Nel's New Day

December 29, 2021

Jordan Says He Wants ‘Truth’ about January 6

Last Sunday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who refuses to talk to the House January 6 committee about his involvement with the insurrection, said, “It is our job to tell the truth and take the truth to the American people.” On the Fox network, political adviser Kristal Knight talked about serious allegations that Jordan concealed sexual crimes while he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. She added, “This is the same Jim Jordan who sent a text on Jan. 5 encouraging the insurrection.” Jordan, in his search for the “truth,” has indicated great difficulty remembering the times of his personal calls with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT).

These are some “truths” that Jordan is avoiding.

Jordan’s “truth” can begin with the new three-hour video from DOJ of January 6’s battle between rioters and police with attackers’ weapons and beatings of officers.

For the House investigation committee, a team of 40 investigators and staff members, including federal prosecutors, have compiled over 30,000 records and interviewed over 300 witnesses, including a dozen last week who provided “key” testimony, according to committee members. Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the committee wants to ask Jordan about coup participants being offered presidential pardons before DDT left the White House.

Also on the hot seat is Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) who refused to submit to voluntary testimony by stating he “will continue to fight the failures of the left.” He also declared “immense respect for the Constitution.” The committee has evidence that Perry, a believer in the “stolen” election, had “an important role” in moving DOJ official Jeffrey Clark into the acting attorney general position. Clark was key in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential results, feeding DDT’s lies of voter fraud. Perry communicated DDT’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows through the encrypted Signal app. Clark has already said he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In his fifth term in Congress, Perry has spread lies such as an aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) committing a “substantial security threat’ with “massive” data transfers. She was cleared. He also accused then-CNN host Chris Cuomo of exaggerating the lack of water and electricity in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, connected to almost 3,000 deaths, and contradicted law enforcement by trying to connect the mass shooting in Las Vegas to the Islamic State. Perry was one of 18 House Republicans to vote against a resolution condemning QAnon.

Other subpoenaed witnesses for testimony are trying DDT’s ploy of taking their objections to the courts. A federal judge already denied Michael Flynn’s motion for a temporary retraining order. Flynn hasn’t worked in the administration since he was fired as national security adviser under three weeks after DDT’s inauguration. Flynn is also joined by convicted Alex Jones, who is also suing to hide documents.

Peter Navarro, DDT’s trade adviser who was discovered by DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on Amazon books, outlined how he and DDT’s former adviser Steve Bannon planned and carried out “Green Bay Sweep” for January 6. He said they “spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators…. At 1 p.m., [Arizona’s Rep. Paul] Gosar and [Texas’ Sen. Ted] Cruz did exactly what was expected of them.” The plan “was designed to get us 24 hours of televised hearings” and “bypass the corporate media.” Each congressional chamber is required to allow up to two hours debate for each challenged state. For six states, that’s 24 hours.

Another committee search is into DDT’s telephone calls to his troops at the Willard Hotel working on plans to overturn the election. Although the committee cannot ask for one specific call from the National Archives, it can request all White House calls on January 5 and 6. Because VP Mike Pence didn’t want to follow DDT’s plan to stop the counting of electoral votes, DDT asked his team led by lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn, and strategist Steve Bannon to find another way to delay certification. Giuliani may be getting a subpoena for information. On the evening of January 5, DDT talked with lawyers and non-lawyers at the Willard separately because Giuliani didn’t want non-lawyers on the calls to jeopardize attorney-client privilege claims. Committee member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that this privilege doesn’t protect people committing crimes from investigating them. Subpoenas reveal only the target and time of calls.

The January 6 committee wants to see the multiple videos DDT made during the insurrection and not used because the team said they wouldn’t calm the rioting, according to committee chair Bennie Thompson (R-MS). The final one was made out in the open in front of the White House although VP Mike Pence and congressional members of both parties, the first three people in the presidential line of succession, had to hide from the violent attackers. During DDT’s 187-minute delay, five people died, 140 people including police officers were wounded, and lawmakers feared for their lives, some of the contracting COVID because of their forced proximity.

The Pentagon indicated that military leaders didn’t call out the National Guard for fear that DDT would invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to take power and block the orderly reading of electoral votes. The Guard wasn’t deployed until DDT released his video telling the insurrectionists to leave the Capitol. When DDT walked across the cleared protesters for his photo-op in front of a church, his aides had already prepared a draft of the order to deploy troops in the city under the Insurrection Act. Three days before the insurrection, the ten living defense secretaries published a warning op-ed in the Washington Post about the unconstitutional danger of using “U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes.

DDT may face the same charge as 240 insurrectionists at the Capitol—obstructing an official congressional proceeding, a tactic never before seen for an event never before seen. A provision in the statute against witness tampering makes it a crime for anyone who “corruptly… obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding,” or tries to do so. Even a DDT-appointed judge approved the use of this provision against rioters.

The question is what happens to the person who led hundreds of people facing time for interrupting Congress during certification of the 2020 election results. Committee vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), an experienced lawyer, made this suggestion when she referred to “another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceeding to count electoral votes?” Later The New York Times reported that the committee is considering a request for the DOJ charge him.

Legal scholars said this charge could be successful if DDT refused advisers’ pleas to intervene and redirect the crowd after explicitly intending the attack to happen. Another reason would be holding back the National Guard or federal law enforcement forces from rescuing the people under attack. These could fall under Cheney’s term “inaction.” 

Other possible crime by planners of the overthrow is wire fraud by Republicans raising millions of dollars asserting a stolen election knowing it was a lie. The committee subpoenaed a bank for financial records during the weeks before January 6 belonging to Taylor Budowich, DDT’s spokesman and a senior advisor to his 2020 campaign. He allegedly moved $200,000 into advertising for the January 6 rally from an unidentified organization. Budowich is suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank to have the subpoena suppressed. 

To overturn a lower court, DDT went to the Supreme Court to block the House committee from obtaining his records from the National Archives and Records, but a change from the investigating group may stymie his argument. The committee is pulling requests for some records at this time to make sure they get the ones they really need. DDT has lost his argument that the subpoena was too broad with the removal of non-1/6 related documents.

Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) says he “should have voted to certify because President Trump was responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.” He voted for DDT’s impeachment and tweeted, “I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years. I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable.” Other Republicans trying to distance themselves from January 6 legal problems include Senate Minority mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has suddenly legitimized the House investigation committee. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), claimed by rally organizer Ali Alexander to be a part of the team, can’t remember hearing of Alexander. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-) also can’t remember “communicating” with Alexander, as he had claimed. In October, another rally organizer told the media about talking “to Boebert’s team, [Rep. Madison] Cawthorn’s team, Gosar’s team like back to back to back to back.” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) denied “any role” in the January 6 event, either “planning or execution.” 

The coming year will see the next phase of committee work when it moves to public hearings. Committee chair Thompson said the next progression is also “to see whether or not some of the things that we have uncovered or discovered rises to the level of a criminal referral.”

October 22, 2021

House Votes for Bannon’s Criminal Contempt

The U.S. House voted today to hold Steve Bannon, former White House adviser to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), in criminal contempt of Congress because he refused to comply with the subpoena from the January 6 Committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Nine Republicans joined all Democrats for the 229-202 yes vote; seven of the Republicans also voted to impeach DDT the second time. Bannon, who left the White House 3.5 years before DDT did—and before the attack on the Capitol—has claimed protection from DDT’s “executive privilege.” Legal experts, however, state that the claim cannot apply to private citizens. The charge can result in up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

DDT is also using executive privilege to keep the House investigation committee from obtaining archived records surrounding January 6, but he isn’t the executive. President Joe Biden has already approved the request for the records. At her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Bannon reportedly “had specific knowledge about the events of January 6th before they occurred and had multiple roles relevant to the attack and [was] very outspoken about it.”

Last year, Bannon was charged in a fundraising scam supposedly to collect money for DDT’s wall on the southern border in which he took about $1 million. One of DDT’s last acts before leaving the White House was to pardon Bannon, and a judge dismissed that specific fraud case four months later. After Bannon’s conversations with DDT leading up to the attack, he made a January 5 comment on his podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The “hell” included five dead, several of them police officers, and over 140 officers injured with ax handles, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks, and other weapons.

Although the January 6 Committee has two Republicans, House Minority Leader (R-CA) Kevin McCarthy falsely claimed that it represents “the first time in the history of Congress that the minority was not able to participate.” McCarthy pulled all his GOP nominations for the committee after Pelosi refused two of them, one of them being Jim Jordan (R-OH) who may receive a subpoena to testify before the committee. The other one, Jim Banks (R-IN) is still claiming the riot on January 6 was a “permitted political rally” and asked why it needed to be investigated. Both Banks and Jordan voted against creating the committee and to overturn Biden’s presidency on January 6.

Banks also wrote letters signing himself as the “ranking member” of the committee in a letter to the Department of the Interior on September 16 when he requested all information provided to the committee. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy), actually a committee member, called him out for his falsehood on the House floor today. Another committee member, Rep. Jamie Rankin (D-MD) called Banks “not only delusional and fantastical, but it might be some kind of violation of the rules of the House.”

The fireworks were on display both during the debate for the vote and earlier during the Rules Committee hearing when Republicans tried to protect Bannon from the subpoena. The January 6 Committee had unanimously voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt and refer charges to the DOJ, and the Rules Committee met to determine process for the full House vote. Appearing before that committee, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) argued that DDT’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election was legal came to naught when confronted by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a constitutional law professor. Raskin said DDT’s over 60 lawsuits to “prove” a “stolen” election failed courts found no evidence of voter fraud, and Gaetz claimed a need for a legal “remedy.” The law professor responded:

“There’s no remedy because there’s no violation, Mr. Gaetz.”

Gaetz said the courts didn’t “take up the facts” on “jurisdiction or remedy,” and Raskin came back at him:

“You know what? That might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast, but that’s not going to work in the Rules Committee in the United States House of Representatives.”

The discussion went to why Gaetz didn’t want a congressional inquiry into the violent January 6 attack. Gaetz declared the inquiry was “unwarranted,” and Raskin accused him of not wanting “to know the answer.” In denying investigations, Gaetz may have been thinking of the FBI probe into Gaetz’s alleged sex trafficking and other crimes with evidence, including witnesses.

The perpetually angry former assistant wrestling coach who ignored reports of his team doctor’s sexually abusing athletes, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), furiously refused to say the 2020 election was “not stolen” by President Joe Biden. Jordan claims he never said the election was stolen but that it should be investigated, later falsely saying that Republicans “condemned violence every stinking time” although many of his colleagues compared the January 6 attack to “tourists” in the Capitol.

Jordan again displayed his poor memory when he told the Rules Committee he couldn’t remember how many times he talked to DDT on that day. He repeated his statement that “it’s not about me” and testified that he didn’t talk to DDT “before or during” the attack.” Yet he told Politico in August that he was “sure” one of the calls was in the safe room where lawmakers were sequestered during the attack. Democratic lawmakers have suggested that Jordan may also be subpoenaed to testify before the January 6 Committee.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a member of the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, also testified before the Rules Committee:

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do, however, appear to reveal one thing: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th, and this committee will get to the bottom of that.”

Cheney also directly addressed “my Republican colleagues”:

“Almost all of you know in your hearts that what happened on Jan. 6 was profoundly wrong. You know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election; you know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know those claims are false. Yet President Trump repeats them almost daily.”   

McCarthy told all the Republicans to vote against holding Bannon in criminal contempt, but he might also be subpoenaed for testimony regarding his events on January 6. Last month, Sidney Powell, one of DDT’s lawyers to overturn the election, implicated both McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the plot. She suggested the insurrection could delay the election’s certification until DDT’s lawyers could file a 12th Amendment case allowing state electors to change their votes to DDT. Buying time could allow Justice Samuel Alito to block the certification.

In another high-profile subpoena, the January 6 committee summoned Jeffrey Clark, the former little-known DOJ official who tried to overturn Biden’s election. It was the 19th subpoena leading up to the vote on Bannon’s criminal contempt charge. Clark had delivered a letter to George state legislators and others requesting a delay in the election results certification. Despite no evidence of fraud, he also wanted to hold a news conference about allegations of DDT’s claims about a “stolen” election. DDT and Clark discussed ousting the newly-appointed acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to force Georgia to overturn the state’s presidential election results, according to former DDT administration officials.

Clark’s subpoena was the 19th from the January 6 Committee. Fourteen subjects have scheduled depositions, and three are “engaged. George Baron Coleman representing Ali Alexander, head of Stop the Steal, won’t be deposed. Alexander said he planned the January 6 insurrection with the help of Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ).

In the Senate on Wednesday, all 50 Republicans voted against the right for Democrats to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) objected to an earlier voting rights bill and promised to write a bill that Republicans could support. He wrote the bill, it was presented, and Republicans voted down any debate on it in a filibuster for the third time regarding a bill blocking many eligible voters in the nation, primarily low-income and minorities, from democratically voting in elections. House Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the bill permitting eligible voters to participate in elections a “rotten core” and a “radical agenda.” He also claimed that requiring 60 percent of the senators to even discuss a bill came from the “framers,” which it did not. Unlike the past when filibusters required a person’s nonspeaking behavior on the Senate floor, a senator can just call in a filibuster while they are on vacation.

The “rotten core” McConnell claimed: a paper trail for ballots, Election Day a holiday, two weeks of early voting, no permission required for vote by mail, and automatic and same-day voter registration. the bill also prohibits partisan gerrymandering, require transparency in advertising, and protect election officials from attacks. The Federal Election Commission gutted under DDT would be rebuilt. The Senate has an advantage over individual states: the federal lawmakers must have 60 percent to pass a bill whereas state legislatures require only a simple majority. In the U.S. Senate 41 senators represent only 21 percent of the population. 

October 8, 2021

GOP Works against People Much of the Time – October 8, 2021

Republicans have no platform other than pleasing Deposed Donald Trump and keeping their base. All their actions in the past week head in that direction.

Two judges on a 5th Circuit Court panel returned vigilantism to Texas by overturning a Texas judge’s temporarily blocking the unconstitutional law allowing lawsuits from anyone in the world against a person “helping” a person get an abortion after the fetus reaches a six-week development. Anti-choice, pro-vigilante judges are Catharina Haynes, appointed by George W. Bush, and James Ho, DDT’s appointment. Judge Carl Stewart, appointed by Bill Clinton, dissented. Two days ago, the former judge put the law on hold until it could go through the judicial process.

Once Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the muzzles off GOP senators, 11 of them decided not to destroy the United States—for now. They voted to permit a vote on a two-month extension of the debt ceiling deadline and increased it by $480 million until December 16. That amount, less than 6.2 percent of the deficit ratcheted up during DDT’s term, will allow the government to pay its debts until December 3, about two weeks short of the deadline. The final bill passed 50-48 with no GOP votes. 

Republicans gave no reasons to block the debt ceiling increase other than hoping to take over the government in the next elections, but the snowflakes who wanted the U.S. to default on its debts expressed hurt feelings about Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) comments:

“Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work. For the good of America’s families, for the good of our economy, Republicans must recognize in the future that they should approach fixing the debt limit in a bipartisan way.”

GOP senators, who blocked the bill, claimed they were generous in helping Democrats “solve a problem” and called Schumer “combative,” “unnecessarily partisan,” and “classless.” McConnell called Schumer’s statements “a rant that was so partisan, angry, and corrosive that even Democratic Senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him” and referred to the words as “hysterics.” He called the debts run up by Republicans and DDT as “Democratic mismanagement” and promised he would not “provide such assistance again.” He took credit for “leadership [to] protect our citizens.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said, “Our guys … hate debt-limit votes,” but he wasn’t referring to those under DDT, Bush, and Reagan.

To all lawmakers, including my current U.S. representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) who oppose price controls on drugs: take note. Merck is charging $712 for a five-day oral treatment of molnupiravir which supposedly cuts hospitalizations and deaths in half for moderate or mild COVID, 40 times the cost of $17.74 for its production. The drug company works with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a small Miami-based company that licensed the medicine from Emory University in 2020 and two months later sold worldwide rights to the drug to Merck. Emory received $29 million to develop the drug, but the two private companies will reap the rewards—billions of dollars within a short time. Merck stock is also going up. The company is licensing its rights to a generic form of the drug with five Indian companies which will market it outside the U.S. for $12 for a five-day course.

The White House has refused DDT’s request to withhold documents about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol from congressional investigation. DDT claimed executive privilege, but the president of the United States has the final word. White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives, stating that President Joe Biden “has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents.” Remus added:

“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances. Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”

Congressional requests include everything from tweets, phone and visitor logs, and videos and photos of events in which DDT participated as well as documents and communications about then-VP Mike Pence’s movements and security. The rally at the Ellipse and the subsequent violent riot at the Capitol were included as was planning for the ceremonial event for counting electoral votes during the joint congressional session.

Deposed during a $2 million lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, DDT’s former layer Rudy Giuliani declared he was only following orders when representing DDT in election fraud lawsuits and stating that the election was stolen from DDT. He said he represented DDT’s campaign with no compensation because “the president ordered me to do it.”

Four subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol have passed the deadline for response. DDT’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, refuses to comply, claiming DDT’s nonexistent executive immunity, but former chief-of-staff Mark Meadows and Kashyap Patel, chief-of-staff to former-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, have “engaged” with the committee. Leaders Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) didn’t comment on DDT’s former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino because he is in hiding to not receive a subpoena. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said the four witnesses have not provided the committee with any “written communication.” DDT has told all four of these subpoenaed witnesses to fight against the requirement to meet with the committee.

More subpoenas this past week include ones for members of the right-wing Stop the Steal group, including Ali Alexander, listed as Ali Abdul Akbar, and Nathan Martin as well as records from the group. Akbar and Martin are connected to a permit for the January 6 rally from a group, One Nation under God, discovered to be connected to Stop the Steal. Before the rally, Alexander called for violence and praised congressional members, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who attended the event. Last week, subpoenas went 11 people, including Maggie Mulvaney, niece of DDT’s former adviser Mick Mulvaney, and DDT’s 2016 campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson.

A 27-page letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has revealed the tip of DDT’s corruption with financial information about his Washington, D.C. hotel.  Some of the findings from the federal agency managing DDT’s lease on the property: 

  • Foreign governments paid $3.7 million to stay at DDT’s hotel between 2017 and 2020, equal to 7,433 Nights at the hotel, violating the U.S. constitution.
  • Officials in domestic corporations also paid to stay at DDT’s hotel while seeking favors from him, for example T-Mobile’s $26-billion merger with Sprint.
  • DDT lied when he said he made a profit of $156 million on the hotel, but instead lost over $70 million since it opened in 2016.
  • Another part of Trump Organization loaned the hotel $27 million, but that money wasn’t repaid.
  • DDT renegotiated a $170-million loan with Deutsche Bank in 2018 that permitted him to make no payments on the principal on his loan for six years—until the year he hopes to be re-elected to the White House.
  • DDT withdrew $31 million from the Deutsche Bank construction loan in August 2016, one month before the hotel opened, but DDT did not disclose how the money was used or accounted for on financial statements.

The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report, “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and his Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election,” showing how close the U.S. came to a constitutional crisis before DDT left the White House. Although the 394-page document is heavy reading, a summary is under “Recommendations” and the timeline at the end. One focus of the report comes from the actions of former Acting Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark to be DDT’s Big Lie Lawyer in pressuring his colleagues to overturn the 2020 election. The report is destined to make waves for DDT and Republicans.

Several North Carolina state representatives demanded the resignation of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson after he called the LGBTQ community “filth” in a video of his speech at the Asbury Baptist Church (Seagrove) in June. On the video, he referred to “transgenderism” to make being transgender sound like a condition. The majority of his constituents disagree with Robinson: this year, ten municipalities passed protections protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in  public accommodations, employment, etc., and 67 percent of voters in the state support this legislation including 50 percent of Republicans.

Every time the Idaho governor leaves the state, he turns authority over to the lieutenant governor, currently Janice McGeachin. When Gov. Brad Little headed south to investigate immigration issues on the Mexican border, McGeachin ordered the state National Guard to that border and banned mandates of COVID vaccination proof at schools, colleges, and universities. The commanding general of the Idaho National Guard told McGeachin she couldn’t activate the troops, and Little said he will reverse the vaccine order when he gets back. The last time Little left the state, McGeachin banned any mask mandates which Little also rescinded.

October 6, 2021

Facebook Faces Congress, McConnell Blinks, Texas Loses

Congressional lawmakers have investigated Facebook for almost five years for such issues as privacy abuses, foreign disinformation, and a historic Federal Trade Commission antitrust case. In 2019, the company paid a record-setting $5 billion fine for privacy abuses. This week brings more confrontations. Sunday, the CBS news show 60 Minutes featured a whistleblower about the company’s internal activities; Monday, the entire Facebook system went down for six hours; and Tuesday, the whistleblower testified at a Congressional hearing about Facebook’s policies.   

First, the massive outage. Starting before noon EST on Monday, the outage also took Facebook’s Instagram, WhatsApp, and other apps for its 2.85 billion active users. Loss of ad revenue cost the company $60 million, and the five-percent drop of stock shares, $326.23 per share, caused the owner, Mark Zuckerberg, to lose $7 billion. Because Facebook controls all its workers’ technology—including cellphones and computers—employees couldn’t even get into their office because their cards wouldn’t work in the locks.

 

Facebook explained the outage was self-inflicted, probably accidentally. “Configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers” blocked communication and set off a series of network failures. Basically, the failure of the system stopped in the internet from recognizing online domain names and couldn’t send any information. Other organizations were disrupted and slowed because billions of devices kept looking for the coordinates of Facebook and its apps. As annoying as the outage was for pleasure users, businesses using the social network lost almost a day of work for advertising, connecting with customers, and selling products and services. Facebook has an e-commerce platform, Facebook Marketplace.

Second, the whistleblower. In last month’s “Facebook Files,” the Wall Street Journal exposed documents about the company’s willingness to do anything to make money. “Whitelisted” high profile users were exempted from regular users’ rules. Instagram pushes ideal air-brushed female body images, emotionally damaging teenage girls. Criminals including human traffickers and drug smugglers are making more and more use of Facebook without being stopped despite it being reported. 

Polarizing messages, including those encouraging the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and less restrictions on disinformation were pushed to increase business. New York Times technology journalist Kevin Roose reported the laxness on Facebook’s desire to attract more customers. The departure of younger users to other sites such as TikTok while older people stay with Facebook, could cause a 45-percent possible drop in the next two years.

The anonymous whistleblower who leaked tens of thousands of pages of company research outed herself on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes as former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. She told interviewer Scott Pelley that Facebook misled investors about their lack of efforts to eliminate violence, disinformation, and other harmful content. The company constantly wants to maximize profits over verifying disinformation, and Haugen’s lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Haugen stated Facebook took measures to prevent disinformation before the 2020 election but dropped protections after the election “to prioritize growth over safety.” She added, “That really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.” Haugen said she didn’t realize how much Facebook’s disinformation fomented violence and other problems in the world before she went to work for them.

During her 60 Minutes interview, Haugen explained the connection between Instagram and teen girls’ emotional problems:

“As these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. And it actually makes them use the app more. And so, they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more.”

Facebook tried to defend itself. Before 60 Minutes, the company’s vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg told CNN that Facebook causing the January 6 violence “ludicrous.” He blamed “the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including then-President Trump and candidly many other people in the media who were encouraging the assertion that the election was stolen.” He claimed Facebook was not to blame for pushing the same information. 

At the same time as the Facebook outage, Facebook’s Antigone Davis appeared live on CNBC to defend the company against the whistleblower’s negative remarks on 60 Minutes. Davis had earlier testified to Congress against the “Facebook Files,” including the company’s research showing Instagram made teen girls’ body image issues worse. 

Third, Haugen’s testimony Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about her knowledge regarding Facebook policies. About Facebook’s research, she said Instagram made body issues worse for 1 in 3 teenage girls, information the company decided not to share. Despite Facebook touting its methods to stop disinformation, its own algorithms not only addressed one percent of hate violent speech but also pushed disinformation.

Haugen also had specific answers to questions such as the decisionmaker for such concepts as an Instagram for children, an idea dropped after backlash and the research about Instagram already damaging teenagers. Last week, Davis, a Facebook executive, avoided a question about who would make decisions, but Haugen said, “The buck stops with Mark [Zuckerberg].” She explained that no other powerful company is controlled as Facebook is, with Zuckerberg holding over 55 percent of the company’s voting shares.

The testimony brought an unusual bipartisan response from lawmakers because “every part of the country has the harms that are inflicted by Facebook and Instagram,” according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) slammed lobbyists for the lack of progress in updating privacy laws, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called for swift congressional action. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) backed the reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) stated Congress will take action whether Facebook cooperates or not. Lawmakers accused Facebook of concealing its own research and said they would further investigate.

During Haugen’s testimony, Facebook employees texted lawmakers with smears against Haugen who had been a data scientist with the company. They claimed she had not directly worked on child safety or Instagram, which Haugen had already established, and called her untrustworthy. Other employees denied Haugen’s testimony. CEO Zuckerberg wrote, “We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health.”

The question is whether conservative lawmakers will take any action. The FTC could force Facebook to sell off holdings such as Instagram but cannot force a change in the company’s business practices. If Zuckerberg doesn’t like changes in the law, he can just move Facebook and its information to any other country in the world. For the moment, Zuckerberg is being cautious—stopping research which could cause problems and using “reputational reviews” for potential changes. People have short memories and may move on to other scandals.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Frances Haugen isn’t done. In an interview today, her lawyer said, “There’s more to come.” He also said his legal team has seen a “surge” in the number of whistleblowers from the tech industry, some of it about the January 6 insurrection. With support from “Whistleblower Aid,” Haugen will also be making more appearances, if her website is any indication.

The Senate has briefly averted another disaster: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave Republicans permission to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling—until December. Maybe because President Joe Biden supported doing away with the filibuster, the century-old, Senate-created rule mandating 60 votes to debate any measure. Without the filibuster, Democrats could pass bills with a simple majority. Earlier Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had offered Democratic votes in a straight up-and-down vote without a filibuster, but McConnell turned it down. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government runs out of money on October 18 without raising the debt ceiling.

Republicans have consistently lied about their not being to blame for the $7.8 trillion debt they and Deposed Donald Trump incurred during his four-year term. McConnell may have “blinked” on his former refusal to allow Republicans to vote for an increase because he figured out that Republicans might be smarter than he figured—that people who lost their unemployment, food stamps, Social Security, etc. might realize the GOP was to blame. The past week has also seen horrific instability in the U.S. stocks hitting the middle-class and wealthy, and business leaders have also been pressuring McConnell to raise the debt ceiling.

One glitch in a bipartisan vote is McConnell’s $300 billion cap on the debt ceiling increase, less than four percent of the debt increased during DDT’s term. McConnell wants Democrats to use their chance to pass a reconciliation on raising the debt ceiling, which would keep them from using that process for the infrastructure bill. 

In a victory for human rights, a federal judge in Texas blocked the unconstitutional anti-choice law invoking the assistance of vigilantes around the world to stop abortions after six weeks of human fetal development. The Supreme Court has already refused to stop the law until it goes through the judicial process. The judge’s order blocks any officer of the state, including state court judges and court clerks, from enforcing the abortion ban in any way. It also ordered Texas to take proactive steps to inform all court officials and private individuals that the law is currently blocked. The ruling follows a refusal from the Supreme Court to stop the law until it goes through the judicial process.

While Texas appeals the ruling, Whole Women’s Health will resume providing abortions after six weeks according to federal law although a reversal of the law by a higher court could be a legal risk to clinics. The Department of Justice is also bringing a lawsuit against Texas.

And tomorrow is another day.

May 13, 2021

Stefanik: The Newest Potential GOP Handmaiden

The night before Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was stripped of her GOP leadership position after a voice vote, she gave an impassioned defense of democracy, but her history shows her strong Republican alignment. She steadfastly claimed President Obama was sympathetic to jihadists, defended torture, dismissed the constitutional right to due process, and portrayed Muslims in the U. as a national-security threat.

Last fall, she was reelected to the House toward her goal of becoming the majority leader despite the strong possibility she could get the Senate seat. She denigrated such GOP sacred cows as Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Matt Gaetz (FL), and even DDT but voted with DDT 93 percent of the time. Although Cheney declared marriage equality to be “the law of the land,” her lesbian sister knows Cheney’s opposition to LGBTQ rights, clearly identified by Cheney’s vote against the Equality Act. Liz Cheney defended DDT’s remarks such as telling four congressional women of color, three of them born in the U.S., to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) wants to run the House so he decided to “cancel” Cheney at the same time far-right House Republicans decried “cancel culture” about conservatives. The voice vote to dump Cheney removed any private voting. 

McCarthy pasted pasted another “big lie” on The GOP “Big Lie”:

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.”

In the House, 139 Republicans, almost 65 percent of the GOP membership, voted against legal votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania on January 6 during the announcement of the Electoral College votes. Eight senators, 16 percent, did the same without any proof of fraud or tampering. Arizona is still counting votes in Maricopa County by a company falsely stating the election was “stolen” from DDT, and other states indicate they will hire the same company if it ever finishes.   

After the company doing the “fraudit” in Arizona promised no connections with the internet, an observer discovered a wireless router connected to servers with voter registration data such as driver licenses, the last four numbers of Social Security numbers, and digital copies of signatures. At the same time, the state senate is threatening to subpoena the county’s election networking equipment to guarantee equipment was not connected to the internet during the 2020 general election. Wireless routers, which the election warehouse doesn’t have, facilitate entering a network by cyber criminals.

The company in charge of the third ballot recount—the fourth count—called the Cyber Ninjas will store its equipment—and ballots—in another building on the fairgrounds until May 23 before returning for five weeks until a gun show takes over the coliseum. No security procedures or policies are announced for the ballot moving or storage. The crew is counting about 100,000 ballots a week; thus far the total of 300,000 leaves another 1.8 million to examine.

The GOP handmaiden supposedly selected for Cheney’s replacement fits the Republican requirement—a woman believing the election was “stolen” from DDT. Molly Roberts writes that the “skirt for a skirt” replacement of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is “insulting,” especially when “a female frontman for the GOP frontman for the GOP obscures an aggressively anti-female agenda. The fact that Stefanik (who in 2014 had been the youngest woman ever elected to Congress) was the obvious choice speaks to the party’s shallow reservoir of ladies.”

In 2014, Stefanik, 28, campaigned on bringing women and fellow millennials into the GOP tent and praised her losing opponents for their democratic ideals. She believed in facts and trusted science; a former aid to GOP leadership called her “every Democrat’s favorite Republican.” Early in her second term, Stefanik focused on such local issues as support for rural farmers instead of extreme right-wing ones. She voted against the 2017 tax cuts, DDT’s only major legislation, because of their penalties on her state. The same year, she called environmental stewardship a “conservative principle” and introduced a House resolution to address the issue. Now the president of the conservative Club for Growth calls her “very much a liberal.”

About DDT’s proposed Muslim ban, the early Stefanik said:

“This is not who we are as a country… This is not according to our constitutional principle. And I associate myself with Speaker (Paul) Ryan’s comment just saying there is no place for what Trump said about Muslims in this country.”

Stefanik also voted to block DDT from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and supported LGBTQ anti-discrimination bills. Even in 2019 and 2020, she had the seventh lowest score in the GOP of voting with Republicans and overall voting with Republicans 37 percent of the time. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan praised her:

“Elise isn’t just the future of the Republican Party. She is the future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America.”

Stefanik’s district moved from twice supporting President Obama to going for DDT, and she moved with them. She went from describing a GOP candidate in 2015 as “disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements” to giving Steve Bannon’s podcast conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden in 2021. In 2016, she avoiding mentioning DDT’s name in public as he ran for president and even said he had been “insulting to women” and his campaign “hurt the effort” to reach out to them. She also said his “inappropriate, offensive comments are just wrong” after DDT’s Access Hollywood scandal.

In August 2018, Stefanik went with DDT to a key military base in her district. When special investigator found widespread evidence that DDT obstructed justice in his inquiry into Russian election interference, Stefanik defended DDT by saying Democrats were persecuting him, going further right on the House Intelligence Committee. By the first impeachment, Stefanik became a member of the defense team, gaining approval from Fox and DDT. 

Former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) said the metamorphosis of the “handmaiden of Trump” was “embarrassing” and “sad.” Center-right commentator Margaret Hoover, now host of PBS’ Firing Line, who worked with Stefanik in George W. Bush’s White House, said:

“Elise could have been the face of a new generation of Republicans that could represent a real big-tent party, that could build beyond the base, that could lay the foundation for a coalition that could win elections nationally. It shows that she was never motivated by principles, and that’s deeply disappointing.”

By the election, Stefanik didn’t directly it was “rigged” or “stolen,” but she spread conspiracy theories about “irregularities” and “concerns” about “Dominion software.” In December, she joined 125 other Republicans signing an amicus brief for a case before the Supreme Court to reject election results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin. She followed that with a letter to her constituents announcing she would object to the legal votes from those states and voted to reject Biden’s bid in Pennsylvania after the January 6 insurrection. Despite no evidence of her claims, she protested the “lack of ballot integrity and security.” Her concern about “a lack of chain of custody” for ballots is now part of the Arizona recount fraudit.

In January, Stefanik said all these lies debunked by fact checkers:

“In Georgia, there was unconstitutional overreach when the Secretary of State unilaterally gutted signature matching for absentee ballots and in essence eliminated voter verification required by state election law. In addition, more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters—in Fulton County alone. And many individuals testified to not being able to meaningfully observe the counting of ballots.”

Her alma mater, Harvard, removed her from the Senior Advisory Council of the Institute of Politics. Her concern about “a lack of chain of custody” for ballots is now part of the Arizona recount fraudit.

McCarthy’s closeness to DDT and his incitement of violence may come back to bite him. In March, McCarthy hired Brian Jack, DDT’s White House political director, to run his campaign. Jack was instrumental directly involved in setting up the rally, leading to that January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and asked Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to speak at the event. The purpose of the rally was to push the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory that McCarthy now says nobody believes.

How much control McCarthy has over his caucus will be shown by whether Stephanik gets the leadership position in the Friday vote. Conservatives in the House and in organizations oppose her appointment, especially so soon after Cheney was tossed out. Some Republicans complained about feeling “boxed in” by McCarthy’s decision which they described as “far too orchestrated.”

Republicans have now developed another “big lie”: the mob attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was just a group of orderly tourists looking through a public building. No mention of the five deaths, the 140 police officers injured, violent chants such as “Hang Mike Pence,” the feces, the broken statues, the stolen articles—just zero threat from a “normal tourist visit.” Republican delivered this message in a congressional hearing with former acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, former acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller, and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III. 

The next big spin will be on Miller’s testimony that DDT actually requested National Guard troops for January 6—to protect the insurrectionists. Miller explained help was not sent for members of Congress after DDT’s supporters began their assault on the Capitol. That statement may be changed: DDT’s minions “revise” their testimony every time they appear at a hearing.

January 30, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Voice of the GOP

When wealthy heiress and QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene decided to run for the U.S. House, she moved to the deep red and more impoverished district in northwest Georgia. Former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) called her a “future Republican star,” former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) used her endorsement during her second campaign in January 2021 before she lost to Raphael Warnock, and House GOP whip, Steve Scalise (LA), wanted to talk about with her about her goals after she was sworn in. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) put Greene on the Education Committee.

McCarthy and other GOP House leaders had opposed Green in her primary because of her offensive comments about Blacks and Jewish donors to Democrats, but Greene surged ahead in the primary because of her support from radical politicians DDT’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, his wife Debbie, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) through the Freedom Caucus. The National Republican Campaign Committee spent thousands of dollars helping Greene get elected in the general election.

Greene claims to be the “voice of the people.” With Greene as the voice of the GOP, the Republican base—denying methods of preventing COVID-19—thinks it can obtain power through threats, violence, smears, and horrifying falsehoods promoting domestic terrorism with no accountability: 

In January 2019, Greene liked a comment that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). In a speech posted on Facebook, Green asked for Pelosi to be executed for treason—with no mention of a trial—because “she’s a traitor to our country.” She also liked posts about executing FBI agents, accusing them of being in the “deep state” against DDT.

Almost two years ago, asked her about the Iran deal:

“Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O [President Obama and Hillary Clinton] ???”

Greene responded:

“Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

In a Facebook post, now removed, Greene promoted the false “Frazzledrip” accusation that Clinton and a top aide, Huma Abedin, participated in a satanic ritual with the murder and mutilation of a child and drank its blood.

About the far-right attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Greene falsely said “Antifa/BLM terrorism” and Democratic politicians stoked the insurrection, specifically “accomplices” such as Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), VP Kamala Harris, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and called for them to “be expelled.” She also claimed, “The Antifa/BLM terrorism [is] funded on ActBlue.”

In her belief that “none of the school shootings were real,” including the 2012 Sandy Hook attack leaving 20 children and six adults dead, Greene called the 2018 mass shooting at Florida’s Parkland high school a “false flag.” She called the shooting survivor David Hogg, now an activist, “#littleHitler” and claimed he was a “bought and paid little pawn” and actor. According to a video, she trolled the 18-year-old for at least two minutes, calling him a “coward” and accusing him of being paid by billionaire George Soros. Other “false flags,” according to Greene, are the mass shootings at Las Vegas and the New Zealand mosque.

Before her election, Greene prepared a White House petition in January 2019 to impeach Pelosi for “crimes of treason,” accusing her support of the so-called “sanctuary” policies of “serving illegals and not United States citizens” and attacking her for her lack of support for DDT’s border wall.

About the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville (VA) killing one person and beating many others, she said it was an “inside job” to “further the agenda of the elites.” She also accused Democratic Party leaders of running a human-trafficking and pedophilia ring, partially run out of a Washington, D.C. pizza place.

In late 2018, Greene claimed Rothschild family-funded space lasers cause the recent disastrous wildfires. She also claimed that the attacks on 9/11 killing over 3,000 people in the U.S. was a hoax, President Obama is a Muslim, and the Clintons are murderers, specifically referencing John F. Kennedy Jr’s deadly plane crash in 1999. And she stated the “deep state” used a body double for Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she died.

Vice has a long list of Greene’s conspiracy theories.

Greene (above right) wore a “Trump Won” mask, (poorly) to be sworn into the 117th Congress, immediately announced she was filing for articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden, and called CNN the “enemy of the American people.” With DDT’s loss leaving the QAnon community in disarray, Greene has taken up the mantle of leadership.

Democrats denounce her, and some, including Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), plan a resolution to expel Greene from the House. Reps. Nikema Williams (D-GA) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA) also plan a resolution to censure Greene and call for her resignation. Jacobs said the Capitol is unsafe with Greene there:

“We saw on January 6th what can happen when elected leaders use their positions of public trust to encourage and incite violence.

Gomez said his Democratic colleagues are being fitted for bullet-proof vests, partly because GOP lawmakers try to sneak guns onto the House floor.

Rep. Alexander Ocasio-Cortez said she and some of her colleagues “don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress.” She added that “white supremacist sympathizers are at the core of the Republican caucus in the House.”

Rep. Cori Bush has moved her office away from Greene for the safety of herself and her staff: Greene refused to wear a mask while berating Bush and her staff while supporting violence against politicians and “antagonism” directed toward Bush.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked for additional security resources because “the enemy is within the House of Representatives.” She said:

“We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”

GOP lawmakers are staying quiet, but concerned GOP centrists fear the brand of Greene and QAnon for the GOP will be a catastrophe. The image of Republicans as only insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists may get publicity, but it won’t appeal beyond a small, hardcore base. McCarthy finally said he will “have a conversation with her” and called a House GOP leadership meeting on Wednesday after postponing a scheduled one on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Greene is bragging about DDT praising her.

After McCarthy flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with DDT, Dr. Jason Johnson said:

“Kevin McCarthy … basically says that the majority of America that I actually want to serve is an America that wanted to kill Mike Pence. The majority of the America that I want to serve is an America that wanted to kill Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that wanted to hang Ilhan Omar, that wanted to kill Ayanna Pressley. He is saying those are the kinds of people he wants to represent. … Politicians can choose their constituents. John McCain in 2008 said I don’t want people up here voting for me because they think Barack Obama is a Muslim. [Putting Greene on the Education Committee is] like putting Jeffrey Dahmer to babysit your kids. It’s insane, but that’s who they seem to think that America’s going to be going forward.”

Pelosi said Greene’s appointment giving her the ability to shape federal education policy is “appalling, really beyond the pale.” In an opinion piece, Karen Tumulty wrote:

“The sad thing is, the Republican embrace of people like Greene and its tolerance of what she represents show the party no longer recognizes a line between what is and isn’t acceptable. They have made their bargain, and now they are stuck with it.”

The QAnon community thinks DDT will return as president on March 4, the original inauguration date before the 20th Amendment changed the date to January 20 in 1933. The belief came from members of the sovereign citizens movement who believe they have the right to pick which laws they will obey. They think a 1871 law creating a government in Washington, D.C. secretly made the U.S. a corporation owned by foreign interests and did away with the Founding Fathers government. To these people, DDT will become the 19th U.S. president because every president since 1871 has been illegitimate.

Protecting conspiracy theorists, Fox pundit Tucker Carlson ridiculed the idea that QAnon is dangerous and denounced their critics as a “mob of censors, hysterics and Jacobin destroyers.”  On her show, Laura Ingraham agreed, accusing Press Secretary Jen Psaki of cracking down on all conservatives when she discussed attempts to share information to “disrupt violent extremist networks.”

Greene’s constituents may be less enchanted with their newly-elected representative after learning about her penchant for physical threats and her deranged conspiracy theories. Her campaign had kept to vague generalities about anti-socialism and pro-American. The question is how far they are willing to sink into Greene’s destruction of their Republican party.

Don’t know anything about QAnon? Here’s a beginner’s guide.

While Republicans continue to threaten democracy, the U.S. has over 600,000 new COVID-19 infections in the past four days and another 15,000 deaths from the coronavirus—or more.

March 16, 2020

Congress, Russia, Saudi, Corruption

Last Friday night, the House passed a covid-19 bill by a large bipartisan majority. Unfortunately, it needed a “technical fix,” which requires a unanimous vote if the House isn’t called back into session. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) delayed the vote because he didn’t want a “rushed process,” according to Bloomberg reporter Laura Litvan. He also said that he didn’t know if it can be solved soon. The fix addressed virus-related sick leave for small firms. Gohmert finally withdrew his opposition after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave DDT’s stamp of approval. Because of virus concerns, the House has postponed a return to Washington for an indefinite time.

The Senate recessed for the weekend and is stalling before considering the emergency bill until after it considers the surveillance bill that the House passed last week. (That one’s a doozy: it includes the provision that AG Bill Barr must approve in writing any investigation of an elected official and/or a candidate.) Even after the Senate addresses the covid-19 bill, there will be vitriolic discussions. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Fox & Friends that the bill may not pass the Senate because senators don’t want sick leave for people home with the virus. He wants tax rebates which could take far more time to be reimbursed than paid sick leave.

The Senate couldn’t meet over the weekend because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to go home with Justice Brett Kavanaugh to celebrate the new 37-year-old federal judge, considered the most unqualified judge that McConnell has ever pushed through confirmation. It’s called campaigning for the fall election.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) [right] also complained about the paid sick leave because it might hurt businesses although the bill covers the cost with a tax credit. Without sick leave, most of these people with covid-19 will go to work and spread the disease. Johnson said it might be better for the Senate to “pass nothing at all.”

Last week, Johnson pulled a vote on a subpoena from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he hoped would find damaging information about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine. A bipartisan group persuaded him about the Ukrainian’s unreliability as a source for the committee’s investigation. The vote, however, is only postponed. Johnson said he will issue a subpoena to a lobbying firm for the Ukrainian energy company paying Hunter Biden as a board member. Committee staff members have worked on investigations helping DDT in his reelection campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Andrii Telizhenko, Johnson’s source, has spread disinformation about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election to minimize actual Russian interference. Telizhenko, a friend of Rudy Giuliani, has appeared on the ultra-conservative One America News Network.

While DDT struggles with rapidly increasing numbers of covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his path to keep power in his country. He detained four senior princes, possible heirs to the throne, in Riyadh, including MBS’s uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and cousin Mohammed bin Nayef. They were charged with treason which carries the death penalty. MBS had replaced Nayef as crown prince in 2017 and has run the kingdom since then. Prince Ahmed returned to Saudi from Britain after assurances that he would be safe. MBS consolidated his power in 2017 by arresting hundreds of princes, government ministers, and business people and detaining them in Riyadh.

Saudi is struggling with dropping oil prices and MBS’ decision to block pilgrims from Mecca because of the virus outbreak. Aramco’s profits dropped 21 percent last year to $88.2 billion, and it is lowering capital spending for 2020. The world has also not forgotten MBS’ murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. MBS is now repeating his 2017 actions by arresting hundreds more government officials, including military and security officers, for bribery and exploiting public office. The purge also added 16 more princes, two members of the council which decides the throne’s succession, and two judges.

In late February, MSP Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Parliament asked his colleagues to investigate DDT’s deals in which he acquired his Scotland properties, including the two multi-million dollar golf courses. Harvie said that DDT or people he’s tied with could be connected to serious crime and is seeking an “unexplained wealth order” from a Scottish court. The order is for “suspected foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.” If the subject “cannot show a legitimate source for their riches,” the government can seize properties.

History will remember that Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only GOP senator who voted to impeach DDT. Payoffs for other GOP senators who claimed they voted against impeachment because DDT had “learned his lesson”:

  • Lamar Alexander (TN) – $9 million for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects;
  • Susan Collins (ME) – $9.5 million for affordable housing units;
  • Cory Gardner (CO) – $20 million for airport upgrades;
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) – $20 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant for Phase One costs at the Port of Alaska.

Collins, up for a difficult reelection this year, voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite his anti-abortion stand and for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business even if she said she didn’t like it. She’s at the bottom of the Senate popularity contest and may lower her rating with the latest find. In 2009, she refused to include pandemic flu funding in an economic stimulus bill during the Great Recession. Democrats warned that the $870 million from the $787 billion would keep them from fighting an infectious disease outbreak, but she promised to withdraw her vote for the bill if that money was included. She said the funds “do not boost our economy” and persuaded two other Republicans to follow her example.

Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and heir to $1 billion, advises DDT and almost persuaded him to let Prince set up a private military service for the U.S.. Congress accused Prince of lying under oath and referred criminal charges to the DOJ, a useless action since Bill Barr became AG. In the past, Prince moved to the UAE to keep from federal prosecution and claims that he is untouchable. Now the FBI is investigating Prince for trying to modify two U.S. crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft, a violation of arms trafficking regulations. He used the planes as part of the private services he suggested selling or using in Africa and Azerbaijan. The FBI investigation includes his lying to Congress and an armed aviation proposal to the UAE along with heightened scrutiny of Barr.

Prince has recruited U.S. and British spies to work with the right-wing group Project Veritas, known for doctored videos in false stings, to infiltrate at least one Democratic congressional campaign for Abigail Spanberger and organizations “considered hostile” to DDT. Ex MI6 officer Richard Seddon ran a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in an office of the teachers’ union AFT. In late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. Rubio soon quit, saying that the Veritas group couldn’t learn.

DDT’s defense against Russian interference to elect him is to repeat that he’s tough on Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Here are some of DDT’s favors for Russia:

  • DDT appointed his own loyalists to head up the intelligence agencies who ordered employees not to release information and who say that there’s no evidence of Russian interference.
  • DDT sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine under conditions that make them useless against Russia.
  • DDT spread a disinformation campaign that Ukraine was responsible for the election interference, not Russia.
  • DDT protected Russia by withholding aid to Ukraine until publicity made him uncomfortable.
  • DDT still refuses to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House to help Zelensky negotiate with Putin.
  • DDT’s sanctions on Iran helps Russia by boosting the price of oil.
  • DDT strengthened Russia’s longtime ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ended support for moderate Syrian rebels which Russia wants.
  • DDT removed U.S. forces out of northern Syria, abandoned the Kurdish U.S. allies, and allowed Russians to move into abandoned U.S. bases.
  • DDT helped Russia in Libya by giving Khalifa Hifter information for overthrowing a UN-backed government in Tripoli.
  • Sanctions on Russia were done over DDT’ objections, and DDT persuaded the GOP Senate to lift them on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
  • DDT weakened NATO through incessant criticism and portrayal of the members as deadbeats.
  • DDT always believes Putin and never criticizes him.
  • DDT’s biggest help for Russia is his spreading chaos in the U.S. and its government through polarization of the U.S. people and denigrating U.S. intelligence officers and diplomats.

As the commentator on a popular Russian TV show said:

“I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health — and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia.”

And the Republican Party blindly backs DDT and pro-Russia policies against U.S. benefits.

May 20, 2019

Watch DDT’s Stonewalling Crumble

 

Personal issues have kept me from writing the past week, but today’s news is so outstanding that I couldn’t resist writing about it. (Within the next few days, I’ll catch up on last week’s news.)

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), who is frantically trying to hide all his personal affairs from the public, lost big in court for a beginning fight with Congress. A federal judge upheld a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee for eight years of DDT’s tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and rejected arguments from DDT’s lawyers that Congress has no power to obtain the files. These records could show financial misconduct by DDT and his associates.

The judge’s ruling is in accord with opinion from the Supreme Court that Congress has the power to collect “needed information” as a fundamental “attribute of the power to legislate” for the constitutional authority to Congress for all “legislative Powers.” The Constitution also bans courts from interfering with congressional subpoenas issued for legitimate legislative purpose. Courts cannot search for some covert illicit motive from Congress. The judge stated that the House Oversight Committee met this low hurdle.

The Oversight Committee listed four reasons to investigate DDT’s finances:

Accurate finance reporting to the Office of Goverment Ethics to help Congress determine “whether reforms are necessary to address deficiencies with current laws, rules, and regulations.” That goal clearly “falls within the legislative sphere.”

Complying with the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause that bars a president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without congressional consent.

Failing to disclose “conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions” regarding legislation about ethics of government officials.

Engaging “in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office.”

The judge noted that the Watergate scandal led to new legislation, including laws on transparency and oversight. DDT’s argument, he wrote, “flies in the face of decades of legislation covering the President.”

In his 41-page ruling, the judge wrote:

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

In opposition to the argument from DDT’s lawyers that Congress was usurping the DOJ’s powers to investigate “dubious and partisan” allegations of private conduct, the judge said that a congressional investigation into illegal conduct before and during a president’s time in office fits “comfortably” with Congress’s broad investigative powers, which include an “informing function,” or the power to expose corruption.

The judge also wrote that the House Oversight Committee had “facially valid legislative purposes” for its subpoena:

“It is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations.”

The judge refused a stay until DDT’s lawyers can appeal his finding. He gave them seven days for an appeal, and Mazars has seven days to turn over DDT’s tax returns. The judge wrote:

“The court is well aware that this case involves records concerning the private and business affairs of the President of the United States. But on the question of whether to grant a stay pending appeal, the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail.”

DDT keeps complaining about how no other president has ever faced this situation, but DDT is unique in never having disclosed his tax returns, declining to divest from his extensive business dealings including those with foreigners abroad, and refusing to put his assets in a blind trust. His former lawyer Michael Cohen has testified under oath about DDT’s fraudulently inflating and deflating the same assets’ value to benefit his business transactions.

The judge opened by comparing DDT’s lawsuit to President James Buchanan’s similar effort to block an investigation into his affairs and noted that DDT has “taken up [Buchanan’s] fight.” The judge reported that he declined to put his ruling on hold while DDT appeals because the president failed to raise a “serious legal question going to the merits.” James Buchanan, one of the country’s worst leaders who blamed for failing to prevent the Civil War, also whined about about “harassing” congressional inquiries. The judge also pointed out that Congress began its investigation into Bill Clinton before he entered the White House and noted:

“Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.”

In another attempt to hide from House investigation, DDT ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a subpoena to appear before the House tomorrow to testify about his interviews with Robert Mueller for his investigation. No longer employed by the government, McGahn is the second after Mazars to test DDT’s success in his demand to resist “all” subpoenas by House members. Earlier, McGahn followed White House directions when he defied a subpoena by refusing to provide documents shared with Mueller relevant to the House inquiry into potential abuses of power.

The DOJ has provided a 15-page opinion stating that McGahn cannot be forced to testify, but it uses no case law to support the opinion. Instead, it is based on past DOJ legal memos. DDT is claiming “executive privilege” to keep the House from obtaining any information, but this privilege can’t be used to hide potential evidence of a crime.If the House holds McGahn in contempt of Congress for not appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, as Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has threatened, McGahn could face disbarment.

The claim from DDT’s lawyers that other administrations have given senior aides “absolute immunity” resulted in failure by other administrations. A judge appointed by George W. Bush ruled that W.’s former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, could not reject a subpoena, and W. didn’t appeal the ruling. One of President Obama’s appointed judges ruled against privilege for documents whose “sum and substance” were already revealed in a public inspector general report.

On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee will vote whether to enforce its subpoena for the release of still-redacted portions of Mueller’s report and certain underlying materials. That day, DDT, his three eldest children, and his company go to court in an attempt to block a subpoena from the House Financial Services Committee for DDT’s bank records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One as well as documents related to “possible money-laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”

New revelations show that DDT’s and Jared Kushner’s accounts at Deutsche Bank were flagged in summer 2016 for possible money laundering transactions but not turned over to authorities. After money in Kushner Companies was moved to Russians, “a suspicious activity report” and supporting documents were moved to Deutsche’s private-banking division in New York where managers have a relationship with Kushner. The same situation occurred with DDT’s transactions. No information was filed with the Treasury Department, as law requires. The person reporting the suspicious activity was first told to ignore it and was then fired after she pursued it.

In 2004, despite knowing that DDT inflated his net worth, Deutsche Bank lent DDT over $500 million to build a 92-story building in Chicago. The bank also were told DDT had “worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.” Ten years later, the bank was willing to massively exaggerate its vouching that DDT’s net worth was $8.7 billion for him to buy the Buffalo Bills.

With a history of corruption, Deutsche Bank paid hundreds of millions in penalties and is now required to increase its efforts to prevent illicit activities.

The House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of Michael Cohen’s private interviews, including how DDT’s lawyers told him to lie to Congress in his testimony. A person with ties to DDT also suggested Cohen could be pardoned for his discreet testimony. Details here.

While DDT is trying to avoid subpoenas and transparency about his affairs, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has infuriated Republicans by being the first GOP legislator to claim that DDT “engaged in impeachable conduct” based on the Mueller report. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) then smeared and lied about Amash, who does ask questions in hearings. At least 68 percent of Amash’s votes are with DDT. Conservatives are now peddling the conspiracy theory that Amash plans to run against DDT for president in 2020.

Amash’s Twitter thread provides background for his position, including his claim that DDT’s fixer AG Bill Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” the findings. Amash pointed out that “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report.” He tweeted:

“When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.”

We hope that liberty will cause DDT’s stonewalling to crumble. [Thanks to Cynthia Cox Cottam for the above image.]

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

April 11, 2019

Barr, Others Face Congressional Hearings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has done one smart thing for himself: with the help of corrupt GOP, he put Bill Barr into the DOJ leadership. Much has been written about Barr’s protection of DDT for the past two days in hearings about his “Barr Report,” a bastardized interpretation of Mueller’s investigation. But before that, Barr put DDT above the Constitution. Thanks to Barr, DDT’s financial benefits from foreign payments to his hotels, resorts, condos, and trademarks have been exempted from the emolument clause: foreign countries can pander to DDT as much as they want by paying inflated prices at his facilities. The justification is that DDT doesn’t get the money because of his “official capacity” because it’s related only to his private business.

Barr also supports DDT by lying for him. “I support the president’s policy, which is we’re not going to separate families,” Barr said two days before DDT fired his DHS secretary for refusing to separate families. About the Affordable Care Act, Barr said that DDT supports protections for people with pre-existing conditions while Barr goes to court to eliminate the ACA. Today, Barr continued his lying during testimony before House Appropriations Committee and its chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), ignoring how transparent his falsehoods are. He claimed that DDT had no warning about Russia targeting DDT’s first presidential campaign despite media coverage to the contrary. From NBC reporting on December 18, 2017:

“In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter. The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said.”

Like a squid shooting ink, Barr tried to cover up for DDT and Republicans though his obfuscations and lies. He told committee members that he was “concerned” that the government during President Obama’s administration had “spied” on DDT’s campaign although he admitted he had no evidence. Going beyond protecting DDT with redactions, Barr plans an investigation into Russia’s “spying” against DDT’s first presidential campaign.

About his claim, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote under the heading of “Trump Toady”:

“This is the language of a PR spinner, not the attorney general of the United States. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, ‘spying’ is a loaded phrase and a political accusation.”

Congressional members were disturbed by Barr’s bizarre allegations:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that Barr’s words contradicted previous Department of Justice communications and asked for an immediate briefing to clarify the issue.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said he had been told nothing about any spying on DDT’s campaign and that “almost seems to be endorsing one of these theories that has been debunked time and time again.” Warner added that Barr’s comments are “disrespectful” to Department of Justice employees.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, argued “the top law enforcement officer of the country should not casually suggest that those under his purview engaged in ‘spying’ on a political campaign” and that Barr’s “partisan talking point … strikes another destructive blow to our democratic institutions.”

Barr couldn’t even answer questions on issues other than the Mueller investigation.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) asked in the hearing about people losing health care coverage if Barr succeeds in helping to overturn the ACA because there is no replacement. Barr said, “If this is such a hokey position to have, what are you worried about?” Adding that healthcare is a policy issue, Barr added, “I’m a lawyer. I’m not in charge of health care.”

Barr didn’t know that the DOJ, his own department, found a 17-percent rise in hate crimes in 2017.

At least the redacted pages won’t be all black. Barr plans to color-code his redactions and add “explanatory notes” for each redaction. He plans to redact information in four categories: classified information, current investigations, and peripheral people not charged with a crime. Barr denies that DDT would fit into this category, but he also lies. “Executive privilege” might also be redacted. Barr won’t ask a federal court to allow Congress to see grand jury material. If Nadler wants to see it, he can ask the court, Barr said.

Some salient comments from Barr’s hearing yesterday:

Asked specifically whether the investigation was a witch hunt, Barr said, “it depends on where you sit.”

Asked if the White House has seen or been briefed on Mueller’s report, Barr said, “I’m not going to say anything more about it.” [Sounds like, “Yes, but I don’t want to admit it.” Richard Nixon’s AG John Mitchell went to prison for 19 months for conducting obstruction on Nixon’s behalf by briefing him on investigations.] Earlier he had said that he had not consulted

Barr plans to release his [heavily] redacted report “within a week” but won’t talk about it until then. Congress is on recess for the next two weeks.

Barr’s misrepresentation in his four-page summary of the Mueller report that clears DDT of obstruction of justice has disturbed members of the investigative team who found “alarming and significance” evidence of this obstruction. They also found that evidence of collusion was “compelling.” Barr said that Mueller did not review the Barr Report before he submitted it to Congress.

The “Spygate” that Barr intends to “investigate”started with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) when he maintained that the surveillance of Carter Page, which started over a year before DDT announced his first campaign, was politically motivated. Nunes had a lot to say but never read the intelligence surrounding the FISA issued for Page by four GOP-appointed judges. Investigation of the infamous Steele dossier, created through an investigation to find damaging information about DDT and other GOP candidates by conservative Paul Singer, also revealed that it did not trigger the FBI investigation into Russian influence over the U.S. election. Singer pulled his funding for the project after Sen. Marco Rubio pulled out of his presidential campaign.

Jubilant about Barr’s testimony, DDT repeatedly shouts, “They spied. They spied!” He also asserted, “I have not read the Mueller report. I won. No collusion, no obstruction. I won. Everybody knows I won.” A majority of people, 56 percent, think that DDT and his campaign have not been exonerated. The investigation is still in play. DDT commonly claims that “everybody knows ….” Here are 30 examples.

Barr wasn’t the only person testifying to Congress this week. Jeffrey Rosen faced fire at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for a position to replace Rod Rosenstein as deputy AG by refusing to firmly commit to making special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia probe public.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a contentious appearance before the House Financial Services Committee when he tried to give weak excuses for the IRS breaking the law by failing to give Congress six years of DDT’s tax returns. Mnuchin said that DDT already won the 2016 election and had disclosed some information about personal finances. He also said that Kevin Brady hadn’t requested specific returns; President Obama voluntarily disclosed his tax returns every year. A GOP chair obtained tax returns in 2014 from conservative and liberal nonprofit groups claiming tax-exempt status.

When Mnuchin maintained that he had to leave for an “important meeting,” the back and forth erupted into Mnuchin petulantly telling Chair Maxine Waters with appropriate hand gestures, “Please dismiss everybody. I believe you’re supposed to take the gravel [sic] and bang it.” The exchange is well worth watching.

About releasing his tax returns, DDT’s excuse is “the people don’t care.” A majority of people, 51 percent, want Democrats to require DDT to release his returns. Even more, 64 percent, want DDT to voluntarily release his tax returns. IRS officials said that being under audit, DDT’s excuse, does not prevent people from releasing returns. DDT’s assertion, that there’s “no law whatsoever” for turning over his tax returns, also doesn’t hold water. A 1924 statute gives some congressional leaders access to anyone’s tax returns.  in this area, he’s overlooking one inconvenient statute. The only reason to hide DDT’s tax returns is if they contain incriminating information.

February 27, 2019

U.S. House Keeps Busy Despite Jim Jordan’s Complaints

For people who have been watching the situation with former fixer Michael Cohen for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his testimony today before the House Oversight Committee held few surprises. Points from today:

  • Republican committee members did not try to refute anything he said; they just tried to smear him.
  • The GOP smears against Cohen—that he’s a “pathological liar”—can also be said about DDT, the man who Republicans were defending.
  • Cohen said that he had tried to cover for DDT during the past ten years in the same way that Republicans are doing now.
  • With this comment about protection, he added, “The more people that suffer Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did.”
  • Reporters following DDT in Vietnam for his meeting with North Korea president Kim Jong-Un were banned from his presence after asking questions about the Cohen testimony.

Pieces of Cohen’s testimony that many people already assumed:

  • DDT is a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”
  • Cohen quoted DDT as saying that black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and during a drive through a poor section of Chicago said that “only black people could live that way.” Cohen added, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ “In private, he is even worse.”
  • Cohen has checks (which he produced), evidence “as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” directed by his son and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, to quiet a former adult film actor.
  • DDT told Cohen to lie about his affair with the actor to his wife, Melania.
  • Cohen said he presided over “several” “catch-and-kill” arrangements between David Pecker and DDT for the National Enquirer to purchase exclusive rights for stories damaging to DDT and then suppress the stories.
  • DDT inflated his wealth to appear on lists of rich people rich lists and falsely reduce it to avoid paying taxes.
  • To a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen said that DDT’s tax returns would be helpful in showing how DDT sharply reduced his tax costs by undervaluing his parents’ real estate holdings.
  • Cohen believes that DDT’s tax returns were not being audited in 2016 although that’s what DDT claimed.
  • DDT told Cohen that he didn’t release his tax returns because he might get audited and face big taxes and penalties.
  • Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks for the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 presidential election.
  • DDT knew about the June 2017 Trump Tower meeting among members of his campaign with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT used his charity’s money to pay for portrait of himself after driving up the price to impress people.

Cohen finished his testimony by saying:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s described DDT as a mobster-like president, who told Cohen to shortchange suppliers, keep schools from releasing his student grades by threatening them, and deal with negative media about DDT’s Vietnam War draft dodging. Cohen said he had probably threatened a person because of DDT’s instructions at least 500 times. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not make his country great,” said Cohen. “He ran to market himself and build his wealth and power.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under investigation by the Florida Bar because of a tweet that appears to be an attempt to intimidate DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen the day before he started his open testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz’s tweet:

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a former DA and federal prosecutor, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet because it “clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation.” Her request that could lead to an official investigation and possibly a reprimand, censure or fine. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority of the House. Asked about why he wrote the tweet, Gaeta said, “The tweet speaks for itself.” Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) during the hearing, falsely accusing him of using his first hearing to start removing DDT from office. Cummings ended the session by talking about the committee’s earlier hearings. The first hearing was on January 29, 2019 concerned the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs; Cummings noted that a young man had died because of these escalating costs. He also told Jordan that they had a hearing on H.R. 1, which was about voter suppression and executive branch ethics. That one was on February 6, 2019. “We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” The GOP House was notable for not having hearings before votes.

Credibly accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes while he was assistant coach at Ohio State University, Jordan’s accusations of Cohen’s lying and lack of remorse rang hollow to many watchers. Jordan claimed that Cummings had “stacked the deck against the truth” and ranted about Hillary Clinton conspiracies, calling Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis a “Clinton operative.” Then he raged about Democrats doing what Tom Steyer tells them and that Steyer had organized a town hall in Cummings’ Maryland district.

Asked if he believed Cohen, Cummings referenced his history with the law when he said he found him “credible” and that it “appears” that DDT committed a crime. Cummings added, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.”

The House has been far busier than Republicans might like. This week, representatives passed a resolution to overturn DDT’s emergency declaration that takes money for various sources to build his wall without congressional approval. Thirteen Republicans voted with Democrats in the 245-182 vote. According to law, the Senate will be required to vote on the House resolution within 18 days, a March 18 deadline. Three GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC)— have indicated they will vote for the House bill, and others are questioning the sensibility of the national emergency, especially if a future president is a Democrat. Two more GOP votes are needed for a simple majority if all Democrats and independents vote in favor of it. A veto from DDT for any bill passed requires two-thirds support in each congressional chamber.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Rules, read a complaint about the lack of time for representatives to review the 70-word bill although Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion, 1,097-page tax bill a few hours after it was completed.

The House also passed a bipartisan bill requiring all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm sales by a 240-190. With five GOP co-sponsors, the bill received eight GOP votes and lost two Democrat votes. It expands background checks on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet, and through classified ads. The bill is the first significant gun control vote since the Senate failed to pass similar bipartisan legislation in 2013. Another bill is due for a vote that would extend the review period on gun sales.

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents about the separation of families at the southern border. Cummings said that the documents submitted to the committee were not sufficient and failed to answer committee questions. Two Republicans, Justin Amash (MI) and Chip Roy (TX), voted with Democrats for the subpoenas. Again Jordan attacked Cummings, saying: “You just wanted to be first.” Cummings pointed out that the request was the same as the bipartisan request from eight months ago.

Other House actions:

The House is doing a lot to make Jim Jordan angry.

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