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Momentum Builds In Congress To ‘Do Something’ About Thomas Misconduct

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a problem for the court, for the nation, and for democracy in general. That’s been true for decades, as long as his deep ties to the dark money swirling around the judiciary, and doesn’t even take into account the extremely partisan activities of his “best friend” and wife Ginni. Since those activities now include attempting to overthrow the government, the problem of Clarence Thomas just got a whole lot more glaring—and congressional leadership has been caught just a bit flat-footed.

Stepping into the void, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the first to use the “I” word. “Clarence Thomas should resign,” she tweeted. “If not, his failure to disclose income from right-wing organizations, recuse himself from matters involving his wife, and his vote to block the Jan 6th commission from key information must be investigated and could serve as grounds for impeachment.”

By all means, the House should start talking about impeachment. That’s what Thomas deserves: the ultimate censure. That’s where to start: the maximum. There’s no real other leverage the other two branches have over the Supreme Court than pressure in the public eye and the threat of action. Chief Justice John Roberts has been aware enough about his personal legacy in his career thus far to make blowing up the Thomas scandal in public—and keeping it there with discussion of impeachment—a smart tactic.

Would the 50-50 Senate convict him? No, but that’s a valuable weapon for Democrats in the upcoming election. Republicans are protecting the Supreme Court justice who has refused to recuse himself from cases involving his wife’s efforts to overthrow the government.

The good news is that Democrats are inching toward something a little more concrete than demanding that Thomas recuse. That’s where they started. A group of House and Senate Democrats, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), wrote to the Supreme Court requesting that Thomas recuse himself from any future Jan. 6-related cases, as well as provide a “written explanation for his failure to recuse himself” in previous cases.

“[G]iven the recent disclosures about Ms. Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election and her specific communications with White House officials about doing so, Justice Thomas’s participation in cases involving the 2020 election and the January 6th attack is exceedingly difficult to reconcile with federal ethics requirements,” says the letter obtained by The Washington Post.

The lawmakers also called on Roberts to commit to creating “a binding Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court—the only court in the country not currently subject to a judicial code of ethics—that includes (1) enforceable provisions to ensure that the Justices comply with this Code and (2) a requirement that all Justices issue written recusal decision.” They ask that he do so by April 28.

Which is a fine and appropriate next step, since Thomas will surely refuse to recuse. “He absolutely should recuse himself,” Jayapal told Politico. But, she added, “Clearly the Supreme Court is in need of ethics reforms.”

Jayapal is on the House Judiciary committee, so the ethics reform thing is another possibility. In fact, legislation to impose the Judicial Code of Ethics on the Supreme Court—which is currently exempt from it—would be a good concurrent step for Congress to be taking along with the public pressure campaign to get him to resign. That legislation exists in a bill written by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and should start moving through the committee immediately.

After an ill-conceived dismissal of the issue on Monday by Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, who suggested there’s no urgency to the Thomas problem, there’s now some momentum there. Durbin had a day to think it over and is now joining Warren in saying lawmakers need to act. Durbin told CNN’s Manu Raju that imposing the ethics code on the Supreme Court is “long overdue.” Warren told him the legislation should include limits on stocks and “rules about other kinds of personal conflicts.” The Senate Democrats are expected to discuss Murphy’s legislation in their conference luncheon Tuesday, Raju reports.

That’s all fine and needs to move apace. At the same time, House Democrats should not rule out pursuing impeachment, which has to initiate in that chamber. Once again, Ocasio-Cortez is pushing Democrats to go there. Remember, she said, that pushing for impeachment of Trump on his extortion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was initially deemed “unrealistic,” and the “debate was fierce & opposition real.” But, she argues, “When we look back at the decision to impeach Trump over Ukraine today, could you imagine if the naysayers and those claiming to be ‘politically savvier’ won? WE would be explaining why we allowed it to happen instead of the Senate explaining why they acquitted.” That’s on the Senate Republicans.

“Subpoenas, investigations, and impeachment should absolutely be on the table. We shouldn’t have to think twice about that,” she concluded in the thread. “We must go where the facts take us. A failure to act puts the imperiling of democracy squarely on *our* shoulders. It’s our duty to defend it.”

Let the Senate lead on the code of ethics legislation. How are Senate Republicans going to argue about that? The House needs to start those investigations toward impeachment. Both chambers should also be talking now about legislation to expand the court, and to put pressure on President Joe Biden to join as well. If there’s going to be any change, any accountability at the court, it’s not going to come without a big public stink. It’s the only way it’s going to happen.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Conspiracist Ginni Thomas Repeatedly Urged Mark Meadows To Overturn 2020 Election

The Washington Post and CBS broke a bombshell of a story on Thursday: a series of text messages sent between Ginni Thomas, spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and then-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows from early November 2020 to mid-January 2021, in which conservative activist Thomas urged Meadows to keep up efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. CNN broke the story that the January 6 House Select Committee has obtained these text messages, but the Post and CBS have actually obtained them—all 29 of them.

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice,” Thomas texted to Meadows on Nov. 10, 2020 after the major media outlets declared Joe Biden the winner. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

In a text from Meadows to Thomas on November 24, he told her: “This is a fight of good versus evil. [...] Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.” Thomas replied “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

We don’t know for sure who her “best friend” is, but people close to the couple, including Armstrong Williams, have called the couple “best friends”—as in, Ginni and Clarence Thomas are each other’s best friend. When Ginni decided to call Anita Hill in 2010 because she is a horrible person, Armstrong says Clarence didn’t agree she should do it. “It’s his wife, it’s his best friend, his most trusted confidante, and he loves her unconditionally. He doesn’t agree with everything, but they work it out privately.” So we can speculate pretty safely on who she’s talking about there.

On November 19, she wrote, “The intense pressures you and our President are now experiencing are more intense than Anything Experienced (but I only felt a fraction of it in 1991),” speaking of Anita Hill’s accusations that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.

The Post reports that “Among Thomas’s stated goals in the messages was for lawyer Sidney Powell, who promoted incendiary and unsupported claims about the election, to be ‘the lead and the face’ of Trump’s legal team.” Further, she “spread false theories, commented on cable news segments and advocated with urgency and fervor that the president and his team take action to reverse the outcome of the election,” the Post says. “She urged that they take a hard line with Trump staffers and congressional Republicans who had resisted arguments that the election was stolen.”

She appears to have been an immediate election denier, sending a link to Meadows two days after the election to a YouTube video labeled “TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN.” Pieczenik is a former State Department official and conspiracy theorist who apparently suggested that the election was stolen; the video is no longer online.

“I hope this is true; never heard anything like this before, or even a hint of it. Possible???” Thomas texted to Meadows. “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”

Ginni Thomas has been under increasing media scrutiny because of her involvement in the January 6 protests. Stories in both The New York Times and The New Yorker have tied Thomas to organizers of the January 6 rally that led to the Capitol insurrection. The reports have noted the critical advisory role she played in the world of Washington politics and lobbying.

Her husband may or may not be in the hospital now, having been hospitalized last Friday for an “infection” that is “not COVID.” No further information has been released, including whether he is indeed still hospitalized, his current condition, or a more precise diagnosis of his illness.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Wut? Ron Johnson Tells Wisconsin That State ‘Has Enough Jobs’

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who probably shouldn’t be waiting by the phone for MENSA to call, just told his constituents in Wisconsin that he won’t fight for high-paying jobs for them because, “It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin.”

Yep. He really said that. He’s not working to get Oshkosh Corp. to build U.S. Postal Service vehicles, creating about 1,000 jobs, because Wisconsin ... already has jobs. “The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers,” he said, sticking to the GOP narrative that President Joe Biden has destroyed everything because COVID, inflation, and the deficit.

“I wouldn’t insert myself to demand that anything be manufactured here using federal funds in Wisconsin,” Johnson told Wisconsin reporters after an event in Wisconsin. “Obviously, I’m supportive of it. But in the end, I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way and if it’s more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don’t have a real problem with that.”

Oshkosh Corp. won a contract to produce as many as 165,000 electric postal service delivery vehicles last year, and intends to move the manufacturing to Spartanburg, South Carolina. One of the big differences in those two states: In Wisconsin, the labor force is organized. In South Carolina, it will likely be nonunion labor.

Johnson’s fellow Wisconsinite, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, doesn’t not agree. “To me, it’s simple—I want Oshkosh Defense to manufacture trucks in Oshkosh with Wisconsin workers,” Baldwin said in a statement. Which is what senators and representatives are supposed to say about the potential for good-paying manufacturing jobs in their home states. Baldwin said she would “continue to urge Oshkosh Defense and the Postal Service to further scrutinize the final production location in South Carolina based on the strength of our existing, experienced workforce in Wisconsin.”

This is not Johnson’s first questionable brush with the employment question in recent weeks. Last month, back in Wisconsin he opined on inflation and the worker shortage, again, and decided to blame it on the government being too helpful to people. First off, unemployment benefits should be reduced, he said, to force people back on the job.

Also, people should not be getting any help paying for child care so that they can continue to work because ... reasons. “People decide to have families and become parents, that’s something they need to consider when they make that choice,” Johnson said. “I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.”

Instead, he said, society has the responsibility to provide opportunities for people to get jobs to support their families. As long as those aren’t union jobs in his state making the next generation of postal service vehicles. No, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s Ron Johnson.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Do Democrats Have An Ace Up Their Sleeve To Beat Filibuster On Voting Rights?

The Senate resumes Tuesday at noon, foregoing what would have been a week of recess for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in order to debate the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, the combined voting rights and election reform bills passed by the House last week. That debate can’t be avoided, thanks to the process Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered to bypass the first Republican filibuster, on the motion to proceed. The House folded the combined voting rights bill into an unrelated bill that was in reconciliation between the two chambers. Because the Senate had already passed the underlying bill, the whole thing can go directly to the floor for debate.

There, Democratic senators who aren’t Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will talk about its importance and—other than Mitch McConnell and a few grandstanders declaring that it’s a Democratic power grab trying to seize power from the states—Republicans will mostly not show up. That argument, by the way, is exactly the same framing that Southern segregationists in the 1950s and ‘60s used while filibustering civil and voting rights legislation.

Republicans—with the help of Manchin and Sinema—will use the filibuster in the most Jim Crow tradition to defeat the bill. Schumer and fellow Democrats—minus Manchin and Sinema—will move to alter the filibuster in order to pass the bills. Because of the two saboteurs will refuse to help save democracy, the bill will fail to pass. That is, unless a miracle of decency and enlightenment occurs between now and then for the two -- or Democrats agree to use another procedural gambit to outlast Republicans and pass it with a simple majority without ending the filibuster.

Democrats are pushing forward because, in the words of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, “We all have to be recorded at this moment in time about where are we in protecting the right to vote.”

In comments at a National Action Network event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Schumer called out Manchin and Sinema. He said he would do “everything in my power to advance legislation that would strengthen our democracy” despite the “two Democrats who don’t want to make that happen,” adding that the “fight is not over.”

“Far from it,” Schumer said. “I’m going down to Washington, and we are going to debate voting rights. We are going to debate it, and, in the Senate, you know we need 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster … but since we only have 50 Democrats in our razor-thin majority, the only path forward on this important issue is to change the rules to bypass the filibuster.”

“We must never give up,” Schumer said Monday. “We are going to continue till we get full voting rights for all Americans. We will never give up until we stop these horrible, horrible laws from passing, until we expand the right to vote, not contract it.”

How that’s going to happen, or when exactly, is not clear. As of Tuesday morning, the health status of all Democrats wasn’t apparent—Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii had tested positive for COVID last week, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was absent for an undisclosed reason. It’s possible there won’t be 50 Democrats available right now to move forward.

That could argue for that other procedural trick at Schumer’s disposal—it would buy time. That’s to use yet another Senate rule to force Republicans to hold the floor with speeches and procedural motions and tire either them or the two traitor Democrats out enough to just break the filibuster.

This is something Democrats are looking at. “There are a couple of paths here. Do we go down the path and do a long debate until it’s done and then have a simple debate?” Kaine said last week. “We wouldn’t need a rules change to pass the bill by simple majority if the debate is over. Theoretically, you do not need a rules change to pass a bill that’s on the floor, you just have to allow debate to occur,” he added.

James Wallner, a former Senate Republican aide and expert on Senate procedure, explained how it would work. “The easiest way to get to final passage on this bill is to put it on the floor and have Vice President Kamala Harris or Majority Leader Schumer or any other senator start to make points of order against any senator who tries to speak more than twice.” That’s Senate Rule XIX, which says a senator can’t speak more than twice on the same question on a legislative day. That would mean Schumer would have to keep the Senate in session indefinitely—staying on the same legislative day for days, possibly weeks. That means simply recessing at night instead of adjourning. That would force Republicans to debate until all 50 of them had spoken twice.

That would put some pressure on the 16 sitting Republicans, including McConnell, who are on the record in support of the federal government protecting voting rights. Those sixteen have all voted to reauthorize the federal Voting Rights Act.

But it would also require a much more coordinated Democratic caucus than we’re used to seeing, and a presiding officer who was rock solid on the rules. “This requires a more aggressive presiding officer,” a senior aide to Senate Democrats told The Hill. “The parliamentarian is not going to advise the presiding officer, ‘Nobody seems to be seeking debate so bring the question.’ It will have to be affirmatively sought by the presiding officer.” The aide added: “The two-speech rule is hard to make work because you can always offer another amendment or bring up a new debate proposition and then get two more speeches out of that. And once again, the parliamentarian doesn’t look to enforce it again, so it would have to be presiding officer causing the parliamentarian to do something they don’t traditionally do.”

It would also mean that all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris would have to be available all the time to squash Republican procedural motions. It requires both energy and discipline. If Schumer could muster that among his conference for a week, maybe two, it actually might wear Sinema and Manchin down to the point where they would give in on a filibuster carve-out for voting rights. Or not. The tactic would also force Manchin to stand by his claims that he thinks the talking filibuster should be restored. Because this would be essentially that, a talking filibuster.

There’s really nothing else pending in the immediate term to keep Democrats from trying this, though we’re just one month away from the next must-pass government funding bill. The continuing resolution that government is currently operating on runs out on February 18. A potential government shutdown could serve as an additional pressure point on Manchin and Sinema, who were more than happy to support a filibuster carve out in a similar situation last month, with the debt ceiling.

“They can table at any point anything before the Senate, so the Democrats are literally in simple-majority territory right now,” Wallner told The Hill. "They’ve got the majority, even though in a 50-50 Senate that’s kind of a technicality. They have it and they need to use it."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Sinema Stabs Biden -- And Her Own Party -- In The Back In Floor Speech

Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave a floor speech in the Senate Thursday that has been unequaled in cringeworthiness since Sen. Susan Collins stood there and told the nation that she was going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because he deeply revered precedent, especially when it came to abortion rights. We all know how that turned out.

Sinema’s floor remarks were a stab in the back to President Joe Biden (and all her Democratic colleagues) moments before Biden was scheduled to meet with her. She insisted that she really does support the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights bills, but that they “treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the diseases and while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country.” Meaning she would not help Republicans break the filibuster in order to pass these bills she supports. Because both sides. Literally. She both-sides-ed Jan. 6 and the Big Lie. She doubled down on that, literally blaming Democratic leadership for not working harder to get Republicans to work with them.

“I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of Democratic Party lines to sit down with the other party and genuinely discuss how to reforge common ground on these issues,” she said. Never mind that the Freedom to Vote Act was entirely rewritten by Joe Manchin to get Republicans on board and every single one of them refused. And when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to bring the bill to the floor, Republicans filibustered the motion to proceed to it—they didn’t even allow the Senate to debate it.

She might as well have announced her defection to the Republicans in that speech, because in practicality that’s what she did. She’s supporting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s veto of these bills and everything else in Biden’s legislative agenda, essentially. She’s trying to call it principle about the sanctity of the filibuster, but she had no problem voting just last month to break the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. Which makes her pretty much a Republican. She’s got the lying and the trolling down pat.

Really, what Gabe Ortiz tweeted:

This, plus Thursday’s announcement by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that he has COVID and the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to an undisclosed illness means that the plan to expedite the voting rights bills on the Senate floor will have to be delayed, at the least. Schumer can still force a debate on the bills through the procedure Democrats crafted, but it can’t succeed.

All that said, we need a palate cleanser after Sinema. Here is Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego speaking on the House floor immediately following Sinema’s Senate speech.

On January 6 we witnessed a violent coup attempt in our Capitol fueled by the Big Lie. Our country continues to face a slow-moving coup in the form of voter suppression. I’ve seen first hand in my home state of Arizona voter suppression laws targeting people of color and a state senate that would rather waste taxpayer money on a sham audit instead of upholding our most sacred democratic right, the right to vote.The Freedom to Vote/John Lewis Voting Rights Act is critical to protecting the vote in my state and states across the country where restrictive laws are being put into place to strip people of the right to vote. Arizona will stand strong together this weekend. Thousands will gather this Saturday in Phoenix for democracy and voting rights. Passing this bill today answers their call by guaranteeing access to democracy to every Arizonan.
Today, the House showed where it stands. We won’t shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It’s past time for the U.S Senate, and Senator Sinema to do the same.

Thank you, Gallego. That kind of honesty and clarity is what Arizona—not to mention the nation—needs from its elected officials.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Schumer Gives Sternest Warning On Democracy Yet To Manchin And Sinema

Between January 1 and December 7,” an end-of-year analysis by the Brennan Center says, “at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting.” The emphasis is in the original because it needs to be emphasized. There were 440 bills introduced in 49 states last year to restrict voting, at least 88 of which will carry on into 2022 legislative sessions. Ominously, the Brennan Center identifies a “new trend” in 2021: “legislators introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely.”

This is an “alarming and unprecedented attack on our democracy,” as the Brennan Center says, and that it followed a violent, physical attack on our democracy at the Capitol on January 6 is even more alarming. Hundreds of Republican lawmakers around the country watched what happened on January 6 and instead of rejecting the assault in horror, they decided they had to figure out how to legalize it, codify it. All 50 of the U.S. Senate Republicans are tacitly approving that response, even though they were among the literal targets of the January 6 rioters. Just one, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, has signaled a willingness to possibly consider congressional action to preserve democracy.

Those 50 Republicans can stick together under the cover of two Democratic senators: Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia's Joe Manchin. Traditional media is almost entirely ignoring the fact that those 50 Republican senators are subverting democracy by refusing to protect it—including the eight who voted to overturn election results after the attack, after their lives were endangered by the mob Trump sicced on them. They’re let off the hook because Sinema and Manchin, for whatever reasons of their own, have been using their 15 minutes of fame to do so.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling an end to all that, and soon. “Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy,” he told his colleagues in a letter Monday. “We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

On the floor Tuesday, he reiterated that, framing the question in the anniversary of the January 6 attacks and the efforts by Republicans in the states to undermine the sanctity of our elections.

“If Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy,” Schumer continued, “then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

A number of Democratic senators including Virginia’s Tim Kaine, Montana’s Jon Tester, and independent Angus King from Maine have been working on Manchin for weeks, including over the Christmas break. Those talks are still continuing, though it’s not clear they’re making any dent.

Manchin told reporters Tuesday morning that he’s having “good conversations” and does recognize “the need for us to protect democracy as we know it.” They’ve gotten that far at least. He said, “I’m talking, I’m not agreeing to any of this,” by which he meant the various possibilities for filibuster reform. He wants bipartisan support for it, saying it’s his “absolute preference.” Which is moving the goal post out of the solar system. Even he has to be cognizant of that fact.

Manchin is also remaining willfully ignorant of the facts on Senate rules. “Once you change rules or have a carve out—I’ve always said this: Anytime there’s a carve out, you eat the whole turkey because it comes back. So you want things that’ll be sustainable.” The Senate just last month created a one-time carve-out in the ridiculously convoluted process they followed to raise the debt ceiling. There have been at least 161 exceptions to the filibuster created since 1969, and the Senate is still in business. Massively dysfunctional, yes, but still standing.

Sinema, as usual, isn’t talking right now. Whether that means she’s not engaging with her colleagues on the issue, whether they’re even trying to engage with her, isn’t clear. Through a spokesperson, she reiterated her opposition to changing the filibuster even though she says she is supportive of both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There seems to be a general sense among Democrats that Manchin is who they need to get, and that Sinema won’t want to stand alone in opposition.

We’ll find out in the next few weeks.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Behind 2020 Election Fraud Claims, An Elaborate Grift Operation

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The past squatter in the Oval Office spent months and months sowing seeds of distrust in our election system, trying to make sure that he had laid the groundwork to challenge the election—or have an insurrection if the legal route to challenging it failed. He was open to anything, as were some of his well-heeled supporters. The Daily Beast has reports on the fundraising campaign that one of those groups, the Liberty Center for God and Country (LCGC), ran ahead of the election and what they did with that money.

Remember the former police captain who ran an innocent air conditioner technician off the road and held him at gunpoint, convinced that the man was transporting 750,000 fraudulent ballots? Mark Aguirre, that former cop, was indicted last week for aggravated assault in that attack. It was that attack and the subsequent criminal charges that outed the LCGC, which paid Aguirre more than $200,000 to investigate voter fraud. Newly released documents show the depth of LCGC’s planning and the money they raised to fight the election in the event of a Trump loss.

Aguirre started a GoFundMe campaign in September 2020, launched the day after he signed an affidavit in a lawsuit brought by Texas Republican activist Steven Hotze declaring he had knowledge of a vast Houston Democrats voter fraud scheme. “We are private investigators in the State of Texas who have uncovered an illegal ballot harvesting operation in Harris County,” Aguirre said on his new fundraising site. “Our team is spearheaded by Mark A. Aguirre retired Captain of the Houston Police Department Lic.#C14256. We have collected evidence from 2018 displaying the massive absentee mail in voting fraud. We are currently in the process of collecting more evidence and information that will directly impact the upcoming 2020 election.”

The “we” included Aguirre and Hotze, who had formed the LCGC in August 2020, supposedly to provide spiritual support to Trump. The group launched its web presence by calling for Trump to declare a period of three days “for national repentance, fasting, and prayer.” Hotze is a long-standing anti-LGBT activist in Texas Republican politics who went full-on conspiracy theory in the months before the election. “The Socialist Democrats know that Harris County, where Houston is located, is ground zero for the upcoming general election in Texas and nationwide,” he wrote in a Facebook post that was shared by the LCGC. His LCGC raised about $70,000 in the fall of 2020.

Some of that money seems to have been poured into creating a post-election website called Every Legal Vote, which manufactured “evidence” of Trump’s supposed win. The Daily Beast uncovered its now-deleted “about us” page, where it claimed “Our Founding Sponsors: The Economic WarRoom, Allied Security Operations Group, Liberty Center for God and Country are building a coalition concerned with protecting our sacred elections from tampering and fraud.”

The Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG) is financially tied to LCGC as proved by a fundraiser it ran on an election denial website this year. “ASOG urgently needs your help to continue their vitally important research,” the group pleaded, but asked donors to write the checks they were sending in to LCGC, saying ASOG “will get them to LCGC and insure your donation receipt.” You might remember ASOG for its founder, Russell Ramsland Jr., who filed an affidavit in a Lin Wood lawsuit claiming fraud in Michigan using data from towns in Minnesota.

That mistake kept ASOG from being chosen to conduct the election “audit” for Maricopa County, Arizona. However, the Daily Beast reports, “Texts from officials involved in the Maricopa County audit reveal that ASOG was also working with Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel credited with distributing a now-infamous PowerPoint presentation on how lawmakers could invalidate the 2020 election and install Trump as president.”

LCGC is a registered nonprofit, giving it all the dark cover it needs to exploit—and generate—election denial through Every Legal Vote and any other grift machine. It’s just all one big, interconnected, conspiracy theory-loving bunch of crooks.

Which is one more reason why it is essential that Senate Democrats restore and protect our elections by ending the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts. These bills would go a long way toward protecting the integrity of our elections and grift-proofing them.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

House Select Committee May Hold Trump Chief Of Staff Meadows In Contempt

It's been over one month since the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 subpoenaed former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, former Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel, and Stephen Bannon. They were given two weeks to submit documents and were required to be deposed one week later. Meadows and Patel got short postponements and Bannon got a contempt of Congress charge.

Meadows is asking for the same by continuing to delay and obstruct. According to multiple sources to CNN, the committee is considering giving him a new deadline to comply with the subpoena and holding him in criminal contempt if he does not. "Our patience isn't unlimited, and engagement needs to become cooperation very soon," one of the sources told CNN. "As we've already made clear, anyone who tries to stonewall our effort will face the consequences."

Chair of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, told CNN that they are not at the point yet where they can take Meadows to court, but "If and when the staff says to us it's not going anywhere, there won't be any hesitation on the part of the committee to make the referrals." As opposed to Bannon, the complication with Meadows is that as the former chief of staff, Meadows can claim at least a degree of protection under executive privilege.

In addition to wanting to know what Meadows was doing and what was happening in the White House in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and that day itself, the committee wants to know his role in attempting to overturn the election—with his subpoena noting that he had communicated with "the highest officials at the Department of Justice requesting investigations into election fraud matters in several states."

It's been well-reported for months that Meadows was neck-deep in multiple schemes to "nullify" the election and allow Trump to remain in charge. That included efforts to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes, communications with Republican members of Congress, and a fantastical scheme in which Meadows pushed the Department of Justice to investigate whether Italy had interfered with the election using satellites.

But that's likely not all the committee wants to talk to Meadows about. Now that two of the insurrection organizers are talking, Meadows should probably think about negotiating his best possible deal. Several House Republicans have been named by those organizers as active in planning the protest, and both have been in contact with the committee. The two canaries are subjects of an unrelated investigation, and said that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) used to get them to plan the Ellipse protest. If they went along with organizing this protest, they said, Gosar promised Trump would give them "blanket pardons."

"Our impression was that it was a done deal," the organizer said, "that he'd spoken to the president about it in the Oval … in a meeting about pardons and that our names came up. They were working on submitting the paperwork and getting members of the House Freedom Caucus to sign on as a show of support." Guess who else hangs out in the Oval Office for these kinds of meetings? Yep, the chief of staff.

The Biden White House rejected claims from Trump for executive privilege over records held by the National Archives this week. White House counsel Dana Remus told the National Archives that Biden has determined that shielding the documents from Congress "is not in the best interests of the United States." She added, "Accordingly, President Biden does not uphold the former President's assertion of privilege." Trump has asked Meadows to claim executive privilege to evade the subpoena.

Meadow's compliance might be influenced by what, if anything, Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to do about Bannon and the contempt charge against him. Garland told lawmakers last week, ahead of the contempt vote, that the Justice Department will follow "the facts and the law" moving forward on Bannon's case.

"I will say what a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia said I think yesterday or a day before," Garland told a House committee. "If the House of Representatives votes for a referral of a contempt charge—then the Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances, we will apply the facts and the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution."

Biden potentially complicated things a bit last weekend by telling reporters, "I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable," referring to people resisting subpoenas. Presidents aren't supposed to do anything that looks like pressuring Justice, never mind four years of Trump doing just that. Asked in follow-up whether these people should be prosecuted by the Justice Department, he answered, "I do, yes." That led to Department of Justice spokesman Anthony Coley following up with a statement: "The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop."

That was October 15. Since then Bannon has accused Garland and the FBI of removing Trump from office in a coup. For real.

House Democrats on and off the committee are urging Garland to act. "The U.S. attorney [general] obviously has a decision to make; they have charging criteria. There are rules for prosecutors, they'll run it through their analysis. And, you know, we think that the public interest is obviously overwhelming in seeing that this subpoena is respected and that this crime is prosecuted," committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told The Hill.

"I think there's a real desire on the part of the attorney general, for the most part, not to look backward," Rep. Adam Schiff said on the Yahoo News "Skullduggery" podcast last week. "Do I disagree with that? I do disagree with that, and I disagree with it most vehemently when it comes to what I consider even more serious offenses. For example, a taped conversation of Donald J. Trump on the phone with Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state from Georgia, trying to coerce him into fraudulently finding 11,780 votes. […] Because I think if you or I did that, we'd be under indictment by now."

Sinema Now Defending Trump Tax Cuts She Condemned

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

It's Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's turn to play the skunk at President Joe Biden's picnic. It's almost as if she and Sen. Joe Manchin are deliberately working together to try to kill the large budget reconciliation package that will contain his Build Back Better programs. It's turning into a dangerous game of Whack-a-Mole: Manchin presents his unreasonable demands and the White House and fellow Democrats scramble to meet them, only to have Sinema then pop up with her must-haves. Or in this case, must-have-nots.

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McConnell Sends Biden Another Debt Ceiling Hostage Note

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blinked and scraped together 11 Republican senators to prevent a global economic meltdown, he was back to making threats to blow it all up in December. Next time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a typically obnoxious letter to President Joe Biden, next time Republicans are really going to blow up the global economy. Oh, and he took credit for not blowing up the global economy. Because of course he did.

Never mind that it was essentially a face-saving exercise on his part because being dragged into doing the right thing did not go over well with his fellow Republicans. "Republicans are folding here," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina railed. "This is a complete capitulation."

"The reason the Republican leadership took the deal is because Democrats threatened […] to nuke the filibuster," Sen. Ted Cruz said. "Unfortunately, Republican leadership blinked in the face of the Democratic threat to nuke the filibuster." That's Cruz, by the way, trying to deflect attention from his own self, because the Republicans were ready to agree to letting a simple majority pass the debt ceiling hike in a voice vote. It was Cruz who refused to go along with that, and insisted on a recorded vote. Meaning every Republican had to go on record on their willingness to blow up the economy.

While we're talking filibuster, though, yes. That. And while we're at it, get rid of the filibuster and the whole concept of the debt ceiling in one go.

There's no guarantee that McConnell is going to capitulate again on or before December 2. He remains intent on forcing Democrats to include hiking or suspending the debt ceiling in their reconciliation bill that will include President Biden's Build Back Better human infrastructure and climate initiatives. Lumped together, he believes, the debt and the new package will provide a message for the Republicans who, frankly, need it. Because all they've got right now is "Trump."

Unfortunately, it's a message that certain Democrats fear and are happy to amplify. It's unfortunate, because a) the debt ceiling is about the money the government has already spent with a huge chunk of it attributed to the GOP tax scam of 2017, and b) the things they would be spending money on are massively popular. That's even though they don't really know these plans are in the big package.

In the new CBS polling, which shows that public knowledge about Biden's plans is not good, 88 percent of support federal funding for lowering prescription drug prices; 84 percent support federal funding for Medicare coverage for dental/eye/hearing care; 73 percent support federal funding for paid family/medical leave; 67 percent support federal funding for universal pre-school. Those majorities are going to be swayed a lot more by those things making their lives better than by the cost. Because that's how it works. Which McConnell knows and which is why, in a recent example, the Republicans fought so hard to keep the Affordable Care Act from passing and then getting established.

McConnell is keeping the two fronts of this fight—debt ceiling and the reconciliation bill—tied together to kill the latter. But there is a very straightforward path for Democrats: nuke the filibuster. They could do just a carve-out for the debt ceiling (to go with the 161 exceptions that already exist), but that would be pretty crappy considering they haven't yet decided to do it to restore the Voting Rights Act, you know, saving democracy.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is all for making the debt ceiling as an issue go away. "[T]here is an enormous amount at stake," Yellen told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "A failure to raise the debt ceiling would probably cause a recession and could even result in a financial crisis," she continued.

"I have said I support, personally, getting rid of the debt ceiling. I believe that, once Congress and the administration have decided on spending plans and tax plans, it's simply their responsibility to pay the bills that result from that," she said. "And that means we have had deficits for most of the post-war period. And that means raising the debt ceiling. It is a housekeeping chore. [W]e should be debating the government's fiscal policy when we decide on those expenditures and taxes […] not when the credit card bill […] comes due."

That's all very true, as is the threat we exist under that, next time, Republicans are going to force a breach. Better that Democrats to take that threat away entirely, and soon.

Debt Ceiling: Save The World From Recession By Dumping The Filibuster

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Senate will be voting Wednesday to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. Except they won't actually be voting on the debt ceiling. They'll be voting on whether Republicans will allow a floor vote on suspending the debt limit; as of now, it takes 60 votes to pay the nation's bills. Republicans don't want to do so, even though the bills now come due were incurred by their guy, the former squatter in the Oval Office.

That "moderate, bipartisan" Republican, Susan Collins, proved that yet again this week, suggesting a totally unacceptable trade for her vote: If the Democrats would just totally abandon President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, the cornerstone of his first term in office, some Republicans might consider not jeopardizing the global economy.

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Doctors Ask: What Consequences For Those Who Refuse Vaccines?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Vaccines and adequate supplies have definitely made the Delta round of the COVID-19 pandemic less horrific for the doctors and nurses trying to save lives. The jeopardy for them and their families is at least reduced by the fact that the vaccine has been available to them, and they don't have to rely on personal protective equipment that's days old. But the fact that there is a vaccine and that many of the people who are filling up ICUs are there by choice adds a whole level of demoralization that didn't exist in the first round.

"It feels very different to me because it is preventable now. So, it's a very different feel in terms of the age of the patients coming in. They are getting really sick, there are a lot of people on ventilators and they are not vaccinated," Dr. Meghan McInerney, the ICU medical director at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, said in a recent interview. "It didn't have to be this way and so with that, the air in the ICU is a little bit defeated. You know, the nurses, the doctors, the respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, all the members of our team are feeling a little more deflated with this round of a COVID surge because it is a preventable illness at this point."

Nancy Roberts, a respiratory therapist with St. Luke's Hospital in Boise, concurred. "It's rough. You leave here having worked a very hard shift and trying to take care of people, and not everybody makes it. So it does, absolutely, wear you down. Just knowing that we are having a hard time keeping staff and having new people hire on those are realities, so we are doing what we can do," Roberts said. It's bad in Idaho. But magnify that several thousands of times in Florida, and you can understand why this is happening: Doctors are walking out.

Nitesh N. Paryani, a radiation oncologist in Tampa, tries to shed light on what's happening in his hospital and to send a dire warning to all those people refusing vaccines: "The unvaccinated are killing people in ways they probably never imagined."

"On August 3, I received a call from a hospital that does not have a cancer program," he wrote. "Such calls are routine at the regional referral center where I work. A doctor at the outlying hospital had a patient with metastatic brain cancer. She was unable to walk, and without urgent radiation treatments there was no hope for any meaningful recovery." He couldn't respond to that call for help. "We had no beds available. We had paused elective surgeries the previous week and have been trying to control the influx of patients. Our emergency department had a 12-hour wait that day … But I had no choice. For the first time in my career, I had to say no."

In plenty of hospitals all over the nation those walk-outs have been permanent, and this time around it's staff that's in short supply rather than equipment. Mississippi is now using paramedics and emergency medical technicians to take care of patients in emergency rooms. Tennessee has deployed the National Guard to hospitals and are allowing some health care workers to provide care they are not licensed to give.

Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown has appealed to FEMA to build and staff a field hospital. She's also warned her residents that in some parts of the state "there may not be a staffed bed for you if you have a medical emergency." That's not a scare tactic to get people to get vaccinated. It's reality. It isn't just the medical staff who've left, either. "Sometimes we don't have anyone to answer the phones," said Marsha Martin, a trauma nurse at University of Florida Shands Hospital in Gainesville. "We're constantly interrupting the care we are giving to go fetch stuff," Martin said. "There are delays in patients getting medicine they need."

Then there's the Gulf Coast: "The average per person hospitalization rate for Panama City, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Gulfport, Mississippi; is considerably higher than that of their states as a whole, even though they are three of the four states with the highest rates in the country, according to data compiled by The New York Times."

The vaccination rate in all three of those counties is well below 40 percent, and the per person case rate in each is more than twice the national average. The hospitalizations and deaths are from the delta variant, and they're overwhelmingly from vaccine-refusers. "We've had 44 year olds, 45, 35, that have died," said Tiffany Murdock, a hospital administrator for Singing River Health System in coastal Mississippi. "I've been a nurse for 15 years, and I've never seen anything like it." She talked about a husband and wife in their 40s who died last week, both unvaccinated. "We had five people die, like room after room after room after room," just last Friday, she said.

It's enough to start a serious discussion among public health and public policy experts: What are the consequences for the unvaccinated for what they're doing to the nation's health care system? It cost $2 billion in June and July of this year. $2 billion in 2 months, a Kaiser Family Fund (KFF) analysis finds.

Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, KFF estimates that KFF there were around 37,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among vaccine-refusing adults in June and another 76,000 in July. That doesn't count the children who aren't eligible for the vaccines, a record high of 1,900 recorded just a few weeks ago.

That has to be paid for, and we're all having to shoulder the costs through either taxes paid for public insurers or higher premiums for our private insurers. "People who don't vaccinate are imposing costs on the community that they're not paying for," Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, an expert in vaccine policy at UC Hastings College of the Law, told Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik. She proposes they be treated like environmental polluters who are fined and forced to pay for the damage they've caused. "'This is not a new idea or a new question,' Reiss told me. She identifies three rationales for making the unvaccinated pay—to internalize the cost of their behavior, extract retribution for creating costs to their neighbors, and deterrence, i.e., to prompt them to get vaccinated."

In the meantime, plenty are pinning their hopes on the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer vaccine to bring the remaining unvaccinated around. But that's not going to undo the damage already done.

Really? Senate Republicans Credit Trump For Infrastructure Bill He Opposes

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Senate slogged away through the weekend, inching toward an agreement on the $1.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was delayed by one Republican senator's refusal to sign off on an amendment to speed things up. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty refused to allow unanimous consent to forego 30 hours of time-wasting on Saturday, requiring the Senate to be in on Sunday and running the clock out. That sets up a vote for around 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, unless somehow Hagerty can be convinced to give in and allow it to move faster.

Hagerty had been on the phone with the former guy, according to sources to AP, who had been egging him on in obstructing the bill. Previous to his election to the Senate, Hagerty had been Trump's ambassador to Japan, and is one of his staunchest allies in Congress. Efforts by Senate Republicans to appease Trump apparently fell on deaf ears.

On Friday, chief Republican negotiator Sen. Rob Portman even went on national television to give all the credit to Trump for this bill. Literally. "I have encouraged President Trump to take credit for this," Portman said on CNN. "President Trump's effort to raise the level of awareness about the need for infrastructure improvement should help us get this done. He proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. He's a developer, he understands the need for infrastructure."

The slobbering over the former squatter in the Oval Office continued on the Senate floor.

The delay also highlighted a growing dispute on amendments. Hagerty, in fact, tried to bring up 17 amendments on Sunday by unanimous consent. More than 20 have already been considered so far. That self-appointed paragon of bipartisanship, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, objected to his request, pointing to the fact that he was just wasting everyone's time.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer got a little testy about it, as well. "I'd repeat that Democrats are ready and willing to vote on additional amendments to the bill before moving to final passage," Schumer said Sunday one the floor. "Once again, that will require the cooperation of our Republican colleagues." He added, "I said yesterday that we could do this the easy way or the hard way. Yesterday, it appeared that some Republicans would like the Senate to do this the hard way. In any case, we'll keep proceeding until we get this bill done."

There's a possibility that more amendments will be considered as the Senate moves toward a Tuesday (sometime) vote, including a problematic cryptocurrency proposal that has created bipartisan tension. It was apparently resolved by mid-morning Monday, helping to clear the way toward finalizing the bill.

The bipartisan infrastructure package includes $550 billion in new federal spending, about $110 billion for roads and bridges including $40 billion for bridges—rebuilding, replacing, and repairing. There's a relatively paltry $39 billion to modernize public transit—a $10 billion cut from the original agreement the senators had worked out with President Biden and less than half of the $85 billion Biden included in his original proposal. It includes $73 billion to repair the electrical grid, and $55 billion for water system upgrades, enough to replace just 1 in 4 lead drinking water pipes in the country.

There's $66 billion split between passenger and freight rail, and $65 billion in expanding broadband networks. Another $42 billion goes to ports ($17 billion) and airports ($25 billion), and $7.5 billion will go to zero- and low-emission buses and ferries. There's also $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations.

As of now, it looks like there will be Republican votes to pass it, with more than a dozen ending the filibuster on moving it forward. They've apparently decided that being able to go back to their home states and tout this accomplishment is worth helping Democrats. It will mollify some of the anti-Trump Republicans in the key states they need to keep in 2022, and it will give them the excuse to let absolutely nothing else pass for the rest of Biden's first term.

They can point to the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill and scream holy hell about the awful Democrats to resist doing anything else to help the country. In fact, they're already doing that.

Senate Republicans Shield Super-Rich Tax Cheats — And Democrats Are Silent

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Republicans are dead set on making sure that the rich people who they've been helping to avoid pay their taxes continue to have the privilege of cheating the rest of us. It would appear that the Democrats participating in the sham called bipartisan infrastructure negotiations are okay with that. According to Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, the group is "looking at alternative pay-fors to IRS tax enforcement."

Again, this is about letting the wealthy off the hook for the taxes they already owe. It's not about new taxes. It's not about raising anyone's taxes. It's about continuing to allow the super-rich to cheat the rest of us, who do pay our tax bills every year.

Republicans have been raising holy hell over the idea that President Joe Biden wants to strengthen the IRS enough so that it can go after the really big tax cheats, the ones robbing the nation of hundreds of billions of dollars, instead of the working poor peoplewho are easier to audit, the ones who can't afford lawyers to intervene. Fully funding the IRS and clawing those owed tax dollars out of the hands of people who can damned well afford to pay has been included as one of the ways that the bipartisan group has said they'll pay for their almost $600 billion proposal for hard infrastructure.

That, apparently, is out and apparently Democrats in the bipartisan group are accepting that fact. Even though it's the likes of extremist Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn who are raising hell—extremists who were never going to vote for an infrastructure plan that helps President Joe Biden in the first place. Senate aides working with the group confirmed to The Washington Post that "it is likely to be removed from the deal."

That means that the fire sale of existing infrastructure to the highest hedge fund bidders, who would then be in a position to make the public pay for its use all over again, could still be in. Because they have to figure out how pay for it somehow anyway. Or at least they say they do, which they really don't because borrowing money is still cheaper than dirt. As of earlier this month, White House aides were telling Democrats in phone conversations that was not an option, but we haven't seen a high-level, public denunciation of that idea.

Republicans aren't just having hissy fits over the IRS making them and their buddies pay all their taxes, however; they're outraged that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants them to finish their work. A short exhibit of their varied tantrums:

Never mind that they've supposedly been working on this since April, when Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is so concerned that there just isn't enough time, started negotiating with Biden. They announced this supposed bipartisan agreement more than three weeks ago. She added that she thought Schumer's scheduling the vote was an attempt "to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up."

Well ... yes. And about time, too. Because seriously, they've been at this forever. Now, we all know Republicans are awfully rusty when it comes to doing actual work (like writing bills), but there's a bunch of Democrats who could be doing all of that hard part. So what in the hell have they been doing all these weeks, that they can't be ready by next Wednesday?

They've been wasting time, is what they've been doing, hoping to draw this process out and have it die from neglect. And Democrats have been letting them get away with it because "bipartisanship." Now that the $3.5 trillion budget resolution train is getting loaded up, yes, this group needs to put up or shut up. And pay their damned taxes.

Texas Democrats Leave State To Thwart Passage Of Voter Suppression Bills

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democrats are going to have nothing to do with the special session Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called. That's because he's not trying to deal with critical issues like COVID-19 or fixing the state's broken and fatal electrical grid, but to "to prioritize 11 issues that largely appeal to conservatives who wanted more out of the regular session." That includes the new voting restriction bills blocked previously by Democrats, as well as banning critical race theory in education, and transgender student athletes from playing sports.

At least 58 Texas House Democrats have left the state to deny a quorum and block these bills, particularly the voting restrictions. "The majority of the members plan to fly to Washington, D.C., on two private jets chartered for the occasion and use the time there to rally support for federal voting legislation," a source told NBC. Others plan to go to D.C. as well, by other means.

What are they going to do in D.C. to convince lawmakers there to deal with voter suppression? "Literally anything," NBC reports. [EDITOR'S UPDATE: On Monday evening the Texas lawmakers arrived at Dulles International Airport near the nation's capital.]

The two new voter restriction bills Texas Republicans are bringing would, among other things: Ban drive-thru early voting; ban 24-hour early voting locations by setting limits of 6 AM to either 9 or 10 PM; add new voter ID requirements for absentee voting; prohibit local officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters or using public funds to help third parties to do so; enable partisan "poll watchers" to potentially harass and intimidate voters while limiting their oversight by election officials by imposing criminal penalties for getting in their way. They debated the bills in hearings on Saturday, and on Sunday the Senate committee voted strictly on party lines 6-3 to pass the bill out to reach the floor Tuesday. The House followed suit with overnight hearings, passing their bill out on a party-line 9-5 vote.

The voter suppression they intend to impose on the state was reflected in these hearings, which were supposed to be open to public testimony.

"Early this morning, Republicans voted to advance a bill to ban 24-hour voting, following an overnight committee hearing that lasted nearly 24 hours," Democratic state Rep. Chris Turner said in a statement Sunday. "You just can't make this up: Republicans are passing anti-voter legislation overnight to prohibit Texans from casting a ballot overnight."

One of the people who was able to testify to the Senate was former Rep. Beto O'Rourke. "This is already the toughest state in which to vote, bar none," O'Rourke said to senators. "You are now proposing a set of restrictions in this elections bill that is going to make it that much harder for people to participate." That's certainly their plan. O'Rourke is egging Democrats on, saying he hopes that they'll "go to DC and sit on the steps of the Capitol, forcing their federal counterparts to walk by them, realizing they haven't done enough to help." Sit-ins in the offices of Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema wouldn't be amiss, either.

In West Virginia, Koch Network Pushes Manchin To Oppose Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Prominent Black leaders took their case for restoring voting rights and passing S. 1, the For the People Act, directly to Sen. Joe Manchin Tuesday morning. NAACP President Derrick Johnson and other Black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and the heads of the National Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights tried to convince the obstinate West Virginia Democrat that there's more at stake here than his ego.

"The right to vote is under attack," Johnson said in a statement before the meeting. "We must do everything we can to protect the American people's sacred right to participate in the democratic process. Our vote is our voice, and we will not be silenced." In addition to this full-court and direct press to try to budge Manchin, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the leader of the Poor People's Campaign, is going to lead a "Moral March on Manchin" next week in West Virginia as well as a "nonviolent direct action" targeting Manchin in Washington.

That meeting did not move Manchin. "I don't think anybody changed positions on [S. 1]," he told reporters afterward. It was a "constructive conversation," and "just an excellent meeting," and he is "very much concerned about our democracy." But he's not going to listen to these people who've devoted their entire professional and personal lives to advancing democracy because he's Joe Manchin and knows what's best. Also, he's got the Koch network on his side. They're who he really seems to be listening to.

The Koch network is doing him a real solid right now by running ads in West Virginia, and "specifically calls on its grassroots supporters to push Manchin, a conservative Democrat, to be against some of his party's legislative priorities."

They've tailored their effort to Manchin, with an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) website they're calling "West Virginia Values," where they tell people to email Manchin and urge him to "to be The Voice West Virginia Needs In D.C.—Reject Washington's Partisan Agenda." It's almost like they're ghost-writing Manchin's statements about partisanship. They're sure going all out to make sure they're Manchin's best friends.

"Sen. Manchin has long blazed his own path, and on this issue, we agree: Extreme partisanship gets in the way of finding positive solutions," Lo Isidro, a spokesman for AFP, told CNBC. "Unfortunately, this bill [S. 1] and the tactics some are using to pass it would make it harder to work together—chilling debate, worsening partisanship, and setting up a false choice between voting rights and free speech." All hail the conquering trailblazer Joe Manchin.

Who's happy to repay the favor by calling the Kochs (checks notes) "job creators." No, really—he's claimed that in the past. "People want jobs. You don't beat up people. I mean, I don't agree with their politics or philosophically, [but he actually does] but, you know, they're Americans, they're doing—paying their taxes. […] They're not breaking the law. They're providing jobs."

Speaking of Manchin and ego, he stepped in it when he published that opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, when he declared that he would not support S. 1, the For the People Act to restore voting rights and in addition would never vote to eliminate the filibuster. The Hill reports that "there appeared to be no heads up to the White House or key Democratic leaders that it was coming. And it was widely seen as an abrasive move." It was absolutely an abrasive move, and he did himself no favors with it among his colleagues or with President Joe Biden. It's the kind of arrogance that will make colleagues disinclined to help him out on his other legislative efforts. It makes him no friends, that's for sure.

He's also stretching the bounds of his friendship with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who he put on the spot when he declared that the two of them could get the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—which has not yet passed in the House this session—through the Senate. Right now Murkowski is the only Republican to endorse it. Asked if it was possible the two of them could find 10 Republicans to support it, she told NBC: "I don't know. I don't know. It's a challenging one. I think we just have to be honest with it. You've got to find an awful lot of Republicans to join us on this."

Even Murkowski's partner in "moderation," Susan Collins, won't publicly endorse the bill. Her office did not respond to NBC's request for comment. Sen. John Cornyn did comment to say he would talk to fellow Republicans to tank the bill. "It is basically doing through the back door what Democrats are trying to do through the front door on S.1 and H.R.1 [the For the People Act]," he said. "What I don't want to happen is if S.1 doesn't make it because people like Sen. Manchin are opposed to it that people say, 'Well, this is kind of a lesser included provision.' It's just as big of a problem as S.1." Asked if there were 10 Republicans who would support it, he said, "I hope not."

It would be remiss of me not to shout out to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema here now that Cornyn has exposed himself. The last we saw of Sinema was her little trip to the border with Cornyn, where she refused to explain why she blew off the Senate vote on the Jan. 6 commission, and gave an absolutely ignorant and ridiculous defense of keeping the filibuster. Listening to Manchin and Sinema talk on this makes it horrifyingly apparent that neither of them has bothered to read the extensive histories that we've all been shoving at them of the filibuster as a Jim Crow relic.

Manchin and Sinema both seem to be as incapable of being shamed as McConnell, so how a breakthrough is going to be made here isn't clear. But at this point, it's probably going to have to involve threats because they're certainly not going to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing for our democracy.

FBI Probing Trump’s Postmaster Over Possible Campaign Finance Violations

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

One of Trump's most loyal saboteurs still remaining in office might not be able to hold that distinction for a whole lot longer. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is under FBI investigation for campaign finance activity according to the Washington Post. The New York Times advances the reporting by confirming "Mr. DeJoy has received a grand jury subpoena for information connected to the investigation, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to talk about information related to the grand jury."

That makes the very careful, very precise statement from DeJoy spokesman Mark Corallo to the Washington Post, confirming the investigation, just a little bit incriminating: "Mr. DeJoy has learned that the Department of Justice is investigating campaign contributions made by employees who worked for him when he was in the private sector," Corallo said. "He has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them." He has never knowingly crimed? He might have accidentally crimed? Seems like now would be a really good time for DeJoy to leave that office, either voluntarily or by having the newly complete Board of Governors fire his ass.

The investigation stems from reporting from the Post last September, detailing how DeJoy's former company, New Breed, was at the center of what looked to be an illegal straw donor scheme to pump more than $1 million to Republican candidates from 2000 to 2014. During that period, DeJoy became a major donor to the GOP in North Carolina and nationally.

The Post investigation found contributions from 124 New Breed employees to Republican candidates and quoted current and former employees who said that managers "received strongly worded admonitions" to give to DeJoy's fundraisers. DeJoy's executive assistant also "personally called senior staffers" to make sure they were attending or to make contributions to Republican candidates. The employees then received bonuses that matched their political donations, which sure looks like an illegal scheme—both federal and state—to funnel corporate money into campaigns and evade campaign finance laws. In April, District Attorney Lorrin Freeman in Wake County, North Carolina, announced she would not pursue an investigation because the matter would be better handled by federal authorities. Who are now, in fact, on it.

What's unclear from the Post's reporting is whether the FBI is also looking into further irregularities in donations in subsequent years surrounding the same company, which was bought out by XPO Logistics in 2014. DeJoy retired from his executive position at the company in 2015, but was then appointed to the board of directors and served there until 2018. The Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the pattern of straw donations continued after New Breed was acquired by XPO, and highlighting donations from employees and from DeJoy's family that look awfully suspicious.

The group alleges that from 2015 to 2018, it found "several instances of XPO employees contributing to the same candidate or committee, during the same period of time, and often in similar amounts," and that "DeJoy family members, including DeJoy's college-aged children, also made contributions on the same day or in the same period as those employees." By 2018, DeJoy had become a Trump donor and former deputy finance chair of the RNC.

During a congressional hearing in September, Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, pressed DeJoy about whether he engaged in these campaign-finance irregularities. DeJoy—under oath—denied the claims. Cooper asked DeJoy about his fundraising for the Trump campaign, saying: "you were picked along with Michael Cohen and Elliott Broidy, two men who have already pled guilty to felonies, to be the three deputy finance chairmen of the Republican National Committee."

He asked straight up: "Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump's campaign by bouncing or rewarding them?" DeJoy vehemently denied the allegation. Technically, DeJoy's denial of this might not be a lie because the Post'sreporting predates the Trump campaign. It alleges that DeJoy did precisely this, but for other Republican candidates. That's not to say that DeJoy kept up the practice after the XPO Logistics acquisition of New Breed (and by the way, XPO has been under investigation for exceedingly lucrative contracts with the USPS).

Precisely what the FBI and the grand jury are investigating isn't clear. The felony statute of limitations on campaign finance violations is five years, so the initial allegations from the New Breed era, which ended in 2014, are likely not it, though the Post suggests those employees have been interviewed. That could be to establish a pattern that continued through DeJoy's tenure at XPO and clear up until he was donating hundreds of thousands to Trump's 2020 convention. Before he was tapped to head the USPS in May 2020, of course.

This should finally be enough. DeJoy crippling the Postal Service should have been enough. The weeks-long delays in mail delivery should be enough. All of it should finally be enough for the USPS Board of Governors and for President Joe Biden. DeJoy has got to go.