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

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What Really Happened To Russia’s Moskva — And Its Doomed Crew

No matter what “tankie” Twitter has to say, the U.S. Department of Defense has now confirmed that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva (“Moscow”) sank after being struck by Neptune missiles fired by Ukrainian coastal defense. Honestly, the U.S. was very likely aware of this from before the moment when the missiles struck home, because even if Ukraine controlled the Bayraktar drone that distracted the Moskva’s single radar, someone with very sophisticated equipment (like *cough* a U.S. AWACS plane *cough*) had to inform Ukraine that the Russians were genuinely directing their attention at the drone. So the whole 'gee, we’re not sure, could have been '… 'yes, yes, seems like it was Ukraine' act from the U.S. side was a bit of theater.

With a displacement of over 12,000 tons and a length greater than two football fields, the Moskva was a large ship. In fact, it may be the largest ship to go down in war since World War II. Argentina lost the light cruiser General Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982, but even though that ship carried a crew twice the size of the Moskva, it was actually about 3,000 tons lighter and just a smidge shorter.

And there’s another way that the Moskva may be a larger loss.


The Moskva carried a complement of 510, including officers. If 58 is an accurate count of survivors, then 452 men went down with the flagship of the Black Sea fleet. That Argentine ship in 1982 had a crew of 1,138 when a British submarine scored a direct hit with three torpedoes. Over 250 were killed in the resulting explosions. However, as the ship began to list, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship. Life rafts were deployed and, despite increasingly bad weather, rescue vessels later pulled 772 men out of the water. Total losses were 323 killed.

Whatever happened with the Moskva under cloud cover on the Black Sea, it does not seem to have been an orderly evacuation. The loss of crew also seems to be largest recorded since World War II.

At this point, Ukraine estimates that 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Oryx records over 2,900 large pieces of equipment destroyed, including over 500 tanks. Not only has Russia lost the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, it earlier lost the 370’ long, 3,400 ton landing ship Saratov. At least two other large ships have withdrawn from the fight after being damaged in the same attack that set the Saratov on fire, resulting in its sinking.

Most of what is being spread around Russian television is ridiculous, even as propaganda. But those claims that this is already World War III? Measured on a scale of the losses Russia is racking up, they may be right.

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Kremlin Fifth Column: Republicans Give Aid And Comfort To Putin

On Monday, Russian authoritarian ruler Vladimir Putin moved additional Russian forces into Ukraine, declaring that two regions in eastern Ukraine were now “independent republics.” On Tuesday, Putin expanded the scope of the new nations he peremptorily formed out of the territory of a neighboring country, setting up an excuse to occupy a much larger area and engage in direct military conflict with Ukrainian government forces.

In response to Putin’s actions, both the United States and European nations took swift actions. Sanctions have been placed on Russia, making it extremely difficult to finance the country’s debt in international markets. Additional sanctions have been placed on Russian state banks. And, most importantly, completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline—a pipeline that would have carried 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Russia to Germany each year—has been halted. This pipeline would have been a major source of revenue for Russia, which has an economy that is heavily dependent on export of fossil fuels.

But as the world unites in opposition to Russian aggression, there is one notable exception: Republicans. From Donald Trump to Mike Pompeo to Josh Hawley, the same people who were in a hurry to overthrow democracy in America are using this moment to support the destruction of a democratic ally.

Trump’s response came during an interview on Tuesday with Trump-supporting podcaster Buck Sexton.

Trump: "I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius, Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. I said, 'How smart is that?'”

Genius. Wonderful. Smart. That’s what Donald Trump thinks of Putin’s open seizure of property from a U.S. ally. But Trump didn’t stop there. He expressed a wish that some of those Russian tanks should come here.

Trump: “And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper, That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy."

It’s almost as if Trump believes that the puppet show Putin put on for his state-run media fooled everyone. Oh, gee, golly, we have to let Russia go in there and keep the peace for those poor independent republicans, yup, yup, yup.

Putin’s attempt to excuse his actions is a sick joke. Much like Trump.

Also on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hustled out to sing his praises of Putin and undercut the U.S. position. In fact, he’s doing it so well that Pompeo is getting repeat play on Russian state TV.

Pompeo: “Very shrewd. Very capable. I have enormous respect for him.”

And then there was Hawley. A column from Feb. 3 called Hawley “Putin’s new favorite pet” for adopting Russian talking points and urging the nation to turn its back on Ukraine. Or, as The Kansas-City Star puts it: “Insurrection, racism, appeasement: Call it the Hawley Trinity.”

Hawley’s position—if it can be called a position—can be summed up in these two self-contradictory statements:

Hawley: “We have a strong interest in deterring Russian adventurism. But these interests are not so great that we should commit ourselves to fight Russia over Ukraine’s future.”

Appeasement is the order of the day for most Republicans in both politics and media. Here’s Charlie Kirk to complain about Biden calling it “a peacekeeping operation and invasion” and following it up with what might be the Republican theme song of the day.

Kirk: “Who cares? This is a family dispute between two countries. One rather strong, and one very corrupt and weak.”

Sure. When has it ever been a good idea to stop the strong from beating up the weak? That’s certainly not in the Republican world view.

Tucker Carlson, who has been carrying Putin’s water so long that he has almost (almost) developed a muscle, was reliably there for him on Tuesday, insisting that because Putin didn’t call him a racist or start the pandemic, there’s no reason to be mad at him.

According to Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, most Republicans in Congress started out “totally solid on Ukraine” and wanted to push back against Russia. However, “They’re beginning to feel this pressure percolating from their base because [Carlson] is the guy that speaks to more Republicans every day than anyone else in America.”

Carlson’s point is, of course, don’t hate Putin … hate Biden. It’s a point that the House Republicans underscored yesterday when they posted this response to Biden’s speech announcing an initial set of sanctions against Russia, with more to follow.

When they’re not spreading the news that Putin is strong, Biden is weak, and that the United States has no interest in promoting democracy, defending nations against aggressors, or upholding our word to allies, Republicans have taken some time out to make it clear that Ukraine totally deserves it. That “corrupt” that Kirk tossed into his statement was no coincidence. It’s how Republicans are describing Ukraine in statement after statement. And there’s this extraordinary claim from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A day earlier, Greene declared that she wanted to impeach Biden for “threatening war with nuclear Russia.”

It’s not that Republicans don’t want a war. It’s that they’re already waging one—against democracy in the United States. This was what was on Steve Bannon’s mind on Tuesday as he grew concerned over how Russia’s invasion might interfere with issues of real importance.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Is Putin Risking Another Afghan Catastrophe For Russia In Ukraine?

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially sent Russian forces into two eastern regions of Ukraine. The move came after Russia staged a series of events meant to provide a pretext for first recognizing, then occupying, two regions within Ukraine. As of Tuesday morning, Russia has sent forces into what it is calling the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics while additional Russian forces continue to surround and threaten larger invasions of Ukraine.

On Tuesday afternoon, the United States issued harsh new sanctions against Russia. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the European Union is also levying sanctions intended to strike directly at Russian politicians, as well as financial institutions. And in what may be the most significant move, CNN reports that Germany is halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline—a measure that could cost Russia hundreds of billions. The Ukrainian government is welcoming this news as a sign of the unified support against Russia.

The United States provided an official diplomatic response in remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “He calls them peacekeepers,” Thomas-Greenfield said of the forces Putin has sent into Ukraine. “This is nonsense. We know what they really are.”


An internal debate continues over whether to term the current state of affairs an invasion. That is in part because of a desire to distinguish troop movements so far from a broad military strike aimed to take parts of the country that were not already largely controlled by Russian puppet forces. It is also partly because Russian forces have unofficially been in and out of these regions for years, training, supplying, and working with the separatist militias, providing them with equipment like the ground-to-air missile used to shoot down a civilian passenger plane in 2014.

Putin could try to take the territories he has already occupied and solidify his control over them, as he did with Crimea in 2014. Or, as now seems more likely, he could use those territories to create further justification for invading all of Ukraine. Neither situation is acceptable, and Putin’s war of conquest is going to prove extremely costly. For everyone.

Germany’s halting of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline fulfills a promise that President Joe Biden made at a Feb. 7 news conference. “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again,” said Biden, “then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it … I promise you we will be able to do it.” At the time, there seemed to be considerable doubt that Germany and other nations heavily dependent on Russian gas would go along with this idea, but Biden has worked tirelessly to restore alliances, pull NATO together, and present a unified front against Putin’s actions.

Putin’s pre-invasion theater includes transparently false charges of “aggression” by the Ukrainian government along with scenes of supposed civilian occupation, some of which appear to have been filmed days in advance. None of this even comes close to passing the smell test with an international audience. However, these scenes appear to have been staged mostly for the benefit of Putin’s domestic audience. Considering that Putin likely staged the bombing of apartment buildings in order to justify the Second Chechen War, this disinformation campaign at least comes with a relatively small body count—so far.

As Russian forces moved in, it seemed to be hoped that the Ukrainian government might respond with some military action that could be used to justify an all-out invasion. However, it’s unlikely that Putin will allow the lack of an actual confrontation to get in the way of taking further aggressive action.

Some of the efforts at creating a pretext for the invasion of Ukraine may come from what The Washington Post calls “surprising cracks” in Putin’s domestic support. Those cracks were visible even in Putin’s televised meeting with his security council. Even though the meeting was mostly slickly produced and clearly as scripted as those scenes of Ukrainian families being trucked into Russia for “protection,” there were moments when some of Putin’s advisers appeared to wander off script, generating anger from the Russian dictator as he pushed each to support the preordained outcome.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called the meeting a “gathering of dotards and thieves” and pointed out its similarities to the meeting that must have preceded the Soviet Union’s decision to invade Afghanistan using the similar pretext of supporting local elements. “The result was hundreds of thousands of victims,” wrote Navalny. He reminded readers that the cost of this invasion—politically, militarily, and economically—was “one of the key reasons for the collapse of the USSR.”

Navalny expressed the belief held by many both inside and outside Russia that Putin is focusing on Ukraine as a means of diverting attention from his complete failure to deliver the kind of economic opportunities he has promised to Russia for decades. Despite trillions of dollars in income from oil and gas exports, little of those funds have been used to diversify or expand Russia’s economic base. Instead, the nation continues to be an oligarchic kleptocracy, pinned solidly at the bottom of the list when it comes to personal incomes or economic growth in Europe.

“We have everything for powerful development in the 21st century, from oil to educated citizens, but we will lose money again and squander the historical chance for a normal rich life for the sake of war, dirt, lies, and the palace with golden eagles in Gelendzhik,” writes Navalny. “To fight for Russia, to save it, means to fight for the removal of Putin and his kleptocrats from power.”

But if there are schisms in Russia and a unified front against Putin’s aggression in Europe, that’s harder to find in the pages of American newspapers. Instead, The Wall Street Journal is running a morning editorial declaring that Putin has “outfoxed” western leaders and The New York Times is studiously repeating Putin’s claims that Ukraine is just another part of Russia with the same kind of disingenuous guile that is regularly applied to Donald Trump.

However, the U.S. embassy in Kyiv had a deft response to claims about the appropriate relationship between Russia and Ukraine.

And Thomas-Greenfield made clear that this is not a case where Putin can now just sit back in a position of strength and contemplate if he wants to eat Ukraine whole today, or simply continue to eat it in bite-sized portions. No one has been “outfoxed,” and this is all a long way from over.

“History tells us that looking the other way in the face of such hostility will be a far more costly path. Russia’s clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unprovoked. It is an attack on Ukraine’s status as a UN Member State, it violates a basic principle of international law, and it defies our Charter. What is more, this move by President Putin is clearly the basis for Russia’s attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine. The consequences of this action will be felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Judge Strikes Trump's Immunity Claim, Allowing January 6 Civil Lawsuits

In an expansive 112-page ruling on Friday, D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled that Donald Trump is not immune from being sued over his actions related to January 6, and that court cases against Trump—as well as members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers white supremacist militias—may proceed.

Dealing with a series of lawsuits as a group, Judge Mehta wrote, “The court holds that all Plaintiffs have plausibly established Article III standing, President Trump is not absolutely immune from suit …” Mehta also dismissed the idea that a lawsuit against Trump automatically became a “political question” that couldn’t be dealt with in court, as well as claims from Trump’s attorneys that he couldn’t be tried because he had been acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial.

Judge Mehta agreed to halt proceedings against Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani related to the speeches they gave at the rally preceding the assault on the Capitol. The judge also offered Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) a prescription by which he can avoid legal repercussions from his militant speech that appeared to encourage violence. In all three cases, ruled Judge Mehta, even though the speakers used phrases that could easily be connected to later violence at the Capitol — such as Giuliani calling for “trial by combat” — everything they said was still protected under the First Amendment because they didn’t call for immediate and specific action.

That wasn’t true for Trump. Not only did Trump call for his followers to “fight,” he did so in direct connection with calling for them to march on the Capitol, and with full knowledge that he was attempting to interfere with finalizing the Electoral College vote.

Mehta made it extremely clear that he understood the consequences of this ruling, the context of the legal questions, and the scrutiny it will face.

“To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent, and the court believes that its decision is consistent with the purposes behind such immunity...”

The only section of the suits where Mehta ruled in Trump’s favor was related to a portion of the suit brought by Rep. Eric Swalwell. That section dealt with claims against Trump for his failure to take action to halt the insurgents, or to bring in additional law enforcement or National Guard to end the threat. This, ruled Judge Mehta, involved questions about Trump acting in his official capacity. As a result, these actions are immune from scrutiny in a civil suit.

That doesn’t apply to Trump’s speech on January 6. Trump’s attorneys had insisted that public speaking was a part of the role of the presidency. Mehta agreed. However …

“But to say that speaking on matters of public concern is a function of the presidency does not answer the question at hand: Were President Trump’s words in this case uttered in performance of official acts, or were his words expressed in some other, unofficial capacity? The President’s proposed test—that whenever and wherever a President speaks on a matter of public concern he is immune from civil suit—goes too far.”

In this case, Mehta focused on Trump’s insistence that his followers march on the Capitol — an action that was not included under the permit for the January 6 rally. In ordering his followers to march, and telling them to fight, Trump was telling them to violate the terms of the permit and encouraging them to engage in violence. That was particularly true because Trump had called for militia groups, like his co-defendants the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, to come to the event and he knew they were present on that day.

Trump’s attorneys had insisted that Trump’s calls to “fight” were nullified by the single time that he mentioned that this should be a “peaceful” event. Mehta also didn’t agree with this statement.

“The President’s passing reference to “peaceful and patriotic” protest cannot inoculate him against the conclusion that his exhortation, made nearly
an hour later, to “fight like hell” immediately before sending rally-goers to the Capitol, within the context of the larger Speech and circumstances, was not protected expression.”

A ruling that any speech goes beyond First Amendment protection is extremely rare, because to do so a speech must not only encourage violence, but encourage specific and nearly immediate violence. But Mehta’s ruling states that Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 — bolstered by the pressure he had applied to get state leaders to overturn the election results, his efforts to push Mike Pence into refusing his Constitutional role, and his attempts to gather violent white supremacists to his cause — fully met that test.

“He called for thousands ‘to fight like hell’ immediately before directing an unpermitted march to the Capitol, where the targets of their ire were at work, knowing that militia groups and others among the crowd were prone to violence.”

Judge Mehta also noted that Trump’s tweets on that day appeared to “ratify” the violence, indicating that the assault on the Capitol was the outcome he had wanted. That included a message Trump sent while insurgents were inside the Capitol criticizing Pence for “not having the courage to do what should be done to protect our Country,” which encourage those already calling for Pence’s execution.

“It is reasonable to infer that the President would have understood the impact of his tweet, since he had told rally-goers earlier that, in effect, the Vice President was the last line of defense against a stolen election outcome. The President also took advantage of the crisis to call Senator Tuberville; it is reasonable to think he did so to urge delay of the Certification.”

Trump started the insurgents on their way, encouraged them when they were involved in the assault, and tried to use the assault for personal advantage.

Mehta also took note of Trump’s tweet from later that afternoon.

“And then, around 6:00 PM, after law enforcement had cleared the building, the President issued the following tweet: ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!’ A reasonable observer could read that tweet as ratifying the violence and other illegal acts that took place at the Capitol only hours earlier.”

Overall, the ruling from Mehta — which is even more dismissive of the objections raised by attorneys for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — doesn’t just keep the door open for civil action against Trump, it’s a quick reference for what should be future criminal action.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ted Cruz Leads GOP Senators In Defending Violent Airline Passengers From Sanctions

A quick review of some of the behavior seen on airlines over the last two years. There was …

The most terrible thing may be that these are just a few of the 5,981 reports logged by the Federal Aviation Administration in the last year. Out of these, a horrific 4,290 incidents were passengers who turned to violence or other disruptive behavior that delayed, diverted, or turned around a flight for one reason: refusing to wear a mask.

There’s something else that all these ear-biting, incontinent, violent assholes have in common: The support of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and at least seven other Republican senators. Those senators are opposing placing those who have violently disrupted airline flights on a no-fly list, because they claim such a list would draw an equivalence between terrorists and those who react with violence to being asked to wear a mask for the safety of others. And on that point, the Republicans are exactly right; that equivalence isn’t just there, it’s well deserved.

As The Washington Post reports, the eight Republicans dispatched a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. In that letter, Republicans claim they “strongly condemn” violence toward airline workers, but they don’t want the good names of people who are biting, punching, and peeing their way through American skies to be damaged. Or their ability to do it again to be threatened.

Cruz & Co. argue that the Department of Justice can’t use the Transportation Security Administration to block those who have brought an unprecedented rate of violence and disruption to the air because the agency is intended to guard against “future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights.”

In other words, because one guy—in England, in 2001—put a small amount of explosives in his shoes, we can still be told to remove our shoes before boarding flights an ocean and 20 years away. But 5,000 people beating up airline attendants, biting other passengers, and causing flight delays and diversions isn’t even worth keeping those same people off the next available flight.

Of course, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Cancun Cruz would be a big defender of passengers behaving badly:

Among the others, Sen. Mike Lee was out there trying to lift the mask requirement from all public transportation in June 2021 at a point when vaccines had barely become available to most Americans and both delta and omicron were still just symbols on fraternity walls.

Sen. James Lankford went from urging Republicans to wear masks, even at a Trump rally, to spreading conspiracy theories about how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed mask guidelines.

And then there’s Sen. Marco Rubio, who made “protecting children from masks” a part of his campaign theme, has repeatedly insisted that masks are only for those who are “no mood to get even a little sick,” and both attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci for not insisting on masks more forcefully and declared that wearing a mask is a “fetish.”

Unsurprisingly, the set of eight Republicans who signed onto this letter to Garland is a pretty good match to those who have also signed onto going-nowhere legislation that would have both condemned mask mandates and criticized the CDC for not being more effective on getting more masks. Presumably for fetishists.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump’s Accountants Warn His Financial Data Isn't Reliable — And Quit

In one of the most remarkable events of the entire investigation into Donald Trump’s hyperinflated worth, his own accounting firm has now effectively fired him as a client. In a letter to Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten, accounting firm Mazars USA informs team Trump that they can no longer stand behind numbers they’ve been putting out because information provided by the New York attorney general, as well as Mazar’s own investigations, shows that data it got from Trump Organization was not reliable.

The accountants have informed Trump’s company that the last ten years' worth of financial records should “no longer be relied upon.” They’ve also told the Trump Organization that “you should inform any recipients thereof who are currently relying upon one or more of those documents that those documents should not be relied upon.” Telling everyone that he can’t be trusted will surely go straight to the top of Trump’s agenda.

The firm has not just determined that it has to disown ten years of reports, but declares that it will no longer work with Trump. “We have also reached the point such that there is a non-waiveable conflict of interest with the Trump Organization,” wrote Mazars. “As a result, we are not able to provide any new work product to the Trump Organization.” In other words, accounting firm Mazars USA has completed their last task related to the Trump Organization—a bulk purchase of ten-foot poles.

In the middle of a legal battle claiming that Trump has been fudging the numbers on his real estate “empire,” the people who are responsible for vetting those numbers have taken a second look and declared an official “Oh, sh#t.” Which seems like it should be concerning.

Trump will surely get right on spreading the word that he can’t be trusted. As soon as he gets past the ludicrous claim, relayed by The Wall Street Journal that because its own accounting was worthless, this “effectively renders the investigations by the D.A. and A.G. moot.”

Oddly, New York Attorney General Letitia James doesn’t seem to agree. As The Daily Beast reports, the response of the attorney geneal's office to the letter from Mazars was filing it in support of their case against Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. Her office is also calling on all three to “testify about how so many family real estate development projects and properties had wildly fluctuating values that seemed high whenever they needed loans but low whenever it came time to pay taxes.”

Trump has leaned heavily on Mazars since he began his campaign in 2015. The accounting firm has led the charge in protecting his documents, including appealing attempts to release both more financial information and Trump’s personal tax documents, over and over for five years. The appeal leading to the final decision by the Supreme Court that allowed the Manhattan District Attorney to examine the documents, but continues to hide them from Congress, was officially filed not by Trump, but by Mazars.

Bizarrely, Trump issued a statement that says Mazars' letter “confirms” that “Mazars’ work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards and principles and that such statements of financial condition do not contain any material discrepancies.” Which is the opposite of what the letter actually said. Yes, Mazars produced reports that followed accounting guidelines, but they did so based on unreliable information. Trump’s team seems to be saying, “They have accurately reported the lies we fed them,” so all is well.

Whether or not legal action will result from any of this is still up in the air. In spite of Eric Trump invoking the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times, in spite of lying not just about the value but about the physical size of his own signature building, in spite of Trump’s multiple attempts to kill the investigation, and despite evidence that Trump materially benefited from misstatements about the value of his properties, James has still not decided whether or not to pursue legal action against Trump or his organization.

In January, James tweeted:

“We have uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years.”
None of this has yet led to an actual indictment against Trump. But his own accounting firm desperately paddling in the opposite direction might be a good indicator that the ship is about to sink, and no one wants to be too close when it happens.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump Makes Bonkers Statement About Punishment For Innocent Clinton Aides

Late on Friday, special counsel John Durham filed a shocking document with the court in which he indicted no one for anything. It adds no charges or suspects, and concerns only the technical possibility of a conflict of interest for a law firm which, Durham admits in the opening section, could be addressed with a simple voluntary statement.

Naturally, the right has gone wild over this breakthrough proof of an extensive conspiracy.

Following this procedural request for a motion to “inquire into potential conflicts of interest,” Donald Trump made the only possible response, calling for Hillary Clinton and her whole campaign team to face the death penalty. “In a stronger period of time in our country,” wrote Trump in a statement, “this crime would have been punishable by death.” But apparently, this is a weak time, so no one is likely to hang for the crime of a professional conflict of interest—a possible conflict of interest—that would require a change in attorney. Which is all that Durham is asking for in filing for an inquiry.

The whole court filing has to do with the sole existing charge generated by the expansive, multi-year, multi-million dollar investigation of Michael Sussman, who was indicted in 2021 by a grand jury on a single charge of lying to the FBI. That indictment came because Sussman brought the FBI’s attention to data files that suggested a connection between a server in Trump Tower and a Russian bank and claimed he was not doing this for any client, when in fact his firm had been hired by the Clinton campaign, as well as others.

What does Durham’s new filing add to that case? Exactly nothing.

On the surface, Durham is complaining that Sussman’s attorneys, from the firm Latham and Watkins, have a potential conflict of interest because of a next of shared clients between that firm and Sussman’s firm. That’s it. Durham is asking for a “voluntary waiver” explaining the scope of any connection. Story over.

Except that Durham included in the filing a “Statement of Facts” including a couple of things that did not appear in Sussman’s indictment. Things that don’t appear to be facts at all.

Following the filing, Fox News pundits from Laura Ingraham to Sean Hannity seem to have discovered that Sussman is accused of goading the FBI into looking into potential connections between Trump and Russia. This is being treated as new information that somehow reveals the entire Trump—Russia connection was a setup from the beginning.

There is only one thing wrong with this: Everything.

First, there’s very little new in this highly technical procedural request. The charge against Sussman was fully described six months ago when the original indictment was made. At the time, the Department of Justice even put out a handy announcement explaining that:

“Sussman... met with the FBI General Counsel at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Sussmann had requested the meeting to provide the General Counsel with certain data files and “white papers” that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank. Sussmann, who had previously represented the Democratic National Committee in connection with a cyber hack, falsely stated to the General Counsel that he was not bringing these allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client.”

That’s it. That’s the entire crime in question, and all the details about it have been available for months. It should also be noted that the data that was passed over by Sussman was not connected to any charges leveled against members of Trump’s organization or campaign, and was unconnected to the over 100 meetings between Trump’s team and Russian operatives described in the report compiled by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.

The new filing from Durham doesn’t suggest that anyone else is going to be indicted. It doesn’t suggest that there will be any additional charges against Sussman. It provides only vague additions to the information already included in the earlier indictment. But there is one implication buried in the new document that has generated all that heat on the right and led to Trump’s call to string ‘em all up.

That information involves a second meeting, one that took place between Sussman and the FBI in February 2017. Durham has lodged no charges against Sussman related to that meeting. Not only is it brought up for no apparent reason in this document concerning Sussman’s legal representation, but there’s also an extra implication about that meeting that would change the whole nature of the case.

To understand what it is, the easiest route is to look at the reply filed by Sussman’s attorney. In brief, Sussman’s legal team says that Durham’s “factual background” includes several items that aren’t facts at all.

“Approximately half of this Factual Background provocatively—and misleadingly —describes for the first time Domain Name System (‘DNS’) traffic potentially associated with former President Donald Trump, including data at the Executive Office of the President (‘EOP’), that was allegedly presented to [the CIA] in February 2017. These allegations were not included in the Indictment; these allegations post-date the single false statement that was charged in the Indictment; and these allegations were not necessary to identify any of the potential conflicts of interest with which the Motion is putatively concerned. Why then include them? The question answers itself.”

The answer, says the legal team, is that Durham wants to imply that Sussman was handing over data after Trump took office, and targeting systems belonging to the government. Which, says Sussman’s team, Durham knows is not true.

“... the Special Counsel is well aware that the data provided to [the CIA] pertained only to the period of time before Mr. Trump took office, when Barack Obama was President. Further—and contrary to the Special Counsel’s alleged theory that Mr. Sussmann was acting in concert with the Clinton Campaign—the Motion conveniently overlooks the fact that Mr. Sussmann’s meeting with [the CIA] happened well after the 2016 presidential election, at a time when the Clinton Campaign had effectively ceased to exist.”

Sussman met with the CIA shortly after Trump had already taken office, but brought in data related to the campaign period. That seems like a pretty decent case in support of Sussman’s claim that he was acting only to bring this information to the government’s attention as a good citizen, and not as an agent of a campaign that no longer existed.

This is probably why none of this information was in the indictment. It’s not clear if any of this was ever run past the grand jury, or whether Durham just decided to fling this into the case without ever bothering with that step.

Durham has clearly included in his “factual background” claims not in evidence as part of the indictment, including implications that Sussman went to the CIA with information on official servers from after Trump took office. That claim has been further expanded by right-wing operatives to describe all of this as part of a conspiracy to connect Trump and Russia that began during the campaign and continued after Trump took office; one that involved the Clinton campaign hacking into government servers and planting evidence.

However, missing from this scenario is:

  • Any evidence that the Clinton campaign was involved with Sussman bringing information to the government at any time.
  • Any evidence that anyone ever illegally accessed any server, government or otherwise.
  • Any evidence that the data provided included anything other than information collected before Trump took office.
  • Any evidence that Sussman did more than collect actual data, as provided to him, with nothing added, exaggerated, or falsified in any way.

As Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel has pointed out, this set of additional “facts” was spawned out of a conversation that occurred in 2017. One in which Kash Patel—former Devin Nunes' assistant and eventual chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense—questioned Sussman:

Patel: What was your contact [with the CIA] about?
Sussman: So the contact [with the CIA] was about reporting to them information that was reported to me about possible contacts, covert or at least nonpublic, between Russian entities and various entities in the Untied States associated with the — or potentially associated with the Trump Organization.
Patel: And when did that contact [with the CIA] occur, month and year?
Sussman: February 2017.

As Wheeler rightly points out, this shows Patel has known about this information for over four years. He knew who Sussman talked to. He knew the topic of the conversation. He knew the date. He knew all this when he was absolutely in a position to act on this information as part of the House investigation. He did nothing.

And that’s all that’s in Durham’s document. That’s the “new” information that has the right ready to drag the gallows back onto the Capitol lawn.

Piecing together the “facts” in Durham’s latest filing results in an extraordinary claim associated with that February 2017 meeting. It indirectly claims, or at least heavily implies, that tech specialist Rodney Joffe accessed DNS servers—including those associated with the Executive Office of the President—for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump. But if that’s the case, why isn’t Joffe facing any charges?

Maybe Durham is saving that until, say, October. Because the whole purpose of the document filed last Friday seems to have been nothing more than dribbling one scant drop of water into a right-wing conspiracy theory that has long gone dust dry.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Facing Crackdown, Right-Wing Canadian Truckers Use Kids As 'Human Shields’

As protests in Canada extend into the third weekend, the situation is becoming ever more serious. Not only are the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” targeting U.S.-Canadian border crossings and airports to maximize the level of disruption, but they’ve also deployed their own small children as human shields, risking toddlers in an effort to cause more damage and evade punishment.

As BBC News reports, officials in the province of Ontario have had enough. A state of emergency has been declared, making blocking critical infrastructure subject to arrest, a fine of up to $100,000, and the possibility of a year in jail. Trucks used to blockade access to bridges, airports, and border crossings can be seized, held, and sold at auction.

"There will be consequences, and they will be severe," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “To those who have attempted to disrupt our way of life by targeting our lifeline for food, fuel, and goods across our borders, to those trying to force a political agenda through disruption, intimidation, and chaos, my message to you is this: Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to earn their living."

The cost of the blockades so far has been estimated at $300 million a day.

Ford is a member of Canada’s Conservative Party, and has been an opponent of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, unlike Republicans in the U.S. and authoritarians overseas, who have been able to promote and fund the chaos from a distance, Ford is seeing the damage caused by the blockade close up. He isn’t finding it funny.

In addition to fines and imprisonment, Ford also intends to push for rules that will give the province authority to seize both personal and commercial driving licenses from truckers involved in the protest. Ford doesn’t mention any punishment for those who positioned their toddlers to block a major highway. Information on the situation has been forwarded to the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa. This comes after many people have expressed concern about kids being brought along during the protest and living in unsafe conditions for a period extending into weeks.

Both the protesters and U.S. conservatives rushing to pile on are blaming COVID-19 restrictions in Canada on Trudeau. However, almost all of these restrictions exist only at the provincial level, where both Liberal and Conservative leaders, including Ford, had set out rules on masks and vaccines to meet varying levels of community spread. Most of these restrictions have already been lifted—though the “convoy” and their U.S. supporters continue to pretend otherwise.

As the Associated Press reported on Friday, representatives from President Joe Biden spoke with Trudeau’s government on Thursday and urged federal action to end the truck blockade. Those calls came after several auto plants and other manufacturers in the U.S. were forced to skip shifts or close plants due to a lack of parts coming in from Canadian suppliers.

Plants from Ford, GM, Stellantis, Honda, and Toyota have all been idled. Not only does this mean hundreds of thousands of workers going without pay due to the action of a small number of people along the border, but it’s also exacerbating a continued shortage of new cars. That shortage, caused by supply chain issues including an international shortage of microcontroller chips, was the single largest factor in inflation for 2021, with increasing vehicle prices alone accounting for 2.1% of rising costs. The additional disruption caused by intentional blocking of border crossing can be expected to make these shortages worse.

With the support of Fox News, including lavish attention from pundit Tucker Carlson, a group of U.S. truckers has announced their (vague) intentions to imitate the Canadian protest, with a cross-country “slow roll” designed to make it to Washington D.C. in time to muck up the State of the Union address. Other groups have promised to recreate the action in Europe, with a series of actions that would center on Paris. That has prompted officials across Europe to pass preemptive bans on road blockades that feature both serious prison sentences and heavy fines.

In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has sent out a warning to state law enforcement agencies with reports of the proposed U.S. action and the potential for roads to be blocked in major cities.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump Flushed Documents Down White House Toilet, Shredded And Stole Others

On Tuesday, the National Archives announced that it had located 15 boxes full of documents that should have gone to the archives for evaluation, but instead ended up parked at Donald Trump’s south Florida tribute to tackiness, Mar-a-Lago. On Wednesday evening, The New York Times reported that the boxes have been found to contain possible classified information, which is serving to accelerate calls for an investigation of how all this material ended up traveling in Trump’s luggage, and was never turned over as the law requires.

However, on Thursday morning, Trump put out another of his statements—this one repeating long-exhausted lies that the Clintons had stolen White House furniture and also going on about Hillary Clinton’s emails. In his statement, Trump claims that the Archives “willingly arranged” for the transport of the materials found at Mar-a-Lago, which should be easy to prove. The Presidential Records Act calls for each document to be be submitted to the Archives, evaluated, and released only with written permission of the Archives. So if Trump had permission, he must also have the receipts.

Unless, that is, Trump gave those receipts the treatment that he apparently gave so many other documents. It was already known that Trump had a habit of tearing up documents to leave them in shreds—on his office floor, scattered around Air Force One, and shoved into whatever trash can was closest—a habit that required White House staff to gather up the pieces and officials at the National Archives to tape the documents back together. Now, based on an excerpt from an upcoming book by Times reporter Maggie Haberman as reported by Axios, it seems that Trump also made a habit of attempting to flush his shredded documents down the toilet.

Now we finally know why Trump complained about how hard it was to flush an American toilet. When Trump said, “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” it didn’t make a lot of sense. But then, most people aren’t flushing their conversations with Vladimir Putin.

Thursday, Feb 10, 2022 · 11:50:54 AM EST · Mark Sumner

On obtaining the boxes, the National Archives reached out to the Justice Department for instructions on how to handle what was clearly already a breach of the Presidential Records Act. The Justice Department instructed the Archives to place an inspector general in charge of evaluating the material. That inspector general has now taken the case back to the Department of Justice—a likely indicator that the contents contained classified documents, or evidence of some other egregious violation.

The revelation that Haberman was told by White House staff that they had “periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet” is an interesting addition to the already well-established trend of Donald Trump attempted to hide the evidence of his actions. It’s also a significant contribution in the burgeoning field of Reporters Who Sat On Top of Criminal Evidence So They Could Monetize It in Their Books. One might think that Haberman doesn’t have a job in which she is paid to tell the public what’s going on in these situations.

It’s also somewhat illuminating to visit The New York Times webpage on the morning after they reported that Trump illegally held onto classified information. Because a quick Where’s Waldo of that page would find … no Waldo. To be fair, the story does get one small headline far down the screen below reporting on the latest Olympics, a piece about worn-down pharmacists, and the “real cost of cheap chicken.” To be even more fair, the day after it learned that some of Hillary Clinton’s emails might be found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, every single inch went to that one story.

What almost every media outlet seems to be ignoring is that this isn’t a whoopsie, it’s a crime. Every time Donald Trump ripped up a document, that was a crime. Every time he tried to flush one down the sadly not gold White House crapper, that was a crime. Everything he boxed up and carted off to Mar-a-Lago, that was a crime.

In the “statement” on Thursday morning—the one where Trump is still raging about Hillary Clinton “acid-washing” her emails—Trump claims that there are “two legal standards, one for Republicans and one for Democrats.” Trump is absolutely right.

Both the Department of Justice and the major media treated Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails as if they were major crimes. They greeted even the possibility that she had mishandled a classified document as if it were a disqualifying action. Hillary Clinton would have been president of the United States had not both the FBI and The New York Times spent the last days before the 2016 election hammering the idea that there might—might—be a mishandled email from Clinton on a laptop they had already examined. There wasn’t.

But Trump … sure, he shredded documents in violation of the law. They treated that as a laughable habit. Sure, he tried to flush documents down the toilet—Maggie saved that one for her book. And sure, he carted off crates that now appear to have contained classified materials to his own home, where he may have been showing off nuclear codes to people in the all-you-can-eat shrimp line. A former White House aide even claims that Trump sometimes ate papers after meeting with his personal attorney (a well known habit of completely innocent people).

But hey, it’s not like he actually handled his email according to the instructions from the previous secretary of state, testified about it at length, and cooperated with every possible investigation into how those emails had been handled. Oh, no, he didn’t do anything that heinous.

Trump claims that he took all the documents because “some of this information will someday be displayed” at his presidential library. Emphases on “some” and “someday.”

However, among the materials found in the boxes from Mar-a-Lago was the map that Donald Trump marked up with a Sharpie to make it look as if a hurricane was going to hit Alabama only for the reason that he mistakenly said it would hit Alabama. The hurricane never hit Alabama.

That’s really the only document that Trump’s library needs. When it’s finally opened in an abandoned phone booth, after Trump taps his followers for a billion or so in library building funds, that map should be it. Just that map. It tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump Had 15 Boxes Of Records--Including 'Love Letters' To Kim Jong Un

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 establishes public ownership of all presidential records, which were defined not just as documents written by the president but those he reads, hears, or interacts with in any way. All of those records—all of them—have to be submitted to the National Archives. After review by the archivist, written permission can be given to dispose of records found to have no “administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value.” But until then, the archivist gets everything. Everything.

So what were 15 boxes’ worth of presidential records—records never turned over to the National Archives—doing at Mar-a-Lago?

As The Washington Post reported on Monday, those records were found last month and retrieved by the archives. They include such consequential records as the letter left for Trump by President Barack Obama, and the whole series of “love letters” exchanged between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Also included were a whole series of exchanges with world leaders that apparently included “mementos and gifts.” All of which Donald Trump failed to turn in.

The excuse provided by Trump staffers: “a frenzied packing process in the final days of the administration because Trump did not want to pack or accept defeat for much of the transition.” But whether Trump was shopping around chotchkes from Putin or couldn’t give up clutching his Dear Kim letters close, what’s going to happen now is an investigation.

Following the discovery, House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney announced that that they would be looking into how the boxes of documents ended up where they definitely should not be.

“I sounded the alarm in December 2020 about the danger that the former President and senior Trump Administration officials were not properly transferring presidential records to the National Archives,” said Maloney, “and unfortunately, we now know that was the case. I plan to fully investigate this incident to ensure the law is followed and records from the Trump Administration are with the National Archives where they belong, rather than stashed away in Trump’s golf resorts.”

Trump infamously once used money from his supposed “charity” to buy portraits of himself, as well as football memorabilia, which he then displayed at his various country clubs. It seems not unreasonable to believe that Trump intended to use the documents and gifts found at Mar-a-Lago for self-aggrandizement at his facilities.

So far, it’s not clear that any of the documents located are critical to the investigation of Jan. 6, or had information on Trump’s extensive attempts to undercut faith in the election and conduct a coup to overturn President Joe Biden’s clear victory. However, the 15 boxes located so far don’t appear to be the end of what Trump carried off to his all-you-can-eat-shrimp paradise.

The National Archives are continuing to search for other documents and items that—by right and law—belong to the American people. And the Oversight Committee will investigate whether this was a genuine oversight, or something that was more deliberate.

The National Archives has already produced over 700 pages of documents for the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 after Trump lost his last appeal to withhold these documents in the Supreme Court. However, it’s clear that Trump regularly ripped up documents that should have come to the archives. Some of these were repaired through the dedicated, if frustrating, work of two archivists assigned to actually tape documents back together. However, it’s not clear if Trump’s “relentless document destruction habits” irrevocably destroyed some sources of potentially vital information.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

RNC Defines A Deeper Purpose: ‘Hurt The People Who Need Hurting’

This week, the Republican National Committee voted overwhelmingly to censure two members of its own party. Their crime? Cooperating with the House Select Committee on January 6.

To underscore the reason for the party’s disfavor, chair Ronna McDaniel helpfully spelled it out. The select committee was, according to the censure resolution, involved in the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” That discourse being smashing through windows, stealing computers, assaulting police, smearing walls and desks with sh#t, and prowling around with handcuffs hoping to do a little kidnapping and murder. Real First Amendment stuff.

McDaniel later amended the censure proposal—after the vote—to include the objection that the January 6 select committee wasn’t sticking strictly to January 6. Which is right on. Just like how the 9/11 Commission wasn’t allowed to look at any of the planning, funding, and training that came before those planes took flight.

It’s easy to mistake this for more evidence that the Republican Party exists only in service to Donald Trump, but there’s more than that. Not a lot more, but more. The Republican Party has a deeper purpose than doing whatever Trump wants at the moment. And it’s one that was perfectly articulated 74 years ago.

This censure resolution didn’t happen in a vacuum. It came in a week that began with Donald Trump declaring openly that, should he be returned to power, everyone who engaged in crimes on January 6 could look forward to a pardon. Not only that, Trump put a double underscore beneath the fact that his plot to halt the counting of electoral votes meant “overturning the election.”

All that was firmly part of the unwritten text of the censure resolution. This wasn’t so much about the people waving flags on January 6, it was about the name on those flags. It was about the Republican Party placing support for Donald Trump infinitely ahead of concepts like “the Constitution” or “law and order.”

None of which comes as a real surprise, This is, after all, a party that went into the 2020 elections with literally no party platform. It’s a party coasting along on some past claims without a single plan to do anything other than whatever mischief arises in the moment. It’s a party where belonging means supporting Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean it’s just about Trump.

There have been moments where the party that Trump helped to redefine started to get away from him. Such as when Trump was booed for supporting the vaccines. There have been moments when the circenses threatened to run away from the man providing the primary source of panem.

That’s why this statement by a Trump supporter from Florida so perfectly defined what modern Republicanism is about:

“I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

The Republicans didn’t bother passing a party platform going into 2020 because they didn’t need to. They had no formal positions. They needed no formal positions. Everyone in the party knew their real platform: Praise Trump, of course, but also hurt the people who need hurting.

And that's where they still are going into the 2022 elections. The unwritten Republican Party platform is just this: "Own the libs." Do whatever it takes to hurt the people they oppose, physically and emotionally, no matter how much damage—to the nation, or even to themselves—is created in the process.

Which is why these words from George Owell’s dystopian classic, 1984, are so perfect.

“Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever. ”

For Republicans, that intoxication is there in forcing children to attend school without masks. The thrill of victory warms them as they stand next to a pile of burning books. Hurting the people who need to be hurt gives them a sensation of righteous joy even when they're spewing out invective against vaccines from their deathbeds.

It’s what makes the claims about Critical Race Theory a perfect Republican issue in 2022. Neither the executive orders passed in states like Florida and Texas, nor the legislative resolutions spreading across the country, have a single positive outcome. It’s an issue that’s only about causing pain to any group other than their own lily-white core. That it also makes public education nearly impossible is the delicious cherry on top of the sundae. It is all pain, no gain. Perfection.

The more clearly just a cause may be, the more pleasure can be derived from opposing it. See “voting rights.” Force those 12-year-olds to have babies they don’t want, then starve both mother and child of support? Oh, yes, please.

It’s also why the RNC, along with Republicans from local levels all the way up to Congress, have said things that embrace rather than scorn the assault on the Capitol that took place on January 6. It’s not just that they enjoy the distress and destruction caused on that day. It’s not merely the overt support for crushing democracy and installing Trump as president-for-life. It’s that they can squeeze fresh juice from that event by the reaction generated when they treat the insurgency as no big deal, or even a good thing. Like a serial killer fingering a trophy, they get off on an echo from the original thrill.

That’s what the GOP is really offering this fall — a chance to join in. Take up that cup. Sip from that power. Plant a boot on that face and feel the intoxication of trampling on the helpless. It’s an old, old vintage. Even the labels aren’t new. But the bottles now come in extra large.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How Trump’s Legal Team Organized Those Fake 2020 Electors

As the details of Donald Trump’s scheme to block the final count of electoral votes on January 6 have emerged, one item that initially seemed minor has emerged as a focus of Republican efforts. The false slates of electors put forward in seven states looked at first like little more than a stunt. Including in their ranks state Republican Party officials, along with members of both state and county governments, these false electors weren’t a random selection of people off the street. They were, in most cases, the actual electors who would have been put forward had Trump actually won those states.

It’s now clear that early on in the effort to overturn the election, these false slates of electors were identified as a critical component of the whole scheme. They were to act as the key “evidence” that the outcome in these states won by Joe Biden was actually in dispute, and give Republicans on Congress something to point to when justifying their support for Trump’s coup. To that end, Rudy Giuliani was at the center of plot, directing Trump’s legal team to get those electors in place.

Now, additional memos turned up by The New York Times demonstrate how this effort went forward in Wisconsin, working in lockstep with other legal challenges as Trump’s team sought to give the impression that a clear victory for Biden was somehow “in dispute.” Just two weeks after the election, a memo was sent out to Trump campaigns telling Republicans in Wisconsin to move ahead, gather the false electors on Dec. 14, and have them cast their invalid votes for Trump.

On Wednesday, former Department of Justice attorney Jeffery Clark—the man who Trump intended to name as attorney general for his support in the attempted coup—reportedly testified in person before the House Select Committee on January 6. It’s unclear if Clark actually said anything of value. However, if his statements went beyond, “I invoke my rights under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on the grounds that answering questions may incriminate me,” they very well could have included the phrase, “I was far from the only one.”

Each day seems to make it clearer that the coup plot wasn’t some passing fancy that never made it outside the White House. It was an extensive operation, planned and executed over a period of months, that involved Republicans at every possible level—along with Trump’s entire legal, campaign, and White House teams.

In this case, the push to get Wisconsin moving on electors originated from Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro. On Nov. 18, Chesboro directed a memo to James Troupis, a Trump campaign attorney in Wisconsin. That memo (available in its entirety here) insists that gathering the electors in time for them to swear their allegiance to Trump by December 14 was critical. By that date, the electors had to meet in Madison and cast their electoral votes for Trump. The memo also gives instructions on the certificates the electors were to sign and date.

Between the time that Cheseboro first sent out his memo on November 18 and the events on December 14, Wisconsin conducted a recount and audit of the 2020 vote. That recount confirmed that President Joe Biden won the state by more than 20,000 votes. That didn’t stop them from moving ahead with the scheme.

Unlike Michigan, where Trump electors were turned away at the door and only falsely claimed to have cast their ballots in the state capitol, it seems that those in Madison did get inside long enough to carry out this mock ceremony on December 14.

Also on December 14, Chesebro and Troupis were two out of three names on a petition that Trump’s legal team sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition maintains that the election in Wisconsin was invalid because “officials in Wisconsin, wrongly backed by four of the seven Justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, ignored statutory provisions which tightly regulate absentee balloting.”

More specifically, the petition claimed that “this resulted in the counting of at least 50,125 absentee ballots” in specific areas. Crucially, Trump’s team asked the court to look on the votes in these “heavily Democrat areas” (because even in a petition to the Supreme Court, Republicans are incapable of saying “Democratic”), but did not note that even larger numbers of mail-in ballots had come from areas of the state that Trump won.

When this same argument was taken before the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet, “noted that Mr. Troupis had not sought to invalidate votes in Wisconsin’s 70 other counties but had focused only on the ‘most nonwhite, urban’ parts of the state.” Justice Jill Karofsky was even more direct in saying that this challenge “smacks of racism.”

The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asked that the court “set aside the election result in Wisconsin, as not produced in the ‘Manner’ directed by the Legislature, and hence as ‘failed’” and to “afford the Wisconsin Legislature explicit statutory authority to appoint presidential electors to represent Wisconsin.” Those electors were, of course, to be the Republicans who gathered on December 14 to pledge their votes to Trump.

The Supreme Court rejected this request, along with another team-up between Cheseboro and Troupis asking the court to validate all the fake electors across six states.

Versions of this scheme now appear on documents from attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, and Jeffery Clark in addition to Troupis and Chesebro. A PowerPoint presentation featuring the role of the fake electors in justifying actions on January 6 was given to Republican members of Congress by Phil Waldron.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trump Tried To Execute Voting Machines Seizure Three Times

Two weeks ago, the details of an executive order from Donald Trump that would have ordered the military to seize voting machines as a step toward reversing the outcome of the 2020 election came to light. It’s now clear that Trump also tried, and failed, to get either the Justice Department or Department of Homeland Security to take control of the machines.

Trump’s open confession on Sunday that he was trying to get Mike Pence to “overturn the election” on Jan. 6 may seem to be a complete confession of the scheme to install himself as an unelected ruler, but the revelations aren’t over. As The New York Times reports, that draft order was just one attempt to take voting machines away from states and counties, positioning Trump to repeat false claims about how those machines operate and lies about incorrect results.

This included a scheme—pushed by Trump, and carried out by Rudy Giuliani—in which they attempted to get the Department of Homeland Security to swoop down on select states and take the machines. And that effort followed a meeting between Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr refused to use the Justice Department to support Trump’s scheme.

These failures were part of a weeks-long effort to seize the evidence that the election had not been plagued by fraud, take machines away from objective observers, and put them under lock and key where Trump’s team could make any claims they wanted. And it’s now clear these plans went beyond papers being passed around the White House, or angry meetings in the Oval Office. There was an attempt to put these plans in motion.

In the end, Trump didn’t “walk away peacefully,” he went down kicking, screaming, and scheming to the ugly end.

As events have been pieced together at this point, Trump and his associates conducted a multi-part scheme intended to 1) create the false impression that there had been election fraud, 2) send false slates of electors to the National Archives to bolster that claim, 3) use Republicans in Congress to both maximize the pressure on Mike Pence and lend supports to claims of fraud, 4) declare Trump the winner by excluding results in states that Biden won, 5) backup this scheme through a series of maneuvers including polling of the states congressional delegations where Republicans held a one-state advantage, and 6) announce that Trump would remain in office pending another election at some point in the future.

But there is another action: the seizure of voting machines so that Trump could expand on claims that systems were connected to the internet, were subject to being hacked, or under the control of foreign governments. It’s now clear that this was more than a proposal. Trump tried to make it happen at least three times.

To that end, Trump first held a meeting with then-Attorney General William Barr “in mid- to late-November” in which he tried to get the Justice Department to take control of the voting machines. Trump informed Barr that, “his lawyers had told him” that taking and holding the machines was within the power of the DOJ. But Barr—who had actually looked into the allegations of issues with the machines—told Trump there was “no probable cause” that justified seizing the machines.

Barr stepped down from his role as attorney general before the end of 2020. It’s unclear to what extent his late resignation was intended to protect him from being caught up in the investigation of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. What is clear is that Barr did not come to the public and explain the threat represented by Trump’s actions, so he remains deeply complicit.

With the DOJ at least temporarily off the table, Trump turned to the Pentagon. The idea of using the military to impound machines appears to have originated with retired Army colonel Phil Waldron. It was Waldron who prepared the PowerPoint presentation that was given to at least 100 Republican members of Congress in the days before Jan. 6.

During a Dec. 18 Oval Office meeting with Flynn and Powell, Trump apparently was given, or already had, the draft executive order instructing the military to take control of voting machines. That order was predicated on long-debunked claims about issues with results in Antrim County, MI. At the same meeting, Flynn also proposed that Trump could conduct a do-over election under the supervision of the military. However, this scheme was ultimately “rejected.”

That rejection appears to have taken the form of, not pushback from the Pentagon, but a breakdown among Trump’s coup plotters. Trump was apparently taken with the idea as put forward by Flynn and Powell, but Giuliani was not. Despite Powell’s claims of everyone from China to Spain to Venezuela to Germany being involved in some form of election fraud, the Antrim County claims mentioned in the draft order offered no explicit evidence of foreign interference. Giuliani was convinced they needed to make a claim about foreign interference if they were going to use the military.

It’s unclear whether Giuliani made this argument out of some concern for the facts—a concern he never demonstrated in public—or out of a growing antipathy toward Powell. Three weeks earlier, Giuliani had made the claim that Powell was not part of Trump’s legal team after a particularly contentious, and embarrassing, press event.

With the DOJ and military attempts halted, Trump instructed Giuliani to see if Homeland Security could be used to seize the voting machines. Giuliani called the acting deputy secretary at the DHS and passed along Trump’s instructions to go out there and get those machines. However, the official told Giuliani that he lacked the authority to take the action Trump wanted.

All of these accounts show the same thing: Trump didn’t “consider” having to seize voting machines; Trump tried to seize the voting machines. This wasn’t something that ended with papers passed around a desk and a decision not to go forward. On each occasion, Trump agreed with the scheme to take control of machines, ballots, and supporting materials. With the equipment and results in hand, he could have issued whatever lies he wanted about what his team “found.”

Donald Trump schemed openly to overthrow democracy and install himself as an authoritarian ruler. His party—from bottom to top—is complicit in this scheme which is, without qualification, the greatest threat the United States has ever faced. Why isn’t the media treating it that way?

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How The Republican Party Became A Wholly-Owned Asset Of The Kremlin

On Monday, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) warned that his office was getting calls from Fox News watchers whose reliance on Tucker Carlson had led them to argue that the United States should be supporting Russia. Not just supporting Vladimir Putin in his plans to invade a sovereign nation, but supporting Russia’s “reasonable” position in their arguments that NATO is somehow the aggressor.

It’s not just Democratic lawmakers getting these calls. As Axios made clear on Thursday, Republicans are also hearing from their base. And, in the modern Republican tradition, those Republicans are doing what they always do when confronted by extremists in their own party — rolling over.

“Leery of the base, they are avoiding—and in some cases, rejecting—the tough-on-Russia rhetoric that once defined the Republican Party. GOP operatives working in 2022 primary races tell Axios they worry they'll alienate the base if they push to commit American resources to Ukraine or deploy U.S. troops to eastern Europe.”

Strangely enough, Axios gets through the whole article about Republicans being afraid to offend Vladimir Putin, without mentioning one little thing: The whole reason that this is happening, is because Russia interfered in U.S. elections to support Donald Trump.

Repeatedly, the Axios article comes close to spilling the beans. Republicans who are still willing to be critical of the idea that Russia should be allowed to swallow whole Europe’s second-largest nation while the U.S. cheers from the sidelines are described as “still making statements that sound more at home in the pre-Trump GOP.” This shift in the Republican base is attributed in part to “President Donald Trump's warmer posture toward Russia.”

But let’s go to the tape. Or, in this case, to the five-volume report on Russian interference in the 2016 election prepared by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, and finally released just three days after the 2020 election.

What does that report have to say about Russia’s actions in 2016?

  • “The Committee found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian
    effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak
    information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president. Moscow's intent was
    to harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the U.S. democratic process.”
  • “The Committee found, that the [Russian intelligence operation] IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump”
  • "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency"
  • “Russia's targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society”
  • “The Russian government ‘aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him’”
  • “[Russian] social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump, and to the detriment of Secretary Clinton's campaign”
  • “Posing as U.S. political activists, IRA requested-and in some cases obtained-assistance from the Trump Campaign in procuring materials for rallies and in promoting and organizing rallies”
  • “IRA employees were directed to focus on U.S. politics and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary”
  • “[S]tories about Democratic emails might have mentioned that their release was part of a Russian influence campaign and that Donald Trump's repeated references to the releases, his stated adoration of WikiLeaks, and his solicitation of Russian assistance were taking place in the context of an ongoing influence campaign to assist him.”
  • “Manafort hired and worked increasingly closely with a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer. … Prior to joining the Trump Campaign in March 2016 and continuing throughout his time on the Campaign, Manafort directly and indirectly communicated with Kilimnik, Deripaska, and the pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine.”
  • “On numerous occasions, Manafort sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik.”
  • “The Committee obtained some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the GRU's hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election.”
  • The Russians who Manafort and Donald Trump Jr met with at Trump Tower had “significant connections to Russian government, including the Russian intelligence services.” This included Natalia Veselnitskaya, whose connections to the Kremlin “were far more extensive and concerning than what had been publicly known.”

What Russia got for the few million it expended is priceless: Not just Trump in the White House for four years, defending Moscow’s interests from Ukraine to the Middle East, not just a greater-than-ever gap in American society, but a fundamental shift in the Republican base, and in right-wing media, that turned them into an extension of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign.

In 2012, Mitt Romney took heat for the vehemence of his antipathy toward Russia. Romney’s warnings about Russian aggression drew scorn at the time, though soon after the election the Utah Republican actually got apologies from Democratic officials and candidates as Russia massed its forces on the border of Ukraine and staged an invasion with the assistance of Republican insider Paul Manafort.

Romney’s position wasn’t unusual at the time. In fact, most of the heat he took from his anti-Russia stance was based on the idea that the presidential candidate wasn’t putting any thought into his response. He was simply continuing a long Republican tradition of using the threat from Russia as an excuse to bolster U.S. military spending.

From the Cold War right up through the Obama administration, Republicans didn’t just maintain a solid front when it came to the danger represented by Russia, they built their foreign policy around that threat.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Putin has been handed a gift by the radical right. In 2014, with the invasion of Crimea underway, Mitch McConnell stood in the way of passing a bill considered vital for Ukraine. Why? As Politico explained at the time: “McConnell faces a tea party primary opponent in May.”

“Twenty, 25 years ago, if you told me McCain would be the leader of the Republicans on foreign policy and McConnell [would be] on the sidelines, I would never have believed you,” said one veteran of President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Mitch was one of our go-to guys.”

Yeah, well, Mitch is always willing to go … wherever the wind blows him. When it looked like a Tea Party candidate might challenge him, McConnell threw away his “beliefs”

Republicans have been riding the whirlwind since those Tea Party days, banking on an anything-goes faux populism that champions hurting fellow Americans over anything else. They stayed on that whirlwind even when they knew their candidate was being backed and bankrolled by Moscow. And now they have a party that’s urging them to surrender an ally to Putin, arguing that the U.S. should just ignore military aggression from an expansionist authoritarian empire and it will go away. Because that’s worked so well in the past.

Putin bought Trump. Cheap. Now he owns the power-base of an American political party, with GOP candidates falling all over themselves to prove how much they don’t care about Russia tearing a chunk out of Europe.

It’s almost as if the Republican tough-on-Russia position was never real, to begin with, but just something they were doing to bolster donations from defense contractors and create the impression that they had a serious position on foreign policy.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Sidney Powell's Fingerprints Are All Over Fake Slates Of Trump Electors

On January 21, Politico published a December 2020 draft executive order under which Donald Trump authorized a number of chilling actions, beginning with this military seizure of voting machines:

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

The draft order, which would have then also called for “federalization of appropriate National Guard support,” would have placed a series of Trump officials in charge of these machines, which would have remained under the supervision of the assistant secretary of defense, with a Trump-appointed “Special Counsel” to bring criminal charges against those deemed to have been involved in election fraud.

This unvarnished attempt at employing the military in his coup d'etat—like all the other features of Trump’s attempted destruction of American democracy—has not received one one-thousandth the media attention it deserves. But in particular, there’s been a tendency to overlook the order’s opening paragraph; the one that makes it clear that all of this was based on false claims from Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and that the whole cause for overthrowing the government was a completely debunked claim created by his own legal team.

Rather than predicating the order on some kind of broad claim of electoral issues, Trump’s military takeover directly references one specific instance of supposed fraud.

“I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, find that the forensic report of the Antrim County, Michigan voting machines, released Dec. 13, 2020, and other evidence submitted to me in support of this order, provide probable cause sufficient to require action under the authorities cited above because of evidence of international and foreign interference in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.”

The problem with this “forensic report” was that it was a lie. In fact, it was a lie easily disproven weeks before the events of January 6.

Antrim County, Michigan first entered the national limelight because results immediately following poll closing showed Joe Biden ahead in this reliably Republican county. However, within an hour of the initially reported numbers, county officials — all of them Republican — determined that an error had been made, not in total numbers, but in reporting those numbers to the state. The totals were corrected and Trump won the county by 3,700 votes. A hand recount of ballots showed that the machine-generated results were accurate.

But almost immediately Trump supporters built this incident into “proof” of problems with voting machines in the county—even though those machines had always reported the correct values. To support this they seized on a 23-page “Antrim County report” filed as part of a lawsuit that—and this is real—was filed as a challenge against the successful attempt to allow retail sales of marijuana in the county.

Even though the challenge to the vote on marijuana actually turned on whether to count three partially mangled ballots, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Lin Wood directed attention to this “forensic audit” (spoiler: it wasn’t a forensic audit) because it made assertions about the reliability of Dominion voting machines.

When the contents of the report were made public, as The Detroit News reported at the time, the state attorney general labeled efforts to turn this report into some kind of broad proof of voting fraud “another in a long stream of misguided, vague and dubious assertions designed to erode public confidence in the November presidential election." The authors of the section of the report cited by Powell and Wood in their court filings turned out to be an organization called Allied Security Operations Group. That organization also claimed that a number of districts in Michigan had “over 100 percent turnout”—a claim that turned out to be provably false.

“According to the document, there was a precinct in North Muskegon with 781% turnout and a precinct in Muskegon with 205% turnout. The certified and publicly posted results in Muskegon County clearly refute [this claim].”

On November 25, Wood and Powell brought the case to the Sixth District Court in Michigan, with the Antrim County report acting as “Exhibit A.” On December 7, the court ruled against them, stating that both the county and the state had already certified the results before Trump’s team bothered to file an objection and that—since actual analysis failed to find any difference between machine and hand-counted results—“plaintiffs failed to establish an injury sufficient to meet standing requirements.” In other words, none of the evidence they brought actually showed the fraud they claimed. The next day they appealed.

A week after that, this same report was before the Supreme Court of the United States as “Exhibit A” in a filing represented by Powell and Wood that sought to annul the results in six states, allowing Republican state legislators to select the slate of electors. The Detroit Free Press reminded readers that the exaggerated claims in the report had already been disproven.

That same report was then again used as the main supporting document for Trump’s executive order. And all the time everything in it that suggested problems with Dominion Voting Systems had already been explained as human error and disproven by a hand count of votes. The reference here to this debunked, never-serious report, shows just how close all of the efforts going on in Trump’s coup really were. It was not a series of uncoordinated flailings, but a single unified effort to justify overturning the election.

Currently, that same report is a key element in a “Strategic Communications Plan” created by Giuliani and his team as a defense for Trump officials subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 commission. Republicans are still treating it as if it contains actual information.

In the months following the coup attempt, the Michigan attorney general has taken action to sanction the attorneys who pressed on with this report, despite knowing that it had no evidentiary value. The former elections commissioner issued a 10-point rebuttal of the claims in the report. And a federal judge has taken Powell and others to task before eventually issuing sanctions.

As Judge Parker stated, Trump’s attorneys “filed this lawsuit in bad faith and for improper purpose.”

But there’s another part of the original filing from Powell and Wood that the Detroit Free Press picked up in Dec. 2020.

At one point, the filing states: "On Dec. 14, 2020, the Republican majority State legislatures of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin exercised their plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Electors Clause by permitting the full slate of Republican nominees to cast their electoral votes for President Donald J. Trump on a contingent basis."
In another portion, the filing states: "Republican slates of electors have received the endorsement of the Republican-majority legislatures in each of these States, as reflected in the decision for them to cast (or attempting to cast) their slate of electoral votes."
None of this is true.

Powell’s lawsuit encapsulates two cornerstones of Trump’s attempted coup: the effort to create the impression that there was some reason to suspect election fraud, and the effort to make it seem as if the slates of electoral candidates were in dispute. And what may be most amazing is how thin and easily debunked their supposed evidence really was.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Oath Keepers Plead Not Guilty To Sedition As Leader Remains Jailed

Ten of the eleven members of the white supremacist militia group Oath Keepers who have been charged with seditious conspiracy, including founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, pleaded not guilty in a virtual hearing on Tuesday. The eleventh person charged was not present, and did not enter a plea.

The judge in this case is U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, the same judge who earlier dealt with, and dismissed, claims that Trump has “absolute immunity.” Judge Mehta also forced Trump’s attorney’s to backtrack over claims that Trump had tried to calm down the situation on January 6, 2021.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Mehta reviewed the seriousness of the charges, and asked federal prosecutors to explain a change in the charges, specifically why Rhodes was being charged with the more serious form of conspiracy under 18 USC 1512k. As Marcy Wheeler explained back on January 13, this form of conspiracy opens the potential for a lengthier sentence, including potential “enhancements for threats of assassination and kidnapping.”

A court date for the charges has tentatively been set for July. But within the next two days, Rhodes is going to face the results of a ruling from another judge.

Rhodes is currently being held without bond at a federal penitentiary in Plano, Texas after attorneys from the Justice Department explained his role in organizing the plot to “oppose by force the execution of the laws of the United States.” According to the DOJ, “Under these circumstances, only pretrial detention can protect the community from the danger Rhodes poses." Prosecutors pointed to messages and emails Rhodes sent during the weeks leading up to January 6, including one that read “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.”

Rhodes earlier tried, and failed, to obtain his release. However, earlier this week Rhodes went before Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson. As WFAA reports, federal prosecutors again stated that “there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure the safety of the community or the defendant's appearance in court."

At the hearing, the DOJ submitted a series of texts from Rhodes that preceded the January 6 events.

[We] "need to scare or intimidate members of congress."
"...about a million surrounding them should do the trick."
"The only chance we have is if we scare the sh*t out of them....to do the right thing."

Defense attorneys argued that Rhodes hasn’t threatened anyone lately. (No, seriously, the argument that Rhodes hasn’t threatened anyone while he was being investigated by the FBI was the best thing they put forward.) The attorneys also argued that Rhodes wasn’t a flight risk because he loves publicity and the trial would be “a very public platform.” Which also doesn’t seem like the most compelling argument to release someone who purchased $40,000 of ammunition just before January 6.

Judge Johnson promised a ruling within 48 hours. But as she contemplates that decision, this might help:

Meanwhile his ex-wife in Montana continues to say the thought of having him released "is a living nightmare."

The charges of seditious conspiracy against Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers puts paid to assertions from Republicans that no one involved in the assault on the Capitol was facing more than minor charges. It also opens the door to other serious charges against groups like the Proud Boys, the organizers of the January 6 events, and hopefully, against the people actually behind both the Big Lie and the attempted coup.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Anti-Science Protest In Washington Is Trump’s Pandemic Legacy

Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of an interview with Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum following the announcement of the first case of “novel coronavirus” in the United States. Asked if he was worried about a pandemic, this is how Trump replied:

“No. Not it all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person, coming in from China. And We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Trump then went on to brag about his “great relationship” with Communist Party boss Xi Jinping. That first statement was just one of many that would come over the following months as Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A timeline of Trump statements on COVID-19 starting in February 2020

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This weekend in Washington D.C., there will be a gathering that’s estimated to draw over 10,000 people. These people will not be there to mourn the 887,000 known to have died from the virus in the United States. They won’t be there to celebrate the advances represented by the vaccines, or to call for protections against a wave of viruses that represents a growing threat to children. Instead, they’ll be there to carry on Trump’s legacy—downplaying the pandemic, touting false cures, and undermining science. And, of course, they organized this action using the site that, throughout the pandemic, has provided a welcome home to conspiracy theories and harmful claims: Facebook.

As NBC News reports, this weekend has been marked out for an anti-vaccine protest in Washington. That, of course, includes a featured role by Robert Kennedy Jr., who is currently suing Daily Kos in the attempt to dox an anonymous poster, along with his badly misnamed “Children’s Health Defense Fund.” Kennedy’s group will gather with other like-mindless groups and individuals — thanks to their ability to organize on a platform that continues to provide a centralized meeting place for misinformation and disinformation while churning out a pretense of action.

“The rally has been largely organized on Facebook and some extremist internet forums, and organizers have raised at least $200,000 on a crowdfunding site. Some nearby hotels in Virginia are sold out ahead of the event, according to the event’s organizers, who are arranging last-minute travel plans for latecomers.”

Really, that should be Facebook and other extremist internet forums.

But the group isn’t just gathering to promote lies about vaccines, or just to spread lies about the danger posed by the pandemic, or just to spread lies about the origins of the virus. They are also there to spread lies about COVID-19 treatments.

Key speakers include Dr. Robert Malone, a frequent guest on Joe Rogan’s anti-science podcast where he has advocated the use of an ineffective anti-parasitic drug, ivermectin, Kennedy’s group is bringing along their own set of pet quacks who are not just pushing ivermectin, but also the long disproven hydroxychloroquine.

It’s not quite been two years since Trump began pushing hydroxychloroquine as a “miracle” cure for COVID-19. Between March and November of 2020, Canadian researchers tried to put a value on the damage Trump had done by pushing an anti-malarial drug to treat a viral disease. In just the eight months they covered, that damage was significant. Because people were not just listening to Trump’s advice on false cures; due to the concern everyone had about COVID-19, these claims got three times the audience of Trump’s usual disinformation.

“From March 1 to April 30, 2020, Donald J Trump made 11 tweets about unproven therapies and mentioned these therapies 65 times in White House briefings, especially touting hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. These tweets had an impression reach of 300% above Donald J Trump’s average. Following these tweets, at least 2% of airtime on conservative networks for treatment modalities like azithromycin and continuous mentions of such treatments were observed on stations like Fox News. Google searches and purchases increased following his first press conference on March 19, 2020, and increased again following his tweets on March 21, 2020. The same is true for medications on Amazon, with purchases for medicine substitutes, such as hydroxychloroquine, increasing by 200%.”

Over the course of his remaining time in office, Trump took up the cause of other fake cures, including suggesting the possibility of injecting disinfectants and somehow getting sunshine inside affected people. As a direct result of these pushes from Trump and others on the right-wing, people have been poisoning themselves with colloidal silver, inhaling bleach, drinking absolutely toxic Miracle Mineral Solution, flooding poison control centers with overdoses of ivermectin, and downing fatal doses of hydroxychloroquine.

In the last two years, Republicans have discovered a very special way to get people to sign onto a regressive agenda — the power of greed. Whether it’s offering people the chance to collect a bounty on women seeking an abortion in Texas, or Florida pushing a bill that allows anyone to sue teachers over claims that their teaching is “woke,” Republicans have learned that dangling a chance to collect big bucks is the key to getting people stoked about the opportunity to finger Goody Bishop.

Democrats might want to consider harnessing that power. How about a law that allows people to sue anyone — especially if that anyone calls themselves “doctor” — who pushes harmful, disproven medical advice on television, podcasts, or social media?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos