In a profoundly detached fit of magical thinking, GOP leader Mitch McConnell told journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that the Trump era was on the wane.
In their recently released book Peril, McConnell is quoted as saying there was "a clear trend moving" away from Trump and he was "a fading brand."
McConnell, who is hailed by many Beltway journalists as a master strategist, had obviously created his own alternative reality because he prefers it to the one in which Trumpism is crushing his fanciful delusions about the present state of the Republican Party—and his place in it.
In fact, Trump and, more specifically, Trumpism, are reshaping everything from the policies Republicans champion to the candidates who will prevail in GOP primaries to the lawmakers who will fill GOP seats. The Republican Party is enduring a full Trump makeover inside and out, and anyone who doesn't see it is living in fantasy land.
Far from “fading,” Trump's influence is metastasizing. When it comes to party leadership, Trump's list of endorsees has grown to roughly 40, giving everyone he blesses a leg up in their primary. At the same time, he continues to force GOP lawmakers into retirement—particularly those with any sense of integrity, dignity, or independent thinking skills.
Trump's personal derangement is also transferring to the masses. The delusion that the 2020 election was stolen from him—one dismissed internally by his own campaign—continues to get traction. On the same week that Arizona's 2020 sham audit managed to find exactly zero fraud, the number of fraudits being entertained nationwide grew to four as Texas added its name to the list of ignominy. These fraudits have no authority to overturn results and no credibility among anyone outside of 2020 truther circles. But among a sizable portion of the GOP electorate, they keep some dim hope alive that the election could be overturned, Trump could be reinstated, and perhaps most importantly, that they as voters were egregiously wronged. Because it's not really about Trump anymore—it's about the rage and the permission structure that Trumpism has created for it.
While Trump may be channeling his acolytes’ anger to achieve his own ends, he is no longer the master of it. Trumper rage has infected nearly aspect of American public life, and it can just as easily turn on its perpetrators as it can on the rest of us. Trump told an Alabama rally last month, "I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. ... But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It's good. Take the vaccines." Instead of cheering for their supposed hero, the mostly maskless crowd fell mostly silent except for a chorus of boos that rang out from the throng.
Why? Because Trump's just the vehicle for their anger, and if he's not saying what they want to hear, screw him.
As Costa told MSNBC this week, in their more candid off-the-record moments, Republican lawmakers will tell you they're not in control any longer.
"It's the voters now in the Republican Party that are in control," Costa told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace in a two-hour special on the collapse of the Republican Party. "It's the voters and the crowds that are driving this."
The GOP rage machine is off the rails, and it's proving even more harmful at the local level. "We know where you live" has become its favorite refrain. A QAnon activist in Iowa used that threat this week, as a preamble to more intimidation and bullying at a local school board meeting.
"We’re going to stalk you! We’re coming to your house!” he continued, brandishing a little wand like a sword.
In Kent County, Michigan, health department director Dr. Adam London recently pleaded for help in a letter to the county board of commissioners.
“I need help. My team and I are broken. I’m about done," he wrote in a letter dated August 22. "I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety." London, who issued a mask mandate for local schools, had recently been run off the road by an angry driver—not once, but twice—traveling at more than 70 miles per hour.
If America was ever a nation of laws, it's not anymore. Slowly but surely, a system of mob rule and vigilante justice is sweeping the country. While the Jan. 6 Capitol siege surely empowered this celebration of lawlessness, its most dangerous seeds are being sown across the country at the local level during city council, school board, and health department proceedings that used to be sleepy, mundane affairs.
And while Trump has regularly stoked violence at his rallies and on Jan. 6 encouraged supposed patriots to "fight like hell" for the country, the GOP's supposed leaders—Trump and McConnell included—are no longer in charge of the the monster they fed and created. They're just holding on for dear life, hoping the monster doesn't turn on them.
Remember way back when, say, in August, when Republicans were sure that the Afghanistan evacuation would be the top issue for them in the 2022 midterms? Sensible people knew that ending an unpopular 20-year war wasn’t going to stain Biden’s legacy for long—I just didn’t count on it happening so soon. After deliberately helping to spread the pandemic, followed by a direct assault on voting rights, Texas decided to go full Gilead regarding women’s health, as well. Not only is reproductive freedom effectively outlawed in Texas, but government officials have now deputized private citizens to become bounty hunters. There was even a website that allowed people to snitch on their fellow citizens, just like they do in other authoritarian states.
Republicans are doing everything they can to downplay their march toward fascism by hyping phony concerns such as “cancel culture,” masks, and critical race theory. It hasn’t been working. Keep in mind that the huge margins we saw in 2018 were due to the extreme anger against what the GOP was doing to their fellow citizens. As a result, Democrats came out in droves, and an unprecedented number of women were elected to office—almost all of them Democrats. This year, the attack on women in Texas is far worse than anything that happened three years ago.
The GOP is counting on low Democratic turnout in the midterms, and if that fails, voter suppression and gerrymandering—which admittedly we need to do a much better job of fighting. Yet, even before Democratic enthusiasm skyrocketed, there were quite a few factors with this election and this electorate that put the quest of self-declared “moron” Kevin McCarthy to become House speaker in serious peril. Doom-and-gloom Democrats are dreading the upcoming midterms, but I am actually looking forward to them. There are many reasons to be optimistic, and I’ll point out a few of the races I’m anxious to help.
I always enjoy “analysis” pieces like this one, which says, “Democrats should write off the midterms.” The problem is that Democrats, who admittedly have a predisposition toward pessimism, sometimes turn these silly attacks into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Before the Texas abortion law, I just wanted to hold the House. Now, I want more seats. What I really want is for Democrats to add two more seats in the Senate so we can finally get the desperately needed reform done that Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have prevented. So here are a few things to get excited about:
Gerrymandering is not the slam dunk the GOP is expecting
As far as gerrymandering goes, Democrats are right to be pessimistic but likely blowing the effects way out of proportion. The fact is, the red states being gerrymandered have already been gerrymandered to their breaking points. “There are states that can’t get worse, like Michigan and Ohio,” said Ali Lapp, the founder and president of House Majority PAC. She raised $160 million for the Democrats in the 2020 election cycle. Pointing out states like New York and Illinois, where Democrats have control, she said, “I think the national result of all these states will be a wash.” In fact, the recent Cook Political Report just downgraded the Republican gain by redistricting alone to netting only one or two House seats.
States like Texas, which have been gerrymandered to death for the past 16 years, have to figure out what to do with all those new liberals moving into their cities. They have to go somewhere. However, a state like New York was last redistricted when the GOP was in control of the state Senate. This year, the Democrats are in firm control and could take five to seven seats from the Republicans. New York Governor Hochul has already said she has no problems with gerrymandering the hell out of the Empire State to make up for the GOP assaults elsewhere.
Ironically, the Republicans might have had more seats to play with if not for their blatant racism. The Commerce Department, which conducts the census, did the bidding of Trump’s white nationalists to undercount minority votes—especially with the Latinx population. The thinking here is that counting them would help the Democrats. Unfortunately, this racist strategy meant they undercounted in states like Florida, Arizona, and Texas. This means that these states aren’t getting the seats they deserve, and since the Republicans have the trifecta in these states, they aren’t available for the GOP to gerrymander. Oops.
Voting suppression will backfire
The Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot here as well. The assumption they run with has always been that if you make voting more accessible, it will inevitably benefit Democrats. Donald Trump admitted as much when he stated that allowing early and absentee voting options means “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Yet that just isn’t the case. When the National Voter Registration Act—known as the “Motor Voter Act”—was signed into law in 1993, Republicans cried that it would kill their party. It didn’t. They won the majority the following year. If you make registration and voting more straightforward, all that happens is that the pool of less partisan people is more likely to vote, which cuts both ways.
The biggest target of the GOP’s war on democracy is getting rid of, or at least significantly curtailing, mail-in voting. Yet, a recent study conducted by a team at the Public Policy Institute of California found that while it increased turnout, it didn’t make electoral outcomes any better for the Democrats. Their models indicated that access to mail-in voting increased turnout for Republican candidates, who did quite well in 2020. It was pretty popular with rural populations, and especially the elderly. Older voters, which have historically trended Republican, used vote-by-mail ballots more than any other group. Gov. DeSantis even begged Trump to lay off attacking voting by mail in Florida, which the Republicans count on. Trump reversed himself, but only in Florida.
However, it was confirmed in Texas as well. Republicans have always used mail-in ballots more than Democrats in Texas, up until last year. If Texas Republicans were smart, they would have studied to see if last year’s election was more of a one-off because of the pandemic before they shot themselves in the foot. But no, Donald Trump told them that mail-in voting is bad, so the Texas legislature is moving to significantly curtail it.
Republicans who are concerned are counting on their base’s white privilege and enthusiasm to counter the obstacles they are putting up for Democratic voters. Still, not everyone is convinced this is a good idea. Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Republican operative who has since left the party, said there's a real possibility this blows up their faces: “By appearing to intentionally try to keep poor people of color from voting, you will incense them, and you’ll get exactly the reaction you didn’t want.”
There’s already evidence that this has happened. People went ballistic when Georgia passed their ridiculous law targeting African American voters this year, getting so petty as to ban giving bottled water in large voting lines. Thanks to Stacey Abrams and her vast network of Black women organizers on the ground via Fair Fight Action, 95% of Georgia citizens over 18 years old are now registered to vote next year. Again, oops.
Running on what?
Republicans are working overtime to give the American populace plenty of reasons to hate them. In return, the entire national Republican strategy is trying to give Americans reasons to hate Democrats. What they can’t ever do is articulate why anyone should vote for them.
In 2020, Republicans banked on the idea of “law and order.” That’s problematic because the party of “law and order” refuses to condemn sedition and has even attacked the cops at the Capitol who defended them. They look utterly ridiculous complaining about peaceful protests in cities while supporting obvious right-wing violence. And make no mistake, the GOP has gone all-in on violence. The former Party of Lincoln has now become the party of “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” as Mitch McConnell put it recently. Thanks to Trump’s influence, white supremacists and Nazis advocating for a “race war” run for office as Republicans. It’s a disturbing trend.
Some Republican lawmakers are trying to say they are all about accountability in places like Afghanistan. Even putting aside Trump’s surrender to the Taliban, everyone has seen that Republicans are incapable of managing a damn thing, whether it’s relief to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or even just distributing vaccine doses. As you may recall, Trump delegated everything to either incompetent underlings or his unqualified son-in-law, who essentially ran the country.
In contrast, the Democrats took COVID-19 seriously and put scientists back in charge. Vaccinations were made easily accessible, and vaccination sites increased, which means the vaccination rate skyrocketed. There were no more ridiculous conspiracy theories coming from the White House, like telling people to inject bleach. We rejoined the World Health Organization and restored the directorate for global health security. Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan to save the economy.
So I ask again, what the hell is the GOP going to run on?
Pundits always look at history, even when it’s wrong
The year was 1998. Pundits and pollsters predicted that Republicans would pick up seats during Clinton’s second term. After all, there was the well-documented six-year itch: one would have to go back to 1822, in which a president’s party gained seats in the House during a president’s second term. In addition, House Republicans had a foolproof plan to win: don’t try to pass any laws, but bring up the Monica Lewinsky scandal all the time. The GOP, like always, stayed on message. Then the election happened. Republicans lost five seats, including two of Clinton’s most vocal critics.
The GOP is following the same playbook this year. Don’t pass anything, and bring up a Biden scandal—even if it’s made up. (They were all in on Afghanistan, but lately, it’s been Biden’s dog.)
It’s the Republican motto: If something is proven not to work, keep doing it. I guess that’s why they still promote trickle-down theory.
The June ticking time bomb
If you thought the SCOTUS ruling on Texas’ abortion law was bad, wait until June. The justices will take on Roe v. Wade directly in late June of next year with a Mississippi law that seeks to overturn it. I can’t stress enough the pitfall for the Republicans here. Since no one in politics can see past the next few days, no one is talking about this now. Just wait. Right-wing media, like Fox, is still telling people that young voters are obsessed with Afghanistan. Oh, Fox.
In reality, there is no good way out for the Republicans here. SCOTUS may finally overthrow Roe v. Wade, as the right-wing conservatives are pushing. If they do, I promise you the backlash will be enormous. Younger voters have taken abortion for granted, and most want it legal in all circumstances. If you want every Democrat to come out for the midterms, this is how you do it.
On the flip side, if the conservative justices don’t overturn Roe v. Wade, the backlash from angry conservatives will be just as grave. They have been promised this action for decades, and I cannot stress the betrayal they would feel with a 6-3 majority. There won’t be that enthusiasm that Republican legislators are counting on from their base to overcome the voting obstacles they installed this year, but that certainly won’t be an issue on the Democratic side.
First election since the insurrection
Democracy is on the ballot this year, and that’s not hyperbole, but the truth. The overwhelming majority of Americans were disgusted by the Republican attempt on Jan. 6 to overthrow the 2020 election results, using terms like “shocked, horrified” and “something you would expect to see in a third world nation.” Some in the Republican party desperately want people to forget this even happened. Yet, the fringe that runs the Republican base is making sure no one forgets by holding rallies supporting the insurrectionists. Even worse are the Republican lawmakers who have attempted to downplay or even justify the violence of that day. Everyone knows that if the Republicans were to seize power in the House, things would get much worse.
Not only would what happened in Texas be peanuts if the GOP takes control in the midterms, but our very elections would be in peril. After Jan. 6, no one can say they don’t know the consequences of giving Kevin McCarthy the speaker’s gavel. A GOP-controlled House will not certify the electoral votes for a 2024 Biden win, no matter what.
They will again make baseless claims that the election was marred by widespread fraud and then contest it so McCarthy can assume duties as “acting president” over Joe Biden. The conservative block on SCOTUS, which is now not even pretending to be unbiased, will let this happen.
This is simply a fact and is the case that Democrats need to be making at every opportunity. It’s not left vs. right anymore; it’s democracy vs. fascism. This alone should give people pause before voting for a Republican at any level of government. They are supporting the party apparatus that has declared war on our nation’s very foundations, and they need to be stopped.
Among House Republicans who voted for sedition, there were sharp variations in their fundraising attempts. Those who built national profiles as hard-line Trump loyalists made up the difference from corporate PACS with significant fundraising hauls from small donors. This category includes incumbents like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz. Yet, the other seditionists saw a substantial decline in fundraising as compared to last year. The majority of them are small-time industry hogs who screwed themselves. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican in Oklahoma, had almost $150,000 in his first quarter of 2019. This year? $42,000.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a long history of backing Republican candidates over the past decade, but it’s getting harder and harder. The population has been none too keen on companies who fund legislators who assault democracy and voting rights. The chamber recognized this and is no longer a GOP playground. For the first time last year, the chamber endorsed 23 House Democrats. Tom Donohue, the organization’s CEO for 24 years, resigned after Trump refused to accept the election.
The Republican funding problems go deeper. House Republicans have long depended on funding from the Koch network, but the Kochs announced they are re-evaluating their donations—especially to members of the Sedition Caucus. Other funding avenues have taken a big hit. Their vast corruption has practically demolished the National Rifle Association, and the godawful Sheldon Adelson has finally departed this earth.
On the flip side, Democrats are soaring past Republicans in fundraising. The second quarter of 2021 showed that ActBlue pulled in $289 million in online contributions, far more than doubling the amount that the GOP apparatus has taken in.
Trump is screwing things up, as always
Lastly, there is Trump. Fortunately for us, his colossal screwups are no longer hurting everyone—just the GOP. Right now, he is telling Republicans not to donate to any arm of the Republican party but instead to himself and his PAC directly. He made clear to big donors that he expects them to keep funding him, not other candidates. They’ve listened. He’s amassed $100 million, which I doubt will find its way into too many campaigns since he will need it for his legal troubles and his own failed 2024 run. (That total also includes funds that had to be refunded due to Trump’s questionable fundraising tactics.) Trump has also launched several personal vendettas to many vulnerable members, even though GOP leadership has begged him to stop.
Trump’s bruised ego has also been the launching pad for Republican claims that elections they lose are the result of fraud. The big issue with this mindset is that it makes it easy for Republican voters to stay home since they believe the vote will be rigged anyhow. Fanatical Trump voters staying home will impact certain races, and most experts agree it was at least part of the reason that Georgia gained two democratic senators this year.
Lastly, Trump’s minions in the House are now the face of the GOP. The most ridiculous, conspiracy-driven officials are also the ones who most crave the spotlight. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz are the representatives of the Republican party, along with their racism, antisemitism, and criminal behavior. That’s just the new norm, and the majority of Americans are repulsed by what they see.
Democrats have plenty of reasons for optimism. The backlash the GOP counts on is supposed to happen right after the election. Consider that by June of 2016, the Democrats were overperforming everywhere there was a special election, which foreshadowed the 2018 blue wave. Yet that’s not happening this time for the GOP. Democrats beat our own margins in New Mexico and another Louisiana seat this year and won both Senate runoffs in Georgia. Maybe, just maybe, the GOP's assault on our democracy, Trump's refusal to leave the stage, and popular policies that Democrats are fighting for have given us a real chance.
The list below is for nine seats House Democrats lost in the 2020 election that Biden won. I should point out that these don’t even list all of the targets of the DCCC, which is focusing attention on southern Florida's 26th district, Iowa's 1st and 2nd districts, New York's 22nd District, and Utah's 4th District, just to name a few. However, it’s an excellent place to start for good pickup opportunities:
HOUSE DEMocrat PICKUP OPPORTUNITIES: Biden districts that are held by Republicans
District’s 2020 GOP win margin
District’s Biden win margin
This is the most Democratic district to be represented by a Republican. Seriously, Biden won by 11 points here. This is even worse since Valadao is an extremist who votes against his constituents’ interests.
Janelle Perez is an LGBTQ+ activist and health care business owner in Miami who quit as a GOP staffer over Trump. She has raised a lot in small donations.
Maria Elvira Salazar is a huge Trump fan that is out of place for this district. She rode the wave of socialist hysteria to victory and needs to be defeated now, or she will likely hold this seat for a long time.
Tony Vargas is a popular state legislator who was reelected with 75% of the vote. Alisha Shelton is a mental health worker.
This district used to lean Democrat, but gerrymandering has made it R+1. The GOP incumbent won only because centrist NE Democrats foolishly endorsed him over the progressive challenger last time. Bacon reliably votes with the GOP. Thanks, guys.
Business owner and current state rep Michelle Beckley is making a go of it, as is Marine veteran and attorney Derrik Gay. This is a blue district that is 40% minority, won by both Beto O’Rourke and Biden.
On the other hand, GOP incumbent Beth Van Duyne is the most appalling Republican on this list. She posted a racist image of a Black woman, spreads anti-Muslim propaganda, and was honored by a hate group.
I know Democrats are trying their best to do everything they can before the midterms, which is a tall order. We have to rebuild our nation’s entire dilapidated infrastructure, reverse climate change, save voting rights, fix immigration, fix policing, save reproductive rights, and possibly fill a Supreme Court vacancy. We must do all of this and more with the most razor-thin of margins in both houses. We can and should try.
But if we don’t make it, I’m not prepared just yet to assume that all is lost, and neither should you. There’s plenty of indication that Democrats will hold onto their majorities and possibly even expand them. If Democrats do the right thing and go bold, we can very much make this a reality. We have to: the alternative is too grim to bear.
On Friday, Rep. Boebert did her best impression of whatever it is the GOP think public servants look like and sent out a press release calling for the impeachment of President Joe Biden. Why? Who cares. What is Rep. Boebert offering to do for her constituents? Nothing. Did Lauren Boebert send out this news release with big capitalized signage that reads “IMEACH BIDEN”? Yes. Yes, she did. And while she has since tried to hide this glaring mistake, the internet is forever.
Let us start with a caveat: We are laughing at Lauren Boebert because she’s a crap person. People with GEDs, a group to which Boebert reportedly belongs, are not stupid.
Boebert’s issues are specific to her profession and political party. Whatever education she has had does not seem to make her any less “smart” than Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his carefully scheduled Yale legacy. It makes her no less intelligent than suspected sex trafficker and William and Mary Law School alum Rep. Matt Gaetz. And while Marjorie Taylor Greene is nine years older than Boebert, there does not seem to be much of a difference between the two when it comes to maturity.
So let’s focus on the gaffe, and avoid punching down on the millions of people with GEDs who aren’t Lauren Boebert.
Without further ado, I bring you epic typo political theater!
The articles of impeachment filed by House Republicans against Biden administration figures are starting to pile up.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican, introduced Friday impeachment resolutions against President Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris, citing the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan that saw U.S. forces leave behind billions of dollars ...
Denied his access to Twitter, Donald Trump has taken to issuing regular missives to his supporters—almost all of which come with a link for providing donations. On Wednesday, one of those statements made clear that, even before the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 issued its first subpoenas, Trump intended to fight them using “executive privilege.”
"Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation," wrote Trump.
No one has relied more heavily on executive privilege than Trump. During his time at the White House, and especially during his first impeachment, it’s easy to determine the number of document and testimony requests that were met with a claim of executive privilege—because it was all of them. Trump even instructed members of executive branch agency to refuse to attend long-standing regulatory meetings, or refuse to provide standard information, with the idea that he might claim privilege. In almost all these instances, he didn’t actually ever make such a claim. He also didn’t provide the requested information. Under Trump, executive privilege became a black box that could be placed around any information, at any time, and because it was never really claimed, never had to defend itself in court.
But, for all the ways that Trump has applied executive privilege in the past, there is one thing he can’t do: He can’t call on it from beyond the political grave. As Rep. Jamie Raskin said in response to the missive from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s thoughts on executive privilege aren’t particularly meaningful at this point “because there’s no president involved—there’s no such thing as a former president’s executive privilege.”
The one person who decides what information gets shared now is the actual president. And no matter what the MAGA crowd might think, the actual president is Joe Biden.
Executive privilege is not a term found in the Constitution. The extent to which the executive can hold secrets, and the actions that the Congress can take to reveal them, is a balance that has always been maintained through a battle of wills occasionally moderated by the Supreme Court.
There have always been instances in which discussions in the White House were held in a high degree of secrecy, but for the most part legal protections extended only to things such as military plans or diplomatic communications that could be construed as matters of national security. Going back to disputes between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson, the Supreme Court (or to be more accurate, John Marshall) ruled that presidents have no particular protections or privileges attached to their private discussions. A quarter of a century later, Andrew Jackson refused to hand over any information to the Senate … but Jackson was an authoritarian jackass whose attitude toward the courts and law shouldn’t be taken as precedent for anyone. Somewhere in the middle of those two positions is the bounds of executive privilege.
Though there is a lengthy list of refusals to produce information by the executive branch, the first broad application of such privilege didn’t come until Dwight Eisenhower cited executive privilege in refusing to provide information from the Defense Department during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Eisenhower’s reasoning might be fully justifiable, and his opponent wholly execrable, but it was in this exchange that the idea of executive privilege as an appropriate tool for protecting “candid advice,” rather than matters of vital national interest, originated. Eisenhower also extended the idea of privilege beyond direct communications with the executive to cover such discussions among advisers.
Richard Nixon took that opening and ran for the end zone. Post-Nixon, Republicans have really liked them some executive privilege. Like ... a lot. Ford claimed it. The Bushes, father and son, worked it heavily. And if Donald Trump’s claim that agencies can deny requests from the Congress while waiting to see if he wants to declare privilege seemed like something new, it wasn’t. Ronald Reagan went there first. Reagan’s idea that everything should be assumed to be privileged until he said otherwise flipped the whole concept on its head. It has stayed flipped.
Democrats haven’t been immune to the executive privilege itch. Barack Obama claimed executive privilege when the Republican-led House insisted that then-Attorney General Eric Holder turn over documents about an ongoing investigation or face perjury charges. Bill Clinton claimed privilege over documents about his inappropriate White House affair … and lost that claim in court.
Over the last 50 years, the idea of executive privilege has become so ingrained that it’s often simply assumed that any exchange between White House advisers, or even officials at regulatory agencies, is shrouded by the potential of privilege being exerted. Which has made executive privilege the enemy of transparency in a way that few (except perhaps Jackson, Nixon, and Trump) would appreciate.
But none of this—zip, zero, nada—will avail Trump now. Because, as Raskin said, executive privilege is something for people who are still in office. People who are out of office are protected by something else, something called the Presidential Records Act. And how that applies is up to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The first thing that Act does is make it clear that all records of the president and vice president are public data. The next thing it does is make the incumbent president the custodian of that information, and it gives the incumbent president some very broad powers.
The president can destroy records
If information is found to “no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value” then the president can have those records chucked. However, there is a catch. First this proposal has to run past the National Archives. Records can only be disposed on a written request from the president, and with a written approval from the archivist.
The President can restrict access to records
The president can determine that there is a compelling national interest to keep records under wraps for up to 12 years. However, information is open to selected Freedom of Information requests after five years. Again, all of this happens in coordination with the National Archives.
The president can take full control of the records
For as long as the president is in office, records can be essentially taken away from the Archives and held by the White House, meaning that anyone who wants them has to request or subpoena them directly from the president.
The president can make the records fully public
The records can be turned over to the House or Senate, or to the courts as part of legal proceedings. They can also be cleared for release on any request to the National Archives.
And it’s that last thing that’s likely to happen in the case of the records that are currently on President Biden’s desk. Two collections of Trump documents that are part of the extensive request from the Select Committee have now been turned over by the National Archives to the White House. These documents may contain phone records, schedules, meeting notes, and more for Trump, Trump’s adult children, Melania Trump, members of Trump’s legal team like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and records from advisers like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. The National Archives have reportedly turned over hundreds of pages of information.
The White House is looking at those records to see if there is some reason why they shouldn’t be provided (for example, discussions of a military or diplomatic nature). However, Biden has already made it clear that he values transparency and plans to “err on the side of disclosure.” So Trump should not be expecting any protection on that front.
Despite all this, there’s little doubt that Trump will try to intervene in the release of these documents, and there might be some tiny spark of hope in the land of all you can eat shrimp.
That spark goes back once again to Joseph McCarthy, the same McCarthy that Eisenhower used executive privilege to ignore. In 1948, the House Committee on Un-American Activities subpoenaed records “concerning the loyalty” of the director of the National Bureau of Standards. Truman responded by blocking all access to so-called “loyalty files” and held a press conference making clear he would not comply with any such request. For the next four years, Truman sparred with the Un-American Activities Committee and with the follow-up hearings.
But once Truman was out of office, they tried again, seeking to make Truman testify himself. He refused the subpoena, and the committee allowed the matter to drop rather than fight the issue out in court, which could have generated a clear definition of what protection, if any, is provided to a former executive.
That Trump’s legal position could ultimately tie back to McCarthyism … seems entirely appropriate. But he shouldn’t get his hopes up.
The Democrat-led January 6 select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas to four former aides to President Donald Trump Thursday.
Those receiving subpoenas for documents and testimony include former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, former communications official Dan Scavino, and former Defense Department official Kash Patel.
What prompted these actions?
The four committed the crime of “working in or (having) communications with the White House on or in the days leading up to the January 6th insurrection.”
In a statement announcing the subpoenas, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) claimed they were simply going after the facts.
“The select committee is investigating the facts, circumstances and causes of the Jan. 6 attack, and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend to the House and its relevant committees corrective laws, policies, procedures, rules or regulations,” Thompson wrote.
There’s no enough anticipation in the world for this showdown, which I cannot begin to imagine Democrats will let happen in public. You’re gonna face off with Bannon?! Please do. We want to see this. https://t.co/MnAXDmYQoR
Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) warned that any of the Trump allies who do not comply with the subpoenas will be guilty of “criminal contempt.”
“We may have additional tools now that we didn’t before, including a Justice Department that may be willing to pursue criminal contempt when people deliberately flout compulsory process,” he said.
Legal analyst Elliott Williams suggested the speed with which the January 6 committee is moving is a sign that they are very serious.
“Quick subpoenas like this are a sign they’re not messing around,” he tweeted.
. This is a big deal because usual practice in congressional investigations is to try to negotiate with witnesses before issuing subpoenas. Quick subpoenas like this are a sign they’re not messing around. https://t.co/n0RZXPaTnN
The politics of the moment, however, cannot be ignored: Democrats are facing the possibility of a bloodbath in the 2022 midterm elections with polls already trending toward Republicans, an unpopular Democrat president, and a White House making matters worse on a daily basis.
“If Democrats lose control of the House, the select committee would likely be in peril,” Axios writes.
JUST IN: The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to some of fmr. President Trump’s closest advisers, including Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, and Dan Scavino. pic.twitter.com/1SKD9nsO2x
In a statement issued Thursday evening, the former President vowed to fight any subpoenas coming out of the January 6 “unselect committee.”
“We will fight the subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds, for the good of our country, while we wait to find out whether or not subpoenas will be sent out to Antifa and BLM for the death and destruction they have caused,” Trump wrote.
“The “Unselect Committee” of highly partisan politicians, a similar group that perpetrated the now proven lie of Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and many other Scams, has sent out Harassment Subpoenas on Jan. 6th pic.twitter.com/Kl97cqakHQ
The committee, led by Thompson and Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), in August advised telecommunication companies to preserve the phone records of certain individuals, including lawmakers and possibly members of President Trump’s family.
The request also demanded federal agencies turn over “all documents and communications relating to the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Additionally, the select committee requested a release of “all documents and communications related to the mental stability of Donald Trump or his fitness for office.”
Republican lawmakers turned the tables in a letter to various telecommunication and social media companies saying that if those companies provide Democrats with the phone records of Republicans, they need to provide Republicans with the phone records of Democrats.
I just sent a letter to 13 companies condemning Democrats’ attempt to illegally obtain private phone records as part of their investigation into the events of January 6th.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) had to be consoled as it appears she was crying after voting ‘present’ on a measure to provide $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Progressives – most notably the Squad – had voiced opposition to the funding and successfully had it removed from a government funding bill just days ago.
But Democrats thwarted the effort by reintroducing the funding bill as standalone legislation and it passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 420 to 9.
Among those voting ‘no’ were fellow Squad members Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
AOC, however, initially voted ‘no’ but at the last moment switched her vote to ‘present.’
Then, she apparently broke down.
NOW – Tears on the House floor: AOC appears to be crying as the House passed a $1 billion funding for Israel’s Iron Dome. She voted no, then switched her vote to present last minute.pic.twitter.com/jjq3kw7R4v
Video on C-SPAN shows AOC being comforted by a fellow Democrat and repeatedly wiping her face as if she were crying.
It’s unclear if she was emotionally distraught over the funding vote for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system designed to thwart missile attacks from terrorist groups, if she’s embarrassed by the massive defeat for her caucus, or if her Roku wasn’t able to stream that morning’s episode of Paw Patrol.
Regardless, Ocasio-Cortez has a few thoughts on lawmakers who vote ‘present.’
In 2019, the New York socialist slammed then-Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, for voting ‘present’ on articles of impeachment for President Donald Trump.
While Tlaib, Omar, Bush and Pressley voted NO to fund Israel’s Iron Dome (arguing they should fund it themselves), AOC voted “present”, just like she voted “present” on Pelosi’s $2b for the Capitol Police.
Earlier this month, AOC mocked former Alaska governor Sarah Palin for criticizing her as a “fake feminist” by pretending to set up a hotline to call – 1-800-CRY-NOW.
The ‘Yass Queen’ crowd was delighted, but for those of us still residing on planet Earth, her video showed a level of immaturity you wouldn’t hope to see in a pre-teen student, let alone a sitting congresswoman.
The left’s health policy strategy is simple: Step by step, centralize government control over larger chunks of the health care sector of the economy, add more and more taxpayer subsidies (requiring ever higher taxes), and block the emergence of any independent alternatives for coverage and care.
In the end, the coverage and care that individuals and families would or would not get is what politicians and bureaucrats decide that they could or could not have.
Exhibit A: The radical Democrats’ massive $5 trillion-plus spending bill, which they are trying to fast-track through the reconciliation process.
Buried in the body of the bill, several major health policy changes would dramatically increase politicians’ control over individuals’ health care decisions, increase health care costs, and displace private health care alternatives for coverage and care.
Under the reconciliation bill language, radical Democrats would make permanent their recent temporary expansion to middle- and upper-income Americans of the tax credit subsidies for Obamacare exchange plans.
That’s bad policy. Not only would that do nothing to bring down the cost of those plans, it would actually create a bigger incentive for insurers to keep raising premiums—since it would shift most of those cost increases from their customers to federal taxpayers.
In tandem with this federal subsidy expansion, the bill would also create a special Medicaid coverage program for all persons with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level living in states that have not already adopted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
This expansion would be paid for entirely with federal funds, rather than the current combination of federal and state funding, and would move more low-income workers out of private employer coverage and into Medicaid.
While private insurance coverage has historically secured better performance than Medicaid in patient access and medical outcomes, the proposal would further crowd out existing private health coverage.
Congress should adopt a much better policy, one that would empower patients to secure the health coverage that is best for them, and enable health plans and providers to respond effectively to patients’ wants and needs in a more open, competitive market.
That would entail targeting resources to persons who most need financial assistance, while providing the regulatory flexibility that would reduce premium costs and expand private coverage options for individuals and families.
Congress should also provide low-income people the right to redirect the taxpayer subsidies for their Medicaid coverage toward a private or job-based health plan of their choice. By compelling plans and providers to compete directly for patients’ health care dollars in a new health care market—one where information on price and provider performance is transparent and easily accessible—patients and taxpayers alike would secure better care at lower cost than they do today.
Beyond crowding out Americans’ coverage alternatives, radical Democrats would also create a new program to control the price of prescription drugs throughout the economy.
Each year, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services would select a set of 25 drugs from a list of 125 medicines that generate high spending in Medicare and the private sector, compel companies to “negotiate” under the threat of civil monetary penalties, set a target price for the drugs (based on price-controlled pharmaceuticals in six foreign countries), and impose high excise taxes on companies that charge more than the secretary’s fixed price.
Radical Democrats like to describe this as a process of “negotiation,” giving it the patina of a private sector-style business arrangement. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s raw coercion.
Today, the United States is the global champion of biomedical innovation. Reduced returns on investment in research and development, courtesy of price controls, is a costly trade-off.
It will dramatically reduce the number of new medicines developed and will compromise access to quality care for patients.
Demand for prescription drugs is strongest, of course, among Medicare beneficiaries. Rather than imposing a comprehensive regime of government price controls on prescription medications, Congress should build on the best market features of the Medicare Part D program, which today encourages health plan and provider innovation in the financing and delivery of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit.
Congress should improve the situation for patients by setting a cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket drug costs and shifting the burden of covering expensive drugs to insurance plans, while promoting the broader availability of cheaper generic drugs.
Finally, the bill would add dental, hearing, and vision coverage to the traditional Medicare program. Vision services would begin in 2022; hearing benefits in 2023; and dental coverage in 2028.
Private Medicare Advantage plans, seniors’ only alternative to traditional Medicare, already cover such benefits—and at a lower cost to seniors than this bill would entail.
The latest proposal to add these common benefits, staggering their effective dates for political reasons, is testimony to the fundamental backwardness of a politically driven health care program, which depends on legislative or administrative action to add, modify, or improve medical benefits or services.
Since the 1960s, private health insurance plans have steadily added new benefits and services based on emerging medical advances, as well as patients’ needs and preferences, including vital prescription-drug benefits.
Medicare has lagged behind routinely. It was not until 2003—when then-President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Modernization Act into law, after decades of political gridlock—that America’s seniors secured access to drug benefits in the Medicare program. To date, traditional Medicare beneficiaries are still not covered from the financial devastation of catastrophic illness.
Congress could adopt a far superior Medicare policy. Future generations of retirees should not be forced to depend upon the whims of Congress to secure modernized medical benefits and services.
One of the achievements of Medicare Advantage, also created in 2003, is that seniors are empowered with a defined contribution from the government to pick and choose the kinds of health plans and benefits that they want.
To intensify the competition, traditional Medicare should be forced to compete directly with private health plans on a level playing field in a modernized system of retiree coverage based on consumer choice and competition.
Such a modernization, based on patient choice and market competition, would stimulate innovation in benefit design and care delivery, control health care costs, and deliver better value for seniors’ health care dollars.
The spending bill, aggrandizing more federal power and control over Americans’ health care, is yet another step in the direction of government-run national health insurance. That’s a dead end with no choice and no exit.
The next Congress should reverse course and open up the health care markets, break down barriers to plan and provider competition, and maximize the opportunity for all Americans—including the poor—to choose the coverage and care that they want.
On Thursday, sparks flew when White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back hard on the notion that America’s southern border was wide open after Fox News’ senior White House correspondent Peter Doocy’s claimed that it was.
Their exchange took place during Thursday’s daily White House press briefing.
Psaki just claimed "there certainly is not an open border"
Peter Doocy FLAMES on her on LIVE TV with pure facts.
Doocy said that on Saturday there were about 15,000 migrants gathered in Del Rio, Texas. Yet when you look at the numbers based on migrants that Psaki said were expelled or released, Doocy said that number sinks to less than 5,000.
“Say there’s 5,000 that are still left, where’s everybody else?” Doocy asks.
Psaki, as has become common, promised to circle back.
Doocy pressed her, “We understand basically most of these people that are going into removal proceedings are being put on either buses from Del Rio to El Paso and Laredo or being flown to Tucson with no COVID testing unless they show symptoms.”
“How is that helping anybody stop the spread?” Doocy asked.
Psaki replied, “We have a protocol and processes in place as it relates to COVID in terms of testing and quarantining and also vaccines are provided for a range of migrants.”
“What is happening now… is that if individuals cannot be expelled under Title 42 they are placed in removal proceedings,” she added.
Doocy: "You say the border is not open, but we're told by our teams on the ground you guys are releasing pretty much all family units, couples where the woman says that she is pregnant or single women who say that they are pregnant."
Psaki: ‘Well, There Certainly Is Not An Open Border’
The press secretary noted that some of those detained are taken to detainment facilities or given a notice to appear in court.
A notice to appear means that they are released and given a date to show up in court on the honor system that they will appear.
Doocy kept pressing,“But why should somebody say in Laredo, Texas or El Paso or Tuscon, Arizona have to have their chance of catching COVID go up because hundreds of miles away there is an open border?”
“Well, there certainly is not an open border,” Psaki said sternly.
“We are continuing to employ our immigration proceedings and processes and restrictions at the border and that includes the implementation of enforcing Title 42,” she added.
What did Doocy do? You guessed it.
Doocy said to Psaki “You say the border’s not open but we’re told by our teams on the ground you guys are releasing pretty much all family units, couples where the woman says that she is pregnant or single women who say that they are pregnant and that nobody actually has to take a pregnancy test unless they want to but…”
“Are you suggesting you don’t believe when women say they’re pregnant? … You think pregnant women are posing a big threat to the border?”
— WH Press Sec. Jen Psaki responds to Fox News’ Peter Doocy asking why women aren’t pregnancy tested at the border pic.twitter.com/qTPzPkc8j9