Tara Reade

Tara Reade's Long Journey To Moscow Was All Too Predictable

On April 3, 2019, Tara Reade, a former staff assistant who worked briefly in Joe Biden's Senate office in the early 1990s, told a reporter from The Union newspaper in California that Biden had touched her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable, by putting his hand on her shoulder and neck. Just under a year later, on March 25, 2020, Reade gave a very different account of events. Appearing on a podcast with Katie Halper, Reade claimed that Biden slammed her against a wall, put his hand under her skirt, forced her legs apart, and penetrated her with his fingers.

The account immediately garnered national attention, with headlines in major newspapers and frequent coverage on news networks. In particular, Reade’s story was heavily supported by The Intercept reporter Ryan Grim and by that organization’s cofounder, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald’s support for Reade included multiple appearances on Fox News and an article for Fox in which he argued that Reade “was not going away.”

Except she did. On Tuesday, Reade appeared on Russian state media to announce that she was defecting to Russia. In a statement delivered while sitting next to convicted Russian spy Marina Butina, Reade claimed that she no longer felt safe in America, but “luckily the Kremlin is accommodating.” Which is understandable, considering that Reade began supporting Putin well before she made her claims about Biden.

When they first appeared in the media, Reade’s accusations were shocking. Soon after appearing on Halper’s program, Reade filed a police report stating that she had been sexually assaulted in 1993. As with all such claims, the first response was, and should be, to take them seriously and start from an assumption that the victim is just that: someone who was on the receiving end of an assault for which they shared no blame.

Reade’s statements were taken seriously in the national media. Other women who had been subject to sexual assault and harassment spoke up in her support. That she had waited 27 years to file a report created some doubt, but since Reade had been a young woman dealing with a man in a powerful position, many expressed understanding at her delay. In Reade’s case, she is also a single parent and documented victim of domestic violence, which could certainly reinforce both fear and reticence.

Attention to Reade’s statements increased following a report in The New York Times where Reade provided an even more detailed account of Biden’s reported assault. That article also included a single sentence saying that “A friend said that Ms. Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time, in 1993.” Such contemporaneous accounts are vital to proving many cases of sexual assault and are often considered the best form of evidence. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called concerns about the assault described by Reade “significant and relevant.”

However, soon after Reade spoke out, there were a growing number of reasons to doubt her statements. Many of those who worked on Capitol Hill noted that the area where Reade claimed the assault took place was public and highly trafficked by both members of Congress and their staff. Reade was insistent that the area was “semi-private,” but couldn’t provide a clear location or a time—something that would have allowed her account to be checked against Biden’s calendar.

Reade claimed that she had reported the assault to three members of Biden’s staff. All three of those former staffers denied any such conversation. Those staff members didn’t just deny it in an “I don’t recall” manner; they denied it in a way that left little doubt that, in their opinion at least, Reade was not being truthful. Broader interviews of other staff members at the time, including interns who had worked with Reade, found no one who supported her claims.

Eventually NPR interviewed 74 former staffers for Biden, 62 of whom were women. Their statements were consistent when it came to Biden's actions while in the Senate.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade.

As with all such reports, it’s critical to neither blame the victim or engage in an effort to drag up events from their past as a means of diminishing their testimony. However, writing in USA Today, columnist Michael Stern looked through Reade’s claims and found several other reasons for doubt. That included a claim by Reade that she had filed a complaint with the Senate personnel office. No one at that office could find a complaint and Reade could not produce a copy of the complaint.

When it came to how she left Biden’s office, Reade told a shifting series of stories, including claiming she left voluntarily after Biden demeaned her by asking her to serve drinks at a campaign event. On other occasions, Reade claimed she had been fired in retaliation after filing the official complaint. In NPR’s extensive interviews, other staffers reported that she had been fired for poor job performance, and specifically for failing to properly handle constituent mail.

WhenPolitico interviewed a number of people who knew Reade, either as acquaintances or former coworkers, their report was even less flattering. They described a pattern of behavior in which Reade “ingratiated herself” to people, then borrowed money, skipped out on payments, or walked away from bills. One description was of a “‘manipulative, deceitful, user.”

When it was all assembled, none of the people in Biden’s office supported Reade’s claims, and there was no record of her Senate complaint. Her past acquaintances reported multiple instances of deception. Not a great start. And when Reade provided The New York Times an extended list of people she claimed had been told about the assault shortly after it occurred, not one of them recalled any such conversation.

All of this only made Reade a better subject for those like Grim and Greenwald, who pitched the whole thing as a massive conspiracy of silence around Biden. Efforts to do so included pushing a clip from a woman phoning The Larry King Show in 1993 who claimed her daughter had “a problem with a prominent senator,” but chose not to go to the press “out of respect for him.” This anonymous call was paraded out as Reade’s mother, with Greenwald promoting this as a “bombshell” against Biden.

But every look into Reade consistently showed one thing: Until 2017, she regularly praised Biden, supported him on social media, and promoted his ongoing work to combat sexual assault.

Those statements alone are, of course, not any sort of condemnation of Reade or her story. It’s common that women who have been assaulted by men in prominent positions may feel compelled to continue supporting that man in public out of fear for how it may affect their lives or careers in the future. Speaking out against that kind of pressure was the very essence of the #MeToo movement.

What’s different in Reade’s case is that, somewhere in the 2017-2018 period, it appeared her views on a number of subjects did a 180-degree flip—in particular, her views on Russia and on the United States. Over that period, she went from writing and “liking” statements that spoke out against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his actions in the 2016 election to dismissing those actions entirely and turning her fire on the “imperialism” of the United States.

In November 2018, Reade authored an article for Medium titled “Why a liberal Democrat supports Vladimir Putin.” In it, she declared that America is “not a democracy at all but a corporate autocracy.” She praised Putin for bringing order to Russia, for his “political genius,” and for how he looked “with or without a shirt”

President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity. It is evident that he loves his country, his people and his job. … President Putin’s obvious reverence for women, children and animals, and his ability with sports is intoxicating to American women.

By the time she made her accusations against Biden, Reade had deleted the Medium article (the link above is through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine). When confronted with these quotes, she claimed that they had been “taken out of context from a novel she was writing.” Which was, simply enough, a lie.

At this point in her domestic politics, Reade had turned away from Biden, bounced off at least two other campaigns, and was all in for Bernie Sanders. Members of Sanders’ team helped to push Reade’s claims, and the broad coalition who saw this as an opportunity to weaken Biden in the primaries pressed the idea that anyone who had ever expressed faith in claims by another woman, but cast doubt on Reade, was a hypocrite.

However, by May, Reade’s own attorney dropped her after it emerged that she had also lied about many aspects of her background, including her fictional college degrees and claims that she had been a faculty member at Antioch College. The Intercept slogged on, with Grim trying to extract some aspect of the story that could be used to defend their earlier promotion. But most publications simply allowed the Reade story to fade away, the lengthening number of false claims and the lack of evidence ultimately weakening her accusations against Biden.

Reade continued to be a frequent guest on right-wing media over the past three years, including an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s program in 2022. Carlson was, of course, highly supportive. Following her appearance on Sputnik, during which she made a litany of complaints about America (including that American roads are too bumpy) and “humbly” asked for Putin to “to fast track her citizenship request,” some media outlets continued to support Reade.

No one should expect Greenwald, The Intercept, or anyone else on the right to apologize for spending years pushing an ugly story for no other purpose than to harm Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Russian state media is already using Reade as a source in attacking U.S. policies and the U.S. military. She’s working for them now—just like she was in 2020.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Whining Over Public Protests, Roberts Dismisses Supreme Court's Decline (VIDEO)

Whining Over Public Protests, Roberts Dismisses Supreme Court's Decline (VIDEO)

Get ready for this one: The Supreme Court doesn’t have a legitimacy problem, Chief Justice John Roberts claimed in a speech this week. No, the most serious threat to the institution as far as he’s concerned is an American public that demands accountability from the courts.

Speaking at the American Law Institute on Tuesday, Roberts said that the “hardest decision” he has had to make while helming the court wasn’t about any core constitutional question—the First Amendment or the death penalty or the separation of powers—but how to protect the justices from a public that’s exercising free speech against the court.

“Judges heckled and shouted down at a law school, protesters outside the homes of justices to the extent that martial protection is needed 24/7,” Roberts bemoaned. That law school heckling? The judge was Stuart Kyle Duncan, an ultraconservative Donald Trump appointee brought to campus by the Federalist Society chapter of Stanford University Law School. The whole event was apparently set up just to create this conflict.

Duncan came prepared, striding into the room with his camera out to film the event so he could “make a record” of their demonstration. After an administrator and a student leader quieted the protesters, the judge skipped his speech and moved directly to Q&A. He then insulted various students (“you are an appalling idiot,” the judge told one) while refusing to engage with their questions. After departing, the judge embarked upon a conservative mediatour, declaring that the “coddled law students” behaved like “dogshit” and urging Stanford to discipline them.

Despite all his talk of protecting his court’s “legacy,” Roberts happily leans into that bit of theater because conservatives are always the victims. Just like Justice Samuel Alito, who earlier this month whined about the rabble-rousing public being angry with him for taking basic bodily autonomy away from half of us. “[T]his type of concerted attack on the court and on individual justices is new during my lifetime,” Alito complained. “We are being hammered daily, and I think quite unfairly in a lot of instances. And nobody, practically nobody, is defending us.” Devastatingly tragic, isn’t it?

Clearly, the courts and the individual judges making life and death decisions about all of us are supposed to be above all that. Never mind that whole “coequal branch of government” business for these guys—they don’t have to worry about being reelected and have their jobs for life, so accountability isn’t their problem.

Roberts made that abundantly clear in his speech, brushing away the mounting ethics problems on the high court. He’s got it all under control. “I want to assure people I am committed to make certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct,” Roberts said. “We are continuing to look at things we can do practically to that effect.”

That’s totally believable. That’s why he refused the invitation of the Senate Judiciary Committee to come discuss what the court was doing about the questions of accountability swirling around the court. “I am confident there are ways to do that that are consistent with our status as an independent branch of government under the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Roberts added. Got that? The branch of government that literally tells the legislative and executive branches what they can or can’t do now claims that Congress, the branch that appropriates the money that pays their salary and funds their operations, lacks similar oversight over their business.

That’s certainly the message Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is sending. Van Hollen chairs the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, the one in charge of the Supreme Court budget. He said earlier this month that he’s looking “at all the options” for imposing reforms on the court.

Roberts isn’t going to step up here, that much is clear. Congress is going to have to do it. Voters gave Democrats a Senate majority in 2022 and it’s time to fully wield that power. Roberts’ arrogant and smug dismissal of the Senate gives them all the ammunition they need to do it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Why Would Texas Republicans Impeach Ken Paxton? Take Your Pick

Why Would Texas Republicans Impeach Ken Paxton? Take Your Pick

On Thursday evening, a special investigative committee of the Texas legislature officially filed charges of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton. AsThe Texas Tribune reports, the document includes “20 articles listing a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking.”

The chair of that committee has already announced that he will call for Paxton’s impeachment. On Wednesday, members of that committee voted unanimously that the attorney general should be impeached. If it happens, it will be a first: No attorney general has been impeached in the history of the state.

Paxton has issued a response calling the legislators members of the “corrupt political establishment,” and posted a statement on Twitter in which he called on the speaker of the Republican-led House to resign for, among other things, allowing “Chinese spies” to control Texas land. He’s also declared that Texas Republicans are tools of President Joe Biden and the Washington elite, all of which should make the upcoming hearings even more enjoyable.

Before you reach for the popcorn, here’s a reminder of some of the “accomplishments” that have marked Paxton’s career.

On January 6, 2021, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stood in front of the Trump supporters gathered at the “Stop the Steal” rally and delivered a speech that made clear allusions to the Civil War. “One of the great things about the state of Texas is, we did not quit,” said Paxton. “If you look at Georgia, they capitulated, they consented. We kept fighting in Texas.” That’s not exactly a record to be brought up with pride, but then there’s little to be proud about anywhere in the record of Paxton.

Just hours after he had urged Trump supporters to, like Texas, “keep fighting” and watched them march for the Capitol, Paxton swore that it wasnot Trump supporters who smashed their way into the building. “These are not Trump supporters,” Paxton wrote on Twitter. Instead he blamed the insurgency on the forces of antifa. When Paxton was asked about his sources, he said he was only reporting what he heard from a “journalist,” by which he meant the fascism-friendly conspiracy site WorldNetDaily.

Paxton topped off his January 6 escapades by refusing to turn over records related to his own appearance at the rally. As with so many things related to Paxton, that battle went to court, where he did what he was so good at doing: make irrational arguments and lose. But those January 6 events were just one small item on the checklist of all things Paxton.

The Texas constitution states that if Paxton is impeached in the House, he will immediately be removed from office until his trial in the Senate. Should he survive that trial, Paxton could go back to misusing his office as he has always done.

Why is Paxton up for impeachment? Take your pick.

  • The FBI investigation into how Paxton used his office to illegally help a donor.
  • The indictment for fraud that Paxton’s Republican supporters have stalled for years, in part by blocking attorneys prosecuting the case from getting paid. As the AP pointed out, it’s not many people who can avoid going to trial on felony charges for seven straight years—and they made that point last year.
  • The $3.3 million that Paxton had to pay out to settle a whistleblower case after a group of his own deputies raised warnings about his actions, including “abuse of office and other crimes.”
  • An affair with a woman he later promoted for a high-paying job in a case so tangled it’s hard to tell if it’s bribery or extortion.
  • Multiple reports of bribery still under investigation that have not yet been detailed.

There’s also a state bar association investigation into lies Paxton told in court in an effort to overturn the 2020 election, but it’s unlikely the Republican legislature was upset by that point.

Both the legislature and the voters of Texas have supported Paxton over the years as he carried on a crusade of lies and distortions, becoming the poster boy for how a state attorney general’s office could be used to prosecute a political agenda. It's impossible to briefly list all the efforts Paxton has made to sue federal agencies, from the EPA and Homeland Security to Health and Human Services. However, among the “highlights,” Paxton has:

Hard to believe he lost, considering that Paxton’s lawsuit included “evidence” from the debunked film, 2,000 Mules.

Somehow, through all this, Texas voters still put Paxton in office by a wide margin. That includes returning him to office in 2020 despite three felony indictments and a public investigation by the FBI. Paxton has the biggest selling point of any Republican candidate: He knows how to hate the right people. So don’t be surprised if being impeached is not his last act.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Special Counsel Nearing End Of Trump Classified Documents Probe

Special Counsel Nearing End Of Trump Classified Documents Probe

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that one of the two investigations being conducted by special counsel Jack Smith is nearing an end. That investigation involves Donald Trump’s improper removal of documents from the White House, his refusal to turn over material to the National Archives, and his potential mishandling of classified documents—including documents classified above “top secret.”

Smith was appointed last November by Attorney General Merrick Garland and given the task of investigating two separate potential crimes involving Donald Trump. One of those concerned Trump’s actions in his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, including his efforts to solicit false electors, appropriate voting machines, pressure Mike Pence to ignore votes, and encourage the violence on January 6, 2021. That investigation is still underway with Pence recently testifying before the grand jury, while Smith seems to have extended his queries into Trump using false election claims to scam money from his supporters.

The classified documents investigation has seen a series of witnesses in recent weeks, including Secret Service agents who were stationed at Mar-a-Lago during the period when Trump refused to return documents or lied about having returned them all. Last Thursday, one of Trump’s attorneys on the classified document case abruptly quit. That came just as the National Archives informed Trump’s legal team that they were sending Smith a series of messages between Trump and his advisers showing that he was warned about the proper steps to declassify material.

On multiple occasions, Trump has made the claim that he “automatically” declassified all the documents. However, there is no mechanism by which that could happen. The messages provided by the National Archives reportedly show discussions between Trump and his advisers in which it was apparently made clear that he needed to take formal steps to declassify documents before leaving office. Trump failed to take those steps.

Some of the documents that Trump took to Mar-a-Lago were reportedly connected to national defense. That includes a reported document discussing Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons.

Had Trump attempted to declassify these documents, there likely would have been pushback both from the intelligence community and the Pentagon. This might have drawn considerable attention to the information Trump was attempting to declassify.

If he had succeeded, the documents would have been broadly available. By taking the documents without actually declassifying them, Trump was in possession of information that was of very limited availability and which held considerable potential value to foreign intelligence.

Some of the questions asked of the Secret Service agents reportedly concern who might have had access, since Trump kept some of the most highly classified documents in his personal office rather than in the storage room where he had promised to keep them in advance of sending them to the archives.

As just one example, last year Donald Trump joined with the Saudi Arabian government in a series of golf tournaments known as LIV Golf. For 2023, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund has reportedly put up $2 billion for a tournament that will be hosted at Trump’s New Jersey course. It’s not difficult to believe that representatives of the Saudi government visited Trump’s office—the same office where he was holding secrets concerning their longtime enemy, Iran.

Putting aside the classified documents, it’s clear that Trump also made repeated violations of the Presidential Records Act, refusing to turn over material to the archives, or lying about material he was holding as well as trying to get his attorneys to lie to the archives.

With all of that, it’s not surprising that The Wall Street Journal reports Trump’s team is expecting indictments to be handed down. What’s astounding is how they are preparing for this event.

Some of Trump’s close associates are bracing for his indictment and anticipate being able to fundraise off a prosecution, people in the former president’s circle said, as clashes within the Trump legal team have led to the departure of a key lawyer.

Trump’s associates’ first thought is not how to defend him from criminal charges; it’s how much money they can scam from his followers by sending out emails that will surely include the phrase “witch hunt.” Most states have laws that prohibit criminals from profiting from their crimes after convictions, but Trump has that handled: He scams his gullible followers for millions upfront.

Considering the numerous investigations still open, including investigations into the 2020 election by both Smith and Fulton County, Georgia, Trump will probably have plenty of opportunities to send those fundraising emails—because it looks like there will be plenty of indictments.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ron DeSantis

Report: Giuliani's Shady Partners Financed First DeSantis Gubernatorial Race

In 2019, Lev Parnas and his partner, Igor Furman, were arrested at a New York airport as they attempted to flee the country. One day later, theTampa Bay Times revealed that Parnas had hosted at least two fundraisers for then-gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis. Parnas had raised “significant sums of money,” including a $50,000 direct contribution to DeSantis.

Three years later, Parnas was convicted on charges of conspiring to funnel foreign contributions into U.S. political campaigns, soliciting more contributions, and aiding and abetting still more illegal contributions. The source of those contributions was indicted Russian oligarch Andrey Muraviev. DeSantis gave back the $50,000, though not the other money that Parnas had directed his way.

Through all of this DeSantis’ insisted that he had little or no contact with either Parnas or Furman, and that he did “not have a relationship with these individuals.” He continued to claim that Parnas was “just another donor.” But Ron DeSantis was lying. Reuters has published a series of texts that show how DeSantis begged for help from Parnas, how Rudy Giuliani became involved, and without the help of both of them, DeSantis likely would never have become governor of Florida.

That original Tampa Bay Times story underscored that Parnas did far more than direct a check to DeSantis. Documents, including the campaign calendar and list of fundraisers, showed that candidate DeSantis repeatedly sought assistance from Parnas, though it was unclear at the time if the two had actually met.

The new information from Reuters clears that up. A direct statement from Parnas shows he and now Gov. DeSantis met in person at least twice, with one of those meetings instigated by DeSantis.

“Ron DeSantis approached me at the Trump International Hotel and introduced himself, telling me that he was told to come meet me because I was very close with Donald Trump.”

Parnas went on to say that he had numerous conversations with DeSantis, who he called a close confidant. “We became very friendly,” said Parnas.

DeSantis didn’t just go to Parnas for money; he also used him as a go-between for invitations to other potential wealthy donors and for advice on his campaign. The $50,000 contribution was just a small part of the total funds the foreign agent sent DeSantis’ way. Parnas and Furman were known to have given at least $400,000 to Republican candidates in Florida, most of it going through a Trump-aligned Super PAC. In addition, one of the fundraisers that Parnas arranged for DeSantis donated $115,000 to DeSantis’ 2018 campaign.

How deep was DeSantis' involvement with Parnas and his schemes? Deep enough that Parnas says DeSantis agreed to meet directly with Russian oligarch Muraviev to discuss his support for legalizing and growing marijuana in Florida. That meeting was called off after Parnas’ arrest.

DeSantis’ spokesperson has refused to comment on any of this, calling it a “recycled story.”

However, it now seems as if the money wasn’t the biggest thing that Muraviev and Parnas did for DeSantis. The most valuable assistance provided was dragging in Giuliani to put DeSantis over the top.

In September of 2018, an FBI leak claimed that Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum was under investigation by the FBI for potential corruption in his role as mayor of Tallahassee. DeSantis jumped onto this story immediately, saying that Gillum was “embroiled in a lot of corruption scandals."

"This guy can't even run the city of Tallahassee,” DeSantis said in one his frequent appearances on Fox News. “There is no way Florida voters can entrust him with our entire state."

However, the story didn’t make much of an immediate impact on Florida voters. Barely two weeks before the 2018 election, theTampa Bay Times poll showed Gillum with a six-point lead over DeSantis.

So DeSantis went looking for help from Parnas, and from the connections, he knew that Parnas could tap. On October 26, 2018, Parnas sent a text to DeSantis telling him that he would “have Rudy do a tweet” about Gillum.

DeSantis: “He needs to hit him on his scandal. Can say as a prosecutor this would be an indictable case etc.”Parnas: “👍Tomorrow.”

DeSantis had no actual evidence that Gillum had committed a crime, because there was no actual evidence. Still, he urged Guiliani to say his Democratic opponent was “indictable.”

One day later, Parnas sent a tweet from Giuliani back to DeSantis for review: “As a former prosecutor and Mayor, I ask the people of my adopted State Florida to reject a Mayor with highest murder and crime rates in State…”

Other national Republican figures, including Trump, joined in, with most of the focus going toward the idea that Gillum was “corrupt.”

Two years earlier, deliberate FBI interference by James Comey had been a decisive factor in putting Trump in the White House. FBI leaks had also insisted that there was no connection between Trump and Russia, a story that was run by The New York Times without any counter.

Now FBI leaks were once again weighing down a Democratic candidate, and Republicans at all levels were leaning into the story. As polls showed that the “corruption” storyline was getting wide play and Gillum’s lead was eroding, Parnas became ecstatic.

“Big day my brother!!!” Parnas texted DeSantis on Election Day. “We will win!!!”

DeSantis did win … by 0.4%, making it the closest governor’s race in the whole nation that year. The only charge eventually levied against Gillum was one count of lying to the FBI. Earlier this month, a jury found him not guilty.

“Had the FBI not leaked their investigation, which ultimately—and correctly—ended up in an acquittal, there is no question that Andrew Gillum would be the Governor of Florida today,” Gillum’s lawyers said in a statement. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

Ron DeSantis, his book bans, his trans hate, and his anti-science grandstanding that cost thousands of lives, would never have happened without the assistance of money and connections that he gained from a convicted foreign agent.

That might not be the only way that Parnas and Guiliani assisted DeSantis. From the beginning, it was assumed that the 2016 FBI “leaks” concerning Trump and Russia were sourced from Guiliani. An investigation wasn’t able to determine if this was true. No such investigation has happened when it comes to the leak of the story about Gillum. It’s worth investigating.

There’s no doubt that DeSantis owes his current role to Parnas. If Giuliani was the one behind the FBI leak in Florida, that’s doubly true. One thing is for sure: There was one hell of a lot of corruption involved in the 2018 Florida governor’s race, and none of it came from Andrew Gillum.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis

The Stupidity Of A Republican 'Florida Man' Primary Looms Ahead

America is spiraling toward a “Florida Man” primary, and we’re not ready. With Ron DeSantis not yet an official candidate and Donald Trump still flipping through the index cards of potential nicknames for his just-up-the-road opponent, what we’ve seen of the coming storm makes one thing clear: The most extreme right-wing authoritarian candidates ever to hold office in the United States intend to run their primary by finding new ground on the right of their opponents.

Both men might hold a finger to the political wind and determine that the center-right, a space now so abandoned that ghost towns feel sorry for it, offers plenty of room to construct a candidacy. A Republican shift to the middle might even give that party the thing that is currently a fading memory—a shot at winning the popular vote.

They’re not going to go there. DeSantis is trying to run to the right of Trump. Trump is trying to run to the right of DeSantis. Both may momentarily agree, but only on issues where they can’t think of a more extreme position. But these two guys have a real instinct for the awful, so they won’t be pinned down for long.

If America is lucky, the result will destroy the Republican Party for a generation. But no matter what, everyone is going to get hurt.

A lot of what’s ahead can be neatly summed up in this tweet from American historian Kevin Kruse.

“Bone-crushingly stupid” is a good descriptor for much of what’s to come. DeSantis absolutely will go there when it comes to jokes about Melania being reluctant to participate in Trump’s campaign. Trump will never tire of picking on DeSantis’ height and his booster boots. (“Why does Ron DeSantis hate Disney? Because they won’t let him ride Space Mountain.” This stuff writes itself.)

It’s going to be like every “conservative comedian” who Fox News tried to package into a late-night show. Except this program is going to be on every outlet for a lot longer than it took any of those Fox shows to tank. If you believe the level of national discourse could not be lower, prepare to be surprised.

He who gets in the most revolting dig may score points on the Republican debate stage, but unfortunately, that’s not the only way these two are going to compete. As CNN reports, DeSantis has already made his strategy clear. He’s looking for every point on which Trump can be seen as less than fully committed to a hard right line, and then he’s positioning himself to the right of Trump. And if the line has to be moved to give him room, DeSantis will move it.

Trump is packaging himself as the guy who was “able to kill Roe v. Wade,” but that still leaves room for DeSantis to sign ever more onerous bills drafted by the subservient Florida legislature. DeSantis just scored a huge victory with the most extreme elements of the Republican Party by signing a bill so onerous to reproductive rights that Trump called it “too harsh.” That’s a dream response for DeSantis. Harsh? You think that’s harsh? He will show you harsh, wimpy Donald.

DeSantis is working hard to show that he’s more pro-gun than Trump. More anti-immigrant than Trump. More anti-education. More anti-science. Much more anti-science.

DeSantis sees the fact that Trump was there when the COVID-19 vaccine was developed as one of his big openings, and step number one is eradicating the restrictive hold of evidence, facts, and centuries of learning on medical practices. It’s not enough just to appoint a surgeon general who alters the results of scientific papers. If it means signing a bill that will let doctors who have such loopy ideas that they aren’t allowed near a scalpel in any other state practice in Florida, DeSantis will go there proudly. He’s calling it “medical freedom,” and if it means your new physician doesn’t believe in the germ theory of disease, why, that’s just fine.

DeSantis’ bill forces hospitals to provide patients with treatments that do not work, despite what they’ve heard on Twitter. It prevents the use of whole swaths of coming vaccines, including some that prevent various forms of cancer. And it prevents medical boards from removing the license from doctors for trivial things like massive and continued malpractice. It’s a bill that sets medical standards back to the point when most surgery was done by barbers.

But then, Florida does have a lot of leeches in need of work.

That’s just one bill. DeSantis signed it last week with one real goal, and that goal has nothing to do with medical treatment in Florida. He signed it because it positions him way to the right of both Trump and sanity.

That bill isn’t a destination, it’s a signpost. DeSantis is moving in this direction on every issue. More restrictions that force schools to teach only a prescribed right-wing version of history. Making it easier to ban award-winning books. More efforts to destroy teaching as a profession and turn classrooms into combinations of indoctrination centers and holding pens.

And when it comes to immigration, DeSantis is already setting Florida up as the state of hardliner’s humid dreams. That the restrictions he’s already signed are crippling Florida’s core industries of construction, agriculture, and tourism doesn’t even register on the Republican dial. Because none of these policies are about making things better. Or even claiming to make things better. The Republican Party has moved on from that place.

And, of course, DeSantis is checking every box on the guns over people list. Bills and executive orders have doubled down on protecting the rights of gun makers and gun dealers. At the same time, DeSantis hasn’t just demanded a bill to remove training requirements from the state’s concealed carry permits; he wants to eliminate those permits entirely. He also wants to eliminate the “concealed” part. After all, what modern Republican can safely pick up a six-pack at Publix without waving an AR-15 around the aisles?

New York Magazine may have called DeSantis the “lesser evil,” but that’s not true. And if there is an issue where it may be true, DeSantis only sees that as a challenge.

So far, much of Trump’s response–when not pondering that crucial nickname selection—has been simply in the form of mimicking DeSantis’ positions. DeSantis bans books? Trump says he would ban books. DeSantis declares that he will gut education at universities so that no one is ever again offended by the specter of diversity or history outside the definition of the Heritage Foundation, Trump is right there with a plan to “reclaim our once great educational institutions from the radical Left” using the “secret weapon” of “the college accreditation system.” Which is really something when you consider Donald Trump’s own Trump University was fined $25 million for defrauding students.

What Trump actually means by this is that his plan would actually outlaw any training in diversity, equality, or inclusion. Don’t drop those classes, and every degree your university offers will no longer be considered real. It doesn’t stop at just ending courses in these areas. It would require anyone who had been involved in such training to be fired because, according to Trump, diversity and equality are “Marxist” plots.

What students would get from this new, universal Trump University is a degree which honors “the American tradition and Western civilization.” Stonewall Jackson? Hero. Harriet Tubman? Wait … who is that?

It might seem like these blunt, undisguised indoctrination plans from both DeSantis and Trump would be the most extreme positions. But no position is ever the most extreme. Six months from now, both will be decrying this position as so liberal that it might as well be taught by Antifa and sponsored by George Soros.

DeSantis' every move is to position himself further right. Trump’s only counter is to either match, or exceed DeSantis. Remember all those stories in the past about “the Overton window” and the steps by which the Republican Party worked to make radical ideas more acceptable to the public? Forget them. Overton was defenestrated years ago. Trump and DeSantis will simply stake out new positions that are more and more (and more, and more, and more) awful. Then they’ll turn around and sneer at the other one for failing to be sufficiently horrific.

Maybe this game of authoritarian leapfrog will lead the GOP off a cliff. It seems a likely conclusion. But it’s just as likely to leave behind a long list of positions, and millions of Americans to support them, that are so much worse than anything already expressed, that we can’t imagine them from our warm, comfy place here in the oh-so-stable and reasonable 2023.

This “Florida Man” primary is going to hurt. Pray that the ones it hurts most are Trump and DeSantis.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Second Research Firm Told Trump All His Fraud Claims Were False In 2020

Second Research Firm Told Trump All His Fraud Claims Were False In 2020

A research team hired by the Donald Trump campaign to investigate potential issues in the 2020 election admitted in March that they found no evidence of fraud. That news might have just been reaching the public, but it certainly wasn’t new to Trump. Because the researchers told him their findings at the time. In fact, they produced a 29-page report and handed it over to Trump’s team, assuring them that the vote counts were accurate. Trump responded by keeping that report secret and pressing on his his claims of fraud.

Now, as The Washington Post reports, a second firm hired by Trump to look into a hand-picked claims of election fraud found that every single one of more than a dozen such claims was simply a lie.

“No substantive voter fraud was uncovered in my investigations looking for it, nor was I able to confirm any of the outside claims of voter fraud that I was asked to look at,” [Ken Block, founder of the firm Simpatico Software Systems] said. “Every fraud claim I was asked to investigate was false.”

Those results were given to Trump in writing before the end of 2020, but just as with the first report, Trump buried the findings and kept on with his lies about the election.

Now both of these reports could increase the odds that charges will be filed against Trump for his actions both then, and now.

Block, the author of the quote above, told the Post that he has received a subpeona from special counsel Jack Smith, as part of Smith’s ongoing investigation. That investigation was originally limited to two topics: Trump’s refusal to return classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago and his involvement in events leading up to the January 6 insurrection. However, Smith appears to be taking a broad approach to his investigation, and is looking into other aspects of how Trump attempted to alter the outcome of the election, how he promoted false claims about the election results in the weeks immediately following the election, and how he sought to profit from claims of election fraud.

Not only Trump, but other members of his White House and campaign staffs, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, were aware of both the report from Block’s Simpatico Software Systems and the earlier report from Berkeley Research Group. Despite this knowledge, Trump and his team continued to spread lies about the election, not just in public, but in private conversations with state legislators and election officials.

That Trump and members of his staff were not just lying about the outcome of the 2020 election, but that they knew they were lying is a key part of potential charges. The existence of not just one, but two reports, compiled by investigators that Trump and his team hired, shows that Trump knew the truth. That Trump hid the results of both reports and continued making false claims, shows evidence of his intent to deceive.

That makes it more likely that Smith will find that Trump and others engaged in seditious conspiracy, or other similar wrongdoing, in connection with the 2020 election.

It also plays into potential charges related to Trump’s fundraising. Trump brought in over a quarter of a billion dollars in fundraising outreach to his supporters claiming that there had been election fraud and implying that their contributions would be used to address that issue. Almost all of that money went directly to Trump. Smith could charge Trump both because of the falsity of his outreach, and because of the deception in how the money was to be spent.

The fact that Trump didn’t just lie to state officials, but did so intentionally and in contradiction to both the published results and the evidence uncovered by his own investigators, is also likely to interest prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, where there is an ongoing investigation into Trump’s efforts to exert undue influence on state and local officials.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ron DeSantis

DeSantis Escalates His Wacky War On Disney -- And The Mouse Claps Back

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis fired the latest shot in his war against central Florida’s largest employer. As CNN reports, that idea involved taking some state-controlled land next to Disney World and putting it to a use designed to scare parents away from bringing their children to the “happiest place on Earth.”

“Someone even said, maybe you need another state prison,” said DeSantis. “I mean, who knows? I mean, I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

As Laura Clawson explained in March, the reason that Disney is making DeSantis so angry is that they dared to stand up to the bigotry expressed in the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, which DeSantis championed and signed with great ceremony. The threat to build a prison next door in order to sour Disney’s multibillion-dollar investment in central Florida is just the latest in a series of actions that Florida’s second-most notorious authoritarian has taken to show his displeasure. And Disney provided its own response a few hours later.

So far, every attempt to bring down Disney has backfired on DeSantis. Frustrated by his inability to silence Disney, DeSantis fumed that he would “not allow a woke corporation” to run Florida. The governor set out to end the special tax district through which Disney handles infrastructure in the area it controls. Only this move would have left local taxpayers responsible for bonds that run to $1,000 per person. The Florida legislature—which usually serves as his reliable lap dog—stepped in to stop DeSantis. Instead DeSantis got five new members on the tax district board so he could use them to punish Disney … only to discover that the old board had carefully erected protections that gave all the power to Disney, leaving the board in the role of a toothless appendage.

To this point, DeSantis has been left spitting his anger into the wind … and everyone in Florida should be grateful for that, because as a new story from the Tallahassee Democrat shows, the importance of Disney to the state’s economy is hard to overestimate. Each year, the presence of Disney theme parks in Florida generates:

  • $75.2 billion annual economic impact for Central Florida
  • 463,000 additional jobs
  • $5.8 billion in additional state tax revenue

Should DeSantis ultimately have his way, either significantly reducing Disney’s revenue or convincing the studio’s corporate leadership that maybe the leader of some other humidity-choked swampland would be more reasonable, the cost to Florida would be enormous. This isn’t just a war that DeSantis doesn’t seem to be winning, it’s a war where everyone in the state should be pulling against him.

His war on the mouse is certainly not the only time DeSantis has tried to show that his idea of “business-friendly” is really “do what I say, or else.” Some of his targets have been relatively small, such as when he jerked the liquor license of the Orlando Philharmonic for promoting a show featuring performers in drag. Others have been enormous, such as when he went after Florida’s cruise ship industryfor requiring that passengers be vaccinated.

If DeSantis’ had some magic formula for creating a record economy, it might be reasonable, on sheer monetary basis, for businesses to at least consider toeing the line. However, that’s not the case. As the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research detailed, under DeSantis’ response to the pandemic, Florida’s economic growth was actually slower than in either California or New York. That report also clearly shows that what drives Florida’s economy isn’t anything DeSantis has done.

Population growth is the state’s primary engine of economic growth, fueling both employment and income growth.

Florida’s economy depends on one thing: Immigration. The biggest factor in the state’s GDP growth comes from the increase in people who move there from other states and from outside the U.S.

Florida is utterly dependent on its appeal to non-Floridians.

DeSantis’ rants aren’t likely to make the state more attractive to the average American. His signature legislation wasn’t even favored by a majority in Florida. Having just signed a newer, stricter ban on abortion that even he doesn’t want to talk about might make some prospective snowbirds decide to look elsewhere. So might news that Florida has taken the top spot as the least affordable state.

What may be most amazing isn’t that DeSantis wants everything his way, even if it costs his state everything. It’s how many Republicans seem to think that’s a good idea.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Jack Smith

Special Counsel Is Probing Trump's Massive 'Election Fraud' Email Grift

The Justice Department appointed Jack Smith as special counsel last November to oversee a pair of criminal investigations. The first aimed to look into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents and other records, including possible obstruction of previous investigations. The other was described as the investigation into “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021.”

Many assumed that meant looking into Donald Trump’s direct role in spurring on the violence of the January 6 insurrection, and based on the subpoenas and reported testimony before the federal grand jury, that has certainly been part of Smith’s investigation. However, the special counsel has clearly taken a broad view of this authority. So far, he is known to have investigated: false claims about voting machines; efforts to seat alternate electors; attempts to subvert the Justice Department; draft executive orders instructing the military to seize voting equipment; and the pressure campaign on Mike Pence to alter the electoral vote count on January 6..

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported on another area under examination by the grand jury, one that takes a wholly new angle and is likely to come as a shock to Trump and those involved with his campaign. As multiple witnesses are reporting, the grand jury is hearing testimony about how Trump used his claims of election fraud to scam millions from his supporters.

Smith has reportedly subpoenaed both advisers to Trump and members of his former campaign staff to testify about fundraising—not the fundraising that took place leading up to the election, but the fundraising that Trump’s team conducted between Election Day in 2020 and January 6, 2021. Some of these former Trump staffers have reportedly already provided testimony.

Unlike some portions of this investigation, where Trump’s actions are blatantly immoral and undemocratic but may be difficult to label in terms of specific felonies, Smith’s office has no problem defining the crime in this case:

“…prosecutors are said to be interested in whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws, which make it illegal to make false representations over email to swindle people out of money.”

Looking back on that period, it’s not difficult to find Trump emails attempting to raise money based on false claims of election fraud. On November 23, 2020, USA Today complained that emails from Trump were coming with such frequency that they “give spam a bad name.” Included in those emails were pleas such as this:

“This is sheer MADNESS! The Fake News is trying to keep these unprecedented stories of VOTER FRAUD quiet, but it’s important for the American People to know the TRUTH.”

A second email sent in the same hour, supposedly from Mike Pence, included:

“I have great news. With the President’s WIN in North Carolina, we’ve proved to the Left that, no matter what the media says, this Election is not over.” It requests $5 for the Election Defense Fund.

Then a third, this time with a byline from Eric Trump:

“The Radical Left’s plan to steal the Election is starting to crumble.” The president’s son asks for a $5 contribution to the Official Georgia Recount Fund.

Here’s another Trump email which The Daily Beast noted on November 18, 2020.

… they are saying what a WONDERFUL job the Trump Administration did in making 2020 the most secure Election ever. Which is true, except for what the Left did: THEY RIGGED THE ELECTION.

It ends with a plea for $5 to “stand with me against voter fraud.”

In the first month following the election, Newsweek reported that the Trump campaign sent out over 400 fundraising emails, a pace of over 13 a day. Here’s the text of another of those emails:

"This may be the most important email I ever send you. I want to provide an update on our ongoing efforts to expose the tremendous voting irregularities that took place during the ridiculously long November 3rd Election.

As President, I have no higher duty than to defend the laws of the Constitution of the United States. That is why I am determined to protect our Election system - which is under attack - but I cannot do it alone. I need YOUR HELP."

That email closed out with a request for, of course, a $5 donation to “fight for the integrity of our election.”

That’s just the first month. These same emails continued through December and into January. If Smith wants evidence that Trump used his false claims about the 2020 election as a means of extorting funds from those who believed in him, it won’t be hard to find.

With all these emails, Trump raised an astounding $250 million after the election. In fact, Trump raised far more in the months following his 2020 election loss than he has raised since announcing that he was running in 2024.

What Smith really seems to be after, in both his subpoenas for documents and the testimony before the grand jury, is evidence of what Trump’s advisers and campaign staff were telling each other behind the scenes. No matter how that closing ask for cash was worded, an acknowledgement that the campaign was aware they were sending out fraudulent information is the key to simple charges of wire fraud—an extraordinary amount of wire fraud.

Subpoenas also asked for any earlier drafts or marked-up versions of the fundraising emails, as well as any notes Trump advisers had made about pitching these emails to Trump supporters. In this area, the Smith investigation resembled the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News, where Dominion was able to show that Fox pundits were dismissing claims of election fraud behind the scenes, even while promoting them on air. Any similar actions on the part of the Trump campaign will certainly come under heavy scrutiny.

The Washington Post article also notes that other investigators are continuing to collect information in the classified documents case. In fact, the investigation into Trump is so busy that it’s being served by not one, but two federal grand juries.

Naturally, Trump has had a response to both the news of the Smith investigation and to his recent indictment by a New York grand jury on 34 counts of document fraud. In each case, Trump followed up within the hour … with a fundraising email.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Elon Musk

NPR Drops Twitter After State-Financed Musk Appends 'State-Affiliated' Label

National Public Radio has announced that it will suspend use of Twitter after platform owner Elon Musk inserted a tag last week falsely claiming that NPR was “U.S. state-affiliated media,” placing it in the same category as propaganda outlets like Russia’s RT or China’s Xinhua. NPR will not only stop posting updates to its existing main account, but will end posts to 51 other accounts that were specific to programs or areas of coverage.

The label was reportedly placed on NPR at the express order of Musk. Twitter’s own rules included text that explained why outlets such as RT, which serve as a mouthpiece for the Russian government, were labeled as “state media,” but NPR and the British Broadcasting Corporation did not have such labels because they had editorial independence. When this text was pointed out, Twitter responded by editing NPR out of the example, leaving only the BBC.

After an outcry from journalists and NPR listeners, Musk later changed the label on NPR to “Government-funded Media.” It then added the same label to BBC News. However, this ignores the fact that only 8% of NPR’s funding comes from the government in any form, and less than 1% comes from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That’s a much smaller percentage of government funding than many other companies receive—including Elon Musk’s own SpaceX and Tesla.

NPR is leaving it up to individual reporters to decide whether they continue on Twitter and says the network has enacted a “two week grace period” for employees to work out how they will handle social media. Some reporters, including Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman and tech reporter Bobby Allyn, have gone silent over the past two days, but not made any official announcement. Others, such as All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, have said that they will remain on Twitter for now.

“NPR’s organizational accounts will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.

We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence.” — Isabel Lara, NPR Chief Communications Officer

A letter from NPR management to staff warned that Twitter’s actions are meant to “tarnish the independence of any public media institution, are exceptionally harmful and set a dangerous precedent.”

In past interviews, SpaceX officials have admitted that the company was at least 85 percent funded by the federal government in its early development. Despite a growing commercial presence, Payload Space shows that half of SpaceX’s launch revenue in 2022 still came from government flights, and that’s not counting additional multibillion dollar contracts SpaceX holds, including one to help develop a moon lander for NASA. That single contract is nine times larger than NPR’s total annual revenue, and almost 100 times as much as NPR’s government funding.

In 2021,Business Insider reported on how Musk was raking in billions in government subsidies at the same time he was vocally opposing higher taxes for the wealthy and complaining about government regulations on capital.The Los Angeles Timesestimated that Musk had swallowed up $4.9 billion in government support for Tesla and SpaceX by 2015. As one business analyst put it:

“He definitely goes where there is government money. That’s a great strategy.”

Somehow, this did not earn either of Musk’s companies a “government-funded” label.

As usual, efforts to solicit reasonable discussion from Musk—who on Monday relabeled his personal Twitter account as “Harry Bolz”—generated something less than rational discourse.The New York Times sent a question concerning the change in labeling for NPR, which “was returned with a poop emoji autoreply.”

Last December, Musk promised to abide by a poll in which Twitter users said they wanted someone else for CEO. Since then, Musk has limited polls to those who buy into his Twitter Blue monthly fee. There has been no mention of naming a new CEO since early February. On Monday, Musk declared that Twitter “no longer exists” as a company and is just one part of the “everything app” he calls ‘X.’

Also on Monday, Musk claimed that Twitter is now “roughly breaking even.” However, as noted by Forbes, the first earnings report posted under Musk’s control showed Twitter failing to meet targets and reporting higher than expected losses. In March,The Wall Street Journalreported that Twitter’s adjusted earnings at the end of 2022 were down by 40 percent when compared to the previous year after advertisers fled from Musk’s erratic comments and his restoration of accounts that have included white supremacists and those associated with the January 6 insurrection.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Abortion Pills

Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Sales Of Safe, Effective Abortion Drug

Large scale testing has shown the the drug mifepristone is actually safer than many medications that are given out millions of times a year—including such common antibiotics as penicillin and “male enhancement” drugs like Viagra. In addition to supporting a medically safe abortion, the drug has been used used for over two decades in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and Cushing syndrome. An analysis of all available data by CNN put the odds of dying from mifepristone at 0.0005 percent.

That extreme level of safety is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved prescription use of mifepristone in 2000, and why in January the FDA changed regulations around it to make it readily available in pharmacies. It’s also used safely by millions in other countries.

But on Friday, Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed to a seat on the Northern District of Texas bench straight from the ultra-conservative First Liberty Institute, made an extraordinary and unprecedented ruling, ignoring the safety data presented by the FDA and others, and “suspending” that FDA approval. The ruling could potentially block the sale of mifepristone not just in states that have outlawed abortion following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, but in every state, including those where abortion remains legal.

Currently, mifepristone is used in over half the abortions performed in the United States.

As The Washington Post reports, Kacsmaryk has a long history of anti-abortion views. In fact, this isn’t the first abortion-related case to drop onto Kacsmaryk’s docket. That’s because anti-abortion groups know that he’s a guaranteed win, that they have engaged in “forum shopping,” contriving ways to file their case so that it will be heard in Kacsmaryk’s court.

In this case, the group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has taken part in several other lawsuits aimed at ending abortion rights, including the Mississippi case that led to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, filed suit in Amarillo claiming unspecified damage by four doctors who has prescribed the drug to patients. That suit claimed that “FDA lacked the authority to approve the drug, did not adequately study the medication and that the drug is unsafe.”

Kacsmaryk chose to accept the unsupported claims by Alliance Defending Liberty rather than the raft of studies showing mifepristone’s safety. In his 67-page ruling, he went out of the way to berate the FDA and to claim that the agency had “acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns—in violation of its statutory duty” because of political pressure.

The Biden administration will certainly appeal the ruling, but one of the reasons abortion groups love to go to Kacsmaryk is that any appeal from him ends up in the Fifth Circuit. That court was described inEsquire as “the blown fuse of American jurisprudence.” Or, as The Washington Post explains.

The arrival of a half-dozen judges picked by President Donald Trump—many of them young, ambitious and outspoken—has put the court at the forefront of resistance to the Biden administration’s assertions of legal authority and to the regulatory power of federal agencies. Their rulings have at times broken with precedent and exposed rifts among the judges, illustrating Trump’s lasting legacy on the powerful set of federal courts that operate one step below the Supreme Court. Even some veteran conservatives on the court have criticized the newcomers for going too far.

The next step from there is the Supreme Court … the same court that tossed five decades of rights out the window in 2022.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ken Cuccinelli

Trump Officials Tell Grand Jury He Tried To Illegally Seize Voting Machines

The federal grand jury seated by special counsel Jack Smith has reportedly heard additional testimony from former Homeland Security officials about Donald Trump’s efforts to seize voting machines following the 2020 election. CNN reports that both former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and former Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli testified that Trump went ahead with plans to seize the machines even though they repeatedly told him that he did not have this authority.

A report in January revealed that Trump had drafted at least two versions of an executive order in December 2020, directing the military to seize voting machines after discussions with convicted former national security advisor Michael Flynn and retired Col. Phil Waldron. Waldron was also the author of an extensive presentation in which he claimed that the voting machines had been tampered with by foreign governments. He urged Trump to declare a national emergency and use U.S. marshals and National Guard troops to manage a “secure” election. Trump and Waldron reportedly had multiple meetings with Trump and took his “how to overthrow democracy” slideshow around Washington, where it was played for Republican members of Congress, who were eager to participate.

The latest testimony apparently focused on Wolf and Cuccinelli telling the jury that Trump continued in these efforts even though they told him repeatedly he did not have the authority to seize the machines. Additional testimony on the subject came from former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, but this was reportedly given to investigators in a closed-door meeting, not to the jury.

All of this testimony shows that Smith’s investigation is focusing heavily on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election that extended beyond the specific scheme on Jan. 6.

As CBS notes, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Trump could not shield former staff members from testifying before the grand jury under claims of executive privilege. That ruling is likely to mean that Cuccinelli, Wolf, and O’Brien will spend more time with the grand jury. It will also mean that Mark Meadows and others who have previously avoided such testimony are likely out of options.

Much of this testimony appears to be new information not heard in either Trump’s impeachment trial or previous investigations.

The House Select Committee did have one of the drafts of Trump’s executive order, one that ordered the Department of Defense to take charge of the voting machines. That order contained a vast collection of improbable and unsupportable claims, including that the voting machines had been altered by “a massive cyber-attack by foreign interests,” that the machines “intentionally generated high number of errors,” and that voter databases could not be trusted because they had been “hacked by Iran.” It also leans heavily on a “forensic analysis,” which actually confused counties in Michigan and Minnesota. The order ended by instructing officials to take seven steps, starting with:

“Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records...”

That the jury is hearing this testimony means that Smith is interpreting his writ beyond the narrow confines of just how Trump’s actions contributed to violence on Jan. 6 but all the ways that Trump sought to undermine the election. It’s also unlikely that the jury would be hearing this testimony unless Smith thought there was a good possibility that it would support criminal charges.

Now that the appeals court has removed another layer of doubt around whether or not Trump could halt some testimony—no, he can’t—Cipollone and O’Brien are also likely to be asked about an infamous Oval Office meeting in mid-December. That was the “rancorous meeting” at which Trump, Flynn, attorney Sidney Powell, and others launched so deeply into sedition that even Mark Meadows reportedly turned away. Cipollone and O’Brien were reportedly first-hand witnesses to that event.

Between Waldron’s military coup presentation, attorney John Eastman’s plan for declaring Trump the winner on Jan. 6, the Jeffrey Clark plan to replace the attorney general and declare the vote invalid in several states, the scheme laid out for Pence to simply ignore the vote in seven states, and straight out calls for violence and threats on Jan. 6, Trump tested the waters on just about every illegal option he could use to make himself dictator. Smith has plenty to look at.

All that came after every possible legal remedy, including requests for recounts, were rejected, and it’s not even considering the efforts Trump made in deliberately leaning on local officials in Georgia.

If a federal grand jury is hearing testimony, it’s because Jack Smith thinks they need to hear it. They’re likely to hear a lot more.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Nick Fuentes

Feds Probed Neo-Nazis Fuentes And Gionet But Never Charged Them

When text messages from FBI agents involved in looking into connections between Donald Trump and Russia revealed that some of those agents made comments very similar to what Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, or Marco Rubio were saying at the same time, Republicans went into full “lock ‘em up” mode, insisting that not liking Trump was sure evidence of an FBI conspiracy.

Strangely enough, none of those Republicans seem to be upset about FBI texts and emails showing that some agents expressed sympathy for those who smashed their way into the Capitol on January 6. Or how some even suggested they might join in. That’s not a conspiracy, as far as Republicans are concerned. It’s just proof that those poor folks who wanted to overturn the government and string up Mike Pence were in the right.

Now an article in The New York Times shows that not only were some of the FBI agents involved empathetic with the people they were supposed to be investigating, the Justice Department never acted on some of the evidence those investigations produced. That included the DOJ apparently dropping a case of conspiracy involving white supremacist Nick Fuentes and racist conspiracy livestreamer “Baked Alaska.”

The agent involved, Nicole Miller, was one of those who expressed empathy for the Jan. 6 suspects she was investigating. She texted another agent, “Is it bad i almost kind of feel bad for [New York Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola]” and said she felt bad about his kids. However, this expression of empathy didn’t stop Agent Miller from collecting evidence that showed how a whole host of Proud Boys had been involved in planning events on Jan. 6.

[Note: If you haven’t been following along, Brandi Buchman has continued her coverage of the Proud Boys’ trial over at emptywheel.]

At the same time she was digging through this web of connections, Miller put together evidence of another conspiracy:

In a separate matter, she was also working on a never-filed conspiracy indictment against the white nationalist Nick Fuentes and one of his allies, the far-right troll Anthime Gionet, better known by his nickname Baked Alaska.

While Miller’s work on the Proud Boys, and the grueling pace she put in to handle everything involved with these sprawling operations, dominates the article, this is the only mention of Fuentes and Gionet. That’s because, as the article notes, the case Miller investigated was never charged.

It’s not that both got clean away. Gionet foolishly blew up his own plea deal involving his actions on Jan. 6, but he still ended up with just a 60 day sentence. On the other hand, Fuentes, who among other things stood before the crowd on Jan. 6 and gave a speech that included “It is the American people, and our leader, Donald Trump, against everybody else in this country and this world” and “Our Founding Fathers would get in the streets, and they would take this country back by force if necessary. And that is what we must be prepared to do,” was never charged. He would go on to an infamous meeting with Donald Trump and Kayne West at Mar-a-Lago in November, 2022.

If Miller actually collected evidence that would have supported conspiracy charges against Gionet and Fuentes, what was that evidence? Why were they never charged? A conspiracy charge would have certainly generated a more lengthy sentence for Gionet, and might have seen violent white supremacist Fuentes finally facing a day in court.

It’s common practice for the Justice Department not to reveal people who are under investigation, in order to minimize the impact if they turn out to be innocent. But in this case we know who was under investigation, we know why they were under investigation, we know who carried out the investigation.

What did Miller find? And why was it never charged?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Former President Donald Trump

Why Trump's Defenders Hesitate To Pronounce The Words 'Not Guilty'

With the news on Thursday that a grand jury in New York had indicted Donald Trump, Republicans erupted into universal support of law-breaking. Whether it was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tearfully soliciting additional funds so Trump wouldn’t need to pay his legal bills, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis admitting that he has never read the Constitution, or the entire cast of Fox News falling down the Q rabbit hole to talk about how “they” are laying a trap for Trump supporters, there was one thing that those screaming about the horror of Trump’s indictment never said.

They never said Trump wasn’t guilty.

Of course, none of them have seen the charges against Trump, much less one sentence of the evidence. They don’t know what the grand jury heard. But they don’t need to. Because for Republicans, it’s not about the law. It never is.

In response to Trump’s indictment, Republicans have declared that the U.S. is now a “police state,” told people to be ready with their AR-15s, and made endless attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Speaker Kevin McCarthy called Trump’s indictment “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” and every right-wing pundit and politician in piling on a description of Bragg as a pawn of George Soros. In case this isn’t clear, what they’re saying is that Bragg is a Black man who was supported by Jews, so he’s not allowed to charge an important white man.

But again, no one is claiming that Trump is clearly innocent. That would be hard to do since, going back to the Mueller Report, investigators reported that they had “uncovered evidence of potential wire fraud and FECA violations pertaining to Michael Cohen.” The charging documents in Cohen’s own indictment made Trump’s involvement in these crimes blindingly obvious.

That evidence pointed straight at “Individual 1,” the not so coded code name used for Trump during the investigation. It was Individual 1 who arranged six-figure payments to both adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougal to keep them quiet about affairs with Trump. The investigation showed that, in spite of his denials, Trump had always been aware of the payments.

It was also Individual 1 who arranged a “catch-and-kill” deal with National Enquirer, in which the tabloid cut a check for McDougal’s story under the pretense of publishing it, then buried the story behind an exclusivity agreement.

These actions included clear violations of campaign and accounting laws. Cohen was found guilty on eight counts of tax evasion and campaign finance violations made at the express request of Trump and with Trump’s involvement. That has always been clear.

However, the federal investigation never got around to charging Trump. Two years ago, the Associated Press reported that the federal case against Trump related to these charges “was dead,” and that no one else was following up.

An attorney for one key witness described the investigation as “dead,” adding prosecutors have even returned certain evidence they collected — a likely indication no one else will be charged. The attorney spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors have not discussed the case publicly.

Why would prosecutors not follow up on what appeared to be a slam-dunk case involving the person behind a crime that had already been successfully prosecuted and charged? Well … reasons.

One current and one former law enforcement official told the AP that factors beyond presidential immunity prevented Trump from being charged for his role in buying the silence of Karen McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said they’d had extramarital affairs with him.

There you go. Two anonymous officials, one of them retired, said there were “factors” that prevented Trump from being charged, but they wouldn’t talk about what those factors might be.

But even these sorry, we can’t charge him, and we can’t tell you why officials didn’t make any pretense that Trump didn’t commit the crime. Because he did. it’s just that, because reasons, he can’t be charged.

Now that Trump has been indicted, everyone Republican seems to be screaming that this is the worst day ever in the history of days, but they’re not coming any closer to explaining just why Trump should not face charges for things he clearly did.

And again, we don’t even know what those charges will be. Most seem to be assuming that Bragg will charge Trump with state charges related to falsifying business records when he shuffled the books around to hide his payments to Daniels and McDougal. The list might include one or more violations of campaign finance law.

However, it’s worth noting that the last witness called before the grand jury wasn’t Michael Cohen, it was David Pecker, the CEO of the company behind National Enquirer, who was granted immunity back in 2018 specifically so investigators could learn about Trump’s involvement with the deal to silence McDougal. That makes it seem that at least some of the charges against Trump might be related to his role in this scam.

It seems likely that the full list of charges against Trump will include violating federal campaign laws, but there may be other things coming that no one is really anticipating. One of those is almost certainly the charge that was the first one laid against Cohen—tax fraud. It’s entirely possible that all the charges against Trump are state charges for tax fraud or accounting fraud, with no federal campaign component at all.

Or the grand jury might have heard testimony about how Trump shot a sheriff, stole a car, and beat up children. We simply don’t know. Neither do all the Republicans screaming in outrage.

But Lindsey Graham thinks he has a solution.

Sound legal advice there from Mr. Graham. Trump should give it a try.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Rudy Giuliani

Kooky Giuliani Claims George Soros, 92, Personally Tried To Kill Him At Airport

George Soros is a 92-year-old Jewish Hungarian immigrant who escaped the Nazi occupation of his homeland, and who huddled in a basement during the 1945 Russian siege of Budapest before escaping to France and then England. While enrolling as a student, Soros worked as a waiter and as a railway porter and has often said he was encouraged into a life of philanthropy when he received £40 from a Quaker charity with the help of a teacher at his school. In 1956, already a successful investment banker, Soros moved to the United States on what he expected to be a temporary assignment for his British company. He’s been in the U.S. ever since.

Oh, and apparently he tried to kill Rudy Giuliani on the tarmac of an airport in Ukraine.

We know this because, as The Washington Post reports, Giuliani laid out the murder scheme on his podcast. Giuliani was back in Ukraine along with One America News “personality” Chanel Rion in 2019. That ran afoul of Soros’ infinite network of agents, who apparently had the power to “cause trouble.” That sent Giuliani in search of escape by private plane only to learn at the last moment (dum dum dum) that Soros owned the airport! As the plane is just getting ready to leave the runway, a sinister vehicle pulls up with Soros himself inside.

GIULIANI: “It’s like right out of Casablanca, and his car—and, actually, she saw him.

Thankfully, Giuliani and Rion escape at the last moment from Soros’ evil clutches. Though Giuliani thinks they have a picture of the car. Maybe.

This particular trip to Ukraine came months after Donald Trump had tried to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into lying about then-candidate Joe Biden. Giuliani's claims about Biden’s actions in Ukraine had already been debunked repeatedly by that point, but when you’re knowingly trying to get people to lie, what difference does a debunking make?

We’ve all seen Rudy Giuliani. It makes perfect sense that he might be terrified of a physical confrontation with a 92-year-old. But of course, it’s pretty easy to confirm that Soros wasn’t there, doesn’t own the airport, and also doesn’t control the Ukrainian government. None of that matters, anyway.

Here are Donald Trump and dozens of other Republicans claiming that New York Attorney General Alvin Bragg is controlled by Soros.

Here’s Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claiming that Soros is trying to take over the government of Texas.

Here’s former Rep. David Brat claiming that Act Blue is a “Soros-funded resistance group.”

Here’s a San Diego prosecutor accusing Soros of “funding anti-fascists to increase crime,” and specifically of being behind “antifa” protestors who brawled with Trump supporters at a rally.

Here’s Candace Owens insisting that Soros owns Black Lives Matters and pays people to protest.

Here’s The New York Post declaring Soros “the most dangerous man in America” and a whole stack of people, starting with Breitbart, claiming that Soros promised to “destroy America.”

If that last one sounds like it should be the capper for all this, hang on, because transcripts of testimony released in January feature one of the founders of QAnon declaring that the right has been duped by … well, take it away, Jim Watkins:

A: Well, QAnon is a boogeyman that's invented by the propaganda wing of likely—you know, I don't know who's running it, but I know that George Soros finances it.

Watkins even insists there is a secret paragraph that if included in a story will guarantee a check from Soros. Frustratingly, he doesn’t share that paragraph.

But wait! That’s not all.

Here’s Alex Jones also claiming that Soros and the Southern Poverty Law Center hired actors to "dress up as white supremacists" and stage the deadly racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Seriously, it does go on. Including into claims that Soros was secretly a Nazi. Because of course it does. He’s also been tied to the Rothschilds, the Freemasons, and the Illuminati, as well as that big Jewish shadow government that the right wing knows is out there.

Funding criminals, creating QAnon, running antifa and Black Lives Matter, just generally being very dangerous and Jewish … Soros is in more places than Savoir Faire. (You don’t have to be as old as Soros to get that joke, but it helps.)

Which is all pretty amazing for a guy who up until 2003 was as likely to donate to a Republican candidate as a Democratic one. Soros—in spite of his increasing wealth—only sporadically gave a donation to candidates or organizations associated with either party. Instead, he concentrated on helping to fund nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that brought assistance to countries emerging from authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe.

However, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq spurred Soros to donate millions to organizations such as MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress in an effort to defeat Bush’s reelection. Since then, he’s donated over $32 billion to nonprofit organizations, leaving himself with a net worth around $8 billion and earning him the title of “the most generous giver” on Forbes’list of philanthropists.

Most of that money has gone out through the Open Society Foundations, which primarily serve as a conduit for grants to NGOs in 37 countries. The stated goals are support of “advancing justice, education, public health and independent media.” In practice, Open Society has provided donations to many groups seeking to help immigrants, promote racial equality, and to oppose authoritarian governments.

So put it all together and George Soros is a Jewish immigrant who is trying to help other immigrants, fight authoritarianism, end racism, and promote transparency. Little wonder he has become a boogeyman for the right.

New conspiracies featuring Soros pop up with such frequency that sites like Reuters have a running update on the latest Soros-themed claims. Wikipedia has not just a Soros page and an Open Society page, but a George Soros Conspiracies page. PolitiFact debunked no fewer than 92 Soros conspiracies—one for every year of his life.

If you’re wondering what the right is going to do when Soros is gone, don’t worry. To misquote Jeff Goldblum, antisemitism always finds a way.

In the meantime, if Soros could take the time out to fight the 78-year-old Giuliani, that would be quality television.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

As Scope Of Trump's Lies Emerges, Georgia Indictment Appears More Likely

Donald Trump’s infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger included a whole series of false claims, threats, and obvious efforts to drag him into a conspiracy. A second call to Raffensperger’s office, heard by members of a Fulton County grand jury, added still more lies. Among the claims that Trump made was one in which he insisted “dead people voted.” Trump told Raffensperger that his team had done the research and produced the evidence to support this claim.

“They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number,” said Trump, “and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters.”

As The Washington Post reports, Trump really did have a study in hand from researchers he had hired to look at the results in Georgia and deliver an analysis. However, what that report found was not what Trump claimed. The number his researchers had uncovered suggested that the maximum number of votes that might have been cast using the identity of dead Georgians was “23 such votes across the Peach State.” That’s roughly 5,000 short of the 5,000 Trump claimed.

This is only one of the bald-faced lies Trump told in that conversation, and it’s just one of several equally egregious falsehoods Trump and his team have tried to pass off in state after state. It’s also one of the reasons Trump’s legal team is now sweating the obvious: that grand jury in Georgia is likely to deliver an indictment.

As a number of grand jury cases connected with Donald Trump push toward possible time in court, more and more evidence is leaking to the public that shows just how much effort Trump put into finding some evidence of voter fraud, and just how much lying he was willing to do when that evidence failed to appear.

Last September, it became clear that an internal report prepared at Donald Trump’s order had failed to support claims of any issue with voting machines even as Trump’s attorneys were in court claiming that Dominion and Smartmatic were secretly using the same software, that Dominion had been founded to serve former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chávez, that the machines were funded by George Soros, and that Dominion’s leadership had connections to antifa activists.

However, all of these claims had already been debunked by that internal report prepared expressly for Trump. As The New York Times reported then, it’s not as if the people making statements in court were unaware of the findings. They just hid them.

The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.

In recent weeks, it’s become increasingly clear that Trump is terrified. He’s been using his social media accounts to attack investigations into his lies about the election, investigations into his connection to Jan. 6, investigations into tax fraud, and investigations into crimes associated with his payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The increasing frequency and vehemence of these posts shows just how certainly Trump seems to believe papers are coming to his door. And soon.

The report viewed by the Post shows that Trump knew his actions in almost every state where his “elite legal team” was clogging the courts were based on outright lies. In Nevada, Trump’s lawyers went to court claiming that 1,506 ballots were “cast in the names of dead people.” Trump’s own investigators actually indicated a number of around 20. And this number is likely too high.

Even the small number of potentially ineligible ballots that the Trump report claims were cast by dead people may be an overestimation. It is not uncommon for a small number of voters to cast ballots early or by mail and then die before Election Day. Those ballots are typically counted, and considered legally cast, because of the difficulty of tracking and retrieving the votes in such a short time frame.

The fact that Trump didn’t just lie to state officials, but did so intentionally and in absolute contradiction to the evidence that had been given to him, is another reason why the case in Fulton County, Georgia, is expected to end with charges. In every state, the researchers that Trump hired found no evidence of widespread fraud, and no reason not to support the numbers that the state reported.

Trump knew he was lying from the outset. So did his legal team. But they lied anyway—to the public, to Congress, to state officials, and in court.

On Friday, Trump pumped out a 90-second rant warning his supporters that Democrats are aiming to “steal” the 2024. In addition to repeating all the elements of the Big Lie, Trump warns that “the DOJ should stop” and that “Republicans in Congress are watching closely.”

If watching this is hard to tolerate, just imagine he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit. Trump is certainly thinking about it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Witness Reveals GOP Scheme To Sabotage 1980 Iran Hostage Release

New Witness Reveals GOP Scheme To Sabotage 1980 Iran Hostage Release

Ben Barnes is 84, but in 1980 he was the youngest speaker of the Texas youngest speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and on his way to becoming lieutenant governor. He was also a close ally of former Texas Gov. John Connally. At Connolly’s request, Barnes took on a very special role in 1980—travel the Middle East and convince Iran to not release U.S. hostages, so that Ronald Reagan could beat Jimmy Carter.

As The New York Times reports, Barnes has sat on this story for the last 43 years. However, with President Carter currently in hospice care, Barnes has decided to reveal the plot, and the role he played in sabotaging Carter’s campaign.

“History needs to know that this happened,” said Mr. Barnes. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”

The plot was simple enough. Connally and Barnes traveled “to one Middle Eastern capital after another” over the summer of 1980, as U.S. hostages were being held in Tehran. On every one of those stops, they passed along the same message for the new leadership in Iran: Don’t make a deal with Carter. Wait for Reagan. He’ll give you a much better deal.

When they arrived back in the United States, Connolly checked in with Reagan’s campaign chair, and future Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Casey. For his role in “torpedoing” Carter’s chance at reelection, Connolly hoped to be rewarded with the job of Secretary of State. He was not.

Completely ignored in this strategy was that every day of captivity put the lives and health of the hostages in Iran at risk. In addition, the military planned and attempted to execute a rescue operation in which eight U.S. service members died and another four were injured. Prolonging the crisis created a risk every day to the lives of those in Iran, and to members of the U.S. military. It also created ongoing harm to U.S. standing abroad and to national security in general.

Previous investigations into suspicions that Iran has been pressured to wait until after the election to make a deal had focused on the idea that Casey met directly with representatives from Iran. They had not focused on Connally or how messages might have been passed along through other officials in the Middle East. Multiple people confirmed that Barnes had told them all or part of the story at the time, and a check of flight records shows that Connally traveled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel in July of 1980 on what he called “private business.”

A note found in Connally’s records, taken in the middle of that trip, shows how closely he was coordinating with the Reagan campaign:

“Nancy Reagan called—they are at Ranch he wants to talk to you about being in on strategy meetings.”

The Iranian government announced the release of the hostages after the election. Jimmy Carter was there to welcome them home on what should have been the first day of his second term, but was instead his last day in office.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos