratic megadonor

Democratic Party megadonor Ed Buck faces new questions this week after Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives opened an investigation into the second death of a man — identified by a medical examiner as 55-year-old Timothy Dean — at Buck’s home in less than two years, and a third man came forward with an account of what he described as his drug-fueled interactions with the well-connected Californian.

Deputies in West Hollywood responded early Monday morning to a report of a person not breathing at Buck’s home, and county firefighters pronounced the man dead. The cause of the death will be determined by the coroner, according to Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department.

But, critics are questioning whether Buck’s race — both men found dead were black — or if his wealth or political ties to the Democratic Party influenced an initial investigation of the 64-year-old who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to a slew of liberal causes and candidates over the years, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and a who’s who of top California politicians.

“He definitely has not been cooperative, as his attorney says. He refused to answer any questions when I tried speaking with him,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Investigator Quilmes Rodriguez told Fox News via email Wednesday night.

Officials said the investigation of the second death will include a review of Gemmel Moore’s death in 2017. After a slow-moving investigation that went on for months, Buck was not charged.

“On July 27, 2017 there was a death investigation of a male adult, Gemmel Moore, who was determined to have overdosed at the same location. Mr. Edward Buck was present during both incidents,” said a recent statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck gave Moore drugs or is responsible for his death in a document dated July 26 obtained by Fox News. An autopsy report said Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, The Daily Mail published an account by Jermaine Gagnon, a 28-year-old who claimed he narrowly escaped death in Buck’s apartment. Gagnon claimed to have met Buck online in April 2018 and said the Democratic megadonor flew him from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

“He was quite open about being very generous to the black community,” Gagnon said. “I’m his type, and pretty much half of the black community is his type — vulnerable, depressed. If you’re in a depressive state, that’s the energy that feeds him.”

Gagnon claims Buck injected him with crystal methamphetamine at his sex toy-filled apartment.

“He took my phone. I was so scared. I felt death walked into my soul. I called my mother. I said, ‘I feel like he’s going to kill me, I think I’m going to die,” he told The Daily Mail.

Following the discovery of the body Monday morning at Buck’s apartment, his attorney, Seymour Amster, said his client has not been arrested and is cooperating with investigators.

“From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” Amster said. “The person came over intoxicated.”

Amster, however, did not return Fox News’ emails and phone calls about the Gagnon report.

Tom Steyer, billionaire anti-Trump activist, says he won’t run for president but vows $40M impeachment push

Billionaire Tom Steyer, the outspoken liberal megadonor and former hedge fund manager who has led a campaign for President Trump’s immediate impeachment, will not run for president in 2020, he announced Wednesday.

Instead, Steyer, who spoke at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, declared that he will undertake and oversee a laundry list of activities in 2019 aimed at removing Trump from office.

“Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for president,” Steyer said in his prepared remarks. “But I am proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to remove a president.”

Among Steyer’s goals: a “multi-million dollar digital initiative aimed at informing the public and members of Congress about the 10 impeachable offenses that Trump has already committed,” town halls across the country, and even an “impeachment summit in late January that will bring more than 250 supporters from across the country to D.C. together to learn about historical precedent for impeachment.”

That summit, Steyer promised, would be followed by an “advocacy day that will include impeachment summit participants fanning out across Capitol Hill to hand deliver articles of impeachment drafted by legal scholars to members of Congress with the simple message: ‘We did half the work, now it’s up to you to finish the job.'”

Steyer vowed in a statement to “spend 100% of his time and energy focused on removing Donald Trump from power” through the group Need to Impeach, which he founded in October 2017. He committed to spending $40 million on the effort to have Trump removed from office in 2019.

“This is the biggest issue in American politics today,” Steyer said in his speech Wednesday. “We have a lawless president in the White House who is eroding our democracy and it is only going to get worse. Donald Trump’s removal from power ultimately decides whether or not we can tackle every other challenge we face in America — and whether or not we continue to live in a democracy of, for, and by the people. It is past time for members of Congress to fulfill their constitutional duty. The question remaining is, what will Congress do?”

Steyer had been considered by many analysts to be a potential contender for the White House, and had taken apparent steps in that direction. In recent months he ran television advertisements in which he appeared personally to call for Trump’s removal, appeared at numerous political events, and even named a potential campaign manager.

In early December, Steyer laid the groundwork for a political platform, speaking alongside a panel in Charleston, S.C., at one of five scheduled town halls. Each event focused on the “Five Rights” of his potential campaign platform, which he called the “social contract for the 21st century.”

While some analysts feared his wealth and lack of political experience would alienate progressives, Steyer had an extensive array of advisers and strategists at the ready, owing in part to his longstanding involvement in national politics.

In 2013 he founded NextGen America, a political action committee and nonprofit working to combat climate change.