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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

My Pillow Guy Visits White House To Talk 'Martial Law' With Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell arrived at the White House on Friday for an apparent meeting with President Donald Trump, raising alarms after a press photographer shared a close-up shot of the visitor's notes.

While the image wasn't entirely clear — the paper was folded in half, and some of the text was blurry due to the distance at which the photo was taken — it strongly indicated that Lindell planned to bring up with Trump widely debunked conspiracy fictions about the 2020 election. The notes even suggested he would push for personnel changes, the invocation of the Insurrection Act, and the possible declaration of martial law.

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Biden Proposes Massive $2 Trillion Pandemic Rescue Plan

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President-elect Joe Biden believes that rescuing the faltering economy and crushing the coronavirus are the most important challenges he faces right out of the gate when taking office on Jan. 20. To address these problems, he proposed a bold and aggressive $1.9 trillion legislative package on Thursday to tackle them head on.

"The US government can borrow money for less than the rate of inflation, which means we owe it to ourselves to borrow, borrow, borrow," said writer Matt Yglesias in praise of the plan. "I'm excited to see a new administration thinking big."

A key question, of course, is whether the plan can pass Congress. It will likely have support in the House, where Democrats are in control, but Biden will be working with the thinnest possible majority in the Senate. And under current rules, a bill typically needs 60 votes to pass the Senate — which would require 10 Republicans to sign on. Biden hopes to convince members of the opposition to join him, but if he can't, his team also has plans to use a procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill with just 51 votes.

Here are seven key features of the plan as it is currently conceived:

1. $600 + $1,400 = $2,000 checks

One of the most popular elements of the first two rounds of COVID rescue funds was direct government payments to individuals and families. After the first round, which sent $1,200 to individuals under a set income threshold, Congress authorized another set of $600 payments starting in December — even though Democrats and President Donald Trump were demanding $2,000. The $2,000 figure became a rallying point in the Georgia runoffs which Democrats won, so Biden plans to follow through on the promise of delivering this amount. But be careful, though — since the $600 has already gone out to many people, the amount individuals will likely receive if the Biden bill passes as proposed will be an additional $1,400, rounding out the combined payments to a total of $2,000.

Some have already begun criticizing the plan for this plank. But it's important to remember it has many other moving parts.

2. Help for unemployed people, hunger, and people at risk of eviction

The plan also increases the federal boost to weekly unemployment payments from $300 to $400 and extends the applicable period to September. Under current law, the payments would run out in March. There's another $25 billion of support for renters and an extension of the eviction moratorium from the end of January to the end of September. People who get support for buying food through programs such as SNAP will also see increased funds.

3. Ramp up a national vaccination program

If the plan passes, there will be $400 billion to fight the coronavirus. These funds will help enact a $20 billion national vaccination plan, which is the best hope the country has of putting the virus behind it quickly. Under Trump, vaccination rates have been slow as states have largely been left on their own to get shots in arms.

4. More COVID testing

There's also $50 billion allocated for expanding COVID testing, which will continue to be crucial until the population approaches herd immunity through vaccination. Biden hopes to be able to have schools open in the spring, which will require widespread and frequent testing.

5. $350 billion for state and local aid

State and local governments have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus downturn since they depend on tax revenues, which have fallen, to keep their budgets balanced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have resisted calls to provide support for localities, denouncing it as a "blue state bailout" — even though states need help regardless of their politics. Under the Biden plan, $350 billion would be earmarked for these governments,

6. Tax credits

In addition to the direct payments of an additional $1,400, the plan gives extra support to families by expanding select tax credits, as CNBC explained:

The president-elect wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000 for qualifying children aged 17 and under. Kids under age 6 would be eligible for a $3,600 credit.
Biden is calling to put these expansions into effect for the year on an emergency basis.
In comparison, families can currently claim up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
To further benefit low-income families, Biden also wants to make the child tax credit fully refundable. That means taxpayers get a refund check, even if the credit exceeds their tax liability.

7. $15 minimum wage

It seems unlikely that it will make it into the final version of the plan, but Biden's vision would include a hard-fought progressive goal: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Pence Refuses To Oust Trump Using 25th Amendment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

As the House of Representatives prepared Tuesday night to vote on a resolution calling for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Donald Trump from his position, the man first in line to the Oval Office wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi denying the request.

He started by acknowledging the shock of "the attack on our Nation's Capitol last week," and he praised her and others in Congress for their "leadership." But he wrote sharply against the idea of using the 25th Amendment.

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GOP Leader Cheney Blasts Trump — And Will Vote To Impeach Him

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and the third-ranking member of GOP House leadership, announced Tuesday evening that she will vote in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump.

"On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes," she wrote in a statement. "This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic."

She went on to directly point a finger at Trump for his role in the attack.

"Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough," she said. "The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

She added: "I will vote to impeach the President."

Her announcement came shortly after multiple reports said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pleased that Democrats are moving for with impeachment and thinks the president committed impeachable offenses, though it did not say he would necessarily vote to convict in the Senate.

New York Republican Rep. John Katko also came out earlier in the day to say he would support impeachment. Other Republicans in Congress have called for Trump to immediately leave office or be removed, and the New York Times reported that as many as a dozen GOP House members could vote for impeachment.

McConnell Believes Trump Committed Impeachable Acts — And Aims To 'Purge' Him

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes President Donald Trump committed impeachable acts related to the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, according to a report Tuesday in the New York Times, and he is pleased that the Democrats are moving forward with a plan to push for his removal.

Democrats plan to vote on an impeachment article on Wednesday, which is expected to pass, and McConnell reportedly said he wants to see what final form it takes. The report does not expressly say McConnell would be looking to fast-track impeachment or that he would even vote in favor of removal himself.

However, it said that McConnell believes impeachment "will make it easier to purge" Trump from the Republican Party. It's not clear exactly what this means, but impeachment theoretically would give the Senate the opportunity to prevent Trump from taking office again.

The story also noted that around a dozen Republicans in the House may vote for impeachment. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that he opposes impeachment, but the Times found that he is not lobbying his caucus to oppose it. And he has reportedly pushed the idea of censuring the president as an alternative to impeachment, saying he could get substantial GOP support for such a measure, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dismissed the idea.

CNN's Manu Raju confirmed the report:


Right before the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, McConnell delivered a speech in the building finally denouncing Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the election result.

"The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken," he said. "They've all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever."

Speaking To Nation, Trump Admits Defeat — Amid A Torrent Of Lies

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump finally admitted on Thursday in a video on Twitter that a new administration will soon take over control of the federal government, exactly two months after the 2020 race had been called by the media in favor of Joe Biden.

But while the admission of defeat will likely be welcomed by Biden and his allies, as well as many hoping to see an end to the post-election chaos, it came too late to save the lives of five people who reportedly died in the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. [UPDATE: Capitol Police said in a statement that Officer Brian D. Sicknick died at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday "due to injuries sustained while on-duty."]

Driven by his false claims that the election had been stolen, the insurrectionists broke through barricades and halted Congress' counting of the Electoral College votes. Four of those in the mob reportedly died, officials said.

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CBS: Cabinet Members Discuss Trump's Removal Via 25th Amendment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

CBS News reported the stunning development on Wednesday that, in the wake of President Donald Trump's incitement of a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol as the Electoral College votes were being counted, Cabinet members are discussing using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

The 25th Amendment is designed to elevate the vice president to take over if the president becomes incapacitated. Whether it could be successfully utilized while the president is still fully conscious and capable of objecting, is not clear. If Trump were to object to its use, Congress could step in and affirm his removal; however, it's not clear how long this process would take.

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‘Remember This Day Forever’: Trump Celebrates His Mob’s Assault On Capitol

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump justified and celebrated a criminal and insurrectionist siege on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, even after a woman was reported to have died in the chaos.

"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," Trump told the rioters on Twitter, still falsely claiming that he won the 2020 election. "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"

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Constitutional Process Suspended As Trump Stokes Capitol Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump continued to attack the process of certifying Joe Biden's 2020 electoral win on Wednesday, even as mobs of his supporters violently thronged the U.S. Capitol and shut down Congress's official counting of the votes.

After Trump had held a nearby rally, the aggressive protesters began clashing with Capitol Police outside of the building where lawmakers met. They pushed through barricades, attacked law enforcement, and eventually breached the building, forcing lawmakers to suspend their proceedings. Nearby buildings were evacuated by officials.

Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused to abide by the president's demands to subvert the constitutional process and somehow overturn Biden's win, was rushed out of the proceedings.

While all this was going on, many pointed out that Trump could probably stop the chaos with a single tweet. Instead, he decided to throw fuel on the fire:

Those inside the Capitol Building were directed to shelter in place for safety.



Proud Boys Leader Arrested In Washington On Eve Of Protest

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Enrique Tarrio, who leads the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, was arrested on Monday by local police in Washington, D.C., according to the New York Times.

The report said that he had arrived in the city to join protests of the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. Tarrio and the Proud Boys are devoted supporters of President Donald Trump, who has falsely claimed that the election was rigged against him.

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With Mounting Demands For Probe Of Trump Call, U.S. Attorney In Georgia Abruptly Quits

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung Pak resigned abruptly on Monday, according to Talking Points Memo and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as the state finds itself at the center of fierce debates over the 2020 election.

It's not uncommon for U.S. attorneys to resign near the end of an outgoing administration. But Pak, a Republican who was appointed to his position by President Donald Trump in 2017, has previously indicated "he would not leave until Inauguration Day," Talking Points Memo reported. This apparently abrupt departure, then, is likely to draw scrutiny.

It's especially noteworthy because Trump himself suddenly became the target of intense criticism when the Washington Post published a recording of his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the weekend. In the call, Trump insisted he won the state, relying on a series of debunked and fictitious claims about supposed fraud and misconduct in the election that he claimed tilted the result in Biden's favor. Most egregiously, he told Raffensperger to "find" 11,780 votes, the number he believed he needed to flip the state and win its electoral votes. Trump even seemed to threaten Raffensperger when he suggested the secretary could face criminal penalties for his administration of the election.

Many observers, including top election law expert Rick Hasen, have suggested Trump could be prosecuted under federal and state law for this behavior. It is illegal to try to induce an election official to commit fraud.

There may be a mundane reason for Pak's departure. But the proximity to Trump's scandalous conduct suggests at least two possibilities. He may have left for reasons related to a possible investigation of the president for his behavior on the call and related actions, or he may have left because he was placed under similar pressure by the president or his proxies to find or invent allegations of wrongdoing in the Georgia election.

The more scandalous possibilities are also suggested by Trump's recent behavior toward the Justice Department. Trump made it clear he was not happy with former Attorney General Bill Barr's claims that federal investigators had found no evidence of fraud significant enough that it would have affected the result of the 2020 presidential election in any state. He has also reportedly been pushing for a special counsel to look into his allegations about the election. And since Barr himself abruptly left the Justice Department on Dec. 23 before Trump's term was officially concluded, to be replaced by acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, it's unclear whether there's anyone left who would stand up to the president's demands.

Pak's office would not provide any additional details about his departure, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Trump Rips Senate Republicans, Just When They Need Him Most

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump fumed on Friday after the Senate voted by a wide margin to override his veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, the legislation that funds the Pentagon.

While Trump has usually touted his push for increased funding of the military, he decided to use the transition period as an opportunity to block the $740 billion bill as leverage to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The provision protects online platforms from liability for posts by users, and the right wing has — for reasons that are not entirely clear — latched on to the idea that repealing it will address their major grievances with tech companies.

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Pelosi Triumphs With Passage Of CASH Act Mandating $2000 Relief Payments

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scored a big win on Monday night when the CASH Act, which would increase direct payments to individuals included in the recent coronavirus relief package from $600 to $2,000, passed the chamber by a 275-134 vote.

Though Pelosi and the Democrats hold a solid majority in the House of Representatives, this bill required a two-thirds majority to be approved by the chamber because it was moved under a process known as suspension. It wasn't clear the act had enough votes to pass, though she made clear she would keep fighting to pass it even if it failed.

"We will pass this bill today either under suspension or under a rule where it just requires a majority vote," she said. "I do think the American people would love to see that unity on their behalf."

But the speaker was able to spur 44 Republican members to break ranks and support the measure on Monday evening.

So while she showed that the Democratic Party largely stands behind calls for Americans to get more support — not less — during the pandemic, she also split the Republican caucus. And even by exposing the cracks in Republicans, she stilled showed most of the party is against the plan to give help to American families — even a plan supported by President Donald Trump.

That's not necessarily a massive coup for her, but it starts 2021 off on favorably footing, even as her caucus is set to shrink substantially. Her party is almost entirely united behind a popular issue, and her opponents are fractured. As soon as Trump announced he might block the bill and demanded the $2,000 payments, Pelosi jumped at the opportunity he had presented. Since it wasn't clear the bill could pass the two-thirds threshold, the plan is working out even better than she might have hoped.

But will the bill actually become law? Will Americans get $600 checks instead of $2,000?

That's far less clear. To become law, the Senate must now take up the bill. Under normal circumstances, it would be safe to assume that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn't even consider bringing the legislation to a vote. He hates bringing up tough bills that split his caucus, and he hates capitulating to Nancy Pelosi.

But by backing the measure, Trump has put McConnell in a tight spot. Control of the Senate for the next two years hangs in the balance as voting continues in Georgia Senate runoffs scheduled for Jan. 5. If Democrats win both seats for the state, the Democratic Party would control the chamber, thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' power to cast tie-breaking votes.

Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have been hammering Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue over the direct payment issue in the fight for the two Senate seats. Loeffler and Perdue had touted the passage of $600 payments that have since been slammed by the president as insufficient, while Ossoff and Warnock have vehemently supported the higher payments.

If McConnell just wants to block the bill to increase the payments, he can. But he risks putting Loeffler and Perdue on the defensive a week before the day of the runoffs, since their seats will determine whether McConnell remains majority leader. It's also not clear if Perdue and Loeffler really are enthusiastic about the more generous level of direct spending on families, but it seems unlikely they would want to oppose the popular measure right before Georgia voters cast their ballots.

But if McConnell brings it to the floor, will it pass? Senate Democrats are expected to support it. And some Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have voiced support for the measure. Along with Perdue and Loeffler, and a handful of other sympathetic GOP senators, it's possible there'd be enough votes for it to pass. But it would infuriate some members of the GOP caucus, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who vehemently oppose the idea on principle.

McConnell and the Senate GOP may try to find some poison pill to attach to the bill to prevent Democrats from supporting the measure, such as the creation of a voter fraud investigation or repeal of Section 230 to appeal to Trump's personal grievances. But these shenanigans may just emphasize that the Republicans aren't focused on enacting support for American families; they are just playing games instead.

Despite all this, it's not certain the fight falls out in Democrats' favor. While all the dynamics and popular opinion seem to support the Democratic Party's position and thus bolster than chances of Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia, voter behavior can be unpredictable. It's not clear that the people casting their ballots will interpret the series of events in the way they're perceived by people in Washington, D.C. Perhaps voters will have been successfully convinced by Trump that the $2,000 payments were his idea, and they'll show support for him by voting to send his allies, Perdue and Loeffler, back to the Senate.

Those uncertainties, aside, however, it's clear that events are playing out just as Pelosi had hoped, while McConnell has been roiled.

Trump Pardons Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, And Roger Stone

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Wednesday night, the White House released a new round of names of 26 people who President Donald Trump has given presidential pardons, in addition to three people who received commutations of their sentences for crimes.

Most notable of the people receiving pardons were former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, Trump ally Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner. Kushner is the father of Jared Kushner, the president's son in law.

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Pelosi Calls Trump’s Bluff On Threat To Veto Covid Relief

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump's bluff on Tuesday night as he threatened to derail the massive deal on government spending that had finally been reached between Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of the week.

In a video filled with lies posted to his Twitter account, the president suggested he might block the legislation, which included continued funding for much of the government and the COVID-19 relief deal that has been at the center of extensive congressional negotiations for months. One of the main planks of the relief deal was a plan to send $600 checks to the majority of Americans, as well as expanded unemployment insurance payments, funding for key services, and financial support for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

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Barr Reveals True Motives And Bad Faith In New Interview

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Speaking on the phone for 90 minutes with Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel as his tenure at the Justice Department comes to a close, Attorney General Bill Barr let down his guard. He must have been far too relaxed while talking to a devoted ally who once gratuitously referred to him as "real attorney general," because his comments were much more revealing and inculpatory than he seemed to realize.

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Enraged By Supreme Court Defeat, Texas GOP Chair Suggests Secession

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

After the Supreme Court decisively shut down a lawsuit attempting to overturn the 2020 election, Texas GOP chair Allen West issued a disturbing statement floating the idea of possible secession over the result.

The case was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, though it was widely panned by legal experts. Some believed that Paxton, currently under investigation by the FBI, was using the lawsuit as a vehicle to win President Donald Trump's favor and obtain a presidential pardon. Despite its lack of merit, the president and his allies rallied behind the lawsuit, with Trump himself calling it "the big one" — apparently trying to distinguish it from the more than 50 additional failed election lawsuits filed on his behalf.

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