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It has long been the idea, presumption or assumption, if you will that all Politicians Lie. This may be a general view with some elements of truth but in reality, the truth is more on the general public than the individual elected official. We as voters have long given those we elect more power to work unfettered for us than they deserve. If we as voters spent at minimum 1 half hour investigating other sources of information, we may be pleasantly surprised at what we discover. Each political party collectively and individually offer “their” take on proposed laws, enacted laws and other government initiatives from Municipal to Federal levels. These “takes” are often “spins” on the facts which push us (the voters) to follow their lead into areas that are against our own best interests. The “melting pot” of America is barely warm and getting cooler with the help of the miscreant representatives we currently have in place. In Illinois there was the “Tax Reform” proposal which is still being debated even after failure to launch with other views on its viability or lack of. Where were all of these optional “ideas” when the State mailed out flyers documenting the proposed amendment so that all of us could have a full picture? There’s much shouting and ranting but no straight out well-reasoned objections. Voters, please start spreading your net to gather various sources of information to make yourself informed voters. No elected official unfortunately will ever give the full picture unless it is in their best interest. 

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By Andrew Higgins

Jan. 10, 2021

Lying as a political tool is hardly new. But a readiness, even enthusiasm, to be deceived has become a driving force in politics around the world, most recently in the United States.

For President Trump’s supporters, rallying near the Washington Monument on Wednesday, it is enough that he says he won.

MOSCOW — In a cable to Washington in 1944, George F. Kennan, counselor at the United States Embassy in Stalin’s Moscow, warned of the occult power held by lies, noting that Soviet rule “has proved some strange and disturbing things about human nature.”

Foremost among these, he wrote, is that in the case of many people, “it is possible to make them feel and believe practically anything.” No matter how untrue something might be, he wrote, “for the people who believe it, it becomes true. It attains validity and all the powers of truth.”

Mr. Kennan’s insight, generated by his experience of the Soviet Union, now has a haunting resonance for America, where tens of millions believe a “truth” invented by President Trump: that Joseph R. Biden Jr. lost the November election and became president-elect only through fraud.

Lying as a political tool is hardly new. Niccolo Machiavelli, writing in the 16th century, recommended that a leader try to be honest but lie when telling the truth “would place him at a disadvantage.” People don’t like being lied to, Machiavelli observed, but “one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.”

A readiness, even enthusiasm, to be deceived has in recent years become a driving force in politics around the world, notably in countries like Hungary, Poland, Turkey and the Philippines, all governed by populist leaders adept at shaving the truth or inventing it outright.

Janez Jansa, a right-wing populist who in March became prime minister of Slovenia — the home country of Melania Trump — was quick to embrace Mr. Trump’s lie that he won. Mr. Jansa congratulated him after the November vote, saying “it’s pretty clear that the American people have elected” Mr. Trump and lamenting “facts denying” by the mainstream media.

Even Britain, which regards itself as a bastion of democracy,  has fallen prey to transparent but widely believed falsehoods, voting in 2016 to leave the European Union after claims by the pro-Brexit camp that exiting the bloc would mean an extra 350 million pounds, or $440 million, every week for the country’s state health service.

Many of the claims of Brexit backers are demonstrably false, but as Britain officially left the European Union, on Jan. 31, some people in London celebrated.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Those who advanced this lie, including the Conservative Party politician who has since become Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, later admitted that it was a “mistake” — though only after they had won the vote.

Bigger and more corrosive lies, ones that don’t just fiddle with figures but reshape reality, have found extraordinary traction in Hungary. There, the populist leader Viktor Orban has cast the financier and philanthropist George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, as the shadowy mastermind of a sinister plot to undermine the country’s sovereignty, replace native Hungarians with immigrants and destroy traditional values.

The strength of this conspiracy theory, sometimes tinged with anti-Semitism, said Peter Kreko, executive director of Political Capital, a research group in Budapest long critical of Mr. Orban, lies in its appeal to a “tribal mind-set” that sees all issues as a struggle between “good and evil, black and white,” rooted in the interests of a particular tribe.

“The art of tribal politics is that it shapes reality,” Mr. Kreko said. “Lies become truth and explain everything in simple terms.” And political struggles, he added, “become a war between good and evil that demands unconditional support for the leader of the tribe. If you talk against your own camp you betray it and get expelled from the tribe.”

What makes this so dangerous, Mr. Kreko said, is not just that “tribalism is incompatible with pluralism and democratic politics” but that “tribalism is a natural form of politics: Democracy is a deviation.”

In Poland, the deeply conservative Law and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in power since 2015, has promoted its own multipurpose, reality-shifting conspiracy theory. It revolves around the party’s repeatedly debunked claim that the 2010 death of scores of senior Polish officials, including Mr. Kaczynski’s brother — Poland’s president at the time — in a plane crash in western Russia was the result of a plot orchestrated by Moscow and aided, or at least covered-up by the party’s rivals in Warsaw.

Russian rescue workers inspecting the site of a plane crash that killed Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski, in 2010.

While Polish, Russian and independent experts have all blamed bad weather and pilot error for the crash, the belief that it was foul play has resonated among die-hard Law and Justice supporters. It has both fed on and reinforced their view that leaders of the previous centrist government are not just political rivals but traitors in cahoots with Poland’s centuries-old foe, Russia, and Poland’s own former communist elite.

The utility of lying on a grand scale was first demonstrated nearly a century ago by leaders like Stalin and Hitler, who coined the term “big lie” in 1925 and rose to power on the lie that Jews were responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I. For the German and Soviet dictators, lying was not merely a habit or a convenient way of sanding down unwanted facts but an essential tool of government.

It tested and strengthened loyalty by forcing underlings to cheer statements they knew to be false and rallied the support of ordinary people who, Hitler realized, “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie” because, while they might fib in their daily lives about small things, “it would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths.”

By promoting a colossal untruth of his own — that he won a “sacred landslide election victory” — and sticking to it despite scores of court rulings establishing otherwise, Mr. Trump has outraged his political opponents and left even some of his longtime supporters shaking their heads at his mendacity.

In embracing this big lie, however, the president has taken a path that often works — at least in countries without robustly independent legal systems and news media along with other reality checks.

After 20 years in power in Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin, for example, has shown that Mr. Kennan was right when, writing from the Russian capital in 1944, he said, “Here men determine what is true and what is false.”

Many of Mr. Putin’s falsehoods are relatively small, like the claim that journalists who exposed the role of Russia’s security service in poisoning opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny were working for the C.I.A. Others are not, like his insistence in 2014 that Russian soldiers played no role in the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, or in fighting in eastern Ukraine. (He later acknowledged that “of course” they were involved in grabbing Crimea.)

But there are differences between the Russian leader and the defeated American one, said Nina Khrushcheva, a professor and expert on Soviet and other forms of propaganda at the New School in New York. “Putin’s lies are not like Trump’s: They are tactical and opportunistic,” she said. “They don’t try to redefine the whole universe. He continues to exist in the real world.”

Despite his open admiration for Russia’s president and the system he presides over, she said, Mr. Trump, in insisting that he won in November, is not so much mimicking Mr. Putin as borrowing more from the age of Stalin, who, after engineering a catastrophic famine that killed millions in the early 1930s, declared that “living has become better, comrades, living has become happier.”

“That is what the big lie is,” Ms. Khrushcheva said. “It covers everything and redefines reality. There are no holes in it. You so either accept the whole thing or everything collapses. And that is what happened to the Soviet Union. It collapsed.”

Whether Mr. Trump’s universe will collapse now that some allies have taken flight and Twitter has snatched his most potent bullhorn for broadcasting falsehoods is an open question. Even after the Capitol siege by pro-Trump rioters, more than 100 members of Congress voted to oppose the election outcome. Many millions still believe him, their faith fortified by social media bubbles that are often as hermetically sealed as Soviet-era propaganda.

“Unlimited control of people’s minds,” Mr. Kennan wrote, depends on “not only the ability to feed them your own propaganda but also to see that no other fellow feeds them any of his.”

In Russia, Hungary and Turkey, the realization that the “other fellow” must not be allowed to offer a rival version of reality has led to a steady squeeze on newspapers, television stations and other outlets out of step with the official line.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has shut down more than 100 media outlets and, through bullying by the tax police and other state agencies, forced leading newspapers and television channels to transfer ownership to government loyalists.

This assault began in 2008 with claims by Mr. Erdogan and his allies that they had discovered a sprawling underground group of coup plotters and subversives comprising senior military officers, writers, professors, editors and many others.

Protesters outside a courthouse in Turkey in 2013 where 275 people were accused of trying to overthrow the government. Turkey’s leader later acknowledged the case was a sham.

“The group was completely invented, a total fabrication,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of“The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.”

This big lie, built around a few shards of fact, convinced not only pious Muslims hostile to the country’s secular elite but also liberals, many of whom then viewed the military as the biggest threat to democracy. Trials dragged on for years before Mr. Erdogan acknowledged that the case against the alleged underground group was a sham.

Long before Mr. Trump, Mr. Cagaptay said, the Turkish leader, who has ruled since 2003, “saw the power of nativist and populist politics” rooted in falsehoods and “brought to prominence the idea of the deep state to justify crackdowns on his political opponents.”

Mr. Trump’s ascent also helped empower a cousin of the big lie — a boom in social-media disinformation and far-right conspiracy-theory fiction.

It has most notably been embodied by the global expansion of Qanon, a once-obscure fringe phenomenon that claims the world is run by a cabal of powerful liberal politicians who are sadistic pedophiles. Mr. Trump has not disavowed Qanon disciples, many of whom participated in the Capitol mayhem last Wednesday. In August he praised them as people who “love our country.”

To some extent, each new generation is shocked to learn that leaders lie and that people believe them. “Lying never was more widespread than today. Or more shameless, systematic, and constant,” the Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Koyré wrote in his 1943 treatise, “Reflections on Lying.”

What most distressed Mr. Koyré, however, was that lies don’t even need to be plausible to work. “On the contrary,” he wrote, “the grosser, the bigger, the cruder the lie, the more readily is it believed and followed.”

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Ryan Cooper Sat, December 12, 2020, 5:30 AM CST

Let’s review two pieces of news from the last week. First, the American coronavirus pandemic is entering its worst stage yet, with cases and deaths skyrocketing across the country. Last Thursday saw over 3,000 deaths — more than 9/11 or Pearl Harbor — and with ICU beds at or near capacity in most of the country, absent serious change it is possible there will be double or even triple that number per day in a matter of weeks. We may yet top the deadliest day in American history, the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that killed an estimated 8,000 people, very soon. President Trump is doing precisely nothing about this.

Second, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under investigation for bribery and abuse of office, filed a baldly seditious lawsuit calling for the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and hand their electoral votes to Trump. It was flatly an attempt to overturn the 2020 election, end constitutional government, and install Trump in power. Before the Supreme Court threw the suit out Friday night, 17 other Republican state attorneys general had joined him, along with 126 members of the Republican caucus in the House, while Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has agreed to represent Trump. And this is just one of dozens of attempts that Republicans at all levels of government have concocted to overturn Trump’s loss.

In short, material conditions in this country have not been this bad since 1932 at least, and the political situation has not been this bad since 1860. The logical endgame of the rapidly-accelerating Republican attempt to destroy democracy while the country burns would be civil war — if it weren’t for the high probability that Democratic leaders would be too cowardly to fight.

But it’s worth thinking about what a party seriously committed to preserving democracy would do when faced with a seditious opposition party — namely, cut them out of power and force them to behave. Democrats could declare all traitors ineligible to serve in national office, convene a Patriot Congress composed solely of people who have not committed insurrection against the American government, and use that power to re-entrench democracy.

The reasoning here is very simple. All members of Congress swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which establishes a republican form of government. The whole point of a republic is that contests for power are conducted through a framework of rules and democratic elections, where all parties agree to respect the result whether they lose or win. Moreover, the premise of this lawsuit was completely preposterous — arguing in effect that states should not be allowed to set their own election rules if that means more Democrats can vote — and provides no evidence whatsoever for false allegations of tens of thousands of instances of voter fraud. Indeed, several of the representatives who support the lawsuit were themselves just elected by the very votes they now say are fraudulent. The proposed remedy — having Republican-dominated legislatures in only the four states that gave Biden his margin of victory select Trump electors — would be straight-up election theft.

In other words, this lawsuit, even though it didn’t succeed, is a flagrant attempt to overturn the constitutional system and impose through authoritarian means the rule of a corrupt criminal whose doltish incompetence has gotten hundreds of thousands of Americans killed. It is a “seditious abuse of the judicial process,” as the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin jointly wrote in their response to Texas trying to steal their elections.

The Constitution, as goofy and jerry-rigged as it is, stipulates that insurrectionists who violate their oath are not allowed to serve in Congress. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, written to exclude Confederate Civil War traitors, says that “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who … having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same[.]” How the Supreme Court ruled, or whether Republicans actually believe their lunatic claims, is irrelevant. It’s still insurrection even if it doesn’t work out.

Democrats would have every right, both under the Constitution and under the principle of popular sovereignty outlined in the Declaration of Independence, to convene a traitor-free Congress (also including similar acts committed by Republican senators like Lindsey GrahamDavid Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and others), and pass such laws as would be necessary to preserve the American republic. That might include a national popular vote to decide the presidency, ironclad voting rights protections, a ban on gerrymandering either national or state district boundaries, full representation for the citizens of D.C. and Puerto Rico, regulations on internet platforms that are inflaming violent political extremism, a clear legal framework for the transfer of power that ends the lame duck period, and so on. States would be forced to agree to these measures before they can replace their traitorous representatives and senators. If the Supreme Court objects, more pro-democracy justices can be added.

This wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened, either. Immediately after the Civil War, the Radical Republican Congress refused to seat delegations from the former rebellious states until they were satisfied with the progress of Reconstruction. Southern states were forced to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments — which guaranteed due process and universal male suffrage — before their congressional delegations would be seated. (As a consequence, those delegations included numerous Black representatives, until Reconstruction was overthrown.)

It is virtually impossible to imagine the ancient, timid fossils that run the Democratic Party even considering this kind of thing (though remarkably, Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has) because it would require courage, vision, and honestly reckoning with the parlous state of the nation. It would not be illegal, but it would be a step beyond narrow legal proceduralism and into the uncharted waters of aggressive political innovation and raw will-to-power. It could conceivably touch off armed unrest in several states.

But it’s not hard to see where the current conservative trajectory is headed. While elected Republicans have tried to overturn the election using increasingly blatant methods, top conservative pundits are mulling the idea of secession, as their treasonous fire-eater forebears did 160 years ago. The lie that Biden stole the election is now official GOP dogma. By the same token, it is not a coincidence that the Republican Party is ignoring the deadly pandemic (if not actively spreading the virus) while they try to overturn the Constitution. They feel they can safely ignore the welfare of the American people, because they are not accountable to them.

Unless this escalating conservative extremism halts from the inside somehow — which is not remotely in sight anywhere — this can only end eventually in a violent confrontation, or (much more likely) Democrats will simply give up and let themselves be defeated. Still, this country was founded by people who thought it was worth putting their lives at hazard to throw off tyrannical rule. Perhaps some of that spirit can once again be found.

7 criminally funny cartoons about Trump’s potential pardon spree

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Trevor Potter, Brendan Fischer  24 mins ago

President Trump’s campaign has been on a fundraising tear since the election he lost Nov. 3, emailing and texting supporters multiple times per day asking for contributions to his “Official Election Defense Fund.”Trump campaign signs sit outside a convention center in Philadelphia last week as votes are counted. (Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post)

The campaign is raising money off false assertions that have apparently helped it pay down its outstanding debt and will help finance the leadership PAC that could allow Trump to retain influence in the Republican Party even after leaving office.

We won’t know how much the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have raised through these fundraising appeals until Dec. 3, when post-election campaign finance reports are due. But it doesn’t look like much of the money he’s been raising will actually go to pay for the recounts or the legal challenges.

Although the fundraising emails refer to an “election defense task force” or an “election defense fund,” in reality, donors are giving to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, where contributions are split between Trump’s committees and the RNC.

Trump’s barrage of lawsuits are incredibly unlikely to have much success, much less change the outcome of the election. And despite these frenzied solicitations asking for money to “defend the election,” the funds these appeals are bringing in are not going first to Trump’s nor the RNC’s recount and legal accounts.

Trump can still make it very hard for the FBI to investigate him next year

Instead, in the first week after the election, the small print on Trump’s post-election donation landing pages showed that 60 percent of each donation would go toward paying down the campaign’s outstanding 2020 election debt — $1.2 million as of Oct. 14, in the most recent filing deadline, but will likely be much higher for up to Nov. 3. The remaining 40 percent would go to the RNC.

In other words, small donors who gave thinking they were helping to pay for the campaign’s legal bills were in fact largely helping cover the Trump campaign’s debt. Until that debt was paid off, only those donors who had already maxed out at $2,800 to Trump’s 2020 campaign would have any of their money go to Trump’s recount account.

On Tuesday, a week after the election, the small print changed: Now, 60 percent of every donation goes to Trump’s new leadership PAC, Save America. Only after a donor gives the $5,000 legal maximum to Save America would any portion of their contribution go to Trump’s recount effort.

The remainder of every check, 40 percent, goes to the RNC, up to the legal maximum of $35,500. Only donors who’ve maxed out to the RNC will have their contributions deposited in the party’s legal and headquarters accounts, each of which can accept contributions of up to $106,500.

Donations to these committees and their designated legal accounts are regulated by federal law. Trump’s recount account may be used only for campaign-related recount and legal fees; he would violate the law if he were to try to spend any excess funds defending himself against tax or fraud investigations in New York, for instance, or for other personal legal expenses.

Trump’s campaign lures donors with absurd financial promises — and insults

However, Trump’s new leadership PAC offers far more flexibility than a recount account. A leadership PAC is supposed to be used to make contributions to candidates, but it also might be used to finance Trump’s travel and rallies, to pay for events at Trump properties and for other purposes. Additionally, although federal law states that any “contribution accepted by a candidate” cannot be used for personal expenses — such as excessive consulting payments to family members or a trip to Disney World — the Federal Election Commission has created ambiguity about the extent to which the personal use ban applies to contributions accepted by a candidate’s or officeholder’s leadership PAC.

In 2018, we at Campaign Legal Center, along with Issue One and five former members of Congress (both Republicans and Democrats), filed a rulemaking petition asking the FEC to clarify that candidates and officeholders cannot abuse funds held in their leadership PAC. The FEC sought and received comments on the petition but so far has failed to act.

Trump has spent the past four years defying norms and the law, and we shouldn’t be surprised if he also seeks to exploit legal gray areas with his new leadership PAC. When the FEC’s quorum is restored, it should act swiftly to adopt rules that prevent Trump or any other candidate from abusing donor funds held in a leadership PAC.

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TOTUS has not survived this election. In the face of defeat he has yet to concede the election. beginning at the first of the year TOTUS has pushed the idea that if he loses to the Democrats it would due to fraud and cheating (he knows a lot about those two things). He pounded the United States Postal Service and appointed one of his political cronies as Post Master who then proceeded to stop overtime (post employees are in short supply) and removed mail sorting machines I believe TOTUS knew he could not win this election honestly so he reverted to his standby: lie, lie and lie. With the Senate on the line Georgia has become crucial and Bitch McConnell who has held up numerous bills using the chance of TOTUS rejecting it as a reason to hold these bills back. First let us look at TOTUS, he has no idea of how government works and does not want to know since it is boring and he can’t dictate what happens. Mr. McConnell wants a legacy of a mover with an excellent record of getting things done. McConnell has sacrificed the good of America’s voters when he held up most if not all of President Obamas initiatives and Judicial appointments. He had no qualms in pushing the selection of a Conservative Judge to fill the High Court vacancy along with the installation of a hundred or more Federal judgeships along party lines. All of these actions are not for the good of the country but for the good of McConnell and the GOP. Meanwhile we as voters work against our own interests by following the party line and ignoring the character of the person or persons we vote for time and time again. Labels are no more than dog whistles in disguise. The primary requirement to making good voting decisions is the character of the person running coupled with what their “label” really stands for. If we blindly follow the flow seemingly “factual” utterings from media “talking Heads” we are destined to have poor representation on going. There are no perfect solutions to politics as it is moving target directed by the badness or goodness of the candidate and the party with its subsets. Doing the homework of reading up on the parties, the current office holders (and aspiring ) is the best start. History is the best teacher in politics. Always remember two letters in the center of the word Politician is “LI”!

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A STATEMENT BY FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS

The statement below was issued by over 70 former senior Republican national security officials on August 20, 2020, and 60 additional senior officials have now signed on, including many who served in the Trump Administration.  Since its release, Donald Trump has continued to demonstrate that he is unfit to serve as president, reportedly calling Americans who served in our armed forces “losers” and “suckers,” admitting that he deliberately downplayed the threat from the coronavirus, and, alarmingly, now refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.

For the following reasons, we have concluded that Donald Trump has failed our country and that Vice President Joe Biden should be elected the next President of the United States.

  1. Donald Trump has gravely damaged America’s role as a world leader. Trump has disgraced America’s global reputation and undermined our nation’s moral and diplomatic influence. He has called NATO “obsolete,” branded Europe a “foe,” mocked the leaders of America’s closest friends, and threatened to terminate longstanding US alliances. Other global leaders, friends and foes alike, view him as unreliable, unstable, and unworthy of respect.
  2. Donald Trump has shown that he is unfit to lead during a national crisis. Instead of rallying the American people and the world to confront the coronavirus, Trump has spent the past half year spreading misinformation, undermining public health experts, attacking state and local officials, and wallowing in self-pity. He has demonstrated far greater concern about the fate of his reelection than the health of the American people.
  3. Donald Trump has solicited foreign influence and undermined confidence in our presidential elections. Trump publicly asked Russian president Vladimir Putin to assist his 2016 campaign, called on Chinese president Xi Jinping to “start an investigation” into his current political opponent, and pressured the president of Ukraine to act against his opponent. Citing exaggerated claims of voter fraud, he has challenged the integrity of this year’s election, even suggesting that it be postponed.
  4. Donald Trump has aligned himself with dictators and failed to stand up for American values. Trump has regularly praised the actions of dictators and human rights abusers. He proclaimed his “love” and “great respect” for North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, endorsed “brilliant leader” Xi Jinping’s move to serve as China’s president for life, repeatedly sided with Vladimir Putin against our own intelligence community, and pronounced himself a “big fan” of Turkish president Recep Erdogan despite his crackdown on democracy.
  5. Donald Trump has disparaged our armed forces, intelligence agencies, and diplomats. Trump has attacked Gold Star families, scoffed at American prisoners of war, interfered in the military justice system, and embroiled our military in domestic politics. He has ridiculed US intelligence agencies and falsely branded our nation’s diplomats as the “deep state.”
  6. Donald Trump has undermined the rule of law. Trump has compromised the independence of the Department of Justice, repeatedly attacked federal judges, and punished government officials who have sought to uphold the law. To protect himself from accountability, he has fired officials who launched investigations or testified against him, threatened whistleblowers, dangled pardons as incentives to stay silent, and blocked prison time for a political crony convicted of lying on his behalf. He has impugned journalists investigating his misconduct and has repeatedly denounced the press as the “enemy of the people.”
  7. Donald Trump has dishonored the office of the presidency. Trump engages in childish name-calling, mocks the disabled, belittles women, persistently lies, peddles baseless conspiracy theories, and continually embarrasses Americans in the eyes of the world.
  8. Donald Trump has divided our nation and preached a dark and pessimistic view of America. Trump consistently seeks to incite political, racial, and ethnic divisions, weakening our nation and delighting our adversaries. In contrast to Reagan’s vision of America as a “shining city on a hill,” Trump speaks of “American carnage,” pits Americans against each other, and stokes fears that “angry mobs” and “anarchists” are destroying our country.
  9. Donald Trump has attacked and vilified immigrants to our country. Trump routinely denigrates immigrants and inflames prejudices as he seeks support for his reelection. Despite America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants, he has demonized Americans who come from other countries, even telling members of Congress whose families immigrated to the United States to “go back” to the “crime-infested places” from which they came.
  10. Donald Trump has imperiled America’s security by mismanaging his national security team. Trump has dismissed or replaced — often by tweet — the secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Directors of National Intelligence and the FBI, three National Security Advisors, and other senior officials in critical national security positions, many because they refused to cover for his misdeeds or demonstrate sufficient personal loyalty.

While we – like all Americans – had hoped that Donald Trump would govern wisely, he has disappointed millions of voters who put their faith in him and has demonstrated that he is dangerously unfit to serve another term.

In contrast, we believe Joe Biden has the character, experience, and temperament to lead this nation. We believe he will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert America’s role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals.

While some of us hold policy positions that differ from those of Joe Biden and his party, the time to debate those policy differences will come later. For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.

To that end, we are firmly convinced that it is in the best interest of our nation that Vice President Joe Biden be elected as the next President of the United States, and we will vote for him.


  • Adm. Steve AbbotFmr Dep Homeland Security Advisor
  • Kenneth AdelmanFmr Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Amb. Peter AllgeierFmr Deputy US Trade Representative
  • Mary Catherine AndrewsFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Richard ArmitageFmr Deputy Secretary of State
  • Christopher BartonFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Nancy BeargFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • John BellingerFmr Legal Adviser, Dept of State
  • Adm. Kenneth BernardFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Mark BittermanFmr Special Asst to the Secretary of Defense
  • Amb. Robert BlackwillFmr Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Christian BonatFmr Dep General Counsel, Defense Dept
  • Amb. Richard BoucherFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Amb. Charles BowersFmr US Ambassador
  • Bertram BraunFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Peter BridgesFmr US Ambassador
  • Douglas BrookFmr Asst Secretary of the Army
  • Linton BrooksFmr Under Secretary of Energy
  • Greg BrowerFmr Asst Director of the FBI
  • Kara BueFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Amb. Richard BurtFmr US Ambassador to Germany
  • Sally CanfieldFmr Dep Chief of Staff, Dept of Homeland Security
  • Victor ChaFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Jack ChowFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Thomas ChristensenFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Eliot CohenFmr Counselor of the Dept of State
  • Joseph CollinsFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • Heather ConleyFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Bret CoulsonFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Chester CrockerFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Patrick CroninFmr Asst Administrator, USAID
  • Amb. Sada CumberFmr US Special Envoy to the OIC​
  • Mike DonleyFmr Secretary of the Air Force
  • Raymond DuBoisFmr Acting Under Secretary of the Army
  • Lewis DunnFmr Asst Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Amb. Eric EdelmanFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • Gary EdsonFmr Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Richard FalkenrathFmr Dep Asst to the President
  • Amb. Julie FinleyFmr US Ambassador
  • Carl FordFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Aaron FriedbergFmr Dep Asst to the Vice President
  • William GachesFmr Director of Counterterrorism, NSA
  • Janice GardnerFmr Asst Secretary of the Treasury
  • John GardnerFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Amb. James GlassmanFmr Under Secretary of State
  • Amb. Jon GlassmanFmr Dep National Security Advisor to the Vice President
  • David GordonFmr Director, State Dept, Policy Planning
  • Colleen GraffyFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Michael GreenFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Sen. Chuck HagelFmr Secretary of Defense and US Senator
  • Christopher HankinFmr Dep Asst Secretry of State
  • Mark HarveyFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Gen. Michael HaydenFmr Director of the CIA and the NSA
  • Amb. Carla HillsFmr US Trade Representative
  • Seth HurwitzFmr Counsel, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board
  • Ash JainFmr Member, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Les JankaFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • Neil JoeckFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Richard KauzlarichFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • James KellyFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Donald KerrFmr Princ Dep Director of National Intelligence
  • Rep. Jim KolbeFmr Member of Congress
  • David KramerFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Stephen KrasnerFmr Director, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Ken KriegFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • James KunderFmr Deputy Administrator, USAID
  • Amb. Frank LavinFmr Under Secretary of Commerce
  • Rep. Jim LeachFmr Member of Congress
  • Bruce LemkinFmr Dep Under Secretary of the Air Force
  • Michael LeiterFmr Director, National Counterterrorism Ctr
  • Peter LichtenbaumFmr Asst Secretary of Commerce
  • Amb. Winston LordFmr US Ambassador
  • James LoyFmr Dep Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Peter MadiganFmr Dep Asst Secretary State
  • Amb. Steven MannFmr Prin Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Col. John McDonaldFmr Dep Under Secretary of the Army
  • Bryan McGrathFormer US Navy Officer
  • Amb. Michael McKinleyFmr US Ambassador
  • Christopher MellonFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • David MerkelFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • John MitnickFmr General Counsel, Department of Homeland Security
  • Allen MooreFmr Under Secretary of Commerce
  • Alberto MoraFmr Gen Counsel, Dept of the Navy
  • Holly MorrowFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Kenneth MortensenFmr Assoc Dep Attorney General
  • Virginia MulbergerFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Alden MunsonFmr Dep Director of National Intelligence
  • Amb. John NegroponteFmr Director of National Intelligence, and Fmr Deputy Secretary of State
  • Elizabeth NeumannFmr Asst Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Sean O’KeefeFmr Secretary of the Navy and NASA Administrator
  • Douglas PaalFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Larry PfeifferFmr Chief of Staff, CIA
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  • Daniel PriceFmr Dep National Security Advisor
  • Sen. Larry PresslerFmr US Senator
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  • Victor ReisFmr Director, Defense Adv Research Projects Agency
  • Paul RosenzweigFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Homeland Security
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  • Kori SchakeFmr Prin Dep Director, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Wayne SchroederFmr Dep Under Secretary of Defense
  • Amb. Gregory SchulteFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
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  • Shirin Tahir-KheliFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Miles TaylorFmr Chief of Staff, Dept of Homeland Security
  • William TobeyFmr Dep Administrator, Nat Nuclear Security Admin
  • Jack TomarchioFmr Princ Dep Under Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Olivia TroyeFmr Special Advisor to the Vice President
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  • Thomas WardFmr Director of Threats, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
  • Sen. John WarnerFmr US Senator
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  • William WebsterFmr Director of the CIA and FBI
  • Wendell Willkie IIFmr General Counsel, Dept of Commerce
  • John WoodworthFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • John WolfFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Dov ZakheimFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • Philip ZelikowFmr Counselor of the Dept of State

If you are a national security official who worked for a Republican administration and are supporting Vice President Biden in November, we urge you to join us. Please get in touch at natsec@defendingdemocracytogether.org

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EXCLUSIVE

Seema Verma, a member of the coronavirus task force, spent more than $3.5 million taxpayer dollars on GOP-aligned consultants, a congressional report found.

By DAN DIAMOND and ADAM CANCRYN

09/10/2020 05:00 AM EDT

Updated: 09/10/2020 04:28 PM EDT

When Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, went to a reporter’s home in November 2018 for a “Girl’s Night” thrown in her honor, taxpayers footed the bill to organize the event: $2,933.

When Verma wrote an op-ed on Fox News’ website that fall, touting President Donald Trump’s changes to Obamacare, taxpayers got charged for one consultant’s price to place it: $977.

And when consultants spent months promoting Verma to win awards like Washingtonian magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Washington” and appear onhigh-profile panels, taxpayers got billed for that too: more than $13,000.

The efforts were steered by Pam Stevens, a Republican communications consultant and former Trump administration official working to raise the brand of Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The prices were the amount a consulting company billed the government for her services, based on her invoices, which were obtained by congressional Democrats.

They are among the revelations included in a sweeping congressional investigation chronicling how Verma spent more than $3.5 million on a range of GOP-connected consultants, who polished her public profile, wrote her speeches and Twitter posts, brokered meetings with high-profile individuals — and even billed taxpayers for connectingVerma with fellow Republicans in Congress.

The 49-year-old Verma, who advised then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy before joining the Trump administration, has strongly rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in her consulting practices. In October 2019, she told a House committee that “all the contracts we have at CMS are based on promoting the work of CMS” and the spending was “consistent with how the agency has used resources in the past.”

But the probe — conducted by Democrats across four congressional committees — found that Verma surrounded herself with a rotating cast of at least 15 highly paid communications consultants during her first two years in office, even as she publicly called for fiscal restraint and championed policies like work requirements for Americans on Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people.

“Verma and her top aides abused the federal contracting process to Administrator Verma’s benefit and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars,” the Democrats concludedin a 53-page summary of the investigation, which was shared with POLITICO and was released on Thursday.

Verma declined to comment through the health department’s top spokesperson, Michael Caputo, who described the report as “another reckless drive-by election year hit job.”

“The CMS Administrator will continue her unprecedented efforts to transform the American healthcare system to ensure health policy innovation drives public discussion — not purposefully timed political attacks,” Caputo said in a statement.

Stevens declined to address the specific line items in her invoices, but said in a statement thata top consultingfirm, Porter Novelli, “asked me to put together a plan to educate media about CMS’s work through meetings with the CMS Administrator. I was then asked to facilitate meetings with some of the organizations in the plan as well as with thought leaders. That was the extent of my work.”

A spokesperson for Porter Novelli declined comment until the organization could review the Democrats’ report.

The congressional committees’ investigation, which spanned 18 months, found that the consultants worked directly for Verma and her top officials — an unusual arrangement that gave some of them broad power over CMS’ daily activities and policy planning and access at times to sensitive nonpublic information. Other contractors, meanwhile, racked up hefty expenses as Verma’s personal drivers and press aides; during a two-day trip to New York City in September 2018, contractors filed for almost $8,900 in reimbursements, including stays in a hotel that cost more than $500 per room per night, the report found.

The consultants separately spent eight months refining and implementing a plan intended to “highlight and promote Seema Verma leadership and accomplishment,” according to one draft of the plan, which formed the backbone of a concerted effort to secure major interviews, speaking opportunities and awards, at a cost billed to taxpayers that stretched into the tens of thousands of dollars.

While CMS has previously downplayed the “executive visibility” proposal as conceived by contractors and filled with recommendations that were mostly ignored, the congressionalcommittees found thatVerma’s aides at the health department were regularly briefed on the plan. Meanwhile, consultants pursued its objectives, such as having Verma contend for Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” award and network with brand-building organizations like Girlboss.

Consultants also charged the health department hundreds of dollars to set up each of Verma’s off-record conversations with reporters, pundits and influencers, such as billing taxpayers $837 to arrange Verma’s lunch with Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor, and $209 for a conversation with then-Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). The consultantsalso billed taxpayers at least $1,117 for arranging Verma’s profile in AARP’s magazine and at least $3,400 to coordinate Verma’s appearance on POLITICO’s “Women Rule” podcast.

Meanwhile, Verma and her aides frequently shared market-sensitive proposals with her hand-picked team of GOP contractors before announcing the information publicly — in one case, about three months before the agency’s proposed rules were publicly issued, investigators found. That information, containing key details about Verma’s plan to overhaul the $15 billion electronic health record market, was shared with contractors in mid-November 2018 in hopes of pitching CNN’s Sanjay Gupta to do a story. Federal officials raised concerns that the information should not be shared, with Verma’s top aide warning in an email that she was “fairly concerned about giving this much info prior to a rollout.” The rules weren’t issued until Feb. 11, 2019.

Taken together, the investigation offers the most detailed window yet into Verma’s extensive reliance on outside consultants during her time atop CMS — a practice first reported by POLITICO and which the health department’s inspector general found in July broke federal contracting rules.

The report draws on roughly 10,000 pages of documents obtained by congressional staff from the Trump administration’s health department, including some of Verma’s emails. The Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce, House Oversight, Senate Finance and Senate HELP committees also reviewed extensive billing records and other documents provided by consultants to CMS.

Those documents, Democrats said, demonstrate the degree to which Verma has leaned on expensive outside contractors from her first days as CMS chief — a group that included Marcus Barlow, who previously served as a spokesperson for Verma’s health consulting firm, as well as longtime GOP consultant Brett O’Donnell and a public relations firm co-led by Trump’s former transition team director, Ken Nahigian.

That firm, Nahigian Strategies, billed for nearly $3 million in taxpayer funds from CMS for aiding Verma, the Democrats found. The contracts were halted in April 2019, after POLITICO’s investigation.

“Congress did not intend for taxpayer dollars to be spent on handpicked communications consultants used to promote Administrator Verma’s public profile and personal brand,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a joint statement. “Administrator Verma has shown reckless disregard for the public’s trust. We believe she should personally reimburse the taxpayers for these inappropriate expenditures.”

The four committee leaders on Thursday asked the Government Accountability Office to review the payments CMS made to its communications contractors, citing prohibitions on the unauthorized use of appropriated funds for “publicity or propaganda purposes.”

One of the consultants featured in the report pushed back on its findings. Barlow questioned the Democrats’ intentions in conducting the investigation, telling POLITICO that the committees never sought to interview him.

“They didn’t talk to me because they weren’t interested in the truth,” he said. “They were interested in making a political show.”

After this article’s publication, a Nahigian Strategies spokesperson also criticized the investigation, calling it a “narrative in search of a story.”

“It is unfortunate that a small business with a track record of delivering exceptional work to Democratic and Republican administrations in agencies across the federal government over the past 20 years has been treated in such a partisan manner with such disregard for the facts,” the spokesperson said.

O’Donnell declined to comment.

Announcing Medicaid work requirements

The Democrats’ investigation reveals how an effort to plug holes early in the Trump administration swelled into an operation that ran for more than two years, as Verma’s aides repeatedly sought out communications experts and then looked for ways to cover their costs.

The Medicaid chief initially turned to consultants like O’Donnell and Barlow as she was settling into her role in early 2017, seeking communications advice and having been blocked by the White House from hiring Barlow as an agency staffer. Over time, those consultants and others became crucial parts of agency operations by helping shape major Trump administration health priorities, with Verma leaning on them to manage policy announcements and craft her messaging, such as her talking points on repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2017.

Barlow, O’Donnell and Nahigian also advised CMS as the agency readied its rollout of new work requirements for Medicaid in early 2018 — a key plank of Trump’s health agenda. In one initiative, the three men helped write an op-ed touting Medicaid work requirements that would ultimately be published in The Washington Post under Verma’s name. Among their duties: incorporating feedback from the White House on a draft of the article and pitching headline ideas, according to emails obtained in the investigation. Nahigian “carried most of the water on this,” Barlow wrote in one Sunday night email, as the men and CMS officials deliberated about edits.

Meanwhile,Barlow and Nahigian weighed in on the wording of the CMS press release officially announcing the Medicaid work requirements. And on the day before the agency went public with the policy, a senior CMS official identified O’Donnell to a reporter as “our point person for media” on the topic.

As Verma’s reliance on outside communications experts grew, CMS officials searched for contracting vehicles to pay for consultants who had become trusted advisers to Verma. Emails obtained by the committees show top CMS officials repeatedly seeking ways to cover the cost of O’Donnell, such as moving him between contracts with different firms and exploring ways to keep his services after exhausting the funds available under an existing contract.

But Verma’s reliance on consultants created confusion inside her agency, with the Democrats identifying emails where staff raised questions or concerns about the strategy. Officials in the Health and Human Services department — which technically oversaw Verma and CMS — also appeared to be caught unawares by Verma’s media approach, shaped by her consultants.

The then-HHS chief of staff emailed Verma in August 2017, referencing a New York Times article about an anonymous Trump official who had briefed 20 reporters about the administration’s strategy on the Affordable Care Act, with the official referencing her perspective as a “mom” with “two kids.” The description fit Verma, and four people with knowledge of the episode told POLITICO that Verma and her communications advisers had organized the media briefing.

“The article below is causing an uproar internally,” HHS chief Lance Leggitt wrote to Verma. “Any clue who this [is]?” Verma forwarded the email to O’Donnell with no comment.

O’Donnell himself would be gone from CMS by February 2018, shortly after an episode where he clashed with a reporter for health care publicationModern Healthcare who Verma believed had misrepresented the departure of one of her aides.

In an email to O’Donnell and her aides on Jan. 23, Verma instructed them to “take the strongest action possible with [the reporter’s] editors.” The following day, O’Donnell warned the reporter’s editor that “short of fully correcting the piece we will not be able to include your outlet in further press calls with CMS,” and the reporter later said he was removed from a Feb. 1 press call.

While the agency at the time denied that the reporter was banned, O’Donnell and CMS officials did strategize to remove him, the Democrats concluded, pointing to emails obtained in their investigation. “Modern Healthcare needs to come off the call list for today,” Brady Brookes, Verma’s deputy chief of staff at the time, wrote in an email on Feb. 1.

O’Donnell departed the agency just days afterward amid growing scrutiny ofhis role as an adviser to Verma, with a CMS spokesperson saying that they had decided not to renew his contract.

‘A shadow operation’

By mid-2018, Verma’s team was againhunting for a specialist to boost her communications strategy — specifically, an expertwho could get “more media” for Verma, according to one official’s email obtained by the Democrats. Verma’s own aides intentionally sought out Stevens, a well-regarded communications expert who specialized in promoting Republican women, and helped initiate the plan to hire her.

“Just remember that people like this are expensive per hour,” a senior CMS communications official warned Brookes in a July 24 email, as officials strategized over how to bring on Stevens. The agency would ultimately spend about $115,000 on Stevens’ services, as she tried to broker conversations between Verma and well-known Washington reporters, booked media appearances for Verma with conservative outletsand even tried toset up a meeting between Verma and then-White House communications director Bill Shine.

Stevens also adopted novel strategies to boost Verma’s profile. Between October and November 2018, she arranged a “Girl’s Night” to honor Verma, according to Stevens’ billing records obtained by the committee. The off-the-record event was intended for media personalities and prominent women and was hosted at the home of USA Today reporter Susan Page. In documents obtained by the committee, Stevens described the event as a networking opportunity for Verma, although the evening carried a pricey tab: Taxpayers were ultimately charged nearly $3,000 to cover Stevens’ costs in arranging the event.

A USA Today spokesperson said that Page was not personally reimbursed for the event or aware that CMS had been billed, and that she paid over $4,000 from her own pocket to cover catering and other costs of the reception. The evening was intended “to honor women on both sides of the aisle doing notable things,” said spokesperson Chrissy Terrell, adding that it fell “well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold.”

But as Stevens created new opportunities for Verma, her tactics confused other consultants and some of the bookings unsettled the administrator herself, according to emails uncovered in Democrats’ investigation. After Stevens booked Verma on several political radio shows in early December 2018, leading to uncomfortable questions about partisan politics, one consultant recommended to Brookes in an email that Stevens could be used just for “profile pieces and softballs” in the future.

“I think moving forward, we would rather have a small market or station that may be less risky as to not upset the Administrator if things go off topic,” a Porter Novelli consultant wrote.

Meanwhile, Verma’s other consultants continued to craft pricey media opportunities for Verma, billing the agency for a $13,856 video shoot for a two-minute “eMedicare” video that was published in October 2018 and included a $450 charge for Verma’s makeup artist.

Consultants accompanied Verma even when traveling to events where they told Democratic investigators that no media were present, like Verma’s October 2018 trip to York, Pa., that featured a driver from Nahigian Strategies and two other consultants, according to an itinerary obtained by Democrats.

“The size of Administrator Verma’s travel entourage appears to be a particularly questionable use of taxpayer dollars given the high rates charged by Nahigian Strategies for logistical tasks such as driving and event labor on these trips,” the Democrats’ report notes.

By early 2019, Verma’s handpicked team of communications consultants had swelled to include multiple consultants who were booking media appearances and strategizing on her remarks, and even three speechwriters — an arrangement that Democrats characterized as “a shadow operation that sidelined CMS’s Office of Communications in favor of the handpicked consultants.”

Inside Verma’ agency, career officials were finding reasons to complain, too.

“This has been chaos for a number of reasons,” Johnathan Monroe, a career civil servant who helped lead the agency’s media relations team, wrote to CMS colleagues in January 2019, according to an email obtained by Democrats.

In his message, Monroe detailed how Stevens’ independent work had led to duplicated efforts and confusion inside the agency. “The fact that we have managed this much is a testament to how hard [the communications office] has been working to help correct and cope with the chaos,” the CMS official lamented.

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Ramsey Touchberry  3 hrs ago


As the White House repeatedly downplayed the state of the pandemic throughout the summer, its own coronavirus task force was quietly sending reports to states that directly contradicted the public remarks offered by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, showed documents that were unveiled Monday by a congressional panel.Donald Trump et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: President Donald Trump, with Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx (L) and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci (R), speaks on vaccine development on May 15 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC.© Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty President Donald Trump, with Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx (L) and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci (R), speaks on vaccine development on May 15 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released eight reports, ranging from June 23 to August 9, from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that were provided to states.

The reports, which were not previously available to the public, show that while Trump and Pence publicly tried to quell fears by saying the resurgence of the virus was “overblown” and that it is “going to disappear,” top health officials within the administration warned “red zone” states about increased spread and advised specific mitigation efforts that often went ignored.

Further, the Democratic-led committee concluded, “many states are still failing to comply with key Task Force recommendations, including some recommendations first made nearly two months ago.”

The panel specifically references four states—Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma—that it said “acknowledged” receiving the private reports and recommendations, yet largely ignored them by not “implementing additional public health measures recommended by the Task Force to stop the spread of the virus.”

The earliest report to states on June 23 stated that seven states were in a “red zone” and that new cases were up by 70 percent in Arizona, 72 percent in Texas, 87 percent in Florida, 93 percent in Oklahoma and 134 percent in Idaho. One week earlier, on June 16, Pence penned an op-ed that “panic is overblown” about a second wave.

A July 5 report stated 15 states were now in the “red zone” and that Florida “has seen a significant increase in new cases and a significant increase in testing positivity over the past week continuing from the previous 4 weeks.” Two days later, on July 7, Trump rebuked a grim assessment by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a task force member and the country’s top infectious disease expert, saying that “we’ve done a good job” and “I think we are going to be in two, three, four weeks, by the time we next speak, I think we’re going to be in very good shape.”

A July 14 report said 19 states were in the “red zone” and that “more testing is needed.” That same day, Trump inaccurately claimed that “no other country tests like us. In fact, I could say it’s working too much. It’s working too well.”

An August 2 report said 23 states were in the “red zone” and warned about the spread in Louisiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma. The week prior, on July 28, Trump told Axios that “it’s under control as much as you can control it.”

“They are dying, that’s true. And you have—it is what it is,” the president continued. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can.”

On August 3, Trump tweeted that “cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well. Open the Schools!”

An August 9 report showed that 48 states and the District of Columbia were in red or yellow zones.

The congressional panel concluded that many states refused to implement recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force meant to curb the spread.

In a letter to the coronavirus subcommittee, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), who recently dropped a lawsuit against the Atlanta mayor Kesha Lance Bottoms over a mask mandate, wrote that Americans in both Georgia and the U.S. “grew complacent.”

“Summer holidays coupled with televised protests caused many to let their guard down and abandon guidance provided by public health officials,” Kemp wrote.

In other examples, the committee noted that Florida has declined to initiate a mask mandate, despite the task force’s June 29 advice to do so; Tennessee refused a mask mandate and to close bars and limit restaurant activity in red and yellow zones; and Oklahoma rebuffed the task force’s mask mandate recommendation.

In total, the committee concluded after reviewing the task force reports, “14 states that have been in the ‘red zone’ since June 23 have refused to impose statewide mask mandates per Task Force’s recommendations—including states with severe case spikes like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

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If you are paying attention , really paying attention you may have noticed that each event with TOTUS is a rally with attendees flouting the guidelines for COVID (masks, distancing and possibly hand hygiene). After these rally’s there is an upsurge of Covid cases. TOTUS never mentions these upsurges, is it possible that he place no importance on the health of his “base” or he doesn’t care? After months of an unresolved or properly addressed pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn, the administration has done nothing more than tout “pie in the sky” cures much like the “snake oil salesman” of the early days of our country. It is incredible to me that so many seemingly intelligent people follow this uninformed leader. As an assortment of reports come in from numerous locations across the country especially areas that have suffered unrest, I am at once surprised and appalled at lack of knowledge potential voters have on the issues. I should say these voters seem to have one (1) issue rather than a wide view of all of the issues and how they affect them now and in the future. It seems that many people cannot see the long range effects of poor legislation since they think it can’t hurt them. A little gruesome thought: The followers of Jim Jones possibly thought the same thing when they drank the “koolaid”!

This Presidency has been and is one of the biggest cons to be perpetrated on the voters of this country. This is all being viewed by our allies with incredulity and our enemies with delight yet the voters (TOTUS supporters) can’t see the forest for the trees (which under this administration are in danger). The cure for bad government is an informed electorate and you do not have to be a legal scholar to know what the Constitution provides us as citizens but you do have a mind to recognize truth from fiction or at the least be willing to search for truth.

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Ab Goodnough, The New York Times August 30, 2020 0:36 0:45   

WASHINGTON — Marilyn Cortez, a retired cafeteria worker in Houston with no health insurance, spent much of July in the hospital with COVID-19. When she finally returned home, she received a $36,000 bill that compounded the stress of her illness.

Then someone from the hospital, Houston Methodist, called and told her not to worry — President Donald Trump had paid it.

But then another bill arrived, for twice as much.

Cortez’s care is supposed to be covered under a program Trump announced this spring as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold — a time when millions of people were losing their health insurance and the administration was doubling down on trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the law that had expanded coverage to more than 20 million people.

“This should alleviate any concern uninsured Americans may have about seeking the coronavirus treatment,” Trump said in April about the program, which is supposed to cover testing and treatment for uninsured people with COVID-19, using money from the federal coronavirus relief package passed by Congress.

Luis Fernandez, who was sick and hospitalized with COVID-19 last month, near his home in Houston, on Aug. 22, 2020. (Michael Starghill Jr./The New York Times)
Luis Fernandez, who was sick and hospitalized with COVID-19 last month, near his home in Houston, on Aug. 22, 2020. (Michael Starghill Jr./The New York Times)

The program has drawn little attention since, but a review by The New York Times of payments made through it, as well as interviews with hospital executives, patients and health policy researchers who have examined the payments, suggest the quickly concocted plan has not lived up to its promise. It has caused confusion at participating hospitals, which in some cases have mistakenly billed patients like Cortez, who should be covered by it. Few patients seem to know the program exists, so they don’t question the charges. And some hospitals and other medical providers have chosen not to participate in the program, which bars them from seeking any payment from patients whose bills they submit to it.

Large numbers of patients have also been disqualified because COVID-19 has to be the primary diagnosis for a case to be covered (unless the patient is pregnant). Since hospitalized COVID patients often have other serious medical conditions, many have other primary diagnoses. At Jackson Health in Miami, for example, only 60% of uninsured COVID-19 patients had decisively met the requirements to have their charges covered under the program as of late July, a spokeswoman said.

Critics say the stopgap program is among the strongest evidence that Trump and his party have no vision for improving health coverage, and instead promote piecemeal solutions, even in a national health crisis. Trump had promised a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act by the beginning of August, but none has been announced and he and other Republicans barely mentioned health policy in their national convention last week.

For now, as tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases are reported each day in the United States — and as Democrats eagerly frame the election as a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his efforts to wipe out the health law in the Supreme Court — the COVID-19 Uninsured Program is his best offer.

“This is not the way you deal with uninsured people during a public health emergency,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University.

The program has clearly paid what, in many cases, would be staggering and unaffordable bills for thousands of COVID-19 patients. In addition to hospital care, it covers outpatient visits, ambulance rides, medical equipment, skilled nursing home care and even future COVID vaccines for the uninsured, “subject to available funding.” It does not cover prescriptions once patients leave the hospital, or treatment of underlying chronic conditions that make many more vulnerable to the virus.

Health care providers in all 50 states had been reimbursed a total of $851 million from the fund as of last week — $267 million for testing and $584 million for treatment— with hospitals in Texas and New Jersey receiving the most.

But the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization, has estimated that hospital costs alone for uninsured coronavirus patients could reach between $13.9 billion and $41.8 billion, far more than what the program has paid out so far.

“The claims have just been so much smaller than anyone would have expected,” said Molly Smith, vice president for coverage and state issues forum at the American Hospital Association. “One thing we’ve heard a fair amount of is just serious backlogs and delays. But probably a lot of claims aren’t getting into the system at all because our members have determined they don’t qualify.”

The hospital association says that some hospitals have reported not submitting a substantial number of claims for their uninsured, with estimates ranging from 40% to 70%, because COVID-19 was not ruled their primary diagnosis.

“Either hospitals code inconsistent with ICD-10 rules,” said Tom Nickels, an executive vice president of the hospital association, referring to the diagnostic codes that hospitals use for billing, “or they don’t get paid even though the patient is clearly getting treated for COVID.”

Harris Health, a two-hospital public system in Houston, did not bill the federal fund for 80% of the roughly 1,300 uninsured COVID-19 patients it had treated through mid-July because many of them also had other medical problems — most often, sepsis, an overwhelming reaction to infection that causes blood-pressure loss and organ failure. In other cases, “an underlying health condition was the primary reason for hospitalization, but was exacerbated by the COVID-19 disease,” Bryan McLeod, a spokesman, said.

Nationally, the total average charge for uninsured COVID patients requiring a hospital stay is $73,300, according to FAIR Health, a health care cost database, although they may be able to negotiate a lower amount.

​Reimbursements have varied widely with few obvious explanations; New Jersey providers, for example, have received $72 million in COVID treatment claims while those in neighboring New York have received half as much. Providers in hard-hit Texas and Florida, states that have not expanded Medicaid to cover more poor adults, have received $144 million and $53 million for treatment, respectively.

“It’s just not clear to me what’s going on,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has looked closely at the program and its claims database.

Despite its limitations, some hospital executives said they liked the program because it paid Medicare rates, which are considerably higher than those for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, or any normal funding they would receive for charity care.

“This was a really progressive policy we were really surprised by, frankly,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the chief executive of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, which has received $8.2 million for treating 787 uninsured patients with COVID, about a third of its coronavirus patients.

Unlike previous administrations during public health emergencies, Trump’s has not encouraged even temporary expansions of Medicaid — except for limited COVID testing — in states where the program covers few poor adults. It also declined to broadly reopen enrollment for Affordable Care Act plans once the pandemic began, although people who lose job-based coverage can enroll.

“You’re seeing a clash between enhancing Medicaid to allow it to cover the uninsured, versus providing a fixed amount of bailout money for providers who can figure out how to get to it,” Rosenbaum said.

The Trump administration has not said how much money it will ultimately allot for the COVID-19 program. It is a small part of the Provider Relief Fund, which totaled $175 billion to start but has been spent down to $60 billion. Most of that money has helped health care providers cover financial losses during the pandemic.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said in an email that it had not set a limit on how much of the fund would be spent on covering uninsured costs. She said the agency had no plans to change the program to cover patients for whom COVID is a secondary diagnosis.

For now, the confusion continues. Luis Fernandez, an oil industry worker in Houston who was laid off in January, had been uninsured for years when he got sick with COVID last month. He spent 16 days at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital and received bills totaling $85,000.

“I called the financial aid lady, told her I was on unemployment and she said, ‘What are you going to do?’” Fernandez, 33, said. “She wanted me to go back to work, like, tomorrow, so I can start paying them.”

A spokeswoman for Memorial Hermann said he had received the bill due to “a process error.”

“We do expect it to be paid since the primary diagnosis is COVID-19,” said the spokeswoman, Alex Loessin.

Cortez’s latest bill was for $76,363.

“This one scares me,” said Billy Cortez, her adult son, who shared a copy of the bill with The Times.

Stefanie Asin, a spokeswoman for Houston Methodist, said in response to questions from The Times that the program would cover all of Marilyn Cortez’s costs but that the hospital system submitted bills to the program only once a month, creating delays. She described the process as lengthy, with “multiple steps and handoffs,” she said.

“We are looking to improve and accelerate this process for the benefit of our patients,” Asin said, “so they will not inadvertently get an unnecessary bill.”

Cortez still needs an oxygen tank, blood thinners and other medications that cost more than $500 a month. She also needs to start seeing a cardiologist because of all the blood clots she developed during her illness. Oxygen and outpatient visits related to COVID are supposed to be covered by the federal program, but nobody has told her that.

If Cortez lived in a different state, all her expenses would likely have been covered by Medicaid. But, like several million poor Americans, she is in the so-called coverage gap: ineligible for Medicaid because Texas is among a handful of states that have resisted expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act. And because of a glitch with the law, she and others are also ineligible for the subsidies that the law provides to help pay for private insurance.

For now, her son Billy is paying for her medications and praying she gets past the fatigue and coughing that still dog her. He said he was extremely grateful that his mother’s hospital bills would be paid, but worried about what the next two years, before she turns 65 and qualifies for Medicare, might bring.

“I feel like this isn’t going to be over any time soon,” he said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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