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UPDATED: APR 10, 2019 ORIGINAL:AUG 18, 2017

Democratic defectors, known as the “Dixiecrats,” started a switch to the Republican party in a movement that was later fueled by a so-called “Southern strategy.”

BECKY LITTLE

 

The night that Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, his special assistant Bill Moyers was surprised to find the president looking melancholy in his bedroom. Moyers later wrote that when he asked what was wrong, Johnson replied, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.”

It may seem a crude remark to make after such a momentous occasion, but it was also an accurate prediction.

To understand some of the reasons the South went from a largely Democratic region to a primarily Republican area today, just follow the decades of debate over racial issues in the United States.

On April 11, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights bill while seated at a table surrounded by members of Congress, Washington DC. (Credit: Warren Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

The Republican party was originally founded in the mid-1800s to oppose immigration and the spread of slavery, says David Goldfield, whose new book on American politics, The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good, comes out in November.

“The Republican party was strictly a sectional party, meaning that it just did not exist in the South,” he says. “The South couldn’t care less about immigration.” But it did care about preserving slavery.

After the Civil War, the Democratic party’s opposition to Republican Reconstruction legislation solidified its hold on the South.

“The Democratic party came to be more than a political party in the South—it came to be a defender of a way of life,” Goldfield says. “And that way of life was the restoration as much as possible of white supremacy … The Confederate statues you see all around were primarily erected by Democrats.”

The Dixie Democrats seceding from the Democratic Party. The rump convention, called after the Democrats had attached President Truman’s civil rights program to the party platform, placed Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi in nomination.

Up until the post-World War II period, the party’s hold on the region was so entrenched that Southern politicians usually couldn’t get elected unless they were Democrats. But when President Harry S. Truman, a Democratic Southerner, introduced a pro-civil rights platform at the party’s 1948 convention, a faction walked out.

These defectors, known as the “Dixiecrats,” held a separate convention in Birmingham, Alabama. There, they nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, a staunch opposer of civil rights, to run for president on their “States’ Rights” ticket. Although Thurmond lost the election to Truman, he still won over a million popular votes.

It “was the first time since before the Civil War that the South was not solidly Democratic,” Goldfield says. “And that began the erosion of the southern influence in the Democratic party.”

After that, the majority of the South still continued to vote Democratic because it thought of the Republican party as the party of Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction. The big break didn’t come until President Johnson, another Southern Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Govenor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, was nominated as States’ Right candidate at the rump convention held in Birmingham on by southern recalcitrants. The Southerners took this drastic action after the Democratic convention added President Truman’s civil rights program of its party platform.

Though some Democrats had switched to the Republican party prior to this, “the defections became a flood” after Johnson signed these acts, Goldfield says. “And so the political parties began to reconstitute themselves.”

The change wasn’t total or immediate. During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, white Southerners were still transitioning away from the Democratic party (newly enfranchised black Southerners voted and continue to vote Democratic). And even as Republican Richard Nixon employed a “Southern strategy” that appealed to the racism of Southern white voters, former Alabama Governor George Wallace (who’d wanted “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever”) ran as a Democrat in the 1972 presidential primaries.

By the time Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, the Republican party’s hold on white Southerners was firm. Today, the Republican party remains the party of the South. It’s an ironic outcome considering that a century ago, white Southerners would’ve never considered voting for the party of Lincoln.

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Robert Costa, Aaron Gregg
New York’s Cuomo urges Trump to use Defense Production Act

President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic sparked uproar and alarm among governors and mayors on Sunday as Trump and his administration’s top advisers continued to make confusing statements about the federal government’s scramble to confront the crisis, including whether he will force private industry to mass produce needed medical items.

As deaths climbed and ahead of a potentially dire week, Trump — who has sought to cast himself as a wartime leader — reacted to criticism that his administration has blundered with a torrent of soaring boasts and searing grievances. He tweeted that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and others “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”

Trump changed his tone at an evening news conference, however, touting an “amazing” relationship with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and saying governors he spoke with on Sunday will be “very happy” with the upcoming federal response.

“The governors, locally, are going to be in command,” Trump said, as he pledged support from the National Guard and federal agencies. “We will be following them, and we hope they can do the job. And I think they will.”

 

But the growing gulf between the White House and officials on the front lines of the pandemic underscored concerns in cities, states and Congress that Trump does not have a coherent or ready plan to mobilize private and public entities to confront a crisis that could soon push the nation’s health-care system to the brink of collapse.

“We’re all building the airplane as we fly it right now,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It would be nice to have a national strategy.”

Uncertainty prompted by the Trump administration’s statements abounded amid the rancor. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter T. Gaynor said Sunday the president has not yet invoked the Defense Production Act, which would allow the government to order companies to ramp up the production of ventilators and protective masks, among other products.

Gaynor’s remarks directly contradicted what Trump told reporters on Friday, when he said he had “invoked” the law and “put it into gear” — and were coupled with vague optimism about corporate America’s ability to do what is necessary without being compelled by an executive order.

“We haven’t yet,” Gaynor said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked whether Trump has ordered companies to make supplies. He described the Defense Production Act as “leverage” as the administration moves forward and said, “If it comes to a point we have to pull the lever, we will.”

In the meantime, Gaynor said the administration is pleased with how corporations are responding to the pandemic. “It’s really amazing how great America is,” he said. “All these companies are coming up, asking us what they can do to help.”

Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST!”

“Go for it auto execs, let’s see how good you are?” Trump added.

a man wearing a suit and tie: President Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Sunday.© Patrick Semansky/AP President Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Sunday.Major auto companies signaled last week that they are studying the feasibility of making ventilators but made no promises about the pace of production, should it begin. A spokesperson for Ford said, “Ford stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment.”

There are many obstacles. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — the Big Three automakers — have suspended production at their North American plants through at least the end of March because of the coronavirus and after union leaders sought that pause.

The administration’s sunny outlook about companies’ ability to act was met with sharp disagreement from governors facing mounting illness and deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We need the product now,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Sunday. “We have cries from hospitals around the state. I’ve spoken to governors around the country, and they’re in the same situation.”

Cuomo said the Trump administration must “order factories” to make “essential supplies” and invoke the Defense Production Act as soon as possible, calling it the “difference between life and death.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that there are now 8,000 cases in his city, with 60 deaths. He pleaded with Trump to deploy the military to the nation’s financial capital, home to more than 8 million people.

“April is going to be a lot worse than March, and May could be worse than April,” de Blasio said. “We are very much on our own at this point.”

Anthony S. Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an influential nonpartisan adviser to Trump — appeared to defend the president’s decision-making.

“What the president was saying is that these companies are coming forth on their own,” Fauci said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I think that’s an extraordinary spirit of the American spirit of not needing to be coaxed. They’re stepping forward. They’re making not only masks, but [personal protective equipment] and now ventilators.”

Many governors and mayors said they feel ill-equipped for the coming storm, particularly the expected deluge of patients at hospitals and health centers.

Pritzker said on CNN that his state has received about a quarter of the personal protective equipment it has ordered from the federal government.

“I’ve got people working the phones calling across the world, frankly, to get this stuff to Illinois,” Pritzker said, as he worried that states are probably “overpaying” in part because of the lack of decisive action by Trump.

On Twitter, Trump dismissed Pritzker as part of a cabal aligned against him that includes “a very small group of certain other Governors” and cable news networks, which he disparaged as “fake news.”

But Democrats were not Trump’s lone critics on Sunday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a centrist Republican, said the Trump administration, through FEMA, “has to take the lead” in securing medical items.

“We are getting some progress. Now, it’s not nearly enough. It’s not fast enough. We’re way behind the curve,” Hogan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” as he detailed how Maryland is scrambling to find supplies without any guarantees from the federal government.

Gaynor, however, did not offer any assurances.

“What I’ll say is if you can find it on the open market, go buy it,” Gaynor said on NBC. “Any governor that needs it, and you find it, go buy it. FEMA will reimburse you under this emergency.”

He added, “I hope no one is hoarding” masks “because we’re all in this together.”

Turmoil at hospitals is challenging governors by the hour. Speaking Sunday on CBS, Richard Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association, said “the most immediate thing we need is personal protective equipment: the masks, the gowns, the goggles, that type of equipment to protect our health-care heroes that are on the front lines. That is what is most essential now. If we don’t protect our health-care workers, the system will completely collapse.”

Last week, Trump invoked rarely used wartime powers and announced the deployment of two naval ships as he tried to boost the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak after days of bureaucratic delays and missteps.

“We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it,” Trump said, referring to the 1950 law. “It can do a lot of good things if we need it.”

But Trump’s plans were ambiguous, and it remained unclear Sunday how he would implement them.

The president first said Wednesday, on Twitter, that he would be using the broad authorities granted by the act only if needed in a “worst-case scenario.” By Friday, Trump said he had formally invoked the Defense Production Act, “and last night, we put it into gear.”

Behind the scenes, the Trump administration has activated only a very limited set of authorities under the law, including a provision that allows the government to jump the line when ordering from U.S. manufacturers. The more extreme provisions in the law — including authorities that could allow it to take control of private airplanes or use federal funds to get other industries involved — have not been announced. Lawmakers debate whether coronavirus bailout will do enough.

When pressed at Sunday’s news conference on why he is not exerting more federal power under the act, Trump suggested it would be akin to countries such as Venezuela nationalizing industries.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Trump said. “The concept of nationalizing our business is not a good concept. . . . We have the threat of doing it if we need it.”

Former Pentagon officials who handled Defense Production Act policy for Democratic and Republican administrations said the Trump administration has so far made little use of the law.

“All of this should have started months ago, so we are behind,” said Bill Greenwalt, a defense consultant who led acquisition policy in the George W. Bush administration. “On production, I think we will find out that our base is not capable of producing what we need as I expect much of it has been outsourced to China and elsewhere.”

Gordon Adams, a former Clinton administration procurement official, said the administration’s efforts are months too late.

“It’s the right authority but it’s way late in the game,” Adams said. “We started hearing about Chinese cases in November. We probably should have been invoking DPA authorities in January or February. We had no plan.”

Fast-moving developments this week will increase pressure on Trump and agencies to offer more guidance and assistance.

Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who was appointed by Trump, said on “Face the Nation”: “I think that the scenes out of New York are going to be shocking. I think that the hospitals in the next two weeks are going to be at the brink of being overwhelmed.”

Trump — who will be judged by voters at the polls in eight months — also faced criticism from former vice president Joe Biden, the delegate leader for the Democratic presidential nomination, who issued a statement in response to Gaynor’s interview on CNN.

“Mr. President, stop lying and start acting,” Biden said. “Use the full extent of your authorities, now, to ensure that we are producing all essential goods and delivering them where they need to go.”

robert.costa@washpost.com

aaron.gregg@washpost.com

Seung Min Kim and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.

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The administration again fails to look after the voters. Perhaps we (voters) aren’t as well informed as we need to be. Voters are smart enough to sort out B.S. from fact and we just haven’t decided to do it. WE should not let the administration, Faux news and the political parties TELL us what we want and need. It is our (voters) place to reject what we consider wrong and tell the electeds how we feel about it. MA.

Max Zahn  Reporter

Yahoo Finance March 16, 2020

As the coronavirus outbreak highlights the need for social distancing, policymakers and public health experts want to make sure that sick workers can stay home without fear of going broke.

To that end, the Senate is set to take up on Monday a coronavirus relief bill, passed by the House and backed by President Donald Trump, that could allay the fears of workers and the public alike, requiring businesses to provide employees with paid sick and medical leave.

But the law does not apply to companies with 500 or more employees, meaning about 59 million people who work for such businesses will not receive its protections.

Workers at major corporations and top union officials said they support many of the emergency relief measures in the bill but condemned what they consider a carve-out for big corporations with outsize influence in Washington D.C — one that undermines a measure intended not only to protect employees but the public endangered by sick people forced to go to work.

To be sure, many large companies already provide workers with paid sick days, and a host of major corporations like Walmart (WMT) and McDonald’s (MCD) have recently announced additional paid leave for workers affected by the outbreak.

While the paid sick leave in these voluntary benefit packages from large companies roughly matches that mandated for smaller companies by the House bill, many of the voluntary packages fall short of guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for workers affected by the coronavirus, which the House bill also includes.

In addition, the benefits made available by large companies are revocable at any time, while the government-mandated benefits provided by smaller companies — if passed by the Senate and signed into law — will be in place for the next year. The large companies excluded from the bill, however, will have to pay for their own benefits, whereas a government tax credit will cover the benefits provided by smaller companies.

“The virus doesn’t distinguish — it doesn’t ask who you work for and neither should we,” says Dania Rajendra, the executive director of an anti-Amazon coalition group called Athena, who sharply criticized the exemption for large companies.

The coronavirus relief bill, passed by a bipartisan 363-40 vote in the House on Saturday, requires some companies to provide workers with two weeks of paid sick leave, as well as three months of paid family and medical leave totaling at least two-thirds of their pay. The benefits of the measure are limited to workers who are infected with the virus or are quarantined, as well as those either with a sick family member or forced to stay home due to school closure.

In addition to its exemption for large companies, the bill allows the Labor Department to exclude workers at any company with 50 or fewer employees from some of the provisions. In all, about 80% of American workers could lose out on the benefits, The New York Times Editorial Board recently pointed out. The bill includes a tax credit to cover the cost of the additional paid leave.

“If you are sick, stay home,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday about the Trump administration’s support legislation. “You’re not going to miss a pay check.” At a news conference on Sunday, Pence did not respond directly to a question about the exclusion of workers at large companies.

 

At a Walmart store in northwest Wisconsin, Brittney Legowski has helped hundreds of panicked shoppers find food and cleaning supplies each day, she says, but she’s afraid that one of them will give her the coronavirus.

Legowski, 21, a part-time worker who lives in Menomonie, Wisc., suffers from a chronic sinus infection and recovered from the flu only two weeks ago, using up nearly all of her accrued sick leave, she says.

“With both of these things working against me, it makes me worried,” says Legowski, who attends college full-time at nearby University of Wisconsin—Stout. “It doesn’t really feel like there’s anything I can do now, or if I were to get sick.”

“It’s extremely frustrating knowing that Walmart could be a part of this bill,” adds Legowski, who is among the 1.5 million people nationwide who work for the country’s largest employer. “It doesn’t seem like they [Walmart] care about their workers.”

Walmart, which did not respond to a request for comment, announced last Tuesday that it would provide up to two weeks of pay for employees required to quarantine by the government or the company, or for those diagnosed with the coronavirus — and the company made up to 26 weeks of payment available for employees diagnosed with coronavirus who cannot return to work after 14 days. A worker at a Walmart store in Kentucky was diagnosed with coronavirus but is improving under medical care.

“We want any associate who is not feeling well to stay home,” the company said in a statement released upon the announcement of the paid sick leave.

Similar policies were put in place in recent days by McDonald’sAmazonChipotle, and other large companies. On average, workers with one year of experience at companies with 500 or more employees receive eight sick days per year, according to a March 2019 report from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Eighty-nine percent of workers at companies with more than 500 employees receive paid sick leave, according to a September 2019 report from the BLS.

Some large companies that did not provide paid sick leave prior to the outbreak have yet to bolster their policies in light of it, including food chains like Burger King, Wendy’s, and Panera Bread. Only 45% of workers in the food service industry receive paid sick leave, according to BLS data from March 2019.

In general, workers must be diagnosed with coronavirus or be officially quarantined in order to secure paid sick leave under the potential government-mandated plans or voluntary ones from large corporations, but it has so far proven difficult for Americans to get tested for the illness.

Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House who fought to secure the coronavirus relief bill’s passage, on Saturday appeared to acknowledge the exemption for big companies. “Large employers and corporations must step up to the plate and offer paid sick leave and paid family & medical leave to their workers,” she tweeted.

The country’s most powerful labor organizations sharply criticized the exemption, blaming Trump and lawmakers for succumbing to the influence of wealthy corporations.

“In the face of this unprecedented coronavirus threat, President Trump and his allies are playing politics with our lives,” says Tim Schlittner, the communications director at AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S. with about 12.5 million members. “Every worker should have paid sick leave — no questions asked.”

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the 2-million member Service Employees International Union, backed the legislation but also criticized the exemption for big companies.

“Large corporations like @McDonalds are using their power and influence to get loopholes written into COVID-19 response so they don’t have to offer paid sick leave,” she tweeted on Saturday.

As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. had 3,813 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 70 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The number of recorded deaths worldwide from the outbreak surpassed 6,500 on Monday.

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Mary Papenfuss
HuffPost

President Donald Trump’s campaign manager is quietly channeling money to Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, The New York Times reported Monday.

The payments are hidden from public view because they’re made through campaign manager Brad Parscale’s private company, Parscale Strategy, based in San Antonio, sources told the Times. Typically, such payments would be part of public filings required by the Federal Election Commission so that donors can find out how their contributions are being used — in this case, to pay members of the president’s family.

The family benefits are linked to a network of politically connected private companies — operating with the support and help of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — that have charged roughly $75 million since 2017 to the Trump reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and other Republican clients, according to the Times.

Guilfoyle last year angrily confronted Parscale about late checks owed to her, two witnesses told the Times. He reportedly promised that the situation would be rectified by his wife, Candice Parscale, who often handles his company accounts.

One of Lara Trump’s most notorious contributions to her father-in-law’s campaign early this year was to mock rival Joe Biden’s stutter, which he has grappled with since he was a child.

She was initially hired as a senior consultant in early 2017 by another Parscale company, digital vender Giles-Parscale, also based in San Antonio, The Associated Press reported. Lara Trump was to serve as a liaison between the company and Donald Trump’s campaign, headquartered in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which is owned by the president’s Trump Organization. Parscale was named Trump’s reelection campaign manager the following year.

The Trump campaign announced in January that Guilfoyle, a former Fox News personality who stated dating Trump Jr. two years ago, would lead the joint fundraising drive between the campaign and the RNC.

Guilfoyle left Fox News in 2018 following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior, including sexual misconduct, HuffPost reported at the time. An attorney for Guilfoyle denied all accusations as “unequivocally baseless.”

HuffPost could not immediately reach Parscale for comment.

Parscale declined to comment to the Times “in detail” on the article, the paper reported. He has, however, said in the past that private companies provide greater flexibility in a campaign, given campaign finance law requirements, noted the Times.

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We are challenged by the ongoing Twitter Governance of this administration and still the beat goes on

If you were not aware, we are in the grip of possibly the worst administration in our history so far. We have a self described “billionaire” as president who is so entrenched in personal gain as to gouge the taxpayers for his expenses at his personally owned hotels. His lack of knowledge in so many areas ranges from A to Z and is abetted by a neer do well Congress and boot licking lackeys aka Cabinet ministers. When the smoke clears it will be apparent to his followers that the cliff is near and it may not be possible for them to avoid going over and possibly taking us  (voters) with them. The change brought about by TOTUS has served to show us how poorly we have been represented by our elected Congress. If we as voters do not end this administration and make changes in Congress in November, we will be in for 4 more years of downward spiral. There are no more clearer signs of the downward slide than the failed Impeachment, the twitter diplomacy and the revolving door of administration personnel. There is no stability in the current administration and there will not be any if the status quo does not change. The latest Faux administrative action is denial , then lackluster action on the health issue associated with the Corona virus. The only cure for this administration is removal along with as many neer do wells as possible.

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POLITICS 03/03/2020 02:57 pm ET Updated 2 hours ago

Data shows Texas officials have quickly closed polling places in some of the most diverse, rapidly growing regions of the state.

By Ja’han Jones

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Dallas on Monday to collect a few major campaign endorsements from some of his former Democratic primary competitors.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke all suggested Biden would propel down-ballot Democrats to victory in politically moderate regions of the country. O’Rourke specifically said Biden would help Texas Democrats win the nine seats they need to reclaim the state legislature for the first time in decades.

“You, Mr. President, as the top of the ticket, can help us do that,” he said.

Because growing Black and Latino communities in Texas mark a demographic shift in the state, many pollsters believe Texas is a toss-up to swing either Republican or Democrat in the 2020 elections and for years to come. For the former candidates, a Biden endorsement is key for a new blue wave.

But recently compiled data and analysis show Texas Democrats face structural obstacles to victory that Biden alone cannot fix, including the closures of hundreds of polling places in counties with large or growing Black and Latino populations.

A 2019 report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF), a civil rights organization, reveals Texas officials began rapidly decreasing the number of polling places in these counties with significant communities of color around the time the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The provision, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, required certain states with histories of racist voting practices to get clearance from the federal government before closing polling places or changing their voting laws.

Furthermore, analysis reported by The Guardian found that the 50 Texas counties that gained the most Black and Latino residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites over that span, while the 50 counties that gained the fewest Black and Latino residents during that time only closed 34 sites.

 

“This is despite the fact that the population in the former group of counties has risen by 2.5 million people,” The Guardian reports, “whereas in the latter category the total population has fallen by over 13,000.”

Two Texas counties ― Somervell County and Jackson County ― rank in the top 10 in the nation in percentage of polling places closed since the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act ruling. And when looking at the total number of polling places closed nationwide, six of the 10 counties with the most closures are in Texas, according to the LCEF report. The organization found Texas closed 750 polling places statewide following the Supreme Court decision.

Texas is one of several states that allows the use of “vote centers” in place of regular polling sites. One major difference between a vote center and typical polling places is any voter can cast votes at a vote center, regardless where they live, whereas voters are assigned polling places by the county. For that reason, vote centers are sometimes seen as a convenient alternative to typical polling places. But in Texas, counties can close several polling places and erect only few vote centers in their place.

“While generally intended to enhance access to voting locations, this model often leads to massive reductions in polling places,” the report says, adding that contrary to the period when the Voting Rights Act was in full effect, Texas officials are now not required to determine whether the changes impose disparate impacts on Black and brown voters.

A spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party said the raft of polling place closures in diverse communities are attempts by conservative election officials to shrink and restrict the electorate.

“People have died to fight for the sanctity of the vote,” the spokesperson, Abhi Rahman, told HuffPost.

“Republicans’ only way to retain power is to basically curb the vote, and we’re fighting back against all of those attempts,” he added.

Rahman said the Texas Democratic Party is conducting the “most expansive voter protection program in Texas Democratic Party history” in partnership with the organization Fair Fight, a voting rights group founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams.

“We have an around-the-clock voter protection team working to fight back and make sure voting is more convenient than it ever has been in the past,” Rahman said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that three Texas counties were among the top 10 in percentage of polling places closed. The study apparently labeled a county as being in Texas that was in fact in Georgia.

 

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POLITICS 

 

The impeachment trial is over, but Senate Republicans are pressing forward with an investigation into the Bidens.

Yahoo News first reported Thursday that the Treasury Department handed over highly confidential information in response to a November request from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) for suspicious activity reports filed with the department by financial institutions.

Last year, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin blocked a Democratic request for the president’s tax filings, saying Democrats had no legitimate legislative purpose for seeking the documents.

“The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power,” Mnuchin said in an April 2019 letter.

Apparently, that same standard did not apply when it came to non-tax financial information that may pertain to the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump political rival.

“The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed,” Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the highest-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, said in a statement.

Senate Republicans are investigating Hunter Biden as part of an inquiry designed to bolster Trump’s unfounded claim that Joe Biden used the vice presidency to benefit his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was involved in setting U.S. foreign policy in Eastern Europe.

The inquiry, which includes at least a half dozen records requests to various organizations and executive branch agencies, has proceeded since fall with relatively little notice. It picks up where Trump left off last summer when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate whether Biden had improperly recommended the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor.

Zelensky never followed through because Democrats learned of the scheme from a whistleblower report, which launched their impeachment inquiry and prompted the White House to release a secret hold on military assistance to Ukraine. The House impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges in December.

In the Senate trial last month, the president’s lawyers said Hunter Biden’s board membership created the appearance of a conflict of interest, but they stopped short of alleging any actual illegality. As the Senate Republicans’ records requests show, the quest for corroboration continues.

In their letter seeking suspicious activity reports related to Hunter Biden and various associates, Republicans cited an internal Senate rule authorizing the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to investigate the effectiveness of “all agencies and departments” of the federal government. Financial institutions are required to file suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department if they reasonably suspect customer transactions may be connected to money laundering.

Democrats based their request for Trump’s tax records on a federal tax disclosure law granting congressional committees access to private tax information by request. Mnuchin and the Justice Department claimed that Democrats only wanted to embarrass the president, so they refused to comply. Now the request is tied up in court.

It’s hypocritical for the Treasury Department to stonewall Democrats’ request while granting Republicans access to material on Hunter Biden, said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. He said it’s hard to see what legislative purpose Republicans are after with regard to Hunter Biden.

“For [Treasury] to go willy-nilly handing out financial information of private citizens… is simply outrageous,” Rosenthal said.

A spokesman for Grassley wouldn’t say if the Finance Committee is also seeking Biden’s tax returns. The committee generally doesn’t disclose whether it has sought someone’s private tax information; Grassley has used the tax disclosure law to obtain the returns of tax-exempt organizations, such as nonprofit hospitals, and to investigate ACORN, an organization that registered low-income voters, who tend to be Democrats.

The Treasury Department declined to comment.

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December 20, 201911:32 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Scott Horsley
Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal.
Passed on a party-line vote, the tax cut is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Trump’s first term. He had campaigned hard for the measure, promising it would boost paychecks for working people.
“Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America,” he told supporters in the fall of 2017. “The plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe-fitters, the people that like me best.”

As Growth Slows, The Economy Is Falling Short Of Trump’s Target
In fact, more than 60% of the tax savings went to people in the top 20% of the income ladder, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The measure also slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Trump promised.
Boosters of the tax cut insisted the economy would grow so fast, it would more than make up for the revenue lost to lower rates.
“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
“It was unbelievable at the time, and it’s proven to be absolutely untrue,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The tax cuts were never going to — and have not — come anywhere close to paying for themselves.”
Corporate tax revenues fell 31% in the first year after the cut was passed. Overall tax revenues have declined as a share of the economy in each of the two years since the tax cut took effect.
“Not surprising, if you cut taxes, you get less in revenues,” MacGuineas said. “And what we’ve been doing at the same time is we’ve been increasing spending. And no surprise, our deficit has exploded.”
The federal deficit this year was $984 billion — an extraordinary figure at a time when the country is not mired in recession or widespread war.
The tax cut also failed to produce a permanent boost in economic growth, despite promises from Republican supporters.
“After eight straight years of slow growth and underperformance, America is ready to take off,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when the tax cut passed two years ago.
In fact, the economy grew 2.9% last year — exactly the same as in 2015.
The tax cut, along with increased government spending, did give a short-term lift to the economy and businesses temporarily boosted investment. But the rocket fuel burned off quickly. Business investment declined in the last two quarters

“There was an acceleration in terms of momentum for business investment, but it was rather short-lived,” said Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “A year further down the road, we’re really not seeing much of any leftover of this fiscal stimulus package.”
Hampered in part by the president’s trade war, the economy is projected to grow only about 2% this coming year. That’s below the administration’s target of 3% and slightly below the average growth rate since 2010.
To be sure, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is near record lows. But while most Americans give the economy high marks, that doesn’t extend to the tax cut. A Gallup Poll last tax season found only about 40% of Americans approved of the cut while 49% disapproved.
Even though experts say most workers did get a bump in their take-home pay, it was largely invisible to many taxpayers. Only about 14% of those surveyed by Gallup believe their taxes went down. (That figure includes 22% of Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 10% of independents.)
“For millions of middle-class Americans, it is not a very happy anniversary,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said while wealthy Americans are celebrating their tax savings from the past two years, working people feel like an afterthought.
Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement of that sentiment that the president is now talking about another round of tax cuts, after the 2020 election. “We’re going to be doing a major middle-income tax cut, if we take back the House,” Trump promised in November.
The president made similar promises before last year’s midterm election. But the follow-up to his 2017 tax cut never materialized.

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Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe 11 hrs ago, Washington Post

The new Russia adviser at the White House — the third in just six months — has no meaningful background on the subject. The only expert on Ukraine has never spoken with President Trump, only been mocked by him publicly.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will soon be without its highest-ranking diplomat for the second time in a year, as another ambassador departs after being undermined by the U.S. president and his personal attorney.
The CIA analyst who triggered the impeachment inquiry continues to work on issues relating to Russia and Ukraine, but when threats against him spike — often seemingly spurred by presidential tweets — he is driven to and from work by armed security officers.

Having been impeached by the House, Trump faces trial in the Senate on charges that he abused the power of his office and sought to obstruct Congress. But the jarring developments over the past three months have also exposed the extent to which the national security establishment and the values that have traditionally guided American foreign policy are facing an extraordinary trial of their own under Trump’s presidency.
An entire roster of public servants has been disparaged, bullied and in some cases banished for standing in Trump’s path as he sought to pressure Ukraine for political favors, or for testifying about his conduct afterward.
Many who came forward were convinced that Trump’s actions were a violation of American principles, if not the law, and they clung to a misplaced faith that matters of national security would transcend partisan politics. Instead, the impeachment saga has hardened political divisions and cast doubt on the United States’ commitment to ideals it has long professed. This story is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their role in the administration or the impeachment inquiry.
Trump was the catalyst of his own impeachment, withholding military aid and a White House meeting from the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he was pressuring to pursue investigations designed to politically wound former vice president Joe Biden.
But the fallout of the impeachment battle extends far beyond Trump’s political survival in a Senate trial. Tensions, exposed by impeachment, have fed Trump’s belief that he is surrounded by disloyal subordinates and have fueled animosity among congressional Republicans toward the supposed “deep state.” Today, the idea that a cadre of nonpartisan civil servants can loyally serve presidents of either party in pursuit of shared national interests — a bedrock principle of the country’s approach to foreign policy since World War II — is under attack.
Some of the responsibility for the mounting collateral damage falls on career officials and political appointees who took jobs in the administration despite deep objections to the president’s view.
These officials hoped they could steer the unconventional president, who has an affinity for autocrats and an aversion to traditional allies, toward more-conventional views and policies.
Others came to see themselves as doing damage control, taking advantage of Trump’s short attention span to advance their preferred objectives and counter what they regarded as his destructive impulses.
Their actions have fed the view among some Republicans that impeachment is not just an isolated fight about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine but also is an extension of a broader, unfinished conflict.
“We’re fighting for the country here,” said Stephen K. Bannon, who called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state” while advising Trump in the early months of his presidency. “This all started in the transition,” Bannon said in an interview, adding that the attacks on those who “actively worked against [Trump’s] policies on Ukraine” or defied his wishes on Ukraine should serve as “a warning that if you go against the president, there is going to be a price to be paid.”
Enemies list
The impeachment-related damage is extensive.
The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., returned to Kyiv after his Nov. 14 testimony only to watch Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, arrive weeks later to resume his quest for dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani’s sojourn while filming a documentary for a right-wing television network made clear to officials in Ukraine that Taylor and the U.S. Embassy had no standing with the U.S. president.
Taylor has since announced that he will step down by Jan. 2, clearing out of the Ukrainian capital on an accelerated schedule in part to spare Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — scheduled to visit Kyiv next month — from having to appear in pictures alongside a diplomat Trump branded as disloyal.
The ambassador had taken the job only after Pompeo promised him that U.S. policy would remain firmly grounded in fighting Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, an assurance that now seems uncertain at best.
Veterans of the Foreign Service are bewildered. “These attacks — I’ve not seen anything like this since I joined the Foreign Service,” said John Heffern, a former senior State Department official who entered the department when Ronald Reagan was president. “Our work is promoting international universal values — freedom of the press and rule of law. Considering what’s happened in the United States, it undermines our ability to project that message to our foreign counterparts.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top adviser on Ukraine at the National Security Council, has continued to work at the White House since testifying that he was so disturbed by Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky that he reported his concerns to White House lawyers.
But Vindman — who was born in Ukraine, moved to the United States with his family at age 3 and earned a Purple Heart in the war in Iraq — has been taunted by Trump, cast as disloyal by the president’s allies and falsely accused of plotting with the whistleblower to undermine the president.
“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistleblower’s’ handler,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a Nov. 22 tweet. The baseless charge was a sign of how Trump has influenced his party’s tactics and illustrated the intense pressure on Republicans to back the president.
In 2017, Blackburn chastised Trump for his fixation on score-settling and petty insults, writing on Facebook that “civility in all our interactions — both personal and digital — is not only proper but fundamental to a respectful and prosperous society.”
Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser at the White House, has endured obscene phone calls to her home phone, according to people familiar with the matter, and vicious assaults from far-right media. Alex Jones, the conspiracy monger who operates the Infowars website, devoted much of his Nov. 22 broadcast to smears against Hill. “I want her a** indicted,” Jones said. “I want her indicted for perjury. Today. Indict that w****.”
For Hill, the attacks were a continuation of an astonishing level of hostility she witnessed during the two years she served in the White House. Trump loyalists drafted internal “enemies” lists, co-workers were purged, and NSC security teams logged hundreds of external threats against Hill and other officials, all fueled by a steady stream of far-right smears.
Hill, a former U.S. intelligence official and co-author of a biography of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, was little known outside foreign policy circles when she joined the White House. Within weeks of joining the administration, she faced a wave of internal and external efforts to discredit or neutralize her.
A former Republican congressman, Connie Mack IV of Florida, approached aides of Vice President Pence’s, warning that Hill was tainted by her prior work for an organization funded by George Soros. A billionaire financier and Holocaust survivor, Soros has used his fortune to fight the spread of authoritarianism and bigotry. He has also become associated with a “globalist” agenda opposed by many on the right, and his name is frequently invoked in anti-Semitic slurs.
At the time, Mack was working as a paid lobbyist for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an autocratic leader seeking to shut down a Soros-funded international university in Hungary. Orban was concerned that Hill might use her position at the White House to object.
In an interview, Mack insisted that he was merely trying to call officials’ attention to what he believed was a conflict of interest for Hill, not instigate her removal or incite right-wing attacks. But the attacks came anyway.
“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again” amid impeachment, she testified in October. For months, Hill arrived at work nearly each day to find venomous messages left on her work phone by a caller from Florida. The same woman called Hill at home several times, frightening her young daughter, according to two people familiar with the matter.
For Hill, ever the Russia analyst, the ruthless nature of the harassment harked back to the Bolshevik purges of revolutionary Russia. Bannon has all but touted this connection, comparing his destructive agenda to that of Vladi­mir Lenin’s.
In 2017, Bannon and his allies compiled a list of about 50 people they wanted exiled from the National Security Council. Most of their targets drew suspicion because they had worked as civil servants in the Obama White House. Bannon’s team also scoured the targets’ social media profiles for signs of disloyalty to the Trump administration.
Officials involved in the effort said they were driven by a missionary zeal to rid the administration of any of the foreign policy elite they blamed for miring the country in costly wars and locking it into burdensome alliances that undermined Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Nothing wrong
Key players in those 2017 purges, and several of their targets, have resurfaced in the impeachment fight.
Among the first to confront Hill when she joined the White House that year was Derek Harvey, who went to the NSC after working for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on the House Intelligence Committee. On one of Hill’s first days on the job, Harvey told her he could not understand why Trump had allowed her into the fold, according to officials who witnessed the exchange.
Harvey, who was active in generating the enemies list, returned to Nunes’s staff after being ousted by then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster in July 2017. When Hill testified behind closed doors before the committee, Harvey could be seen passing notes to members, officials said. He also approached Hill at one point, telling her that the “trolls are out again.” The gesture, intended to communicate sympathy, ignored the fact that Hill and others viewed him as contributing to the poisonous climate.
Harvey declined to comment for this story.
Bannon said the whistleblower was at the top of the list he and his allies created in 2017. Former White House officials said it also included a State Department official now serving as a top aide to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Another early target of Trump loyalists was Stephanie Holmes, a career State Department employee assigned to the NSC who was falsely accused of leaking details of Trump’s Oval Office conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Holmes came under such intense internal pressure that she hired a lawyer, former colleagues said. She subsequently left her NSC job to take a post that seemingly should have shielded her from the bloodletting, moving with her husband, David, also a diplomat, to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
It was only because the Holmeses were in Kyiv that David Holmes was in position to witness Trump’s phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondlandat an outdoor cafe. Holmes testified last month that he could overhear Trump asking about the investigations he wanted Ukraine to conduct into the Bidens, and that Sondland confided to Holmes afterward that the president did not “give a s**t” about Ukraine.
Trump has intentionally fostered internal friction, sowing tension among subordinates as a management tactic, current and former White House officials said. But he also inadvertently hired advisers who are repelled by his crude behavior and isolationist instincts.
McMaster, former chief of staff John F. Kelly, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and others all fought Trump on major aspects of his foreign policy — his disdain for the NATO alliance, his desire on a moment’s notice to pull U.S. troops out of war zones, and his aversion to imposing sanctions on Russia. They, in turn, often hired subordinates who were similarly scornful of Trump’s positions.
The impeachment hearings exposed how these officials coped with Trump, and at times sought to counter his agenda, if only in the context of Ukraine.
The most senior officials, such as Pompeo, and John Bolton when he was national security adviser, often relied on underlings to sound alarms or subvert Trump’s efforts to pressure Zelensky, without putting their own standing with the president at risk. Taylor, Hill and Vindman repeatedly raised objections to aspects of the shadow policy they perceived but had no meaningful power to stop it. Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker walked a treacherous tightrope,working to secure a commitment from Ukraine to pursue the investigations to clear impediments to what he regarded as the real policy: bolstering Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists.
He hid his alarm at Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and the president’s loathing for the Ukrainians. Volker saw himself as facing a choice: He could accept Trump’s view of Ukraine or try to fix it.
“I tried to fix it,” he testified. Volker’s career was derailed as a result. He resigned from his diplomatic post after his role in the Ukraine episode was exposed. He was also forced to step down as executive director of the McCain Institute, a think tank whose stated mission is to advance “character-driven leadership.”
Career diplomats and civil servants routinely suppress private views to execute policies set by presidents. The impeachment hearings forced a parade of witnesses to reveal their feelings about Trump on a stage with an international audience.
“People were forced to testify about things they believe . . . how they felt about what the president was doing,” one of the impeachment witnesses said in an interview. The stark airing of these differences “caused the president to think they are biased against him,” the official said.
Trump responded by railing against witnesses he dismissed as “Never Trumpers,” a reference to the hundreds of national security experts who came out publicly against Trump in 2016.
In reality, none of those who testified had ever publicly opposed Trump, and many had made conscious decisions — despite misgivings — to return to government to work for him.
Some did so at considerable personal or professional cost. Hill was cautioned by friends and colleagues in the close-knit foreign policy community to reject the NSC job. One long-standing peer has refused to speak with her since learning she had gone to work for Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Three years into Trump’s presidency, the list of perceived enemies continues to expand, and now is composed of officials whom Trump or his own subordinates hired. The hostility they face comes not only from Trump loyalists — whether inside the administration or launching attacks from right-wing media sites — but also from a substantial swath of the Republican Party.
For decades, the GOP cast itself as the champion of the FBI, CIA, Pentagon and other national security institutions. But over the past three years, Republicans have repeatedly turned on those agencies when necessary to protect Trump’s presidency.
In their final report on the impeachment hearings, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee focused on “unelected bureaucrats” as the true villains of the impeachment scandal. These officials made “accusations and assumptions” about the president, were “discomforted at Trump’s call” with Zelensky, and they “chafed at the president’s outside the beltway approach to diplomacy.”
Ultimately, they were to blame.
In the recent interview, Bannon marveled at how rapidly GOP lawmakers have lined up behind Trump against impeachment. Early in the scandal, Bannon said, it would have been difficult to find more than a few GOP members willing to backs trump’s assertion that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
Though the core facts have never been in question, Bannon said that “because of the information put forth by the president and his advocates,” it was impossible to find a GOP member prepared to dispute Trump’s depiction.
“Today, look at House Judiciary, a hundred percent say it is a perfect call,” Bannon said. “A hundred percent say there’s nothing wrong.”
greg.miller@washpost.com
greg.jaffe@washpost.com

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Glenn Kessler 2 hrs ago,Fact Checker, The Washington Post

 
“This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history.”

— President Trump, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Dec. 17, 2019
Reading President Trump’s impeachment-eve letter to the House speaker seemed very familiar to The Fact Checker. It’s like a written version of his campaign rallies, replete with false claims we have fact-checked many times before either in individual fact checks or in our database of false or misleading Trump claims.
This letter will add a couple dozen new entries to our database, but here are some of the lowlights.
“The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”
There’s nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment needs to be a specific crime.
“Fortunately, there was a transcript of the conversation taken, and you know from the transcript (which was immediately made available) that the paragraph in question was perfect.”
Trump only released the rough transcript after Democrats announced they would launch a possible impeachment inquiry. Many outside experts say that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was highly unusual. Trump appeared to have no agenda except to ask for the Ukrainian government to work with his private attorney to investigate a potential 2020 presidential rival and also investigate debunked conspiracy theories about possible interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election. Trump made about eight requests for help with some sort of investigation involving either former vice president Joe Biden or the Democrats.
Before the call took place, Trump with no explanation halted the expected delivery of military aid. Some U.S. diplomats believed the halt was connected to the president’s demands for a probe of Biden, text messages released by Congress show. Moreover, The Washington Post reported that at least four national security officials were so alarmed by Trump’s ongoing pressure campaign on Ukraine that they lodged objections with a White House lawyer before and right after the call.
“I said to President Zelensky: ‘I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.’”
There is no evidence that Ukraine had any role in the 2016 election interference that intelligence agencies concluded was directed from the highest levels of the Russian government. After making this comment in the call, Trump referenced a debunked theory that CrowdStrike, the Californian company that revealed the hack of the Democratic National Committee, was Ukrainian, to the apparent confusion of Zelensky.
“I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign.”
Weeks after the rough transcript of the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was released, Trump began claiming that when he said “do us a favor” in the call, the word “us” referred to the United States, not himself, the administration or his campaign. This is an ex post facto explanation that strains credulity. He repeatedly requested that Ukrainian officials meet with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“You know full well that Vice President Biden used his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars.”
This sentence is a fountain of falsehoods.
Trump falsely accuses former vice president Joe Biden of something he did not do. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office had opened an investigation into the Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, who owned Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company; Hunter Biden, a lawyer and businessman, joined Burisma’s board in April 2014 and left in 2019.
The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, let that investigation and others go dormant, and the United States and its allies decided he was not effective in his job and in fact let corruption flourish. Biden traveled to Ukraine in December 2015 and said the United States would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless Shokin was removed; it was not a demand to stop the Burisma prosecution, and there’s no evidence of Shokin’s “digging” into Burisma — nor is there any evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation.
(Trump incorrectly claims $1 billion in U.S. aid money was at stake, but note that it was just a loan guarantee.)
The vice president’s trip was part of a longer push by the United States, Western allies and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The goal was to promote reform in Ukraine and remove a prosecutor who allegedly was turning a blind eye to corruption. The U.S. plan to push for Shokin’s dismissal didn’t initially come from Biden but rather filtered up from officials at the State Department. Shokin was eventually removed by parliament. The prosecutor general of Ukraine in early 2019, Yuriy Lutsenko, was quoted as saying “he had no evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son.”
Hunter Biden did earn substantial sums from Burisma over six years that could have totaled “millions.”
“Even Joe Biden admitted just days ago in an interview with NPR that it ‘looked bad.’”
Trump suggests that Biden said his successful efforts to oust the prosecutor looked bad. Trump is mischaracterizing an interview with NPR, in which Biden is quoting his son talking about being on Burisma’s board.
“The matter is, my son testified and did an interview saying if he, looking back on it, made a mistake, he made a mistake although he did nothing wrong,” Biden said. “The appearance looked bad and it gave folks like Rudy Giuliani an excuse to come up with a Trumpian kind of defense, why they were violating the Constitution. His, his words speak for themselves.”
“President Zelensky has repeatedly declared that I did nothing wrong.
This isn’t true. Zelensky has tried hard not to get in the middle of U.S. political fight and faces a dilemma in discussing what he thought about the call. He does not want to get on Trump’s bad side — and he does not want to appear weak back home.
Trump’s “nothing wrong” language echoes misleading tweets he made about an interview that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had with Time magazine. Nowhere in the interview did Zelensky say that his American counterpart did “nothing wrong.” In fact, he criticized Trump’s comments about corruption in Ukraine and his decision to suspend military aid to Kyiv.
Zelensky also questioned Trump’s decision to freeze military aid, casting it as a matter of “fairness.” Here are Zelensky’s full comments on a potential quid pro quo: “I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”
“Ambassador Sondland testified that I told him: ‘No quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do the right thing, do what he ran on.’”
Trump has misleadingly seized on a small part of the damaging impeachment inquiry testimony of Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland testified that the White House declined to invite Zelensky to meet with Trump in Washington as a means of pressuring Zelensky to announce the investigations Trump wanted into Joe Biden. “I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo’?” Sondland said. “With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland said he later came to believe that $400 million of military aid to Ukraine was also contingent on an announcement of the investigations. But Trump is quoting from a phone conversation that Sondland said he had with Trump on Sept. 9, after Congress announced an investigation into the holdup of aid to Ukraine. Sondland testified that he did not know whether Trump was telling the truth, at least about the funding portion of the quid pro quo.
“Your chosen candidate lost the election in 2016, in an Electoral College landslide (306-227).”
This is an old favorite line from Trump’s rallies, but as always he gets two things wrong — that he won a landslide and the electoral college math.
Trump earned 306 pledged electors, Hillary Clinton 232. But after defections by some electors, the final tally was 304 votes for Trump and to 227 votes for Clinton.
But Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. If 40,000 votes had switched in three states, Trump would have also lost the electoral college. So it was no landslide.
According to a tally by John Pitney of Claremont McKenna College, every Republican president since Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 won a larger share of the electoral college votes than Trump, with the exception of George W. Bush (twice) and Nixon in 1968.
“Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me.”
As of Dec. 10, Trump 62 times has railed about a relatively minor event as if it were a serious crime. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) summarized the content of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky at a congressional hearing, occasionally for dramatic effect (or what Schiff called a parody). There is no exact transcript of the conversation, as the summary was cobbled together from notes, so Schiff told the audience that “this is the essence of what the president communicates.”
Much of what Schiff said tracks the basic contents of the call but he went too far to claim Trump had asked Zelensky to “make up” or “manufacture” dirt; Trump simply asked for an investigation of a potential 2020 rival.
“The so-called whistleblower who started this entire hoax with a false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call that was made.”
The whistleblower report is correct on key details about the call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. Other details in the whistleblower complaint have been largely confirmed, according to a line-by-line examination by The Fact Checker. Yet Trump more than 60 times has falsely insisted the report was inaccurate.
Trump’s letter also contains exaggerated or false claims that Trump constantly makes about his achievements or the Russia probe. Here’s a brief summary.
“Seven million new jobs created”: Trump always counts from the election, giving himself credit for three months of jobs under Obama. It’s nearly 6.6 million since he took office.
“A completely reformed VA with Choice and Accountability for our great veterans”: the laws passed under Trump built on laws passed earlier, especially a VA Choice law signed by Obama.
“Historic tax and regulation cuts”: Trump’s tax cuts rank sixth in the last 100 years when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. His regulation cuts are large, but aren’t historic compared with the deregulation in the Carter years.
“The first decline in prescription drug prices in half a century”: Trump overstates what happened to the consumer price index for prescription drugs. It fell by 0.6 percent for the 12 months ending December 2018, and then kept dropping for a period of months but more recently has increased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are other 12-month periods with index declines, including one as recently as 2013.
“The replacement of the disastrous NAFTA trade deal with the wonderful USMCA”: Trump keeps claiming that he significantly overhauled the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but all he did was make some modest tweaks. The new agreement is about 90 percent the same, with some elements borrowed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal Trump scrapped at the start of his term.
“Massive new trade deals with Japan and South Korea”: Again, modest at best.
“Becoming the world’s top energy producer”: This happened under Obama.
“A colossal reduction in illegal border crossings”: They have soared under Trump, almost doubling from 2016 to 2019. Trump is counting from May to November, when there has been a decline, but overall the numbers are higher.
“45 million dollars spent, 18 angry Democrat prosecutors”: The special counsel’s investigation cost $32 million, according to financial reports released by the Justice Department. Mueller reported direct costs and also indirect costs, which no other special counsel had reported for previous investigations. He seized assets from Paul Manafort worth more than $40 million as part of the probe. Those assets now belong to taxpayers, and there’s a case to be made that the special counsel’s investigation therefore made more money than it spent.
“The use of spies against my campaign”: After the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation, an FBI informant in Europe, a professor named Stefan Halper, met with at least three people working on the Trump campaign in Europe. But the Justice Department inspector general, in a report issued in 2019, found no evidence that such confidential sources interacted with the campaign before the investigation was started or that any were placed on the campaign.
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