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GOP Watch Keeping an Eye on Republicans for You - Page 18

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” ― Theodore Roosevelt Welcome to GOP Watch keeping an eye on Republicans for you. The Republican Party is using lies, hate, fear, alterative facts and whataboutism to stay in power and protect a comprised and corrupt Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party and Putin. The GOP is a danger to America and Americans.

Politicians in Washington are looking out for themselves and their donors instead of serving the people they represent. This kind of corruption has become the norm under President Donald Trump’s White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. Congressional Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which gave hundreds of billions of dollars to the lobbyists and corporations who contribute to their campaigns. Hard-working Americans pay the price for this kind of corruption because all the problems they are facing—from higher drug costs to lower wages—are ignored by their representatives in Congress. more...

The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.
George Packer Staff writer for The Atlantic

Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt? The reason is historical—it goes back many decades—and, in a way, philosophical. The party is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.

I don’t mean the kind of corruption that regularly sends lowlifes like Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic former governor of Illinois, to prison. Those abuses are nonpartisan and always with us. So is vote theft of the kind we’ve just seen in North Carolina—after all, the alleged fraudster employed by the Republican candidate for Congress hired himself out to Democrats in 2010.

And I don’t just mean that the Republican Party is led by the boss of a kleptocratic family business who presides over a scandal-ridden administration, that many of his closest advisers are facing prison time, that Donald Trump himself might have to stay in office just to avoid prosecution, that he could be exposed by the special counsel and the incoming House majority as the most corrupt president in American history. Richard Nixon’s administration was also riddled with criminality—but in 1973, the Republican Party of Hugh Scott, the Senate minority leader, and John Rhodes, the House minority leader, was still a normal organization. It played by the rules. more...

Ruth Ben-Ghiat

“As time went on, it became clear that the sickness was a feature, that anyone who entered the building became a little sick themselves,” wrote the journalist Olivia Nuzzi in March 2018 of the Donald J. Trump White House and those who serve it. For a century, those who have worked closely with authoritarian rulers have shown the symptoms of this malady: a compulsion to praise the head of state and a willingness to sacrifice one’s own ideals, principles, and dignity to remain in his good graces, at the center of power.

In his relationship with Republican political elites, as in other areas of endeavor, President Trump has followed the model of “personalist rule” used by leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Some of these rulers destroy democracy, and others, like the Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi, govern nominally open societies in undemocratic ways. Yet personalist rule always concentrates power in one individual whose own political and financial interests and private relationships with other despots often prevail over national interests in shaping domestic and foreign policy. Loyalty to this head of state and his allies, rather than expertise, is a primary qualification for serving him, whether as ministers or bureaucrats, as is participation in his corruption schemes. more...

By Manu Raju and Ted Barrett, CNN

(CNN) Sen. Cory Gardner was blunt in 2016 about why he thought a Supreme Court seat should stay vacant despite then-President Barack Obama's demand to fill it. "The next election is too soon, and the stakes too high," Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, said in March of that year. Asked on Wednesday about his 2016 comments, amid President Donald Trump's effort to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat less than two months before an election, Gardner didn't answer when approached by CNN. "If you didn't see my statement, I'll send it to you," Gardner, battling to keep his seat for a second term, said as he got on a senators-only elevator. That statement, however, said nothing about his past position, instead noting that if a qualified nominee he supports comes forward now: "I will vote to confirm."

As Senate Republicans and the White House race to fill a Supreme Court seat following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many have struggled to reconcile their support for confirming Trump's nomination on the eve of an election with their steadfast opposition to even considering the nomination made by a Democratic President eight months prior to Election Day. Party leaders are pointing to the different partisan makeup in Washington, arguing it's normal to confirm a nominee when the same party controls both the Senate and the White House and not the norm in an election year with divided government like in 2016. More...

*** Bullshit: Trump said they would be doing a good job if they keep the number of deaths below 60,000, now that 200,000 have died he is claiming they did a good job. Bullshit he did not do a good job more than 150,000 American died because of Trump failures to act and Trump is putting more lives at risk daily. ***

Adrianna Rodriguez USA TODAY

The USA reached yet another dark milestone Tuesday: 200,000 coronavirus deaths. As states grapple with opening restaurants, small businesses and schools, cases are peaking in Montana, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data. Social distancing fatigue and contention over mask wearing threaten to compound COVID-19 cases and deaths as the year goes on.

In March, President Donald Trump said keeping the death toll at 100,000 to 200,000 people would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job.” As the number continued to climb, Trump sought to reshape the significance of the death tally. “If we didn’t do our job, it would be three and a half, two and a half, maybe 3 million people,” Trump said Friday, leaning on extreme projections of what could have happened if nothing were done to fight the pandemic. “We have done a phenomenal job with respect to COVID-19.”

COVID-19 deaths outpaced projections made as recently as May, when experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicted about 180,000 deaths by October. That model predicts 378,000 deaths by January. The USA reached 100,000 cases in May. More...

The party of McConnell, in the age of Trump, stands for nothing
David Von Drehle

“The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run,” declared the self-destructive Captain Ahab, concerning his pursuit of Moby Dick. The elusive white whale of Republican politics is abortion rights. For nearly 50 years, over oceans of campaign speeches and seas of television ads, GOP candidates have promised to fill the Supreme Court with enough harpooners to slay the beast.

With the chance to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer of women’s rights, mere weeks before a presidential election, the Republican Ahabs are lowering boats and putting their backs into one more try. Four years ago, they used their Senate majority to preserve a 5-to-4 conservative advantage on the court by blocking President Barack Obama’s pick in the final year of his second term. Now they spy the chance to grab a 6-to-3 margin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might want to flip ahead to the final chapters to see how this story ends. Or I could just tell him: Ahab is last seen being dragged by the whale into the fatal briny. One of three things could come of this. Cooler heads might prevail — but what’s the chance of that these days? The other two alternatives both bristle with disaster for the GOP. More...

This might be one of the most painful silences in the network’s history.
By Ed Mazza

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got called out on live TV for spreading a conspiracy theory about billionaire philanthropist and activist George Soros, leading to several awkward breaks in the conversation. Speaking on “Outnumbered” on Fox News, Gingrich blamed violence in some cities on “George Soros-elected, left-wing, anti-police, pro-criminal district attorneys who refuse to keep people locked up.”

He invoked Soros’ name again moments later, when he slammed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris for supporting progressive district attorneys: “Progressive district attorneys are anti-police, pro-criminal and overwhelmingly elected with George Soros’ money, and they’re a major cause of the violence we’re seeing because they keep putting the violent criminals back on the street,” Gingrich said. Several other members of the “Outnumbered” panel interjected to say Soros’ name doesn’t need the be part of the conversation, which led to this awkward exchange: More...

Washington Post
Opinion by Benjamin L. Ginsberg

Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Legions of Republican lawyers have searched in vain over four decades for fraudulent double voting. At long last, they have a blatant example of a major politician urging his supporters to illegally vote twice. The only hitch is that the candidate is President Trump. The president, who has been arguing that our elections are “rigged” and “fraudulent,” last week instructed voters to act in a way that would fulfill that prophecy.

On Wednesday in North Carolina, he urged supporters to double vote, casting ballots at the polls even if they have already mailed in absentee ballots. A tweet claiming he meant only for people to check that their ballots had been received and counted sounded fine — until Trump renewed his original push on Thursday evening in Pennsylvania and again Friday at a telerally. The president’s actions — urging his followers to commit an illegal act and seeking to undermine confidence in the credibility of election results — are doubly wrong. They impose an obligation on his campaign and the Republican Party to reevaluate their position in the more than 40 voting cases they’re involved in around the country. These cases are part of a torrent of 2020 voting litigation that pits Republicans’ belief that election results won’t be credible without state law safeguards against Democrats’ charges that many such rules are onerous and designed to suppress the votes of qualified citizens inclined to vote Democratic. More...

As he has done with other aspects of the presidency, Donald J. Trump has redefined the practice in ways that have unsettled even some Republicans.
By Eric Lipton

WASHINGTON — President Trump was proudly litigious before his victory in 2016 and has remained so in the White House. But one big factor has changed: He has drawn on campaign donations as a piggy bank for his legal expenses to a degree far greater than any of his predecessors. In New York, Mr. Trump dispatched a team of lawyers to seek damages of more than $1 million from a former campaign worker after she claimed she had been the target of sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. The lawyers have been paid $1.5 million by the Trump campaign for work on the case and others related to the president.

In Washington, Mr. Trump and his campaign affiliates hired lawyers to assist members of his staff and family — including a onetime bodyguard, his oldest son and his son-in-law — as they were pulled into investigations related to Russia and Ukraine. The Republican National Committee has paid at least $2.5 million in legal bills to the firms that did this and other legal work. In California, Mr. Trump sued to block a law that would have forced him to release his taxes if he wanted to run for re-election. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have paid the law firm handling this case, among others, $1.8 million

The president’s suggestion, which he framed as a way to test the security of elections systems, constituted the kind of voter fraud he has railed against.
By Maggie Haberman

President Trump on Wednesday suggested that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by voting twice — an act that constitutes the kind of voter fraud the president has railed against. Mr. Trump made the comment in a briefing with reporters, where he was asked about his faith in the state’s system for voting by mail, which is expected to be more expansive in the 2020 presidential election than in previous years because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump encouraged people to send in an absentee ballot and then go vote in person on Election Day. “Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” the president said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.” “That’s the way it is,” he added. “And that’s what they should do.” Voting twice in the same election is illegal. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion that people should vote twice is one he has discussed privately with aides in recent weeks amid concerns he is depressing turnout among his supporters by raising alarms about the security of mail-in voting. *** Trump was right there will be voter fraud in the 2020 election he just did not tell you that he is the one who is going to commit it. ***

A little-known office in the Justice Department has lost its long-time chief.
By Mike Levine

Current and former national security officials are raising concerns over Attorney General William Barr's recent decision to remove the head of a Justice Department office that helps ensure federal counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities are legal – and replace him with a political appointee with relatively limited experience. "It's very alarming," said Katrina Mulligan, who worked for the Obama administration in several national security roles and then, after President Donald Trump's inauguration, joined the Office of Law and Policy in the Justice Department's National Security Division.

For much of the past decade, that little-known office has been led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, a 23-year career public servant, not a political appointee. But two weeks ago, Wiegmann, 54, was told he is being reassigned and replaced with a political appointee, according to a Justice Department spokesman and sources familiar with the matter. Mulligan and other sources told ABC News that the new head of the office is 36-year-old Kellen Dwyer, a cyber-crimes prosecutor who joined the federal government six years ago and made international headlines in November 2018 when he accidentally revealed that federal charges had been secretly filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Mulligan said that given Dwyer's limited time and experience handling national security matters, he is "a very odd" choice to replace Wiegmann, whom she described as "exceptional" at managing government bureaucracy and resolving "highly contentious matters across the government." The timing of the personnel change – coming just two months before the U.S. presidential election, and in the midst of a battle against domestic terrorism and foreign interference in the election – has worried current and former members of the national security community.

By Rex Huppke - Chicago Tribune

President Donald Trump and members of the political party he has transformed into a cult spent much of the Republican National Convention violating the laws of time and fiercely criticizing the current administration of Joe Biden. “Hold on,” you say. “Biden isn’t president, Trump is.” Let me help you out. Trump’s main campaign argument is this: “You see all this horrible stuff going on right now? If you elect Joe Biden, the horrible things happening in America right now will happen.” Granted, people who grasp concepts like chronology and object permanence will struggle with the logic behind that argument. It sounds like Trump and his groupies are saying the country is a mess right now, but that mess isn’t Trump’s fault, it’s the fault of Biden if he wins the election three months from now.

Gosh, this isn’t getting any easier to explain. Let me just show you an excerpt from Trump’s speech accepting the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention: “Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police and the terrorism in our cities threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. “Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”

OK, I’m guessing the “January 20th, 2017,” bit might have thrown you for a loop. That because I forgot to mention the excerpt is from Trump’s RNC acceptance speech in 2016, not from the speech he gave Thursday night on the White House lawn. What’s funny is that all the stuff he said in 2016, shortly before he got the job of president, is effectively the same stuff he’s saying now, in 2020, after four years on the job. Another thing he said in that 2016 speech was this: “I alone can fix it.”

By - AFP

The 2020 US election race is rife with concerns about misinformation, and the first session of the Republican National Convention did nothing to dispel them. Several speakers made false or misleading claims on topics ranging from the US economy, President Donald Trump's first-term promises, and the potential for fraud if there is heavy reliance on voting by mail. The Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic -- considered its biggest weakness going into the election -- was at the forefront of questionable claims being made in an attempt to persuade American voters that the incumbent deserves a second term. AFP breaks down key claims below:

Coronavirus response
Critics of the president say his delayed response to the pandemic -- reflecting a consistent preference for the economy to remain open despite the public health risks -- has actually damaged US prospects. The country has more infections than would have been the case had he acted sooner to curb the virus, they say. But the Republican convention sought to portray steps taken as saving lives, rather than losing them. Natalie Harp, who sits on the Trump campaign advisory board, said had it not been for the president's "China travel ban, millions would have died." Donald Trump Jr said his father "quickly took action and shut down travel from China" in January. But rather than a ban the president imposed restrictions, effective February 2, accompanied by multiple exemptions. Only foreign nationals who had been in China within the past 14 days were banned. US citizens present in Hubei province within the same time period were subject to a mandatory quarantine upon returning home. No statistics show that millions of lives were saved. The president, for months, talked down the risk to Americans. As of 1100 GMT on August 25, the US accounts for the most deaths by country -- 177,284 from a global toll of 813,733 -- according to figures from official sources compiled by AFP. The number of US victims was not mentioned by any speaker on the convention's opening night.

Voter fraud
The president formally accepted the Republican Party nomination by repeating unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud. He has previously gone as far as saying that the only way he could lose to Democrat Joe Biden is if the vote is "rigged." Voting experts say this is false. A 2017 study by the Brennan Center found that impersonation rarely happens in US elections. Incident rates are between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent, according to the study. Critics of the president say he is using scare tactics to create apathy that could stop would-be Democrats from voting. Mail-in voting is traditionally used by members of the US military and elderly voters. But Trump -- an official resident of Florida -- and members of his family and administration rely on it. The coronavirus means Americans are far more likely to try and avoid in-person voting this year. "There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None," Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a 66-message thread on Twitter on May 27, 2020.


Before he joined the ranks of voters who supposedly don’t “care” about the Hatch Act, Mark Meadows was one of the law’s biggest supporters.
Scott Bixby

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn’t believe that anyone in America is concerned about a law that bars members of the Trump administration from engaging in political activities—or about the particularly enthusiastic breaking of that law during the Republican National Convention this week. “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares—they expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values and they would expect that Barack Obama, when he was in office, that he would do the same for Democrats,” Meadows told Politico on Wednesday morning, calling concerns by ethics experts “a lot of hoopla.” But long before joining an administration famous for its casual disregard for the Hatch Act, Meadows was one of the federal law’s biggest supporters. Meadows co-sponsored multiple pieces of legislation intended to strengthen punishments for violations of the law, and was a hawkish investigator of purported Hatch Act violations by minor members of the Obama administration.

The change in position on the legitimacy of the 80-year-old law coincides with the appearance of numerous Trump administration officials on the RNC’s list of speakers, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beaming in from a taxpayer-funded trip abroad to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf conducting a naturalization ceremony as part of the convention’s official programming. Ethics watchdogs have expressed concerns that the event, which has featured official government acts like naturalization ceremonies as part of its programming, is less of a political convention than a marathon of Hatch Act violations with patriotic bunting.

Can you stage a political coronation that ignores the chaos surrounding it? Trump’s trying.
Hunter Woodall, Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein

The president who prizes himself as a master showman put on, objectively, one of the most staid, boring convention nights in recent memory on Wednesday. Forced to downsize because of a pandemic, and hoping to sand down the rougher edges of his public image, the president’s team chose rote, recorded speeches in front of a line of American flags that may very well work politically but seemed utterly at odds with President Donald Trump’s reputation.

It also stood in stark contrast to the state of the country where an American city was on lockdown due to unrest after the shooting of a Black man by police followed by the murder of two protesters by an armed teenager—not to mention a raging pandemic and a Category 4, nearing Category 5, hurricane closing in on the Gulf Coast.  Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention featured barely any of that. COVID-19, once more, was hardly discussed.  The chaos and protests in Kenosha were briefly mentioned by Vice President Mike Pence. He spent an estimated 42 seconds of a nearly 40-minute speech addressing the hurricane, promising a boilerplate of relief, thoughts and prayers. And no one could quite predict how the storm would impact Thursday’s speeches, of which Trump will be the headliner.

Earlier in the day, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to leave the door open to Trump postponing his address. But late Wednesday night, as Pence spoke, multiple Trump campaign aides and other officials insisted to The Daily Beast that, no matter the hurricane threat, President Trump would deliver his convention speech on Thursday evening as currently scheduled.

Donald Trump has threatened to send in poll watchers to monitor voting on 3 November, but is the party capable of such a threat?
Ed Pilkington

“Warning” the posters stated in big red letters. “This area is being patrolled by the National Ballot Security Task Force. It is a crime to falsify a ballot.” There was no such task force in existence – it was the fictionalised creation of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Top conservative strategists built it from scratch, inventing a private vigilante squad of 200 off-duty police officers and private security guards. They carried visible firearms, wore armbands bearing the name of the “Task Force”, and were equipped with official-looking walkie-talkies. The year was 1981, and a bitter race for the New Jersey governor’s seat was approaching. Republican organizers publicly claimed their plan would combat widespread Democratic cheating at the polls. In fact, they had a more sinister intention: suppress the vote in Democratic strongholds where African American and Latino voters were in the majority and the election might be tilted in favor of Republican Tom Kean.

So up went the posters in New Jersey’s majority-Black inner city precincts. As Rutgers University historian Mark Krasovic recorded, Black voters waiting in line were asked for their registration cards by the “officers”, then turned away. Some Latino voters were chased from the polling stations by the daunting patrolmen. Kean won the election by all of 1,800 votes. The 1981 “Task Force” amounted to one of the most egregious examples of election intimidation in America’s long history of voter suppression, but had a positive outcome. In the wake of those chilling events, the RNC was sued by the national and state Democratic parties. The case was settled out of court in 1982 at which point the RNC agreed to what was known as a consent decree.

In Trump’s world, the political utility of having a closet of conspiracy-crazed boomer rubes is worth the downsides.
Rick Wilson

Winning candidates often receive a congratulatory message from an incumbent president. It’s one of those pro forma niceties of the Old Washington, and Trump’s staff craves moments that make him look like something other than a ranting, gouty old racist, so tweeting “Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!” probably seemed like a good idea. Hell, Republican victories these days are few and far between.

But Marjorie Taylor Greene is crazier than a shithouse rat. We're talking weapons-grade, rabid, writing-your-manifesto-on-the-asylum-wall-with-your-own-feces crazy. Not to mention racist. And Trump’s Republican Party is increasingly full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes—elected officials and candidates who believe in the dangerously absurd QAnon conspiracy theory. The Party of Lincoln is now the party of Q. Thanks Donald!

A party at least aspirationally dedicated to limited government, individual liberty, the rule of law, the Constitution, and personal responsibility has descended on his watch into a fetid slurry of kooks, conspiracists, know-nothings, and racial arsonists. The mechanisms that elected and sustained Trump’s political power are catapulting into prominence and power people who make Larouchies look like sane, solid citizens.

Opinion by Jennifer Rubin

It is a favorite game in politics to take the most extreme member of the other party and then paint the entire party as extreme. However, when many candidates and officials plus the head of the party evidence nuttiness, it is fair to label the party as such. That’s where the Republican Party is now. At a White House briefing on Wednesday, there was this exchange:

Reporter: QAnon believes you are secretly saving the world from this cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Are you behind that?
President Trump: Is that supposed to be a bad thing? We are actually. We are saving the world.

QAnon believers, Trump says, are just a bunch of people who “love their country.” Actually, the FBI, in May 2019, said the conspiracy theory is a domestic terrorist threat pushing baseless allegations such as Pizzagate: “The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.” In a written statement, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, responded to President Trump’s remarks, saying that, “not only is our president refusing to take responsibility for his failed leadership that has cost over 170,000 American lives and tens of millions of jobs — he is again giving voice to violence.” Bates continued: “After calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville ‘fine people’ and tear-gassing peaceful protesters following the murder of George Floyd, Donald Trump just sought to legitimize a conspiracy theory that the FBI has identified as a domestic terrorism threat.” But you’ll hear no objections from Republicans. Also on Wednesday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that, “nut jobs, racists [and] haters have no place in either Party.” Perhaps he confused the GOP with a mainstream party.

Barbara Sprunt

A late-night tweet from Kanye West this week strengthened the impression that establishment Republicans are helping the musician and fashion designer in his quest to get on the ballot in some states as a third-party candidate for president. "I'm willing to do a live interview with the New York Time[s] about my meeting with Jared where we discussed Dr. Claude Anderson's book Powernomics," the post reads. "Jared" is Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser.

The New York Times reported that Kushner and West met privately last weekend in Colorado. Neither the White House nor West's camp responded to NPR's requests for comment. Kushner addressed the meeting himself during a White House press briefing Thursday afternoon, noting that he's been friends with West for about a decade. "We both happened to be in Colorado and so we got together and we had a great discussion about a lot of things," Kushner said. "He has some great ideas for what he'd like to see happen in the country and that's why he has the candidacy that he's been doing. But again, there's a lot of issues that the president's championed that he admires and it was just great to have a friendly discussion."

Blake Montgomery

The Republican Party plans to bar journalists from attending the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where party members will nominate President Donald Trump to stand in the November election, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. It would be the first convention without reporters. A convention spokesperson told the paper the change arose in response to coronavirus restrictions: “We are planning for all of the Charlotte activities to be closed press: Friday, August 21 – Monday, 24th given the health restrictions and limitations in place in the state.

Virus to close GOP convention doors by Frank E. Lockwood

WASHINGTON -- When Republicans renominate Donald Trump for president in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 24, journalists won't be on hand to witness it, a convention spokesperson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week. Reporters also will be kept from the room when the Republican National Committee meets to conduct official party business. he spokesperson couldn't say whether C-SPAN, the nonprofit public service network, would be allowed to air the proceedings.

"[W]e are planning for all of the Charlotte activities to be closed press: Friday, August 21 – Monday, 24th given the health restrictions and limitations in place in the state," the convention spokesperson said in an email. "We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events." Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of delegates at the Republican National Convention had already been lowered from 2,550 to 336. Alternate delegates have been disinvited. Media seating has been eliminated.

Barring a last-minute change, this will be the first Republican presidential nominating convention in history where reporters are not admitted. Trump has had a sometimes-contentious relationship with journalists, branding them "the enemy of the American people" and labeling their stories "fake news." The Republican Party's nominating convention was originally set for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, but the final three days were temporarily shifted to Jacksonville, Fla., after North Carolina leaders refused to waive covid-19-related crowd limitations.

Greg Iacurci

Senate Republicans unveiled their plan to replace an extra $600-a-week boost in unemployment benefits on Monday. That subsidy — which the federal government has been paying on top of typical state benefits since early April — formally expires July 31. Republicans want to replace it with a $200-a-week subsidy through September. The plan would then shift to a more individual formula, with combined state and federal benefits replacing 70% of lost wages from October through December. Federal aid would be capped at $500 a week. (States unable to implement the formula that quickly could request a waiver to continue the $200 a week through November.) The plan is hugely consequential: There are nearly 31 million Americans collecting jobless benefits, about five times the peak of the Great Recession. So, who would win and lose from this new plan?

Everyone loses
From a personal-finance standpoint, all recipients of unemployment aid lose under the GOP proposal. This is true for both tranches of the plan: the flat $200 checks and the 70% wage replacement. Logically, this makes sense: $200 a week is less than $600 a week.

Republican gives interview to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Senator wants to ‘save’ US history from New York Times
Bryan Armen Graham

The Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton has called the enslavement of millions of African people “the necessary evil upon which the union was built”. Cotton, widely seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, made the comment in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published on Sunday. He was speaking in support of legislation he introduced on Thursday that aims to prohibit use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project, an initiative from the New York Times that reframes US history around August 1619 and the arrival of slave ships on American shores for the first time.

Cotton’s Saving American History Act of 2020 and “would prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts”, according to a statement from the senator’s office. “The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable,” Cotton told the Democrat-Gazette. “I reject that root and branch. America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it.”

He added: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her introductory essay to the 1619 Project, said on Friday that Cotton’s bill “speaks to the power of journalism more than anything I’ve ever done in my career”. On Sunday, she tweeted: “If chattel slavery – heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit – were a ‘necessary evil’ as Tom Cotton says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.

By Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) Senate Republican leaders, undeterred by the scathing criticism leveled against them for blocking President Barack Obama's election-year Supreme Court nominee in 2016, are signaling that they are prepared to confirm a nominee by President Donald Trump even if that vacancy occurred after this year's election. The push comes despite ample apprehension from influential Republicans that the GOP could pay a political price for treating a nominee under Trump differently than they did under Obama. It also comes as Democrats are increasingly worried about the fragile health of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 87-year-old liberal jurist who recently made public a new bout with cancer, and the possibility of other retirements. "We will," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican leader, when asked if the Senate would fill a vacancy, even during the lame-duck session after the presidential election. "That would be part of this year. We would move on it." But the veteran Iowa Republican who chaired the Judiciary Committee in 2016 and helped block Judge Merrick Garland -- Obama's nominee -- by refusing to schedule election-year confirmation hearings, said he would not fill a fill a vacancy now for the same reason. "My position is if I were chairman of the committee I couldn't move forward with it," Sen. Chuck Grassley told CNN.

The Texas Republican tweets in support of Donald Trump and gets slammed
Juan Pablo Garnham

The Texas Republican is criticizing calls for a boycott because the Hispanic food company's CEO praised President Donald Trump. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday said calls for a boycott of Goya Foods because its CEO praised President Donald Trump were an attempt to "silence free speech." But one year ago, the Texas Republican encouraged people to boycott Nike after the company halted plans to sell shoes featuring the Betsy Ross flag that some say glorifies slavery and racism, according to NPR. On Thursday, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue praised president Donald Trump in a ceremony at The White House. Goya bills itself as America's largest Hispanic-owned food company. "We're all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder, and that's what my grandfather did," said Unanue. "He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper. And so we have an incredible builder, and we pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow." That sparked an immediate reaction on Twitter, where hashtags like #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway began trending. Hispanic leaders, including former Texas congressman and presidential hopeful Julián Castro, responded with anger, noting that the president has villainized and attacked Latinos "for political gain."

Del Marsh, a state senator in Alabama, said he’s “not concerned” with the spike in infections and touted the controversial idea of herd immunity.
By Lee Moran

A GOP lawmaker in Alabama said he’s “not concerned” about the current spike in cases of the coronavirus in the state. “In fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people, because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it,” Alabama state Sen. Del Marsh told reporters Thursday. “I don’t want any deaths — as few as possible,” he continued. “So those people who are susceptible to the disease, especially those with preexisting conditions, elderly population, those folks, we need to do all we can to protect them. But I’m not concerned. I want to make sure that everybody can receive care. And right now we have, to my knowledge as of today, we still have ample beds.” In his comments, Marsh ― who sits on the state’s coronavirus task force ― appeared to be referring to the idea of herd immunity, which contends that a virus will not spread as easily once a certain high percentage of the population has contracted it or been vaccinated, and therefore developed the necessary antibodies. The controversial approach has been contested by scientists and public health experts: Herd immunity could still be a long way off from happening, if it does at all with this virus, even with a vaccine. *** Trump and some in the Republicans Party do not care how many Americans will die from the coronavirus. ***

The more Trump and GOP leaders effectively abandon their roles as serious policymakers, the more breakdowns are impossible to avoid.
By Steve Benen, "Rachel Maddow" producer and author of "The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics"

As part of his needlessly divisive remarks on the Fourth of July, President Donald Trump briefly took note of the nation's struggle with the coronavirus crisis. "Our strategy," the president assured his audience, "is moving along well." Even by Trump standards, it was a curious boast. Now with 3 million confirmed cases in the United States, and over 130,000 American deaths from COVID-19, few would look at the public health landscape and conclude that the federal response is progressing "well." But there was also a problem with the assumption upon which the boast was based: The president believes there's a federal strategy? If there is, it's hiding exceptionally well. Months after the pandemic arrived, the Trump administration still does not have a national testing strategy. Or a federal program in place to fully furnish medical facilities with personal protective equipment. Or meaningful guidance to offer state and local officials on how, when and whether to reopen safely in the wake of mitigation efforts in the spring. The result is, to be sure, a public health crisis that appears to be intensifying with each passing day. But just as important, Americans should also recognize these conditions as part of a governing crisis.

State of the Union

CNN's Dana Bash questions Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) over her criticism of former President Obama over his handling of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, compared to President Trump's current handling of the coronavirus crisis. Source: CNN

By Veronica Stracqualursi and Nicky Robertson, CNN

(CNN) Sen. Tom Cotton argued on Thursday that Wyoming, which he called a "well-rounded working-class state," is more deserving of statehood than the District of Columbia, even though the nation's capital has more citizens. "Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be," the Arkansas Republican said on the Senate floor. Advocates of DC statehood point to the fact that residents pay taxes to the federal government but don't have representation in the US Senate and only have one non-voting delegate representing them in the US House. But Cotton argued that Democrats are only pushing for DC statehood so they can "have two new Democratic senators in perpetuity" and to "rig the rule of our democracy." Partisanship has long been a central reason for Republican opposition to DC statehood, as they frequently point to the likelihood that Democrats would pick up two additional US senators. But Cotton's comments also underscore the economic, regional and racial divides that increasingly make up both parties. - Tom Cotton is a racist plain and simple. The jobs that people do has nothing to do with how rounded or how American they are they are still hard working Americans. The people of DC are hardworking tax paying Americans who deserve representation.

The three studies paint a picture of a media ecosystem that entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking steps to protect themselves and others.

By Christopher Ingraham

Coronavirus infections have surged in a number of states, setting the United States on a markedly different pandemic trajectory than other wealthy nations. There are many reasons our response to the pandemic tied to more than 120,000 U.S. deaths has faltered, experts say, including the lack of a cohesive federal policy, missteps on testing and tracing, and a national culture emphasizing individualism. In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others. he end result, according to one of the studies, is that infection and mortality rates are higher in places where one pundit who initially downplayed the severity of the pandemic — Fox News’s Sean Hannity — reaches the largest audiences. “We are receiving an incredible number of studies and solid data showing that consuming far-right media and social media content was strongly associated with low concern about the virus at the onset of the pandemic,” said Irene Pasquetto, chief editor of the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, which published one of the studies.

Misinformation and conspiracy theories
In April, Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and Dolores Albarracin of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign published a peer-reviewed study examining how Americans’ media diets affected their beliefs about the coronavirus. Administering a nationally representative phone survey with 1,008 respondents, they found that people who got most of their information from mainstream print and broadcast outlets tended to have an accurate assessment of the severity of the pandemic and their risks of infection. But those who relied on conservative sources, such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories or unfounded rumors, such as the belief that taking vitamin C could prevent infection, that the Chinese government had created the virus, and that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exaggerated the pandemic’s threat “to damage the Trump presidency.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) refused to quit banging the table after House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) gave a witness extra time to finish his opening statement. Source: CNN

By Rebecca Klar

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that calls to impeach Attorney General William Barr are a “waste of time,” since the “corrupt” Republican-controlled Senate would not consider an impeachment trial. CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Nadler if he thinks Democratic lawmakers' calls for Barr’s impeachment in the wake of the firing of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman are premature. “No, I don't think calls for his impeachment are premature any more than calls for the president's impeachment were premature,” Nadler said. “But they are a waste of time at this point, because we know that we have a corrupt Republican majority in the Senate which will not consider an impeachment no matter what the evidence and no matter what the facts,” he added. “We’re instead going to do what we have to do without that.”

By Kelly Mena, CNN

Washington, DC (CNN) Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has told local government officials that they won't get federal coronavirus relief funding if they require individuals to wear face masks in government buildings. Ricketts, a Republican, made the statement on Monday, the same day he set as the deadline for county courthouses and offices to be opened while encouraging but not requiring the use of face masks. Nebraska has allocated $100 million for reimbursements to local governments for direct expenses incurred in response to the Covid-19 emergency. "It's really their option, if they don't want to follow the guidelines, they won't be eligible for the CARES Act money but that's certainly their prerogative to do that," said Ricketts on Monday at his daily coronavirus briefing. In late May, Ricketts issued guidance for how the state's 93 courthouses and offices would reopen that included specific directions that "customers may be encouraged to wear face coverings, but may not be refused service for failure to do so." The May guidelines however did allow counties to require social distancing and disinfecting procedures. A study out last week found that wearing a mask is the most effective way to stop person-to-person spread of the virus which is mainly via airborne transmission, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While Georgia state officials blamed local poll workers, voting rights advocates saw a continued pattern of voter suppression. It is a pattern Republicans seem determined to reproduce.
By The Rev. Dr. William Barber and Tom Steyer

Last week, as historic protests for racial justice grabbed the nation's attention, voters in some of Georgia's predominantly Black and poor precincts reported chaos, long lines and faulty machines at their polling places. While state officials blamed local poll workers, voting rights advocates saw a continued pattern of voter suppression by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. It is a pattern Republicans seem determined to reproduce. After Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will mail absentee ballots to all registered voters this fall as a means of guaranteeing the right to vote during the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican National Committee sued, claiming that California's effort to protect voting rights opened the door to widespread fraud. Next week, voters head to the polls again, including in New York and Kentucky. The fight continues. Though voter suppression has been a quiet tool of Republican administrations for decades, opposition to an expansion of the franchise has become a clear talking point for the Republican Party in 2020. This assault on the franchise is an attack on the very idea of American democracy and its promise of equality for all.

By Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav, CNN

(CNN) A Senate amendment to remove the names of Confederate leaders on military property "picks on the South unfairly," a GOP senator said Tuesday, the latest sign that President Donald Trump's opposition to the plan has opened up an uncomfortable election-year debate within the party. Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican whose state has military installations named after leaders of the Confederacy, sharply criticized the amendment, offered by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and said he planned to offer his own measure "to rename every military installation in the country after a medal of honor winner." "I think history will show that in the 18th century, in the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, there were many non-Confederate generals, soldiers and others, in both the South and the North who practiced racial discrimination, anti-Semitism and misogyny," Kennedy told reporters. "I don't think we ought to just pick on the South." Kennedy added: "Sen. Warren's amendment, in my opinion, picks on the South unfairly." - Confederates were traitors who should not be honor for attacking America so they could keep slaves. The Republican Party supports traitors by protecting the monuments of traitors. Protecting the monuments of traitor’s means in some way you support what the people who committed treason against America did. We should not honor traitors; honoring traitors gives the impression that you can commit treason against America and be honored. We should not honor the traitors who fought against our country that dishonors all the great Americans who have fought and died for our country.

“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol," he says.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday rebuffed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s calls for nearly a dozen Confederate statues to be removed from the Capitol, saying it was an attempt to “airbrush” history. “What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters, noting that a handful of former American presidents owned slaves. Each U.S. state sends two statues to the Capitol building, and they can be switched out at any time. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said seven states are in the process of removing certain statues from the Capitol. But last week, amid a nationwide reckoning over continued racial injustices highlighted by police killings of unarmed African Americans, Pelosi demanded that 11 Confederate statues be immediately removed. “While I believe it is imperative that we never forget our history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country,” Pelosi wrote. - The Republican Party is on the wrong side of history. Confederates were traitors; the Republican Party supports traitors by protecting the monuments of traitors. Protecting the monuments of traitor’s means in some way you support what the people who committed treason against America did. We should not honor traitors; honoring traitors gives the impression that you can commit treason against America and be honored. We should not honor the traitors who fought against our country that dishonors all the great Americans who have fought and died for our country.

The Wisconsin Republican is playing a major role in pushing Trump's sought after probes.

Sen. Ron Johnson wouldn’t appear to be one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies at first glance. The Wisconsin Republican doesn’t flood the airwaves to defend the president. He isn’t a fixture in the conservative media world, and he hasn’t seen his political stock boosted by a barrage of tweets and retweets from the president. In 2018, he even criticized Trump’s mix of tariffs and bailouts as a “Soviet-style economy.” But Johnson, the chairman of the Senate’s chief oversight body, is playing a major role in advancing a key theme of the president’s reelection bid — that he and his associates were targeted unfairly by the outgoing Obama administration. He is also investigating corruption allegations involving Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic presidential nominee, stemming from the younger Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Trump and congressional Republicans have claimed the former vice president sought to shield his son from a Ukrainian-led investigation into Burisma — though Biden denies the allegation. In both instances, Democrats have accused Johnson of abusing his power, misusing the Senate’s oversight resources to boost Trump’s political prospects, and even operating a Russian disinformation front that jeopardizes U.S. election security — all serious allegations, even in today’s hyperpartisan Senate. But Johnson insists it’s just the opposite.

Donald Trump and his followers want "order," but they have zero respect for the law. Maybe America sees that now
By David Masciotra

Mark Twain's instruction to curious residents of Freedom Central is, by now, familiar: "If you want to see the dregs of society, go down to the jail and watch the changing of the guard." There is little doubt that the corrections officer who beats and torments the inmates under his supervision would use the phrase "law and order" as a defense for his own lawlessness. Almost any usage of that loaded term in American civic discourse serves as qualification for membership in a diner's club of hell. Donald Trump, the latest political demagogue to employ the term as a rhetorical bludgeon against peaceful protesters, can look forward to sitting alongside Sen. Joseph McCarthy, former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who ordered police to attack political demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention, Richard Nixon and many foreign dictators in the annals of history — and if there is an afterlife, in the middle of the inferno. Beyond the term's dark history and utility, there is also the rarely discussed fiction it is meant to disguise. In fact, the United States is one of the least lawful societies in the developed world, and that the bulletproof bullies who scream about "law and order" are typically society's most committed enablers of criminality and corruption. The police lynching of George Floyd provoked widespread denunciation, with even ghouls like Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell condemning the individual officers responsible for the death. What they do not want to acknowledge is the continuation of not only systemic racism within criminal justice, but also a culture of crime. Pundits on the American right delight in reciting the bromide, "a few bad apples," as if they coined it, but they have seemingly forgotten the full cliché: "One bad apple spoils the bunch." One need look no further than Buffalo, New York, to observe how the mold of a single fruit will soon spread to the rest. When two sadists in uniform shoved an elderly man to the ground for the crime of approaching them, causing him a critical head injury, their fellow cops made no attempt to help the victim. After the city of Buffalo suspended the perpetrators and charged them with assault, 57 officers resigned from the Emergency Response Team in support of their "brothers" whose version of "law and order" includes inflicting random violence on unarmed senior citizens.

The subpoenas are part of a GOP-led investigation into the genesis of the Russia probe and Robert Mueller’s appointment.

Senate Republicans are ramping up their investigations into President Donald Trump’s foes. In a party-line vote Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to issue a broad range of subpoenas to a slew of former Obama administration officials who opened or were involved in the counterintelligence investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It’s part of a GOP-led investigation into the genesis of the Russia probe and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment — a probe that that President Donald Trump has long sought, particularly as he seeks retribution after his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial. The subpoenas target former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others. Graham has said he plans to seek testimony from Mueller himself, “or an appropriate designee.” - Republican are at it again. Republican have to cheat to win they use voter suppression and fake scandals to get votes and drive down support for democrats.

By Don Winslow

Voting is an American citizen’s most basic and inalienable right, the absolute foundation of our republic. It’s simple – no fair election, no democracy. That’s just what this administration and its cohorts in too many states want – to kill our democracy by suppressing the vote. Sadly, one of those states is Georgia. Yesterday’s election was a disgraceful travesty. Impossibly long lines, inoperable machines, understaffed voting sites, unavailable absentee ballots and a myriad of other problems caused a chaotic, uncertain, and unfair election. To the surprise of no one, these problems were most acute for African-American voters. Whether it’s the deliberate culling of the voter rolls, as Governor Kemp did to steal the 2018 gubernatorial election from Stacey Abrams, or the blazing – and I think, deliberate – incompetence that was on brutal display in yesterday’s election, the intent is the same. The entrenched powers-that-be know that they will be defeated if all eligible voters get to cast their ballots. This is true in Georgia, it is true nation-wide. Kemp knows that, Barr knows that, and Trump knows that. They know they can’t win fairly, so they cheat. Let’s don’t be naïve – while there were problems voting in both traditionally Republican and Democratic precincts in Georgia, the worst problems were in areas where the majority of eligible voters were African-American. Voting in white precincts generally took minutes, in black districts it generally took hours.

Voting rights advocates worry the effort will target and intimidate minority voters.
By Jane C. Timm

Republicans are recruiting an estimated 50,000 volunteers to act as "poll watchers" in November, part of a multimillion-dollar effort to police who votes and how. That effort, coordinated by the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, includes a $20 million fund for legal battles as well as the GOP's first national poll-patrol operation in nearly 40 years. While poll watching is an ordinary part of elections — both parties do it — voting rights advocates worry that such a moneyed, large-scale offensive by the Republicans will intimidate and target minority voters who tend to vote Democratic and chill turnout in a pivotal contest already upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Some states allow poll monitors to challenge a voter's eligibility, requiring that person's ballot undergo additional vetting to be counted. In Michigan, for example, a challenged voter will be removed from line and questioned about their citizenship, age, residency and date of voter registration if, according to election rules, a vote challenger has "good reason" to believe they are not eligible. They are required to take an oath attesting that their answers are true and are given a special ballot.

Gov. Greg Abbott called on two Republican county chairs in Bexar and Nueces counties to resign after they shared a racist conspiracy theory about George Floyd's death. The post was also was shared by the GOP chairs in Comal and Harrison counties.
by Patrick Svitek

Meanwhile, the GOP chairman-elect in Harris County, Keith Nielsen, posted an image on Facebook earlier this week that showed a Martin Luther King Jr. quote — "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" — on a background with a banana. The juxtaposition of the quote and the banana can be read as an allusion to equating black people with monkeys, a well-worn racist trope. Nielsen appears to have deleted the post and apparently addressed it on his Facebook page Thursday evening. On Friday he updated his comments to say he would not resign. "It is unfortunate that the sentiment of the quote and my admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been overshadowed by people's misinterpretation of an image," Nielsen wrote, calling for "racial reconciliation" in America. "My hope is I will continue to be part of the solution and never part of the problem." The Texas Tribune became aware of Nielsen's post after Abbott called for the resignation of the Bexar County and Nueces County chairs. Wittman could not immediately be reached for comment about the third post. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday morning denounced Nielsen's post and said he "should withdraw immediately from any further consideration as county chair."

"There is an overt effort here to erase white history," Sen. Amanda Chase said this week, prompting the Senate GOP caucus to call her words "idiotic, inappropriate and inflammatory."
By Erik Ortiz

A Republican state senator in Virginia known for courting controversy and who is running for governor in 2021 is facing backlash from members of her own party after she said that the removal of Confederate statues is an "overt effort to erase all white history." Sen. Amanda Chase, whose majority-white district is just west of the capital, Richmond, made related comments in a fundraising email and a video shared Wednesday on Facebook live — a day before Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced that statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee and four other Confederate leaders along Richmond's Monument Avenue will be dismantled. His decision came amid a longstanding debate about whether Confederate symbols should be taken down because they represent a racist legacy and a divided nation or if they have historical and cultural significance worth preserving. Following national unrest related to the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, cities like Birmingham and Mobile in Alabama moved swiftly to remove such statues.

Barr now has "federal troops" on the street in D.C. with no badges or insignia. There's a word for that
By Heather Digby Parton

Since becoming Donald Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr has given several speeches to police organizations. This is not unusual for someone in his position, but Barr's comments have often been controversial. Last December he made the outrageous comment that "communities" have to "start showing more than they do the respect and support that law enforcement deserves and if communities don't give that respect, they might find themselves without the protection they need." It was bad enough that it hit the evening news: Barr's overtly partisan behavior as attorney general has been well documented. He is the president's No. 1 henchman, and the most openly political AG in American history. His far-right views on religion and morality are also well-known. But despite his speeches like the one above, until this week I don't think it was well understood just how fully authoritarian Barr's worldview really is. He appears to believe that the title "attorney general" is an actual military designation that gives him the authority to command troops on the streets of the United States. It isn't. (It's actually a very old term in common law, reflecting the idea that someone may hold a "general power of attorney" to represent the state.) In a call with state governors on Monday, when Trump demanded they "dominate" their citizens and put protesters in jail for 10 years, one of his many threats was that he would unleash Barr and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Later that day Milley was seen wandering around outside the White House in battle fatigues as if he were about to launch an attack on Fallujah, but he and the rest of the military brass have since balked at Trump's stated desire to send in active-duty troops to "dominate" American cities.

By Manu Raju, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

(CNN) Top Republican senators are defending the use of police force to clear out peaceful protesters near the White House that allowed President Donald Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a church amid the continued unrest in the United States. The stunning move prompted a visceral reaction among Democrats, who likened Trump's actions to a dictator as they prepared legislation to condemn the use of force -- including tear gas and rubber bullets -- against Americans exercising their constitutional rights to protest. But Republicans -- for the most part -- aligned squarely with the President, saying it was his right to take such action given at times the violent protests that have occurred in the United States and the need for him to demonstrate that the country would not stand for the actions of looters and "anarchists." It was the latest indication of the deeply polarized environment on Capitol Hill amid one of the most tumultuous years in American history, with the two parties at sharp odds over the President's stewardship of the multiple crises facing the country and violent protests in cities following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. - Once again Republicans show they are hypocrites and liars, if Obama did what Trump (Bunker boy) did Republicans would be crying about an abuse of power.


OAKLAND, Calif. — The Republican Party has thrown its full weight behind challenging California’s move to a mail-ballot November election during the coronavirus pandemic. A lawsuit from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party seeks to invalidate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that county election officials mail every registered California voter a ballot. While Newsom and California election overseers have said the switch is necessary to balance public health with civic participation, opponents argue that Newsom has overstepped his authority. The lawsuit argues that Newsom exceeded the limits of his powers by not seeking the consent of the state Legislature, accusing him of a “brazen power grab” that “was not authorized by state law” and transgressing the Constitution. Republicans in California and nationally have battled efforts to expand remote balloting for the November election, warning that mail ballots increase the risk of voter fraud. President Donald Trump has amplified that critique, including a string of Memorial Day weekend tweets, and additionally bemoaned mail ballots on the grounds that they disproportionately benefit Democrats. - Voter suppression is voter fraud, republicans have to suppress the vote to win.

'It's party over country, and they will do whatever they can to hold on to power'
By Andrew Feinberg - Washington DC

If you’ve paid any attention to the news over the past few days, you might come away with the impression that Michigan is where President Donald Trump’s hopes for reelection will rise or fall on November 3. On Wednesday, the Great Lakes State was one of two he targeted with threats over election officials’ decision to mail absentee ballot request forms to every resident of that state. “Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” Trump tweeted that afternoon, having been shamed into deleting a previous tweet which falsely claimed that actual ballots had been mailed out. It’s not the first time Trump has made baseless assertions about the integrity of American elections. Since winning the 2016 election, he has made innumerable false claims about “voter fraud,” including suggesting that more than 3 million voters making up Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin of victory had voted “illegally”, as well as claims about nonexistent Democratic malfeasance during the 2018 midterms (in which the only documented case of absentee ballot fraud was committed by a North Carolina Republican candidate for Congress). And given Michigan’s importance as a potential source of electoral votes for former Vice President Joe Biden — Trump’s presumptive opponent — it’s no surprise that he’s a bit fixated on it. After all, Michigan is one of the three states that handed Trump electoral votes that had gone to Democratic candidates for decades, and in doing so delivered the presidency into his hands. It’s also one of the states into which his campaign is pouring inordinate amounts of effort and resources, in hopes of keeping enough Michiganders in his corner to equal — or improve — his 10,704 vote margin of victory from four years ago. Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who studies elections, said spurious claims about election results are par for the course for Trump. “This is a pattern that we've seen throughout his presidency where he, even after winning, wanted to throw down on the fact that he had lost the popular vote and made allegations about non-citizens voting that would explain why he had lost the popular vote,” McDonald said, though he took care to note that such allegations were “of course, completely unfounded”. He added that Trump appears to be engaged in “a similar pattern of throwing down on the electoral system, where it may either in the future or afterwards adversely affect him”. While McDonald noted that Trump and Republicans in Congress have little power to push back on election results once they have been certified and the electoral college has met, he suggested that the greater risk to a legitimate election comes not from Republicans in Washington making baseless claims about fraud in Michigan, but from those in a neighboring state with a notoriously gerrymandered legislature: Wisconsin.

What happened in Michigan this week was no "mistake." Infrastructure was privatized for profit, and it's crumbling
By Sophia Tesfaye

President Trump spent another week feuding with a Democratic governor, this time as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer dealt with historic levels of rainfall which led to the collapse of a pair of privately-owned dams in the state. Instead of momentarily pausing his politics of petty revenge, Trump made matters worse, as is his wont. The president diverted already strained resources for a campaign stop in Michigan that doubled as a political stunt, advertising his personal refusal to wear a mask, even in settings where everyone else is required to. Trump's antagonistic rhetoric towards a state that is facing multiple life-or-death crises at the same time was widely criticized. But what he did more quietly this week reveals just how vulnerable his deregulatory actions have left America. In a move strikingly reminiscent of the Ukraine scandal, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to threaten to withhold federal funding from Michigan, even as floodwaters from the two breached dams forced thousands of residents of the city of Midland to flee their homes. Trump's apparent goal was to coerce Michigan officials not to send vote-by-mail applications to the state's 7.7 million registered voters. As usual, the president was unclear about exactly what funding he had in mind. Hours later he sent another tweet claiming that his administration had already activated military and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response teams but said Gov. Whitmer "must now 'set you free' to help." Whitmer said at a news briefing on Tuesday that she had already contacted federal officials for help and activated the National Guard. Once again, nobody really knows what Trump was talking about. Nevertheless, the salient point here is that the president of the United States, after witnessing the flooding of an entire region amid a major public health crisis, was to suggest, in public, that the government and people of Michigan owed him something in exchange for federal aid. Trump then traveled to a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday and offered this explanation for the failure of the privately-owned dams: "Perhaps there was a mistake." Like many disasters, the beginnings of the Michigan dam failures are far removed in time from the actual event, so this event can hardly be described as a mistake. All indications are that this week's historic flooding was caused by years of neglect and mismanagement of a public good that was co-opted for private profit. It doesn't help that the headquarters of Dow Chemical, including a Superfund site with known cancer-causing chemicals, is directly downstream of all this floodwater.

Republicans will control a seat on the state Supreme Court for an extra two years.
By Ian Millhiser

The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat. But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands. On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.

The scheme, briefly explained
In late February, just a few days before the deadline for candidates to file to run to replace Justice Blackwell was about to expire, Blackwell sent a letter to Kemp announcing that he intends to resign his seat, effective November 18. That means that Blackwell will leave office a few weeks before his term was set to expire on December 31. - Republicans have no shame they just stole an election and deprived American voters their right to vote.

A Missouri initiative would undo voters’ preference for nonpartisan legislative districts — and perhaps shift representation itself.
By David Daley

When Karl Rove laid out the Republican plan to win back power by weaponizing redistricting in a March 2010 op-ed, Democrats failed to pay proper attention. The vision set forth — called Redmap, short for the Redistricting Majority Project — proved simple yet revolutionary: In most states, legislatures control the decennial redistricting that follows the census. So in November 2010, Republicans invested tens of millions of dollars in these ordinarily sleepy local races and swept elections. Through gerrymandering, they drew themselves huge advantages in Congress and state capitals, firewalls that have allowed Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and elsewhere to survive wave elections in which Democratic state legislative candidates won hundreds of thousands more votes. It’s a census-year election again, and this time both sides understand the stakes. Democrats know down-ballot elections this fall are the last opportunity to close the redistricting gap before next decade’s maps are drawn. Republicans appear to have a different strategy for 2020 — subtler, more technical and instructed by successful legal challenges that overturned Republican-drawn maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Last week, Republicans in Missouri presented a dress rehearsal of this plan. If left unchallenged, it could once again dye many states red for a decade or more. In 2018, nonpartisan movements in five states, including Missouri, won redistricting reform via ballot initiative. (Oregon, Oklahoma and Arkansas are attempting to follow suit.) So last week, Missouri lawmakers looked to dismantle the initiative — called Clean Missouri and supported by 62 percent of the state’s voters — that would have taken mapmaking authority away from politicians and handed it to a nonpartisan state demographer. If Republicans have their way, that demographer won’t draw a single line and control over maps will be returned to a commission of party insiders.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Republicans issued their first subpoena on Wednesday as part of wide-ranging investigations tied to the Obama administration. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted along party lines to issue a subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm with ties to Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the panel, has homed in on the U.S. firm as he probes Hunter Biden's work for Burisma Holdings, where Biden — the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee — was a member of the board until he stepped down in 2019. The subpoena asks for records from Jan. 1, 2013, to the present of Blue Star Strategies "related to work for or on behalf of Burisma Holdings or individuals associated with Burisma." Johnson is also requesting an interview with top Blue Star officials to discuss the subpoena. "This is not my choice to spend any amount of time on this vote. I would have issued the subpoenas quietly," Johnson said. - Republicans continue to protect Donald J. Trump and refuse to investigate Donald J. Trump who is a criminal who has violated our laws on more than one occasion.

By Marik von Rennenkampff, Opinion Contributor

Republicans and right-wing media are in a conspiracy theory-spewing meltdown. In the wake of selective, politically motivated “leaks” of sensitive documents, conservative pundits are launching an avalanche of baseless attacks against President Trump’s political opponents. But the reality is brutally obvious: Trump is weaponizing the American government to distract from his catastrophically incompetent pandemic response and the crushing economic fallout. While right-wing media continue to whip their audiences into hysteria over a nefarious Obama-led plot to undermine Trump, the documents — strategically released by Trump’s political lackeys atop the intelligence and law enforcement communities — do absolutely nothing to further such asinine conspiracy theories. In fact, they prove the opposite. The recently disclosed files show the Obama administration’s diligence and focus in the wake of Russia’s sweeping assault on American democracy. Moreover, contrary to unhinged right-wing conspiracy-mongering, the materials demonstrate Obama’s dedication to upholding the FBI’s independence from improper political influence. In short, Trump’s election-year ploy to distract the American public with selective leaks of sensitive information backfired. Spectacularly so. Well-documented exceptions aside, the files also show that the Comey-led FBI deftly steered a sensitive counterintelligence investigation amid nightmarish political circumstances. The FBI — rightly — opened counterintelligence investigations into several Trump campaign officials following a litany of Trump World contacts with shady Russian intelligence cutouts; these meetings coincided, naturally, with Moscow’s brazen campaign to swing the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

But the GOP has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
By Ian Millhiser

Wisconsin’s April 7 election could have been a disaster for voting rights. Election officials received four or five times more absentee ballot requests than they normally do in a spring election. Milwaukee closed all but five of its 180 polling locations, in large part because it struggled to find poll workers during a pandemic. And, on top of all that, Republicans in the state legislature, on the state Supreme Court, and on the Supreme Court of the United States all thwarted efforts to make sure voters would not be disenfranchised by the unique challenges presented by an election held when most voters were stuck at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Yet a report by the Wisconsin Elections Commission suggests the election went much better than it could have. The overwhelming majority of voters who wanted to vote absentee were able to do so. And it is likely that only a small percentage of voters were disenfranchised by a US Supreme Court decision backing the Republican Party’s effort to make it harder to cast a ballot. The report, in other words, suggests that a sophisticated and multi-front effort by Republicans to prevent many Wisconsinites from casting a ballot achieved very limited results. That’s not a reason for voting rights advocates to relax. Turnout is likely to be much higher in the November general election than it was in Wisconsin’s spring election, so election officials could still be overwhelmed by ballot requests in November. Republicans also have a $20 million legal war chest that they can use to obtain court orders limiting the franchise.

The North Carolina senator holds numerous investments in firms regulated by the committees on which he sits.

The insider trading investigation stemming from Sen. Richard Burr’s sale of stocks ahead of the coronavirus pandemic highlights the North Carolina Republican’s long record of investing in companies with business before his committees, according to a POLITICO review of eight years of his trades. While Burr sat on committees focused on health care, taxes and trade, he and his wife bought and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in an array of health care companies, banks and corporations with business overseas. At times, Burr owned stock in companies whose specific industries he advanced through legislation. Those trades are entirely legal, as long as he can prove that he didn’t act on private information. But the co-mingling of legislative responsibilities and personal financial dealings has long worried ethics specialists, who insist that such trading amounts to a serious conflict of interest, even if it doesn’t reach the level of insider trading. “Maybe the bottom line is, if you’re going to be in the Senate you can’t own any stock. Or at least own mutual funds. Who knows, people could say you’re gaming an index fund,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told POLITICO this week. In 2017, Burr traded stock in two companies that make medical devices, Zimmer Biomet and Philips, while introducing bills to repeal the medical device tax and working to repeal Obamacare. He invested in financial institutions including the Bank of New York Mellon and U.S. Bank, which are regulated by the Senate Finance Committee, on which he sits. As the finance committee debated the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Burr held stock in multinational conglomerate Kimberly-Clark, owner of Kleenex, which owns brands in Mexico. As tensions rose in 2019 with China, he picked up stock in 3M, another multinational whose purchases and sales with China were affected by President Donald Trump’s tariffs, which also fall under the finance committee's jurisdiction.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded Thursday night that he was wrong to claim that the Obama administration had not left behind a plan to deal with a pandemic in the US. "I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan, so I clearly made a mistake in that regard," McConnell said during an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. The concession comes days after he falsely accused the Obama administration of failing to leave the Trump administration "any kind of game plan" for something like the coronavirus pandemic during a Trump campaign online chat with Lara Trump, the President's daughter-in-law. "They claim pandemics only happen once every hundred years but what if that's no longer true? We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this," McConnell had said Monday. In reality, former President Barrack Obama's White House National Security Council left the Trump administration a detailed document on how to respond to a pandemic. The document, whose existence was publicly revealed by Politico in March, is called the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents. The playbook contains step-by-step advice on questions to ask, decisions to make and which federal agencies are responsible for what. It includes sample documents that officials could use for inter-agency meetings. And it explicitly lists novel coronaviruses as one of the kinds of pathogens that could require a major response. Additionally, outgoing senior Obama officials also led an in-person pandemic response exercise for senior incoming Trump officials in January 2017 -- as required by a new law on improving presidential transitions that Obama signed in 2016.

By Christopher WilsonSenior Writer,Yahoo News

With more than 80,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump are trying to deflect blame to former President Barack Obama. In a dialogue with Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, live-streamed by the Trump campaign on Monday evening, McConnell said that Obama’s team, which exited office over three years ago,“did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like [the coronavirus pandemic].” Politico reported in March that the Obama National Security Council left its successors a document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.” It warned of potential problems like shortages in personal protective equipment that have plagued the nation’s response. The Trump administration neglected to implement its recommendations. “We literally left them a 69-page Pandemic Playbook.... that they ignored,” tweeted Ron Klain, who oversaw the Ebola response under Obama and now advises presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “And an office called the Pandemic Preparedness Office... that they abolished. And a global monitoring system called PREDICT .. that they cut by 75%.” “The maddening thing is Obama left them a WH office for pandemics, a literal playbook, a cabinet-level exercise, and a global infrastructure to deal with ‘something like this,’” tweeted former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes. - Mitch McConnell and the GOP think the American people are dumb of course, that excludes people who listen to Fox news or right wing media they will believe anything except the truth. Trump has been in office for three years and was giving a 69-page Pandemic Playbook that the Trump administration ignored. If Mitch McConnell wants to place the blame on someone, he needs to point to Donald J. Trump and the Trump administration.

Lawmakers are sending a new ballot proposal that would undo 2018 protections against manipulation of electoral maps
The fight to vote is supported by guardian.org
By Sam Levine

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, Missouri Republicans are seeking to undo a recent effort to make electoral districts in the state legislature more fair. Lawmakers are trying to gut a referendum voters embraced in 2018 that sought to prevent excessive gerrymandering, a process of manipulating electoral maps that Republicans have used to gain advantages throughout the country this decade. The 2018 measure, approved by 62% of Missouri voters, put a non-partisan demographer in charge of drawing districts, limiting partisan influence on the process. It also makes partisan fairness one of the top criteria the mapmaker must follow. It would likely weaken Republican control of the legislature, according to an Associated Press analysis. Now, Republicans are on the verge of sending a new ballot proposal to voters that would undo those protections. Their plan would eliminate the non-partisan demographer and return redistricting power to committees nominated by the political parties and selected by the governor. It makes partisan fairness the least important criteria to follow when drawing maps, instead prioritizing keeping communities compact. The proposal also makes it harder to get a gerrymandered map struck down in court. “The substance of what they’re trying to do has already been outrageous, and it’s incredible that they’re trying to move this attempt to overturn the will of the voters, when voters literally can’t participate in the process,” said Sean Soendker Nicholson, the campaign manager for Clean Missouri, the group behind the gerrymandering reform measure. The measure has already passed the state senate, and is awaiting a vote in the full House. If approved by 15 May, voters across the state would then choose whether to support it later this year. It is likely the last chance Republicans, who control the state legislature, have to undo the referendum before the once-a-decade redistricting takes place in 2021. If Republicans succeed, advocates worry it could serve as a model for weakening gerrymandering reform elsewhere. Voters in Michigan, Colorado and Utah all used ballot measures to pass gerrymandering reform in 2018. “If this moves forward in Missouri, we are a testing ground for them to be able to implement these systems elsewhere,” said Peter Merideth, a Democrat who represents St Louis in the state house. There is also deep concern the Republican proposal will open the door to redistricting in a way that will disadvantage minorities and non-citizens.

By Kevin Johnson - USA TODAY

It started almost immediately, with the roll-out of the Russia investigation. Before the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were made public a year ago, Attorney General William Barr declared that there was insufficient evidence to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice. A month later, Barr announced the appointment of a federal prosecutor to review the origins of Mueller’s investigation, adding to a startling assertion that the FBI had spied on the Trump campaign. When prosecutors in February recommended a stiff prison sentence for former Trump adviser Roger Stone – the last person charged in Mueller’s inquiry – Barr intervened again, prompting the dramatic withdraw of four department lawyers from case in protest. Justice's latest decision to abandon the prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, analysts said, adds yet a new chapter to the steady dismantling of Mueller’s work that had long threatened Trump’s presidency, while exposing Barr, yet again, to fresh recriminations of fueling a continuing politicization of Justice as a powerful annex of the White House. “The Department of Justice under Attorney General Bill Barr will likely be remembered as the most political Department of Justice in history,” said Jimmy Gurule, who once worked under Barr during the attorney general’s first stint at the department during the George H.W. Bush administration. "It deeply saddens me to witness the severe damage inflicted ... to the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.” David Weinstein, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Miami, said Justice's repeated interventions in the Mueller cases is "setting a pattern that I have never seen before." "Brick by brick, Barr is taking apart the house that Mueller built," Weinstein said. "And the only reasonable explanation for it is that the president wanted it to happen."

By Jordain Carney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans are hitting the brakes on another coronavirus relief bill even as House Democrats are preparing to vote on a yet-to-be-unveiled bill as soon as next week. "I think I can speak for our conference by saying we're not ruling that out, but we think we ought to take a pause here, do a good job of evaluating what we've already done," McConnell told reporters after a closed-door caucus lunch about the prospects for a new bill. "The Senate Republican majority and the president of the United States are not irrelevant to the process, so we're going to keep talking to each other and decide to act when and if it's appropriate to act again," McConnell added. McConnell's comments come as the Senate returned to D.C. for the first time in five weeks with nominations — not the coronavirus — at the forefront of the agenda, which has sparked days of Democratic ire. McConnell did not specify what he views as a timeline for any potential Senate action. The chamber is expected to be in session until a weeklong Memorial Day recess. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said he did not see this work period as a deadline for Congress passing additional legislation. "No, I don't think so," he said. "I think we need to think about whether or not what we continue to believe was the right thing to do in March is still going to be the right thing for us to be doing in June." Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), an adviser to McConnell, also told reporters that the next bill was likely weeks off.

By J. Edward Moreno

A federal judge is calling for an investigation to find out whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pressured a Washington, D.C., federal judge to retire so the senator could nominate judge Justin Walker, a 38-year-old Kentucky federal judge who was confirmed for his current role in October. Demand Justice, a progressive judicial watchdog group, requested a postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled hearing on the nomination of Walker. “The hearing on Walker’s nomination should not go forward until we know the truth about what ethical lines Mitch McConnell crossed to get Walker this seat," Demand Justice said in a statement. “McConnell should come clean about whether and when he contacted Judge Thomas Griffith prior to his sudden retirement.” On Friday, Sri Srinivasan, the chief justice of the court to which Walker has been nominated, issued a public order asking U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to transfer to another circuit after Demand Justice’s allegation. The New York Times has reported that McConnell has allegedly pressured judges to retire in time for President Trump to fill their vacancies this term. A spokesperson for McConnell’s office told The Hill that the senator, “looks forward to watching Judge Walker’s confirmation hearing this week.”

The message to workers is “endanger your life or starve,” critics say
By Tony Romm

Iowa, Oklahoma and other states reopening soon amid the coronavirus outbreak are issuing early warnings to their worried workers: Return to your jobs or risk losing unemployment benefits. The threats have been loudest among Republican leaders in recent days, reflecting their anxious attempts to jump-start local economic recovery roughly two months after most businesses shut their doors. In Iowa, for example, state officials even have posted a public call for companies to get in touch if an “employee refuses to return to work.” For some states, the concern is that residents who are offered their old jobs back simply may not accept them, choosing instead to continue tapping historically generous unemployment aid. The $2 trillion congressional coronavirus relief package signed by President Trump in March greatly added to weekly benefit checks for out-of-work Americans, and some people may be earning more than they did previously. Business leaders say they desperately need workers to return to stores, restaurants and other operations to stay afloat financially. Labor activists, however, contend the reality is far more complicated: Some now-unemployed Americans weren’t making much money in the first place, so they may not want to risk their safety just to return to underpaid old gigs. In the process, some states’ public comments have frustrated federal lawmakers, labor activists and public health officials, who say forcing workers to return so quickly might be dangerous — and could undermine the country’s response to the deadly pandemic. “These states are offering people the choice to endanger your life or starve,” said Damon A. Silvers, the director of policy and special counsel for the AFL-CIO. Generally, states have the legal right to revoke benefits if unemployed Americans are offered jobs comparable to their past positions yet decline to take them. In response to the novel coronavirus, regulators also have put in place special exemptions to protect people out of work because they’re sick or caring for family members diagnosed with covid-19. - It is not pro-life to send a person out to a possible death, another lie from the right exposed.

Maybe the judicial Obamacare wars are fading?
By Ian Millhiser

On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 8-1 to reject a Republican effort to sabotage parts of the Affordable Care Act. The upshot of this decision is that health insurers will receive payments owed to them under Obamacare’s “risk corridor” program. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s majority opinion in Maine Community Health Options v. United States, relies on “a principle as old as the Nation itself,” according to the opinion. That principle: “The Government should honor its obligations.” The vote in Maine Community was not close. Eight justices joined all or nearly all of Sotomayor’s opinion, leaving Justice Samuel Alito in a lonely dissent. That’s a bit of a surprising outcome given what was at stake in the case, which involved a $12 billion Republican scheme to sabotage Obamacare. And yet, after years of litigation seeking to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and after many more years of partisan rancor bitterly dividing the two major political parties on whether Obamacare should continue to exist, only Justice Alito was willing to endorse this particular effort to undercut President Obama’s primary legislative accomplishment. The other eight justices all agreed that the risk corridors program should be preserved.

Risk corridors, briefly explained
Insurance operates on a fairly basic model. People who fear some kind of unfortunate event agree to pay premiums to the insurer. If that event happens, the insurer pays at least some of the customer’s costs. This model necessarily involves risk for insurance companies. If they set premiums too high, they won’t be able to attract customers. But if they set premiums too low, an insurer can potentially be obligated to pay for costs that vastly exceed the amount of money they’ve brought in. For this reason, insurers are often reluctant to enter new markets because they might not know enough about that market to set the right premiums.

A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting shelter-in-place restrictions.
By Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins

Protests against state stay-at-home orders have attracted a wide range of fringe activists and ardent Trump supporters. They have also attracted a family of political activists whom some Republican lawmakers have called "scam artists." A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting the shelter-in-place restrictions, according to an NBC News analysis of Facebook groups and website registration information. The groups were set up by four brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew Dorr — and have amassed more than 200,000 members collectively, including in states where they don't reside, according to an NBC News analysis based on public records searches and Facebook group registrations. The Dorr brothers are known in conservative circles for running pro-gun and anti-abortion rights Facebook groups that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by antagonizing establishment conservative leaders and activists. Their usual method is to attack established conservative groups from the right, including the National Rifle Association, and then make money by selling memberships in their groups or selling mailing lists of those who sign up, according to some conservative politicians and activists who have labeled the efforts as scams. The Washington Post first reported on the Dorrs' role in the events. The pages are just part of the more than 100 state-specific Facebook groups that have been created in the last two weeks to protest the stay-at-home orders, according to an unpublished analysis by First Draft, an organization that researches disinformation. The pages have organized at least 49 different events. Most of the groups are similarly named, and they have attracted more than 900,000 members in total. The Dorrs' pages, however, follow a particularly uniform naming system, according to information openly available on Facebook. A Dorr brother created or is an administrator for the groups Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine, Minnesotans Against Excessive Quarantine and Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine.

But there are good reasons to believe it will end as soon as the next Democrat wins the presidency.

Crises nearly always create political upheaval. In recent history the catastrophes of 9/11 and the Great Recession both defined American politics for the decade that came after each event. The crisis of Covid-19, which has already killed far more Americans than the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were waged in response, seems likely to have a similar effect. And while the political impact of a deadly pandemic is by no means the most important question of the moment, the Trump administration’s embrace of a massive government intervention to cushion the economic impact of our national self-quarantine has intensified a debate on the right about Republicans and the role of government. Anyone who watched the 2009 stimulus debate has to be flabbergasted by the Republican response in 2020. Back then, President Barack Obama struggled to pass a $900 billion bill even as his top economists believed the country needed a package several times that size. The Obama stimulus received no Republican votes in the House and three Republican votes in the Senate, including Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, who soon joined the Democratic Party. Congressional Republicans in 2020 have embraced $2 trillion — and counting — in stimulus with almost no resistance. Thomas Massie, the one House Republican who loudly questioned the initial package, was nuked by Trump in a tweet and the legislation passed with a voice vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. In 2020, the economic libertarians who once defined conservatism have disappeared. Instead the most interesting debate is among Republican policymakers crafting large-scale programs to get government checks into the hands of economically disenfranchised people as quickly as possible. The two most notable politicians crafting stimulus policy for Trump to sign are Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Before the coronavirus crisis, both senators had taken stabs at articulating a new kind of policy populism for the GOP that was self-consciously anti-libertarian, skeptical of big business, and more comfortable with big government. When the economy started crashing in March, Rubio, the chairman of the Small Business Committee, helped dream up the massive Paycheck Protection Program, which has the government shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars out the door every month. Hawley, who is only 40 years old and was elected in 2018, wanted — and wants — something even more expansive: a program that would pay businesses to keep their workers on the payrolls.

by Caitlin Yilek
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s apparent lack of enthusiasm to combat Russian interference in the 2016 election changed spy chief James Clapper’s opinion of the top Republican. According to David Rohde’s recently published book, In Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth about America’s “Deep State," McConnell repeatedly told the Obama administration he did not have time to be briefed on Russian interference. In late summer 2016, President Barack Obama asked intelligence officials to brief the four top Democrats and Republicans in Congress on the election meddling before it became public. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quickly received the briefings, the book said. “When Clapper called McConnell to set up the briefing, he did not respond. McConnell finally received the briefing in early September,” Rohde wrote. Clapper, the director of national intelligence from 2010 to January 2017, said he was surprised that some Republicans, particularly McConnell, did not take election interference more seriously. “All the previous dealings I had with McConnell, I thought he was a patriot, he cared about the country,” Clapper told Rohde. “But for whatever reason, we were on two different planets when it came to this Russia deal.” When Clapper and a handful of other intelligence officials briefed lawmakers again in January 2017 on Russian interference, McConnell was quiet. “He was very dour. He didn’t ask any questions,” Clapper said. “Ryan asked a couple questions. Richard Burr, he asked a couple questions and evinced that he was interested. Senator McConnell not so much.”

The Senate majority leader is prioritizing the Republican Party rather than the American people during this crisis.
By David Frum

American states are abruptly facing their worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than 25 percent of state revenues have evaporated because of the pandemic. Demands on state health-care budgets, state unemployment systems, and state social-welfare benefits are surging. By the summer of 2022, the state budget gap could total half a trillion dollars. States need help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want to provide it. On The Hugh Hewitt Show on April 23, McConnell proposed another idea. Instead of more federal aid, states should cut their spending by declaring bankruptcy: I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” McConnell expanded on the state-bankruptcy concept later that same day in a phone interview with Fox News’s Bill Hemmer: We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they've made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past. McConnell’s words instantly attracted attention, criticism, even some derision. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted the idea as “dumb,” “irresponsible,” and “petty”: How do you think this is going to work? And then to suggest we’re concerned about the economy, states should declare bankruptcy. That’s how you’re going to bring this national economy back? By states declaring bankruptcy? You want to see that market fall through the cellar? … I mean, if there’s ever a time for humanity and decency, now is the time. Cuomo’s fervent rebuttal grabbed the cameras. It did not settle the issue. State bankruptcy is not some passing fancy. Republicans have been advancing the idea for more than a decade. Back in 2011, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich published a jointly bylined op-ed advocating state bankruptcy as a solution for the state of California. The Tea Party Congress elected in 2010 explored the idea of state bankruptcy in House hearings and Senate debates. Newt Gingrich promoted it in his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. - Mitch McConnell is not suggesting businesses go bankrupt, but does suggest states to go bankrupt, while he protects businesses and the rich.

We’ve reached a level of dystopia that I’m not sure even Margaret Atwood could have imagined.
By Arwa Mahdawi

Rightwing protesters in handmaid’s costumes are taking gaslighting to a new level
The shapeless scarlet cloaks and oversized white bonnets have become a familiar sight at protests around the world. From pro-choice demonstrations in Belfast to women’s rights marches in Buenos Aires, the clothes worn by Margaret Atwood’s handmaids in her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale have become a striking symbol of female defiance. Now it seems the handmaid’s uniform has taken on a newly dystopian dimension: the outfit has been appropriated by Trump-supporting protesters at the anti-quarantine rallies that have been spreading across America. These rallies, orchestrated by a network of far right and extremist groups, have also seen rightwingers hold up signs with pro-choice slogans like “my body, my choice”. Do these protesters not understand the irony here? Do they not understand how hypocritical it is to fight against a woman’s right to choose while simultaneously fighting for their own right to do whatever they like? Do they not understand how you can not possibly be “pro-life” if you’re flouting lockdown laws to participate in dense protests that could cause a surge in coronavirus cases? It’s always been clear than anti-abortion extremists aren’t actually pro-life, they’re just pro-controlling women. They have always been shamelessly hypocritical. However, their hypocrisy has become particularly brazen during the coronavirus crisis. On Monday, for example, Dan Patrick, the virulently “pro-life” lieutenant governor of Texas, called for the reopening of the country, saying there are “more important things than living”. This is the same guy, by the way, who went on Fox News last month and said “lots of grandparents” would rather die than see the US economy suffer. This is the same guy who suggested senior citizens ought to “take a chance on … survival” for the good of the Dow Jones. This is the same guy who seems to see no disconnect between sacrificing old people and sermonizing about the rights of foetuses. - The rabbit right has shown its true colors they are not pro-life they are just against a women right to choose. The rabbit right is putting people’s lives at risk. If they really cared about the right to life then that would not willing to put people’s lives at risk.

Experts across the board insist that household cleaners should not be used internally on humans.
By Cody Fenwick

Facing a barrage of fact-checks, criticism, and mockery, President Donald Trump and his defenders are trying to make excuses for his absurd and dangerous suggestion on Thursday that injecting people with disinfectants might help fight COVID-19. To be 100 percent clear: There's no reason to think this would work, and it is an even potentially fatal idea. Experts across the board insist that household cleaners should not be used internally on humans. Because this is an obvious fact, Trump and his supporters are desperate to find an excuse for his dangerous suggestion. And unfortunately for them, two of the excuses they've already offered are contradictory. To review, here's what Trump actually said:

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out, in a minute. One minute. Is there a way we can do something like that? By injection, inside, or almost a cleaning, 'cause you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. You're going to have to use medical doctors, right? But it sounds interesting to me.

These remarks came after a discussion of a recent study on sunlight and disinfectants' abilities to kill the virus on surfaces, outside of the body. Before discussing disinfectants, Trump also preposterously speculated that light could somehow be used externally or internally on the human body to treat COVID-19, which Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, dismissed. Watch the remarks below:

After hearing presentation President Trump suggests irradiating people's bodies with UV light or injecting them with bleach or alcohol to deal with COVID19. pic.twitter.com/cohkLyyl9G — Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 23, 2020

If you watch the remarks, there's really no ambiguity about what Trump is saying. He's trying to extrapolate from studies about effective methods of cleaning the virus in the environment to treating humans who are infected. It's a frankly childish understanding of medicine, but he presented it as a fascinating possibility — and on national TV, no less, where some vulnerable and susceptible viewers may actually take his claims seriously. So how could one possibly defend these remarks? Breitbart, a far-right website that closely aligns itself with the president, took a widely mocked stab at offering an excuse in the form of "fact check":

CLAIM: President Donald Trump suggested injecting people with disinfectant to cure coronavirus.

VERDICT: False. Trump was speaking generally about new information about sunlight, heat, and disinfectant killing the virus.

This is not so. As the clip shows, Trump was talking about using this information as a possible basis for testing potential treatments of COVID-19.

Donald J. Trump:

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