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@DevilsTower

Barr And Rosenstein Must Answer In Subpoena Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

When Donald Trump wanted to talk about the investigation being conducted into how his campaign colluded with Russian agents, he used a term that was meant to demean and delegitimize. He called it "spying." Trump also accused the Obama administration of "wiretapping" his offices, which—no matter what Trump says—was in no sense true. But as more information emerges about the efforts of the DOJ to chase down supposed intelligence leaks, it's hard to think of more appropriate terms. The Justice Department may not have been technically spying, and seeking to crack open metadata from cell phones isn't really wiretapping, but the DOJ was absolutely surveilling member of Congress and their families, including their minor children.

Unlike the investigation of Trump, which was begun because the intelligence community was presented with evidence that Trump's team was engaging in efforts to gain Russian assistance in altering the outcome of the election, the effort to obtain phone data from California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, as well as members of their families, seems to have been launched for no reason other than because Trump wanted it so. And, despite spending weeks finding no evidence, subpoenas were issued at least three times. Then the effort was revived months later and additional resources were added.

As might be expected, Republicans are already being dismissive about the whole affair, with multiple claims that investigating Congress over potential intelligence leaks is nothing new. However, attempting to obtain phone records of Congress members without their knowledge is certainly a new thing—much less trying to get the records of their spouses and children. It's clear that the DOJ went to extraordinary efforts to find something they could bring back to Trump as evidence that either Swalwell or Schiff had done something wrong.

But the most extraordinary thing about the whole sorry affair, may be the way that no one seems to be owning it. Former attorney general Jefferson Sessions says he didn't start it. Former attorney general Bill Barr says he didn't know about it. One of these men is absolutely lying. The other may be. But there's a third man who almost certainly was involved in both the beginning and the end of this effort to … sure, why not … to spy on the families of representatives. That man is former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

As the story of the attempts by the DOJ to subpoena Apple into providing phone records of members of Congress unfolded on Friday, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin demanded that both Sessions and Barr appear in public testimony before Congress and explain the extent of the leak investigations.

However, according to The Daily Beast, Sessions has already claimed that "he wasn't aware of, nor was he briefed on" the subpoenas, and that he was unaware of the entire leak investigation. On Friday, POLITICO reported that Barr also claimed that he was "not aware of any congressman's records being sought in a leak case."

The statement from Sessions is vaguely possible. Sessions recused himself from DOJ activities related to the Russia investigation in March of 2017, earning Trump's undying rage in the process. Since the information released was connected to that investigation, it's possible that Sessions was not involved. And besides, though his actions were not always in the news, Sessions stayed busy during his time as attorney general. Among other things, he rewrote hundreds of pages of federal guidelines, striking such rules as those which avoided placing excessive fines on the poor. He made it easier to ship guns across state lines. Sessions shredded rules that were designed to make the justice process accessible to the disabled. He also spent a lot of personal time going over drug cases and insisting that prosecutors seek the maximum penalties. He was one busy little elf.

On the other hand, the statement from Barr is, as might be expected, pure bullshit. As has been widely reported, Barr was not only aware of the investigations, he revived them when he took office in 2018. Even though attempts to pin intelligence leaks on Congress had come up dry, and investigators were indicating that the whole thing was a dead end, Barr expanded the investigation. He added more staff and, as CNN notes, brought in a prosecutor expressly to handle the leak investigations. Barr didn't just revive these cases, he "found a set of aggressive career prosecutors" who were "willing to take extraordinary steps to try to complete the probes." Which apparently included taking another crack at getting past Apple.

Like hell, Bill Barr "can't recall."

And then there's Rosenstein. When it comes to the revelations on Friday, The New York Times reports the Rosenstein has "refused to comment." But if there is anyone who needs to be dragged before the Senate and compelled to testify, it might be the former deputy attorney general.

There was a time in the spring of 2017 when Rosenstein seemed like the one person at the DOJ who was holding some semblance of justice together. He authorized the Mueller investigation after Sessions recused himself. The New York Timeseven reported that Rosenstein considered secretly recording Trump, and discussed whether enough Cabinet members could be persuaded to invoke the 25th Amendment. There was genuinely a point where Rosenstein seemed to be the one essential man; the one person in power at the DOJ who saw Trump for who he was.

But by the spring of 2018, Rosenstein appeared desperate to show he was fully on Team Trump. He instructed the DOJ to increase prosecutions of refugee families. As The Guardianreported, it was Rosenstein who argued that children should be separated from parents, even if they were infants. That fall, Rosenstein was reportedly crying after a call to Trump and then-chief of staff John Kelly, in which it appeared he might be forced to resign. He begged for his position, telling Trump that "I can land the plane," and suggested that keeping him in place gave the Russia investigation "credibility."

Once Barr came on board, Rosenstein was reliably at his elbow, providing cover for Barr's actions. That included signing off on the conclusion that Donald Trump not be charged with obstruction in spite of the mountains of evidence in support of that charge.

Rosenstein left in 2019, but he didn't pass into obscurity. He went to work as a partner at white-shoe law firm King & Spaulding, where he is in charge of "special matters and government investigations." What investigations might that be? As Reuters reported, the firm worked for Trump's campaign in 2020, including working on efforts to block the use of absentee ballots. Far from being sent into exile, ProPublica shows that King & Spaulding was a revolving door for the Trump White House with at least seven people moved from the firm to government positions during Trump's term. In fact, when Rosenstein helped Trump oust Comey, his replacement, current FBI director Christopher Wray, came from King & Spaulding.

Far from being run out of town, Rosenstein was helped into a nice, soft, lucrative position at a firm with deep connections to Trump. A firm which counts the Trump Organization as one of its largest clients. That's quite a feat for the guy who signed off on the Mueller investigation and reportedly tried to get Trump removed from office. Trump still hates Sessions for simply recusing himself, even though Sessions has slathered Trump with praise nonstop. But Trump appears to have forgiven Rosenstein, in spite of both Mueller and the 25th Amendment report. Why is that?

It's obvious that Rosenstein must had done a lot to earn that spot. And it's obvious that he needs to testify.

He can start by answering questions about his knowledge of the effort to secure the phones of sitting representatives and their families. Sessions might claim ignorance. Barr might feign forgetfulness.

But Rosenstein was there for it all.

Saturday, Jun 12, 2021 · 9:50:01 AM EDT · Mark Sumner

Republicans Stirring Up Ugly Smears -- And Lethal Hatred -- Against Fauci

Days after thousands of emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci became public through a series of FOIA requests, Republicans are using portions of those emails—out of context—to ramp up attacks on the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Those emails are being conflated with a series of media-hyped articles about the origins of COVID-19, and the result is a genuinely toxic stew that is being used by Republicans ranging from Josh Hawley to Donald Trump Jr. as a way to stir up hate and rake in cash.

For those not neck deep in OAN, Newsmax, or Fox News, it may be hard to fathom just how much those channels have become a 24/7 assault on the 80-year-old doctor, or how hard they have been pushing the "lab escape" theory as "proof" that the NIAID director is somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these outlets are in heavy rotation with the idea that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, operated by a friend of Dr. Fauci, that Fauci helped China in covering up that origin, and that this somehow absolves Donald Trump of all responsibility in 900,000 American deaths.

And that's the lightweight version. The version being pushed by multiple "guests" and "experts" appearing on these programs is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was deliberately engineered to infect people as part of a program that Fauci—and President Barack Obama—approved of and funded. The baseless accusations are so ugly that, even as Republicans like Hawley demand that Dr. Fauci be fired, others, like Trump Jr., are already chuckling over the idea that Dr. Fauci could be murdered.

On Friday evening, Trump Jr. showed that he isn't just expecting Dr. Fauci to be killed by the rabid Trump supporters being pushed to believe that a man who has lived his life in service to both medicine and the nation is some kind of monster. No, Junior is ready to celebrate that murder. In an Instagram post, Trump Jr. posted an image saying "I'm just going to jump ahead on this, and said I don't think Fauci killed himself." Those words were pasted over a smiling image of the odious and sadistic slave owner Calvin Candie from the film Django Unchained.

Sen. Rand Paul started the latest edition of the smear train on Thursday when he issued a fundraising pitch insisting that Fauci "must go" and claiming that Fauci—who was forced to correct Paul over and over in Senate hearings—was "continuously and deliberately misleading the public at every turn." He provided no examples, but insisted that someone must "fire Fauci!"

On Friday, Sen. Hawley explicitly tied together vague claims about Fauci's emails, with equally vague claims about COVID-19. "Anthony Fauci's recently released emails and investigative reporting about COVID-19 origins are shocking." Exactly what in Fauci's emails Hawley found upsetting, he didn't say. But he did call for Fauci to resign, as well as "a congressional investigation" into claims that Fauci somehow covered up the pandemic's origins.

Also on Friday, Donald Trump issued a statement saying that "After seeing the emails, our Country is fortunate I didn't do what Dr. Fauci wanted me to do."

What this means is anyone's guess, but by Saturday morning Sen. Marco Rubio figured he had his marching orders, so he piled on, calling for Biden to remove Dr. Fauci. And again, Rubio's claim went directly back to the idea that Fauci "dismissed the idea that the virus could have come from a lab."

Fauci never made such a dismissal. And the "lab escape" origin of COVID-19 certainly isn't proven. But it has been getting constant fluffing from a series of articles and constant right-wing coverage, all of which features the implication that "Trump was right" about "the China virus."

The Daily Mail that Trump intends to make things even worse Saturday evening, when he makes his first appearance as a private citizen at a North Carolina rally. He's planning to make attacking Dr. Fauci the center of his tirade,

On Friday, President Biden spoke up in support of Dr. Fauci, responding to a question by saying, "Yes, I'm very confident in Dr. Fauci."

But the assault on Anthony Fauci is unrelenting and the level of ugliness demonstrated by the Trump, Jr. message is only getting worse. If Republicans have learned anything from Jan. 6, it's apparently that they really can (and do) inspire and direct deadly hate.


Oh Dear: Trump’s Moribund Blog Is Officially Dead

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Back in January, Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter after he doubled down on the lies that generated the violence on January 6 by both continuing those lies and praising the insurgents. Facebook has since continued Trump's temporary suspension "indefinitely." Soon after, stories began to circulate that Trump was either going to buy out an existing social media platform (presumably using the funds of those still sending him checks to "stop the steal") or launch his own.

By March, Trump assistant Jason Miller popped up on Fox News to say that Trump was returning to social media with his own platform. "This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media," said Miller. "It's going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform."

Earlier this month, Trump did in fact launch a platform that redefined the game. He redefined it in terms of a pre-2000 blog that allowed only Trump to post and no one else to comment. That's not to say that "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump" didn't have at least one innovative feature—it contained a like button that, once turned on, could never be turned off. It was perfect. Except for one thing: No one was showing up to read it.

For a mere three weeks, Trump's blog existed as a pure demonstration of his growing irrelevance. But this morning, CNBC reported that Jason Miller was back with the next exciting update: Trump's blog has been scrubbed from his site. And it's not coming back.

As Jessica Sutherland noted on May 22, while Trump's erratic posts on his "desk" blog were dutifully picked up by the right-wing media, it's not as if anyone else was hovering around waiting for the off chance that he might speak. That put Trump's new site way down the list of most visited websites. Like … down below sites seeking to place pets from shelters and well below sites that teach people to properly grill steak (without ketchup).

Mostly, Trump's blog site seemed to exist as an example of his lack of a team capable of genuine technical work, and as an example of how his ego allowed him to believe that a site posting occasional statements from a single person—most of them exactly the sort of nonsense that he used to deliver via tweet—could remain somehow relevant.

Still, Miller isn't ruling out a return to social media for Trump, though he does "not have a precise awareness of timing."

Honestly, Trump should be able to create an alternative to conservative sites like Parler for the cost of a couple of Python programmers and a rented server. It's not as if those sites are doing anything that represents a great technical challenge. The only challenge will be Trump agreeing to be on a platform where the only voice isn't his voice.

But if Trump does create a new site, you can bet it will have some pretty simple community guidelines.

How Do We Finally Crush The Virus? A $50 Million Lottery!

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In the United States, COVID-19 is rapidly becoming an endemic disease of Republicans. Over the last seven days, the nation has averaged 45.6 cases per 100,000 people, or just under 22,000 new cases per day. That means the average has now dipped below the measure on June 14, 2020, before the second wave swept across the South. In a few days, it's likely that the number will be down to a level matching that within weeks of the first large outbreak in this country (and a point where numbers were still largely constrained by lack of testing). That represents a tremendous drop from a national number that topped 750 cases/million, or roughly a quarter million a day, in January.

The reason for the decline is simple enough: As of Thursday, 62 percent of American adults had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In 10 states, most of them in the Northeast, that number now exceeds 70 percent. However, a number of other states are lagging tremendously. That includes eight states where the rate is below 50 percent.

And the truth is, even the best of those number is not enough. That 70 percent of adults—which is only about 50 percent of the total population—is well short of what we need. Unless the U.S. can reach a number that's close to 80 percent of all people being vaccination, it is unlikely to achieve herd immunity given the high rate of transmission among more recent variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If that number can't be achieved, COVID-19 numbers will go down but the community spread of the disease won't go away, and that has serious long term implications that go beyond questions of masks and frustrations about when it's safe to fully open X, Y, or Z.

How do we get enough people engaged to make that happen? Bribe them. Because it's worth it.

Last week, the Associated Press ran an article on the growing concern over this vaccination gap, which was careful to talk about the difference among states and the rural-urban gap within states while mostly tiptoeing around the cause. But there's really only one cause.

Ten states exceed 70 percent, but eight states are lagging below 50 percent.

According to Civiqs, 86 percent of Democrats say they've been vaccinated and eight percent say they will be vaccinated for a total of 94 percent. Half of the remainder is unsure, with only three percent saying no. But among Republicans, 47 percent say they have been vaccinated and four percent still say they will be vaccinated for a total of 51 percent. A full 40 percent of Republicans still give a flat no. Put it all together with independents, and 73 percent of American adults are committed to getting vaccinated while 21 percent say no. And 73 perceent of adults is simply not enough, not if we want to reach the point where COVID-19 cases are not just down, but the virus genuinely ceases to circulate in the community.

In the last six weeks, Pfizer's vaccine has been approved for use in those between ages of 12 and 18. Moderna's vaccine should be approved for the same age range within the next two weeks, with Johnson & Johnson close behind. About 6 million Americans between 12 and 18 have been vaccinated already, and that number should accelerate—especially if states or local school districts require vaccination before students can return to school in the fall. That change in the availability of vaccine is actually visible in the national rate of vaccine administration in the form of a little "bump" starting in mid-May.

Daily count of total doses administered and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That the vaccine numbers peaked and then began to fall may seem like failure, but it's actually inevitable. After all, people can only get vaccinated once (or, you know, twice) and eventually everyone is vaccinated. The real problem with this chart is that the peak should have come about a month—and about 50 million Americans—later.

There is some indication that Republican resistance is softening. The numbers giving a definitive "no" began to fall slightly around the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the vaccine for those aged 12, and there was a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that 40 percent of those in the "wait and see" group could tip to the "yes" category if the vaccines gain full FDA approval. Which is good. But it's still not enough, as that would only add three to four percent more to the totals.

Which brings us to incentives. Ohio has now announced its first million-dollar winner in a vaccine lottery, and as The New York Times reports, the idea is picking up steam across the country. That's because, as Axios has charted out, the idea seems to have worked. Ohio didn't just hand out $1 million to a lucky 22-year-old young female engineer, it also generated a measurable increase in vaccinations.

In fact, Ohio's experiment has been successful enough that California, Colorado, Maryland, and Oregon have signed up to offer similar incentives. And that's great. Except that these are some of the same states with high levels of vaccination already. The incentives might be able to push those areas above the magic number, but what it won't do is save us from where we're going right now—toward a point where COVID-19 is an endemic disease of Republican-dominated communities.

On the one hand, it may be easy to shrug off that result. On the other hand … no. Giving COVID-19 the chance to continue bouncing around between millions of Americans means not just more variants, but also more exposure for those who can't, for genuine medical reasons, be vaccinated.

So here's a simple solution: a national lottery. Toss $50 million into the pot and hand out a million-dollar prize to some lucky someone, anywhere in the nation, who has received a vaccine—with a new prize being awarded only when the nation goes up another percentage point in total vaccination. Televise it. Let President Joe Biden put his hand in a fishbowl. Do whatever it takes to get people to get a jab in the arm.

Seeing those who have spent months denying COVID-19, scoffing at the vaccine, and sneering at people wearing masks suffer the consequences may seem like karma. But it's also keeping the nation at risk.

National lottery. Let's do it.

COVID Deaths Are Falling In US, But Global Mortality Estimates Are Far Too Low

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Earlier this month, a study out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected the actual number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States at over 900,000—far above the official numbers listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state agencies. While that study was based on projections and evaluation of excess mortality in 2020, it seems to be validated by numerous reports of deaths that were overlooked or never evaluated, especially those occurring outside hospitals.

The IHME study suggested that the same massive undercount was likely to be true around the world, and now the World Health Organization is saying something very similar. At this point, total global deaths from COVID-19 may be between 6 and 8 million—twice the official value of 3.4 million. That still doesn't put this pandemic on par with the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, which killed at least 17 million, but the higher number makes COVID-19 not just the worst pandemic in a century, but among the largest pandemics over a much longer period.

In other words, if the last 18 months has seemed like a truly unusual period, that's because it has been. And as better numbers appear conveying the huge scope of what has happened, it becomes more important to recognize the measures that had, so far at least, prevented COVID-19 from climbing the chart of all-time human disasters.

As The New York Times reports, at least 3 million people in the the 6-8 million death estimate are believed to have died before the end of 2020, compared to a reported total of 1.8 million. In the United States cases of COVID-19 may have peaked in the first weeks of January, but around the globe, cases reached an even larger peak in April and are only now starting to drop as case counts in beleaguered India decline.

India is one of those nations where the official totals are expected to diverge most widely from genuine losses. Total deaths there are still listed at less than 300,000—about half the official total for the United States—but each day of the shocking spike in cases that began at the end of March has produced reports of thousands of uncounted deaths. On some days, local officials reported more deaths in a single city than the official records recorded for the nation. How, or if, all of this will eventually be reconciled is an open question.

The other thing that needs to be considered is that the pandemic is not over. No matter how many stories run about Europe reopening for tourists, or mask mandates being dropped across America, the areas that have already experienced widespread COVID-19 are just a subset. Many countries in Africa had little experience of the disease through the last year. In Asia, a number of nations that appeared to have "beaten COVID-19" are now seeing record levels of cases as world travel increases and new variants are spread.

Just looking at a few relatively wealthy nations, it's easy to see that the level of vaccination around the world varies widely.

Even nations with access to COVID-19 vaccine have a huge disparity in levels of vaccination. attribution: Our World In Data

Across Africa, there are more than two dozen nations where less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated. Many of these nations either have no reserve of vaccine, or may be getting vaccines that are significantly less effective than those being passed around wealthier nations.

Regardless of how the epidemic of cases shaped up in the U.S., a chart of reported cases around the world shows why this pandemic isn't anywhere close to over.

Global daily cases of COVID-19 remain high, and the trend is still going up. attribution: WorldOMeters

New cases of COVID-19 around the world are exceeding half a million. The overall trend in cases remains an upward one. Only a tiny fraction of the world has been vaccinated, and most of that fraction is concentrated in a few wealthy nations. Not only does the potential exist for this pandemic to get much worse across the globe, the huge reservoir created by all these cases provides plenty of raw material for new, more dangerous variants.

Getting vaccine not just delivered to other nations, but into the arms of the world's population, is a national security issue for the United States.

‘Kick-Ass’ Mo Brooks Dodges Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Incitement

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On January 6, in the hours just before insurgents overran the Capitol, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) stood on the "Stop the Steal" stage and delivered a message designed to set the stakes for the already riled-up crowd.

"I've got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home and along the way, stop at the Capitol," said Brooks. "Today, Republican senators and congressmen will either vote to turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline, or they will join us and they will fight and vote against voter fraud and election theft and vote for keeping America great." And in case that invitation to "stop at the Capitol" was too subtle, Brooks made his intentions absolutely clear.

"Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," said Brooks. "Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you. Are you willing to do the same?" Brooks then repeatedly shouted at the crowd, "Will you fight for America?" before saying, "We, American patriots are going to come right at them!"

In March, Brooks kicked off his campaign for senator in Alabama, with the goal of filling the seat left by retiring Senator Richard Shelby. As CNN noted at the time, Brooks has placed his support for the Big Lie and that speech on January 6 right at the center of his campaign. Brooks is literally running on his support for the insurgency.

But when it comes to facing a court case based on charges of incitement, Brooks is running away.

As Axios reported on March 5, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) filed suit in U.S. District Court citing both Brooks and Donald Trump as being "responsible for the injury and destruction" of the Jan. 6 attack. That lawsuit states that the deadly attack on the Capitol, including the attempt to kidnap and execute members of Congress, came "As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendants' express calls for violence at the rally."

More than a month later, Swalwell says Brooks is continuing to dodge process servers and refusing to be served with the lawsuit. Others charged in the suit, including Trump, have waived service—meaning that the case can proceed to court—but Brooks remains as a lone holdout. He has neither waived service, nor acknowledged the paperwork that has been delivered to his office.

As Forbes reported earlier this week, Brooks is far from apologetic about his speech on January 6. In fact, Brooks is using segments of that speech, and attempts by Democrats to censure him for his call to violence, as cornerstones of his campaign ads.

On January 6, Brooks put out a brief statement that he "always condemns violence." However, he followed this almost immediately with a tweet insisting that the cause of violence was not the people he had just told to "kick ass" and "come right at them" in an effort to save the nation. Instead, wrote Brooks, the assault was conducted by "fascist ANTIFA"—a term that may set the record for cognitive dissonance.

Brooks has continued to repeat claims that antifa was behind the attack. However, in his campaign he has also highlighted scenes of the January 6 rally and stated that on that day, "I did my duty for my country." The level of ridiculous self-contradictory elements in Brooks' statements may seem obvious, but then he is running as the most MAGA of a number of MAGA candidates vying for Shelby's spot. Being ridiculous is part of the job description.

As Swalwell's attorney noted, "It seems clear that Brooks is choosing to make a political stunt out of a part of the process that essentially is a formality, which is unfortunate." But Mo Brooks doing something just because it would draw more attention to his campaign shouldn't be a surprise. Neither should his unwillingness to go to court and discuss how he deliberately stirred up a crowd and told them to put their lives on the line, go to the Capitol, and prevent America from becoming a "godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation."

Brooks previously ran for the Senate in 2017 in the hopes of capturing the seat that once belonged to Jeff Sessions. He enjoyed the support of Trump along with Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. He came in third in the Republican primary.

Mo Brooks Calls for Blood at Trump Rally www.youtube.com

How America Can Achieve Herd Immunity Despite Republican Stupidity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

This is the good news: COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and lasting. The vaccines already looked good in their phase 3 trials before release, but since they've gone into widespread use, they've actually exceeded expectations. Since the vaccines first went into use, there are now additional months' worth of data showing that those who participated in the trials for these vaccines are still enjoying a powerful immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus more than six months later. Odds are very good that the real duration of these vaccines will exceed a year.

This is the bad news: The United States is unlikely to reach herd immunity. That doesn't mean that COVID-19 will continue to burn through the population, producing thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths each day. The number of people already vaccinated, and those who say they still intend to be vaccinated, is enough that the rate of transmission will be impacted significantly. However, not enough people are getting vaccinated to truly end community transmission. So it's extremely likely that COVID-19 will become an endemic disease, flaring up from time to time in communities where vaccination rates are too low, and constantly threatening to toss off a new variant that puts everything back at square one.

The reason for this hasn't changed. It's Republican resistance to vaccination. Despite everything, including the evidence of hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated and not either burst into flames or fallen on their knees before Bill Gates, 46 percent of Republicans still say they will not take the COVID-19 vaccine. Because of that, even if everyone who currently says they will get vaccinated gets their jab, and everyone who says they're still uncertain decides to join in, it's still only going to be about 60 percent of the population. That's not enough.

But there's a reason to hope this isn't permanent.

If the numbers from Civiqs vaccination data are totaled up, it actually comes to 76 percent. The number of people who have been vaccinated has corresponded closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on vaccination since the start of the year, with the Civiqs response "I have already been vaccinated" consistently falling just a percentage point or two behind the CDC value for the percent of the population over 18 that has received at least one shot.

If 76 percent of the population were to be vaccinated, it might actually be enough to reach, or at least approximate, herd immunity. It's unclear what the magic number really is for COVID-19. Somewhere in the 70 percent range was likely sufficient for the variants that first swept the United States. However, more recent variants are contagious enough that they might need something like 90 percent — the kind of numbers usually associated with extremely contagious diseases like measles.

But the reason that the Civiqs 76 percent isn't really 76 percent of the population is a paragraph back in the definition of the matching CDC number: "of the population over 18." The Civiqs data, like the CDC data, has so far been limited to adults. (Note: There's actually a bit of a gap in the existing data as the Pfizer vaccine is actually authorized for those over 16 rather than 18.)

Since children under 18 make up over 20 percent of the U.S. population, it's nearly impossible to reach real herd immunity until some of the vaccine goes to younger people. Fortunately, that's going to happen soon. The FDA is preparing to authorize the use of Pfizer's vaccine in children as young as 12.

This follows a report from Pfizer at the end of March in which they indicated a vaccine efficacy of 100 percent in a trial of over 2,000 volunteers between the ages of 12 and 15. Based on that data, Pfizer is expected to ask the FDA to modify the existing emergency use authorization to extend the use of their vaccine down to children as young as 12 right away. Pfizer is also conducting trials on children as young as 6 months old, and expectations are that they will submit an emergency use authorization for vaccine use down to the age of 2 sometime later in the year.

Pfizer isn't alone. Moderna is also engaged in a phase 2/3 trial for kids down to 6 months old and should be reporting results from its trial of 12 to 17 year olds in the next few weeks. Johnson & Johnson is also in the midst of a clinical trial on children 12 to 17, but hasn't yet made an announcement concerning children below 12.

All of this suggests that when school starts again next August, it's highly likely that most middle schools and high schools will require children to be vaccinated. There will, of course, be protests from the same Republicans who are refusing to be vaccinated themselves, and any number of local school boards and administrators who join in the anti-vax screeds. Even so, it's likely that the rate of vaccination among younger people will exceed that among adults. Which might be enough to, finally, tick the overall rate of vaccination to the point where community transmission of COVID-19 starts to falter.

VACCINES DISTRIBUTED TO STATES WITH HIGHER DEMAND

Across the United States, Civiqs shows just 15 percent of adults who have yet to be vaccinated but say they still want the COVID-19 vaccine. Breaking that down along party lines, 20 percent of Democrats are still in the "haven't be vaccinated, but want to be" category, while just ten percent of Republicans give the same answer.

With Republicans twice as likely to be resistant to get vaccinated, and vaccine being distributed by population, it's not surprising that many states are seeing vaccine surpluses. In fact, all across the Southeast is a band of states where vaccination rates are low and likely to remain that way as the remaining Republican population shows little interest in being vaccinated. Georgia has shut down all mass vaccination sites, and Arkansas is just one of several states to suspend vaccine orders after being left with a surplus.

Rate of vaccination by state

There are certainly some surprises on this map, like South Dakota achieving an 80 percent vaccination rate … But then, maybe that's what happens when you're near the top of the charts in cases per population. However, in general, there's a remarkably close match between the rate of vaccination and the percentage of population on either side of the red/blue line. That's because Republican vaccine resistance has been remarkably consistent from the outset. Rather than declining as more information became available, that resistance has actually increased slightly over the last two months.

If you're wondering, four percent of Democrats are saying "no" to the vaccine and three percent still respond that they are "unsure." However, over time both those numbers have been steadily declining.

IT'S NOT JUST INDIA

The situation in India continues to be nothing less than terrible. On Tuesday, India became only the second nation to record 20 million cases of COVID-19, joining the United States in this club no one wants to join. Indian scientists are pleading for the government to be more transparent with the data in order to best address the threat, and there are good reasons to believe the government is vastly undercounting both cases and deaths.

Over the last three days, the number of cases reported each day has dropped from over 400,000 to just over 350,000. That may seem like things are trending in the right direction, but just like in the United States, COVID-19 data tends to have a drop in reporting on Sunday and Monday. (The fact that daily reported deaths are down, despite the sharply increasing case count over the last two weeks, is a very good indicator that this data is incomplete.) It won't be until the final tally comes in from the next two days that it becomes clear whether or not India may have flattened what was a rocketing-upward curve.

However, there are more nations to add to the list of sites where COVID-19 is seeing a massive resurgence. Asian nations like Cambodia, which had done an amazing job of controlling the outbreak there to this point, are seeing thousands of new cases, many of them associated with variants first seen in India. A smaller—for now—spike is still growing in Laos. Thailand, which fought back a wave at the end of 2020, is having an even bigger outbreak now.

COVID-19 is not over. In the short term, what India needs is oxygen, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and medical personnel. Multiple countries, including the United States, are airlifting supplies into the nation, trying to head off the enormous disaster that could result from still-rising case counts and a medical system that's completely overwhelmed.

In the longer term, what India—and every developing nation—needs is to get the vaccine into the arms of their citizens. Which is why the U.S. needs to dispatch more of what's obviously going to be a vaccine surplus their way. And every other nation with vaccine to spare should do the same.

Giuliani’s Home Searched, Phone Seized As Feds Execute Search Warrants

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Multiple outlets reported Wednesday that federal investigators executed a search warrant at a Manhattan apartment owned by former mayor, current Trump surrogate, and leader of the effort to overturn the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani. According to The New York Times, that search is directly connected to an investigation of Giuliani's actions in Ukraine.

For literally years, Giuliani has been pushing false stories about President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and actions that were taken in Ukraine during the Obama administration. The stories that Giuliani brought back from Ukraine led directly to the dismissal of a talented ambassador, generated a whole series of congressional investigations, and encouraged Donald Trump to make a phone call to the Ukrainian president that led directly to Trump's first impeachment.

The New York Times reports that investigators extended their search to Giuliani's office, and to the home of Guiliani associate Victoria Toensing, who also worked on several of his efforts to convince former Ukrainian officials to create false charges against Joe Biden or Huntet Biden. Toensing is closely associated with Russian organized crime figure Dmytro Firtash, who was also connected to Parnas and Fruman.


Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 3:17:27 PM EDT · Mark SumnerWednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 3:19:42 PM EDT · Mark SumnerWednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 4:10:56 PM EDT · Mark Sumner

Despite multiple denials, Trump eventually admitted that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine specifically for the purposes of finding—or creating—dirt Trump could use against Biden. In the process, Giuliani worked worked with a pair of scam artists who were arrested trying to leave the country and charged with bribery, conspiracy, and funneling foreign funds into U.S. elections. Considering all this, it's not surprising that as far back as October of 2019, Giuliani was known to be the subject of a criminal investigation.

What's amazing is that it's taken this long for investigators to get around to searching Giuliani's East Side apartment. But then, as people say, elections matter.

There's an irony in The New York Times breaking the news that Giuliani is being investigated for his actions in connections with Ukraine, because it was the Times which provided Giuliani with breathless reporting in which they pasted pages of unverified charges made against the Biden family. Some actual investigation by Bloomberg in May of 2019 showed that there really was a scandal, but it didn't involve Biden. It involved Giuliani and a cohort of pro-Russia Ukrainians working to create a deceptive image of what had happened that was exactly backward from actual events.

Somehow, despite what seemed to be heaps of evidence that ensnared Giuliani into the schemes for which his associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were indicted, Giuliani was left free to wander about the country, spreading lies about the election and heading up the team that generated the second Trump impeachment.

For a guy who once said he was worried about becoming a "laughingstock," it's really hard to see how Giuliani could have done much better.

According to reporting both the Times and at CNBC, investigators have been trying to get a search warrant for Giuliani's residence "for months." However, those attempts were repeatedly blocked. Now that Trump and former Attorney General Bill Barr aren't in place to keep the wheels of justice stuck in the mud, it seems that investigators have finally gotten around to not only searching Giuliani's apartment, but seizing all his electronic devices.

The Wall Street Journal reports that investigators arrived at Giuliani's place at 6 AM before beginning their search. So expect Fox News to be filled with the same umbrage that greeted a search of Roger Stone's home before his arrest, and the offices of Michael Cohen, before his arrest.

The investigation into Giuliani is, as might be expected, directly connected to the cases against Parnas and Fruman. Both of those indictments featured false names to cover what was clearly Giuliani's involvement. The investigation is expected to extend from illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials in the United States, to Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine, and his involvement in the removal of experienced ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The story of Giuliani's attempt to manufacture dirt on Biden, assist a collection of foreign criminals, and thwart the will of American voters isn't over. But the lawyer who helped get Trump impeached—twice—may finally be getting his real day in court.

Why Ron Johnson’s Anti-Vax Stupidity Is Deadly — To Republicans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The United States no longer has to stand by for a daily White House downplaying of the threat from COVID-19, promotion of fake cures, or encouragement to get a bleach injection. That's a good thing. So is the increased availability of vaccines that, though a long way from herd immunity, may be playing a significant role in preventing the United States from seeing a real "fourth wave" of cases.

Last November, researchers at the National Institutes of Health produced a study that now seems eerily prescient. Based on the idea that vaccines could be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and that these vaccines would also reduce transmission, they modeled the effect in the U.S. of achieving 40 percent vaccination of the total population. The researchers concluded that the rate of new cases could be almost cut in half, the burden on ICUs greatly reduced, and the number of deaths drastically cut back well in advance of hitting the kind of numbers usually associated with herd immunity.

With 40.9 percent of Americans now having received at least one dose, that effect could be preventing a surge in the United States right now. We're only now reaching the levels where that effect is significant, but as the vaccine numbers go up, the possibility of a return to normal draws ever nearer. The math and science shows that every American who gets a vaccination is taking a step that benefits the whole nation.

But what if you don't believe in science? Or math? Or doing anything that helps someone else? In that case, look no further than the advice being offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-is for Russia) who is doing his best to keep vaccine hesitancy high.

While some very smart people were working out the benefits of vaccination and healthcare workers all over the nation were working to turn these numbers into reality, there has continued to be a cadre of Republicans who have undercut the vaccination effort. And with Trump reduced to sideline player, the biggest in-office source of pro-death propaganda may be the Kremlin favorite, Johnson.

As Forbes reports, Johnson has declared himself "highly suspicious" of the "big push to get everyone vaccinated." Part of this appears to be back to that not understanding math thing. Johnson has argued that because the vaccine is 95 percent effective, that means "only a limited number" of people really need to be infected. How that works in Johnson's head is unclear, and no one really wants to go in there, but however this is supposed to work, it doesn't.

Johnson then went on to encourage young people not to get vaccinated, and pushed back against the use of any sort of vaccine passport to protect public safety, calling it "a very freedom-robbing step."

Johnson then turned to the ultimate basis of all Republican policy: selfishness. "If you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" said Johnson said. "What is it to you? You've got a vaccine and science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"

The Republican Party no longer has a platform beyond "Obey Trump," but if they were adding planks, "I've got mine, why the hell should I care about anything else?" would certainly be high on the list. Only it shouldn't be surprising that Johnson has this thing completely upside down.

If he, and other Republican "thought" leaders like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson are really so set against getting a vaccine, what they should be doing is telling everyone else to get vaccinated.

Right now, 43 percent of Republicans are saying "no" to the vaccine. All over the country, red counties are finding themselves with a vaccine surplus. Whole states like Georgia, Mississippi and Montana are pondering what to do about wasted vaccines and unfilled vaccine appointment calendars (Hint: Send them to communities of color, where demand is high). Unless that number goes down, it would take near perfect participation from every other American adult to reach the lowest threshold for herd immunity. And what herd immunity does is protect the people who did not get vaccinated.

By discouraging everyone from getting vaccinated, the people Ron Johnson is most putting at risk are his Republican followers. Which makes it tempting to adopt a Johnson-esque attitude and just sort of … snicker. However, these are human lives on the line. And in addition to Republican vaccine conspiracy theorists, in every community there are a small number of people who legitimately cannot get vaccinated. That can be due to very specific allergies, or to immune system issues. Those people are protected when the population reaches herd immunity, because the disease is no longer readily spread within the community. Efforts of bozos like Johnson also put those people at risk.

It's important to counter the lies spread by Johnson, Greene, Carlson, and others, and to encourage the maximum number of people possible to get vaccinated. That protects the people who can't get vaccinated, and it helps to protect everyone from having millions of lingering infections that kick out new, ever more resistant, variants. More effort needs to be put into public campaigns to push or pull people to get vaccinated.

But looking at it from Vladimir Putin's point of view, convincing people not to get vaccinated does make America weaker. So … good job, Ron.

Virginia Cops Abused Black Army Officer In Car Stop — For No Reason

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Last December, Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario was on his way home with a new SUV when the lights of a police car appeared behind him. Rather than pull over on a narrow, darkened street, he proceeded just over one minute, and less than one mile, down the road and pull into the parking lot of a gas station. There he was confronted by two police officers who proceeded to hold him at gun point, pepper spray him through the window of his vehicle, and threaten him with death.

According to the Associated Press, Windsor, Virginia police officer Daniel Crocker radioed that he was pulling Nazario over because his vehicle lacked a license plate and had tinted windows. He also described Nazario's one minute, low-speed drive to the parking lot as "eluding police." This, to Crocker, justified calling the stop a "high-risk felony traffic stop." Which justified calling for backup and approaching the car with gun drawn.

Except that the temporary tag for Nazario's recently purchased vehicle was clearly displayed in the rear window of the SUV. If Crocker had missed it initially, it seems impossible that he would have not seen it either during that "pursuit" conducted well below the speed limit. It's also clearly visible as the car sits under the lights of the parking lot. By the time Crocker approached Nazario's vehicle, he had to know that, if there ever had been any justification for the stop, that reason no longer applied.

Crocker might have stepped up, explained that he had missed seeing the tag initially, and sent Nazario on his way with an apology. Instead, he was joined by a second officer, Joe Gutierrez, and together the two terrorized Lt. Nazario … while never actually filing any charges.

Gutierrez reportedly saw Lt. Nazario's car pull into the parking lot, which he admitted was a common occurrence. It was something that happens, "a lot, and 80% of the time, it's a minority." If there was any doubt about why a person of color might feel the need to pull over in an area that's well lit, and where there are potential witnesses, the Windsor police soon made the reason clear.

In the bodycam video (some of which has to be watched at YouTube due to age restrictions), both Crocker and Gutierrez can be seen pointing their guns at Lt. Nazario—with Gutierrez adopting a kind of sideways, faux-gangsta style as he waggles the barrel at the uniformed Army officer's face. Gutierrez then begins to tell Lt. Nazario, "you're under arrest right now for,,," stops himself, and then says, "you're being detained for obstruction of justice."

At this point, Lt. Nazario is holding both hands out the open window and asking what is going on. Gutierrez pepper sprays him through the window. As Lt. Nazario winces and pulls back, Gutierrez steps in and gives the lieutenant an extra little toot of spray directly in his face.

After Nazario opens the door— a process delayed because as one officer is telling him to open the door, the other is shouting at Nazario to keep his hands up — Gutierrez orders him to get out of the car. "What are you?" says Gutierrez. "A specialist? A corporal?" naming two lower ranks.

"I'm a lieutenant," said Nazario. Who then informs him that he's afraid to step out, or even reach for his seat belt, and again asks what's going on.

"I'm honestly afraid to get out," says Lt. Nazario.

"Yeah, you should be!" says one of the officers.

Finally pulled from the car, Lt. Nazario is forced to the ground by Crocker and Gutierrez. Still without being told why he was stopped, and even as he is begging for some help for his dog, who was in the car and choking from exposure to pepper spray. In the middle of this, Gutierrez tells Nazario that he is about to "ride the lightning," an expression usually connected to someone being executed in the electric chair.

Lt. Nazario was beaten, handcuffed, and held for interrogation while one of the officers searched his car without a warrant. The two officers threaten to charge Nazario with eluding police, obstructing justice, and assaulting an officer … but they don't. Instead, one expresses concern about the Army learning about the arrest and says he'll let Nazario go if he will "chill."

Nazario has launched a lawsuit against the Windsor police. Both Crocker and Gutierrez still work for the Windsor police department. Neither has been suspended for their actions.

Vaccine Doses Pile Up In Red States As Republicans Reject Science, Endanger Nation

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As of Thursday, Civiqs showed 41 percent of Republicans saying that they would definitely not accept a COVID-19 vaccine, while another ten percent remain unsure. With the remaining Republicans saying they will accept the vaccine down to just 18 percent, red states are starting to see a problem that the rest of the nation would love to have—a vaccine surplus. As The New York Times reports, Mississippi alone is now sitting on tens of thousands of doses that they're having a hard time giving out.

With just 25 percent of adults vaccinated, Mississippi is lagging well behind most of the nation when it comes to vaccinating its citizens. But that's not because of a lack of vaccine. The state voted 58 percent for Donald Trump in 2020. If that number accurately reflects those Mississippians who consider themselves Republicans, that's 23 percent of the state giving a definite "no" to the vaccine. Add in the small percentage of Democrats and independents who are shunning the vaccine, subtract the percentage already vaccinated, and all those doses in Mississippi are rolling around the state, looking for the less than half the population willing to take a jab.

Mississippi may be ahead of the pack when it comes to opening vaccines to everyone and still having trouble giving away shots, but it's not alone. Other states across the south—particularly Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee—are also showing low rates of vaccination, in part because of vaccine that has gone unused at events in heavily Republican areas. Governors in Ohio and Oklahoma have also warned that they're having trouble finding takers for vaccine.

As weeks go on and Republicans' anti-science position keeps them from accepting the vaccine, not only is it a threat to effectively getting vaccine to those who want it, but the sheer number of unvaccinated Republicans may mean that the nation cannot reach levels required for herd immunity, no matter how much vaccine is rolled out.

Over a month ago, a vaccination at a rural county in Missouri saw 1,500 doses of vaccine go unused. That county went for Donald Trump by 84 percent. It wasn't a singular event. Of 2,000 doses sent to another event, only 648 were used. At least four mass vaccination events run by the Missouri National Guard in rural areas had hundreds of unused doses. At the same time, urban areas like St. Louis were seeing hundreds of applications for every dose of vaccine that became available.

Urban areas in St. Louis and Kansas City were getting less doses per population than rural areas, in part because state officials madeassumptions that Black populations in those cities would be reluctant to accept the vaccine. Similar assumptions were made in Atlanta, where officials deliberately reduced allocations on the assumption that Black communities would reject the vaccine. Nationwide, Black and Latinx communities are still being shortchanged when it comes to doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

However, actual polling data—along with on the ground experience—shows that Black acceptance of the vaccine is actually much higher than in white communities. Eventually, both Gov. Mike Parson in Missouri and Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia were forced to admit that demand was actually higher in urban areas with a higher Black population, but not until after thousands of doses of vaccine had gone unused at a time when the rising count of cases and new, fast-spreading variants threatened a "fourth wave" of cases. On Thursday, WorldOMeters logged over 80,000 new cases in the U.S. for the first time since February.

The 33.7 percent of Americans who have so far received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine is definitely not enough to make a noticeable dent in the rate of transmission, and even had hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccines been delivered to areas of high demand sooner, it wouldn't have made much difference in terms of the nation. However, it certainly would have made a difference to the hundreds of thousands who have been exposed to risk due to poor assumptions, and poor decisions, about vaccine demand.

At this point, only 18 percent of Republicans say "yes" they still want COVID-19 vaccine. In just over a month, the United States is likely to be in the position of a vaccine surplus. It's an enviable position (as well as one that ethically demands the U.S. send vaccine to less privileged nations). We're not there yet.

There has been some assumption that Republicans, while saying they didn't want the vaccine, would quietly take it anyway. That's not happening. Instead, actions being taken by Republican governors to completely reopen states like Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Georgia is sending a highly visible signal that the vaccine simply isn't needed. Because everything is fine. Meanwhile, when Republican governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis have gotten vaccinated, they done so quietly. Almost secretly. Out of the public eye and without a single announcement.

Add in social media conspiracy theories ranging from standard anti-vax complaints to Bill Gates-centered Q-sense, and whatever pressure to get vaccinated Republicans might feel to get vaccinated is being easily countered. The rate of Republicans saying they want to get vaccinated has barely waved since before the first vaccine became available last year.

In the past, there's been a tendency to point to anti-vax sentiments as something that afflicts the left, and some pundits are still making that assumption today. But really, that has not been the case for some time. At this point, Republicans are an astounding ten times more likely to say no to something that should be completely apolitical. It's a marker of just how deeply an opposition to basic science and medical facts has become integral to the whole Republican identity.

Overall, 21 percent of Americans say they won't get the vaccine, while another eight percent are unsure. If everyone else gets vaccinated—adults and children—that should be just enough to get the nation to something approaching herd immunity. But it will be close, especially considering the increased contagiousness of recent variants. Republicans aren't done threatening the nation's health when it comes to COVID-19.

A Vaccine Hero

While Republican vaccine rejection may be both frustrating and worrisome, The New York Times also contains a wonderful story when it comes to COVID-19 and those awesomely effective vaccines. That's because they have an article focusing on University of Pennsylvania researcher Dr. Katalin Kariko. The 66-year-old grew up in Hungary, migrated to the U.S., then, like way too many women in science, she found herself eternally exiled to the ragged edge of research.

Year after year, Dr. Kariko was forced to seek a new position working for one of the more established scientists in control of Penn's labs. She found those positions, but it was never a sure thing. And as she bounced from one project to another, she has never made more than $60,000 a year.

But through it all, Dr. Kariko had a steady obsession: Messenger RNA. She was convinced that mRNA technology provided infinite possibilities. She just had trouble convincing those men who controlled the labs, and who had their own, less radical, projects to push. Every time she found someone who made a great partner for her ideas, it seemed they were just a few years from either retiring or moving on to a job elsewhere, leaving her to start over again and again.

It took decades before she paired with Dr. Drew Weissman on the idea of using mRNA in vaccines. Specifically, in an HIV vaccine. At long last, that research is showing spectacular results. MRNA vaccine are also going into the arms of billions around the world in the forms of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

"My dream was always that we develop something in the lab that helps people," said Dr. Weissman. "I've satisfied my life's dream."

Dr. Kariko celebrated the news about the efficacy of mRNA vaccines by eating a box of chocolate-covered peanuts. Then she got back to work.

Trump Officials Boasted Of Distorting CDC Reports On Pandemic Spread

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's not certain that Donald Trump did everything wrong when it comes to handling COVID-19, but he certainly tried. Not only did Trump promote false cures and downplay effective strategies, he deliberately avoided creating a national testing plan because he thought this would lead to a greater number of deaths in Democratically controlled states. That action alone meets the U.N. definition for genocide, and researchers have set the number of unnecessary deaths in the U.S. at 400,000.

But Trump didn't do it alone. At every step, he had the assistance of Republicans inside and outside the White House who worked with Trump to downplay the threat, misdirect public concerns, and mock serious efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19. That included not just sidelining serious officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and inserting unqualified Trump supporters like Scott Atlas, but forcing officials within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies to either suppress information or alter statements.

A year later the House select subcommittee on the pandemic and its handling is finally getting a look at some of those internal calculations and decisions. The Washington Post has acquired copies of documents before that committee showing Trump officials pressured agencies and scientists to change their reporting to the public. Then those officials celebrated the fact that the nation had been duped.

In particular, the emails between former Health and Human Services (HHS) Public Affairs Chief Michael Caputo and former Science Adviser Paul Alexander show these officials working to force the CDC to make changes in reports on how COVID-19 spread. Then they celebrated their victory with a "yippee." Alexander also managed to make changes in the "sacrosanct" Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) to tone down the apparent damage done by COVID-19.

Even then, the changes to some reports—in particular one about how the disease was spread among young people—weren't enough to make Alexander and Caputo happy. So they worked with Atlas to create op-eds to "preempt the story" and promote the idea that schools could be opened safely. That included a fishing expedition in which they sought to throw out unfounded numbers about how closing schools was causing more death than it was preventing.

"I know the President wants us to enumerate the economic cost of not reopening," wrote Caputo. "We need solid estimates to be able to say something like: 50,000 more cancer deaths! 40,000 more heart attacks! 25,000 more suicides!"

There does not appear to be any factual basis behind these numbers. Alexander, Caputo, and Atlas understood Trump's goal: He wanted the schools open no matter what, so they created a stream of fear, uncertainty, and doubt for the purposes of justifying that action.

In September of 2020, The New York Times reported on how Caputo and Alexander worked together to bully and silence scientists. For example, when 32-year CDC veteran Dr. Anne Schuchat made an appeal to Americans to wear masks, saying, "We have too much virus across the country," Alexander went on the attack. In an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association, Alexander claimed that Schuchat's real goal was to embarrass Trump. Alexander called her "duplicitous," said that the threat of COVID-19 to children was "zero," and stated of Schuchat, "She has lied." Working together with Caputo, Alexander attempted to stifle Schuchat by threatening to hang all the deaths connected to the H1N1 virus on her decisions.

Select Committee Chair Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC has written to both Alexander and Atlas stating: "Our investigation has shown that Trump Administration officials engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference in the nation's public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, overruling and bullying scientists and making harmful decisions that allowed the virus to spread more rapidly." The committee is now seeking testimony from both Alexander and Atlas.

Caputo—a nonscientist whose work as a media adviser included a stint in which he was hired to improve the image of Vladimir Putin—put himself on medical leave in September. When he did so, he apologized to many members of the HHS staff and admitted that he had not read some of the reports he had pressured people to alter. However, this did not come before Caputo posted a Facebook video in which he claimed there were "hit squads being trained all over this country" for an armed revolt against Trump's second term. He also claimed those hit squads were going to come after him personally. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with throat cancer. It's unclear whether Caputo will be asked to testify.

During the 2016 campaign, Caputo worked for Trump while maintaining offices in both Miami Beach, Florida, and Moscow, Russia. He previously worked for Trump in creating an AstroTurf campaign to make it look as if people wanted Trump to buy the Buffalo Bills.

Clyburn has requested that Alexander and Atlas appear before the committee by May 3. Considering the documentation shows they deliberately sought to alter scientific reports and pressure scientists into providing the answers they wanted, it would not be surprising if getting Alexander and Atlas to show requires a court fight.

What's both amazing and distressing is how all of these men took their obligation to support Trump to be greater than their obligation to protect public health, even when they knew the scope of the threat. Trump said many times that he sought personal loyalty above everything else. He got it.

Gaetz Junket To Bahamas Included Hotels, Flight — And Female ‘Escorts’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

When last we left Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz … Wait. Can we just leave Matt Gaetz? Apparently the answer is no, after a week in which we've learned that the revenge-porn-loving Republican:

  • ran a sex game in which points were awarded for sleeping with interns and staffers, with bonus points for virgins;
  • was connected with, if not co-owner, of an operation making fake IDs for underage girls;
  • sought a blanket pardon for himself, his friends, and unnamed other members of Congress;
  • showed off nude photos of women while on the floor of the House, while his staffers sent still more videos to their counterparts in other offices.

And all that is on top of the base-level scandal in which Gaetz is being investigated for working with indicted sex trafficker Joel Greenberg to recruit women for sex over the internet, including possibly at least one 17-year-old. While Gaetz has denied paying for sex, however, he has admitted to being "generous" to his "dates," which apparently includes paying for flights, hotels, and providing "gifts." About the only thing that isn't clear, is whether those gifts came in the form of bundles of cash.

On Wednesday evening, the flood-gaetz squeezed open a little wider and added an international flair to the ever-expanding scandal. CBS News is reporting that the sex trips under investigation may have included at least one in which Gaetz didn't have the women delivered to him, but one in which he traveled to the Bahamas. And to make everything still more bizarre, it introduces a new Gaetz associate who is described as "a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon."

Let us hope Gaetz's friend Jason Pirozzolo does not engage in both his advertised professions at the same time. Because mid-surgery is a bad time for the munchies.

As CBS reports in one of the best sentences of the entire affair: "In a July 2018 podcast, Pirozzolo told Ganjapreneur.com that Gaetz was working to introduce federal legislation that would boost medical research of cannabis."

Medical research is good. Anything that might reduce marijuana's ridiculous treatment in federal law is better. However, Pirozzolo's statement seems to have come either shortly before, or shortly after, a trip to the Bahamas in which the ganjapreneur paid for both the flight and accommodations. That alone might be enough to trigger an investigation into bribery. However, Pirozzolo also reportedly paid for "female escorts" during Gaetz's time in the islands.

Pirozzolo's organization working to expand medical marijuana might also look more legitimate if the speakers at its organizing conferences were not Matt Gaetz and Roger Stone.

Gaetz's office quickly released a statement saying that the pardon story was "nonsense" and that the latest revelations show that this is all "a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults." But there's no indication that any part of the investigation has been dropped. Instead, what's reaching the public is what Gaetz himself predicted in a self-serving op-ed earlier this week: that drip, drip, drip of new information.

Though the revelations about the investigation into Gaetz are just one week old, the investigation itself is not. Greenberg was first arrested almost a year ago, and Gaetz was under investigation well before Bill Barr stepped down as attorney general. The DOJ still seems to be moving through all the possible charges, which could be considerable, seeing that Gaetz's partner Greenberg is facing at least 33 indictments.

As for the pardon, Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz conducted a two-step on Wednesday in which Trump issued a statement saying that Gaetz "never asked me" for a pardon, after which Gaetz called the whole story a product of the press effort to stop him from taking on "the most powerful institutions in the Beltway." However, what was actually reported was that Gaetz asked White House attorneys for a pardon, and those attorneys recommended Trump not take such an action, in part because Gaetz was asking for a broad, undefined pardon for a whole group of people.

Report: Gaetz Asked Trump To Grant Him A Broad, ‘Pre-Emptive’ Pardon

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In a self-serving op-ed published earlier this week, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz warned that there would be a "drip drip drip" of new information accusing him of various and sundry acts. It was a nice warning, though really not necessary. After all, Gaetz is nothing if not 300 lbs. of putrescence in a 200-lb. bag. There are going to be leaks.

What's already been made clear is that Gaetz was deeply connected for an extended period, with indicted sex trafficker Joel Greenberg. The two were apparently involved in manufacturing false IDs for underage girls. Gaetz bragged on Greenberg's ability to secure women for sex. In turn, Gaetz also reportedly procured women for other Republican officials. Gaetz also had a proclivity for showing nude photos and videos of his supposed conquests to fellow Republicans in Congress. Meanwhile, his staff was sending more videos of Gaetz's exploits to their counterparts around town. And all this videography followed Gaetz's taking the lead in an attempt to defeat a bill banning revenge porn, because he was dedicated to the idea that once he had an "intimate" image of someone, he should be able to use it however he wanted.

In short, every Republican official in both Florida and Washington seemed to know everything that Matt Gaetz was up to. All of them are now claiming they never liked it. None of them did a damned thing about it.

And the latest drip to escape that big bag of corruption is that Gaetz tried to get Donald Trump to give him a "preemptive pardon" for every crime he's committed, and to give more pardons to all his sex trafficking pals. And interestingly, Gaetz apparently asked for pardons for some other members of Congress.

As The New York Times reported on Tuesday evening, even as Gaetz was singing along with the "Trump won" chorus, he was also chasing his hero around the White House, begging for shelter from the coming storm. Gaetz complained that there was a "bloodlust" among his political opponents, and because of that he would need a "broad pardon" that included "unidentified congressional allies."

What these other members of Congress may have done that made it necessary to hand them all Get Out of Jail Free cards isn't clear. Though there's some suspicion that Gaetz may have included other Trump favorites in his pardon request to "camouflage" the fact that Gaetz was about to need a whole lot of pardoning all on his own. What Trump thought of this was also unclear, but White House lawyers seemed to have turned Gaetz away—and there are people who okayed extensive pardons for both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

A Gaetz spokesman has issued a statement denying that the Florida Republican ever asked for a pardon. Which, because every aspect of this affair demands to be simply bizarre, is based on the idea that Gaetz was always asking for pardons: "… he called for President Trump to pardon 'everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic.'" So clearly Gaetz never asked Trump to pardon anyone, because he was on record asking Trump to pardon everyone.

The Times also quotes Gaetz as bragging about how often he was in contact with Trump. In listing all the places, Gaetz says he answered a Trump call while "in the throes of passion." However, he doesn't say whether that passion involved a school girl flown cross country on a fake ID. Gaetz also says he took a call from Trump while "on the throne." One has to suspect there may have been a large amount of grunting on both ends of that call.

As ABC News notes, even in a White House that was regularly handing out broad pardons to pals who had committed everything from tax fraud to threatening murder, Gaetz's request would have been pretty out there. In asking for a preemptive pardon that would absolve him of any crimes charged, Gaetz was essentially asking for permission to go forth and crime all he wanted. There are real questions as to whether the "unlimited" power of presidential pardons is quite that unlimited.

It's not certain if Trump knew about the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz when the pardon request came in. However, it certainly seems that Gaetz knew the jig was soon to be up.

Meanwhile, Politico has more details on Greenberg. That includes his penchant for dressing the employees at his tax assessment office in body armor and requiring them to carry weapons. That includes going armed to business conferences. Greenberg also installed—at taxpayer expense—a sprinkler system expressly so he could soak protesters by remote control. And he handed out unprecedentedly fat contracts to his friends, after running a campaign talking about "draining the swamp" and "ending crony capitalism." Add in rampant racism, islamophobia, and endless misogyny, and Greenberg seems like the very model of the modern Republican.

Greenberg has managed to pick up at least 33 indictments. How many of those will also end up being applied to Gaetz is still to be determined, but as a Florida attorney who worked for one of Greenberg's opponents said, this isn't a story just about Gaetz, or even about Gaetz and Greenberg. "Ultimately, it's about abuse of power and how the Republican Party lost its way with guys like this. ... They're the embodiment of Trumpism."

'Not Surprised': As Gaetz Sinks In Scandal, Trump And His Allies Remain Silent

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has come up with what would seem to be the perfect defense for a Republican audience. In a Washington Examiner editorial, Gaetz explains how the whole series of charges against him are nothing more than fake news from "leftist television anchors" who are after Gaetz because he "loathes the swamp." He then compares his current troubles to the very-credible accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh, and the Senate verified claims connecting Donald Trump's campaign to Russia.

But as Gaetz rails that these "bizarre claims" are coming out because he's decided to take on the FBI and the "Biden Justice Department" in some unspecified way, there seems to be a distinct parade of rats looking for the exit ramp from S.S. Gaetz.

According to Politico, those eager to run, not walk, away from association with Gaetz include Trump, right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity, and other Republican members of Congress. According to one Trump staffer, when it comes to the accusations against Gaetz, "Not a lot of people are surprised."

The most surprising thing about Gaetz's current position is just how unsurprising every Republican in D.C. seems to find it. But there's a good reason: Not only did Gaetz show off naked pictures and videos of his supposed conquests to other Republican members of Congress, his staff apparently sent around videos of his most outrageous exploits to their counterparts with other Republican officials.

When it comes to Matt Gaetz, Republicans weren't facing vague rumors about his conduct, they were getting bragging self-confessions from the man himself. And they were getting both photos and video, some of it delivered by Gaetz right from the floor of the House.

Part of what made Gaetz feel as if sending his sex tapes to fellow Republicans acceptable can be seen in a new Orlando Sentinel article that describes Gaetz's feelings about such images. Gaetz believes that once he has an "intimate" picture of someone, that image is his to use however he wants. That includes feeding his ego, or using the image as revenge porn. Which is why Gaetz as the primary source of opposition to a bill against revenge porn when he served in the Florida house.

All of this suggests that the biggest crime connected to Matt Gaetz may not be transporting an underage girl across state lines and putting her up at a hotel for the purposes of sex, or Gaetz's long-running partnership with Republican official and fake ID supplier Joel Greenberg. The biggest crime is the conspiracy of silence among Republican lawmakers who continued to protect Gaetz even though they were seeing graphic evidence of his behavior. They knew what he was doing. And they were just fine with it until Gaetz was caught.

How bad do Republicans think Gaetz's actions were? When Rep. Jim Jordan faced reports that he was connected to a coverup involving dozens of cases of sexual abuse at Ohio State, six Republican lawmakers stepped forward to put a statement of support for Jordan on the record. None of them has offered anything similar for Gaetz. (Of course, Gaetz has been praised by new Republican leader Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. So there's that.)

  • As CNN reported last week, Gaetz sent to other members of Congress "photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with." This isn't something that happened just once, but repeatedly.
  • As Politico reported on Tuesday, Gaetz's staffers "would regularly send embarrassing videos of their boss to other GOP operatives." Not once, but "regularly."
  • As The Washington Post reported last Friday, Gaetz "repeatedly boasted" about women he met through Greenberg, who has been facing at least 33 indictments since last summer, including sex trafficking of a minor.
  • As Florida Trend reported in 2015, Gaetz not only led the opposition to a revenge porn bill, he was ultimately only one of two representatives to vote against the bill.

Over and over again, Gaetz showed Republicans exactly who he was. But until word of an actual FBI investigation made the news, not one of them made a move to speak out against Gaetz. No Republican turned those nude videos into an ethics complaint. No Republican warned that Gaetz was bragging about the women he picked up through an indicted sex trafficker.

Even now, the best Republican leader Kevin McCarthy will say is that Gaetz will be removed from his campaign committees should the accusations "turn out to have merit." That's a position of incredible weakness—especially from someone who very likely has already seen nude pics passed along by Gaetz.

The Republican willingness to accept this behavior from a representative is nothing short of disgusting.

Gov. DeSantis Nixes ‘Vaccine Passports’ In Covid-Ravaged Florida

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As of Friday, the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker lists over 550,000 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus. Researchers have made it clear that the vast majority of those people should still be alive, were it not for poor decisions made during the pandemic—specifically the lack of federal system of testing and a federal mask mandate. Those two things alone could have cut the the number of deaths by more than 50%.

What makes this worse is that these were decisions not made out of ignorance. The United States wasn't in the position of medieval plague doctors, waving posies in the face of the Black Death. The efficacy of masks was clear many times over, even as Donald Trump repeatedly scoffed at their use and encouraged armed protesters to insist on "freedom!" from mask mandates. Even worse, Trump also was absolutely aware of the benefits of a national testing system. He deliberately halted his planned rollout of such a system specifically because he thought doing so would generate disproportionate deaths in states in blue states.

Trump's inaction was deliberate inaction. And because he has, almost inexplicably, become the model for all things Republican, that inaction was mimicked at every level of state and local government, from governors who refused to issue measures to protect their citizens, down to sheriffs who openly stated they would not enforce the laws. The deaths that resulted from these actions weren't tragic accidents, they were, at minimum, negligent homicide, and they should be treated as such.

But there's another class of action taken during the pandemic that demands even more attention, which deliberately prevented anyone else from working to address the problem. That applies to governors like Doug Ducey in Arizona and Greg Abbott in Texas, who didn't just refuse to pass statewide mask mandates, but used their power to override the mandates passed by counties or cities. And it's true of what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing right now, by reaching into the business of private companies to tell them they can't protect their customers.

Around the world, nations, local governments, and private companies are looking to vaccination as a way to end the COVID-19 pandemic. There's a popular idea to help people who have been inoculated prove that fact—sometimes called a "vaccine passport"—but there is no proposal on the table to actually issue some form of official federal document. For the most part, companies and localities appear to be leaning on the vaccination cards given to those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, or even app-based records issued by local hospitals or health authorities. There has been concern that such records might be forged—and they certainly could be—but no one is looking for a foolproof system. The purpose is to take action that allows people and companies to return to something that looks like normal as quickly as possible, and a "vaccine passport" seems like one thing that could genuinely help.

That possibility was emphasized on Friday, when new guidelines from the CDC expanded the list of safe activities for people who have been fully vaccinated. That list now includes traveling without being required to quarantine or self-isolate.

This is news that's being greeted with great relief by the airline industry, the cruise industry, the hotel industry, and everyone whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism. The United States passed 100 million people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The idea that these people can travel more or less as they did before the pandemic has generated a huge sense of excitement and relief for companies and individuals who have been among those most badly hurt by the economic effects of COVID-19.

But, as The Guardian reports, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also took action on Friday. DeSantis issued an executive order banning private businesses from requesting proof of vaccination. "Requiring so-called Covid-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life—such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant or going to a movie theater—would create two classes of citizens," DeSantis wrote.

Which is, of course, exactly the point. There are two classes of Florida citizens: Those who can safely take part in activities where they may be exposed to COVID-19, and those who cannot.

In issuing this order, DeSantis isn't just causing harm for industries that have a large presence in his state—like cruise lines, which have already begun insisting on proof of vaccination for those boarding their ships—he is deliberately endangering the lives of Florida's citizens. Not because he doesn't have the necessary information. Not because there's any real issue of "freedom"—any more than there is when grade schools require children to be vaccinated against a host of diseases. DeSantis is deliberately politicizing proof of vaccination, and there's little doubt that he's just the first. Other Republican governors are sure to follow suit.

Where there are Republican legislatures, they're likely to put this into law. The reason is simple enough, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of jack-booted health officials putting out a hand to demand, "show me your papers."

The reason is this: Republicans are the least likely people to be vaccinated. As of Friday, Civiqs still shows that 40 percent of Republicans state they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine, and another ten percent remain unsure. While 30 percent of Republican adults have been vaccinated at this point, that puts them well below the rate of other Americans, and only 19 percent of Republicans who have not been vaccinated say that they intend to get vaccinated.

So, as in Florida, there already are two classes of Americans—those who are listening to science and the advice of medical experts, and those who are members of a party whose base is now deeply anti-science. One of the key factors that made the pandemic so bad in the United States isn't just a lack of good guidance from Washington, or even bad governance at the state level, but a Republican population who has often acted to spread COVID-19, even if it killed them. Some of those Republicans remain so fixed in their anti-science positions that they're still denying the disease exists, even as they're dying.

Republicans haven't just failed to take steps to address the pandemic, they've deliberately made things worse. Now, with an end to the pandemic in sight, those same Republicans are still refusing to take the step that could not just save their lives, but prevent COVID-19 from becoming an endemic disease that comes back again and again.

All Ron DeSantis is doing is making sure there is just one class of Americans: those whose lives and jobs are threated by Republicans.

Gaetz Reportedly Procured Women For Himself And Political Cronies

Shortly after Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson for an interview that was strange even by Carlson standards, he was raptured into conservative heaven, and has not been seen again upon this Earth. At least, that appears to be what has happened on Fox News, where Gaetz hasn't been mentioned in over 30 hours of programming.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, his story just keeps on expanding in ways that make the Florida Republican seem a lot less like a bumbling Lothario, and more like a man who was deeply engaged in multiple crimes. Far from being the victim of a plot to smear his good name, new information from The New York Times puts Gaetz at the center of the kind of sex trafficking ring that QAnon followers believe only exists in the cellars of pizza shops. One in which he apparently recruited women online and provided cash payments. Those payments appear to have included not just paying women to have sex with Gaetz, but with Florida Republican official Joel Greenberg, and an unidentified third man. And as a reminder, one of the women that Gaetz supposedly paid to travel across the country for sex, was also 17.

The longer the story goes on, the more it appears that charges of sex trafficking are highly appropriate. But as an unpleasant story gets even darker, there are still moments so jarringly ludicrous that they seem difficult to believe. For example, Gaetz is reported to have used Apple Pay, and paid women using the Cash app on his phone. Perhaps Matt Gaetz really is law-enforcement friendly, because he certainly seems to have made this case easy for them.

Sex work is an ancient profession, and sex workers need to be treated with dignity and protected rather than prosecuted. However, it doesn't appear that Gaetz reached out to sex workers in any kind of usual sense.

Instead, Gaetz and Greenberg reportedly worked together to recruit women through dating apps and online relationship sites. Then Gaetz provided the women with "gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances" in exchange for sex. Allowances here meaning cash payments.

In at least one case, the woman appears to have been someone that Gaetz and Greenberg knew through her association with Republican politics. That woman, with encouragement and payment from Gaetz and Greenberg, agreed to have sex with the unnamed third member of their sex trafficking ring.

On Thursday evening, ABC News reported that they had sources who confirmed much of the information in the Times article. That includes the information that Greenberg was indicted in 2020 for sex trafficking of a teenage girl in 2017. It's unclear if this is the same girl who Gaetz reportedly paid to travel. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty,

As the Orlando Sentinel reported on Thursday, the charges against Greenberg extend beyond allegations of sex trafficking, and into … just about everything. There's stalking a political opponent; illegally obtaining $432,000 by creating a pair of front companies to grab up small business loans under the COVID-19 relief program; using funds from his official position as a tax collector to buy Michael Jordan memorabilia, and defrauding the county by embezzling funds to buy cryptocurrency. In short, Matt Gaetz's pal appears to have never met a law he didn't like … to break.

Gaetz and Greenberg appear have engaged in their online "recruiting" business for at least two years, working out arrangements for women to meet them at hotels and pre-negotiating payment.

Gaetz and Greenberg's relationship apparently goes back to the point where both Gaetz and his father were in the Florida legislature. According to sources at ABC, women referred to Matt as "Creepy Gaetz," and he was frequently seen trying to pick up students from a nearby college.

In an earlier interview with Axios, Gaetz admitted that he had broken out his billfold (or Cash app) on multiple occasions. "I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I've been, you know, generous as a partner." But Gaetz denied that he had done anything illegal. "I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not."

In a statement released to the New York Times, Gaetz's office went heavily into the never suspicious third person: "Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex, Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life."

It's interesting that in the Axios interview Gaetz referred to his "single days" and the statement issued to the Times notes that Gaetz is looking forward to his upcoming wedding. Gaetz became engaged in December. But the FBI is reportedly interviewing women that Gaetz paid for sex "as recently as January."

That would seem to indicate that Gaetz was still engaged in these acts a month after he became engaged to be married. It also shows that he was still carrying on more than six months after Greenberg was arrested and indicted.

Eventually, Fox will have to mention all this. But don't worry. They've surely prepped the "Rep. Matt Gaetz (D)" chyron by now.