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Grace And Integrity: Jen Psaki's Last Day At White House Podium

Today was White House Secretary Jen Psaki’s final day. Karine Jean-Pierre will be taking Psaki’s place in front of the press during the daily briefings. Jen Psaki has been a steady and welcome fixture in an administration that has been tasked with cleaning up the catastrophic destruction of the previous administration. It was a sad day in some respects, as Psaki has been a highlight for many, offering up witty and solid rebuttals to the steady fact-free propaganda of the right-wing media sphere.

Psaki began her final briefing by thanking the Biden administration, the Biden family, the press, and her husband, saying that anyone with children knows that they cannot execute any of their professional work without the support of a spouse. It was an emotional thank you that Psaki handled with the same level of grace that she has been able to apply to her daily press briefings over the past 16 months. Psaki opened the floor to questions and answered questions about abortion, inflation, supply shortages, and COVID-19, and then she signed off.

Here is Psaki’s opening statement on her last day.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki delivers her final press briefing

After covering all kinds of questions about subjects domestic and global, Psaki showed some of the flair that made her a hero to many Americans. A reporter asked a leading question about how President Biden’s Department of the Interior had recently canceled three oil and gas leases, and how this might be a sign that the Biden administration wasn’t doing what was needed to be done to lower oil prices (forget about the fact that fossil fuel companies are very clearly gouging consumers), Psaki gave a fact-filled extravaganza of an answer, detailing how oil and gas companies are sitting on fallow leases already, doing nothing but asking for more cheap public land leases.

At one point someone in the press asked Jen what wisdom she has gained in her position over the last year and a half. She reiterated what the nature of her job was, that she needed to make sure she spoke as frequently as possible with President Biden to understand what he wanted to say and what his policy ideas were. She also gave an important note to the press that learning about the policies being talked about, knowing exactly what are in any given policy, what it is trying to accomplish, and how, is fundamental in being able to ask meaningful questions or even criticizing those policies (I’m looking at you, Peter Doocy).

She said she was confident that Karine Jean-Pierre had also internalized many of those lessons as Deputy Press Secretary and that in the weeks ahead, she “will bring her own magic,” and style of communication to the position. Karine also assuaged many in the press by saying the plan was to continue holding daily press briefings, as being a fascistic dictatorial propaganda machine like the last administration is not an option.

Jen Psaki talks about her advice to others after having been WH Press Sec. for over a year

Finally, Jen Psaki said her very quick good bye.

Jen Psaki leaves the White House Press Briefing podium for the last time

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Craven: Hannity Obeyed Election Day Commands From Trump White House

Sean Hannity sought, received, and carried out marching orders from the Trump White House on what to say on Election Day 2020. At a normal news outlet, this would be cause for alarm and would trigger an internal investigation into how often such behavior was going on – but Hannity works for Fox News, which long ago accepted his sidegig as a Republican political operative whose primary loyalty is to Donald Trump.

Hannity’s communications with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are included in a trove of 2,319 text messages Meadows sent or received between November 3, 2020, which was Election Day, and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. The texts were selectively provided by Meadows to the January 6 select committee and obtained by CNN, which reported on them on Monday.

The texts show Hannity reaching out to Meadows and receiving instructions on what to tell his audience on the afternoon of Election Day. After Hannity asked Meadows about whether Trump would win the chief of staff’s home state of North Carolina, Meadows told Hannity to use his radio show to “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote.” Hannity responded, “Yes sir[.] On it. Any place in particular we need a push[?]” Meadows wrote back, “Pennsylvania. NC AZ,” then added “Nevada,” to which Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere[.]”

Hannity followed through on his pledge to Meadows to exhort his radio audience to the polls in those key states, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted after reviewing that day’s edition of Hannity’s radio show, which airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET:

“I am acting as though and knowing that every single, solitary vote matters,” Hannity said near the top of the show. He added that he was sharing insights after having “been on the phone all day with people all over the country.”

A bit later: “Every single vote in every one of these states that I have just mentioned absolutely, positively matters.”

And later still: “If you’re going to be voting, you know, please, if you’re online, please don’t say, oh, this is going to take too long. Your vote is necessary. Every vote matters.”

Bump also noted that three states Hannity mentioned most frequently on that broadcast were Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona – the three states Meadows first indicated to Hannity as priorities.

In short, Hannity appears to have said what the Trump White House told him to say. And there’s no reason to think this was the first time that happened – the exchange between Meadows and Hannity is casual, with no indication from either party that anything untoward was happening.

Such behavior would generally be interpreted by a responsible news outlet as a massive ethical breach. But Fox is a Republican propaganda outlet that has completely given up on enforcing anything resembling rules or journalistic ethics for Hannity, allowing him to moonlight as a key Trump adviser.

Hannity appeared in a promotional video for Trump’s campaign, was revealed as a secret client of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a back channel between Trump and his embattled associates, spoke at a Trump political rally, and reportedly wrote one of his campaign ads. News reports indicated he was providing the president with political advice and receiving notes on his show in near-nightly conversations, and was so influential at the White House that aides called him “the ‘shadow’ chief of staff.”

Through it all, while journalists noted that such behavior would constitute firing offenses at other outlets, Fox stood by their man. At this point, there’s no question that Hannity does Trump’s bidding because that’s what the network wants him to do.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

Former Trump White House Doc Spent Campaign Funds On Country Club

Earlier in April news came out that the former White house doctor for Donald Trump—the guy who said Trump had “good genes”—Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. Why? It still isn’t clear. What is clear is that the new congressman who has spread lies like In 2022, illegal immigrants will have MORE FREEDOMS and easier access to healthcare and ballot boxes than most Americans,” is likely being investigated for the kinds of things that racist, dubious, opportunist, craven doctors-turned-politicians can be investigated for: Anything and everything.

On Monday, Roll Call reported that Jackson seems to have spent “more than $2,300 in costs associated with membership at a private social club in Texas.” The campaign money Jackson spent was at the Amarillo Club in Texas. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Jackson seems to have broken the Federal Election Commission Act (FECA). That’s illegal, as in against the law. Here are a couple of things you aren’t allowed to spend campaign funds on:

  • “Country club memberships”
  • “Dues and fees for health clubs or recreational facilities”

You need only a third-grade reading level to understand that Jackson’s FEC filings seem to reek.

The Representative from the 13th District of Texas, best known as “Candy Man” for his willingness as a doctor to sign off prescriptions on anything and saying that Donald Trump was in amazing health, joins other fiscally irresponsible GOP candidates like North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn in his willingness to spend other people’s money on his good time. A Jackson spokesperson told Roll Call that the membership costs to the this Texan country club “are strictly associated with campaign and fundraising events.” Of course, this is only legal if the costs were incurred during an event for fundraising. Having a year-round membership, unless all of your fundraising is done at this country club year-round, is not legal.

When charges solely listed as being for food and drink are included, the congressman's main campaign campaign committee, Texans for Ronny Jackson, reported spending more than over $6,400 at the Amarillo Club since 2020

Here’s the FEC’s explanation of fees that they consider “Automatic personal use.”

Campaign funds may not be used to pay for dues to country clubs, health clubs, recreational facilities or other nonpolitical organizations unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.

The looseness with which MAGA monsters like Jackson are willing to dip into their campaign tills to pay for their own recreation and entertainment is pretty astonishing. Even more so when you consider that such a large part of the GOP platform is stifling any and all legislation that would help their constituents by arguing for “fiscal responsibility.”

In the scheme of things, $2,300 isn’t a lot of money for a campaign powered by GOP hate and Trumpian butt-kissing, but it does show how cavalier the Republican Party’s candidates have become with run-of-the-mill corruption.

All of this comes just a few days after revelations that Oath Keeper insurrectionists were exchanging private texts about Jackson’s need for militia protections during the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol building by people like the Oath Keepers. Jackson denies knowing any of the faktriots who were burning up their text threads worrying about him on Jan. 6, 2021.

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Trump White House Counsel, Stephen Miller Appearing Before Select Committee

Months after his initial subpoena, former President Donald Trump’s senior aide and speechwriter Stephen Miller is reportedly testifying before the January 6 select committee on Thursday.

The select committee is steadily rolling toward what will soon be weeks of public hearings beginning in late May or June. Private depositions, including this one with Miller, however, are still helping investigators tick off any final boxes in a probe that has collected more than 800 interviews behind closed doors.

According to the Associated Press, sources were unclear on whether Miller would appear in person or virtually. A committee spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos.

The New York Times reported just 24 hours ago that the committee met with two of Trump’s most trusted attorneys, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, on Wednesday. They were not formally subpoenaed. The attorneys were not under oath nor was their testimony transcribed. They are, however, likely to return, and on those visits, their engagement with the committee could be more formal.

Why the attorneys would meet with the committee this week is also being kept under wraps, but the National Archives on Wednesday did notify the panel it would soon begin transmitting a completely new tranche of records from the Trump White House.

Those documents are expected to be remitted to the committee within 15 days—barring a court order stopping the hand-off.

This February, Trump notified National Archivist David Ferriero that he would claim privilege over thousands of records in what will now be the seventh transmission.

Trump to Archives Feb 2022 by Daily Kos

Trump has been on a consistent losing streak, though, in trying to legally shroud January 6 documents from Congress. President Joe Biden overruled Trump’s executive privilege assertions, and courts have reinforced that decision.

The Archives will soon hand off Philbin’s records to the probe and that includes correspondence about the lawsuits he launched on Trump’s behalf to challenge Biden’s electoral victory. As for Cipollone, he was present for many meetings of critical importance to the Jan. 6 committee’s probe.

Cipollone was privy to meetings where Trump allegedly leaned on his other attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to call the Department of Homeland Security and demand that voting machines be seized because of widescale fraud.

That fraud was non-existent, but nonetheless, Trump raised the prospect on more than one occasion.

Cipollone and Philbin were also in the room when Attorney General Bill Barr tendered his resignation to Trump. In his recent book, Barr described the scene as explosive with Trump’s face “quivering” in anger when Barr rejected his insistent claim that there was fraud in the 2020 election.

Miller’s appearance, meanwhile, signals a continued tightening of the committee’s focus on Trump’s innermost circle. Whether Trump asserted privilege over Miller’s testimony Thursday remains to be seen. He reportedly offered his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner a chance to invoke privilege during their appearance.

Neither took him up on the offer.

Investigators want to interview Miller about his role in Trump’s “alternate elector” scheme. In an interview with Fox in December 2020, Miller openly vowed that Trump’s so-called alternates would keep the president in power because they had the ability to stop or delay the certification of electoral votes.

Those electors, however, were unsanctioned and unrecognized in every state they formed in. The National Archives ultimately rejected all alternate slates for certification. The last hope for Trump to stay in power was to have then Vice President Mike Pence stop the proceedings. Pence did not.

There are also questions about Miller’s involvement in crafting Trump’s January 6 speech. The ex-senior adviser has a penchant for inciteful rhetoric

Trump’s onetime bodyman turned personnel director John McEntee met with investigators on Wednesday, too. It was revealed in November that McEntee played a critical role in having Trump’s Defense Secretary Mark Esper ousted, despite being a political neophyte with zero experience in the defense arena.

He was, however, one of Trump’s pets inside the administration because he took it upon himself to root out any and all anti-Trump sentiment in the White House’s ranks and report on his findings.

Printed with permission from Dailykos.

'Slightly Better Than Expected': Experts Say Core Inflation Now Slowing

The monthly Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was released Tuesday morning, and while inflation continues to rise some economists appear pleased, with one stating the report is “slightly better than anticipated.”

Overall, the annual rate of inflation is 8.5 percent, but removing food and energy, prices are up 6.5 percent annually.

Gas prices are a big part of the inflation rate. CNN’s cable reporting calls the current report a “rearview mirror” look, given that gas prices are coming down. They add some economists are hoping the peak of the inflation has been reached. They also note that the U.S. does not rely much on oil from Russia, so in other countries, inflation is worse.

“Food prices are up 8.8% over the past year. Energy prices are up 32%, including 11% in March alone — reflecting the spike in energy prices associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” The New York Times’ Ben Casselman notes.

Casselman points to Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine for food price increases:

And he sees some good news: “Headline inflation accelerated in March, but we all knew that would happen given gas prices. The bigger surprise is the slowdown in ‘core’ inflation.”

There’s still plenty to be concerned about. Casselman says this is “the fastest year-over-year inflation since 1981.”

Meanwhile, oil companies – not the President – set the price of gas at the pump and other energy products, and are under no obligation to price gouge, which is illegal in most states during a declared state of emergency, such as war, natural disasters, or COVID-19.

University of Michigan economist and public policy professor Justin Wolfers:

And Wolfers throws a challenge to the mainstream media, which is generally focused on only bad news:

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Chaotic Trump White House ‘Lost’ Millions Of Vaccine Doses

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Joe Biden has been in office for ten days and, already, his administration has uncovered a number of chaotic issues inherited from the Trump administration.

According to Politico, Biden's team had a prioritized focus on combatting the raging coronavirus pandemic, but instead of completely focusing on their 200-page pandemic response plan, this week has been largely dedicated to "trying to wrap their hands around the mushrooming crisis — a process officials acknowledge has been humbling, and triggered a concerted effort to temper expectations about how quickly they might get the nation back to normal."

While the Biden administration's work should be well underway, they are still trying to locate more than 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines that have already been shipped to states. According to Biden aides, they inherited a deeply flawed system for maintaining proper records and inventory of vaccine distribution.

Julie Morita, a member of Biden's transition team, explained how detrimental the flawed transfer of power was and how it, subsequently, hindered the progression of efforts to mitigate the virus and effectively carry out vaccine distribution.

"Nobody had a complete picture," said Morita. "The plans that were being made were being made with the assumption that more information would be available and be revealed once they got into the White House."

One individual described as a person "with knowledge of the vaccine effort who's not authorized to discuss the work" also weighed in with an analogy of the Biden administration's uphill battle despite having a solid plan to move forward.

"It's the Mike Tyson quote: 'Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,'" that person said, adding, "They are planning. They are competent. It's just the weight of everything when you sit down in that chair. It's heavy."

The latest news comes as the Biden administration works to locate the 8,700 ventilators that Trump's White House donated to other nations. According to The Washington Post, a new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that there is very little information to explain the roll-out of ventilators. The United States reportedly spent more than $200 million on the distribution process.

"These ventilators were not in State or AID's strategic plan," said David Gootnick, GAO director of international affairs. "They could not articulate for us the criteria they used for what ventilators went to what countries."

But despite the hurdles the Biden administration is facing, political leaders and lawmakers have lauded the work they are doing to improve pandemic response. George Helmy, chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently commended the new administration on its efforts to maintain transparency. "There is no doubt they are doing a better job," said Helmy. "We have a true partner who is being transparent and collaborative."

Republican Legislators Rigging Electoral Votes To Insure GOP Wins White House

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

President Joe Biden won five swing states in the 2020 election that had voted for Donald Trump four years earlier. Republicans are now pushing to rig the system to make sure that no Democrat can repeat that feat in the future.

Biden's 306-to-232 Electoral College victory was earned by holding every state Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and also winning Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while picking up one elector in Nebraska. Trump tried unsuccessfully to get Republican state legislatures in those states to illegally overrule the voters and declare him the winner.

Now, rather that focus on nominating a less unpopular party standard bearer next time around, Republicans are instead pushing to rig their states' electoral votes for future elections.

Arizona state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the chair of the state House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give the Republican-controlled state legislature the power to revoke the secretary of state's certification of individual electors "by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration." It would also entitle anyone contesting the results of an election to a binding jury trial to determine who won Arizona's 11 electoral votes.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) denounced Bolick's proposal as a "Democracy killing bill" and vowed to mount a referendum campaign to overturn it should it be enacted by the legislature.

Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin are exploring another option: changing the way the states allocate their electors to mirror their gerrymandered congressional maps.

A bill filed by Wisconsin state Rep. Gary Tauchen earlier this month would change the allocation of the state's 10 electoral votes so that just two go to the statewide winner and the rest are awarded by the candidate who got the plurality of votes in each House district. Though Joe Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes in November, such a system would have given six of the state's electors to Trump and just four to Biden.

"Doing it by congressional district is actually a terrible idea, because what it will do is amp up the partisan efforts to draw those districts to favor one side or the other," University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of politics Barry Burden told the Wisconsin Examiner. "It's already an ugly process, but it will be on steroids if those districts affect not only control of Congress but also control the presidency."

In Michigan, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga is pushing for state legislators to do the same thing. In a post to his campaign page on Facebook earlier this month, he noted, "If Michigan were to end the winner take all system of electoral college votes and instead break it up by congressional district, it would make campaigning in our state much more balanced. This would remove Detroit's outsized influence and encourage candidates to compete for votes in each congressional district across the entire state, not just the big cities."

Under such a scheme, Trump would have received eight of Michigan's 16 electors last year, despite losing the state to Biden by more than 154,000 votes.

Had the states changed their rules prior to the 2020 election, they could have cost Biden 25 electors, putting Trump just 13 votes shy of a second term.

Both Wisconsin and Michigan currently have Democratic governors who could veto any changes to the electoral system, but both are up for reelection in 2022.

Republicans in Georgia, which gave Biden 16 electoral votes, have so far been focused on another way of ensuring Democrats don't win statewide again: suppressing minority voter participation. They have introduced several bills that would make it harder to vote, especially for Democratic-leaning segments of the population.

Even without such voter-suppression efforts, Republicans already enjoy structural advantages that make it hard for Democrats to win the presidency.

Though Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million in November, his narrow majorities in three swing states meant that a shift of just 44,000 votes could have cost him the Electoral College majority.

While Democrats have won the popular majority in seven of the last eight presidential elections, Republicans have won the White House three times — thanks to the Electoral College.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Bannon Says QAnon Is “FBI Psyop” After Embracing Cult In October 2020

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

After fully embracing QAnon, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is now denouncing the conspiracy theory.

QAnon claims that former President Trump was secretly working to take down a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who make up the "deep state" and Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory has been labeled as a domestic terror threat by the FBI and has been linked to multiple arrests of QAnon supporters connected to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Bannon embraced the conspiracy theory in late October while streaming his podcast War Room: Pandemic on YouTube. He went so far as to proclaim that QAnon "at least appears directionally to be correct" and suggested that the baseless theory is "real" and is "the elephant in the room."

Video fileVideo Player00:0000:48SHARE

From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

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From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Ever the pro-Trump strategist, Bannon has turned on the conspiracy theory following increased scrutiny of the far right in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. On January 22, Bannon's newsletter, Populist Press, had its lead story read "'Q ANON' AN FBI PSYOP."

Populist Press

CitationFrom the January 22 edition of Populist Press

The linked article suggested QAnon was a "psychological cyber operation" fabricated by the FBI to "discredit and ultimately derail the supporter base of US President Trump."

During the January 22 edition of War Room: Pandemic, Bannon and his co-host drilled down on their newfound disdain for the conspiracy, with Bannon calling one of the core QAnon claims that there would be mass arrests of prominent Democrats "nonsense." The co-host responded by labeling QAnon claims as "shortcuts to protecting your republic" and suggesting that QAnon followers are "in the way" of real political change with their "happy talk" and "fantasies."

From the January 21, 2021, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Bannon's embarrassing fall into the QAnon rabbit hole came and went as he watched Trump's loyal base of followers wreak havoc at the Capitol and fail to overturn the election results. His sudden turn to dismiss the conspiracy theory only further exposes the hollow political opportunism of his constant stream of misinformation and calls to violence as equally disingenuous and dangerous.