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Monthly Archives: April 2022

April 26, 20225:41 AM ET

Matthew S. Schwartz 2018 square


 Florida activist known for his tongue-in-cheek petitions to local government agencies has asked school districts in Florida to ban the Bible.

In petitions sent to public school superintendents across the state, Stevens asked the districts to “immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material,” Stevens wrote in the documents, which were shared with NPR. “Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible.”

His petitions cited a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which lets parents object to educational materials. That bill came about after some parents complained about sexually explicit books being taught in Florida schools.

Many of those books, such as Gender Queer: A Memoir, deal with LGBTQ themes and coming out stories. DeSantis celebrated the removal of Gender Queer at a news conference after the signing of the law. It’s “a cartoon-style book with graphic images of children performing sexual acts,” he said last month. “That is wrong.”

Liberals have been critical of the legislation. After passage, the state’s Democratic leader, Lauren Book, lamented Florida’s joining “places like Russia and China, modern-day examples of what happens when free thought and free speech are tightly restricted in all levels of society, including in school.”

So, with Florida the latest flashpoint in the culture wars, Stevens decided it was time to take up arms. His target: The Bible. “My objection to the Bible being in your public schools is based on the following seven points, offered for your learned consideration,” Stevens wrote.

Stevens proceeded to question whether the Bible is age-appropriate, pointing to its “casual” references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication. “Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?”

He also took issue with the many Biblical references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism and infanticide. “In the end, if Jimmy and Susie are curious about any of the above, they can do what everyone else does – get a room at the Motel Six and grab the Gideons,” he wrote.

The 57-year-old Deerfield Beach man says his ire was stoked after Florida lawmakers decided this month to ban 54 math books that were claimed to have incorporated topics such as critical race theory. “I love the algebras,” says Stevens, who studied applied mathematics in college. “And those Tally [Tallahassee] loons just banned a bunch of arithmetic books?”

Stevens sent the petitions as a way to point out the hypocrisy, he said. “If you want to teach morality and ethics, do you really want to turn to a book that wants you to dash babies against rocks?” he told NPR, pointing to Psalm 137:9.

Stevens, who doesn’t have any children attending Florida public schools, says he hasn’t heard back from any of the school districts yet. But his group is tracking when the emailed petitions are opened. As of late Monday, Lake County School District had shared the email internally 35 times, he said — and Duval County reached out to the state capital for guidance.

The counties did not respond to requests for comment.

“My activism in the past has been wildly successful,” Stevens said. “And, I imagine, will continue on a similar trajectory.”

Stevens said he is particularly interested in drawing attention to the hypocrisy. “I don’t have the votes,” he said. “My job is merely to turn hypocrisy on itself and let the bureaucrats each other for lunch.”

It’s not the first time Stevens has made waves for his activism. In 2015, he petitioned 11 South Florida municipalities to either drop the prayer that opens their city commission meetings, or let him lead a prayer in the name of Satan.

After Stevens’ requests, some Florida cities ended up dropping their moment of prayer altogether. “The satanic stare withered them down,” Stevens told the Sun Sentinel.


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Heather Cox RichardsonApr 24

Late last night, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol filed a motion asking a judge to put an end to the attempts of Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows to stonewall the committee. Meadows has tried to avoid talking to the committee or providing it with documents, using a number of different arguments that essentially try to establish that the U.S. president cannot be held accountable by Congress. The committee’s motion carefully explains why those arguments are wrong.

To support their belief that the Congress has the right and responsibility to investigate the circumstances of the January 6 insurrection—a correct understanding of our governmental system, in my view—the committee gave the judge almost 250 pages of evidence.

Included was some of the material I’ve been waiting for: a list of members of Congress who participated in planning to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

We have heard a lot about independent lawyers and members of the executive branch who were willing to try to keep Trump in office. We have also heard about people at the state level. But while there has been plenty of speculation about what members of Congress were involved, we had little to go on.

We knew that both former energy secretary Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) had texted with Meadows about possible avenues for overturning the election. We knew that Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) had recorded videos before the insurrection that suggested they supported it. We had an odd statement from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on January 5 saying that he, not then–vice president Mike Pence, would count the certified electoral ballots the next day. We had Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) allegedly saying to Jordan on January 6, “Get away from me. You f**ing did this.”

But the January 6th committee has just given us a bigger—although not the whole, yet—picture.

In last night’s filed motion was part of the testimony to the committee from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to the president and the chief of staff. When asked which members of Congress were involved in calls about overturning the election—including calls saying such efforts were illegal—Hutchinson named Representatives Greene, Jordan, Boebert, Scott Perry (R-PA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Jody Hice (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ).

The heart of this group was the “Freedom Caucus,” which was organized in 2015 to move the Republican Party farther to the right. Its first chair was Jim Jordan; its second was Mark Meadows. Its third was Andy Biggs. Mick Mulvaney, who would go on to Trump’s White House, and Ron DeSantis, who is now governor of Florida, were key organizers.

Let’s be clear: the people working to keep Trump in office by overturning the will of the people were trying to destroy our democracy. Not one of them, or any of those who plotted with them, called out the illegal attempt to destroy our government.

To what end did they seek to overthrow our democracy?

The current Republican Party has two wings: one eager to get rid of any regulation of business, and one that wants to get rid of the civil rights protections that the Supreme Court and Congress began to put into place in the 1950s. Business regulation is actually quite popular in the U.S., so to build a political following, in the 1980s, leaders of the anti-regulation wing of the Republican Party promised racists and the religious right that they would stomp out the civil rights legislation that since the 1950s has tried to make all Americans equal before the law.

But even this marriage has not been enough to win elections, since most Americans like business regulation and the protection of things like the right to use birth control. So, to put its vision into place, the Republican Party has now abandoned democracy. Its leaders have concluded that any Democratic victory is illegitimate, even if voters have clearly chosen a Democrat, as they did with Biden in 2020, by more than 7 million votes.

Former speechwriter for George W. Bush David Frum wrote in 2018: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” And here we are.

As if to illustrate this point, news broke today that a North Carolina official threatened to fire an elections official unless she gave him access to the county’s vote tabulators. The news agency Reuters noted that this threat was only one of more than 900 instances of intimidation of election officials in what has become commonplace after the 2020 election.

It appears that elected officials of the Republican Party are willing to overturn a legitimate Democratic victory in order to guarantee that only a Republican can hold office. That means a one-party state, which will be overseen by a single, powerful individual. And the last 59 days in Ukraine have illustrated exactly what that kind of a system means.

Standing against that authoritarianism, Democratic president Joe Biden is trying to reassure Americans that democracy works. He insisted on using the government to support ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy, and in his first year in office, poverty in the United States declined, with lower-income Americans gaining more than at any time since the “War on Poverty” in the 1960s. Lower-income workers have more job opportunities than they have had for 30 years, and they are making more money. They have on average 50% more money in the bank than they did when the pandemic hit.

Biden’s insistence on investing in Americans meant that by the end of his first year, the U.S. had created 6.6 million jobs, the strongest record of any president since record keeping began in 1939. By the beginning of April, the economy had added 7.9 million jobs, and unemployment was close to a 50-year low at 3.6%. Meanwhile, the deficit is dropping: we should carve $1.3 trillion off it this year.

Biden’s deliberate reshaping of the American government to work for ordinary Americans again, regulating business and using the federal government to enforce equal rights, so threatens modern Republicans that they are willing to destroy our country rather than allow voters to keep people like Biden in power.

I do not believe that a majority of Americans want a dictatorship in which a favored few become billionaires while the rest of us live without the civil rights that have been our norm since the 1950s, and no voting rights to enable us to change our lot.

Tonight, news broke that Democrats in Utah have voted to back Independent candidate Evan McMullin for senator rather than run their own candidate. McMullin is trying to unseat Republican Senator Mike Lee, whose texts to Meadows as they conspired to overturn the election have lately drawn headlines. Democrats are gambling that there are enough Democrats, Independents, and anti-Trump Republicans in Utah to send Lee packing.




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If you are or aren’t a Star Wars fan, the emergence of the Sith indicates how evil can pervade the government under the guise of leadership while the leadership cowers in the face of it and eventually succumbs to its will. MA

April 21, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 22Today started with a New York Times story by journalists Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, based on their forthcoming book, detailing how the two top Republicans in Congress during the January 6 insurrection, then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), blamed Trump for the attack on the Capitol and wanted him removed from office.On the night of January 6, McConnell told colleagues that the party would finally break with Trump and his followers, and days later, as Democrats contemplated impeachment, he said, “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us.” McConnell said he expected the Senate to convict Trump, and then Congress could bar him from ever again holding office. After what had happened, McConnell said: “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.”     McCarthy’s reaction was similar. Burns and Martin wrote that in a phone call on January 10, McCarthy said he planned to call Trump and recommend that he resign. “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it,” he told a conference call of the Republican leadership. He also said he wished that social media companies would ban certain Republican lawmakers because they were stoking paranoia about the 2020 election. Other leaders, including Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN), talked of moving Trump out of the party.  Within weeks, though, faced with Trump’s continuing popularity with his base, McConnell and McCarthy had lost their courage. McConnell voted against Trump’s conviction for incitement of insurrection, and McCarthy was at Mar-a-Lago, posing for a photograph with Trump. Since then, McConnell has said he would “absolutely” vote for Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican Party’s nominee, and McCarthy has blamed the January 6 insurrection on Democratic leaders and security guards for doing a poor job of defending the Capitol. Their tone has changed so significantly that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol wanted to interview McCarthy to see if Trump had pressured him to change his story. McCarthy refused to cooperate, saying that “[t]he committee’s only objective is to attempt to damage its political opponents” and that he would not talk about “private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the Capitol.”Today, McCarthy responded to Burns and Martin’s story with a statement saying that the reporting was “totally false and wrong” before going on a partisan rant that the “corporate media is obsessed with doing everything it can to further a liberal agenda” and insisting that the country was better off with former president Trump in office. McCarthy’s spokesperson, Mark Bednar, denied the specifics of the story: “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign,” Bednar said.Oops. There was a tape. On January 10, 2021, McCarthy and Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) on a call with the House Republican leadership spoke about invoking the 25th Amendment, and McCarthy said he expected impeachment to pass the House and likely the Senate, and that he planned to tell Trump he should resign.After Rachel Maddow played the tape on her show tonight, conservative lawyer and Washington Post columnist George Conway tweeted: “Here’s an idea for you, Kevin. Tell the truth. Save whatever you might be able to salvage of your dignity and reputation. Come clean.” 
—Notes: @AcynRecording of McCarthy and Cheney April 22nd 20225,784 Retweets15,735 Likes

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Heather Cox RichardsonApr 21

Yesterday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey brought the Republican governors of 26 states together in the “American Governors’ Border Strike Force” to serve as a “force multiplier” in what he says is “criminal activity directly tied to our border.” For all of Ducey’s rhetoric about how the force is supposed to “accomplish what the federal government has failed at, protecting our communities from ruthless transnational criminal organizations,” the “strike force” is supposed to “share intelligence, strengthen analytical and cybersecurity efforts, and improve humanitarian efforts to protect children and families.”

This measure is pretty clearly a political ploy before the midterms. As the Texas Tribune reports, since 2005, Texas governors have launched widely publicized border initiatives during political campaigns, insisting that they would manage what the federal government was ignoring. Billions of dollars later, it is not clear they have accomplished anything.

Most recently, with Operation Lone Star in 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed more than 10,000 members of the Texas National Guard and state troopers to the border, as a cost of about $25 million a week for the troopers and $2 billion a year for the National Guard members. That’s almost five times what the legislature had budgeted. While the administration has claimed success, an investigation by ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, and the Marshall Project suggests that it is taking credit for arrests that had nothing to do with border issues and were often handled by law enforcement officers unconnected with Operation Lone Star. Most arrests are not of human traffickers or smugglers, but of people accused of trespassing on private property.

And so, it appears, messaging for the midterms is in full swing.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to threaten to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in his anger over Disney’s opposition to the recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” bill that restricts instruction in gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools in vague language that leaves the door open to silencing minority voices. Since 1967, the existence of the Reedy Creek Improvement District has given the company the right to govern the Disney park as if it were a town.

The Walt Disney Company delivers to the state more than $409 million in sales taxes for tickets alone, employs more than 80,000 Florida residents, and supports more than 400,000 more jobs. Today, the Miami Herald reported that repealing the company’s governing authority would raise taxes on families in the area by $2,200 each.

Florida state representative Michael Grieco (D) tweeted: “The FL Legislature cannot unilaterally dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. It’s an exercise in futility… This whole thing is an effort to deflect attention away from the unconstitutional redistricting of Congressional districts and diluting of the black vote.” Grieco was referring to the governor’s redistricting map that heavily favors Republicans and that DeSantis drew himself after vetoing a more reasonable map—although still favoring Republicans—passed by the Florida legislature.

On Monday, federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate on public transportation, saying the rule exceeded the CDC’s authority. The decision raised ire in part because it was transparently ideologically driven: former president Trump appointed the former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas—she was then 33 years old—to a federal judgeship with just 8 years of experience practicing law, and the Senate confirmed her after Biden was elected. Her husband works at Jared Kushner’s new investment firm, the one bankrolled to the tune of $2 billion by the Saudi crown prince.

But in fact, according to a poll by the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a majority of Americans want a mask mandate on public transportation. Fifty-six percent of those polled wanted people to wear masks, while 24% were opposed and 20% didn’t care. A YouGov poll put the number of those in favor at 63% and those opposed at 29%.

The rule was set to expire on May 3 in any case, but today, the Department of Justice appealed the ruling, largely to protect the authority of the CDC to impose similar requirements in the future. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case, is right leaning, and if it decides against the administration, it could weaken the CDC going forward.

Over all hangs the Big Lie that Biden stole the 2020 election from former president Trump. Supporters of the former president continue to hammer on that lie, trying to destabilize belief in our elections. Notably, John Eastman, author of the Eastman memo offering a scheme by which former vice president Mike Pence could overturn the election, is now pushing states to “decertify” Biden’s election. There is no mechanism for such a thing, but it hardly matters; the point is to continue to rile up Trump’s base with the lie that he was cheated.

But news from the January 6 committee is starting to get traction. Yesterday, the editorial board of the Salt Lake City Tribune noted that “[i]t is past time for Mike Lee [R-UT, whose texts trying to overturn the election have just come to light] to start fessing up to all he knows about the plot to set aside the results of an honest and fair election to keep Donald Trump in power.”

And right-wing media personality Alex Jones claims to have offered to talk with the Department of Justice about what he knows of the January 6 insurrection in exchange for immunity, suggesting that he is concerned about his actions surrounding January 6. We learned that the department quietly hired a well-known prosecutor of high-profile cases, Thomas Windom, to work on potential criminal prosecutions.

Democrats, too, are finding their voices for the midterms.

The administration continues to try to call attention to the booming economy, noting that the real GDP in the U.S. exceeds that of the other G-7 countries. Today, news broke that household cash exceeds debt for the first time in 30 years and that new housing starts, a key economic indicator, are rising fast: they are up 9.7% from a year ago.

The Education Department announced it is taking advantage of existing but underused programs to cancel student loan debt for 40,000 people and to offer credits to more than 3.6 million federal student loan borrowers to help them repay their loans. And the administration noted today that the Republican tax plan will increase taxes on 75 million middle-class families by an average of almost $1,500 a year while Biden’s plan will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year.

Money is shaping up to be a key issue. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Abbott, is hammering hard on the cost of the governor’s shenanigans, including his recent stunt shutting down trade across the U.S.-Mexico border on the pretext of checking for drugs or undocumented immigrants. The shutdown cost the U.S. nearly $9 billion overall and Texas alone about $477 million a day. “What Abbott has done is literally create chaos on the US-MX border,” O’Rourke said, “whether it’s the National Guard deployment, where 4 guard members have taken their lives, this latest stoppage at international ports of entry… or just the rhetoric that has inflamed tensions.”

O’Rourke is also running an ad suggesting that Texas property taxes have gone up $20,000,000,000 under Abbott.

But the most inspiring approach to the midterms came this week from Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow. In response to a colleague who had called her a “groomer” in a fundraising email after McMorrow stood up against marginalizing the state’s LGBTQ population, McMorrow made a stand against the hatred and bigotry coming from Republican colleagues. Defining herself as “a straight, white, Christian, married suburban mom,” she called out the “performative nonsense” of her so-called Christian colleagues. “People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape… or that healthcare costs are too high, or that teachers are leaving the profession,” she said. “We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives.”

Recalling historical heroes who tried “to right wrongs and fix the injustice in the world,” she reminded her colleagues that “each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history. [We decide] what happens next, and how WE respond to history and the world around us.”

“We will not let hate win.”



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April 15, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 16
Early in the morning of April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln breathed his last. The night before, he and his wife had gone to see a play—a comedy. One of the last men to talk to him before he left for the theater said it seemed the cares of the previous four years were melting away. The Confederacy was all but defeated, and the nation seemed to be on its way to a prosperous, inclusive new future.The bullet that killed Lincoln had been delivered by John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor poisoned by the belief that Lincoln’s use of the federal government to end human enslavement as a central part of the nation’s economy was tyranny. Since the 1830s, southern Democratic leaders had gotten around the sticky problem of the Declaration of Independence, with its insistence that “all men are created equal,” by insisting that democracy simply meant that men could elect their leaders at the state level. If voters chose to do unpopular things—like take Indigenous lands, enslave their Black neighbors, or impose taxes on Mexicans and Chinese and not on white men—that was their prerogative. Even if the vast majority of the U.S. population opposed those state laws, there was nothing the federal government could do to change them. The only thing the national government could do was to protect property, and that power was expansive: in 1859, enslavers would demand that the government take the extraordinary step of enforcing enslavement in the western territories. But, they insisted, the government had no power to do anything else. It could do nothing that the Framers had not enumerated in the Constitution, even if the vast majority of Americans wanted it to establish colleges for poor men, for example, or lay a road across the Cumberland Gap for western migrants, or dredge the harbors where trading schooners kept commerce flowing.To men like Lincoln, the men who organized the Republican Party, this simply made no sense. By its very nature, such an argument concentrated such wealth and power in a few men that the Republicans talked constantly of “oligarchy.” The point of a democratic government, they believed, was to answer the will of the majority of voters in the whole country. During the Civil War, the Republicans used the government to provide homesteads for settlers, create public colleges, distribute seeds (no small thing in an era when seeds were handed down in families and poor men often had no access to such legacies), charter a national railroad, invent national taxation, and—finally—end systemic human enslavement.  This system was wildly popular, but those determined to retain control of their states insisted it was tyranny. No longer able to manipulate the political system in their favor, they turned to violence. “Sic semper tyrannis!”— thus always to tyrants— Booth yelled from the stage at Ford’s Theater, after pulling the trigger.The old Democratic argument for state’s rights has reemerged in the present-day Republican Party, and it has taken on many of the same contours as it had in the 1850s. Adherents are operating in a false reality, believing that their vision of the nation is the only correct one, and that they must impose their will on the rest of us, no matter what we want. As Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) tweeted on October 8, 2020, “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospe[r]ity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”That fear of democracy has brought us to the edge of losing our government. In an exclusive story today by Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen, and Jamie Gangel, CNN published 100 text messages between Senator Lee, Representative Chip Roy of Texas, and Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The messages were obtained by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.They show elected members of our government eager to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election in which a national majority of 7 million people had chosen Democrat Joe Biden as president. On November 7, acting on the false narrative the Trump administration had established months before that the election would be marked by fraud, Lee was one of a number of right-wing lawmakers and leaders who offered to Trump their “unequivocal support for you to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections.” On November 9, Lee told Meadows he was working to bring senators around to the idea of challenging the election. Roy wrote that they needed evidence of fraud: “We need ammo. We need fraud examples. We need it this weekend.”Gradually, though, Lee and Roy became concerned that the administration was long on accusations and short on evidence. On November 19, Trump’s public legal team—Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Jenna Ellis—gave a press conference that was full of wild accusations, all of which were false, that might well have been designed simply to whip up Trump’s base for later attacks on the counting of electoral votes. (Trump’s team lost more than 60 lawsuits over the election, and when Dominion Voting Systems sued Powell for $1.3 billion over her accusations that their software flipped votes, her legal team argued that “reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact.”)In the wake of the conference, Lee worried that “the potential defamation liability for the president is significant here. For the campaign and the president personally. Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kind of doubt she can.” He believed the press conference was damaging enough that the president “should probably disassociate himself and refute any claims that can’t be substantiated.” On November 22, he begged Meadows: “Please tell me what I should be saying.” Roy wrote: “If we don’t get logic and reason in this before 11/30—the GOP conference will bolt (all except the most hard core Trump guys).”Lee and Roy then turned to lawyer John Eastman’s plan to have states appoint “alternative slates of electors” in place of the legitimate, certified ones. By January 3, Lee specified that those new slates must be named “pursuant to state law,” and started calling state legislators. In the end, Lee and Roy came to see that the fight to keep Trump in power was unconstitutional. On December 31, Roy wrote: “The President should call everyone off. It’s the only path. If we substitute the will of states through electors with a vote by Congress every 4 years…we have destroyed the electoral college… Respectfully.” On January 1, he added: “If POTUS allows this to occur…we’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic….”On January 4, Roy had abandoned the attack on the federal government, but other Republicans persisted. Roy texted: “I am truly sorry I am in a different spot then you and our brothers re: Wednesday. But I will defend all.” On January 6, during the riot, he texted: “This is a sh*tshow…. Fix this now.” “We are,” Meadows texted. Later that night, 8 senators and 139 representatives nonetheless voted to challenge certified state electoral votes electing Biden.Since January 6, the Republican Party has shifted its focus to the states to undermine the federal government. Nineteen states have changed their election laws to enable Republicans to win their states regardless of the will of the voters, sending Republican electors to put a Republican president in place. Encouraged by the Supreme Court’s “originalist” majority, which denies the ability of the federal government to protect civil rights in the states, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas have all overridden the constitutional right to abortion, and Republican lawmakers have indicated they are gunning for birth control and interracial marriage as well. Dramatically, in the last week. Texas governor Greg Abbott has effectively shut down international trade across the U.S.-Mexico border, explicitly asserting state power over national power and thus driving prices up all across the country.One hundred and fifty-seven years ago today, Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, stood heartbroken by the bedside of the man who had asserted the power of the federal government over the states and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”—Notes:Mueller, She Wrote @MuellerSheWroteSince @SenMikeLee is back on the news, let’s remind everyone how much he openly hates democracy. Yes, this is real. April 15th 20221,799 Retweets4,317 Likes​​

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April 13, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 14“Democrats need to make more noise,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. “We have to scream from the rooftops, because this is a battle for the free world now.”Sargent interviewed Schatz after the senator called out Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) on the floor of the Senate on April 7 for the profound disconnect between the Republican senator’s speeches and his actions. Hawley has placed a hold on President Joe Biden’s uncontroversial nominee for an assistant secretary of defense, saying that Biden’s support for Ukraine was “wavering” and that he wasn’t doing enough.Of course, the Biden administration has been central to world efforts to support Ukraine in its attempt to hold off Russia’s invasion. Just today, Biden announced an additional $800 million in weapons, ammunition, and other security assistance to Ukraine. In contrast, Hawley voted to acquit former president Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress when he withheld $391 million of congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to cook up a story about Hunter Biden.Hawley’s bad-faith argument goes beyond misleading statements about aid to Ukraine. Hawley has vowed that he will use his senatorial prerogative to hold up “every single civilian nominee” for the Defense Department unless Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resigns. He has vowed the same for the State Department, demanding the resignation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.Hawley says his demands are because of the withdrawal from Afghanistan; he also said that Biden should resign. This is a highly unusual interference of the legislative branch of government with the executive branch. It also means that key positions in the departments responsible for managing our national security are not being filled, since Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer must use up valuable floor time to get nominations around Hawley’s holds.In February, for example, Hawley blocked the confirmation of the uncontroversial head of the Pentagon’s international security team, Celeste Wallander, a Russia expert and staunch advocate for fighting Russian aggression, even while Russian troops were massing on the Ukraine border. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) noted in frustration: “He’s complaining about the problems we have in Russia and Ukraine and he’s making it worse because he’s not willing to allow those nominees who can help with that problem to go forward.” (The Senate eventually voted 83–13 to confirm Wallander.)Hawley is not the only Republican to be complaining about the administration even as he gums up the works.Texas governor Greg Abbott has ordered Texas state troops to inspect all commercial trucks coming from Mexico after the federal government has already inspected them. Normally, Mexican authorities inspect a commercial driver’s paperwork and then officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection thoroughly inspect the vehicle on the U.S. side of the international bridge, using dogs, X-ray machines, and personal inspections. At large crossings, officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Transportation will make sure that products and trucks meet U.S. standards. Sometimes after that, the state will spot-check a few trucks for roadworthiness. Never before has Texas inspected the contents of each commercial vehicle.Abbott instituted the new rule after the Biden administration announced it would end the pandemic emergency health order known as Title 42. This is a public health authority used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect against the spread of disease. It was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020. Title 42 allows the U.S. government to turn migrants from war-torn countries away at the border rather than permitting them to seek asylum as international law requires.Abbott said the new rule would enable troopers to search for drugs and smuggled immigrants, which he claims the administration is not doing. But journalists Mitchell Ferman, Uriel J. García, and Ivan Pierre Aguirre of the Texas Tribune report that officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety do not appear to be examining the trucks and have not announced any captured drugs or undocumented immigrants.Wait times at border crossings have jumped from minutes to many hours, with Mexican truckers so frustrated they blocked the roads from the southern side, as well. Truckers report being stuck in their trucks for as much as 30 hours without food or water. About $440 billion worth of goods cross our southern border annually, and Abbot’s stunt has shut down as much as 60% of that trade. The shutdown will hammer those businesses that depend on Mexican products. It will also create higher prices and shortages across the entire country, especially as perishable foods rot in transit.On Twitter, Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke showed a long line of trucks behind him in Laredo and said: “What you see behind me is inflation.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement today saying: “Governor Abbott’s unnecessary and redundant inspections of trucks transiting ports of entry between Texas and Mexico are causing significant disruptions to the food and automobile supply chains, delaying manufacturing, impacting jobs, and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country. Local businesses and trade associations are calling on Governor Abbott to reverse this decision…. Abbott’s actions are impacting people’s jobs, and the livelihoods of hardworking American families.”Tonight, Abbott backed down on his rule, and normal traffic seems to be resuming over one of the key bridges between Mexico and the U.S., but his stunt indicates that Republicans plan to use inflation and immigration as key issues to turn out their base for the 2022 midterm elections. Today, pro-Trump Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who replaced Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest Republican in the House, tweeted: “We must SECURE our southern border.”Abbott has also ordered the Texas National Guard to the U.S. border with Mexico to conduct “migration drills” in preparation for an influx of migrants. But Abbott’s use of the 10,000 National Guard personnel last fall for a border operation to prevent an influx of migrants seemed to be a political stunt: it led to complaints from National Guard personnel of lack of planning, lack of pay, lack of housing, and lack of reason to be there.Abbott has deployed troops in the past while he was under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the February 2021 winter storm that left millions of Texans without heat or electricity for days and killed 246. This deflection seemed to be at work last February, too, when Abbott issued a letter saying that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services should investigate any instances of care for transgender children as child abuse. That letter appeared just as it came to light that Abbott was behind the extraordinarily high electricity prices in the 2021 storm. Although Abbott’s office had said he was not involved in the decision to charge maximum electricity prices, in February, Bill Magness, the former CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas that runs the state’s electrical grid, said Abbott had personally ordered him to keep prices at their maximum: $9,000 per megawatt hour.And so Abbott grabbed headlines with a bill attacking transgender children.Today, Abbott sent a bus of migrants seeking asylum to Washington, D.C., where they were set down right outside the offices of the Fox News Channel, which filmed them disembarking. These migrants have been processed by federal authorities and are awaiting decisions from federal judges about whether they will be allowed to remain in the U.S. “I think it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt,” Psaki said.And finally, tonight, under the category of bad-faith arguments, it is clear that the current Supreme Court has run amok. Republicans attack “activist judges” who want to protect civil rights in the states by using the Fourteenth Amendment’s rule that the states cannot deprive a citizen of the equal protection of the laws. But Republican justices are making up their own law outside the normal boundaries of the court.On April 6, five Supreme Court justices agreed to reinstate a Trump-era rule that limits the ability of states to block projects that pollute their rivers and streams. The court did so under the so-called “shadow docket,” a form of decision previously used to address emergencies, in which the court makes a decision without arguments or written explanations. Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated just how far off the rails the current Supreme Court has slid when he joined the dissent against the majority’s decision out of concern for the use of this shadow docket as a way to hand down unbriefed and unexplained decisions.
Hawley is not the only Republican these days operating in bad faith.—

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April 12, 2022Heather Cox RichardsonApr 13On April 12, 1945, a visibly exhausted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt jerked in his chair while having his portrait painted in Warm Springs, Georgia. FDR put his hand up, said “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head,” and lost consciousness. He died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage within hours.When FDR entered the White House in 1933, he undertook to rebuild the nation after Republicans had run it into the ground.Believing that businessmen were the engine that drove the economy and that any government regulations or taxes that hampered them would hurt growth, Republicans under presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover had slashed taxes and regulations. The superheated economy boomed, but real wages stagnated, and the profits from dramatically improved production all went to the top 1% of the economy.When spokespeople tried to point out that the new economy shut farmers, immigrants, and minorities out, Republicans accused those groups of falling behind because they were lazy. But then, in October 1929, the stock market crashed and the Roaring Twenties stopped dead. People lost their jobs, their homes, and their hope.In the presidential election of 1932, desperate voters threw the Republicans out of office and put in Democrats, led by former New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR recognized that the economic crisis created by unfettered capitalism threatened to end democracy forever as starving Americans turned either to communism or to fascism, as Europeans were doing.FDR understood that to preserve democracy and the economic system on which it rested, the government must regulate business, protect workers, and provide a basic social safety net. His “New Deal for the American people” did exactly that, and it helped Americans weather the Depression until the extraordinary deficit spending of WWII ended it altogether.Ordinary Americans celebrated a government that worked for everyone, rather than just the rich. And on April 13, they mourned the man who had piloted the country through that transition.


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The Historians Take a First Crack at Donald J. Trump

Paul M. Renfro – 52m ago

© Provided by Slate

With the end of each presidency in the 21st century, historian Julian Zelizer has assembled a cast of colleagues to evaluate the outgoing administration. The first two installments in this series focused on George W. Bush (2010) and Barack Obama (2018) and featured essays by Nelson Lichtenstein, Mary Dudziak, Kevin Kruse, and other major names in the historical profession.

In the new volume The Presidency of Donald J. Trump: A First Historical Assessment, Zelizer and more than a dozen other historians offer their insights on the Trump administration. The project captured the former president’s attention last year, after he had begrudgingly left office. Trump requested—and secured—a Zoom meeting with Zelizer and the other authors attached to the project, during which he hoped to “tighten up some of the research” they were conducting. Fortunately, Trump’s attempt at meddling failed. Although the essays included here are fair and thoughtful, they also don’t pull any punches.

They do, however, reveal some of the challenges inherent in the project of what historians call “recent history”—the study of events and processes that have unfolded over the past several years or decades. “Recent history” differs from journalism in its emphasis on historical analysis and context. Because its practitioners want to determine how and why contemporary phenomena came to be, they home in on the linkages, and discontinuities, between the distant past, the more recent past, and the present. And, as historians Claire Potter and Renee Romano explain in a book on the topic, recent history “talks back,” as circumstances change and living subjects, like Trump, vie to control the dominant narrative. Since these scholars are analyzing ongoing developments—and doing it in the rigid format of a published book, no less—some of their assessments are already outdated or, at the very least, incomplete.

This particular “recent history” is even more difficult, given historians’ visceral (yet varied) responses to Trump’s candidacy and presidency. His emergence in 2015 and 2016 raised major philosophical, definitional, and strategic questions within the historical profession. How, and to what extent, many historians wondered, should we “resist” Trumpism? Some historians—including several featured in Zelizer’s new volume—wrote, circulated, and signed online petitions highlighting the existential threat that Trump ostensibly posed to U.S. democracy. Now-familiar names like Heather Cox RichardsonJoanne Freeman, and Kruse became influential public intellectuals during Trump’s term, sharing their historical wisdom with hundreds of thousands of online #Resisters, many of whom believed that Trump and the contemporary GOP were subverting otherwise noble American institutions and traditions. Other academics, coming from the left, criticized historians like Timothy Snyder for their attempts to characterize Trump as a fascist and to frame his popularity as an exceptional phenomenon, rather than a logical outgrowth of racism, capitalism, xenophobia, sexism, and other malign forces that have long defined the American experience.

If this crisis in the historical profession sounds familiar, it’s because it paralleled the reckoning faced by news media organizations struggling to define their role during the Trump years. And because Zelizer’s study extends the analysis provided in contemporaneous journalistic accounts, it occasionally reproduces the reductive partisan framing seen in so much American political reporting. Writing about the state of U.S. political history amid the Tea Party insurgency in 2011, historian Matt Lassiter—who, by the way, contributed a sharp critique of Obama’s drug policies to Zelizer’s 2018 volume—lamented the ways some of his fellow political historians seemed to reinforce the crude “red–blue binaries reflected in the national maps of presidential election returns.” While several of the essays in The Presidency of Donald J. Trump locate the 45th president firmly within the American conservative tradition, few consider in any serious depth the continuities between Trump, his predecessors (from both political parties), and his Democratic successor.

Indeed, despite the rancor and fear it provoked outside of MAGA Nation (and within the historical profession), Trump’s presidency and its immediate aftermath didn’t solely illuminate continuities between the past and present, the historian’s stock in trade; it also revealed tremendous overlap between American liberalism and conservatism. After all, relatively few Democrats objected when Trump called for historically large defense budgets, and in 2020, the party ultimately rallied behind a “safe” candidate—one with a deeply troubling record on foreign policy, race, the criminal legal system, and immigration. With early hopes for a “new FDR” now thoroughly dashed, President Joe Biden’s proposed 2023 budget would further increase military, immigration enforcement, and police spending. He has also fared just as poorly as Trump on COVID-19, while simultaneously perpetuating unspeakably cruel immigrationasylum, and counterterrorism policies. And yet Biden has received a much warmer reception among professional historians. This paradox suggests that scholars of the recent past should pay closer attention to the structural processes and forces—capitalism, carceralism, white supremacy, militarism—that cut across presidential administrations and blur the lines between the nation’s political parties.

That said, The Presidency of Donald J. Trump is an ambitious and compelling book, one that covers a great deal of territory. The contributors grapple with Trump’s record on climate change (Bathsheba Demuth), his posture toward Big Tech (Margaret O’Mara), his foreign policy and attempts at diplomacy (Jeffrey Engel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, James Mann), his mishandling of the pandemic (Merlin Chowkwanyun), his relationship with right-wing media outlets and with conservatism itself (Nicole Hemmer, Zelizer), his investment in white supremacy and exclusionary nationalism (Kathleen Belew, Mae Ngai, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor), his penchant for lying (Angus Burgin), his sexism and its effect on feminist activism (Leandra Zarnow), his support among Latinx voters (Geraldo Cadava), his (surprisingly successful) use of the language of “infrastructure” (Jason Scott Smith), his impeachments (Gregory P. Downs), his hostility toward the FBI and the administrative state (Beverly Gage), and his galvanizing effect on Democrats and the left (Michael Kazin). Several major themes run through many of these chapters: the role of racism and xenophobia in Trump’s rise and (later) his policymaking, the tension between “disruption” and stability in Trump’s rhetoric and approach to governing (or not governing), and the polarization caused or exacerbated by Trump and Trumpism. There’s a lot to chew on here, and the book can sometimes feel like a bit of a grab bag as a result. But that’s to be expected with edited anthologies as expansive and impressive as this one.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 looms over the book, just as it continues to loom over all of our lives. However, since most of the anthology was probably finalized last fall—as the delta wave ravaged the country and before omicron unleashed its wrath—the book too often betrays the very 2021 notion that the worst is behind us. At times, the authors subtly relegate to the past the mass death and misery wrought by the pandemic. The book is dedicated, for example, to “all the people whose lives were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic,” even though hundreds of people continue to die from the illness in the U.S. daily. Zelizer and contributors Chowkwanyun and Hemmer, among others, rightly condemn former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other Republicans for praising Trump “[d]espite a devastating pandemic that left more than a half million people dead.” But now that COVID-19 has claimed more than 1 million lives in the U.S. alone, the narrow focus on Trump and his disciples feels inadequate. More people have died of COVID under Biden than under Trump.

The volume’s treatment of COVID, which was not even “recent history” at the time of the book’s writing, shows how an analytical approach that stresses partisan and ideological cleavages can obscure continuities between the nation’s major political parties. Most of the authors featured here consider Trump to be a product of the modern Republican Party and conservative movement. Zelizer, for one, calls Trump “the culmination of more than three decades in the GOP’s evolution.” In his view—which reflects the historical profession’s dominant interpretation of the trajectory of U.S. conservatism, at least until recently—the midcentury Republican Party beat back the far-right challenges posed by Barry Goldwater and “veer[ed] toward the middle,” where the votes supposedly were. Only with Reagan’s capture of the party in the 1980s, the story goes, did the shift rightward (in both political parties) begin in earnest. “Powerful Democrats facilitated this rightward drift” in American politics “by redefining their agenda within the parameters Reagan had set,” Zelizer contends. “Reagan’s political success provoked imitation,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in her chapter. “Casting about as their electoral fortunes continued to diminish, the leadership of the Democratic Party began adapting to the prevailing antiwelfare and pro-criminal justice system and policing logics.” Michael Kazin strikes similar notes, pinning the Democrats’ move rightward on the electoral successes of Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

These characterizations miss critical transformations and tensions within liberalism before Reagan’s presidency and the supposed fall of the New Deal order. Historians such as Lily Geismer and Brent Cebul have traced the liberal and Democratic embrace of the so-called new economy (driven by the real estate, financial, and tech sectors), “market-based” solutions to social problems, and professional-class voters back to at least the 1960s and 1970s. After all, Jimmy Carter, despite his latter-day iconic status on the left (solar panels on the White House!), helped usher in the neoliberal age through deregulation and supply-side economics, and the military-industrial complex was very much a New Deal liberal project. Naomi MurakawaElizabeth Hinton, and Heather Schoenfeld have also shown that liberal reform efforts in the mid-20th century laid the physical and intellectual groundwork for racialized mass incarceration. Rather than being just a response to the so-called Reagan Revolution, Democrats’ and liberals’ rightward lurch in the late 20th century resulted from contradictions within liberalism itself and from broad structural processes in the national and global economies.

This interpretive disagreement notwithstanding, The Presidency of Donald J. Trump is essential reading for historians of the United States and anyone who hopes to understand, on a more fundamental level, the antecedents to and potential consequences of the Trump years. All of the essays here are sharp and incisive, although standouts include Angus Burgin’s chapter on the “ongoing epistemological crisis” triggered by Trump, Nicole Hemmer’s exploration of the right-wing media ecosystem in the Trump era, Kathleen Belew’s examination of white power rhetoric and organizing during the Age of Trump, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s meditation on the fall of racial “colorblindness” and the reemergence of a viable left wing in American politics. As challenging as the study of the recent past can be, these four essays—and, indeed, this entire volume—demonstrate that it is a vital project, especially in this moment of national and global uncertainty. Scholars and other commentators must continue to undertake this kind of work—hopefully concentrating more on state power, political culture, and political economy and less on the reductive red–blue, conservative–liberal paradigms that inform (and inhibit) far too much political analysis.

© Princeton UPPrinceton UP


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April 11, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 12
Last week, we lost a crucially important voice in the media when media reporter Eric Boehlert died unexpectedly. In his last column for his publication Press Run, titled “Why is the press rooting against Biden?,” Boehlert wrote that there is such a “glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments” that it seems the press is “determined to keep Biden pinned down.” Boehlert pointed to the extraordinary poll showing that only 28% of Americans know the country has been gaining jobs in the last year—7 million jobs, in fact—while 37% think the country has lost jobs. Under Biden, the U.S. has added more than 400,000 jobs a month for 11 months, the longest period of job growth since at least 1939. And yet, Boehlert pointed out, on the day the latest job report was released, cable news used the word “inflation” as many times as “jobs.” On Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” ignored the economy and instead featured conversations about two problems for the Democrats in the midterms: immigration and Trump. It is no secret that we are in a battle between democracy and authoritarianism in America and around the world. It seems to me that the Biden administration is seeking to weaken the ties of misguided voters to authoritarianism by proving that a democratic government can answer the needs of ordinary Americans. The administration appears to be taking the position that focusing on the latest outrage from the right wing locks the country into their view of the world: you are either for Trump or against him. Instead, the administration seems to be trying to demonstrate its own worldview, but with the press glued to Trump and the Republicans, the administration is having a hard time getting traction.The White House has taken on the idea that the Democrats are unpopular in rural areas. On March 31, the Department of the Interior announced a $420 million investment in clean water in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. Today, the president announced a $440 million commitment to an “America the Beautiful Challenge” to attract up to $1 billion in private and philanthropic donations to conserve land, water, and wildlife across the country.It also released today a 17-page bipartisan “playbook” to help rural communities identify more than 100 programs designed to fund rural infrastructure. It explains how to apply for funds to expand rural broadband, clean up pollution, improve transportation, fix rural bridges and roads, ensure clean water and sanitation, prepare for disasters including climate change, upgrade the electrical grid, and so on. These are critical needs that local communities, which cannot afford lobbyists, might need help navigating. The administration is also sending officials into rural communities to make sure that billions of federal dollars and the resources they command reach across the country. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu will all be on the road.  Also today, the administration took steps to address medical billing practices and medical debt. It will collect information on how more than 2000 providers handle patients, and will weigh that information into grant-making decisions as well as sharing potential violations with law enforcement. The newly rebuilt Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gutted by the former president, will investigate and hold accountable debt collectors that violate patients’ rights. The administration is also eliminating medical debt as a factor for underwriting in federal loan programs.  Last week, Biden extended the moratorium on most federal student loan programs through the end of August—sooner than most Democrats wanted—and expunged the defaults of roughly 8 million federal student loan borrowers, permitting them to resume payments in good standing. Finally, today, Biden nominated Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015 because gun-rights groups oppose those nominated to the position. The Senate has confirmed only one director in the past 16 years. Dettelbach is Biden’s second nominee; the Senate scuttled the first, a former ATF agent who called for gun regulations.  The administration today announced a Justice Department rule that manufacturers of gun kits, which enable people to build weapons at home, will be considered gun manufacturers and must be licensed, the gun parts must have serial numbers, and buyers must have background checks. So-called ghost guns, assembled at home and unmarked and untraceable, are increasingly widespread. From 2016 to 2020, law enforcement recovered nearly 24,000 ghost guns at crime scenes. Polls widely show that more than 80% of Americans support background checks for gun buyers. Nonetheless, Gun Owners of America vowed to fight the rule. Biden’s worldview in which the government works for ordinary people contrasts with what we are learning about the worldview of the former administration under Trump, where a lack of oversight meant that money went to grifters and well-connected people.There have been plenty of stories about the misuse of funds under the Trump administration, including the story on March 28 by Ken Dilanian and Laura Strickler of NBC that prosecutors are calling the distribution of funds under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic, “the largest fraud in U.S. history.” As much as 10% of the relief money—$80 billion—was stolen in 2020, as money went out the door without verification checks (the Biden administration has since imposed verification rules). Swindlers also stole $90 billion to $400 billion from the Covid unemployment relief program, and another $80 billion from a different Covid relief program. We have also learned that the State Department can’t account for the foreign gifts Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and other administration officials received in office because the officials did not submit an accounting, as is required by law. But those stories pale in comparison to the news broken last night by ​​David D. Kirkpatrick and Kate Kelly of the New York Times: six months after Trump left office, an investment fund controlled by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), invested $2 billion with Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, despite the fact that the fund advisors found Kushner’s new company “unsatisfactory in all aspects.” At the same time, they also invested about $1 billion in another new firm run by Trump’s former treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.  Kushner has little experience in private equity, and his firm consists primarily of that Saudi money; no American institutions have invested with him. The Saudi investment will net Kushner’s firm about $25 million a year in asset management fees, and the investors required him to hire qualified investment professionals to manage the money.It certainly looks as if Kushner is being rewarded for his work on behalf of the kingdom, and perhaps in anticipation of influence in the future. Kushner defended MBS after news broke that the crown prince had approved the killing and dismemberment of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner helped to broker $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, even as Congress was outraged by MBS’s war in Yemen. Most concerning, though, is that Kushner had access to the most sensitive materials in our government. Career officials denied Kushner’s security clearance out of concern about his foreign connections, but Trump overruled them.We also know that classified material labeled “Top Secret” was in the 15 boxes of documents belonging to the National Archives and Records Administration that Trump took to his home at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating.—Notes: Schmidt @SteveSchmidtSESWe are habituated to process these stories as pay to play stories. That’s not what this is. This is evidence of payments for espionage. Kushner served in the West Wing and had access to the United States most sensitive secrets. This is corruption on such a gargantuan scale (Pro-Democracy) Reid 😷 @JoyAnnReidSo to review: the Saudis handed $1 billion to Steve Mnuchin and $2 billion to Jared Kushner, at the close of the Trump administration. Even though Kushner has zero experience investing money. And this is not a bribe and also we need Hunter’s laptop??? Make it make sense.April 12th 20221,536 Retweets4,391 Likes RUNWhy is the press rooting against Biden?Listen now | Please support independent voices and fearless media criticism by subscribing for $6 a month. Thanks! Stay healthy. Be kind…Read more8 days ago · 147 likes · 171 comments · Eric Boehlert’re a free subscriber to Letters from an American. For the full experience, become a paid subscriber.Subscribe

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Julie Carr Smyth

Sat, April 9, 2022, 11:12 AM

COLUMBUS — Mike Gibbons, a leading Republican Senate candidate from Ohio, said at a media event last fall that middle-class Americans don’t pay “any kind of a fair share” of income taxes.

“The top 20% of earners in the United States pay 82% of federal income tax — and, if you do the math, and 45% to 50% don’t pay any income tax, you can see the middle class is not really paying any kind of a fair share, depending on how you want to define it,” Gibbons said.

The comments by Gibbons, a millionaire investment banker from Cleveland, were made in a September episode of “The Landscape” podcast by Crain’s Cleveland Business. But they could take on new resonance after Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, introduced a governing plan in February that has divided the party over its call to raise taxes on millions of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes.

Political advertisement spending: Ohio Senate candidate Mike Gibbons spent big money to be on your TV. Is it paying off?

Scott, who leads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, has said that paying even a small tax would give poor people “skin in the game” to boost their interest and involvement in how tax dollars are spent.

Other leading Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have distanced themselves from Scott’s proposal, worried that the prospect of raising taxes on lower-income Americans could prompt election-year attacks from Democrats.

Campaign spokesperson Samantha Cotten said Friday that Gibbons has pledged not to raise taxes on individuals or businesses.

“Mike Gibbons does not support tax increases on any American — and never has,” she said in a statement. “Mike is a businessman, not a career politician and he understands economics and how to implement smart ideas and strategies that will benefit all Americans.”

Early Voting Guide: How, where to vote early in Ohio

Yet, ahead of the May 3 primary, Republican rivals are looking to use the comments against Gibbons. One opponent, Republican Mark Pukita, has had it posted on his YouTube page for the last three weeks with the caption “Tax Hike Mike Gibbons.”

Asked about the Scott plan during a Republican Senate debate last week, former Ohio Republican chair Jane Timken said she opposes his proposal to raise taxes on the middle class, while “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance said the GOP needs to stand for “middle-class people being able to raise a family and do it on a single income.”

In the video, Gibbons is pictured before a campaign backdrop and criticizes Democrats for advancing an “absolutely false” narrative that “the middle class is getting screwed and the wealthy, the elite, are cheating everybody” because they “need the middle class to win an election.” He says he doesn’t have a problem with a “progressive tax system structure” but notes that the wealthy already pay a lot in taxes.

Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Gibbons asks: “How much of the total tax bill can a very small percentage of the nation pay and still be a democracy?”

Democrats have spent the better part of a decade pushing for higher taxes on top earners and will likely do so again this year.

President Joe Biden included a “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” in his 2023 budget proposal. In announcing the tax proposal, the Democrat asserted that “a firefighter and a teacher pay more than double” the tax rate that a billionaire pays.

According an analysis of 2019 Internal Revenue Service data, the most recent available, by the fiscally conservative Tax Foundation, the top 10% of Americans earn 47.3% of reported income and pay 70.9% of the income taxes. The bottom 50% of American wage earners report 11.5% of the income and pay 3.1% of the taxes. That leaves the middle 40% of Americans earning 41.2% of the income and paying 26.1% of the income taxes.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, argues that such figures do not reflect considerable amounts of wealth among high-income Americans that are shielded from taxation or are taxed at lower rates than wage earners.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons: Middle class doesn’t pay fair share

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