Donald Trump

Wealthy, Fascistic Mercers Appear To Be Leaning Toward Trump Again

There are few families more consequential to the rise of fascism in this country than the Mercers. Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah have been the big-money funders behind most of the most aggressively fascist-minded groups you may have heard of. While the more famous Koch family has centered its political giving around corporate-friendly dismantling of government, the Mercers are the funders for Republicanism's far right, from white nationalist organizations to anti-democratic hoaxes and paranoia.

The Mercers backed Donald Trump's 2016 rise before becoming disenchanted with him somewhere near the midpoint of his term, reportedly unsatisfied with what their political investment had brought them. A new CNBC report, however, suggests that the father-daughter pair are once again mulling whether to back Trump as Trump attempts to retake the presidency on a platform of openly authoritarian rule.

One of the Republican Party’s most influential families may come off the sidelines to financially support Donald Trump’s latest White House run, after years of distancing themselves from him, according to people familiar with the matter.

Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, have not yet made a final decision on whether they’ll publicly back Trump, these people said. But the Mercers remain friendly with key players in Trump’s orbit, including former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, according to some of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the thinking of the notoriously private Mercer family.

Once again, the real story here is that this story is being shopped to begin with. We have only "people familiar with the matter" to rely on here, which means somebody involved with the Mercers, possibly with their permission, wants the political world to know the Mercer family may be close to choosing the horse they'll bet on.

Is it a prodding meant for the Trump camp, a signal that the family is willing to meet supplicants from Trump's camp and hear them out on why the indicted and furious Trump is again a good investment? Or is it meant to test the waters after the Mercers apparently began to feel uneasy about the publicity that resulted from their successful efforts to push Republicans into white nationalism and anti-democratic extremism?

The Mercers have reportedly become quite sensitive to charges that they support white nationalism, but those reports are from before experts began to more visibly coalesce around the identification of Mercer-backed entities as fascist, so we don't have any word on whether they like that term any better.

That the Mercers are one of the most powerful backers of fascist causes in America seems incontrovertible. An especially good rundown of the Mercer causes and connections was published by Salon a month after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

"The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution," Bannon told The New Yorker in 2017. "Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Steve Schmidt, a former Republican strategist and co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, sees it differently. Rebekah Mercer, he said in an interview with Salon, is the "chief financier or one of the chief financiers of the fascist movement, and that's what it is."

Rebekah Mercer was a co-founder of Parler, the social media network popular with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, militia groups, and the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Previously known more for their backing of xenophobic far-right groups, Mercer backed-groups leaned heavily towards the promotion of anti-democratic election hoaxes before Trump's attempted coup.

Whatever might have caused the Mercers to sour on Trump during his largely hapless and incompetence-riddled administration, it appears Trump's violent insurrection and attempted coup might have actually boosted his worth in the eyes of the Mercers. Once allegedly disillusioned with the man, apparently the Mercers are mulling returning as major Trump backers now that Trump is promising full-on fascist rule, from the purge of non-MAGA federal workers to the promised mass deportation of millions.

It is something to watch. The Mercers have earned their reputation as America's most prominent backers of fascism. Whatever considerations for "privacy" might have caused their soft retreat from politics during Trump's term may be ignorable now that a candidate is promising a truly fascist agenda of the sort that their money has long gone towards promoting. There is nothing the rest of us can do about it either way, other than to make sure their names and pictures are in the history books as the architects of whatever violence results.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Newly Revealed Memo Shows Trump Coup Plotted In Early December 2020

The New York Times has obtained a copy of the Dec. 6, 2020, memo written by Donald Trump-supporting lawyer Kenneth Chesebro that federal prosecutors have cited as a key piece of evidence in their case against Trump and, likely, against some of of his so-far-unindicted co-conspirators.

The contents of the memo aren't too surprising to anyone who was paying attention to the House investigation of the Trump White House's January 6, 2021, coup attempt. It does, however, spell out the intent of the co-conspirators quite plainly, as they hatched a plan for losing slates of Trump electors to sign documents purporting them to be their states' true electors, slates which would then be passed to Trump's vice president during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.

Quite a few Republican House and Senate blowhards have been trying to pass off their objections to certifying Trump's election loss as some sort of impotent protest vote. Nope. From the moment the plan was hatched, the co-conspirators intended it as a plan that would fraudulently overturn the election's results and reinstall Trump as president.

The memo written by Chesebro, identified only as co-conspirator 5 in the newest federal Trump indictment, proposed the plan that fellow co-conspirator John Eastman would quickly latch onto as the team's last-ditch strategy for nullifying the election: The Trump-Pence electors in all six allegedly "contested" states "must vote" and "send in the certificates containing their votes" on Dec. 14. It was to be portrayed to both the electors and the public as insurance, just in case Trump's legal team managed to score some implausible courtroom win that would change a state's vote totals, but after collecting those alleged "certificates" they were to be passed to Vice President Mike Pence—who would declare them to be the real electors based on his own say-so.

(c) On January in a solemn and constitutionally defensible manner, consistent with clear indications that this what the Framers of the Constitution intended and expected, and consistent with precedent from the first 70 years of our nation's history, Vice President Pence, presiding over the joint session, takes the position that it is his constitutional power and duty, alone, as President of the Senate, to both open and count the votes, and that anything in the Electoral Count Act to the contrary is unconstitutional.

This is, objectively an absolutely batshit argument to make—not in the least because according to the same logic, a vice president could pull any random gum wrapper out of his pocket, call it the official electoral slate of any random state, declare that it has added One Billion Electors to his preferred candidate, and not a single damn person in the country could overrule him. It is an inherently seditious plan, which is why even Chesebro immediately caveated the proposal to suggest that maybe he meant it and maybe he didn't.

I'm not necessarily advising this course of action, and the Vice President need not make a decision on how to proceed until January 6, and obviously there are many factors that will come to bear on how he proceeds, assuming the race has not been conceded before January 6. My point here is that it is important that the alternate slates of electors meet and vote on December 14 if we are to create a scenario under which Biden can be prevented from reaching 270 electoral votes, even if Trump has not managed by then to obtain court decisions (or state legislative resolutions) invalidating enough results to push Biden below 270.

The next paragraph, however, is perhaps the most illuminating. Again, many Republicans both before the coup attempt and after were insisting that the plan was not necessarily to reinstall Donald Trump as president: It was to declare the election results "disputed" and throw it to the House and Senate to resolve. Nope. The plan from the beginning wasn't just for Biden to lose, but for the vice president to engineer the vote count so that "officially," as the counting continued, Donald Trump was always ahead.

Again, I'd be happy to elaborate further on the January 6 scenario I have in mind, but provided the three conditions above are met, unless I am missing something, I believe that what can be achieved on January 6 is not simply to keep Biden below 270 electoral votes. It seems feasible that the vote count can be conducted so that at no point will Trump be behind in the electoral vote count unless and until Biden can obtain a favorable decision from the Supreme Court upholding the Electoral Count Act as constitutional, or otherwise recognizing the power of Congress (and not the President of the Senate) to count the votes.Specifically—but only if all six States are still contested, and all six slates of Trump-Pence electors had voted on December 14—I think the count could be managed so that Biden would have to seek Supreme Court review either when he is behind 12-0 in the electoral count or, at latest, when he is behind 232-227.

This sounds more than a little like the ploys used by the George W. Bush legal team to "win" the state of Florida during Bush's 2000 presidential bid. Pence was to "conduct" the vote count so that Biden electors were dropped and Trump electors were inserted in such a way as to keep Trump in the lead throughout the counting; the only recourse available to the Biden camp would be to somehow interrupt the count, convince Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to abandon his position presiding over the congressional vote counting and return to the Supreme Court, assemble the justices, and issue a ruling declaring that Pence could not in fact pull gum wrappers out of his pockets and declare them the new electoral slates.

And through this whole process, however long it took, the "official" tally of electoral votes in Congress would be conducted so that the television screens showed Trump, not Biden, to have more votes.

Even if, in the end, the Supreme Court would likely end up ruling that the power to count the votes (in the sense of resolving controversies concerning them) does not lie with the President of the Senate, but instead lies with Congress (either voting jointly, or in separate Houses), letting matters play out this way would guarantee that public attention would be riveted on the evidence of electoral abuses by the Democrats, and would also buy the Trump campaign more time to win litigation that would deprive Biden of electoral votes and/or add to Trump's column.I recognize that what I suggest is a bold, controversial strategy, and that there are many reasons why it might not end up being executed on January 6. But as long as it is one possible option, to preserve it as a possibility it is important that the Trump-Pence electors cast their electoral votes on December 14.

What we have there is the "bold" strategy in a nutshell. The plan was to convince Pence to count the votes fraudulently, even if it was "likely" that even the archconservative Supreme Court would slap the plan down as obviously illegal. At worst, the act of attempted sedition would "rivet" the public attention on the exact same hoaxes Trump's team had been concocting to justify the conspiracy to begin with; at best it would provide another bare scrap of time for Trump's team to concoct some new theory that would pass muster with the Supreme Court.

All of it hinged, however, on Pence going along with the criminal scheme of introducing fake electoral certificates to Congress as if they were the real ones. Pence resisted that plan—and kept resisting even as Trump himself continued to pressure and threaten him. The conspirators were able to gain the cooperation of Trump-backing state electors and numerous Republican senators and members of Congress, but not Pence.

That failure led to another escalation of the conspiracy: Coordinating with Republican allies, Trump endorsed and promoted a Jan. 6 "march" to the Capitol in which his most fervent supporters were to confront Congress and Pence to demand the election's result be overturned. Trump was even made aware that the crowd was armed, as he prepared to address them before the "march," and demanded security stations let the crowd through anyway.

The point of the march was to construct a mob that would provide an immediate and very real threat to anyone inside the building who objected to the elector-swapping plan. And Trump identified, by name, Mike Pence as the man that needed the most threatening.

The rest of the memo is fluff attempting to justify the rest, but the "bold, controversial strategy" of Trump and his co-conspirators was laid out by December 6 and was quickly adopted as each of the team's previous false claims were thrown out by sometimes-angry, sometimes-incredulous judges. Pence was to pocket up to six states’ worth of fraudulent "electors," declare them to be real, declare Trump to be leading in the electoral count, and dare the Supreme Court to contradict the plan even as a pre-staged, armed, and angry mob threatened violence or rebellion if they did.

It's just a little bit astonishing to read it, yet again, and realize that the Trump team fully intended their acts as a coup. They didn't know whether it would succeed, or whether the Supreme Court would back them, or what the military implications would be if Pence's one-person unilateral reversal of state vote totals resulted in what would assuredly have been massive civil unrest, but they carried out the plan nonetheless.

It's difficult to even put it in historical context; it was a genuine coup attempt, carried out inside the Oval Office itself, and one that quickly gained the backing of a sizable chunk of both Republican elected officials and the party's functionaries.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Special Counsel Immunizes Two Trump 'Fake Electors' To Compel Testimony

Special Counsel Immunizes Two Trump 'Fake Electors' To Compel Testimony

CNN reports that Special Counsel Jack Smith has granted limited immunity to "at least" two of the individuals who signed their name as fake Donald Trump "electors" in the Republican attempt to throw out the results of the 2020 presidential election that Biden won.

That's the short version, but the details are much more interesting. The two fake electors who were given immunity in exchange for their grand jury testimony last week are Nevada state Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald and national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, who had refused to answer questions posed by the House Select Committee investigating the scheme. It doesn't sound like there were negotiations involved. "In the situations where prosecutors have given witnesses immunity, the special counsel’s office arrived at the courthouse in Washington ready to compel their testimony after the witnesses indicated they would decline to answer questions under the Fifth Amendment," reports CNN.

It appears that the Nevada Republican Party chair and committeeman had "arrived" fully prepared to refuse to testify to the grand jury, only to have Smith and team surprise them by forcing the immunity deal on them and sitting them down in the big chair without the Fifth Amendment to fall back on. And that almost certainly means that Smith's team knew that McDonald and DeGraffenreid had testimony that would be damning for someone much higher up the ladder in the fake electors scheme than they were, and that Smith was fully prepared to let these two clowns skate if it meant the grand jury would get to hear about that.

That makes perfect sense. We know that the push to get state Republican officials to certify themselves as the "real" electors in states that Trump had lost were being pursued inside the White House, and by Donald Trump himself. It was Trump attorney John Eastman (now facing likely disbarment for his role in the scheme) who was pushing the fake electors plan to Trump's inner circle. The whole scheme revolved around smuggling the fake electors into the January 6 joint session of Congress convened to count and certify the election results. Then-Vice President Mike Pence could point to the fake versions, declare that there was a supposed conflict, and throw it to the assembled lawmakers for an argument as to whether the Biden-won states should have their electoral votes counted at all.

That was the scheme everyone from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) to Trump "lawyers" like Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman were counting on, and it only fell apart when Trump's own vice president refused to be part of an obvious coup attempt, either because of some shred of remaining decency or because he and his lawyers saw a possible firing squad on the tail end of the resulting events and wanted to steer themselves well clear of it. It’s also of note that two of those names, Cruz and Eastman, clerked together in the 1990s and are reportedly still close. The judge they clerked for? Retired U.S. Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig—who was one of the informal Pence advisers who warned him off the scheme as a “Constitutional crisis” in the making.

So yes, a great number of people inside the White House or in direct communication with Trump himself might have reason to worry about what McDonald and DeGraffenreid testified to, once Smith handed them both a piece of paper that erased their plans to remain silent. We know that there was a concerted push to get these fake electors signed on, and we know it was coming from Trump's core legal team. It was coming from Giuliani, from Eastman, from Bernie Kerik, from Christiana Bobb, and from Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

It's likely Smith might agree to quite a few immunity deals if it means the grand jury would get to hear about pre-January 6 communications between Republican fake electors and any of those names.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Jeanine PIrro

Turmoil Erupts In Fox News Offices Over Fear Of Firings And 'Snitches'

There's a new Rolling Stone story about the infighting inside Fox News studios in the aftermath of Tucker Carlson's firing, and whether it's funny or just pathetic probably depends more on your mood than on the circumstances.

The lede of the piece is that some of the "top" Fox News talking heads are worried that they're going to be next to find they no longer have a job at the studio. Before you get too excited about that, however, know that the hosts who have expressed worry about that, according to the "two sources," are Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. Both played feature roles in pushing the 2020 election conspiracy theories that are now forcing Fox News to pay out $787.5 million to settle defamation claims brought against it by Dominion Voting Systems, and with fellow voting equipment manufacturer Smartmatic now stepping up to the plate for its own similarly-sized lawsuit it would be hard to imagine Bartiromo and Pirro's jobs not being in danger.

Any actual "news" company would probably have launched the pair out of the building years ago, given their longstanding penchant for bizarre claims and, for one of the pair, way too much online debate over how much of their on-air commentary can be blamed on [makes drinky-drinky gesture here]. So ... yeah. One would imagine "cost the boss three quarters of a billion American dollars" will be coming up in the performance reviews.

That said, neither they nor we have reason to be holding our breath here. Top-ranking Fox host Tucker Carlson appears to have been fired not for his behind-the-scenes efforts to make sure the Fox News division left the Republican election hoaxes undebunked, in the weeks leading up to the January 6 coup attempt, but because Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch thought he was getting too big for his britches. Nobody's ever gotten fired at Fox News for lying to the public on-air. Lots of people have been fired from Fox News because Rupert Murdoch has come to believe that they're endangering the company profit.

The much funnier allegations in Rolling Stone's story are that some Fox executives have "have grilled certain staff about whether they or their teams had recently blabbed to the press about Carlson’s abrupt dismissal," and that Fox staffers have been "changing journalist contacts to fake names" on their phones in order to hide who might be calling them, if the phone rings in the presence of management or "spies" who might "snitch" to management.

Fox executives aren't in a lather because their fact-averse incompetence just cost the company three quarters of a billion dollars. They're worked up because somebody inside the news company might have been talking to real reporters about Tucker's canning.

And if you work for Fox News, there's nothing worse than management learning you've once talked to a real reporter. Imagine the inquisition that would result, if a Fox reporter's phone rang and the name displayed was that of an actual journalist. Heads would roll!

The news, then, is that if we believe the story's inside-Fox sources (and they are very anonymous, because reasons), Fox offices are in an uproar of late, with angry questionings and surreptitious phone calls and members of the alleged journalistic institution muttering bitterly about snitches who might tell management about their own awful behaviors.

Another likely source of turmoil goes unsaid, however. What we've learned from both the Dominion lawsuit and the lawsuit against Fox News filed by a former Fox News producer is that Fox News working conditions are grotesque, with rampant misogyny, harassment, antisemitism, and workplace retaliation inside network offices. Rolling Stone's Fox News sources don't appear to have anything to say about that, but it seems more than likely that part of what's most roiling Fox offices is the thought of snitches who might come forward to level new charges of harassment and abuse.

In all of Fox News, is there really more than a handful of people who have to worry about management finding the phone numbers of outside journalists on their phones? Compare it to the number of Fox employees who were perfectly aware of the illegal workplace behaviors inside the company and who might have themselves engaged in some, and you can be why the current mood inside the building is more grim than just the firing of one ever-pompous wealthy fascist could account for.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk's Ongoing Twitter Tantrum Targets National Public Radio

We don't know why tantruming billionaire child Elon Musk is engaged in a one-sided war against NPR, but he doesn't show signs of stopping.

Last week Musk's Twitter slapped a "state-affiliated media" label on NPR's Twitter account, despite NPR not being a candidate for such a label according to Twitter's own definition of the term, and despite Twitter's own Help Center specifically singling out NPR as an example of a corporation that wouldn't meet the definition. NPR is not "state-affiliated."

Somebody inside the now-skeletal company got embarrassed when news pieces about their move pointed that out, after which Twitter deleted the use of NPR as its Help Center example rather than admitting they weren't following their own rules. NPR itself expressed outrage that Elon was falsely lumping it in with the foreign state-sponsored propaganda outlets that the Twitter label is meant to warn users about and announced that they'd no longer be posting on Elon's site until the label was removed.

Faced with perhaps more public mockery than he expected, now Musk has flinched again. He's still lying his ass off, though. Now Musk's engineers have changed NPR's designation to read "Government Funded Media," which is ... still not accurately correct. And now Musk is claiming that he'll be applying it to more media outlets than just NPR, though apparently he hasn't worked it out enough to figure out how not to be wrong about it.

The catch here remains the same: NPR is not "state-affiliated." It's also not "government funded." NPR is a nonprofit corporation that gets somewhere around 1% of its funding from government grants and relies on donations, grants, and station dues for the rest. As Republican politicians have groused repeatedly over the years, the federal government has no ability to dictate NPR's news coverage.

What Musk here is attempting to do is to find a designation he can tar insufficiently friendly media outlets with as a way of discrediting them when they (repeatedly) report on his pandemic misinformation, his business flubs, or his fawning over internet white nationalists. Since Musk is a habitual liar in the best of times we can expect he's going to go through a few more iterations of these labels before he settles on one that the lawyers think they can defend. Perhaps he'll settle for a "Was Once Mean To Elon" label for his fanboys and then call this done?

The other catch here, though, is that Elon Internet Whiner Musk is the poster child of "government funded." Neither Tesla nor SpaceX would even exist right now if it were not for Musk sucking up government funds by the billions; his companies had guzzled nearly $5 billion in government money as of 2015, and both companies were saved from bankruptcy directly because of government credits or government contracts.

If there's anyone else in the world whose wealth is more tied to getting government cash than Elon's is, that person isn't coming to mind.

For Musk, though, this isn't about accuracy. It's never about accuracy. Elon Musk is mad at NPR for NPR's coverage of his own antics, and Musk purchased Twitter specifically so he would have the tools to get back at journalists and media outlets who he's felt disrespected by. He's a big whining baby and he's going to keep having this tantrum until he tires himself out and his handlers put him down for a nap.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Jim Jordan

House Republicans Now Want To Immunize Trump From Criminal Prosecution

The House Republicans' sedition caucus has been engaged in a sternly worded letter-war with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of late. It started with Republican committee chairs Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Bryan Steil demanding Bragg turn over all documents pertaining to his probe of Donald Trump's possible campaign finance or corporate fraud violations associated with Trump's 2016 hush money payments to an adult film actress—a blatant attempt to dig through the evidence Bragg has found so that it can be leaked to Trump's lawyers or so witnesses can be publicly identified, demonized, and threatened.

Bragg's team responded with a letter essentially suggesting Jordan and company go fornicate themselves, which led to the Republican trio reiterating and doubling down on their demands in a new letter dated March 25.

Most of it's just a repeat of the previous Republican bellowing, but Andrew Feinberg spotted an intriguing new claim by the Republican trio. Now Jordan and Trump's other House saboteurs are claiming they need all of Bragg's information about the Trump investigation not just so the House can prove that Bragg is a big stupid poppyhead, but because House Republicans are looking to write a new law banning former presidents from being indicted for anything, ever.

[B]ecause the federal government has a compelling interest in protecting the physical safety of former or current Presidents, any decision to prosecute a former or current President raises difficult questions concerning how to vindicate that interest in the context of a state or local criminal justice system. For these reasons and others, we believe that we now must consider whether Congress should take legislative action to protect former and/or current Presidents from politically motivated prosecutions by state and local officials, and if so, how those protections should be structured. Critically, due to your own actions, you are now in possession of information critical to this inquiry.

That's right, the party of Lock Her Up now wants to write new laws saying that Actually, people who become president can commit as many crimes as they like and nobody's allowed to do anything about it.

Shoot someone on Fifth Avenue? If a former president does it, it's legal.

Sex trafficking? Rape? Bank fraud? Building an explosive device in your spare bedroom? All legal now, if you're a president or have ever been one. You can run down 50 people in your custom limousine and state prosecutors won't be able to lift a finger. That's what the Republican Party stands for.

Rep. Jim Jordan may have become the most visible House Republican due solely to the aggressiveness with which he covered up his past coverup of college athlete sexual abuse, but he's on to bigger and better things now. House Republicans have apparently decided that Donald Trump has committed so many likely crimes that rather than sabotage just one or two cases, it's more efficient to just pass a new law saying nobody can indict him for anything, in any state, for any crime.

The rest of the letter is mostly unsubstantial. Bragg's team correctly noted in their own letter that Congress has no authority to dip into active criminal investigations by state prosecutors and grand juries, not even if Congress wants to do some super-important witness tampering or leaking or what have you; Jordan and crew are now responding with a new supposed reason they need all of Bragg's records, which is that (and you can almost hear the gears grinding away in House Republican heads as they come up with this stuff) they need to examine Bragg's records so that they can take "legislative action" to protect presidents from being arrested not just now, but forever.

Jim Jordan is a pathetic, pathetic man. At some point Donald Trump is going to shuffle off this mortal coil; what will Jim Jordan do with his life then, when his every waking moment isn't devoted to protecting Dear Orange Leader from everything from impeachment to fraud to bad hair days?

If you're wondering? No. No, this supposed legislation will never pass, and it almost certainly will never even be seriously proposed. Jim Jordan and his collaborators are Making Shit Up. Nobody's going to vote for a new law immunizing former presidents from committing crimes, because none of these human sporks could stomach a world in which Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden could go around breaking Republican kneecaps with golf clubs while flashing a presidential immunity card at anyone who tried to get in their way.

Jim Jordan is just lying to Bragg, flat out. As usual. House Republicans may have oozed into Dear Leader-worshipping fascism, but that doesn't mean that they've suddenly gained any brain cells—or even a thin thread of integrity. Jordan wants to know if there's any witnesses he needs to tamper with or any justice that needs to be obstructed, and all of the rest of the House Republican argument is slapped together as means to that end. It's sad, it's pathetic, and it's business as usual for the crooked seditionists Republicans now revere as their most important figures.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Uh-Oh: Chinese Balloons Crossed US Territory Three Times While Trump Was President

Uh-Oh: Chinese Balloons Crossed U.S. Three Times When Trump Was President

The precise nature of the Chinese balloon that drifted through the high atmosphere above the United States before being shot down by the American military off the coast of South Carolina is still not known, though the military seems confident it was a "surveillance" balloon and seemingly every conservative pundit put in front of a microphone believes it was carrying either some sort of zombie-producing spores or, worse, thousands of green M&M's to be scattered through the American landscape, turning our wildlife "woke."

What we do now know, however, is that these balloon flights seem to be a regular occurrence—and one that nobody has attempted to stoke a public panic over until now. The Department of Defense's own news site reports that Chinese balloons appeared over the United States at least three times during the Trump administration. None of those other balloons appear to have been intercepted. There were no Republican politicians posing with guns promising that they'd personally take care of them balloons if they floated over their neck of the woods. None of them appear to have scattered zombie spores, M&M's, or anything else.

Indeed, if we're to take the word of Trump Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and there are absolutely zero reasons why we should, not even hewas made aware of those overflights. That's how unremarkable the previous "Chinese spy balloon" events appear to have been.

But Republicans are going to Republican, and we have a full slate of it this weekend. Here's House Republican Andy Barr insisting that why if this had ever happened under Trump, he would have been impeached.

You're saying he would have been impeached five times? Goodness. Just one more after that and he would have qualified for a free sandwich.

Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor "Jewish Space Lasers" Greene took to Twitter to brag that she personally "just spoke with" the twice-impeached blowhard in question and that Trump "would never have allowed China to fly a spy balloon over our country and our military bases and our assets. Pres Trump would have shot it down before it entered the US."

Our own U.S. military is saying otherwise, and if we're to believe Esper it never even rose to the secretary level of giving-a-damn, but Marjorie Taylor "Jewish Space Lasers" Greene is among the top experts on space stuff that House Republicans have.

Honestly, I imagine the Department of Defense never told Donald Trump about the balloon overflights because they were afraid he would call up China to demand he be allowed to build a hotel on one of them. Or he might have indeed demanded it be blown up over Missouri or South Carolina, raining a seven-mile fuzz of debris onto whatever voters happened to be underneath at the time.

Among Republicans who still try to at least pretend at seriousness—badly—the ever-pathetic Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) hitched his wagon to the "Biden is too weak to do anything about this" talking point even as preparations to, sigh, pop the balloon via American military force were underway. "[I]f Biden wouldn’t even shoot down a balloon, he isn’t going to do jack if China takes territory from India or Japan or invades Taiwan," tweeted the candidate who was humiliated into submission by a clownish television showboater.

One popped balloon later, Rubio somewhat foolishly appeared on the Sunday shows to pretzel himself into a new position.

That's just sad. I don't think any of us can imagine a reality in which this pathetic creature actually became president. It's impossible to expect anything of your average Marjorie Jordan Gaetz, but watching the gears turn in this man's head as he switches his Deep Convictions in and out like 8-Track tapes in an old Ford Pinto is almost enough to make a person feel sorry for him.

If Marco Rubio ever wants to raise campaign money again, he can put a Sarah McLachlan song under that video along with a 1-800 number and a plea to save him from the Senate shelter. Look at those eyes. Those are the eyes of a dog that's given up.

Rubio may be able to string together more coherent sentences than your average Republican of the House, but in every case the rhetoric has been the same: Why isn't Biden shooting the balloon down? Trump would have shot the balloon down! Wait, Biden shot the balloon down? Huh, Trump didn't shoot the balloons down?


Sure, there ya go. They're also in the very early stages of cleaning up several days worth of talking points so this one may take a while. Bring cat litter; it’s supposed to soak messes like that up quite well.

The truth of the Great Balloon Crisis of 2023 will likely not be known for some time, but the news that this was not anyone's first balloon rodeo does suggest that those who were trying to sell us a theory of such flights being unprecedented were, from the moment they piped up, overinflated. Even if the balloon does have military purpose, and anyone who still shudders at the phrase "aluminum tubes" is likely taking military interpretations here with a grain of salt until the military has fished enough wreckage out of the Atlantic to prove their case, it appears nobody involved considered it a dire threat. To anything.

The reality of these things remains the same: China is the military equal of the United States when it comes to surveillance satellites, and the United States already has been obliged to assume Chinese satellites are able to photograph anything they want to. The relatively half-assed nature of setting loose a balloon halfway across the planet with no idea of where the winds will take it other than "generally east, unless..." still pales in comparison, and nobody is daring to shoot down the orbital versions for fear of what would happen next.

Though if Republicans continue their opposition-to-whatever-the-rational-people-are-saying sprees, that might be the next demand. You never know with these people.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fresh Supreme Court Leak Reveals Roberts' Role In Abortion Decision

Fresh Supreme Court Leak Reveals Roberts' Role In Abortion Decision

There's now another big leak from The United States Supreme Court, and this one's being unapologetically linked to the court's conservative wing. The Washington Post has a new story in which multiple sources describe how Chief Justice John Roberts was planning to further carve away at Roe v. Wade by giving the court's approval to the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, but wanted to dodge overturning Roe completely.

The Supreme Court's other conservatives, however, essentially told him to pound sand. They wanted a full end to Roe, which is Justice Alito got the plum role of writing a hard-edged, theocratic-premised decision declaring federal abortion rights to be dead based squarely on the premises of his own personal religion and the rantings of an infamous 17th century misogynist and witch hunter.

This is not new news: That Roberts was not on board with the full ramifications of what the Alito wing of the court is pressing for was evident from Alito's draft opinion, which would not exist if Roberts was in the majority because Roberts would never have assigned the most controversial decision of his tenure to the archconservative crackpot Alito to begin with. Alito is known for authoring spite-riddled opinions riddled with dishonesty and omissions to get to his desired end point, which is often simply a long-winded declaration that my personal religious beliefs are supreme and your religious traditions are invalid. He is the voice of the reactionary Republicanism that justifies coup attempts and declares that laws mean different things based on whether a Republican or a non-Republican will be inconvenienced by them. An extremist, through and through.

What's more interesting is that now the court is leaking again, and this time it's quite obviously an intentional leak by conservatives to either prop up Roberts' fast-eroding dignity or to further brag of the conservative wing's willingness to erase Roe outright.

"But as of last week, the five-member majority to strike Roe remains intact, according to three conservatives close to the court who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter," reports the Post. Oh, so now numerous people "close to the court" are leaking information about the court's private deliberations and politics—and we're even allowed to know that it is in fact "conservatives" close to the court who are doing the leaking.

"A person close to the court’s most conservative members said Roberts told his fellow jurists in a private conference in early December that he planned to uphold the state law and write an opinion that left Roe and Casey in place for now. But the other conservatives were more interested in an opinion that overturned the precedents, the person said."

That's a pretty huge leak! (In the before times, it would have been considered such an abhorrent breach of current deliberations that the Post would seek out a conservative crank like Michael Luttig to moan about the "historic" and "tragic" breach of the "confidential deliberative process"—which the Post does, at the end of the piece, so Luttig can say those things about the original Alito leak but not this one. Conspicuously: Not this one.)

So now we've got a whole set of conservatives privy to the court's internal deliberations who are all coming out at once to assert that Roberts wanted to again sabotage Roe by chipping away at its foundations, allowing Mississippi to enact an encompassing 15-week ban despite Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but he was unanimously rejected by the court's other conservatives who all voted to erase Roe entirely.

The motive that comes easiest to mind, when wondering why so many people close to the court are willing to leak deliberations to the press even as John Roberts orders an investigation into the leak of the Alito draft, is legacy-polishing. Roberts may be pressing this new leak himself, in an attempt to distance himself from the extremists and signal to Republican powerbrokers in the Senate and elsewhere that no, he indeed tried to stop his fellow conservatives from doing the most election-rattling thing, and he is still committed to his own brand of judicial activism that knocks away precedents incrementally rather than all-at-once. It is an approach that has allowed Roberts to claim plausible deniability even as the extremism of the opinions themselves keep getting ratcheted up, and one that has damped public anger at his party's reactionary actions by premising each one on an assortment of caveats that muddle the true scope of the outcome.

In this scenario, it's Roberts who is pressuring his allies to leak to the press for entirely self-serving reasons. He's long been devoted to preserving the alleged independence and dignity of the court—even as Republican presidents and senators stuff his court with new members who don't give a damn about those things but instead were chosen for their willingness to embrace extremist opinions—and could be pushing this story as pushback to calls to expand the court, impose term limits, or make other reforms to bring the court into something even vaguely resembling the modern era.

But that's a pretty weak reason for once again shattering the supposed all-important prohibition against leaking internal court decision-making, and there's another possible motive for the leak, from other possible leakers. It is possible the Alito draft was leaked by some conservative close to the court, perhaps some conservative anti-abortion extremist and activist who is married to one of the most conservative justices and who has already shown a willingness to break the laws in any manner the extremists desire, or maybe even not that person, and it is possible that this new leak featuring multiple "conservative" court sources is a simple case of bragging.

The court's most extremist members won, and there's not a damn thing anyone on the court or off it can do about it, and because of that one of the defining culture wars of the last half century is about to be "won" by its devoted soldiers. It doesn't require much imagination to believe that the court's conservatives have been bragging mightily among themselves and to their allies about this outcome, and it doesn't require much imagination to believe that those to whom they've bragged are even now gearing up for very gaudy victory celebrations.

So yes, perhaps those allied with the court's most reactionary justices would be quite happy to leak to the press that John Roberts tried everything in his power to keep the extremists from taking the "boldest" possible action, and not only did the reactionaries reject him, the group even assigned the ever-nasty Alito to write the nastiest majority opinion he and his clerks could muster.

We now know for a fact that multiple "conservatives" close to the court are leaking like the Moskva. Will condemnations again roll in? Will Roberts launch a second investigation to parallel the first?

Well, no. But we still know that it's court-connected "conservatives" doing the leaking because that's how they're willing to identify themselves to us. We just don't know whose boots they're trying to polish by doing it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How Fox News Cooked Virginia Story To Promote Youngkin's Campaign

How Fox News Cooked Virginia Story To Promote Youngkin's Campaign

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Say what you want about Fox News—and please do say what you want about Fox News!—but you have to admit they're informative. Just this week, I learned something thanks to the crack Fox News team working tirelessly to create fresh new content for American eyeballs. I learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by top members of arch-right Republican think tanks and political campaigns. Can you imagine that? An entire Virginia county in which everyone you meet works for a Republican candidate or is a "senior fellow" at something?

Go to Arby's, and the guy making your sandwich is actually a senior fellow at the Conservative Sandwich Institute. Go to pump some gas, and the woman behind the counter of the sketchy convenience store you try to never go into leads a second life as a National Rifle Association board member. Get mugged, and you'll soon learn the person stealing your money is part of a nationwide "libertarian legal organization."

Wait, that last one happens all the time. But the other two are still weird, right?

These are the conclusions that can be drawn from a Fox News report—one that actually aired on actual television—attempting to drum up drama over the supposed cruelty of local school boards that have not sufficiently bowed to far-right paranoia about whatever they think "critical race theory" is, or the trauma of asking children to wear masks, or whatever else stone-cold ignorant pro-Trump fascist boot-polishers are going on about in their twitching Facebook posts.

Fox's "straight news" story featured a set of "Fairfax County parents" wanting to "push back against" the county's school board. They were all very upset over who-gives-a-damn. But as Media Matters quickly determined, all three were actually Republican freaking operatives who were not disclosed as such. The whole thing was rigged!

Parent One: a "notorious" ex-Trump administration Department of Education official currently holding down a position as "senior fellow" at a right-wing think tank.

Parent Two: the freaking chair of "Educators for Youngkin," a group boosting the crackpot Republican gubernatorial nominee by helping to drive the very far-right paranoias Fox is reporting on.

Parent Three: founded a parent's group currently suing the county school board over admission standards—a longtime race-baiting conservative cause.

What are the odds? Imagine picking out three "concerned" parents, and whoops, every one of the three is a Republican activist working to orchestrate the attacks on school boards that Republican candidates are trying to turn into the next big Fake Social Crisis. What are the odds?

Yeah. The whole thing was fake. James O'Keefe-level fake.

The odds are not zero that this collection of "concerned" professional conservative cranks provided the footage themselves, shipping it to Fox prepackaged for Fox viewer consumption. Those things do, after all, happen.

Conservatives have been drumming up new paranoias about what's going on in their local schools ever since the first moments of desegregation. They are absolutely convinced that their children are secretly learning how not to be racist, even when their asshole racist parents don't want them to learn that.

They are convinced that schools are asking children to wear masks during a deadly ongoing freaking lung-destroying organ-tearing pandemic because it is a secret plot to Who The F--k Knows. The first generations to be freed from the horrors of polio are in absolute panic over the thought of vaccinating children, something only the fringes of the pseudoscience fringe considered controversial until Donald Trump sniffed that viruses were just made-up attempts to tarnish his glorious reign of grift and incompetence.

And here comes Fox News, the "serious" news side, like clockwork, to package up the fringe of the fringe and turn it into nationwide party talking points.

Why does this only happen on the conservative side? The New York Times is notorious for presenting Republican operatives as supposed jus' folks. The Washington Post and every other outlet you can name has had a turn at it. But the reporters regularly land on local Republican operatives to present as "concerned parents" or "concerned business owners" or "concerned woman who believes face masks trap and amplify the powers of evil spirits, evil spirits named Timmy and Bob and Chadwick and Timmy Jr., and who advocates for squirting pool-cleaning chemicals up your nose because Bob absolutely hates that and will convince his evil spirit roommates to go hide out in your neighbor's place instead." I can't recall the last time Fox News or the Times or anyone else "accidentally" profiled a parent who "accidentally" turned out to be a Democratic candidate's campaign manager or similar.

Pretty weird, that.

Well, we learned one thing: We learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by Republican operatives who don't like their local school board decisions. It's a bit of an odd situation in that it's not clear how the school board became populated with residents who are not uniformly Republican operatives pushing whatever specific talking point Republican election strategists are rushing to Fox News to help convey. Still, such explanations are best left to experts, and there's not a single damn person associated with this story who could be considered one.

Still, it seems like a follow-up story is in order. Are all residents of Fairfax County Republican operatives and surrogates, or just all the parents? Wait—are we even sure all three of these people have kids? At these schools, as opposed to private ones?

Are their kids employed by far-right think tanks too, or is getting your first conservative think-tank gig considered the Fairfax County rite of passage to adulthood?

Jeffrey Rosen

Rosen Testifies About Trump Coup Attempt At Justice Department

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The full scope of the Trump administration's efforts to nullify an American presidential election is just beginning to come into view. Trump and his top allies engaged in an orchestrated, three-pronged plan to use federal officials to cast illegitimate doubts on the integrity of the election, explicitly pressure state officials to "find" votes or otherwise alter vote totals, and counter the official congressional acknowledgement of the election's results with an organized mob assembled specifically to "march" to the Capitol and intimidate the lawmakers carrying out that constitutionally mandated process. It was an attempted coup by Trump and his deputies, one that Trump himself continued to press even after that coup had exploded into violence.

The New York Times reported that Trump's acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, gave closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday. The subject of the testimony was the interactions between Rosen and Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as Clark attempted, on Trump's behalf, to press the Justice Department into issuing false claims suggesting that they were investigating election "fraud" of the sort that Trump's propagandists were claiming as the reason for Trump's loss. It was untrue, and the top two Justice officials rejected Clark's repeated proposals.

Transparently, it was an attempt by Clark and other Trump allies to throw the nation into chaos by claiming the election was so flawed that its results must be overturned—a claim which Trump's hard-right team believed would force the assembling Congress to erase the election's counted votes and, somehow, reinstall Trump as quasilegal national leader.

All three elements of the plan came perilously close to succeeding. All three were thwarted only because individuals remained in place who believed the plan to be insanity, sedition, or both. It is the efforts by Trump-aligned officials within the federal government, using the tools granted to them by government, that elevate the events culminating in violence on January 6 from insurrection to attempted coup.

In a pivotal decision, Rosen rejected Clark's attempt, leading to yet another internal administration crisis as Trump mulled whether to fire him and install Clark in his position so that the plan could be carried out.

In a Sunday CNN appearance, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin said Rosen had described Trump as being directly involved in Clark's actions. "It was real, very real, and it was very specific."

Significantly, the Times reports that Rosen scheduled his testimony "quickly" so as to allow them to go forward "before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings." That may be a self-serving interpretation of events. As emptywheel notes, Clark's efforts to overturn the election and Trump's aborted move to fire Rosen and install Clark as acting attorney general was the subject of news reporting in January, even before Trump's second impeachment trial took place. The Senate Judiciary began their requests for documents pertaining to the plan near-immediately, and have been battling the Department of Justice for testimony ever since.

A half-year delay in gaining testimony about a "very real" and "very specific" attempt to overthrow the duly elected next administration by coup does not make it sound like anyone involved is attempting to provide evidence "quickly."

Most significantly of all, perhaps, is that the United States Senate could have investigated the Trump team's plot during the impeachment trial meant to gather evidence and come to judgment on Trump's behavior. For the second time, it did not do so. It avoided examining the evidence, rushing through the trial to again get to the inevitable close of having nearly all Republican lawmakers back Trump's actions, even after they had resulted in violence.

The job now falls to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection: The moves that Clark, Meadows, and other Trump officials made to falsely discredit the election results were intended to provide the backing by which willing insurrectionists could justify their demands that the Constitution be tossed aside for the sake of Trump's reinstallation. The job also falls to federal investigators who now need to examine—swiftly—the criminality of the schemes.

It was not, however, a "Trump" coup. Donald Trump, a known liar and semi-delusional blowhard, had few government powers that would allow him to singlehandedly erase state election counts or make official his declarations that he had lost, after a disastrous single term, only through "fraud" concocted against him. It required the cooperation of top Republican allies, of Republican Party officials, of lawmakers, and others that would press the false claims and work both within and outside of government to give them false legitimacy.

It was a Republican coup, an act of sedition backed with specific acts from Mark Meadows, from Jeffrey Clark, from senators such as Josh Hawley, from state Republican officials who eagerly seized on the conspiracy claims specifically so that they could be used to overturn elections they had lost, and from everyday Republican supporters who decided that the zero-evidence nationalist propaganda they were swallowing up was justification enough to storm the U.S. Capitol by force in an overt attempt to erase a democratic election.

Here we sit, waiting with bated breath as evidence dribbles out describing the full scope of what the entire world saw in realtime, from last November to January: top Republican officials spreading knowingly false, propagandistic claims intended to undermine the integrity of our democratic elections so as to justify simply changing that election's results and declaring themselves the victors. It was a fascist act. It continues in the states, as state Republican lawmakers use the same brazenly false claims peddled by Clark to impose new hurdles to voting meant to keep at least some fraction of the Americans who voted against the party last time from being able to vote at all the next time.

A bit more urgency is required, here.

USPS, Louis DeJoy

Congress Summons Postmaster DeJoy To Explain ‘Sabotage’ Of Service

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The sudden collapse of the United States Postal Service's ability to do its core job—deliver mail—is now so widespread a problem as to be stoking enormous public outrage. This may finally result in substantive congressional action—sort of. Perhaps.

House Democrats are now asking (but not subpoenaing) Trump Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Aug. 24 to explain his actions. DeJoy, who remains heavily invested in for-profit competitors to the USPS even as he guts federal mail delivery capabilities, was previously scheduled to appear on September 17; moving his appearance up by several weeks is an indication that Congress no longer thinks waiting until mid-September is defendable. Democrats ask that DeJoy confirm his plan to appear by tomorrow; DeJoy has also been asked to deliver requested documents by Friday, August 21.

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Trump Boasts Of TV Ratings, Berates Media As Thousands Are Dying

Trump Boasts Of TV Ratings, Berates Media As Thousands Are Dying

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Donald Trump, on Sunday afternoon:

Over 2,300 Americans have now died in the COVID-19 pandemic, due in large part to a government response that was delayed for weeks while Trump, conservative pundits, and his other allies suggested dire warnings of the pandemic’s potential spread were a “hoax” intended to make him look bad. The man is unfit for office; he cannot react to any crisis except as opportunity for self-promotion. Republican leaders continue, even as deaths mount, to offer no pushback to his false claims and incompetent measures.

Iran Declares It Will No Longer Honor 2015 Nuclear Deal

Iran Declares It Will No Longer Honor 2015 Nuclear Deal

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Responding to the assassination of top military leader Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran has now announced that it is ending all remaining limits on nuclear fuel enrichment described in the 2015 international agreement intended to preclude Iranian development of nuclear weapons.

The New York Times cites an Iranian government release: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will end its final limitations in the nuclear deal, meaning the limitation in the number of centrifuges. Therefore Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production including enrichment capacity and percentage and number of enriched uranium and research and expansion.”

Iran is not fully ending the 2015 nuclear deal; it will continue to allow IAEA inspectors in its facilities. But it will no longer agree to limit its nuclear fuel production in quantity or enrichment. This could allow, if Iran so desired, to rapidly escalate its nuclear program.

The Trump administration had already declared the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other nations to be null and void, imposing new economic sanctions in an attempt to force Iran into new negotiations; other signing nations have attempted to keep the 2015 agreement intact, despite continued administration threats against nations unwilling to enforce the newly demanded sanctions.