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Bernie Sanders Has A Clear Message For Sinema And Manchin

Sen. Bernie Sanders said that by vowing to uphold the archaic Senate rule standing in the way of voting rights legislation, his Senate colleagues Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are putting "the future of American democracy" at risk.

"It is a sad day when two members of the Democratic caucus are prepared to allow the Freedom to Vote Act to fail," the Vermont senator tweeted on Friday "I hope very much they will reconsider their positions."

Sinema and Manchin's opposition to weakening the 60-vote filibuster rule—a stance they reiterated last Thursday—effectively tanks their party's hopes of passing voting rights legislation to thwart the GOP's mass disenfranchisement and election subversion efforts in states across the country.

Despite the likelihood of failure, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) said the Senate will debate the newly assembled Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act on Tuesday, a day after the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

"If Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote—as we expect them to—the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules, as has been done many times before, to allow for passage of voting rights legislation," Schumer said in a floor speech after Sinema made clear she would not back any such changes, intensifying calls for a 2024 primary challenge.

The support of every member of the Senate Democratic caucus and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris would be needed to enact a rule change.

With federal action likely not forthcoming, local Democratic officials and activists "now say they are resigned to having to spend and organize their way around" the slew of fresh Republican-authored voting restrictions, the New York Times reported, "a prospect many view with hard-earned skepticism."

In a July letter to President Joe Biden, a coalition of 150 civil rights organizations wrote that "while we support the notion of a broad-based coalition of advocates, we cannot and should not have to organize our way out of the attacks and restrictions on voting that lawmakers are passing and proposing at the state level."

"Nor can we litigate our way out of this threat to democracy," the groups warned. "We must remember that at critical times in our history, one party has been forced to act alone in securing the fundamental democratic rights of American citizens, including Congress' passage of both the 14th and 15th Amendments. Any rule or procedure that functions to stop bills from ever being considered on the floor is not a procedure to promote debate; it is a procedure to promote gridlock."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

'It's A Trap':Advocates Warn Of McConnell Tricks On Election  Reform

Since June, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus have filibustered three separate Democratic voting rights bills, refusing to permit even a floor debate on the legislation as GOP-led states intensify their assault on the franchise.

But with Senate Democrats gearing up for yet another attempt to strengthen federal voter protections, McConnell is signaling a willingness to cooperate with the majority party on a far more narrow reform effort—one that would entail tweaks to the obscure Electoral Count Act.

"It obviously has some flaws," McConnell said Wednesday of the 1887 statute, which sets out procedures for the counting of electoral votes and gives members of Congress the ability to dispute the results of presidential contests. Nearly 150 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, just hours after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year.

Reforms to the Electoral Count Act are "worth, I think, discussing," the Kentucky Republican added.

Voting rights advocates immediately sensed danger—and urged Democrats not to play along with the GOP leader.

"It's a trap!" the progressive organization Indivisible warned in an email to supporters late Wednesday as momentum behind Electoral Count Act reform continued to build, fueled by the work of right-wing organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute and Cato.

Earlier Wednesday, both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—whose refusal to support filibuster reform is a major reason for Democrats' failure to pass voting rights legislation—voiced support for the push to alter the Electoral Count Act.

Manchin, who is facing pressure from a McConnell-aligned dark money group to uphold the 60-vote filibuster, told Politico that nascent discussions on the 1887 law are "a good start."

At least they've got people talking now," said the West Virginia Democrat. A bipartisan group convened by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has reportedly begun discussing a plan to reform the Electoral Count Act.

A spokesperson for Sinema, meanwhile, said the Arizona senator "continues to believe bipartisan action is needed to strengthen our democracy and has been in constant contact with colleagues in both parties on this and other potential areas of common ground."

But voting rights campaigners and experts fear that growing focus on the Electoral Count Act will distract from more fundamental efforts to end voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, and other anti-democratic practices that Republicans are deploying in states across the country ahead of the pivotal 2022 midterms.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote in a series of tweets earlier this week that while changes to the Electoral Count Act are worth pursuing, they would be no substitute for the passage of robust federal voter protections.

"We must not deny the truth: that voter suppression schemes create obstacles designed to frustrate voting and drive down turnout among Black, Latino, Asian American, student, and disabled voters," wrote Ifill. "It is an affront to democracy and a denial of full citizenship that must be addressed."

Indivisible co-executive director Ezra Levin expressed similar concerns in a statement Wednesday evening.

"Who on this earth believes Mitch McConnell woke up this morning and decided to start caring about democracy? Nobody," Levin said. "McConnell is working to outmaneuver Democrats."

Reforming the Electoral Count Act "would do nothing to reverse or prevent gerrymandering or voter suppression," he continued. "If McConnell can convince Manchin and Sinema to go down this path, that would successfully sideline efforts to pass the big, consequential democracy bills that combat voter suppression."

"Our message to Senate Dems is simple: Don't get distracted!" Levin added. "Pass the damn Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis [Voting Rights Advancement Act], and don't fall for McConnell's tricks."

In a new petition, Indivisible urges Senate Democrats to "add reforms to the Electoral Count Act as an amendment to the Freedom to Vote Act to ensure these reforms are passed ALONGSIDE the other bills."

Thus far, it appears that the Senate Democratic leadership does not intend to back Electoral Count Act reform as a standalone alternative to the Freedom to Vote Act and other voting rights legislation.

“The Electoral Count Act [reform] says you can rig the elections anyway you want and then we'll count it accurately," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico in an interview.

The Freedom to Vote Act, a compromise measure crafted after the GOP and Manchin obstructed the more sweeping For the People Act, has the support of every member of the Senate Democratic caucus.

If passed, the bill would establish Election Day as a legal public holiday, expand early and mail-in voting, prohibit partisan gerrymandering, and strengthen campaign finance regulations, among other reforms.

But because no Republicans support the bill, the legislation has failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required under the current filibuster rule.

While Schumer is vowing to pursue changes to the upper chamber's rules if Republicans filibuster the Freedom to Vote Act a second time, Manchin has declined to endorse specific filibuster reforms.

"Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option—it's very, very difficult," Manchin told reporters earlier this week, referring to the procedure by which Democrats could alter Senate rules without needing Republican votes.

"It's a heavy lift," he added.

Sean Eldridge, founder and president of Stand Up America, noted in response that "Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans reformed the filibuster to confirm three Trump Supreme Court nominees with simple majority votes."

"If 51 votes is good enough for a lifetime confirmation to the highest court in our land," Eldridge wrote on Twitter, "it should be enough to protect our freedom to vote."

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

Koch Network Operative Urges Sinema To ‘Stay Strong’ Against Taxing The Rich

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The head of a right-wing organization with ties to the Koch network offered words of encouragement to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Thursday amid reports that she's holding up her party's budget reconciliation package over its proposed tax hikes on the rich and big businesses.

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DeSantis Signs ‘Jim Crow’ Bill Criminalizing Street Protests

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that civil rights groups warn is designed to crack down on peaceful demonstrations and criminalize dissent by redefining "rioting" in an overbroad way and creating draconian new felonies for protest-related offenses.

While DeSantis and the bill's Republican sponsors in the Florida legislature presented HB1 as a response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters earlier this year, critics say the measure — crafted well before the January 6 attack — is in fact a reaction against the racial justice protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last May.

"Let's be clear: this is not an anti-riot bill, regardless of what supporters claim," Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statementMonday. "It is a bill that criminalizes peaceful protest, and the impact HB1 will have on Floridians cannot be disputed. Each and every provision harkens back to Jim Crow."

Kubic went on to warn that under the new law—which is part of a wave of similar Republican measures under consideration nationwide—protesters could be arrested and charged with a felony if others at a protest or gathering became violent or disorderly, even if they themselves didn't." According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, HB1 defines rioting as a public disturbance by at least three people with "common intent to mutually assist each other in disorderly and violent conduct."

"The goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice," said Kubic. "Every single Floridian should be outraged by this blatant attempt to erode our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. It is outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional. Gov. DeSantis' championing of and signature on this law degrades, debases, and disgraces Florida and our democracy."

As the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday, the new law makes blocking a highway a felony offense and "creates a broad category for misdemeanor arrest during protests, and anyone charged under that provision will be denied bail until their first court appearance."

The law also "grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road, which Democrats argued would have protected the white nationalist who ran over and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville tumult in 2017," the Sentinel noted.

Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement Monday that HB1 "undermines every Floridian's constitutional rights, and it is disgusting that the GOP would rather empower vigilantes and silence voices than listen to the majority of Floridians who oppose this dangerous bill."

"The governor's spectacle is a distraction that will only further disenfranchise Black and brown communities," said Jones.

VIDEO: Sanders Tells Biden, Don’t ‘Slow Down” On Infrastructure

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said over the weekend that amid the immediate emergencies of climate change, Covid-19, mass unemployment, and homelessness, congressional Democrats cannot afford to dampen their infrastructure ambitions in the hopes of winning support from obstructionist Republicans.

"The time is now to go forward," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post. "This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."

"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change," the Vermont senator added, "I'm not going to slow down."

Sanders' remarks came as the Democratic leadership is weighing how to proceed with the roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure packagePresident Joe Biden unveiled last month, a proposal that will serve as a starting point for congressional negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she hopes to pass infrastructure legislation by July.

But unified Republican opposition to the package and growing complaints from conservative deficit scolds within the Democratic caucus are threatening to impede work on the package that progressives hope to transform into a sprawling bill that deals with a wide range of priorities, from climate to affordable housing to prescription drug prices.

On Monday, the Senate parliamentarian gave Democrats a green light to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process for additional spending legislation this year, granting the party the option to move ahead with an infrastructure measure without Republican support.

Sanders told the Post that he is preparing to use the reconciliation tool, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not publicly committed to that strategy as the Biden administration continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise. With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill through regular order.

"The president believes that there's a path forward to get... this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Thursday briefing. "That's why he's going to invite Democrats and Republicans here. That's why he's going to hear from them on their ideas that they've already put forward."

But progressive lawmakers have cautioned the Biden administration against weakening an infrastructure package they believe is already insufficient in a likely futile effort to win over Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against a broadly popular $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.

"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this month. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."

In a report released Thursday, Adam Hersh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida argued that under-spending in response to the current crises risks long-term damage to the economy and the climate—a warning progressives cited as all the more reason to quickly push ahead with an ambitious recovery package.

In an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Sanders said that Republican lawmakers are "probably not" going to accept arguments in support of big spending on climate solutions, core infrastructure, caregiving, and more.

"They live in their world, and their world will be trying to obstruct as much as possible what Biden and many of us in the Congress are trying to do," Sanders said, arguing that the GOP's top priority is "trying to divide us up by stressing xenophobia, racism, [and] making it harder for people to vote."

"Our job," Sanders said, "is to rally the American people around an agenda that works for workers and the middle class, who have been neglected for so many years. It is the right thing to do policy-wise, it is the right thing to do politically."

WATCH: Biden Outlines Major Initiative Against “Existential Threat” Of Climate Change

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a speech Wednesday outlining his new executive actions aimed at confronting the "existential threat" of the climate crisis, President Joe Biden said he plans to ask the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass legislation eliminating the tens of billions in taxpayer subsidies the federal government continues to hand Big Oil even as the planetary emergency wreaks havoc in the U.S. and across the globe.

"Unlike previous administrations, I don't think the federal government should give handouts to Big Oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies," said Biden. "I'm gonna be going to the Congress and asking them to eliminate those subsidies."

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Congress Certifies Biden Victory --But Democrats Denounce GOP 'Co-Conspirators In Sedition'

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In the wake of an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a fascist mob ginned up by President Donald Trump, many Republicans in the House and Senate still voted Thursday to object to President-elect Joe Biden's decisive election win in a lie-fueled, last-ditch attempt to overturn the results of the democratic process and disenfranchise tens of millions of voters.

The effort ultimately failed as Congress voted in the early hours of Thursday morning to certify Biden's victory over the Republican objections, but progressive lawmakers are demanding accountability for the GOP members who were complicit in the Trump-led coup attempt.

"They are co-conspirators in sedition," Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said of the Republican lawmakers who objected to the certification of Biden's win.

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is planning to introduce a resolution calling for the expulsion of lawmakers who "incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election."

"They have broken their sacred Oath of Office," Bush added.

In a statement late Wednesday, Brian Kettering of the Center for Popular Democracy Action said in support of Bush's resolution that "Trump and members of Congress must face consequences for inciting an attempted coup to stop the peaceful transition of power, which is enshrined into our Constitution."

"We cannot stand by," said Kettering, "while the very people elected to protect our democracy encourage violent attempts to overthrow the government."

Below are the names of the Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate who voted in favor of rejecting electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, battleground states that Biden carried.

The 121 House Republicans who voted to reject Arizona's electoral votes:



The 138 House Republicans who voted to reject Pennsylvania's electoral votes:


The six Senate Republicans who voted to reject Arizona's electoral votes:



The seven Senate Republicans who voted to reject Pennsylvania's electoral votes:

Trump Launches ‘Despicable’ Last-Minute Assault On Social Security

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Just weeks away from relinquishing power to incoming President-elect Joe Biden, the Trump administration is quietly launching a last-minute assault on Social Security by rushing ahead with a rule that, if implemented, could deny critical benefits to hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) late last week submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed rule aiming to further tighten eligibility requirements for Social Security disability benefits, which around ten million Americans currently rely on for a modest monthly income.

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Trump Tweets Approval Of Iran Nuclear Scientist’s Assassination

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Amid swirling questions over what, if any, role the United States played in the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, President Donald Trump on Friday amplified to his 88 million followers a Twitter post describing the killing as a "major psychological and professional blow" to Iran.

Sina Toossi, a senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), characterized the U.S. president's move as an "implicit approval if there ever was one." The president also retweeted a New York Times report on the killing, which took place as Fakhrizadeh was traveling by car in northern Iran.

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Biden Will Have To Start Purging Trump Loyalists On Jan. 21

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

During his four-year tenure in the White House, President Donald Trump packed powerful federal regulatory agencies with dozens of right-wing loyalists who are well-placed to stall or undermine the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden from the moment he takes office.

But according to a report (pdf) released Monday by the Revolving Door Project, there is an immediate and perfectly legal solution available to Biden if he's willing to act: Clean house of all political officials who were installed because of their allegiance to Trump.

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Biden Slams Trump's False Claims As Court Battle Looms Over Electoral Votes

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With millions of votes still left to count and several key battleground states very much up for grabs, the Biden campaign issued a statement early Wednesday morning denouncing President Donald Trump's false declaration of victory, completely baseless claims of fraud, and threat to take his complaints to the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court as "a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens."

"The president's statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect," said Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon. "Having encouraged Republican efforts in multiple states to prevent the legal counting of these ballots before Election Day, now Donald Trump is saying these ballots can't be counted after Election Day either."

While voicing confidence that former Vice President Joe Biden will emerge victorious once all legally cast ballots are tallied, Dillon stressed that "Donald Trump does not decide the outcome of this election. Joe Biden does not decide the outcome of this election. The American people decide the outcome of this election."

"And the democratic process must and will continue until its conclusion," Dillon said.

The Biden campaign's statement came hours after Trump, as predicted, took to a podium in the East Room of the White House and claimed outright victory in the election and vowed to turn to the U.S. Supreme Court—which now consists of three of his nominees—to help him stop the counting of legally submitted ballots.At present, Biden holds a slim Electoral College lead with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—among other states—still outstanding. The winner of the remaining states could take days to determine as officials work to count the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots submitted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"If the president makes good on his threat to go to court to try to prevent the proper tabulation of votes," said Dillon, "we have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort. And they will prevail."

Read Dillon's statement in full:

The president's statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect.


It was outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.

It was unprecedented because never before in our history has a president of the United States sought to strip Americans of their voice in a national election. Having encouraged Republican efforts in multiple states to prevent the legal counting of these ballots before Election Day, now Donald Trump is saying these ballots can't be counted after Election Day either.

And it was incorrect because it will not happen. The counting will not stop. It will continue until every duly cast vote is counted. Because that is what our laws—the laws that protect every American's constitutional right to vote—require.

We repeat what the Vice President said tonight: Donald Trump does not decide the outcome of this election. Joe Biden does not decide the outcome of this election. The American people decide the outcome of this election. And the democratic process must and will continue until its conclusion.

Nearly 100 million people cast their ballot before Election Day in the belief--and with the assurances from their state election officials—that their ballot would be counted. Now Donald Trump is trying to invalidate the ballot of every voter who relied on these assurances.

If the president makes good on his threat to go to court to try to prevent the proper tabulation of votes, we have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort. And they will prevail.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will stand for the right of all Americans to have their votes counted—no matter who they voted for. And we remain confident that when that process is complete, Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.With millions of votes still left to count and several key battleground states very much up for grabs, the Biden campaign issued a statement early Wednesday morning denouncing President Donald Trump's false declaration of victory, completely baseless claims of fraud, and threat to take his complaints to the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court as "a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens."



"Having encouraged Republican efforts in multiple states to prevent the legal counting of these ballots before Election Day, now Donald Trump is saying these ballots can't be counted after Election Day either." — Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden campaign manager

Democrats Demand Investigation Of Government Abuses By Republican Convention

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Two Democratic congressmen are calling on the Office of Special Counsel to immediately launch an investigation into whether Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and other Trump administration officials violated federal law by participating in the Republican National Convention this week in their official government capacities.

In a letter (pdf) dated Wednesday, Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Don Beyer (D-VA) urged Special Counsel Henry Kerner to examine whether Wolf and other members of the Trump administration "violated the Hatch Act on August 25, 2020 through using their positions, official resources, and the White House itself, to participate in the Republican National Convention."

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Former OSHA Officials Warn Against Trump Policy Toward Infected Workers

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump's Labor Department has quietly issued guidance informing most employers in the United States that they will not be required to record and report coronavirus cases among their workers because doing so would supposedly constitute an excessive burden on companies.

The new rules, released Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), were met with alarm by public health experts and former Labor Department officials who said the new rules are an absurd attack on transparency that could further endanger frontline workers.

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Evidence Supporting Iran General’s Killing Is ‘Razor-Thin’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Trump administration has publicly insisted that the U.S. assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani was justified because he was planning “imminent attacks” against American forces and diplomats in the region, but the White House has yet to offer a shred of evidence substantiating this narrative.

That may be because, as New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi wrote in a detailed Twitter thread over the weekend, the evidence is sparse to non-existent.

According to two U.S. officials who received intelligence briefings in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination, which was ordered by President Donald Trump, “the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is ‘razor thin,’” Callimachi reported.

“In fact the evidence pointing to that came as three discrete facts,” she wrote. Those three facts, according to Callimachi, were Soleimani’s “pattern of travel,” his request for the Iranian Supreme Leader’s approval for an unspecified “operation,” and Iran’s supposed “increasingly bellicose position towards American interests in Iraq.”

“As one source put it, a) + b) + c) is hardly evidence of an imminent attack on American interests that could kill hundreds, as the White House has since claimed,” Callimachi wrote. “The official describes the reading of the intelligence as an illogical leap.”

Callimachi closed her viral Twitter thread by raising a question about the timing of Soleimani’s assassination.

“Why now?” she asked. “Hard to decouple his killing from the impeachment saga.”

CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey said in response to Callimachi’s tweets that “if this thread is accurate then both the policy and legal justifications for the strike [are] about to crumble.”

Yale Law School professor Oona Hathaway, an expert in international law, echoed Hennessey:

Ezra Levin, co-executive director of progressive advocacy group Indivisible, put it more bluntly: “They’re lying to distract from impeachment. They’re lying to get us to war. They’re lying to shore up reelection. Don’t buy any of it.”

Trump, in remarks to reporters Friday, claimed Soleimani was plotting “sinister” attacks on Americans, parroting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that the Iranian general “was actively plotting in the region to take actions… that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk.”

“But we caught him in the act,” Trump said. “Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous towards terrorists. We will find you, we will eliminate you.”

During a press briefing on Friday, State Department officials repeatedly declined to offer specific details about the supposed intelligence on these “imminent” attacks that purportedly led Trump to order the strike on Soleimani, which also killed a prominent Iraqi militia leader.

One official chafed at a question that likened the Trump administration’s claims about Iran to the Bush administration’s falsehoods in the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“You’re not going to make the Iraq comparison,” the official said when asked why the White House’s narrative about imminent Iranian attacks should be believed.

After reading a transcript of the State Department briefing, Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione said he “could not believe the arrogance of the State officials.”

“Insulting reporters, refusing to answer direct questions,” Cirincione tweeted. “They did not provide one iota of evidence to back up their claims of imminent attack.”

How Trump And Mnuchin Slipped Billions In New Tax Breaks To Corporations

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A “disturbing” New York Times story details how President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department, led by former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, has quietly weakened elements of the 2017 tax law in recent months to make it even friendlier to wealthy individuals and massive corporations.

Lobbyists representing some of the largest corporations in the world, the Times reported, targeted two provisions in the original 2017 law designed to bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue from companies that had been dodging U.S. taxes by stashing profits overseas.

“The corporate lobbying campaign was a resounding success,” the Times noted. “Through a series of obscure regulations, the Treasury carved out exceptions to the law that mean many leading American and foreign companies will owe little or nothing in new taxes on offshore profits… Companies were effectively let off the hook for tens if not hundreds of billions of taxes that they would have been required to pay.”

The two provisions are known by the acronyms BEAT (base erosion and anti-abuse tax) and GILTI (global intangible low-taxed income). Shortly after Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax bill—which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%—lobbyists from major American companies like Bank of America and General Electric as well as foreign banks swarmed the White House in an effort to gut the BEAT and GILTI taxes.

Trump’s Treasury Department largely granted the lobbyists’ wishes, turning what was already a massive corporate handout into an even more generous gift to big companies and banks.

The Times reported:

The Organization for International Investment—a powerful trade group for foreign multinationals like the Swiss food company Nestlé and the Dutch chemical maker LyondellBasell—objected to a Treasury proposal that would have prevented companies from using a complex currency-accounting maneuver to avoid the BEAT… This month, the Treasury issued the final version of some of the BEAT regulations. The Organization for International Investment got what it wanted.

The lobbying surrounding the GILTI was equally intense—and, once again, large companies won valuable concessions… News Corporation, Liberty Mutual, Anheuser-Busch, Comcast and P.&G. wrote letters or dispatched lobbyists to argue for the high-tax exception. After months of meetings with lobbyists, the Treasury announced in June 2019 that it was creating a version of the exception that the companies had sought.

David Enrich, financial editor for the Times, said the newspaper’s estimate that major companies received tens of billions of dollars in additional tax breaks thanks to the Treasury Department is “conservative.”

“The cumulative effect,” said Enrich, “is that a tax law already disproportionately benefiting the richest of the rich has become an even greater windfall for the world’s largest companies and their shareholders.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted in response to the Times story that “Trump is the most corrupt president in history, and here’s the latest example of how that corruption helps giant corporations at the expense of small businesses and working families.”

“Too many corporations are cashing in on all the benefits of America while skipping out on the bill,” said Warren. “Companies that make massive profits shouldn’t be paying less in federal income taxes than working families.”

As Hunter Blair of the Economic Policy Institute noted on the two-year anniversary of the passage of Trump’s tax cuts last week, “the $4,000 annual boost to average incomes that the White House Council of Economic Advisers promised to working families because of the [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] did not—and will not—happen.”

“While it’s been worse-than-advertised for working families,” Blair wrote, “the TCJA has been an even bigger boon to large corporations and rich households.”

Trump Retweets Posts Naming Alleged Whistleblower

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump retweeted an article and a Twitter post naming late last week naming the alleged whistleblower who came forward to sound the alarm about president’s conduct toward Ukraine, which ultimately led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

The president retweeted a post by his 2020 reelection campaign’s official “War Room” account, which linked to a Washington Examiner article that uses the alleged whistleblower’s name in the headline.

“I believe tonight marks the first time president trump has retweeted a tweet featuring The Name before, and that tweet came from his campaign war room,” said Daily Beast reporter Asawin Suebsaeng.

Unlike the Examiner and other right-wing publications, most news outlets have declined to publish the alleged whistleblower’s name amid concerns for the person’s safety.

Trump has suggested behind closed doors that the people who provided the whistleblower with information should be executed. The president has also publicly demanded to “meet” the whistleblower and claimed to know the person’s identity.

“He hates Trump,” the president said of the individual last month.

As The Daily Beast reported:

Trump had gossiped for weeks about this alleged whistleblower with various friends, media figures, and senior administration officials, and had asked some people if they thought it was a good idea for him to publicly announce or tweet the name. Several people close to the president, such as Ivanka Trump and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had privately cautioned him against saying or posting the name in public, arguing it would be counterproductive and unnecessary.

Multiple sources close to Trump had told The Daily Beast last month that they were genuinely shocked the president hadn’t already rage-tweeted the name or blurted it out to the cameras, given his massive fury at the individual. On Thursday night, President Trump’s restraint appeared to slip.

Legal experts have said that “outing” a whistleblower likely amounts to a violation of federal law.

“Despite mentions on several conservative websites and social media accounts, the identity of the whistleblower has not been confirmed or widely circulated,” Eric Havian and Michael Ronickher, who have both represented whistleblowers, wrote in an op-ed earlier this month. “The most vocal Trump defenders in Congress have fallen into lockstep, excoriating Democrats for maintaining the whistleblower’s anonymity while in almost every case carefully avoiding disclosure themselves.”

“The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act makes it unlawful to take any ‘action constituting reprisal’ against whistleblowers who follow the proper procedures to report national security concerns, as the whistleblower did here,” wrote Havian and Ronickher. “The law is clear that ‘outing’ a whistleblower can indeed constitute retaliation and reprisal.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Legal Witness Karlan Says Sondland Gave ‘Chilling Evidence’ Of Trump’s Impeachable Offenses

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan on Wednesday told House impeachment investigators that the “most chilling” evidence that President Donald Trump was pursuing his own political gain in Ukraine came from the November 20 testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Karlan, one of four legal scholars to testify during Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, said she spent her entire Thanksgiving break reading transcripts from previous public impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee.

The “most striking” line from the witness testimony, said Karlan, was Sondland’s claim that Trump did not care whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky actually opened an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

“He had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland told impeachment investigators last month. “The only thing I heard from [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form, and that form kept changing.”

Karlan told the Judiciary Committee that Sondland’s testimony undermines the Republican narrative that Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine stemmed from geniune concerns about corruption.

“What I took that to mean was this was not about whether Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not,” Karlan said. “This was about injuring somebody who the president thinks of as a particularly hard opponent. That’s for his private beliefs.”

“There’s a lot to suggest here that this was about political benefit,” Karlan added. “What the Constitution cares about is that we have free elections. And so it is only in the president’s interest, it is not the national interest, that a particular president be elected or be defeated at the next election. The Constitution is indifferent to that.”

Three of the four legal scholars who testified Wednesday, including Karlan, said they believe Trump committed the “impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power” by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 presidential election.

The lone outlier was George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, who was called to testify by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

During her opening remarks (pdf), Karlan said the evidence that has emerged from the House impeachment inquiry into Trump “reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency.”

“And it shows a president who did this to strong-arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season,” said Karlan. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

Karlan asked viewers to “imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding.”

“What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for?” Karlan asked. “What would you think if that president said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor? I’ll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.’”

Watch:

Impeachment HQ, a joint project of progressive groups Stand Up America and Defend the Republic, said in an email to supporters Wednesday that the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee “has been absolutely devastating for Donald Trump.”

“The country’s leading constitutional scholars testified under oath that Trump’s conduct meets the constitutional standard for impeachment,” the groups said.