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Tag: mike lee

Why Saving Democracy May Mean Supporting A Conservative

Fighting Republican authoritarianism means sometimes delaying political gratification.

The Utah Democratic Party did something extraordinary last week: They threw their support behind a Republican. Well, a former Republican, anyway. Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent in 2016, is now seeking to unseat Sen. Mike Lee.

At the Democratic Party convention, held at Cottonwood High School in Murray (don't you love democracy?), some delegates were uncomfortable. One told the Deseret News that he "never imagined my fellow Democrats would disenfranchise me," adding that "Democrats need to be on the ballot." But most delegates were swayed by the arguments of former Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, who vouched for McMullin's integrity and urged that he would help "heal the divide" in Washington. Besides, he said, McMullin has a real path to victory. The Democrats agreed and, with 57 percent voting in favor, elected to join a coalition that also includes the United Utah Party to endorse McMullin.

Now, cards on the table, it isn't as if any Democratic nominee would stand a ghost of a chance. Utah hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than 50 years, and Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state 5-to-1. But McMullin is a political unicorn — a former Republican, CIA veteran and conservative who garnered 21% of the vote in Utah when he made his quixotic presidential bid in 2016.

Lee was swept into office by the Tea Party wave of 2010. He defeated incumbent Republican Bob Bennett in the primary by arguing that Bennett had lost his edge after years in Washington. Lee claimed that he, by contrast, was a "constitutional conservative." His website boasts that he has "spent his career defending the fundamental liberties of all Americans and advocating for America's founding constitutional principles."

Unless those principles conflict with his personal ambitions. Maybe that's in the small print.

Lee was among the last holdouts at the GOP convention in 2016, hoping to deploy procedural rules to deny Trump the nomination. In July of that year, adverting to Trump's "authoritarian" tendencies, he shot back at a MAGA radio host, "Don't sit here and tell me that I have no reason to be concerned about Donald Trump. ... I mean we can get into the fact that he accused my best friend's father of conspiring to kill JFK."

Over the following years, like every other leading Republican except those you can list on two hands, Lee immolated his constitutional principles on a pyre. As Amanda Carpenter itemized, the recently revealed text messages to Donald Trump's White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reveal a senator not only willing to overlook a little authoritarianism now and again but also an active participant in a behind-the-scenes effort to overturn a free and fair election. On Dec. 8, 2020, for example, Lee texted to Meadows that "If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path."

Lee, you see, wanted the coup to be by the book. If the states (only the ones Trump lost, of course) submitted alternate slates of electors, why, then, according to the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act (which Democrats should have repealed and replaced by now), the MAGA forces could stall and possibly prevent the certification of Biden's victory. Lee later texted to Meadows that he was on the phone "14 hours a day" discussing whether state legislators were going to submit "clean" slates for Trump. After the texts leaked, he told the Deseret News, "At no point in any of those was I engaging in advocacy. I wasn't in any way encouraging them to do that. I just asked them a yes or no question."

It didn't occur to Mr. Constitutional Conservative that phone calls from a United States senator to state legislators asking questions might be interpreted as signals or even possibly as threats? He certainly knew that Trump was engaging in every possible ploy to overturn the election. What business did a Utah senator have even calling legislators from Pennsylvania or Michigan? And he wasn't troubled by the utter fallaciousness of the election fraud claims, rejected by something like 63 courts, that would be the foundation of any effort to submit alternative slates? That's the nub of it. It was a lie — a blatant, stinking lie.

In October 2020, Lee famously tweeted "We're not a democracy." It's a familiar conservative talking point. We are a republic. True. A democratic republic. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution that Lee claims to revere guarantees to each state a "republican form of government." A republican form of government depends utterly on votes being counted legally and properly. Otherwise, the Constitution's guarantee becomes a dead letter, rather like the sham elections in Russia or Cuba. It seems that Lee wanted to use the Constitution as a fig leaf for a naked power grab. Yes, he ultimately voted to certify Biden's victory, but only after granting the coup plot legitimacy with his backroom maneuvering.

The Utah Democratic Party has demonstrated flexibility, too rare a trait in today's politics. Utahans now have a rare opportunity to strike a blow for democracy and the Constitution. A McMullin victory would signal that there are consequences for betraying your oath and making a mockery of appeals to the Constitution.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


Congress Averts Government Shutdown One Day Before Deadline

Washington (AFP) - The US Congress approved a stopgap funding bill Thursday in a rare show of cross-party unity to keep federal agencies running into 2022 and avert a costly holiday season government shutdown.

With the clock ticking down to the 11:59 pm Friday deadline, the Senate voted by 69 to 28 to keep the lights on until February 18 with a resolution that had already advanced from the House.

The "continuing resolution" avoids millions of public workers being sent home unpaid with Christmas approaching, as parks, museums and other federal properties and services closed.

"I am glad that, in the end, cooler heads prevailed -- the government will stay open," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

"And I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown."

Congress watchers had expected to see the resolution getting a rough ride in the Senate, where a small group of hardline Republicans threatened to tank the measure in protest over the White House's pandemic response.

But Democrats agreed to allow a straight majority vote on defunding President Joe Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate for large companies, which promptly failed as expected.

The right-wing Republican group, led by Utah's senior senator Mike Lee, argues that the mandate is an assault on personal liberty.

780,000 Dead

The pandemic has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and the troubling new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has raised fears of a winter surge in cases.

But legal challenges have mounted against Biden's edict requiring vaccination or weekly tests for some sections of the US workforce, including companies with more than 100 employees.

Lee had campaigned to remove federal funding to implement the mandate and was backed by right wingers in both chambers.

"If the choice is between temporarily suspending non-essential functions on the one hand and, on the other hand, standing idle as up to 45 million Americans lose their jobs, their livelihoods, and their ability to work, I'll stand with American workers every time," he said.

The figure Lee cited would represent more than a quarter of the 157 million people that make up the US workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

Only five percent of unvaccinated adults say they have left a job due to a vaccine mandate, according to an October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In the evenly divided upper chamber, any single senator can torpedo any vote.

But the majority of Senate Republicans -- including their leader Mitch McConnell -- were against the move, fearing they would be blamed for a shutdown.

Ahead of the House vote McConnell had indicated that Republicans would support the continuing resolution, although he gave no indication that he bring Lee and the other hold-outs to heel.

Deadlocked

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, earlier hit out at Lee and his backers, accusing them of "defiance of science and public health."

If Congress had failed to keep the government open, the closures would have begun just after midnight on Saturday and would likely have bled into the following week.

There has never been a shutdown during a national emergency such as the pandemic, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2018-19 stoppage wiped $11 billion from the economy.

The stopgap measure buys legislators time to negotiate full-year spending bills for the rest of fiscal 2022.

And with the threat of a shutdown off the table, Democratic leadership is now free to focus on passing Biden's domestic agenda -- a $1.8 trillion social welfare and climate spending plan.

The bill is central to Biden's legacy, but risks failing because of feuding between the Democrats' progressive and centrist factions.

Lawmakers are also deadlocked over the prospect of a first-ever US debt default that would erase an estimated six million jobs and wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth, tanking the economy.

The government is likely to run out of cash on or soon after December 15, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned, unless Congress raises the federal borrowing cap.

But Republicans say they won't help, despite having pressed for hikes under former president Donald Trump, because they want no part in the Democrats' historically large package of social reforms.

GOP Senators Abuse Power To Punish Major League Baseball

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are proposing so-called "antitrust" legislation designed to punish Major-League Baseball for moving its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado to protest the Peach State's new voter suppression law. And the far-right GOP senators are being slammed on Twitter for their grandstanding.

The GOP senators have said they want to "end MLB's special immunity from antitrust laws." MSNBC's Chris Hayes tweeted a response:

Here are some other responses to the senators' proposal:

Sen. Mike Lee -- Unmasked And Covid-Positive -- Turns Barrett Hearing Into 'Superspreader Event'

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who tested positive for coronavirus 10 days ago, and who infected Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) last week, is participating in person in the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings. Maskless.

He said that he's gotten a "sign-off" from the Office of the Attending Physician that he's no longer contagious. A reporter in the room noted that he took the mask off several minutes before he started speaking. He eventually put it back on after his statement, possibly realizing he was making this shambles of a process even more horrifying by potentially infecting everyone in the vicinity.

And here he is earlier in the hearing, breathing over his 87-year old colleague … with his nose out.


Sen. Mike Lee, left, with Sens. Chuck Grassley (seated) and Lindsey Graham

Republicans Waging War On Democracy — And Now They Admit It

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah sparked a backlash this week when made an undercurrent of the modern conservative movement and the driving ideology of the Republican Party explicit.

"We're not a democracy," Lee tweeted on Oct. 7.

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Learning The Dangers Of A Chaos Presidency

What President Donald Trump said to the nation about the prospect of war with Iran impressed many listeners far less than the way he said it — or slurred it. Unlike the manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her appear drunk, Trump delivered a live speech that made him sound impaired.

The president’s sputtering crystallized the danger of this perilous confrontation. Over the tense days that followed the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the nation’s commander in chief showed that he knows almost nothing, reacts impulsively to events and cannot decide whether he is an isolationist or an imperialist. Such enormous power in the hands of an incompetent, incontinent figure is frightening. And even the Republican politicians who routinely tolerate and even praise his worst offenses seemed to feel the fear.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who complained loudly about the “insane” White House briefing on Iran attended by him and his Senate colleagues, is one of the most right-wing members of that deliberative body. Angry and shaken, Lee clearly believes that this president is in need of congressional restraint. For him and the Democrats who passed a war powers resolution seeking to restrain Trump, the daily chaos of his presidency now seems to be a prelude to catastrophe.

On the simplest scale of logic, nothing that the president did or said in the current crisis made sense, but every moment reflected the mindless confusion that has characterized his policymaking from the moment he entered the Oval Office.

Trump ordered the extrajudicial killing of Soleimani on the pretext that the Iranian general was plotting the same kind of assault against American diplomats and soldiers. So thin was the justification for this assassination that even Lee didn’t find it persuasive. And if the Iranian were indeed fomenting plots against Americans, his death would hardly forestall such attacks and rather encourage them for the sake of vengeance.

Trump condemns Iran as a threat to regional peace and stability, which is at least nominally true. But he threatened, more than once, to perpetrate dozens of war crimes by blowing up Iranian cultural sites. With those barbarous declarations, he managed to make himself (and our country) seem less civilized than the bloody authoritarians in Teheran.

He routinely denounces and insults our allies in NATO, yet he quickly sought their support when his confrontation with Iran appeared to be spiraling out of control. Not surprisingly, those appalled allies rejected his overtures and sought a safe distance from his manic macho. Having lined up alongside our troops in Afghanistan for decades, the NATO countries don’t need to prove their steadfastness. But even our staunchest friends can’t support a president who discards the Geneva Conventions and stumbles toward war on a whim.

And when the killing of Soleimani provoked the Iraqi parliament to expel U.S. forces, Trump instantly threatened to impose ruinous sanctions on that country — where we have spent billions supposedly for the purpose of reconstruction. But the president has always claimed he wants to pull all our troops from Iraq, so it is hard to understand why he would punish its government for sending them home. He simply erupts in anger, with no thought or plan filling his vacant mind.

Has he escaped a politically ruinous war this time? Maybe, but the conflict with Iran will continue until the nuclear agreement he wrecked can be renegotiated or reinstated. Amid his destructive confusion, this much is obvious: Once more, Trump has advanced the objectives of America’s adversaries by alienating our friends, damaging our prestige and dividing our country.

IMAGE: Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Trump Vows: ‘I Will Never Drop Out Of The Race’ Despite Lewd Taped Remarks

By Emily Stephenson and Ginger Gibson

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With his campaign in crisis, U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed on Saturday to stay in the race despite calls from more than two dozen prominent Republicans for him to drop out following the release of a recording of him making lewd comments about women.

Both Trump’s wife and his running mate criticized his words, saying they were insulting and indefensible.

“The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!” Trump wrote on Saturday afternoon on the social media website Twitter.

The video was the latest calamity for Trump, who had hoped to revive his flagging campaign in the face of a recent drop in polls with less than a month until Election Day.

Trump is due to appear alongside Democrat Hillary Clinton on Sunday in their second debate in the run-up to the general election. Clinton is not expected to address Trump’s video before then.

The 2005 video of Trump talking on an open microphone showed the then-reality TV star speaking about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. The video was taped only months after Trump married his third wife, Melania.

In a statement, Melania Trump called her husband’s words “unacceptable and offensive to me.”

“This does not represent the man that I know,” she said. “He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”

The backlash over the video was swift and widespread.

More than 60 prominent Republican current and former officeholders issued statements condemning Trump’s remarks about women, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and John McCain, the party’s standard bearer in 2008. More than 20 called for Trump to end his presidential bid.

In an unusual move, his vice presidential running mate Mike Pence issued a critical statement of Trump’s words, saying on Twitter that he “cannot defend them.”

“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump,” said Pence, who is governor of Indiana.

Pence indicated he would continue to support Trump, despite calls from several Republicans for Trump to step aside and let Pence be the nominee.

There is no precedent for a major party to replace its nominee this late in the campaign and it was unclear if there was an avenue to force him out. Voting has begun in several states, including swing states Virginia and North Carolina.

A recorded apology by Trump early on Saturday did not stymie an avalanche of calls from members of his party to quit.

Trump huddled on Saturday in Trump Tower with senior advisers, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Despite previous scheduling, Giuliani will appear on five major Sunday morning news programs, a rare round robin reserved for major news events – replacing Republican Chairman Reince Priebus on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on “Fox News Sunday,” a last-minute switch. No reason was given for the bump of Conway. A CBS news release said the RNC asked to replace Priebus because Trump’s operation wanted “a campaign person” to appear on the program.

Trump left the building briefly to greet a small crowd of supporters, saying “100 percent” he would remain in the race. Before returning to a bank of elevators, he told reporters, “Tremendous support.”

He quickly moved to do damage control in Saturday’s video in which he declared himself a changed man and attempted to shift the focus to his opponent Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. On Twitter, Trump posted critical statements from Juanita Broaddrick, a woman who has accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting her.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” Trump said in his video statement, posted on his Facebook page.

Trump has struggled to win over women voters, and the video was expected to further feed Democratic criticism about his past behavior toward women. Trump’s support has suffered among suburban women and white, college-educated women, groups that Republicans have traditionally won.

In the recording that triggered the firestorm, Trump said of one woman, “I did try and fuck her. She was married.” He went on to discuss his attraction to others.

“I just start kissing them,” he said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it.”

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Trump said.

On Saturday afternoon, CNN published a separate report detailing remarks Trump made over the course of several years while appearing on Howard Stern’s radio program.

The remarks included discussing the size of his daughter’s breasts and that he once had sex with three women at the same time. Trump was asked if he would have sex with a black woman and responded, “It depends on what your definition of black is.”

The remarks were the last straw for some Republicans who have stuck with him through a series of controversial remarks, including calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals,” calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants, attacking a judge of Mexican descent, attacking the Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed at war and saying Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he had been a prisoner of war.

House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump to a scheduled appearance on Saturday in Wisconsin. Pence declined to speak in his place.

The list of Republicans announcing they would not vote for Trump or calling on him to step aside grew on Saturday: Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lisa Murkowsi, Dan Sullivan, Mark Kirk, Jeff Flake, John Thune, Mike Crapo, Shelley Moore Capito and Mike Lee; House members Jason Chaffetz, Mia Love, Joe Heck, Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby and Barbara Comstock; and Governors John Kasich, Dennis Daugaard and Gary Herbert.

Additionally, former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Trump to quit.

“Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy,” McCain said in a statement.

While Democrats largely remained silent, opting to let Republicans attack one of their own, Vice President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter, “The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault.”

Some prominent Republicans indicated they would stick with Trump. Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, said they would continue to support him.

“I think 10 years ago he was a different man,” said Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia. “I am very glad that he quickly apologized.”

(Additional reporting by Grant Smith, Amy Tennery, Jeff Mason and Emily Flitter in New York, Ayesha Rascoe in Chicago, Steve Holland, Amanda Becker, Eric Beech and Mohammed Zargham in Washington; Writing by Ginger Gibson, Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by James Dalgleish, Toni Reinhold and Bernard Orr)

Is ExxonMobil Responsible For Lying About Climate Change? Republican Senators Say Fraud Is ‘Free Speech’

A group of Republican senators has written a letter to the U.S. Attorney General to stifle any future federal inquiries concerning climate change, claiming it violates the First Amendment rights of corporations like ExxonMobil, which suppressed its research into the phenomenon for several decades, according to an explosive report from Inside Climate News last September.

A group of Democratic senators has since responded with their own letter, asking the Attorney General to stay the course.

The first letter, signed by Republicans Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, David Perdue, and David Vitter, accused the attorney general of suppressing debate on the validity of climate change, a violation of the First Amendment rights of corporations who have continued to question the validity of climate change.

Privately-funded scientific research can be actively misrepresented, they argue, even despite the global implications of doing so. It’s not fraud, it’s free speech!

“These actions provide disturbing confirmation that government officials at all levels are threatening to wield the sword of law enforcement to silence debate on climate change,” the letter, addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reads. “As you well know, initiating criminal prosecution for a private entity’s opinions on climate change is a blatant violation of the First Amendment and an abuse of power that rises to the level of prosecutorial misconduct.”

“Threatening prosecution of those who dare to challenge the most outlandish scaremongering by climate activists strikes at the very heart of the Free Speech protections on which this nation was founded,” said Lee, one of the senators who signed the letter, in a statement that appeared on Cruz’s Senate page.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, and Sheldon Whitehouse, some of the most liberal Democrats in the chamber, shot back with their own statement claiming that companies like Exxon committed fraud, which isn’t protected as free speech under the First Amendment, when suppressing the findings of its own scientists on the effects of fossils fuels.

“We write today to urge that you view the Republican Senators’ May 25 letter as Exhibit A among the reasons why the Department of Justice should take a full and honest look at possible fraud in the fossil fuel industry’s climate denial operation,” read the Democratic senators’ response. “It has always been and remains good law that fraud is not protected by the First Amendment. It would be a sorry world in which corporations engaged in fraud could pull the screen of the First Amendment over any investigation of their fraud.”

The senators said that their Republican counterparts were using tactics once used by the tobacco industry and its supporters to suppress scientific scrutiny of the harmful effects of cigarettes on humans.

“The Republican Senators’ letter reprises the tobacco lawsuit’s own early history of efforts from Congress to discourage or interfere with that lawsuit in order to protect the tobacco industry,” continued the letter. “The Republican Senators’ letter also reprises arguments made in the press against bringing the tobacco lawsuit, and made in court against that lawsuit: to wit, that the First Amendment should prevent the investigation or determine the litigation. This argument was soundly rejected by the Department, and then by Judge Kessler, and then by the United States D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

It’s ironic that the party of climate change deniers is demanding that their side be given the freedom of speech to air their politically motivated, unscientific opinions on climate change while consistently opposing any discussion of the real effects by anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Last year, aided in part by Cruz, Republicans claimed that NASA was wasting money monitoring weather patterns that have revealed already the real effects of climate change. “The core function of NASA is to explore space,” said the Texas senator. “NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission.”

He was predictably annoyed that NASA was actively educating the public about the realities of climate change and sharing the data it collected with the global scientific community.

While Republicans may want to continue to question and deny the scientific validity of climate change, even their bankrollers are beginning to come around to the reality that fossil fuels are shifting the planet’s weather patterns and causing extreme weather to occur more regularly. On Wednesday, ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded energy company in the world, voted to make it easier to elect climate change advocates to the company’s board of directors in a vote approved by 62 percent of the company’s shareholders.

“We are not ignoring the risk that is out there,” said Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson following a shareholder meeting in Dallas, when pressed by one shareholder about climate science. “I don’t think we see it all that differently. Our differences are in how we’re going to address it.”

That wasn’t the case for decades, when Exxon hid the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change. Now, Republicans want to protect the rights of other corporations to lie about the potentially catastrophic implications of their private scientific research.