The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

The Rot In The Supreme Court Goes Well Beyond Clarence And Ginni Thomas

More than a decade ago, Ginni Thomas’s political activities drew scrutiny to her more public husband. More to the point, the failure of that husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to declare decades of his wife’s income from that political activity drew attention, resulting in him revising 20 years’ worth of financial disclosure forms. That included $686,589 she earned between 2003 and 2007 from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

It also included her work at Liberty Central, a conservative “political education” group she co-founded in January 2009. It ceased operations in 2012. The timing of the organization’s existence is critical, because its primary mission seemed to be opposing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Ginni Thomas wrote an article for the organization’s website in 2010 declaring that the new law was unconstitutional. Guess how hubby Clarence voted on that in the Supreme Court? That was in 2012, when one tenuous vote from Chief Justice John Roberts saved the ACA, and when Liberty Central disbanded.

Fast forward 10 years and the Supreme Court code of ethics, transparency, and disclosure that good government groups have been clamoring for has yet to be enacted, and Clarence and Ginni Thomas are in the news again because she helped try to overthrow the government. Thomas reportedly told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection that “she has ‘never’ spoken to her husband about pending cases before the Supreme Court, calling it an ‘iron clad rule in our home.’” Maybe she also never told him about all the money she was earning from conservative groups thanks to her proximity to a Supreme Court justice.

The Thomases are the most enduringly egregious examples of why there needs to be not just an expansion of the Supreme Court, but real reforms that include finally making the court comply with a code of ethics—just like every other branch of the judiciary is compelled to do. But the Thomases are definitely not the only Supreme culprits in fishy spousal entanglements.

Meet Jesse M. Barrett and Jane Roberts, spouses to Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts, and subject to a deep investigative dive by Politico

Jesse Barrett’s law firm, SouthBank Legal, just happened to expand from its South Bend, Indiana, base to Washington, D.C., a year after his wife reached the Supreme Court. His specialties are “white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation.” His firm of fewer than 20 lawyers has clients in “virtually every industry,” including “over 25 Fortune 500 companies and over 15 in the Fortune 100.” Chances are pretty darned good that at some point, a case involving one of those companies has come before the Supreme Court.

But we don’t know, because Barrett doesn’t have to disclose any of her husband’s clients in her disclosure documents, much less recuse herself in any of those cases. Politico reports that in her most recent disclosure, she redacted the name of her husband’s firm. On his law firm bio Barrett says he has “tried several dozen federal cases to jury verdict and has handled numerous appeals, including successful arguments in state and federal appellate courts.” So his own work, and his firm’s, could definitely come before the Supreme Court. But in those appellate courts, every judge is going to know who is arguing in front of them: a Supreme Court justice’s husband, just one wrinkle in the complicated judicial ethics/spousal debate.

In 2007, Jane Roberts quit her job as a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to become a legal recruiter—a headhunter for law firms. John Roberts became chief justice in 2005. The other Roberts in now managing partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Macrae, a firm which exists for the purpose of placing high-powered attorneys with high-powered firms. “Macrae knows law firms,” their website boasts. “Their practices. Their geographic markets. Their cultures. Our passion built an inclusive transatlantic network to identify optimal affinities.”

It’s a lucrative business. Politico reports that “A single placement of a superstar lawyer can yield $500,000 or more for the firm.” A superstar lawyer and a high-powered law firm can only be helped by having that connection made by someone in such proximity to real power. The guy who hired Jane Roberts for her previous job admitted it freely, telling Politico that they wanted the benefits of having the wife of the chief on their staff because “her network is his network and vice versa.”

Robert does list the name of her company on his disclosures, but not the lawyers and the firms she’s worked with, “even though her clients include firms that have done Supreme Court work, according to multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements with those firms,” Politico found in its investigation of Supreme spouses and ethical conflicts.

Politico contacted both Barrett’s and Roberts’ firms, and heard back from a Supreme Court spokesperson in the case of Barrett: “Justice Barrett complies with the Ethics in Government Act in filing financial disclosure reports.” Which is the crux of the problem: She’s complying with the Swiss cheese of judicial ethics requirements, and taking full advantage of all the holes.

Pushed further on the broader question of disclosures by justices of their spouses work, the spokesperson pointed to a statement the court issued in 1993, rejecting the idea that there could be any kind of conflict of interest for a justice in a spouse’s work.

“We do not think it would serve the public interest to go beyond the requirements of the statute, and to recuse ourselves, out of an excess of caution, whenever a relative is a partner in the firm before us or acted as a lawyer at an earlier stage,” the seven justices who adopted the policy declared. “Even one unnecessary recusal impairs the functioning of the court.”

That was back when 80% of the population had at least some confidence in the Supreme Court, and 47% had a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in it. Now 68% express some degree of confidence, but just 25% say a great deal or quite a lot, and 30% of people now have very little confidence in it. That might be because the modern Supreme Court has done little to show that it’s anything but a partisan political entity intent on imposing its out-of-the-mainstream will on the American people.

The arrogance the court showed in 1993 is still on display today. Earlier this year, Barrett participated in an interview with Fred Ryan, former Politico chief executive officer and current publisher of The Washington Post. He asked about the potential for conflict with her husband’s work, and Barrett said that it wasn’t the court that had to change, but public expectations.

“But you know, I think we’re living in a time when we have a lot of couples who are both, are working, and so I think that the court and, you know, society has to adjust to expect that,” Barrett said. Asked about whether the court should adopt some guidelines to address the problem of spousal conflicts, she blew the question off. “I don’t think most of the spouses would be very happy about those guidelines,” she answered. “Certainly when I try to give my husband guidelines about what to do and not to do in the house even that doesn’t go over very well.”

That kind of arrogance and untouchability makes trusting the justices to do the right thing difficult. As does the work of the people they share their personal lives—and finances—with. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) puts it succinctly: “The ethical rot at the court continues to spread, and public faith in the court erodes along with it.”

“The questions about financial conflicts of interest are one area of concern among many. There’s also the flood of dark-money influence bearing down on the court, from the nameless donors behind judicial selection to the orchestrated flotillas of anonymous amici curiae lobbying the justices to the spate of partisan decisions handing wins to corporations and big donor interests,” Whitehouse said.

After the last term of absolutely trash decisions out of the court (with the next term promising more of the same), the other two branches of government need to get serious about fixing it. That means imposing a code of ethics and expanding the court.

Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Massive Civil Fraud Lawsuit Hits Trump’s Inflated Real Estate Empire

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a $250 million civil lawsuit against Donald J. Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., as well as two Trump executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney, for “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentations,” and seeks to bar any of the Trumps from operating a company in the state of New York ever, or from engaging in any commercial real estate transactions in the state for five years.

“I’m announcing that today we’re filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the law as part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family, his company,” James said Wednesday morning. “The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us.”

The tweet thread beginning here from AG James lays out the case against Trump.

The suit claims that Trump has regularly inflated the value of pretty much all of his assets—from Trump Tower to Mar-a-Lago to the former Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., in order to secure favorable loan and tax arrangements. For example, the suit alleges that Trump has valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million, when it should have been valued at $75 million.

Trump used that higher valuation, James alleges, ”based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property.”

“Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase—a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements,” the lawsuit said. “The scheme to inflate Mr. Trump’s net worth also remained consistent year after year.”

James is restricted from pursuing criminal charges in the matter, but is referring her findings “to the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, noting that the conduct detailed in the complaint appears to violate federal law, specifically bank fraud and false statements to a bank.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Migrants Say DHS Agents Aided DeSantis Human Trafficking Stunt

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ inhumane and depraved stunt keeps getting worse as more facts emerge. On Wednesday, DeSantis loaded 48 migrants—who are asylum-seekers mostly from Venezuela—onto planes in in San Antonio, Texas. They then flew to Florida, then eventually on to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where there are no refugee services. Officials there had no warning, but the community rallied in support of the incomers -- to the point where officials received so many donations and volunteers that they had to turn them away.

That’s the heartwarming part of the story. The part that makes this so much worse than we even knew before is emerging as the story comes from the migrants themselves through the immigration attorneys who have mobilized to help them. That includes the allegation that U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents assisted DeSantis in this stunt.

Here’s immigration attorney Rachel Self relating what she heard from her new clients.

According to the migrants, DHS agents met the migrants as they were boarding the plane. The agents gave them false addresses of homeless shelters from all over the country—from Tacoma, Washington, to Florida—and told them to use those locations as their contact addresses. “According to the paperwork provided to them, the migrants are required to check in with the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] office nearest to the fake address chosen for them by DHS, or be permanently removed from the United States,” Self said. Some are required to check in as early as Monday morning.

“It could not be clearer that this is an attempt to have these people ordered to be removed even if they try as hard as they can to comply with the instructions provided to them,” Self told a group of reporters.

“Their biggest concern today is that many of them have dates to appear in San Antonio Monday morning. Tacoma, Washington Monday morning. Washington, D.C. Monday morning,” Self said. “Their biggest concern is compliance.” Tallahassee immigration attorney Elizabeth Ricci told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that DHS and ICE had to be involved. “ICE likely conspired with the governor’s office to pull off the stunt,” Ricci said. “It couldn’t have been done without their direct involvement.”

DHS officials haven’t responded to the allegation yet.

The migrants were lured onto the planes thinking they were getting jobs and housing. Emmanuel, a 20-year-old Venezuelan migrant, told the San Antonio Report that he had been paid $200 in cash by a woman who identified herself as “Perla” to recruit fellow migrants to board the flights. He said Perla told him the migrants would be sent to “sanctuary states” where the government would help.

She told him an “anonymous benefactor” was funding the operation, including his payment. “Perla informed me that in those sanctuary states, the state has the benefits to help migrants,” Emmanuel told the Report. “I’ve just been the mediator because I like to help people.”

“A lot of people really come without plans, they want to come and just work and they have a hand that’ll provide them shelter,” he said. “I just saw it in that way, like a sweet way, doing it for good.”

Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is based in Boston, is providing free legal services to the migrants. The group also says that it is investigating claims by migrants that they were tricked or sent against their will into taking the flights by DeSantis, making it a possible violation of human trafficking laws.

DeSantis remains belligerent and promises this outrage will continue. He says he has people in Texas who are intercepting Venezuelans seeking refuge in Florida, where they likely have family they want to rejoin. “What we’re trying to do is profile, ‘OK, who do you think is trying to get to Florida?’ You’re trying to identify who’s most likely to come.” Are DeSantis’ “people” in Texas the DHS agents who allegedly helped him essentially kidnap these 48 people, including families with children?

The Department of Justice needs to be investigating this now. That was true before the allegations emerged that federal employees—agents of the DHS—were complicit in DeSantis’ monstrous stunt. Those allegations make a federal investigation imperative, and urgent.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fun! GOP Senate Leadership Vendetta Keeps Blowing Up

The feud in the Senate Republican conference gets juicier by the day, with more and more senators feeling the need—when pressed by reporters—to take sides. The tension between Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who is heading up the election arm of the party at National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been simmering for months, reaching the knives-out point this week when The New York Times published its investigation into all the millions of dollars Scott has blown this cycle.

August was already bad enough. In an attempt to set low expectations for Republicans taking the majority this election, McConnell suggested that there’s a problem of “quality” in the candidates who advanced in the primaries. Scott answered in an op-ed, not mentioning McConnell by name, saying it was tantamount to “treason” to question any Republican candidate. That’s after other public spats involving Scott’s decision to release a radical and frightening platform for Republicans, which McConnell then trashed.

After what must have been a really fun Republican leadership meeting Tuesday, Scott emerged to insist that he wasn’t talking about McConnell in the op-ed, it was the other traitorous Republicans. He insisted that he and McConnell “are in the same position, we want to win the races and he’s working hard. … He’s committed to win, I’m committed to win.” McConnell, on the other hand, “simply raised his eyebrows when asked if he and Scott were now on the same page.”

McConnell apparently thinks it’s time to just freeze Scott out. He has taken on the task of fundraising for his big super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, to make sure it has enough funding to make up for all the NRSC losses. He’s also, according to CNN’s sources, told fellow Republican senators to transfer money from their PACs to his instead of giving it to the NRSC. “McConnell decided rather than fight this to focus all his efforts on SLF,” one source told CNN.

The sides-taking is clear here. Asked about how the NRSC is burning through money with little to show for it, Texas Sen. John Cornyn told CNN, “Well, it concerns me a lot.” He’s on McConnell’s leadership team and formerly served as NRSC chairman. “The Democrats are going to vastly outspend Republicans across the board. But as long as we have enough money to tell our story and to defend our opposition, I think we’ll be fine.” McConnell’s number two, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, has been talking directly with candidates, bypassing the NRSC, to set up joint fundraising committees.

There are those on Scott’s side, too, even though Scott has insisted that he’s not taking on McConnell. “McConnell’s comments hurt Republican candidates,” a source close to Scott said. “Anyone who disagrees with that is either an idiot or on McConnell’s payroll.”

A strategist on McConnell’s side fired back: “If you don’t know the difference between how House and Senate campaigns are financed, you probably shouldn’t advertise that in September of an election year if you’re in charge of Senate elections.” That was in reference to Scott’s decision to appear at a fundraiser for a House candidate in Iowa, a likely indication of his own 2024 presidential aspirations.

Meanwhile, the “nothing to see here” ploy isn’t working at all as Republican senators fall over themselves to talk about how bad it is that they’re fighting in public.

“I think we need to be united in our message,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Tuesday. “We have a great opportunity here and so I don’t think it’s a good strategy to be feuding two months before the election.”

“It’s clear to me that Republicans need to rally around their candidates if we are ever going to have success, and we can’t afford to have divisions within our conference,” said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.

“It’s always best to stand behind Mitch McConnell,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney told CNN.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said this is all “a distraction from what voters are going to be motivated by,” and says he thinks Scott is doing a fine job. “I don’t think it ever makes sense—I’ve been doing this since 2007—and it always makes sense to focus on who you want to defeat in November, not each other,” he said.

As they all continue to dish to reporters about the feud. Too, too delicious.

Add on a nuclear secrets-stealing former president to whom Republicans are supposed to still be declaring fealty and an electorate fired up about the loss of abortion rights at the hands of Republicans, and now is a bad time to be a Republican in the Senate.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

With Senate GOP Campaign Failing, Scott Angrily Attacks McConnell

With 64 days to go until the 2022 midterm elections, the guy the Republicans picked to take back the Senate is ... declaring war on Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That’s a strategy, I guess.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is fired up. He wrote a scathing tirade op-ed in the conservative rag The Washington Examiner that’s a very thinly veiled attack on McConnell, who told reporters earlier this month that Republicans have a “candidate quality” issue.

McConnell isn’t mentioned by name, but there’s no mystery who Scott’s talking about here. “Unfortunately, many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates. It’s an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it’s treasonous to the conservative cause,” Scott wrote. Treasonous, no less.

“If you want to talk about the need to raise more money to promote our candidates versus the Democrats’ terrible candidates, I agree,” Scott wrote. “If you want to trash-talk our candidates to help the Democrats, pipe down. That’s not what leaders do. And Republicans need to be leaders that build up the team and do everything they can to get the entire team over the finish line.”

There’s no mystery because Scott has been on an interview spree telling the media exactly who he intends to get that message.

“Sen. McConnell and I clearly have a strategic disagreement here … We have great candidates,” he told Politico Wednesday. “He wants to do the same thing I want to do: I want to get a majority. And I think it’s important that we’re all cheerleaders for our candidates.”

“If you trash talk our candidates … you hurt our chances of winning, and you hurt our candidates’ ability to raise money,” Scott said. “I know they’re good candidates, because I’ve been talking to them and they’re working their butts off.” Well, maybe not all of them. JD Vance’s lazy campaign in Ohio has been causing a GOP “freakout,” and Mehmet Oz just can’t seem to stop with the self-owns in Pennsylvania.

Scott has been needling McConnell for months, positioning himself as the outsider (a la Trump) taking it to the establishment. That included bucking McConnell’s attempts to control the message going into this election year by releasing his party platform that is fascist nightmare vision for the nation, and suggests such gems as having Social Security and Medicare legislation expire every five years.

He’s also been talking to McConnell’s chief nemesis, Trump. In fact, Scott met with him this week, apparently trying to pry some money away from him for Senate races. “He endorsed in some of these primaries, clearly cares that the people who he’s endorsed wins. And so I told him, from my standpoint, how he can be helpful. I think he will be,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, some of those endorsees have been running away from Trump and might not be so thrilled with Scott trying to rope them back in.

David Bergstein, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, also talked with Politico, and had some fun with the interview. Scott spent a good chunk of his August recess on a luxury yacht in Italy, a decision that had plenty of other Republicans grousing. That provided great fodder for Bergstein. “[W]e know Rick’s been yachting in Europe so we’re happy to catch him up: his flunky candidates are still failing, his party’s position on abortion is still unpopular, and his fellow Republicans are still openly complaining about his self-serving, failed leadership of the NRSC.”

Pretty much. Choosing to escalate his fight with the McConnell just as post-Labor Day election push is set to kick in seems like a pretty misguided strategy. But we’ll take it! More of that infighting, please, Republicans.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republicans 'Frustrated' As Trump Drowns Out Their Midterm Script

Republican consultants and commenters, the people whose livelihoods depend on the success of Republican politicians, had a plan for this midterm election: Stick to the traditional midterm message of the minority and bash the Democratic president and leadership. Exploit a shaky economy, high gas prices, and inflation, and paint President Joe Biden as a failure. That’s not working so great for them because the orange elephant in the room just refuses to stop stomping on their plans. Even worse for them, Democrats are seizing the moment and running with it.

“There is enormous frustration,” one person described as a “top Republican fundraiser” told Politico. “The question is, is there willingness to express that frustration,” they continued. “I don’t know the answer to that. But there is real frustration, and with the exception of people who are too stupid to understand the need to be frustrated, it is nearly universal.” There are apparently an awful lot of Republicans who have not yet woken up to the need to be frustrated with Dear Leader.

But when even an unprincipled hack like Newt Gingrich sees the Trump problem, you know there are a lot of furrowed brows. Not that Gingrich is abandoning Trump—he just would rather no one running for office acknowledges Dear Leader’s existence. “Republicans should focus on defeating Democrats, and every Democrat should have the word Biden in front of their name,” Gingrich said. “The Republican focus should be to win the election in November. Trump will do a fine job defending himself. He’ll be fine.”

The problem is that Trump defending his classified document-stealing self is knocking every other message Republicans come up with off the front pages. He kicked off this week demanding that either he be immediately reinstated as president or that there be a do-over election. He followed that up Tuesday by posting 4chan and QAnon messages and conspiracy theories on his Truth Social account, everything from anti-vaxx comments to pushing the narrative that it was actually FBI and antifa attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

That feeds right into the message President Biden has turned to, blasting the “semi-fascist” MAGA Republicans who remain in Trump’s thrall. During his speech last Thursday at a rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore, Biden warned that the Republican Party was destroying itself and threatening to tear the nation apart. He’s following that speech with another this week, where he will speak about “the continued battle for the soul of the nation” in a prime time address in front of Independence Hall.

It’s a message with resonance, with “threats to democracy” becoming the top issue facing the country in a recent NBC News poll. That’s ahead of inflation worries and the cost of living.

With gas prices experiencing a historic drop over the past two months, that worry is lessening for voters and becoming a far less salient talking point for Republicans. Not that they could stay on that message with Trump stomping all over it.

Voters are also stubbornly, persistently caring about abortion and planning to vote on the issue, dashing the expectations of plenty of pundits and Republicans. All of this is shaping up to be a difficult and Trump-dominated few months of campaigning for Republicans. They’re still in a position to take the House, and while the Senate is looking better for Democrats, it’s still a fight.

But it’s a fight for which Democrats are well positioned. I mean, even The New York Times has decided to take some time away from talking to Trump supporters in Rust Belt diners to talk about it. “Republicans in disarray,” reads a recent headline there. “The G.O.P. is still favored in the fall House races,” politics editor Blake Hounshell writes, “but Trump and abortion are scrambling the picture in ways that distress Republican insiders.”

Let’s keep them distressed.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

McConnell Fears Low Quality GOP Candidates Will Doom His Senate Majority

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is sounding less than thrilled with the choice of MAGA America in Senate primaries. He’s been left with a “quality” issue, he says.

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different—they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell told reporters at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. “Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.”

It is not a 50-50 country. It is a country in which less than one-fifth of the population elects half of the Senate because the Senate is an inherently undemocratic institution. That aside, LOL! “Candidate quality.” LOL!

He kind of does have an issue there, doesn’t he? Take Pennsylvania, where New Jersey transplant Mehmet Oz isn’t just being wholly owned by Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on social media, he’s being owned in the polls. Which might have something to do with New Jersey, crudité, $70 T-shirts, and the fact that he doesn’t know the name of the place where Pennsylvanians do their food shopping or how many houses he owns (10). And Oz just can’t stop himself from digging.

Ohio’s great Republicans hope, J.D. Vance, has all but disappeared from the campaign trail. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan have been trading polling leads in the last few weeks, but the real issue for McConnell and team is that they’re going to have to invest there. The conservative Senate Leadership Fund has been forced to reserve $28 million in ad buys for the final weeks of the campaign. Republicans went into this general election Ohio assuming that Vance wouldn’t require any national funding.

Then there’s Georgia Republican nominee Herschel Walker, who has proven to be such a disaster a Republican PAC is running ads against him. It’s Georgia, which is still definitely not blue, so the polls are tight there. That’s with minimum public exposure of Walker. Just wait until the debates. If Walker finally agrees to them, that is.

It’s not just the opens seats, though. Republicans incumbents aren’t distinguishing themselves, either. Sen. Ron Johnson is trailing Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by 7 points in a Marquette University Law School released Wednesday, 51-44. Barnes is up 4 points on Johnson in a Fox News poll released Thursday, 49-45. Johnson isn’t doing himself any favors, stubbornly insisting on saying things out loud, in public, where God and everybody can hear how his mind works.

Then there’s Florida, where yet another Fox News poll this week has Sen. Marco Rubio trailing likely Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demmings. Not by a lot, 48 to 44. But that is not where a three-term incumbent wants to be less than three months ahead of an election. It’s not where McConnell wants anyone on his team to be at this point.

Yeah, McConnell’s remarks are about managing expectations. They’re also about reality. He’s got some really problematic candidates, as well as incumbents he’s been battling with for months on messaging. Meanwhile, new voter registration numbers in battleground states are demonstrating just how fired up women are about abortion.

He might be expectation-setting, but he’s right. Republicans do have a quality problem and it is giving him heartburn.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

'Not Just For The Privileged Few': Biden Signs Landmark Climate And Health Bill

President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law Tuesday afternoon, the big climate change, tax fairness, and health care reconciliation bill that Democrats passed in record time this month. Biden was joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Whip James Clyburn. The big celebration signing will happen next month, when Congress is back in D.C., but enacting the legislation now will start the ball rolling immediately on the many provisions it has to help American consumers and to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“With this law, the American people have won, and special interests lost,” Biden said. “The American people won, and special interests lost. […] This administration began in a dark time in America, a once-in-a-century pandemic, devastating joblessness, clear and present threats to democracy and the rule of law, doubts about the future of America itself. And yet we have not wavered, we have not flinched, and we have not given in. Instead, we are delivering results for the American people.“

Biden also blasted Republicans for their refusal to support any part of this bill. “In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interest in this vote, every single one,” Biden said. “The big drug companies spent nearly $100 million to defeat this bill, $100 million. And remember, every single Republican in Congress voted against this bill. Every single Republican in Congress voted against lower prescription prices, negotiating drug costs, a fairer tax system. Every single Republican voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.”

Biden continued, previewing the message he’s going to take into the midterm elections: “My fellow Americans, that is the choice we face. We can protect the already powerful, or show the courage to build a future where everybody has an even shot. That is the America I believe in. That is what i believe in. And today, we have come a step closer to making that America real.”

Ahead of the official bill signing, the White House provided a briefing memo titled “By the Numbers,” detailing the major provisions of the legislation and how it will move the nation forward.

Some highlights:

  • 5 to 7 million Medicare beneficiaries could see their prescription drug costs go down because of the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs.
  • 50 million Americans with Medicare Part D will have peace of mind knowing their costs at the pharmacy are capped at $2,000 per year, directly benefiting about 1.4 million beneficiaries each year.
  • 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes will benefit from a guarantee that their insulin costs are capped at $35 for a month’s supply. […]
  • 13 million Americans will continue to save an average of $800 per year on health insurance premiums
  • 3 million more Americans will have health insurance than without the law. […]
  • Families that take advantage of clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits will save more than $1,000 per year.
  • $14,000 in direct consumer rebates for families to buy heat pumps or other energy efficient home appliances, saving families at least $350 per year.
  • 7.5 million more families will be able to install solar on their roofs with a 30% tax credit, saving families $9,000 over the life of the system or at least $300 per year.
  • Up to $7,500 in tax credits for new electric vehicles and $4,000 for used electric vehicles, helping families save $950 per year. […]
  • Power homes, businesses, and communities with much more clean energy by 2030, including:
    • 950 million solar panels
    • 120,000 wind turbines
    • 2,300 grid-scale battery plants
  • Advance cost-saving clean energy projects at rural electric cooperatives serving 42 million people.
  • Strengthen climate resilience and protect nearly 2 million acres of national forests. […]
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1 gigaton in 2030, or a billion metric tons – 10 times more climate impact than any other single piece of legislation ever enacted.
  • Deploy clean energy and reduce particle pollution from fossil fuels to avoid up to 3,900 premature deaths and up to 100,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030. […]
  • 15%: the minimum tax on corporate profits the Inflation Reduction Act imposes on the largest, most profitable corporations.
  • $124 billion: savings over 10 years the Inflation Reduction Act will generate from collecting taxes already owed by wealthy people and large corporations, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • And no family making less than $400,000 will see their taxes go up a penny.

To quote Biden at another historic bill signing, “This is a big fucking deal” for the American people.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Why Trump Won't Show FBI Warrant For Mar-a-Lago Search

Sorry, Donald. Screaming “planted evidence” isn’t going to distract anyone outside of MAGAland from the fact that the Trump team has the answer to why the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago this week. They have a copy of that search warrant that explains precisely what the FBI was looking for. Search warrants spell out what law enforcement intends to search for and what laws officials believe may have been broken.

Claiming “fake documents” is just another way to cover up the crimes, and a remarkably transparent one—the fervor with which Republicans are jumping on that bandwagon (Sen. Rand Paul is the latest) shows just how worried they are about what the FBI found—as does the demand from Republicans that the Justice Department release all the information that led to the search.

Here’s what it takes to obtain a federal search warrant:

A "neutral and detached" federal judge or magistrate would need to sign off on the warrant before it can be executed at a property. To get that approval, law enforcement officials must show probable cause for conducting the search. That means there should be reasonable information to support the possibility that evidence of illegality will be found during the search.

That “probable cause” is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to federal warrants. “For the department to pursue a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago tells me that the quantum and quality of the evidence they were reciting—in a search warrant and affidavit that an FBI agent swore to—was likely so pulverizing in its force as to eviscerate any notion that the search warrant and this investigation is politically motivated,” David Laufman, who led the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section until 2018, told Politico.

Which is enough to tell us why Trump will continue to refuse to make the warrant public. He and his legal team don’t have the affidavit(s) that justify the warrant, but they’ve got the warrant. As Politico’s Kyle Cheney explains, that warrant contains “the full inventory of items that federal investigators were seeking.” Trump’s legal team also has the receipt for “what was taken from his estate during the search.”

So show us.

Of course he won’t do that. And, of course, the Republicans clamoring for Attorney General Merrick Garland’s head aren’t going to demand it. They know what it’s going to show.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump's Secret Service Detail 'Lawyering Up' As Probes Intensify (VIDEO)

Thursday night’s House Select Committee hearing presented the most damning evidence yet revealed about Donald Trump’s attempted violent coup, and his dereliction of duty when the nation’s Capitol and Congress were under attack. It also revealed how he infected those around him, namely the Secret Service.

Some of the most riveting moments of the hearing came from audio and video that showed just how close Vice President Mike Pence was to the protesters who had surrounded and entered the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” We saw video footage of the Secret Service rushing Pence and his family away from the chamber and the public part of the Capitol at 2:26 PM ET on Jan. 6 in the middle of a renewed surge from the protestors on the doors of the building, and we saw a tweet from Trump sent just two minutes earlier, targeting Pence. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted.

The hearing focused on those long minutes for Pence’s Secret Service detail. They feared they were going to be trapped by the mob. “We need to move now,” an agent said, in an excerpt of a radio transmission. “If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to do so.” Another described smoke filling a hallway ahead of them and protesters surging and outnumbering police, yelling to “Harden that door up.”

A White House security official who was monitoring the Secret Service radio traffic testified anonymously to the committee, telling interviewers that the agents were “starting to fear for their own lives” as well as Pence’s. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth,” the official said in his taped testimony. “For whatever the reason was on the ground, the VP detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.”

“It sounds like that we came very close to either, service having to use lethal options, or worse,” the official said. “At that point, I don’t know. Is the VP compromised? Is the detail? I don’t know. … If they’re screaming and saying things like, ‘say goodbye to the family,’ like the floor needs to know this is going to a whole ’nother level soon.”

Meanwhile, we’re not sure what Trump’s Secret Service detail was doing, other than telling White House staff about how irate Trump was about not being able to go to the Capitol after his rally speech. But they must have been doing something, and from the looks of things, whatever they were doing was not good. That whole purge of texts from the Secret Service from Jan. 6 and 7 is a clue.

So is the criminal probe opened up by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General over all those missing text messages. The communications were demanded by the Jan. 6 committee, looking for information on agents who were involved in planning Trump’s logistics on the day and who were with him throughout that day and the next.

Even more suspicious is the fact that those Trump agents have not just declined to work with the committee, they’ve lawyered up.

“Some of the officers said that they would be coming and talking under oath,” select committee member Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA) said Thursday night after the hearing. “They have not come in, and they recently retained private counsel, which is unusual, but they have a right to do that,” Lofgren said.

Unusual because federal employees are generally represented by the Department of Justice. It will be interesting to find out exactly who they’ve turned to—the Trump/Giuliani crew of clowns, or non-MAGA attorneys.

With this promise from committee co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), it might not matter.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

California Announces Plan To Make Its Own Insulin For Patients At Low Cost

The state of California is entering the pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, it will start manufacturing insulin to ensure an affordable supply of the essential drug for the state’s patients living with diabetes. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement late last week..

Newsom announced that $100 million from the 2022-23 state budget would be allocated to “contract and make our own insulin at a cheaper price, close to at cost, and to make it available to all.” Half of that funding would go toward the development of a “low-cost” insulin and the remaining $50 million would go toward building a facility to manufacture insulin that would “provide new, high-paying jobs and a stronger supply chain for the drug.”

“Nothing epitomizes market failures more than the cost of insulin,” Newsom said. “Many Americans experience out-of-pocket costs anywhere from $300 to $500 per month for this lifesaving drug. California is now taking matters into our own hands.”

This comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is vowing to put a bipartisan bill cooked up by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on the floor “very soon” after the Senate returns to work next week. “There should be nothing remotely partisan about making sure Americans don’t go broke trying to manage their diabetes,” Schumer said. “At least one in four insulin users report rationing their use because they can’t afford it, putting their health and lives at risk in the process.”

But of course there’s something partisan there. Republicans don’t want to give Democrats a win. Since Collins was involved in this, you wouldn’t be wrong to smell a rat. Last winter, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced a straightforward bill to cap insulin prices, requiring insurers to cap insulin costs to their customers at $35 a month. Warnock has made that legislation a big part of his reelection campaign, since he’s up this cycle. Republicans didn’t want to give him a political win, so enter Susan Collins and the usual “bipartisan” diverting ruse.

Entirely predictably, five of the Republicans most likely to help Collins get the 10 she needed to break a filibuster (were she really trying to get this passed) are raising objections over the bill, and demanding hearings. Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), John Barrasso (WY), Steve Daines (MT), Rob Portman (OH), and Ben Sasse (NE), who all sit on the Senate Finance Committee, are opposing a vote before having hearings. Which means they wouldn’t vote for it on the floor without hearings (or probably even with them).

That’s not the worst thing: It’s also not a great bill. It sets up a complicated insurance process that would ultimately result in higher premium costs for people on private insurance as well as for Medicare, and would discourage future price competition among manufacturers.

The California answer is ultimately a better one: public manufacture and distribution of the life-saving drug. If a consortium of states—toss in Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, for example—could be created, then real competition that could drive costs down would exist.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Susan Collins Is Shocked! That Gorsuch And Kavanaugh Lied About Abortion

Sen. Susan Collins, ostensibly one of two Republicans who support abortion rights in the Senate, is of course very concerned that the radical Supreme Court has just ended a federal guarantee of abortion rights in the United States, and is very disappointed that the nominees she voted for did this thing. Because, gosh, none of us could have foreseen that Lyin’ Brett Kavanaugh, who lied in two separate confirmation processes, was not being honest with her.

Collins didn’t vote for Amy Coney Barrett. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell let her off the hook on that one because he didn’t need her. He made Lisa Murkowksi do it.

When Collins stood on the Senate floor on Oct. 5, 2018 and announced what everyone already knew already—she was voting for Kavanaugh—she said: “Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself.”

“He believes that precedent ‘is not just a judicial policy … it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent,’” Collins said. “In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration; it is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances.” Ha. “The judge further explained that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance, and fairness.” Ha, again.

That’s after Kavanaugh’s lies to the Senate Judiciary Committee for his lower court nomination were exposed. It was not secret that Kavanaugh is a liar.

It was no secret that Kavanaugh was hostile to abortion rights: Just a year before his confirmation, Kavanaugh would have denied a 17-year-old detained immigrant an abortion while he was on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion,” Kavanaugh wrote, dissenting from the majority. He called their decision “a radical extension of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.”

And now he has his revenge. And now Susan Collins owns this.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Extremist Supreme Court Nullifies States Authority To Regulate Guns

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was confronted over his support for the bipartisan bill addressing elements of gun violence, he defended his Second Amendment record, telling reporters: “I spent my career supporting, defending and expanding” gun rights, and stressing that he had “spent years” confirming conservative judges. McConnell made that statement in full confidence that the Supreme Court he packed with three illegitimate justices would do precisely what it did: ensure that sensible gun regulations anywhere would be eliminated.

The court decided the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen case Thursday in 6-3 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, striking down that state’s 108-year-old provision requiring anyone who wants to get a license to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” before being granted a permit. The Court’s extremists, Thomas writes, find that New York's strict limits on the concealed carry of firearms in public violates the Second Amendment. It essentially throws out the previous restrictions the Court upheld in its last big gun control case, the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller.

In his concurrence, Alito essentially rubbed salt in the wound, snidely asking “And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”

Justice Stephen Breyer provides a lengthy dissent, including a comprehensive retelling of the mass deaths in an age when weapons of war are widely available to all citizens. “The primary difference between the Court's view and mine is that I believe the [Second] Amendment allows States to take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence that I have just described,” he writes. “I fear that the Court's interpretation ignores these significant dangers and leaves States without the ability to address them.”

The decision could mean as many as 20,000 more guns on the streets in New York City. The city is working to determine how to craft new rules to meet this outcome, and how to designate certain areas, including public transportation, as “sensitive places” to try to bar firearms.

“It’s gonna be a complete disaster and shows how anti-urban the Supreme Court is at foundation,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Norman Brown predicted. “This is both a practical fear and a marketing fear. How do you market the train if you are assuming the guy with the heavy coat has a gun under his?” Brown said.

That’s exactly the scenario Justice Samuel Alito raised in oral arguments on the case. But he was imagining a subway system teeming with armed criminals against whom the rest of the population was defenseless. “All these people with illegal guns: They’re on the subway, walking around the streets, but ordinary, hard-working, law-abiding people, no,” Alito told New York State Solicitor General Barbara Underwood. “They can’t be armed.” The reality will be closer to Brown’s supposition: Those ordinary, law-abiding people are going to be worried about being surrounded by guns.

The decision also sets up challenges to regulations in every state that has them, including immediate those in six other states: California, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. In fact, the decision is so broad that the concealed carry restrictions that protect some 83 million people are going to be wiped out.

“How the court interprets the Second Amendment is far from an abstract exercise,” Eric Tirschwell of Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group, told The Washington Post. “If the court forces New York to allow more people to carry guns in public, the result will be more people shot and more people killed, and that’s what the evidence and social science tells you.”

A belligerent gun rights community is there to make sure that other blue states are forced to buckle and loosen permit rules. “If they don’t do that,” said Matthew Larosiere, with the Firearms Policy Coalition, “we’ll certainly be suing them.” He foresees the states trying to preempt those suits. “Perhaps there will be a state or two on the West Coast that doesn’t want to do this and we will insist that they be dragged to court,” he said. “That’s something we’d rather avoid as it’s better to have people’s rights respected.”

Which sounds an awful lot like a threat, one that has the potential to rile up a lot of gun owners in these states who are feeling increasingly emboldened.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

When A Trump Republican Wins, Those Screams Of ‘Fraud’ Go Silent

A raft of MAGA Republicans advanced to win their primaries, fueled by the Big Lie that the 2020 election, voter fraud, and the nefarious deep state have ensured that all the elections are rigged. But as this AP report details, they are cynically silent about their own victories. The elections that absolutely couldn’t be trusted can apparently be trusted just this once, at least among the primary winners.

They lead off with Jim Marchant, the Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state who campaigned on the principle that every single elected official in the state since 2006 was “installed by the deep-state cabal.” Except him, should he win. His primary victory was pure as the driven snow. “I am beyond humbled by the overwhelming support of our campaign. Nevadans made their voices heard,” Marchant said. Funny how that works in a whole slew of races all over the country.

That includes Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, Doug Mastriano, the state senator who spearheaded his party’s legislative efforts in 2020 to get the election tossed. Mastriano was also a Jan. 6 insurrectionist outside the Capitol. His own party stripped him of his committee chairmanship over his ongoing efforts to declare the state’s election void. His primary win wasn’t to be questioned, however. “God is good,” he told supporters, and refused to answer any questions about how his election was so miraculously valid.

Not a single MAGA candidate who has been screaming 2020 fraud—Ken Paxton in Texas, Herschel Walker in Georgia, JD Vance in Ohio, Ted Budd in North Carolina, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania—not one of them has answered the question of how such endemic fraud just happened to be missing from their own election.

Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison wasn’t surprised. “MAGA Republicans will do anything in their desperate chase for power,” he told AP. “From undermining our democracy by spreading Trump’s Big Lie, to laying the groundwork to try to cancel votes when they don’t agree with the outcome, but falling silent if they win, this is today’s Republican Party.”

The danger is in the distrust that is breeding in Republican voters in particular. An AP-NORC poll from February found that just 45 percent of voters believe their votes in the upcoming midterms will be counted accurately. Just 24 percent of Republican voters believe it, compared to 66 percent of Democrats. That’s very dangerous.

We’ve seen how far Republicans will go to perpetuate the Big Lie and to rally the base behind it. January 6 was a profound lesson there. The vast majority of elected Republicans—including all those who refused to allow an independent January 6 commission to exist and who refused to participate in the House Select Committee—have demonstrated that they are fine with armed insurrection, with violence, if it will secure their victory.

The Big Lie might have receded from the speeches they gave after winning their primaries, but like Trump, they’ll spend the rest of the campaign sowing the seeds of mistrust in the elections, hedging against their loss in the general election. Because they want to have their supporters ready to repeat January 6, to intimidate election officials and their opponents. To foment discord and uncertainty and chaos. To cheat and threaten and beat the majority into submission.

It’s the Republican way.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Are GOP Senators Preparing To Renege On Gun Safety Deal?

“The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500% percent.”

“An abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of femicide by 1,000 percent.”

That’s from data compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). The NCADV applauded “the bipartisan group of Senators negotiating the gun violence prevention framework for including provisions relating to firearm access by adjudicated abusers.” That was earlier this week, when there was premature news of an agreement on a framework for legislation at least nodding at gun safety.

According to their statistics, “most intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners.” But they point out current federal law restricting gun ownership by convicted abusers “applies only to current/former spouses, cohabitants, and people who share a child in common: it leaves out people in dating relationships.” Senate Republicans, supposedly negotiating in good faith with Democrats on gun safety, apparently want to keep it that way. As The New York Times puts it, they’re arguing over “What counts as a boyfriend?”

“The surface explanation seems like it would be fairly simple, but I know that as they try to reduce it to legislative text, I think it’s gotten a little bit more uncomfortable,” said Sen. John Thune, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s number two man. Thune is not one of the negotiators, but is clearly speaking for leadership. It really should be that simple, because we are talking about someone who has been convicted of violence against an intimate partner. Being convicted of violence should be enough in any context whatsoever to prevent someone from getting their hands on a gun.

With the prevalence of homicide by intimate partners, not to mention stalkers, it really shouldn’t be hard. After all, senators have been talking on this issue for years: The so-called boyfriend loophole kept the Violence Against Women Act from being reauthorized for over three years. It expired in December 2018 and was finally reauthorized this spring, when Democrats just let the gun loophole issue go.

The current stalemate suggests that the issue is far less about the difficulty of crafting the language than the “Cornyn Con” in action.

Republicans don’t want this provision—which is opposed by the NRA—to pass this time around, either. So they’re using the tactic McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn have relied upon for years: Take an issue that’s extremely popular with the public—comprehensive immigration reform, for example—and put Cornyn in the lead on negotiating because he has credibility with Democrats and traditional media. God knows why.

Then let him slowly whittle away at whatever “agreement” was ostensibly made at the beginning of the negotiations—blaming Democrats all the while for refusing to compromise—until it’s done. And everyone can throw up their hands and blame “partisan gridlock.”

One Republican familiar with the talks is being far less cagey than Cornyn. Take it or leave it, they told a Politico reporter. “[E]ither the [D]emocrats accept what the Republicans are asking for on boyfriend loophole, or it will be dropped entirely.” Another tried to back away from that, saying that it’s still “under discussion.” The ultimatum part of the Cornyn Con doesn’t come quite yet in the negotiating sequence.

It’s worth remembering that 10 Republicans signed onto the agreement that was announced Sunday. They agreed in principle to the inclusion of his provision. Then Cornyn moved the goalposts, saying he wanted at least 20 Republicans on board. He’s moved the goalposts and he’s moved the deadlines—every week since the shooting, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a floor vote by the end of the week.

Now with the Senate gone on a long weekend for the Juneteenth holiday, the Senate would have to work like lightning to get legislative language written and a bill on the floor by next week. Then they would have in essence three days to pass it before heading off for another two-week recess for the Fourth of July holiday. It’s happened before in the Senate, moving with that kind of alacrity. They did it to protect Supreme Court justices because Republicans wanted it. But it won’t happen to protect thousands of innocent lives.

At this point, Democrats should call the negotiations off. Schumer should bring the bill passed by the House to the floor first thing next week. Then he should follow up with votes on an assault-style rifle ban, universal background checks, and high-capacity magazine bans. He should make Republicans vote against every single thing American voters want.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Are House Investigators Building A Wire Fraud Case Against Trump And His Gang?

Remember that famous scene from All the President’s Men, with Deep Throat in the shadows of a parking garage, telling Robert Redford’s Bob Woodward to “follow the money” in order to unlock the conspiracy? Well, the January 6 House Select Committee is most definitely following the money, and in doing so potentially building a wire fraud case against Donald Trump and members of his White House staff and campaign, who raised $250 million for a defense fund that did not exist to “fight election fraud”—which also did not exist.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) led this portion of the hearing testimony Monday, which included video of Amanda Wick, a senior investigative counsel. She outlined how, for weeks following the election and up to January 6, Trump and his allies raised that $250 million with dozens of email solicitations a day. They raised $100 million in the first week after the election alone, Wick said.

“The emails claimed the, quote, left-wing mob was undermining the election, implored supporters to ‘step up to protect the integrity of the election’ and encouraged them to ‘fight back,’ ” Wick said. “But as the select committee has demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false. Yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense Fund.’”

The committee, Wick said, “discovered no such fund existed.” The video that the committee provided showed members of Trump’s team admitting that the fund did not exist. That money instead went to creating the Save America PAC, with $1 million going to the Conservative Partnership Institute; $1 million to the America First Policy Institute (AFPI); $204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection; and $5 million to Event Strategies, the Paul Manafort-owned company that produced the January 6 rally before the riot. The Conservative Partnership Institute is a venture headed by Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff. The AFPI is chock-a-block full of Trump’s grittiest alumni. That leaves $244-ish million unaccounted for, by the way.

The committee also heard from Ben Ginsberg, a prominent Republican election lawyer who described Trump’s failed legal strategy, and the fact there there was no evidence of credible election fraud. Litigation in the election, Lofgren pointed out, was finished in December, but “President Trump continued to push the stolen election narrative even though he and his allies knew that their litigation efforts making the same claim had failed.”

“It is worth pointing out that litigation generally does not continue past the safe harbor date of December 14,” she continued. “But the fact that this litigation went on, well that decision makes more sense when you consider the Trump campaign’s fundraising tactics. Because if the litigation had stopped on December 14, there would have been no fight to defend the election, and no clear path to continue to raise millions of dollars,” Lofgren added. Which it did, all the way to and during the January 6 rally.

The committee is systematically building the case that Trump knew that the Big Lie was a big lie, that his advisers in the White House and the campaign knew it and were telling him so, and that he was making fraudulent claims in order to raise money from his supporters. In other words, fleecing ordinary citizens—also known as wire fraud. Committee members are systematically connecting the dots between the fundraising and January 6. They are following the money.

“Throughout the committee’s investigation,” Lofgren said, “we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. Not only was there the Big Lie, there was the Big Ripoff. Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going. They deserve better than what President Trump and his team did.”

The interviews after the hearing were just as interesting. Lofgren was asked if the committee had evidence that Trump and his family had personally benefited financially from the supposed legal defense donations. “YES,” Lofgren replied.

Asked if there is evidence of Trump’s financial crimes: “We’re a legislative committee,” she said. “And it’s clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist and used the money raised for something other than what is said.” Which is basically another way of saying “yes.”

“Now it’s for someone else to decide whether that’s illegal or not,” she added. “That’s not the purview of a legislative committee.” Again, over to you, Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Massive Petition Fraud Roils GOP’s Michigan Governor Primary

The primary race for governor in Michigan proves once again that if there’s going to be election fraud happening, Republicans are going to be doing it. In this case, it’s five—five—Republicans who have been found to have turned in enough fraudulent signatures for the primary ballot to be disqualified. Among them is presumed frontrunner and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. When conducting a review of qualifying petitions, the state Bureau of Elections staff “identified 36 petition circulators who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures.”

That leaves five candidates—half of the current field—without sufficient signatures to qualify for the Aug. 2 primary ballot, elections staff wrote. This is not a normal thing. At all. “[T]he Bureau is unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures, nor an instance in which it affected as many candidate petitions as at present.” That includes, again, petition sheets made up entirely of fraudulent signatures.

The five candidates the board found don’t have enough qualifying signatures, along with Craig, are Perry Johnson—a millionaire who has already spent millions of his own money in the primary so far—Michael Brown, Michael Markey Jr., and Donna Brandenburg. The board doesn’t make the final decision; the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will meet on Thursday to consider the recommendation that the candidates are disqualified. If they end up tossed from the ballot, expect lawsuits.

The elections bureau “does not have reason to believe that any specific candidates or campaigns were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators,” staff wrote. They identified 30 individuals who submitted the fraudulent petitions for at least 10 campaigns, and six others who are accused of forging signatures for just one campaign. They are all apparently associated with the firm First Choice Contracting LLC, which is headed up by Michigan resident Shawn Wilmoth. According to a link to a news story included in a footnote in the report, Wilmoth was convicted on two counts of election fraud in 2011.

Michigan Democrats and one other Republican gubernatorial candidate, conservative Tudor Dixon, had filed complaints challenging the signatures. Dixon has a major endorsement in his race, by the way: the DeVos family. Dixon also had enough qualifying signatures: 29,041 valid signatures, 199 invalid signatures. However, the fraud was discovered by the elections bureau in their usual verification processes, not as a result of those complaints.

Johnson, the self-funder, is attacking Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the signature gatherers both. Campaign consultant John Yob released a statement saying the “staff of the Democrat secretary of state does not have the right to unilaterally void every signature obtained by the alleged forgers who victimized five campaigns.” Which isn’t how this works anyway; the four-person bipartisan canvassers board decides that. “We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board, and if necessary, in the courts.”

Candidates for governor need at least 15,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, with 100 from each congressional district. Johnson submitted 13,800 valid signatures, with 9,393 invalid. Craig had 10,192 valid signatures, and 11,113 invalid ones. All in all, the 36 petition circulators submitted 68,000 invalid signatures.

The petition circulators apparently used outdated voter lists to find names, meaning that there were lots of dead voters on the petitions, as well as outdated addresses for voters. The elections board also noted that many of the sheets were too pristine, showing no signs of being exposed to weather, folded, scuffed, or passed among hundreds of hands. Some sheets looked like they had been “round-tabled,” or passed around a group of individuals with every person signing one line on the sheet “in an attempt to make the handwriting and signatures appear authentic and received from actual voters.”

The staff of the elections bureau checked petitions for all the races and found two identical sheets submitted for two different judicial candidates. So Wilmoth’s people didn’t even try particularly hard to obfuscate the fact that they were committing fraud.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.