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The New York Times

Is this the real reason TOTUS keeps his name in the headlines? MA.

Shane Goldmacher and Maggie HabermanFri, December 18, 2020, 1:51 PM CST

Election workers during the Fulton County ballot recount in Atlanta on Nov. 14, 2020. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)
Election workers during the Fulton County ballot recount in Atlanta on Nov. 14, 2020. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Donald J. Trump will exit the White House as a private citizen next month perched atop a pile of campaign cash unheard-of for an outgoing president, and with few legal limits on how he can spend it.

Deflated by a loss he has yet to acknowledge, Trump has cushioned the blow by coaxing huge sums of money from his loyal supporters — often under dubious pretenses — raising roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the national party.

More than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee, according to people familiar with the matter, which Trump will control after he leaves office. Those funds, which far exceed what previous outgoing presidents had at their disposal, provide him with tremendous flexibility for his post-presidential ambitions: He could use the money to quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.

The postelection blitz of fundraising has cemented Trump’s position as an unrivaled force and the preeminent fundraiser of the Republican Party, even in defeat. His largest single day for online donations actually came after Election Day — raising almost $750,000 per hour Nov. 6. So did his second-biggest day. And his third.

“Right now, he is the Republican Party,” said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who worked on Trump’s reelection campaign. “The party knows that virtually every dollar they’ve raised in the last four years, it’s because of Donald Trump.”

Trump has long acted with few inhibitions when it comes to spending other people’s money, and he has spent millions of campaign dollars on his own family businesses in the last five years. But new records show an even more intricate intermingling of Trump’s political and familial interests than was previously known.

Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law and a senior campaign adviser, served on the board — and was named on drafts of the incorporation papers — of a limited liability company through which the Trump political operation spent more than $700 million since 2019, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The arrangement has never been disclosed. One of the other board members and signatories in the draft papers of the LLC, American Made Media Consultants, was John Pence, the nephew of Vice President Mike Pence and a senior Trump adviser. The LLC has been criticized for purposefully obscuring the ultimate destination of hundreds of millions of dollars of spending.

Lara Trump and John Pence were originally listed as president and vice president on the incorporation papers, documents reviewed by the Times showed. Sean Dollman, the campaign chief financial officer, was the AMMC treasurer.

“Lara Trump and John Pence resigned from the AMMC board in October 2019 to focus solely on their campaign activities; however, there was never any ethical or legal reason why they could not serve on the board in the first place,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for Trump. “John and Lara were not compensated by AMMC for their service as board members.” Murtaugh also said the two were not compensated for other positions they were listed as holding.

For Trump, the quarter-billion dollars he and the party raised over six weeks is enough to pay off all of his remaining campaign bills and to fund his fruitless legal challenges and still leave tens of millions of dollars.

Trump’s plans, however, remain extremely fluid. His refusal to accept Joe Biden’s victory has stunted internal political planning, aides say, with some advisers in his shrinking circle of confidants hesitant to even approach him about setting a course of action for 2021 and beyond.

Those who have spoken with Trump say he appears shrunken, and over his job; this detachment is reflected in a Twitter feed that remains stubbornly more focused on unfounded allegations of fraud than on the death toll from the raging pandemic.

Trump has talked about running again in 2024 — but he also may not. He has created this new PAC, but a different political entity could still be in the works, people involved in the discussions said. Talk of counterprogramming Biden’s inauguration with a splashy event or an announcement of his own is currently on hold.

Trump had been tentatively planning to go to Georgia on Saturday, according to a senior Republican official, to support the two Republicans in Senate runoff races there. But he is still angry at the state’s Republican governor and secretary of state for accepting the election result and simply doesn’t want to make the trip. There is some discussion about him going after the Christmas holiday, but it’s not clear he will be in a more magnanimous mood by then.

But even as he displays indifference toward the Georgia races, the Trump political apparatus has taken advantage of the grassroots energy and excitement over the two runoffs to juice its own fundraising. Email and text solicitations have pitched Trump supporters to give to a “Georgia Election Fund,” even though no funds go directly to either Republican senator on the ballot, irritating some Senate GOP strategists.

Instead, the fine print shows 75% of the donations to the Georgia fund go to Trump’s new PAC, called Save America, with 25% to the Republican National Committee.

After weeks of shouting “FRAUD” to supporters in emails and asking them to back an “Election Defense Fund” (which also sent 75% of donations to his new PAC), the Trump operation has subtly shifted its tone and focus, returning to more sustainable preelection themes, like hawking signed hats and opposing socialism.

Trump and the RNC did spend about $15 million combined in legal costs and other spending related to disputing the election between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23, according to federal records.

Besides a $3 million payment to Wisconsin to fund a partial recount in the state, Trump’s largest recount-related payment did not go to attorney fees but to American Made Media Consultants, the Trump-linked LLC on which Lara Trump was listed an original signatory. The firm received $2.2 million Nov. 12 in two payments labeled “SMS advertising,” better known as text messaging.

American Made Media Consultants was the subject of a complaint to the Federal Election Commission earlier this year that accused it of “laundering” funds to obscure the ultimate beneficiary of Trump campaign spending. Federal records show the firm had more than $700 million in funds flow through it since 2019. The vast majority of funds were spent before Lara Trump resigned from the board.

For a sense of scale of just how much money Donald Trump will have at his disposal, the new Trump PAC’s $60 million-plus haul — and counting — is about as much money as he spent to win his party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Some campaign finance experts have speculated that Trump might try to use the excess of cash in his new PAC, formally known as a leadership PAC, to pay for his own personal future legal quagmires as he faces investigations once he leaves office. (A senior Trump adviser said they don’t expect the money to be used for personal legal needs.)

“A leadership PAC is a slush fund,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that supports increased political transparency. “There are very, very, very few limits on what he can’t spend money on.”

In the last five years, Trump has never shied from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars from his contributors on his private businesses, a practice he could continue or expand while out of office.

Just since mid-October, the Trump Victory Committee, a joint account operated with the RNC, has paid more than $710,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection, while his reelection account has continued to pay more than $37,000 per month to rent space in Trump Tower.

It is not clear where his post-presidential operation will be based or who will run it, although several advisers expect it will be in Florida, where he is planning to move.

But as a former president, Trump will be allocated a certain amount of taxpayer money for staff and office space for life after leaving the White House, and he is beginning to have discussions about which aides from the West Wing will accompany him.

His senior political advisers — Bill Stepien, Justin Clark and Jason Miller, among others — are among those who may stay involved with him politically.

While Trump’s post-presidency remains largely shapeless, he has demonstrated his desire to exert his control on national politics, especially among Republicans.

He has already endorsed Ronna McDaniel, a close ally, to serve another term as chair of the RNC. He has floated primary challenges to Republicans, such as Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who have crossed him by rejecting his baseless theories of election fraud. He has even asked aides how he can retain control of the party if he isn’t a candidate.

One person close to Trump said that he has sounded less certain about declaring he’s running in 2024 than he had just two weeks ago. That uncertainty is causing anxiety for a number of advisers and aides to the president, some of whom might join other campaigns but are stuck in limbo until Trump makes up his mind. Announcing for president would trigger tighter rules on Trump’s political spending and added financial disclosures, including of Trump’s personal finances, that simply operating a PAC would not.

Trump’s future ambitions have also created a cloud over who exactly will control some of the most valuable assets from the 2020 campaign, including Trump’s lengthy list of supporters from whom he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Both the RNC and Trump are entitled to some of this valuable voter data, and efforts at “decoupling” the data are underway but expected to last months.

The RNC has typically stayed out of presidential primaries, but no former president in the modern era has seriously considered running again after losing reelection, putting the party apparatus in uncharted territory. His embrace of McDaniel as an ally in running the party could further complicate matters.

“There’s no bully pulpit as large as the presidency, but nevertheless, President Trump is likely to play a significant role in the future of the Republican Party,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It’s very difficult to imagine him following the same pattern as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and other presidents have followed in keeping their mouths shut and letting the new president try to govern.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Chris Britt Comic Strip for December 18, 2020
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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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Europeans seem to be just as delighted that Biden-Harris won. MA

Melissa Rossi·ContributorFri, December 11, 2020, 5:35 PM CST

BARCELONA — Last month, when Sweden’s TV4, the largest broadcast network in Scandinavia, sent political correspondent Ann Tiberg to cover the U.S. election, her producers were so afraid of the possible mayhem awaiting her that they insisted she pack a bulletproof vest, helmet and gas mask. Understandably: The United States had often appeared out of control in previous months, and not just due to COVID-19. The president had urged his followers to vote twice and cryptically told the militia group the Proud Boys to “stand by”; peaceful protests sometimes turned ugly, devolving into looting and the occasional fatal shooting; showdowns between armed groups were widely predicted for Election Day.

Happily, Tiberg didn’t need the combat gear. “There was no violence, and not a lot of cheating — the system worked. And people showed up in numbers never seen before. I thought that was so impressive. That’s what I brought back to my viewers: The U.S. pulled it off.”

Citizens across the Atlantic cheered the election results. “Europeans were overwhelmingly happy that Trump lost and Biden won,” says Jon Henley, political reporter for the London-based Guardian. But now, “they’re looking on in shock, horror and disbelief — saying this is not right and this is dangerous.”

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport on Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport on Dec. 5 in Valdosta, Ga. (Evan Vucci/AP)

After being cast aside by Trump as irrelevant and viewing the administration over the last four years from an icy distance — and preoccupied with the pandemic, Brexit, economic meltdowns, terror attacks and violence-ridden demonstrations against police brutality in France, among other crises — Europeans were bewildered at first by the chaos unleashed by Trump’s desperate efforts to stay in power.

But they are paying attention now. “People are deeply dismayed by what they’re seeing unfold,” says Dave Keating, a Connecticut-born politics reporter now working for French, German and British media from Brussels. “Particularly damaging is that the last few weeks have called into question the rule of law and political stability in the U.S.” And at least some political analysts are worried that the violence expected during election week may instead take place when the Electoral College votes are finalized in January and Trump’s fantasies of overturning the results have become moot.

American presidential elections are, naturally, always big news everywhere in the world, but media coverage in Europe is now awash with stories about Trump’s cries of stolen and illegal votes as well as his mad legal/political dash to overturn the election, competing with news of Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominations and his plans to return to the Paris climate agreement and his pledge to revive the transatlantic bond. Some European media outlets, as well as American, have even called Trump’s machinations an attempted coup, although Europeans who have lived through actual coups tend to have a high bar for use of the word. “We usually think of coups as armed, rapid and decisive,” Henley noted. “This, for the moment, is not armed, and it’s certainly not rapid or decisive. But if you look at its intent, and where it might end up, then we probably should consider this a coup attempt.”

A graffiti with the US President Donald Trump, located at the Grand Canal in Dublin's city centre on November 17, 2020, in Dublin, Ireland. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A graffiti with the President Trump, located at the Grand Canal in Dublin on Nov. 17. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Brussels-based political scientist Roland Freudenstein, director of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, sees the glass of democracy half-full, as well as half-empty. “On the one hand, the U.S. democracy redeemed itself in the eyes of Europe because the madman was not reelected. On the other hand, there’s a huge discrediting of the U.S. democracy by the incumbent who is basically hollowing out the democratic process from the inside.” Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election is not just weakening American democracy, Freudenstein says, but also democratic governments all over the world. “We always expected he would cause trouble and mischief, but even moderate Republicans thought this would stop after 10 days or two weeks — but it’s not stopping.”

For Marius Dragomir, Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society in Budapest, who grew up in Romania where his family once huddled around the radio listening to Radio Free Europe with the volume low and the drapes closed, Trump’s recent attacks on the electoral process along with his actions over the past four years are heartbreaking. “America was the model and the dream for Eastern Europe, especially after 1990. But it’s not anymore,” he says, “especially after Trump.”

Seeing Trump place family and friends in positions of power while continuing to make money from official visits to his hotels and resorts was reminiscent to Dragomir of the kleptocracies that emerged after the breakup of the Soviet Union. His colleagues kept asking, “‘Is it really possible for the American president to do whatever he wants and to mix his business interests with the position he has, to do bad things with impunity?’ We are used to that in Eastern Europe — but to see it in America was strange,” he says. “People lost the appreciation they once had for America” — all the more over the past month when Trump went after anyone who failed to bend to his insistence that he’d won. The difference, says Dragomir, is that somewhere like Romania or Bulgaria, Trump probably would have prevailed.

Derek Leonard gestures, behind a poster supporting Joe Biden in the town of Ballina, Ireland on Nov. 7, 2020. (Peter Morrison/AP)
Derek Leonard gestures behind a poster supporting Joe Biden in the town of Ballina, Ireland, on Nov. 7, 2020. (Peter Morrison/AP)

“When people lose faith in the electoral process, they’re losing the most important part of democracy,” Dragomir says, and Trump’s defiance of the results sent a bad signal to fledgling democracies everywhere.

Trump’s latest actions have branded him “a saboteur” in France, says English-born historian and author Andrew Hussey, a professor now based in Paris. “He’s regarded as trying to subvert the democratic process” — a big deal in France, where the republic is rooted in that very ideal, which is regarded quite seriously.

“France is now looking at the United States with a mixture of glee and disgust,” he says — with even right-wing parties, like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, now distancing themselves from the current White House occupant whom they once cheered. Then again, admits Hussey, France “always has a love-hate relationship with America. They love American pop culture. But they look at the arrogance of someone like Trump and wonder how a so-called republic could allow one individual to wreck it — and sabotage its foreign and domestic policies.” Recent editorials in French papers are quick to condemn Congress for not reining him in long ago — all the more given these past weeks of attacks on the American election results.

The GOP’s complicity and outright support of Trump’s attacks is perhaps what most galls European thinkers. “That over 200 Republicans haven’t stood up and said anything is absolutely ridiculous,” says political scientist Freudenstein. “It beggars belief that grown-up politicians can act like this.”

A supporter of President Donald Trump listens to him speak during a campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport on Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (Evan Vucci/AP)
A supporter of President Trump listens to him speak during a campaign rally at on Dec. 5 in Valdosta, Ga. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Worse than handing Biden a nation where tens of millions now apparently believe Trump’s false claims that the election was unfairly stolen from him, Europeans believe, are the increasing divisions in American society, some of which Trump helped to stoke. But the growing schism can’t be blamed on Trump alone. Noting that Republicans won more congressional seats than predicted, Freudenstein believes it’s because “Americans are genuinely scared of violence from the radical left.” He is worried about the rise of antifa and the looting that accompanied some Black Lives Matter protests. “I’m not repeating the rhetoric of Trump and his people. But I don’t think [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.] and radical slogans like ‘Defund the Police’ are helping Biden — quite the contrary.” He’s equally wary of the rise of armed militias — whether the Boogaloo Boys or the Proud Boys or the kinds of unorganized terrorists that allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October.

He believes that while they may persist for another five or 10 years, such divisions cannot last, and ultimately a new consensus will emerge from new movements “when people see that this polarization actually destroys the country.”

People identifying themselves as members of the Proud Boys join supporters of President Donald Trump as they march on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
People identifying themselves as members of the Proud Boys join supporters of President Trump as they march on Nov. 14 in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Except for Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, where the pro-Trump leaders keep fanning the flames that the recent elections were rigged, the theme that echoes across the Continent is that even though it creaked and shuddered, the American system weathered these most recent attacks from the current White House occupant — thanks to its courts, where even Republican judges and Trump appointees have tossed flimsy lawsuits back in his face. “It’s heartening,” says Henley, “that the U.S. judicial system is holding up.”

For Berlin-based Judy Dempsey, a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of the Strategic Europe blog, there are two fundamental takeaways from what’s been happening in the United States during this very rocky presidential transition. “First, you can’t take democracy and rule of law for granted; you have to protect it — especially the courts,” she says. “Secondly, we must find ways to keep the center ground and to maintain a dialogue” between disparate factions.

With 40 days to go, Europeans have joined the countdown to the Biden inauguration, when such issues as climate change, migration, trade and cohesive policies between Europe and the United States on how to approach countries like China and Iran are expected to come to the forefront. “European governments,” says Henley, “will be delighted to talk with somebody who makes sense again.”

The U.S. flag placed on a balcony of an apartment is hung upside-down, a sign of distress, in Madrid, Spain on Nov. 6, 2020. (Paul White/AP)
The U.S. flag placed on a balcony of an apartment is hung upside down, a sign of distress, in Madrid on Nov. 6. (Paul White/AP)

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Ken Catalino Comic Strip for December 11, 2020

Aunty Acid Comic Strip for December 12, 2020
Nick Anderson Comic Strip for December 11, 2020
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It should be noted that Republican “fixer” Marc Lotter has stated that the Trump campaign is still collecting funds to help the President but only a small portion is going to that debt. Most will go to the President and the GOP. It appears that the Campaign and the TOTUS are fleecing their supporters. MA.
Lydia O’Connor·Reporter, HuffPostMon, November 16, 2020, 6:34 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) denied claims that he pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to find ways to throw out legal ballots, telling reporters Monday that it’s “ridiculous” to interpret their conversation that way.

Graham, one of the Republicans pushing outgoing President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election, commented on the matter after Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gave an interview to The Washington Post saying Graham asked him Friday if Raffensperger could toss out all the mail-in ballots in counties with higher rates of signature-matching issues.

Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, denied that’s what he said.

“I think that’s just ridiculous. If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem. I actually thought it was a good conversation,” he said, adding he was only suggesting Georgia enforce a stricter signature verification process.

“I never said that,” he said of Raffensperger’s statement. “I said, ‘Do you have power as secretary of state to require bipartisan verification of the signature,’ because right now they don’t. What I want to see happen all over the country, if we’re going to use mail-in voting … is that when it comes to verifying signatures, that you have a process that’s bipartisan, where both sides can look at the signature. If there’s a dispute about whether or not you think it’s valid, you put it in some kind of appeal system.”

Raffensperger, a Republican, told the Post that it was clear to him that Graham was suggesting he find a way to throw out ballots.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” he said. After Graham’s response came out, he stood by his assertion on CNN.

“The implication is ‘Look hard and see how many ballots you can throw,’” he said.

Since Trump lost his bid for reelection, Graham has been part of the GOP chorus questioning the integrity of the electoral process and expressing outrage at the media for calling the winner based on results released by the states, despite that being the case in all modern elections. In 2016, for example, Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton conceded to Trump the day after the election, based on vote projections, even though final tallies were days or even weeks away in several states.

“This is a contested election,” Graham said on Fox News last week. “The media doesn’t decide who becomes president. If they did, you would never have a Republican president forever. So we’re discounting them.”

He added: “If I were President Trump, I’d take all of this to court. I’d fight back. …. If we don’t fight back in 2020, we’re never going to win again presidentially. A lot’s at stake here.”

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After Pouring Gasoline On U.S. Divide, Charles Koch Now Claims He Wants To Heal Nation

Mary Papenfuss

·Trends Reporter, HuffPost

Fri, November 13, 2020, 7:17 PM CST

After spending decades bankrolling causes and politicians that fueled America’s increasingly ugly and hostile national divide, billionaire mogul Charles Koch told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Friday that he now wants to focus on bridging the gap he helped create.

Boy, did we screw up. What a mess,” is how the Donald Trump supporter characterizes his partisan battles in his soon-to-be-published book, “Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top-Down World,” the Journal noted.

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Now Koch claims he wants to work across party lines to forge solutions to poverty, addiction, gang violence and homelessness, he told the newspaper.

In an email to the Journal, Koch also congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory. He said he looked forward to “finding ways to work with them to break down the barriers holding people back, whether in the economy, criminal justice, immigration, the COVID-19 pandemic, or anywhere else.”

He added: “I hope we all use this post-election period to find a better way forward. Because of partisanship, we’ve come to expect too much of politics and too little of ourselves and one another.”

Koch, 85, still runs the conglomerate Koch Industries, with some 130,000 employees, that was begun by his father as a refinery business. He has adamantly opposed climate change mitigation measures that would impact fossil-fuel industries.

Koch and his billionaire brother David, who died last year, helped bankroll and shape 2010′s conservative Tea Party movement and founded the hugely influential conservative organization Americans for Prosperity in 2004.

Koch is listed by Forbes as the 15th richest man in the U.S., and is worth some $45 billion. Koch Industries’ PAC and employees contributed $2.8 million to GOP candidates during the 2020 political cycle, noted the Journal.

The brothers were revealed as the powerful stealth engineers of a radical right movement in the U.S. in the ground-breaking 2016 book “Dark Money,” by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. The Kochs funded ultra-conservative think tanks, peppered universities with hundreds of rightwing academics and used their wealth to boost an army of conservative politicians into office.

The family money also bankrolls the American Legislative Exchange Council which pens template bills for conservative politicians to introduce in state legislatures across the nation. And Koch plotted back in February to overturn a Trump loss at the polls.

Despite his stated intention to make peace, he railed to the Journal about the constant push to rob individuals of freedom with “top-down” control that stifles innovation. Koch complained about powerful interests lobbying the government, even though Koch Industries spent some $100 million on lobbying, the Journal pointed out.

To say critics are skeptical about Koch’s avowed change of heart would be an understatement. And few on Twitter were in a forgiving mood.

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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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It is unfortunate that so many of us are single issue voters, this failing allows for the rise of poor performing legislators and leaders. The reduction of CIVICS instruction in schools is a possible factor but mass media is a greater mover of public opinion using “sound bites, dog whistles and tropes’ to explain or purvey ideas. Our job as voters is to gather information for ourselves and not leave it to other people or the media. MA

By Lauren Fox, CNN

Updated 8:15 PM ET, Tue July 21, 2020

(CNN)Despite severe shortages in coronavirus testing supplies and lags in results, the Trump administration is still sitting on billions of dollars in unused funding that Congress allocated months ago. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questions about why the money has not been used as testing continues to fall well short of the national need.

“It’s probably a logistical problem as much as anything else, but yeah, it’s a concern,” said Republican. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

As negotiations have ramped up between the White House and Senate Republicans in recent days on whether to include more funding for testing in the next round of stimulus, the White House pushed against more money over the weekend, arguing that billions remain unspent. But lawmakers and aides — who estimate the remaining amount at about $7 billion to $8 billion — say they’ve been unable to get a clear answer to why that money hasn’t been touched in the first place.

In April, Congress passed legislation that included $25 billion in additional funds for testing and contact tracing. The money — which included $11 billion that went to states — was put into the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services. Months later, aides and lawmakers say they aren’t sure why so much still hasn’t been spent.

“They’ve never believed we should test,” Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told CNN. “We’ve got to keep pushing.”

One Democratic aide familiar with discussions around the money said there was some speculation that it had been tied up at the Office of Management and Budget level, but there was no clear evidence whether the holdup had happened for any particular reason or was just a symptom of pushing billions out the door quickly.

Behind the scenes, lawmakers of both parties have asked the administration to explain why the money remains unused.FourDemocrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a letter directly to President Donald Trump this week asking for answers.

“In April, Congress appropriated $25 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act specifically to expand testing capacity and conduct surveillance and contact tracing to ensure we were prepared for another spike in cases. Yet based on the latest information from the Department of Health and Human Services, three months later less than half of the money provided has been obligated by the federal government and gaps in testing capacity and contact tracing are pervasive,” said the Democrats’ letter, signed by Murray along with Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Jon Tester of Montana.

The letter also demanded that the administration explain why billions in funding to build up the Strategic National Stockpile hadn’t been used as reports show that states are once again struggling to find adequate personal protective equipment to weather the pandemic.

“Yet nearly four months later, the Administration has obligated only half of the funds Congress provided for the SNS (and only a portion of this was spent on PPE) and the Department of Defensehas informed us that it intendsto use nearly 70 percent of the DPA funding for shipbuilding, aircraft development, and other defense programs,” the letter reads, referring to the Defense Production Act.

Republicans have urged the administration in recent weeks to ramp up its response to the coronavirus as polls have shown the President lagging in key swing states and dragging rank-and-file Republicans up for reelection down with him.

“We have to up our game in testing. This is a worldwide problem,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who’s a close ally of Trump’s, told reporters Tuesday.

Republicans also strongly rebuked the administration’s argument that more funding wasn’t needed for testing and contact tracing in the next stimulus bill, saying that position not only put the country’s testing capabilities at risk, but also ignored the political realities of the situation.

“You would have to try hard to come up with a more tone-deaf position,” one GOP aide said over the weekend.

On Monday, members flat-out pushed back against the Trump administration’s position that more money for testing wasn’t needed.

“I just think that’s wrong,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.

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