Republicans pray for truce after Trump attacks on McConnell

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell's relationship simply can’t go on like this for Senate Republicans.

Though the Senate GOP is tantalizingly close to retaking the majority next year and largely united in opposition to President Joe Biden’s agenda, the ongoing feud between the former president and the Senate minority leader has decayed to an entirely untenable place. Trump’s insult-laden diatribe against McConnell this weekend signals that the GOP could splinter badly in primaries next year — and raises the question of whether McConnell and Trump can work together at all.

In theory, the two Republicans could be back serving together in fewer than four years. But not if Trump keeps calling McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” and a “stone-cold loser.”

“We’ve got issues as a party, with the demographic trends going against us, and we don’t have a lot of margin for error,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), observing that the Trump-McConnell feud is still in “full flare” at the moment. “When it comes to the infighting politically, I don’t know how that can help — when you’re scrapping on the margins, when you’re trying to win states, and especially national elections.”

The feud is mostly one-sided as of late; McConnell barely utters Trump’s name these days and has no communication with the former president. Still, several high-ranking senators said on Monday evening that Trump and McConnell need to reach an understanding of some sort or perhaps even resume speaking to each other, which at the moment seems unthinkable.

“Hopefully there will be some sort of truce,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune. “It’s in everybody’s best interest — including the former president, if he wants to continue to stay viable politically — to help us win the majority in 2022. And that means working with Senate Republicans, and not against them.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the No. 5 leader, said she hoped “at some point” Trump and McConnell could even reconcile.

“We really need to come together, both Leader McConnell and President Trump,” Ernst said. “We just need to have good discourse within the Republican Party right now.”

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 21: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a news conference regarding court packing on Capitol Hill on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced S.J.Res. 14, which would provide a constitutional amendment that would limit the United States Supreme Court to nine justices. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

The Kentucky Republican declined to respond to Trump’s criticisms on Monday evening, but will almost certainly be asked about them again Tuesday at his weekly news conference. And Trump upped the ante later Monday, with a statement about the Supreme Court in which he said: “With leaders like Mitch McConnell, they are helpless to fight. He didn’t fight for the Presidency, and he won’t fight for the Court.”

Trump and McConnell have feuded before, of course, mostly in 2017 during the early days of the former's presidency. Trump leaned on McConnell to kill the legislative filibuster (McConnell refused) and criticized the GOP leader for the party's failure to repeal Obamacare. The two later repaired their relationship by focusing on the federal bench and collaborating on Senate races, though their alliance evaporated after McConnell recognized Biden’s presidential win in December.

The rift has accelerated since then, fueled primarily by Trump’s lies about the election, his actions during the Jan. 6 riot and his subsequent delay in calling off his supporters after they stormed the Capitol. McConnell harshly condemned Trump this year for having “fed lies” to his voters in his efforts to overturn the election and indicated openness to convicting Trump in his impeachment trial.

Ultimately McConnell acquitted Trump while excoriating him for a “dereliction of duty” in failing to defend the Capitol. The Senate GOP leader further vowed to nominate mainstream candidates who can win general elections in key races, regardless of the former president's opinion. Notably, Trump has so far endorsed a slate of incumbent GOP senators, several of whom disagreed with his efforts to contest the election.

He has not endorsed Thune, however, and openly opposes Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) reelection. Future GOP Senate primaries in states like Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio offer more opportunities for intraparty conflict.

“The way this is going to play out is, there will be primaries. And President Trump presumably will pick his person. It could well be the same person that we would want to see nominated. But in the end, it’s about who is electable in the general election,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close McConnell ally.

Trump’s latest series of disses, including blaming McConnell for losing January's Georgia Senate runoffs and mishandling the latest series of pandemic stimulus checks, obscures what’s otherwise a united GOP at the moment. No Republicans in Congress supported Biden’s coronavirus bill earlier this year, and it appears none of them will support Biden’s still-nascent infrastructure plan.

You'd hardly be able to tell that from the impression given by Trump's slamming of McConnell. The ongoing tension risks miring their party in division, projecting the appearance of a hopeless split between McConnell’s more establishment vision and Trump’s chaotic, controversy-driven conservatism.

“This is how I look at it: They’re both big boys,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who conceded that the episode is “not helpful” to Republicans. “They’re both aiming for the same ends, which is a good result in 2022. But they’ll be able to figure it out.”

HIALEAH, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 05:  Florida governor and Republican senatorial candidate Rick Scott addresses the crowd as he attends a Get out the Vote Rally at AmeriKooler on November 05, 2018 in Hialeah, Florida. Governor Scott is facing off against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on election day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republicans are relying on National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott to help litigate the dispute. Scott spent the weekend at the GOP donor retreat with Trump and presented him with the “NRSC Champion for Freedom Award.” The Floridian also said the McConnell-Trump rift has not yet hurt the NRSC’s fundraising.

Some Republicans are betting that opposition to Biden’s agenda will be enough to unify voters. Concerns about the icy relationship between the former president and the GOP leader, they argue, are overblown.

Scott, for one, laughed off Trump’s latest coarse attack: “I’ve had a lot of experience with Sen. McConnell. I think he’s one of the smartest SOBs I know.”

“At least we have a Mitch McConnell and we have a Donald Trump,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “The party cannot be successful without Donald Trump, and Donald Trump cannot be successful without the Republican Party.”

But Republicans can't quite grin their way through the current schism. Just this year, Trump asked donors to give to his own political group instead of GOP campaign committees. And McConnell takes intense interest in pivotal Senate races, maneuvering to anoint his preferred candidates and make strategic decisions about where to engage.

So it’s easy to see how continued discord will hinder the GOP’s efforts to take back the Senate majority next year. That’s why Republicans are ready for the Trump and Mitch Show to wrap up its latest plot line.

“We’ve got other challenges right now. Anything we can do to work together, the better off we’re going to be,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who described himself as “very disappointed” to learn of Trump’s comments about McConnell. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

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Rep. Matt Gaetz is out of friends, drugs, and pimps. Might be time to cut your losses, pal

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz has long been a terrible, terrible person, which for the past 10 years has been a near-requirement for Republican officeholders in general. He made a name for himself as a rabid partisan of no particular values other than devoted sucking-up; his main contribution to his nation has been a vocal defending of Donald Trump each and every time Trump was caught in some new crookedness. That's it. He's known for that, for launching retaliatory strikes against Trump's enemies, for near-obsessive attempts to ingratiate himself with Dear Golfing Leader, and oh, would you look at that, living a not-so-secret life as a House Republican ultraperv now under investigation for drug-fueled sex trafficking. What are the odds: A man who fetishizes Donald Trump and is joined at the hip to Jim Jordan turned out to be a child rapist? Wow, go figure.

So we are absolutely allowed to enjoy his downfall, and if the man wants to drag this out in order to tarnish or implicate as many of his fellow House Republican sedition-backers as possible then by all means he should knock himself out with that. Do a backflip on the way down, buddy.

The latest humiliation, just so we are all gloriously up to date, is an expected one. Matt Gaetz evidently sought an urgent meeting with Donald Trump "after it was first revealed he was being investigated," says CNN, but was turned down by Trump's aides. Yes, the man who polished Dear Crooked Leader's boots to a shine in multiple impeachment investigations is being cut loose by the Mar-a-Lago crowd.

Now, just to put the proper emphasis on this: If there is any group in Florida that has their pulse on everything corrupt or worth corrupting, it is the denizens of Dear Golfing Leader's For-Profit Living Room and Covid Dispensarium, home of the all-you-can-eat Crime Buffet. The rapist and tax dodger Trump was carried into office by an assembly of small-time and mid-ranking conservative griftologists able to ingratiate themselves because they spoke the same two-bit language; once in office, he was treated as the Jesus of Petty Extortions. This crowd thinks the brown-nosing Matt Gaetz is cooked. This is the crowd that's cutting him loose.

Yeah, he's toast. Already, there's a robo-poll going around Gaetz's district testing names for who in Republicandom should run to replace him. Nobody's fessing up to paying for it, though.

The New York Times has our latest look at Joel Greenberg, the Florida Republican minor officeholder whose goings-on turned his friend Gaetz into a subject of a federal sex trafficking investigation, and the sheer scope of the man's seemingly compulsive crime-doing is ... yeesh. He may be the perfect Florida Republican, a lifetime screwup who spent just enough money to land himself a smalltime elected position in a state that doesn't give a damn about governing to begin with, a belligerent little hack who campaigned on swamp-draining but after taking office immediately seemed to fill his scorecard with every crime he could think of, both petty-ass and prison-worthy. As with every other crook in Florida, he latched onto the Gaetz and Trump crowd because go figure, it turns out sex crimes are one of the key Republican means of bonding, and now it seems he is a bit of a wreck because after f--king up everything else in his life he has a sudden fear of going to Big Boy Jail.

This is a child who would willingly burn every other conservative in Florida if it got him an extra pudding cup in prison lunchlines. He's going to cling to Gaetz's ankles so tenaciously Matt won't be able to board a plane without declaring him luggage.

Here's where things stand: House Republican Matt Gaetz is being probed for the possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old. Along the way to answering that one last (?) question, people "familiar" with What Gaetz Was Doing have already confirmed to reporters that Gaetz has been openly bragging to his fellow House Republicans about his "conquests" (complete with videotapes); at least once accompanied Greenberg to Greenberg's fake-ID procurement office; "repeatedly" boasted to others about his antics with Greenberg; made at least one apparent sex trip to the Bahamas involving "female escorts" provided by another ally; appears to have assisted in procuring sex for other Republicans; and there are literally Venmo records of Gaetz paying at least three of the women through Greenberg. There's alleged drug use throughout, of course.

Oh, and he sought a "blanket" Trump pardon after he learned, in the last bits of Trump's time in office, that the feds were on to him. Oh, and his (other?) actions while in Congress were so continually grotesque his own staffers were sending videos to other Republicans.

That's not even all of it. That's just the highlights. And House Republicans knew about quite a bit of this, because Matt liked to "brag," and they did nothing because the party is a fascist cult now premised on letting their members get away with crimes.

Unfortunately for Matt Gaetz, he has failed to learn any of the basic lessons of Washington, D.C. Polishing Dear Leader's boots will get you absolutely nothing in return; there is no quid or quo among sociopaths and narcissists. When doing crimes, only do crimes that your associates can keep covered up. Attempt, if at all possible, not to be so universally hated in the nation that every last one of your Not Jim Jordan associates is putting out the popcorn and sitting themselves down on a couch to watch rigor mortis set in on your career.

If the man had an ounce of common sense he'd resign now, if only to make it not quite so spectacularly rewarding for national journalists to squeeze out new detail after new detail while he squirms. Instead, he's promoting seditionist conspiracies and being publicly dim. In times of trouble, some people retrench. Matt here is retrenching.

But Matt Gaetz has been a garbage human being ever since he first slithered out of the Florida swamps like an invasive python, he deserves every bit of it, everyone around him is a garbage human being for not ditching him long before this, and the sooner the Republican base figures out their party is just a crime-fueled sex cult with an advertising budget the better.

With a difficult midterm looming, Democrats have a short window to ban gerrymandering

After winning narrow victories to take full control of the federal government in the 2020 elections, Democrats have a fleeting opportunity to pass major legislation, with a window for action that may close in less than two years. Republicans will dominate the upcoming round of congressional redistricting, and the long-running tendency of the president's party to lose seats in midterms is well-known. But congressional Democrats can flip the script by banning partisan gerrymandering—a move that will both make elections fairer and give the party a better chance to prevail in 2022.

Republican victories in key legislative elections last year mean that the GOP is now positioned to draw new maps in states home to 38% to 46% of districts nationwide. Democrats, by contrast, will hold the cartographer’s pen in just 16% to 17% of all districts, giving the GOP an advantage of two or three to one. This disparity, combined with the threat that the increasingly right-wing Supreme Court may exacerbate the GOP's power to gerrymander within the states they control, means that, without further reforms, the congressional landscape is all but certain to remain skewed toward the GOP in 2022, following after two decades in which it already gave Republicans a large advantage.

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The House isn’t the only chamber where the playing field institutionally favors Republicans. The Senate does as well. Thanks to malapportionment and the legacy of a 19th-century GOP effort to carve out new states for partisan gain, Republicans have a major advantage in excess of their popular support. As a result, rural white voters possess disproportionate power at the expense of urban voters of color.

As our recently compiled spreadsheet illustrates, Senate Republicans have not won more votes or represented more Americans than Democrats since the late 1990s. Nevertheless, they’ve run the body just over half the time since, and this pattern of minority rule that existed continually from 2014-2020 may repeat itself next year. With more Americans increasingly voting straight tickets, it’s become almost impossible for Democrats to win the Senate unless the stars align as they did in 2018 and 2020.

The other major challenge Democrats face next year is that the president's party almost always loses a sizable number of seats in Congress in midterm elections, when opposition voters are energized to vote and the president's supporters are usually demobilized.

This dynamic has played out in every midterm since 2006, and the vast majority of them since World War II. The few exceptions include elections such as 2002, when the GOP benefited from George W. Bush’s post-9/11 surge in popularity combined with a pro-Republican shift in redistricting, or 1998, when Bill Clinton's approval rating peaked at over 60% amid the best economic growth cycle in decades and a backlash to the GOP’s impeachment efforts. Joe Biden is unlikely to benefit from such one-off factors, particularly since partisan polarization has only grown stronger in the ensuing years.

However, one mitigating factor for Democrats in 2022 is that, unlike in past midterms such as 2010 or 1994 when Democrats suffered massive downballot losses, Democrats have far fewer seats to protect that are hostile to their party at the presidential level.

In 2010, Democrats were defending 48 House seats that had voted for John McCain in 2008 and another 19 where Barack Obama won by less than his national margin. Democrats that November would go on to lose 50 of these 67 districts. The Senate story is similar: When Republicans flipped the Senate in 2014, Democrats were trying to hold seven seats in states that Obama had lost during his re-election campaign, and the GOP flipped all of them on its way to gaining nine seats that year. 

Following the 2020 elections, however, Democrats hold just seven House districts that voted for Donald Trump and another 15 that Biden won by less than his national margin of 4 points. In the Senate, none of the states that are up in 2022 went for Trump, though four backed Biden by less than his national margin.

While House Democrats are unlikely to suffer a setback anywhere near as monumental as the 63 net seats that they lost in 2010, the post-2020 Democratic majority of just 222 seats out of 435 is also much smaller than the 256 seats the party held going into the 2010 elections. A net loss of only five seats would be enough to flip the House back to Republicans, which is entirely plausible—if not likely—if 2022 proves to be a typical midterm. In the Senate, likewise, Republicans only need to capture a single seat to take back the chamber next year, compared to the six that they needed to flip in 2014.

A booming economy and an end to the pandemic may boost Democrats’ fortunes in 2022 by propping up Biden's approval rating, but the combined threats of GOP gerrymandering, Senate malapportionment, and the typical midterm penalty make Democrats the underdogs next year. Consequently, congressional Democrats must make the most of what limited time they have to pass reforms that are critical for preserving democracy from an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party.

Chief among those reforms is using Congress' constitutional powers to ban congressional gerrymandering by requiring states to adopt independent redistricting commissions and adhere to nonpartisan criteria when drawing new maps in order to promote fairness. House Democrats have passed just such a bill, the "For the People Act"—best known as H.R. 1—which also includes a historic expansion of voting access protections. But enacting it into law will require Democrats to overcome a filibuster, which means getting every Democratic senator on board with changing Senate rules.

Another critical piece of legislation that would reduce the Senate’s pro-Republican bias would be to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., which would end the disenfranchisement of 700,000 American citizens and add a heavily urban and Black state to a body that underrepresents both groups. However, D.C. statehood on its own would only give Democrats two more Senate seats at most and still leave the Senate with a large tilt toward the GOP. To level the playing field further, Democrats should also offer statehood to Puerto Rico, an idea the island voted in favor of in a referendum last year, and consider further ways to expand the chamber.

Most congressional Republicans supported Trump’s attempted coup d’etat following his defeat, underscoring that the party that controls Congress will also hold the fate of free and fair elections in its hands. It’s readily conceivable that a Republican-controlled Congress could simply reject an Electoral College results it doesn’t like in 2024, just as two-thirds of House Republicans voted to do mere hours after Trump incited an insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol.

To avoid this future of escalating autocracy, Democrats must pass serious structural reforms to our democracy while they still can. Time is short, and growing shorter.

Morning Digest: D.A. leading reform charge in Philadelphia faces primary challenge from skeptic

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Larry Krasner's 2017 victory in the race for Philadelphia district attorney gave criminal justice reformers an early high-profile win, but he faces a competitive May 18 Democratic primary fight to hold onto his office. Krasner's opponent is former prosecutor Carlos Vega, who has argued that the incumbent has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Politico's Holly Otterbein writes that Vega, who was one of the 31 prosecutors whom Krasner fired shortly into his tenure, has avoided "campaigning as a tough-on-crime politician." Vega instead has argued he can deliver "real progressive reform" and insisted that "we don't have to choose between safety and reform." Vega has also blamed the city's spike in homicides on the district attorney's policies.

Krasner has responded by pointing out that murders have increased nationwide for reasons far beyond his control, saying, "What has happened, and essentially every criminologist agrees on this, is that the pandemic, closing of society and closing of so many different aspects of what protects and surrounds especially young men have disappeared." Krasner has further defended himself by arguing, as Otterbein writes, that he's "delivered on his campaign promises by lowering the jail population, exonerating the innocent and reducing the amount of time people are on probation and parole."

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The incumbent, in turn, is framing his contest as a choice between criminal justice reform and "past that echoes with names like [Frank] Rizzo," the city's racist late mayor. Krasner is also trying to turn the local Fraternal Order of Police's support for Vega into a liability by pointing out that the national organization backed Donald Trump last year. Vela, who was the first Latino homicide prosecutor in Pennsylvania, has pushed back, saying it was "really rich" for Krasner to compare him to Trump "when this is coming from a person who's white, elite, from an Ivy League school."

Krasner outraised his opponent by hauling in $420,000 during the first three months of 2021, but Vega still brought in a credible $340,000. Krasner also has to deal with a well-funded group called Protect Our Police PAC, which has mostly been financed by pro-Trump megadonor Timothy Mellon. The PAC, though, generated plenty of negative attention in early April when it sent out a fundraising email falsely blaming George Floyd for his own death.

Vela quickly disavowed the group, which blamed the message on a marketing firm, and said he didn't want its backing. Protect Our Police, in turn, responded by saying that it wasn't endorsing Vela but was "laser-focused" on unseating Krasner.

One major question looming over the race is whether billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has in the past donated heavily to groups supporting Krasner and likeminded candidates, will help him again. Otterbein also notes that there have been no public polls here, and insiders disagree on how vulnerable Krasner is next month.

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NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): $2.3 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AK-Sen: The prominent GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund has backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who already faces an intra-party challenge from former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski, who has not yet announced if she'll seek re-election, had suggested she might run as an independent back in January, but SLF's endorsement indicates that party leaders doubt she'll abandon the party label.

As we've noted before, Alaska will not hold a conventional party primary next year thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff.

AZ-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence showing its ally, extremist Rep. Andy Biggs, edging out Gov. Doug Ducey 46-45 in a hypothetical Republican primary.

Biggs said a few weeks ago that he'd decide by the end of March if he'd challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but the month concluded without any public comment from the congressman about his plans. Ducey, by contrast, took his name out of consideration in January, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has been trying to get him to reconsider.

GA-Sen: While Donald Trump generated plenty of chatter about former NFL running back Herschel Walker's interest in this race last month when he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!", the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Walker himself has remained "silent" about a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The paper says that Walker, who remains a Texas resident, also "hasn't returned the calls of even some senior Republican officials trying to ascertain his next move."

Meanwhile another Republican, banking executive Latham Saddler, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential campaign.

NC-Sen: On Thursday, a consultant for far-right Rep. Ted Budd named Michael Luethy told the News & Observer that his boss would make his decision whether to run for the state's open Senate seat "sooner than later." Luethy also said of the Budd's deliberations, "It's fair to say he's leading towards it."

That same day, the conservative Carolina Journal published a piece by Dallas Woodhouse, the infamous former executive director of the state GOP, who wrote that multiple unnamed sources believed that Budd "will enter the U.S. Senate race in the coming weeks." Luethy, though, insisted that, while Budd is putting together a "formidable team," the congressman had not yet made a final decision.

The only notable Republican in the running right now is Budd's former colleague, ex-Rep. Mark Walker, though others are eyeing this contest. The potential candidate who continues to generate the most attention is former Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, while former Gov. Pat McCrory has been flirting with a bid for years.  One Republican who will not be running, though, is state party chair Michael Whatley, who took his name out of contention on Thursday.

NV-Sen: On Thursday, former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval unambiguously ruled out running against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto. "I have no interest in running and I will not be a candidate" said Sandoval, who now serves as president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Baker's decision came as a surprise, as his name had not been mentioned much before he kicked off his second campaign for this office.

Baker, who would be Maryland's first Black governor, competed in the 2018 primary to take on Hogan, and he attracted the support of almost the entire state party establishment. However, Baker lost by a surprisingly wide 40-29 margin to former NAACP president Ben Jealous, whom Hogan went on to defeat in the general election.

The Washington Post's Arelis Hernandez took a close look at what went wrong for Baker right after the primary and pointed to a number of factors that led to his downfall. These included his refusal to heed advice that he campaign more visibly, Jealous' aggressive courting of unions and stronger fundraising, and the fact that Baker didn't jump on developments coming out of the Trump White House in the way that Jealous did. On Friday, fellow Post writer Rachel Chason noted that Baker was also held back by "political enemies he made in Prince George's, including labor unions and opponents of his controversial efforts to improve county public schools."

In an interview Thursday with Maryland Matters, Baker acknowledged that his underwhelming fundraising had played a big role in his defeat last time. Baker argued, though, that he was limited at the time by his responsibilities as county executive and local ethics rules restricting how much officeholders could take from developers, which will not be factors for him now.

Baker joins a primary field that already includes state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has been running for over a year, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, while more could be in before long. Maryland Matters' Bruce DePuyt writes that former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who badly lost the 2014 primary for governor, is "expected to announce that he's running later this month." DePuyt also relays that Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski "is expected" to decide next month after the county council acts on his proposed budget.

Several other Democrats could also join the field, but it looks like Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will not be one of them. Alsobrooks, who was elected in 2018 to succeed Baker as leader of the state's second-largest county, said last month that "in this moment I'm running for re-election."

While Alsobrooks' statement didn't quite close the door on a campaign for higher office, Baker said Thursday that he'd only made his decision after talking with her the day before. Baker said he'd spoken to her about the gubernatorial race and added that "[w]e're genuinely friends" and "our supporters are the same."

NV-Gov: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo acknowledged to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday that he was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Rep. Mark Amodei also recently reaffirmed his interest, while former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson has reportedly been considering as well. The paper writes of this group, "The consensus among local Republican political operatives is that the trio is working to reach an agreement on a single candidate to support by the beginning of summer.

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's team on Thursday put out their first statement directly addressing the possibility that she could run for governor, which came hours after her colleague, Lee Zeldin, kicked off his own bid. "Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election," said senior advisor Alex DeGrasse, who added that she "is not ruling anything out - nor will she make her decision based on others' timetables."

House

FL-01, NY-23: The House Ethics Committee on Friday announced that it had opened investigations into two Republicans embroiled in separate scandals, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and New York Rep. Tom Reed.

The committee says it is "aware of public allegations" that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct." Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sex trafficking, has rejected calls for his resignation.

The Ethics Committee, meanwhile, is probing allegations that Reed "may have engaged in sexual misconduct." Last month, a woman named Nicolette Davis accused Reed of sexually harassing her at a Minneapolis restaurant in 2017. While Reed initially denied Davis' account as "not accurate," he published a statement two days later apologizing to her and announcing that he would not be on the ballot for anything next year.

FL-20: The Sun Sentinel writes that, while Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness hasn't yet launched a campaign to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, Holness has "been informally running for months" for this safely blue South Florida seat. The paper also name-drops Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard as another possible Democratic contender for the unscheduled special election.

NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who took third in last year's Democratic primary, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential bid to succeed Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor. Fleming did not immediately announce a bid, though she responded to a tweet the previous day urging her to run by writing, "Stay tuned."

Mitch McConnell tends his legacy 8,000 miles away

He reshaped the federal judiciary. He made history as the longest-serving Senate GOP leader. But Mitch McConnell has unfinished business more than 8,000 miles from the halls of Congress.

There's no more consistent or surprising through line to McConnell's 36-year career than promotion of democracy in Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation of 55 million. McConnell's championing of representative government in Myanmar, mostly run by a military junta since it declared its independence in 1948, is so vital to his identity that after a recent military coup there, President Joe Biden consulted with the GOP leader to coordinate the U.S. response.

The White House's discussions with McConnell strengthened the U.S. handling of post-coup Myanmar policy, said Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who told POLITICO that he also discussed the issue with the Kentucky Republican. Involving McConnell so closely has helped the Biden administration create a united front with lawmakers in both parties as they push toward a common goal of restoring Myanmar's legitimately elected government, led by longtime McConnell ally Aung San Suu Kyi.

The White House-McConnell talks on Myanmar have paid off in another way: earning rare praise from a GOP leader famously monk-like in his on-message opposition.

“On the domestic front, I have not yet witnessed something that I’ve been happy about,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview. “But in this area, I think their instincts are good. I think they’re trying to do the right thing.”

Myanmar, also known as Burma, slipped back into military rule in February after its generals orchestrated a coup against Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government. While Suu Kyi is Myanmar’s most popular politician and retains an incalculably valuable ally in McConnell, she has faced withering criticism for downplaying allegations that her nation’s military was waging a genocide against the country’s Muslim minority — long before the coup sent her back under house arrest in Yangon.

Now U.S. efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar reflect both the advantage of McConnell’s decades-long engagement there and the strange-bedfellows randomness of a Democratic president working smoothly with his biggest political opponent. McConnell's interest in Myanmar is little-known to the general public but remains a defining aspect of a legacy that he's already cemented on multiple domestic issues, from the judiciary to campaign finance.

“Senator McConnell has played an important leadership role promoting an immediate return to democracy in Burma, ensuring those responsible for the coup and the devastating violence against civilians are held to account, and standing firmly with the people of Burma as they peacefully resist military oppression,” Sullivan said, a nod to the Republican’s efforts over the years.

You won’t hear a member of the Biden administration laud McConnell like that on practically any other subject. In a 2019 speech, McConnell famously quipped: “People don’t always expect the guy that my Democratic colleagues call the grim reaper to be focused on human rights and democracy promotion.”

When McConnell first took notice of Myanmar in the early 1990s, it was considered an obscure fascination with relatively little significance on the world stage — not to mention an area where U.S. legislators would be hard-pressed to make a difference.

After Suu Kyi’s party dominated Myanmar's elections in 1990, the military stepped in and placed the longtime democracy activist under house arrest, where she spent much of the next 20 years. Her rise once freed in 2010 — and the country's democratic trajectory — was meteoric: she soon ran for office and rose to become her country’s prime minister in 2016. McConnell secretly exchanged notes with Suu Kyi while she was holed up at home and visited her in Yangon in 2012 before hosting her in Kentucky that same year.

“He’s been frustrated at times that, on both sides of the aisle, the White House and the State Department hasn’t always come up with effective Burma policies,” said Kelley Currie, a former top State Department official who worked closely with McConnell’s staff as an appropriations aide on Capitol Hill in the 1990s.

“His job is really to keep the administration focused on action," Currie added of McConnell. "The most important thing he can do is continue to keep them focused on the issue and on developing a more aggressive response.”

In recent years, Myanmar has taken on a much greater strategic importance for the U.S. as administrations of both parties try to blunt the influence of China, a neighboring nation. Conditions on the ground there have grown more dire, however, since senior generals toppled Suu Kyi in February even after her party dominated in last year’s elections. Leaders of Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, have alleged that the elections were fraudulent.

Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw has orchestrated a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, killing more than 600 civilians including dozens of children. The U.S. and allied countries have imposed sanctions on the Myanmar military, but Washington policymakers of all stripes agree that more must be done to stop the bloodshed.

“Americans hate the fact that some problems can only be worked on, not solved conclusively. It’s in our DNA,” said Franklin Huddle, who served as the top American diplomat in Myanmar from 1990 to 1994. “And this holds very much true for foreign policy.”

Enter McConnell, whose influence over the future of Myanmar has grown alongside his power in the U.S. capital. While he has not spoken directly with Suu Kyi since the coup, a GOP aide who works closely with McConnell on Myanmar said the party's Senate leader is in regular contact with the Biden administration as it seeks to restore relative peace in Yangon.

“Having no daylight between McConnell’s position and the Biden administration’s position is important because it suggests that on this issue there is absolute consensus and commitment,” said Robin Cleveland, who advised McConnell on foreign policy through the 1980s and 1990s and was instrumental as McConnell crafted the original U.S. sanctions against Myanmar. “Continuing to draw attention to the horrific and tragic events is important.”

In a phone interview with POLITICO Friday, McConnell called on the Biden administration to raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council, putting China and Russia on the spot to ensure that interest in Myanmar's struggle does not abate. McConnell highlighted America’s unique ability to elevate and draw attention to parts of the world where adversarial nations often hope to wait out firestorms until international interest wanes.

“Our ability to influence this from halfway around the world is limited,” McConnell said. “But we do have tools.”

“The lion share of the burden is on the State Department and the administration,” he added. “But in any way that congressional action needs to be a part of this: Count me in.”

Tending his 'pet issue'

McConnell’s 30-year journey on what he has called his “pet issue” began in earnest in 1986 when, shortly after his first election to the Senate, he openly challenged then-President Ronald Reagan over the White House's refusal to punish the apartheid government in South Africa.

As the former McConnell adviser Cleveland tells it, the then-freshman senator returned to Washington after spending a weekend in Kentucky reading about South Africa's horrific apartheid conditions and told her that the U.S. should speak out more forcefully against the regime there to support Nelson Mandela, the leader of the opposition.

McConnell then worked with Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on a sweeping plan to slap harsh economic sanctions on South Africa. Reagan vetoed the legislation, but the Senate voted overwhelmingly to override his veto in the fall of 1986. At the time, McConnell said Reagan was “ill-advised” and “wrong,” adding that he was proud of that vote. (Democrats even invoked it this year as they fruitlessly appealed for McConnell's vote in favor of impeaching Donald Trump.)

A few years later, McConnell watched in horror as the military invalidated Suu Kyi’s victory in the 1990 elections. From his perch as chair of the foreign operations subpanel on the Senate Appropriations Committee, McConnell later crafted the original economic sanctions package against Myanmar, effectively isolating the country.

“There’s an arc to his work,” Cleveland said, recalling that McConnell saw sanctions as “the necessary and the right policy approach in South Africa — to essentially support an electorate that had been disenfranchised. And over time he became involved because the people of Burma voted and they were denied the outcome, too.”

Others who worked for McConnell at the time, including former top aide Janet Mullins Grissom, cited McConnell’s earlier support for the civil-rights movement in the U.S. and his subsequent work for his mentor, the late Sen. and civil rights supporter John Sherman Cooper (R-Ky.), as animating factors.

“That’s the lens through which he viewed the apartheid vote,” said Grissom, who also managed McConnell’s 1984 Senate campaign. “And from that, he began his real engagement on siding with the good guys and looking at the importance of supporting democracy and human rights around the world.”

Betting on the 'best hope'

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a joint press conference with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.

While McConnell has received bipartisan praise for his support of Suu Kyi over the years, he's faced criticism for standing by her even as the United Nations faulted her in 2018 for what it dubbed a genocide against Rohingya Muslims in her country.

After the widespread killing and abuse of Rohingya emerged, lawmakers from both parties proposed sanctions on Myanmar officials believed to be carrying out the atrocities; McConnell blocked that bill, drawing colleagues' ire. McConnell insisted that the crackdown was out of Suu Kyi’s control and argued that undermining her government would hurt democracy itself in Myanmar, especially when the country had come so far since its initial military junta.

The then-majority leader often reminded other senators that Suu Kyi was the “best hope” for a democratic Myanmar. His confidants said that his defense of her came from a “long view” of how the country can become a stable democracy.

McConnell’s support for Suu Kyi has occasionally "made him one of the most powerful advocates of a principled American policy towards the country,” a former senior State Department official said. “And at times, he’s been seen as an obstacle because he’s been reluctant to pressure Suu Kyi or disagree with her when she herself has been on the wrong side."

For his part, McConnell pointed to the most recent military coup as evidence that his approach was correct. Suu Kyi should not have been “thrown under the bus" by everyone from his Senate colleagues to world leaders who were trying to “measure her performance by western standards," the GOP leader argued.

“I still think today that — and the recent election which led to the coup proves it further — that she’s the only one with a real following there,” McConnell said. “There’s no other hope for a way forward in Burma but Aung San Suu Kyi."

Posted in Uncategorized

InfoWars mob terrorizes mothers and small children arriving at a Catholic Charities facility

Remember Alex Jones? He is the guy that runs InfoWars, the conspiracy-smothered, fact-free dreck-machine that people like Donald Trump and the Republican Party rely on to confuse and obfuscate reality for them. Unlike Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—who spews very similar BS—Jones comes in a repellent package that embodies the hedonism, corruption, and narcissism of the conservative movement in our country. 

On Wednesday, Jones and his InfoWars sociopaths decided to try and one-up the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant publicity stunts by staging one of their own. According to the Daily Dot both Jones and Drew Hernandez—a self-described investigative reporter who believes Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist terrorist organization”—released video of themselves stopping child trafficking! Whoa, that’s big news! Except it’s the opposite of that. What the two men and their film crews did was in essence terrorize three mothers and their children, along with a man driving them from the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the city of McAllen, Texas, to the Human Respite Center, also in McAllen.

In video that was posted by Hernandez and subsequently taken down on many sites, Jones can be seen in the middle of the afternoon on a McAllen street, standing and screaming at the occupants of a white minivan. Jones calls for the police while Hernandez points out that the children aren’t wearing seat belts and don’t have car seats. “No car seats. What organization is this? I want to know who the hell this is,” he demands. The Daily Dot reports that later in the video, in classic charlatan nonsensical histrionics, Jones yells, “If I drove around with three of my kids in the back of the car, I’d get arrested.” That’s not the law in Texas, to be clear. Also, Alex Jones not being allowed to drive with children might be more related to the fact that he’s had questionable judgement when driving. 

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande, released a statement to reporters saying the video misrepresented what was happening. These children were not being “smuggled” anywhere; they were being driven from one place to another to receive some help from an organization that works to ameliorate poverty conditions for families. Pimentel did, however, say that the children should have been wearing seatbelts, but “unfortunately, this was not the case.”

“I urge you to look past the fear-mongering and mischaracterizations,” said Pimentel. “Remember to actually see the human beings fleeing persecution and their need for human dignity, which mirrors our own.”

Jones has long wrestled with clear personal issues. He is a bad person who has frequently preyed upon families in order to make his money. In recent years he has lost lawsuits filed by parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School for promoting the truly horrific conspiracy theory that the whole thing was made up and the parents were “crisis actors” pretending for years and years to have lost their children. To be Alex Jones is to be lost in the heart of darkness. Donald Trump’s mediocre mind and his popularity among the conservative movement created fertile ground for Jones and others to exploit the more openly white supremacist members of the right wing.

McConnell Vs. Trump! Warring Wings Of GOP May Face Off In Alaska Senate Race

The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) announced on Friday that it will support Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her re-election campaign.

The group is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has said that he will “Absolutely” support Murkowski’s re-election bid.

Murkowski, often described as a moderate Republican, voted to convict former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial in January.

After her vote, the Alaska Republican Party voted to censure Murkowski for her conviction vote.

They also said that they would recruit a Republican challenger – which could set up a head-to-head matchup between the establishment wing of the GOP and Trumpworld.

RELATED: Republicans Release Video Of Migrants Caught Crossing The Border Right Behind Them

Race Will Be Portrayed As Experience Vs. Outsider

The 2022 midterm elections may come down to a simple matter of who decides the future direction of the Republican Party.

The McConnell-backed SLF had a war chest last election cycle of $475 million will now throw it’s weight behind not just Murkowski, but could also back a number of establishment incumbents like her.

SLF President Steven Law said, “Alaska needs the kind of experienced representation that Lisa Murkowski provides in the United States Senate. Whether fighting for Alaskan interests like expanding energy production and protecting fisheries, or advancing conservative priorities by confirming judges and cutting taxes, her strong leadership is vitally important to Alaska’s future.” 

In response to the SLF statement, Mary Ann Pruitt, advisor to Kelly Tshibaka – who is running against Murkowski in the GOP primary – released a statement saying, “It’s just like D.C. insiders to ignore the voices of Alaska voters to protect one of their own.”

Kelly Tshibaka is positioning herself as an outsider, saying in a video of her intent to run that Murkowski was “so out of touch” for voting to convict Trump after he had already left office.

Prior to her current run for Senate, Tshibaka has worked in the office of inspector general for the U.S. Postal service, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Justice.

She resigned her position in Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s administration to concentrate on her run for the Senate. 

RELATED: Kathy Barnette Is Fighting To Become The First Black Female Republican U.S. Senator

Republicans Picking Sides

Within the Republican Party, it is starting to look like a matter of picking sides. That began to be apparent during the waning days of the Trump administration.

A new breed of Trump-supporting, outspoken Republican Congress members like Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert came along.

Opposite that Trump wing stand establishment Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney and McConnell.

From almost right after his second impeachment trial, Trump has had an eye on supporting any primary challenger of several members of Congress who had voted to impeach him.

It was thought that, should any of those Congress members received a primary challenge, Trump supporters would be fired up enough to support the challengers as well. 

Cheney garnered a primary challenge almost immediately following her impeachment vote. Several others have as well. Nearly every Republican Senator who had voted to convict Trump was censured by their local party. 

RELATED: Report: Biden Creating Commission To Study Court-Packing

Establishment GOP Should Know Trump Is Ready And Waiting For 2022

Donald Trump is already in position to endorse candidates and be a major player in the 2022 midterm election.

His new Save America PAC has, in the words of those in the know, ‘gargantuan’ amounts of cash. 

He has already began endorsing candidates, including Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R), and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in her run for Governor of Arkansas.

Trump most recently endorsed Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks in his bid for the Senate, and America First Senator Rand Paul.

No word yet if Trump will be traveling to Alaska to give out an endorsement to Kelly Tshibaka. However, both wings of the party seem to be flush with cash, and 2022 could prove to be an interesting year.

 

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