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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: biden

Biden Tells McCarthy To Do His Budget Homework

President Joe Biden and Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy are set to meet Wednesday, a meeting that is not going to be a debt ceiling negotiation. Biden made that very clear Monday, telling CNN that his message on that is simple: “show me your budget and I’ll show you mine.”

To reinforce that, White House advisers Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, released a memo Tuesday to “interested parties.” There are two questions Biden will pose at the meeting, Deese and Young write: “Will the Speaker commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligation,” and “When will Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans release their Budget?”

“Any serious conversation about economic and fiscal policy needs to start with a clear understanding of the participants’ goals and proposals,” Deese and Young conclude. “Speaker McCarthy and his Caucus need to transparently lay out to the American people their fiscal and economic proposals in the normal budget process.”

They backed Biden’s position up in the memo, saying that the White House will release its budget proposal to Congress on March 9. “The budget will show how the President plans to invest in American, continue to lower costs for families, protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and reduce the deficit—with tables and numbers shown exactly how his economic and fiscal policies add up to achieve these goals.”

Well that’s a fun little escalation since the GOP House has been notorious for releasing plans that simply don’t add up. What they want from McCarthy is their 2024 budget blueprint that has numbers. “So far,” they write ”House Republicans have offered up detailed plans to increase the deficit with tax policies that would benefit the wealthiest Americans. … [I]n seeking their majority this fall and doing the first few weeks of holding it, House Republicans have already voted on, supported, or proposed numerous ideas that would increase the debit by trillions of dollars over the next decade.”

McCarthy replied with all the arrogance and bluster of someone dense enough to believe that he has actual power that it didn’t take 15 votes and capitulation to a bunch of maniacs for him to get the title.

But back to the first question on the White House memo, because right now it’s key: whether McCarthy will commit to avoiding a default on federal debt. In fact, instead of working on a budget, Republicans are still working on a default plan.

Read that again. They are planning for a default.

They don’t see default as a thing that has to be avoided. They are ready to go there to force their will. The House GOP has an ally in Sen. Rick Scott, who is apparently still trying to wrest control over there from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has a bill requiring the government to continue to make payments on Treasury bonds, Social Security benefits, military salaries, and veterans benefits in a breach. He told Semafor that his bill would “ensure the U.S. ‘takes care of its core obligations’ while giving lawmakers the ‘limited time they may need to solve the problems before us.’”

This is the “debt prioritization” scheme that they floated back in 2011, when a number of Republicans and the Treasury determined that that is a thing that just can’t happen. “After looking at it, we came to the conclusion in the McConnell operation this doesn’t work—and there are essentially some political downsides to it,” Rohit Kumar, who for McConnell during the 2011 and 2013 fights, told Semafor.

Moody’s Analytics is warning that even if some obligations like Social Security were met, so much more would cease to function in the safety net: food assistance, Medicaid, housing support. The resolution “hit to the economy as these government spending cuts cascade through the economy would be overwhelming,” Moody’s said.

Beyond that, there’s basic logistics. The technical capacity for the government to reconfigure software to pick and choose what payments are made and cut those checks simply isn’t there. “They receive millions of invoices every week to produce millions of payments and they’re generally paid sequentially and they can’t be categorized very easily into Social Security gets paid, [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] doesn’t get paid,” economist Brian Riedl said. “They’re just not programmed to do that.” Reidl worked for Sen. Rob Portman in the previous rounds, and studied the proposal then.

It also will look really bad, Riedl pointed out. “Chinese bondholders get paid before school lunches. Chinese bondholders get paid before border security,” Riedl said. “The attack ads write themselves.”

That’s going to make a lot of House Republicans who aren’t maniacs fretful, and McCarthy can’t afford to lose any of them. Even he should be smart enough to realize he is going into this process with a very weak hand.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Why Biden And Pence Document Cases Shouldn't Deter Trump Prosecution (VIDEO)

Several mainstream media outlets are manufacturing a political narrative that the discovery of classified documents at the homes of both President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence should alleviate pressure on disgraced former President Donald Trump, who not only took a vast trove of federal records but also refused to give them back.

Biden and Pence have both cooperated with federal investigators to recover and return documents that belong to the government, and both situations have rekindled scrutiny at the overall system of federal document classification and retention, which appears to be in serious need of reform. Their two examples stand in stark contrast to Trump’s behavior, and possible misconduct, regarding his own handling of government records.

According to reporting, Trump repeatedly obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve documents inappropriately removed from the White House to his home in Florida. First, his legal team tried to excuse their mishandling of records by claiming the documents had been hastily packed away after his failed coup, before they later falsely told the government that they had returned all of the documents upon request. Evidence later emerged that Trump or his team were moving documents around his estate to evade discovery, as part of Trump’s ongoing defiance of a federal subpoena to return the materials.

This was the context of events that culminated in an August 2022 search of Trump’s residence by the FBI, which recovered hundreds of classified items among thousands of other government records. Trump then responded to these events by falsely claiming the government records were his personal property and that he had actually declassified the relevant materials, as well as making multiple threats of violence via his supporters if he were ever indicted for his potentially criminal behavior.

No Reason To Be “Evenhanded” In Wildly Different Cases

CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, who co-authored the network’s original breaking story in the Pence case, pointed out Wednesday night on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer that “the Justice Department, this is Merrick Garland’s Justice Department, they want to appear evenhanded, as if they are treating all of these cases the same.” However, she added: “I think it is important to remember the Donald Trump case and the Joe Biden case and the Mike Pence case are very, very different. Trump had hundreds of documents. The intent, the obstruction, not — you know, holding on to these documents — is vastly different from how the Biden team reacted and cooperated.”

The problem here is that Gangel herself, and many others in mainstream media, spent crucial time this week saying that the Biden and Pence cases may both influence the Justice Department against taking any real action against Trump.

Reporters Suggest Trump Is Now Off The Hook Legally

Gangel had previously asserted multiple times that the Pence and Biden cases together could help Trump’s legal situation, despite the clear and obvious differences. For example, Gangel appeared on the January 24 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and proclaimed that “even though his situation is completely different” the disgraced ex-president would gain some legal cover from the discovery of documents at Pence’s home.

Gangel later appeared during The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, where both she and CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt discussed the key differences of Trump’s obstruction versus Pence’s and Biden’s cooperation. “What we've seen thus far with both Biden and with Pence is vastly different from Donald Trump,” Gangel said, “who at the very least seemed to want to take all of these things as souvenirs or for whatever, and then wouldn’t give them back.”

But later that night, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360, Gangel again said that these developing stories could help Trump, even as she reiterated his pattern of obstruction: “He clearly wanted to keep those things as souvenirs or for whatever and fought giving them back. But it may help him legally. So, you know, the issue of intent, which we've looked at with Trump. It just may be that Merrick Garland decides that there are so many of these cases that the Justice Department may decide not to bring charges.”

Gangel is not alone among CNN commentators promoting this argument. Former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tom Dupree said Tuesday that for the special counsels in both the Trump and Biden cases, “I don't see how you can help but factor in what’s going on with Pence as a calculus in your determination” as to whether to recommend criminal charges, adding, “Any distinctions among the situations of the three main players, I think are going to be lost on a large fraction of the American public.” (Dupree's assessment that the public won’t understand the basic differences in these three cases could be read as a stinging indictment of the reporting provided by CNN and other news outlets.)

CNN political analyst Margaret Talev also proclaimed, “I think, Pence revelations aside, the drip, drip of the Biden discoveries does defuse this issue, takes it off the table as a real weapon to use against Trump.” (Talev never actually explained why the Biden situation would act as a buffer for Trump.)

The New York Times also ran an article Tuesday comparing the Biden and Trump cases, effectively disregarding the relevant facts that distinguish them.

Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker noted that the “cases are markedly different in their particulars, as has been noted repeatedly,” contrasting Biden’s cooperation with Trump’s obstruction. He continued, however: “But they are similar enough that as a practical matter Democrats can no longer use the issue against Mr. Trump politically, and investigators may have a harder time prosecuting him criminally.”

After proclaiming that the Biden case would neutralize any political attacks against Trump, the article briefly mentioned the emerging Pence case, arguing that people following the news would be led to believe misbehavior on the scale we saw from Trump was commonplace: “The public perception that everyone does it will only be fueled by the latest discovery of classified documents at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.”

As the Pence story further developed on Tuesday, The Associated Press joined the chorus of false equivalency, misleadingly claiming “While a very different case, the Pence development could bolster the arguments of Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the significance of the discoveries at their homes.”

Yet another AP article Wednesday morning sought to present a further false equivalence of scandals between the Trump and Biden camps, even as it included the glaring differences:

Trump, a Republican, took it as an affront that the government came searching his quarters for classified material he wasn’t supposed to have, even though he fought efforts to reclaim them for months, and the government was forced to issue a subpoena to get them. Aides to Biden, a Democrat, say they cooperated quickly and fully when such material was found at a former office in Washington, though they waited for months to make public what had happened.

The obvious fact should be that the Pence and Biden cases are more alike, and in turn both are “very different” from Trump’s situation.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Pro-Putin Republicans Evoke A Sinister Parallel In America's History

More aid to Ukraine is coming. That’s a very good thing. Most recently, the Biden administration announced that the latest package will consist of “Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, surface to air missiles, ammunition, and other items to support Ukraine as it bravely defends its people, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity.” However, it has been reported that the deal cut by new House Squeaker Kevin McCarthy and the right-wing extremists who opposed him getting the speaker job commits him to severely restricting future aid to Ukraine. House Republicans aim to impose a radical shift on U.S. policy.

In fact, McCarthy had announced last October that his party would block any additional aid for Ukraine when they took over the lower chamber of Congress. In public at least, he's since tried to walk a fine line about what he actually meant, but he can’t unsay what he said. As fellow Republican former Rep. Adam Kinzinger rightly pointed out regarding McCarthy’s statement, “what he did … you’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy, intentionally or unintentionally.” Personally, I’m not sure the intent even matters.

As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who wields more power in the new Congress than ever before, stated, “you’ve heard Leader McCarthy say publicly that he doesn’t see very good odds for much funding for Ukraine going forward in a Republican-controlled conference.” She has clearly expressed her own viewpoint on the matter.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky summed it up in a December 21 address, wearing his trademark military green to provide a visual reminder of what is at stake. He told a joint session of Congress that “your money is not charity,” but instead “an investment in … global security and democracy.” It’s worth noting that Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who oppose more support for Ukraine, disdainfully eschewed applauding the visiting president as he walked into the House chamber to a thunderous ovation from most members of Congress.

The petulant pair also refused to go through a Capitol security screening before entering, showing a clear lack of respect for the risk Zelensky had taken to travel outside his country while at war. Before the speech, Greene attacked Zelensky as well.

Beyond the national security implications, the significant outright support in the Trumpist right wing for Putin’s absolutely unconscionable invasion of Russia’s neighbor (although at least Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back against the notion of withdrawing support for Ukraine, as have some Republicans in the House, such as Rep. Michael McCaul) reveals something deeper and, in its own way, more sinister. As Markos Moulitsas noted in Daily Kos, “There’s a reason MAGA Republicans are so enchanted by Putin.”

As for Trump himself, he’s long been Putin’s puppet, as Hillary Clinton so aptly put it in 2016 and helpfully reiterated in 2019 when even more damaging information broke about the relationship between the two men.

As for why that is, we don’t really know, although it seems likely that the absurd obeisance the twice-impeached former guy pays to Vlad is transactional in some way—he’s got something on Trump. With Greene and the other Trumpers, they suck up to Russia’s current dictator at least in part because they do as Trump does. But there’s also an ideological component to their behavior.

Trump himself may have no coherent ideology separate from whatever serves his own personal gain in the moment, and he certainly seems to admire anyone—ranging from Putin to Hungarian far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Chinese President Xi Jinping—he feels is controversial and rules in a way that benefits them. But these extremists in government and outside it (Carlson has oozed praise for the Putin regime to the point where clips of him appear on Russian state media) do seem to sincerely believe in the supremacy of white Christian “values,” if one can use such a word to describe what basically amounts to straight-up hate.

These white Christian nationalists see a kindred spirit in the Russian president. Putin has repeatedly emphasized—both in terms of rhetoric and policy—a brand of conservative Christianity that his American supporters can only fantasize about seeing from our government. Last year, Russia amended its constitution specifically to outlaw same-sex marriage. On Dec. 5, Putin signed into law new legislation that makes it realistically impossible for LGBTQ people to express any aspect of their sexual orientation or gender identity in public. This is on top of already existing restrictions on doing so. Technically, being gay is not illegal, not yet at least. You just can’t talk about it to anyone else.

Putin’s own words have been even more hateful. He has hammered the idea of a “battle for cultural supremacy” between Russia—the champion of Christianity and “traditional” values—and a supposedly godless West besotten with gender fluidity, acceptance of aberrant sexual orientations, and hatred of God. Here’s more foulness straight from the (shirtless guy on the) horse’s mouth earlier this fall:

"If Western elites believe that they can inculcate in the minds of their people, in their societies, some strange but trendy tendencies, such as dozens of gay pride parades, then so be it. Let them do whatever they want, but they certainly have no right to demand that others follow the same."

The Russian president has sought to directly exploit ideological divisions within American society and align with the right wing, saying recently: “In the U.S., there’s a very strong part of the public who maintain traditional values, and they’re with us." Putin has even based tactical military decisions in Ukraine—specifically the timing of Russia’s withdrawal from the key city of Kherson—on his desire to support Republicans over President Joe Biden in the recent midterms. And that’s all in addition to years spent trying to influence American voters through disinformation and other underhanded tactics in order to benefit the Party of Trump.

Rev. Pamela Cooper-White, who teaches psychology and religion at Union Theological Seminary, is the author of the book The Psychology of Christian Nationalism. She analyzed the phenomenon of white Christian nationalists loving Putin in a recent article for the Chicago Tribune. Cooper-White cited as an example a statement by a Republican U.S. Senate candidate made at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “Russia is a Christian nationalist nation. … I identify more with Russians’, with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden’s.” She also noted that when white Christian nationalist, antisemite, and Trump dinner partner Nick Fuentes asked for the audience at the right-wing America First Political Action Conference to applaud for Putin earlier this year, they happily obliged. More recently, Fuentes proclaimed in an appearance on lying scumbag Alex Jones’ Infowars that he is “very pro-Putin” and “very pro-Russia.”

Cooper-White continued:

These extreme views don’t exist in a vacuum. They are indicative of the swath of Americans who identify as Christian nationalists—many of whom have quietly held their pro-Putin views for decades. They admire Putin because they see him as promoting their own conservative views on cultural issues, like attacking LGBTQ+ rights. More insidiously, they also admire Putin because they see him as a macho white Christian man who is willing to use deadly force against his enemies—something, alarmingly, that they’d like to see in the United States as well.

Putin might seem like a strange bedfellow for conservative Americans, much less for Christian nationalists. But the Christian nationalist agenda is more nationalist and right-wing than Christian. In contrast to patriotism, which is love of country, nationalism aims to grant political preeminence to a particular ethnic group as the true inheritors of their country’s character. In short, white nationalists use Christianity as a cover for a more dangerous core agenda: white supremacy.

The Christian Right’s love for Putin goes back many years, and goes far beyond Trump. Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis sociologist Andrew Whitehead, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, spoke to Slate about this. Whitehead summarized how these right-wing extremists feel toward Vlad: “If we can have a strongman protect our cultural heritage and values, that’s what we want” because “we want a fighter.”

One might think that what McCarthy, Greene, Carlson, and their ilk are doing on behalf of a foreign government is unprecedented. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We have experienced this brand of our own public figures selling out American interests on ideological grounds before—an episode in our history that has largely been forgotten, much to our detriment.

Charles Lindbergh was many things. At one point, he was almost certainly the most famous man in America. Lindbergh was the most accomplished aviator of his time, having made the first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic in 1927 in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis. Five years after this incredible achievement, his family suffered a horrific tragedy. The Lindberghs’ newborn baby was kidnapped and, two months later, found murdered. Lindbergh had virtually every American’s respect and deep sympathy.

But the story didn’t end there. Over the next few years, Lindbergh revealed that he was also a white supremacist and a virulent antisemite, which was all too common at that time, but—and this was not acceptable—he was an open Nazi sympathizer as well. He admired Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler specifically because he shared their genocidal worldview. In a 1941 speech urging the U.S. to stay out of World War II, he spouted his hateful beliefs to millions of Americans in a way that left no doubt.

However, for years prior to that point, Lindbergh and his fellow isolationists at the America First Committee (yes, that’s the same phrase Trump has used to label his foreign policy beliefs) had tried to block President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to provide military and other assistance to those countries at war with Hitler. This included the Lend-Lease Act, which Biden has revived as part of our effort to assist Ukraine’s defense. Beyond Lindbergh, antisemitism pervaded the America First Committee, as Williams College historian of FDR Susan Dunn explained:

Seeking to brand itself as a mainstream organization, America First struggled with the problem of the anti-Semitism of some of its leaders and many of its members. It had to remove from its executive committee not only the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford but also Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had prevented two Jewish runners from the American track team in Berlin in 1936 from running in the finals of the 4x100 relay.

There exist strong parallels between today's pro-Putin, right-wing neo-isolationists and the isolationist movement championed by Lindbergh and America First in the days and months leading up to Pearl Harbor. In both cases, the isolationists not only wanted to stop our government from supporting those being attacked by murderous aggressors, but many of them did so at least in part because they shared the hateful ideas and policies put forth by those aggressors.

In other words, then and now we have powerful elements that sublimate America’s national security interests in favor of supporting a regime with an ideology they agree with, and which they care about more than they do our country.

Returning to the present, the pro-Putin radicals have had a major impact on public opinion, at least on the right. Back in March, only 6% of Republicans said that the U.S. was offering too much assistance to Ukraine. What’s the number how? Try 48%, according to a Wall Street Journal poll. A series of polls from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found a similar drop in support among Republicans for our government providing aid to Ukraine. A CBS News/YouGov poll done in January likewise found that 52% of Republican respondents—and 64% of self-identified "MAGA Republicans"—wanted their representative in Congress to oppose more aid to Ukraine. Polling overall shows a clear partisan divide on support for Ukraine aid. Apparently, a whole lot of people in the GQP listen to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Rep. "Jewish Space Laser "herself introduced a resolution to “audit” U.S. assistance to Ukraine. Such an audit would—wait for it—give Greene and her colleagues access to communications from within the Biden White House on anything they deem Ukraine-related. The chances of such access not resulting ultimately in bullshit-laden partisan hearings are about the same as that of The Man Who Lost an Election and Tried To Steal It making it through a waking hour without lying—or whining that he’s a “victim,” for that matter. Given what we’ve seen from audits pushed by Trumpers in support of the 2020 Big Lie, we know exactly what the goal here would be: Mislead the public and undermine support for Ukraine.

In the end, the lame duck session of Congress did approve enough additional aid so that Ukraine can continue to both fight at a high level and maintain the basic needs of its people in the face of Putin’s brutal invasion. Comments from Senate Republicans demonstrate their understanding of what a McCarthy/Greene-led House would do on this issue of vital importance.

“I think what some people are concerned about is the change in the House,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told The Hill on Wednesday.

“I think there’s some questions as to what the House is going to do once a change is over,” [Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security] added. “We’ll just have to see how that falls out. I can’t make a prediction there.”

Given that Republicans generally abide by Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment and refrain from criticizing their fellow travelers, such statements translate roughly as “those are some absolute, utter nincompoops in the House, and we don’t trust them any farther than we can throw Trump.”

So yes, this round of aid was authorized and will be delivered, pushing the total from the U.S. to about $100 billion—a good bit more than all the European countries (EU plus U.K.) combined. But who knows what will happen if, or more likely when, more aid for Ukraine proves necessary? More broadly, the pro-Putin sentiments embraced by Greene and her compatriots—echoed by the new speaker of the House, no less—exemplify the moral rot and downright anti-Americanism that has saturated the Trumpist right wing.

That right wing and Vladimir Putin are both, in short, white Christian nationalists. Spewing that kind of bile may not be a crime in strictly legal terms (although anyone who actually has read Jesus’ teachings knows that, as we learned from The Shawshank Redemption, his judgment cometh, and that right soon).

The travesty is that these fools have chosen to put their ideological commitment above their supposed commitment to what is best for America. Gaining power within the U.S. government is merely a means to the end of advancing white Christian nationalism, even if doing so stands in opposition to what is best for our country. Their actions on Ukraine may not exactly be treason, but they sure as hell ain’t patriotism.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (foreword by Markos Moulitsas).

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Biden -- And Every Democrat -- Must Stand Strong Against Debt Blackmail

While Speaker Kevin McCarthy demands transparency from the Biden White House, he has concealed crucial facts from the American public ever since he forged the "corrupt bargain" that greased his ascension to the constitutional post he now holds. The details of the agreement that allowed McCarthy to scrape together the barest majority are said to be set down in a three-page memorandum, which remains hidden.

What we already know, however, is that McCarthy arranged for ordinary Americans to subsidize his sleazy deal with the far Right when he promised to withhold approval of a higher debt ceiling until Democrats agree to enormous budget reductions — including harsh cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Unless Senate Democrats and the White House surrender to those absurd demands, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, too, House Republicans insist they will force the United States to repudiate its debts and wreck its credit.

Debt repudiation would have devastating consequences for the national economy, the global economy, and America's position in the world. The only beneficiaries would be the adversaries of the United States. That much is obvious. And if it is, then aren't those politicians who constantly proclaim their own patriotism but seek to drive the country into ruin shouldn't even contemplate such acts — unless they're not so patriotic after all?

The Republican crazies say these extreme measures reflect their deep concern about budget deficits and the national debt. Their worrying would be more plausible if they had bothered to speak up on any of several occasions during Donald Trump's presidency when Congress had to raise the debt ceiling as a matter of course. Not once did Democrats even whisper about blackmailing Trump over the debt increase. And not once did Republicans protest the Trump spending and tax policies that ballooned the debt by trillions.

Now, of course, Donald Trump is for welshing on the debt ceiling. This would not be the first time he has encouraged financial chicanery. Ask the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to felonious fraud in Trump's service and is now taking up residence on Riker's Island.

It is especially obnoxious for Trump to encourage a debt ceiling default when so much of the debt was incurred during his presidency. A higher debt ceiling isn't needed to enable future spending, but to cover spending that already occurred. Legal scholars would add that repudiating the debt would violate the Constitution, which protects "the full faith and credit of the United States," and the 14th Amendment, which stipulates that "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law... shall not be questioned."

Trump may believe a default wouldn't matter. After all, his deadbeat approach to business always involved shafting his creditors, walking away from his debts and escaping accountability through bankruptcy. That may be how life works for a small-time swindler, but it isn't what great nations do — and the price would be unacceptably high.

The Republicans always say they want to operate government more like business — but they didn't say they want to run it like Trump's crooked company.

For now, the Treasury can manage the debt ceiling by shuffling various accounts and delaying certain payments, even though the nation officially passed "Debt Ceiling Day" on January 19. Sometime in the next several months a reckoning will loom.

Appropriately enough, the renewal of the debt ceiling debate is coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of Bill Clinton, the only president in living memory who actually reduced deficits and debt. He did the opposite of Trump, raising taxes on the rich and setting the country on a path toward budget surplus (until the Republicans returned to power and blew it all).

The last time congressional Republicans (including McCarthy) made menacing noises about the debt ceiling was in 2011. Clinton wisely urged President Barack Obama to stand firm — just as he did when congressional Republicans led by Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to kill Medicare and shut down the government. Ultimately even the impetuous Gingrich refrained from threatening a debt default, although Clinton knew that his nemesis had considered deploying that terror tactic.

"I think (the Gingrich Republicans) figured I'd be smart enough to explain to the American people that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president," Clinton recalled in 2011. "And that would make them look bad."

"The Constitution is clear and this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy," he added. "You can't say, 'Well, we won the last election, and we didn't vote for some of that stuff, so we're going to throw the whole country's credit into arrears."

Clinton took the measure of the extremists on Capitol Hill during his second term, facing them down during two government shutdowns. He wasn't impressed by their sudden enthusiasm for balanced budgets, and he knew that standing up to their bullying and lying was the only way forward. Biden should study and heed the example.

The urgency now may be even greater, with the current gang of Republican extremists even more reckless than their irresponsible predecessors.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

House Republican Claims 'Every President' Accidentally Took Classified Documents

Rep. James Comer (R-KY) on Monday inadvertently undercut his party's case against President Joe Biden's alleged mishandling of classified documents during a Fox News interview.

Comer argued that the big scandal regarding the Biden documents case isn't what Biden did, but rather how the United States Department of Justice treated President Donald Trump for what Comer argued was a similar infraction.

"Every president -- Bill Clinton, Obama, Bush -- every president has accidentally taken documents that were deemed classified," he said. "Yet they were never raided, they were never treated with a special counsel like Donald Trump was!"

In fact, there are key differences between Trump and the other presidents that Comer referenced that can explain why they received different treatment than Trump.

Specifically, Trump continued holding onto documents he'd taken even after he'd received a subpoena from the United States Department of Justice for them.

What's more, the DOJ only decided to seek a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago after an inside source informed law enforcement officials that Trump ordered him to move documents to his personal office after he'd received the subpoena from the DOJ demanding that they be handed back.

In other words, the DOJ tried multiple times to give Trump the same courtesy afforded to past presidents who accidentally removed classified documents and only resorted to other means after he repeatedly blew off their requests.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Republicans Aim To 'Expunge' Trump Impeachment (And McCarthy May Let Them)

Donald Trump set the record by being impeached in the House of Representatives twice, both times for very good cause. The first of those impeachments came when Trump attempted to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into providing false claims about Joe Biden in exchange for military support. The second after Trump tired of threatening other nations and directly attempted to overturn the results of a U.S. election.

Now Republicans want to get out the Wite-Out and “expunge” at least one of Trump’s impeachments—both would be better—and Kevin McCarthy is there for it.

In laying out all the critical challenges the House faces, McCarthy didn’t seem sure how they would fit this in between investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and pretending to build a wall, but as The Washington Post reports, the modern record-holder in losing votes for the House speakership expressed “sympathy” for the idea of giving Trump a clean slate because of all Trump “went through” during investigations into his connections to Russia.

This might not be the best time to pretend that withholding military assistance from Ukraine had nothing to do with Trump’s ties to Russia, and McCarthy might want to revisit the nation’s most overlooked document, the report produced by a Republican-led Senate committee showing Trump’s numerous, substantial, and dangerous connections to Russia. But hey, none of that really matters because none of this has anything to do with reality.

Even on the surface, McCarthy’s suggestion that Trump get a do-over because people had been mean to him is ridiculous. There are few judges on Earth willing to accept “I was having a bad day” as an excuse for a crime of any size. Trump’s elaborate efforts to secure false statements from Ukraine to help him defeat Joe Biden in the election weren’t a matter of a few statements in one very much not “perfect” phone call. As the investigators showed during his impeachment trial, Trump’s attempts to wring arms in Ukraine extended back over months, and included false stories funneled through Rudy Giuliani that were handily published by The New York Times. The threat posed by this attempt is currently being vividly illustrated just north of Bakhmut.

When it comes to the second impeachment, the evidence for that impeachment is still visible in damage to the building where Congress sits. It’s also still very much on the minds of Americans. As Kerry Eleveld wrote today, Americans remain intensely aware of the damage done to the nation through the Jan. 6 insurrection as well as Trump’s involvement. That connection was not only confirmed in the impeachment investigation, but underlined by the findings of the Jan. 6 select committee. The voting that took place in November can be seen as a verdict on how America feels about the former seditionist-in-chief.

… the Jan. 6 panel's ingenuity in making Trump central to the story and indicting him in the court of public opinion was the key to making his endorsees utterly toxic on the campaign trail.

Neither of Trump’s impeachments was over a trivial matter. They were historic abuses of power that went well beyond the crimes of any recent leader, including Richard Nixon. Neither of those impeachments were partisan, except in the sense that the modern Republican Party would not indict Trump for anything, no matter how terrible.

What did the holder of the limp gavel think about Trump’s actions following Jan. 6? As Rebekah Sager reported in April, McCarthy was a bit less willing to give Trump a pass at the time. In fact, McCarthy and other Republican leaders believed that “Trump was directly responsible for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol” and reportedly told other Republicans in Congress that they would ask Trump to resign. But that was, of course, before McCarthy touched base with his funders, checked in with the most radical faction of his party, or surrendered the House to people who think he’s a dunce.

Now the only real question is … can they? Can House Republicans actually hand Trump a clean record?

Not in any practical sense, of course. What Trump did, the impeachments that it generated, and the way that Mitch McConnell used his control of the Senate to protect Trump from conviction are already a part of the public record. Donald Trump was impeached in the House, twice, and nothing is going to change that.

That doesn’t mean that Republicans can’t still show their infinite loyalty to Trump and once again shove America’s collective nose into the idea that justice has any meaning for those at the top of the pyramid. It just means it would be worse than pointless.

There is no mechanism in the Constitution that allows an impeachment to be expunged. Yes, say Republicans, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment can’t be expunged. So there.

This is true, precisely because the authors of the document likely recognized the boneheaded uselessness of any such expungement. Any impeachment is, by necessity, an expression of the will of the sitting House of Representatives in the current Congress. A new Congress can certainly issue a statement disagreeing with the opinion of a past House, but that new statement in no way invalidates the opinion of the House that issued the impeachment in the first place.

They cannot make it as if this never happened. It happened. It will literally be in the history books … assuming those books are edited by Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott.

The fact that Republicans are even talking about this makes it likely that they’re going to try it. In fact, Republicans put even more pointless bills before the House twice already that would have expunged both impeachments, even though they knew those bills would go nowhere. Because this isn’t about justice. It’s about show.

Letting the Republicans once again show that protecting Donald Trump’s ego is their highest priority? Sure. Let them.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Republicans Preparing To Recycle Rudy's Kremlin Disinformation

We’ve been warned. When the Republicans take control of the House, it’s going to be all Hunter’s laptop, all the time.

Despite haughty GOP denials, the laptop story is probably a cover for another Russian hack and leak operation, and the Republicans are gleefully laundering it.

Republicans have browbeaten various social media execs – who are surely nervous about being called before GOP committees – into saying they were wrong to throttle access to what everyone correctly assumed was foreign election interference laundered through Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and election interference go-to-guy Rudy Giuliani.

Various major media outlets have authenticated a small percentage of the data dump as having belonged to Hunter Biden. But that’s exactly what you’d expect in a hack and leak operation. The question is whether the data were really abandoned by Hunter Biden or whether they were uploaded to that laptop as a pretext for trafficking in stolen secrets.

“That’s Rudy”

In October 2020, weeks before the general election, the New York Post ran a story about what Rudy Giuliani claimed was a hard drive abandoned by Hunter Biden at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

Over 50 retired intelligence pros signed an open letter arguing that L’Affaire MacBook bore all the hallmarks of Russian disinfo. Twitter’s former head of safety said this week that the story set off “every single one of my finely tuned [Russian intelligence] hack and leak campaign alarm bells."

Conveniently, the former shop owner who gave the data to Giuliani is legally blind, so he can’t say whether the man who dropped off the machines was Hunter Biden. He’s also a frothing conspiracy theorist who was unable to tell a straight story about the provenance of the laptop.

We know Vladimir Putin personally directed a campaign of interference in the 2020 elections that focused on feeding anti-Biden propaganda to influential Americans, including members of Trump’s inner circle, according to a 2021 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report doesn’t name names, but contains enough clues to identify Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, as the useful idiot in chief.

This time, the collusion between Trump and the Russians was right out in the open. With Trump’s support, Giuliani spent much of 2019 ostentatiously shuttling to Ukraine and huddling with Kremlin-linked oligarchs, including an active Russian agent who was later sanctioned by Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s Treasury Department for interference in the 2020 election.

Data from Hunter Biden’s computer were on the market in Kyiv around the time Giuliani went disinfo-shopping. As you recall, Giuliani was searching for dirt in Ukraine because Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, which, according to that ODNI report, was hacked by the Russian spy service known as the GRU in late 2019.

Multiple US intelligence agencies repeatedly and explicitly warned Donald Trump in 2019 that Giuliani’s bottomless thirst for dirt on the Bidens made him the target of a Russian intelligence operation. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned Trump that any information Giuliani brought back from his Ukraine junket should be considered “contaminated” by the Russians. Trump reportedly shrugged and said, “That’s Rudy.”

Stolen and dumped

Let’s not forget Trump’s first impeachment was the result of a desperate bid to wring dirt out of the Ukrainians. Trump froze congressionally authorized defense aid to Ukraine in order to strong-arm the country’s new president into announcing a bogus investigation into Hunter Biden.

Republicans have falsely claimed that forensic analyses have proven that the data was found on a laptop that Hunter Biden abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware. These analyses have shown that some of the materials were produced by Hunter Biden. But that’s how hack and leak attacks work.

In a hack and leak, data is stolen and dumped.

A largely genuine trove of stolen data is also the perfect place to hide forged or stolen elements, which enjoy unearned credibility because they’re packaged with real stuff. That’s why the victims of hack and leaks are advised never to confirm the authenticity of anything.

The attackers are counting on the public to draw the erroneous conclusion that, because some things are genuine, the whole package is real, and – most importantly – that it came from where the cover story says it came from, be that an imaginary collective of good-hearted “hacktivists” or a computer repair shop in Delaware. Anywhere but the GRU.

The GRU is notorious for hacking and leaking.

A GRU unit known as FancyBear or APT128 famously deployed this tactic against the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. They also targeted George Soros, the World Anti-Doping Agency, scientists investigating the poisoning of a former Russian agent, and countless others. For particularly high-value targets, GRU combines hacking with good-old-fashioned stalking, following their targets around, hoping to catch them using insecure hotel wifi.

Isn’t it a crazy coincidence that a disk image of “Hunter Biden’s laptop” was revealed to the world by the same guy who we know was the main conduit for Russian disinformation about the Bidens? A guy who has also been investigated for other kinds of election interference on behalf of Trump.

If you believe that, I’ve got an extended warranty to sell you.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

After 2024 Announcement, Trump Inks $4 Billion Deal With Oman and Saudi

The word hubris comes from Ancient Greece, meaning “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” And no word seems more fitting to describe former President Donald Trump walking into Trump Tower in New York City with his son Eric Trump last week to sign a reported $4 billion deal with a Saudi Arabian real estate company to build a mammoth project in Oman.

The word hypocrite also comes from the Ancient Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor,” another word most fitting to describe the Republican Party, which, after winning the House by a razor-thin margin, is promising to spend every minute of its time impeaching President Joe Biden and investigating his son, Hunter Biden, amid unabashedly bogus allegations of conflict of interest.

Trump is no stranger to selling his brand, but the Saudi deal is a bold move considering that he’s just thrown his name in the hat for a third run at the presidency.

This particular deal puts him directly into murky waters. According to The New York Times, the project isn’t just some random real estate deal—it’s a deal with the government of Oman itself. Conflict of interest much?

Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, tells the Times, “This is yet another example of Trump getting a personal financial benefit in exchange for past or future political power. … The Saudis and Oman government may believe that giving Trump this licensing deal will benefit them in the future, should Trump become president again. This deal could be a way to ensure that they will be in Trump’s good graces.”

The behemoth AIDA project is led by the Saudi-based Dar-Al Arkan and is in conjunction with the government of Oman, which the Times reports owns the land. The concept includes 3,500 high-end villas, two hotels with around 450 rooms, a golf course (of course), and retail shops and restaurants.

This is just Trump’s most recent project with the Saudi government. Trump also hosted two Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournaments—including one in late July held just 50 miles from Ground Zero, a memorial on the location where the World Trade Center South Towers once stood. Trump stood on the sidelines and cheered despite the fact that the 9/11 families had pleaded with the former president to cancel the tournament.

According to Newsweek, when Trump was asked about the 9/11 families’ plans to protest the LIV Golf event, Trump told an ESPN reporter, “Nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately.”

He added that the people who committed the attack on 9/11 were “maniacs” and that they did a “horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world. … But I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we're gonna have a lot of fun, and we're going to celebrate. Money's going to charity—a lot of money's going to charity," he said.

But Trump hasn’t just been in deals with the Saudis when he wasn’t in office. During his time in the White House, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who worked for the administration, took in a $2 billion investment from the Saudi government to his private equity firm, Affinity Partners, per the Times.

Of course, let’s not forget the massive grifting Trump was involved in during his reign as he took in millions to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, between 2017 and 2020, Trump’s hotel received $3.75 million from foreign governments. The Times reports that, according to the Trump Organization, profits from all of the hotel stays were paid annually to the Treasury Department.

This new Trump-Saudi project hopes to build a more robust tourism sector for Oman and likely a better relationship with the U.S. The nation refused to sign the Abraham Accords while Trump was in office, a plan that had high hopes of thawing relations between Israel and the Middle East.

All of this was announced just as Trump declared his candidacy, and the Trump family and the Trump Organization are being investigated on charges of tax fraud.

Remember, according to a report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Trump is the same guy who committed 3,403 conflicts of interest during his presidency. So far, the Republicans have announced zero investigations into even one of those.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.