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Congress Probing PPP Loans To Fake Farms

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

A House committee has opened a formal investigation into how several online lenders may have facilitated fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans, following reporting by ProPublica and other news outlets.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis probe seeks answers from Kabbage and BlueVine, online lending platforms that processed hundreds of thousands of government-backed loans to small businesses, as well as Celtic Bank and Cross River Bank, which frequently partnered with the web-based lenders.

Although these highly automated lenders helped the Small Business Administration's $800 billion relief program reach small businesses that weren't being served by traditional banks, they also became targets for cheaters.

"I am deeply troubled by recent reports alleging that financial technology (FinTech) lenders and their bank partners failed to adequately screen PPP loan applications for fraud," said subcommittee chair James E. Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat. "This failure may have led to millions of dollars in FinTech-facilitated PPP loans being made to fraudulent, non-existent, or otherwise ineligible businesses."

The subcommittee's letters to the targets of its investigation cited stories published by Bloomberg, the Miami Herald, the Project on Government Oversight and ProPublica that found fintech companies account for an outsized amount of the fraud that has plagued the PPP from its inception.

Last week, ProPublica revealed that Kabbage processed 378 loans collectively worth $7 million to single-person businesses that don't appear in corporation records of their respective states. The overwhelming majority identified themselves as farms, typically registered to residential addresses with no discernable agricultural activity.

"The illegitimacy of these purported farms — including potato fields in Florida and orange groves in Minnesota — would have been obvious if even the bare minimum of due diligence had been conducted on the loan applications," the subcommittee wrote in its letter to Kabbage, which was acquired by American Express last fall.

The letter demands a long list of documents, including any records of potential fraudulent activity on the platform, documents describing what resources were devoted to fraud detection, and descriptions of how the company recruited PPP applicants and how it incentivized loan reviewers to process more applications.

Those questions mostly implicate Kabbage's conduct before it became part of American Express, which did not acquire Kabbage's loan portfolio or its servicing arm, which are now incorporated into a separate company. The new company, called K Servicing, continued to process new PPP applications as well as close out those from the first round.

Kabbage is also reportedly under investigation by the Department of Justice over how it calculated PPP loan amounts.

A spokesperson for American Express, who had earlier said that Kabbage complied with all required fraud protocols and reported suspicious loans to SBA, referred questions to K Servicing. Spokespeople from K Servicing, BlueVine, Cross River and Celtic Bank did not respond to requests for comment.

To Save Americans From Starving, Congress Must Raise The Minimum Wage

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Imagine Washington announcing today that for the next three decades your pay will increase each January. You'll get a boost to cover inflation plus 10-cents more an hour. That means your real pay next year, before taxes, will be $4 more per week.

Ask yourself, would you even notice an extra $4 a week in gross pay? Would you feel like playing by the rules and being a good worker was worth it?

Well, that's what has happened to the typical American worker since 1990, but no one announced it back then. And it's happened as unions have been pretty much destroyed, representing only about one in 15 private-sector workers.

As a middle-aged widow who lost her job and took minimum-wage work at a major national retailer to feed herself and her son, who live together in a town with low-cost housing, told me:

"You can't make ends meet on the minimum wage no matter how much you try. It is just not possible."

That's the prime reason Congress and President Biden must raise the minimum wage.

As private-sector unions have faded away, wages have fallen in tandem. The numbers and the pain of people like the widow show that Congress must step in, acting as a proxy union for the lowest-paid workers by raising the floor on wages in America. If lawmakers fail then taxpayers should expect rising costs for welfare to cope with social pathologies. We should all expect popular support for our tattered democracy will wither even more, putting our liberties in danger.

Inflation Toll

The story I pulled from the official data shows things are much worse than just the awful fact that the minimum wage has been stuck since 2009 at $7.25 an hour, its value being eroded by inflation even as America grows ever richer.

Each year, I do detailed analyses of W-2 wage and salary reports that employers send to the Social Security Administration. Its computers add up every filing and then a report shows how many people make how much in broad pay categories whether they had one employer or many.

What the wage data show is disturbing. America is becoming two nations separate and unequal, one with a minority of workers who are prospering, some making each year enough for a hundred families for a lifetime. Across the income divide more than 130 million workers struggle.

Republicans and some Senate Democrats claim that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs and force small businesses to close. That's not what past actual experience shows, at least not on this planet.

Faulty Argument

That argument is actually silly because it assumes that prices never increase so if wages go up businesses must fail. Nonsense. But should you find a dealer advertising new cars today at 1990 prices please let me know.

What the facts show that since 1990 our national wage pie, adjusted for inflation, has grown much bigger. Adjusted for inflation it was $8.8 trillion in 2019, up from $5 trillion in 1990.

But the way the wage pie was cut into slices changed significantly.

Let's look first at workers who always earn only the minimum wage. Such people exist, though they are not common.

In 1990 the minimum wage was $3.80. Adjusted for inflation it would have to have risen to $7.48 in 2019 just to stay even. But the minimum wage was only $7.25, the same as today. In absolute terms these workers are worse off, their meager slice of income pie shrinking.

In 2019 half of America's 169 million workers made less than $35,000; a third made less than $20,000. Only one in three workers earn more than $1,000 per week.

$620 a Week

What about the typical worker? That's measured by examining median pay; half make more, half less. In 2019 the median wage was $34,250 or $620 a week.

That's a real increase since 1990 of $5,712. That sounds good until you realize that in round numbers it works out to that dime an hour raise every January.

How about the average wage which includes those with ginormous paychecks? Real average pay rose by $12,225 to $51,916. That's two dimes and a penny more per hour each January. How much would you notice an extra $8.40 a week – before taxes?

Now let's turn to the extremely well paid, people whose pay increases alone meant they gorged on wage pie while most everyone else got crumbs.

Let's consider all workers making $1 million or more, roughly one in every thousand workers. Their share of the national wage pie rose mightily, from 3 cents in 1990 to a nickel in 2019. That leaves everyone else with a smaller share of the pie to divvy up.

What about the super-paid workers who made $10 million or more in 1990 and 2019 using 2019 dollars?

More Super-Rich

The number of super-paid workers is for sure small. But it grew five-fold from 739 to 4,024.

Their average gross pay increased from just shy of $2 million to almost $2.5 million. Simply put in 2019 they got six days of pay for five days of 1990 work.

Also, a record 222 of these workers were paid more than $50 million in 2019, averaging $89 million each.

Even if we assume that employers pay these top earners what they are worth, a society whose rules and regulations lavish every more pay on those to the top while hardly growing wages for two-thirds or more of the workforce is neither stable nor enduring. The chasm between the super-paid and everyone else is huge and widening and can destroy support for democracy, as we saw with the failed coup on Jan. 6.

Without unions to bargain for workers pay simply is not going to improve. Indeed, our government has put downward pressure on wages through the welfare "reform" act President Bill Clinton signed, which flooded the market with women who have few job skills and little education, a stealth subsidy for many employers because they could pay less. The child tax credit for working parents has morphed over time into a subsidy for employers who now capture its benefits by not raising pay. Those are just of many anti-worker policies our government put in place during the past 40 years.

Congress can fix this. It has to step in as a proxy union for powerless workers and raise the minimum wage. If we could afford a minimum wage in the 1960s that's equal to about $12 an hour today then we can afford to raise our pay standards in today's much wealthier America.

And to those small businesses that say they will fold if they have to pay their workers more there is an answer: Raise prices.

If you can't afford to pay a living wage and you can't raise prices, your business is already failing so put it out of its misery. You can always start a new business in the future — and with people making more money your chances of success will be much better because more customers will have more money to spend.

Sanders, Wyden Push Back On Cruel Cuts To Pandemic Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.

Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.

The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.

It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others that showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about ten percent of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau's American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.

That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it's that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.

All that's aside from the larger argument: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive.

"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."

There's also this: They're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.

Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum number of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.

Rep. Boebert’s Faked ‘Glock’ Video Sparks Twitter Firestorm

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) found herself at the center of controversy following the release of her latest campaign-style video ad. In the video, Boebert claimed she is going to "carry my Glock to Congress" to highlight her defense of Second Amendment rights.

In the clip, Boebert said, "Even though I now work in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refused to give up my rights, especially my Second Amendment rights. I will carry my firearm in D.C. and in Congress."

"I walk to my office each morning by myself," Boebert says. "So as a five-foot-tall, 100-pound woman I choose to protect myself legally, because I am my best security."

Twitter users quickly fired back with critical reactions to Boebert's video. One Twitter user slammed Boebert's clip tweeting, "'I'd like to thank [Lauren Boebert] for this excellent free footage that she's just provided us to slice & dice & use to show America why, since the GOP has been overtaken by radical nuts like her, it can't be trusted w governing power."


Another user also tweeted arguments suggesting Boebert is not exactly the epitome of a law-abiding citizen. That user said, "Lauren Boebert has been arrested four times and is under investigation for "unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile" who worked at her Colorado restaurant. She was with her husband when he was arrested for exposing his penis to a minor. Not exactly a law-abiding gun owner."






According to The Washington Post, Boebert's "own staff later admitted that the video had deceptively portrayed Boebert as carrying her handgun with her as she walked through the streets of Washington, D.C. In fact, she had not, since that would've violated D.C.'s strict laws limiting the carrying of concealed weapons."

Gallup Poll: Trump And Congressional Approval Ratings Plummet

Both President Donald Trump's and Congressional approval ratings have plummeted in the first half of December, according to a new Gallup poll.

Trump's approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, a 7 point decrease from the last Gallup survey, while Congressional satisfaction dropped 15%, the lowest rating for the 116th Congress, according to Gallup.

The president began December by ramping up political attacks while also increasing his threats to American democracy. His erratic behavior has even started to worry Trump's aides and his closest allies, leading to a "heated" Oval Office meeting with far-right conspiracists Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. In that meeting Flynn proposed "martial law" to overturn the free and fair election that Joe Biden won by millions of votes.

Meanwhile, December was also a tumultuous month for Congress, as members bickered over a yearly defense spending bill (NDAA), a budget for FY 2021, and much needed COVID-19 relief. Late last night, right before a midnight deadline, Trump finally signed a joint bill which included COVID-19 relief and next year's budget. He also vetoed the defense bill, which Congress is expected to overturn.

Though American's moods are souring towards the current government, the Biden administration is receiving high marks for handling the transition. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they "approve" of Biden's actions during the transition.

Poll: Democratic Congress Sees Rising Support For 2020 Re-Election

Roughly six in 10 Americans say their member of Congress deserves to be reelected in November, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. That level of support is almost 10 points higher than in early 2018, when Republicans were still in control of the House of Representatives.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats picked up 40 House seats and won back the House majority for the first time in almost a decade. Many of the Democratic victories came from suburban districts, including areas that were once Republican strongholds like Orange County, California.

“Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59 percent of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year,” Gallup wrote about the poll.

A higher percentage of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves to be reelected correlates with a higher percentage of Congress members who are reelected the following November, Gallup noted. Gallup pointed to high reelection rates from 1998 through 2004, which corresponded with Americans’ relatively high support of their member of Congress.

“It’s gonna be pretty tough for Republicans to get back in the majority,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, said in a phone interview in early February, before the Gallup poll was released. Bera pointed to different data to back up his claim: polls that ask Americans if they favor voting for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican.

This type of generic polling is “usually is a good indicator of what folks are thinking,” Bera said.

According to an average of these generic polls from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats currently have a 7-point lead over Republicans, 48 percent to 41 percent. On Election Day 2018, Democrats held a 9-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent.

If 2019 statewide elections are a precursor for what could happen in 2020, Democrats like Bera have more data points to support their optimism.

Louisiana re-elected Gov. John Bel Edward, a Democrat, in a state Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. In Kentucky, voters ousted Republican Gov. Matt Bevins in favor of Democrat Andy Beshear.

Further, voters in Virginia elected a Democratic majority to the state House and state Senate, giving Democrats control of the legislature and governorship for the first time in 26 years.

“Never say never,” Bera said, “but if I were making a wager, I would say we’re going to retain the House majority.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Graham Promises Senate Probe Of Bidens

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

From the February 2 edition of Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo:

MARIA BARTIROMO (ANCHOR): Schumer this morning signaling that the Democrats will not accept an acquittal as legitimate. Nancy Pelosi hinting that she is going to call Bolton in the House. John Bolton. What’s the dems next move? And how are you going to get anything done, Senator, if you actually got the other side constantly pushing to find out dirt on Donald Trump?

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, the president has been successful in spite of all of this. I hope we can turn the page as a nation and focus on issues important. But as Nancy Pelosi calls Bolton, here is what I would say. They’re impeaching the president for suspension of aid that was eventually received, trying to leverage an investigation that never happened. This is ridiculous. Mueller broke their heart. They won’t let it go. They hate this man. Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House. Just in name only. I don’t know if they will ever let it go. Here is what I’m going to do. If they talk to Bolton, I will bring in State Department officials, and ask them why didn’t you do something about the obvious conflict of interest Joe Biden had? Joe Biden’s effort to combat corruption in the Ukraine became a joke, when Joe Biden got before the Ukrainian parliament talking about sweetheart deals, and reforming the energy sector, I can only imagine how they were laughing under their breath. What about your son, Vice President Biden, sitting on the most corrupt board in Ukraine, Burisma, receiving $3 million dollars. I can only imagine if a Republican done what Biden had done. But we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And I can prove beyond any doubt that Joe Biden’s effort in the Ukraine to root out corruption was undercut because he let his son sit on the board of the most corrupt company in the Ukraine and we’ll not give him a pass on that.

BARTIROMO: So you’re not going to give him a pass. How are you going to get to the bottom of it? Should we expect your committee to call to testify Hunter Biden, whistle employer, Adam Schiff, all of those names you’ve been talking about. Is this going to happen this upcoming week, then?

GRAHAM: It’s going to happen in the coming weeks. Jim Risch is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Jim, if you’re watching the show, I hope you are, we need to call chief of staff to John Kerry who was told about the conflict of interest with Hunter Biden being on Burisma’s board early on. Heinz, the stepson of John Kerry was a business partner of Hunter Biden and Devon Archer. And he told the State Department, I’m not part of this deal. I don’t think it is right. George Kent told the State Department it would be a conflict for Hunter Biden to be on the Burisma board. Let’s start there. Let’s call these people in. Eventually, we’ll get to Hunter Biden. And I want to know why the Obama administration did nothing about this obvious conflict of interest. Joe Biden should have given up the Ukrainian portfolio or Hunter Biden should have been taken off the board. Because they ruined America’s ability to effectively deal with corruption in the Ukraine by having Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma. That is just a fact. And we’re going to get to the bottom of it.

Hinting At Trump’s Guilt, GOP Senators Rig Trial For Acquittal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On the day it became clear a majority of the Senate would allow the trial of the president to close without hearing from a single witness, Republicans who found themselves protecting Donald Trump started making a surprising admission.

Trump, of all people, might have done something wrong.

The revelations started with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, whose pending retirement gave him more independence than many of his colleagues to break with the president. But on Thursday night, he revealed that he would join most other Republicans in a vote to block the Senate from hearing witnesses, most notably former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

He offered a perhaps surprising reason for this decision, though: He doesn’t need Bolton’s testimony to know Trump’s guilty.

“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine,” Alexander said in a statement. “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’”

He dismissed the second charge against the president, obstruction of Congress, as “frivolous.” But he thinks the Ukraine scheme was wrongful.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he continued. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

To be sure, Alexander is too generous to Trump here. He doesn’t explore the reasons that truly make Trump’s actions so egregious, such as the fact that they were based on nonsense conspiracy theories and were clearly intended to influence the 2020 election.

But he was, at least, finally admitting that what Trump did wasn’t right. He just doesn’t want to say the Senate should remove the president over this kind of conduct.

With this admission, others chimed in.

“Long story short, [Alexander] most likely expressed the sentiments of the country as a whole as well as any single Senator possibly could. Those who hate Trump and wish to take the voters[‘] choice away in an unfounded manner, Sen. Alexander rightly rejected their arguments,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of the president, in a tweet.

Graham also sent the mildest possible message to Trump, who has claimed his phone call pushing for the Ukrainian investigations that sparked the impeachment proceedings was “perfect.”

“To those who believe that all was ‘perfect,’ Senator Alexander made reasoned observations and conclusions based on the evidence before him. He called it as he saw it to be,” Graham wrote. “Well done Lamar!”

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska bolstered these sentiments further.

“Let me be clear; Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us,” Sasse told reporters, as CNN’s Manu Raju reported.

Sasse was once a vocal critic of Trump from within his own party. But as his own re-election grew closer, he began minimizing his dissent, and he earned the president’s endorsement in his primary. So it wasn’t surprising that, when Raju followed up to ask Sasse whether Trump behaved inappropriately, the senator refused to answer.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) may have gone even further than Alexander, saying in a Medium post of Trump’s alleged abuse of power: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.”

He later said Democrats have not proven their case, but suggested that if they had, Trump’s conduct might warrant impeachment. But he also said that, even if the conduct does warrant impeachment, he still thinks it would be best for the country to leave Trump in office because “at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate.” He blamed the Democrats’ “partisan” impeachment process for this fact, while ignoring that Republicans’ steadfast refusal to seriously consider Trump did anything wrong throughout the proceedings was a necessary condition of this partisanship.

He also said: “I disagree with the House Managers’ argument that, if we find the allegations they have made are true, failing to remove the President leaves us with no remedy to constrain this or future Presidents. Congress and the courts have multiple ways by which to constrain the power of the executive.”

But like the other Republicans who hinted Trump might have done something wrong, he proposed no actual alternative to removal for holding Trump accountable.

And that’s what makes all their admissions so shameful. They’ve let Trump declare for months that he’s done nothing wrong and that the impeachment is an unfair witch hunt. They’ve even let Trump continue to engage in the very scheme he was impeached for. They know he will never admit he did anything wrong, which means without external punishment, he won’t be deterred. But they refused to stand up for the impeachment process, refused to admit that the conduct in question really was worthy of serious investigation, even if they didn’t want to remove Trump in the end. Democrats pushing impeachment were relentlessly attacked by right-wing media, and the elected Republicans officials who knew, actually, that the pro-impeachment crowd might have a point said nothing.

They let the impeachment become a purely partisan affair — with the exception of Minnesota’s Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party because of Trump — and then they blamed the Democrats for not convincing them to join in. Now they say impeachment is too strong a cure for the malady at issue, but they propose no other treatment. They will, undoubtedly, allow Trump to continue thinking that he did nothing wrong and will give him no reason to change his path.

These are clear signs of cowardice and guilt. Not of Trump’s guilt, this time, but their own. They offer their excuses for refusing to challenge Trump, but these paper-thin explanations fail to grapple with the facts and show the lawmakers are lying to themselves. They’re lying to themselves, of course, because they have to. The costs of breaking with the president are far too high — even for Alexander, at the end of his career — and they don’t have the courage to do it.