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GOP Watch Keeping an Eye on Republicans for You - Page 19

“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.

Democrats say the GOP tried to "loot American taxpayers" to "reward ultra-rich beneficiaries" like "Trump's family"
By Igor Derysh

Republican lawmakers used the coronavirus relief bill to give millionaires a tax break they failed to include in the 2017 tax cut bill. The 2017 Republican tax cut imposed restrictions on how much owners of "pass-through" businesses, or companies in which the owner pays an individual income tax on profits rather than the corporate income tax, can deduct against non-business income, such as capital gains. The bill set a $250,000 cap on losses that can be deducted. But right-wing think tanks and some lawmakers complained about the cap, and Senate Republicans snuck a provision into the coronavirus relief bill last month to suspend the limits, The Washington Post reports. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), a nonpartisan congressional agency, estimates that more than 80% of the benefits of the tax change will benefit those who earn more than $1 million per year. The suspension is expected to cost about $90 billion this year alone and is part of a larger set of tax changes expected to add $170 billion to the national deficit over the next decade, according to the JCT.

By Daniel Villarreal

Senate Republicans' negotiations over a $1.6 trillion coronavirus stimulus package have reached an impasse partly due a Republican opposition to a Democratic proposal to provide additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program that provides low-income individuals and families with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that works like a debit card for purchasing food in local stores. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the program, said that requests for emergency food benefits went up by $2 billion last month as more than 22 million Americans found themselves unemployed due to the ongoing epidemic. Before the epidemic began, SNAP cost the federal government $4.5 billion to fund each month. The federal government funded last month's $2 billion increase to SNAP through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 18. The law also gave states the flexibility to expand SNAP benefits for recipients during the epidemic. However, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus bill signed by Trump on March 27 lacked any SNAP benefit increases. - Republicans will help business but are not as willing to help the American people.

Blocking federal aid is vile, but it’s also hypocritical.
By Paul Krugman

Covid-19 has killed tens of thousands of Americans, and will clearly kill many more. The lockdown needed to contain the coronavirus is causing an economic slump several times as deep as the Great Recession. Yet this necessary slump doesn’t have to be accompanied by severe financial hardship. We have the resources to ensure that every American has enough to eat, that people don’t lose health insurance, that they don’t lose their homes because they can’t pay rent or mortgage fees. There’s also no reason we should see punishing cuts in essential public services. Unfortunately, it’s looking increasingly likely that tens of millions of Americans will in fact suffer extreme hardship and that there will be devastating cuts in services. Why? The answer mainly boils down to two words: Mitch McConnell. On Wednesday, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, declared that he is opposed to any further federal aid to beleaguered state and local governments, and suggested that states declare bankruptcy instead. Lest anyone accuse McConnell of being even slightly nonpartisan, his office distributed two memos referring to proposals for state aid as “blue state bailouts.” A number of governors have already denounced McConnell’s position as stupid, which it is. But it’s also vile and hypocritical. When I say that we have the resources to avoid severe financial hardship, I’m referring to the federal government, which can borrow vast sums very cheaply. In fact, the interest rate on inflation-protected bonds, which measure real borrowing costs, is minus 0.43 percent: Investors are basically paying the feds to hold their money. So Washington can and should run big budget deficits in this time of need. State and local governments, however, can’t, because almost all of them are required by law to run balanced budgets. Yet these governments, which are on the front line of dealing with the pandemic, are facing a combination of collapsing revenue and soaring expenses. The obvious answer is federal aid. But McConnell wants states and cities to declare bankruptcy instead. This is, as I said, stupid on multiple levels. For one thing, states don’t even have the legal right to declare bankruptcy; even if they somehow managed all the same to default on their relatively small debts, it would do little to alleviate their financial distress — although it could cause a national financial crisis. Oh, and the idea that this is specifically a blue state problem is ludicrous. Fiscal crises are looming all across America, from Florida to Kansas to Texas — hit especially hard by crashing oil prices — to, yes, McConnell’s home state, Kentucky.

By Kevin Breuninger, Jacob Pramuk

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tore into Sen. Mitch McConnell on Thursday over the Senate Republican leader’s support for letting states declare bankruptcy as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. “This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said during a press conference in Albany. “You will see a collapse of this national economy” if states such as New York and California declare bankruptcy, Cuomo said. “So just don’t.” On Wednesday, McConnell, of Kentucky, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he supports allowing states to declare bankruptcy rather than getting federal money to cover budget shortfalls as tax revenue dives. “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” McConnell said. “It saves some cities, and there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” McConnell said of state leaders: “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.” Cuomo, whose state has been hit harder by Covid-19 than anywhere else in the U.S., strongly disagreed. “The entire nation is dependent on what the governors do to reopen,” Cuomo said at the press conference. “But then you’re not going to fund the state government? You think I’m going to do it alone? How do you think this is going to work?” “You want to see that market fall through the cellar? Let New York declare bankruptcy,” Cuomo added.

By Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a hard line Wednesday against more funding for state and local governments in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, saying that Republicans are not interested in "revenue replacement for state governments" or "solving their pension problems." McConnell's tough words came a day after the Senate approved a $484 billion bill to help small businesses and hospitals respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure did not include funds for state and local governments, despite Democrats arguing they are hard hit by the disease and the corresponding economic fallout. Instead, McConnell suggested in interviews Wednesday that Democrats are trying to get the federal government to essentially bail out state and local governments for bad decisions they made related to public pension obligations and other sources of expensive debt. "I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route," McConnell told Hugh Hewitt in a radio interview. "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." Republican Rep. Pete King of New York slammed McConnell's comments Wednesday night, tweeting that his "dismissive remark" is "shameful and indefensible." "To say that it is 'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate," King wrote. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also slammed McConnell's remarks Wednesday, calling it "one of the dumb statements of all time." "Mitch McConnell, they're talking about bringing back the economy and then he says states should declare bankruptcy. How does that help the national economy, states should declare bankruptcy?" he told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Cuomo Prime Time." He added, "he then says this is a bailout to the blue states, which was a really offensive statement." On the politics, McConnell said he expects the "finger pointing" over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak to pick up as the election nears. - Mitch McConnell is ok with states going bankrupt while he protects the rich and businesses. Mitch McConnell is more than happy to give our tax dollars to rich and to businesses, but not to states that employ teachers, firefighters and police officers. Mitch McConnell and the GOP do not want to give money to the ones who teach our children; protect our homes, our business and our families.

The Senate majority leader is resisting a top demand from Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday insisted that flailing state and local governments should be able to “use the bankruptcy route” rather than receive aid from the federal government — signaling renewed opposition to a top Democratic demand for the next coronavirus relief package. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Kentucky Republican also expressed concern about adding billions more to the national debt in addition to the nearly $3 trillion Congress has already sent out the door to combat the economic and public health challenges of the pandemic. “There’s no good reason for it not to be available,” McConnell said of individual localities declaring bankruptcy in order to stay afloat. “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,” McConnell added. “That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” States do not have the ability to declare bankruptcy under current law, and modifying the bankruptcy code would likely be a heavy lift in Congress. The Senate on Tuesday passed a nearly $500 billion “interim” package that included additional funding for a popular small-business loan program, hospitals, and expanded coronavirus testing. During the negotiations, Democrats had demanded billions more for state and local governments, citing requests from Democratic and Republican governors alike. McConnell’s office referred to such funding as “blue state bailouts” in a news release earlier Wednesday, further underscoring that there remains broad GOP opposition to such cash infusions. And McConnell himself said it was no surprise that governors, regardless of political party, “would love to have free money.”

McConnell cited concern for the national debt, saying "until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem."
By Allan Smith and Julie Tsirkin

State and local governments facing dire financial straits because of the pandemic will have to wait until at least May before Congress considers further relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated. The House is set to vote Thursday on an interim round of coronavirus aid aimed at small businesses, and while Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to shore up state and local budgets, the money didn't make it into the final bill because of objections from Republicans and the Trump administration. After the Senate passed the bill Tuesday by voice vote, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, predicted that future relief efforts would not be afforded such expeditious proceedings, citing concerns about the national debt and adding that "until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem." He made clear that all lawmakers would have to be back in Washington before debating further rescue funds, including for state and local governments. "I think the next debate, which I assume will relate to state and local government relief, needs to be when the Senate is back in session with full participation," McConnell said in response to a question about when he would be open to supporting the next phase of the funding Democrats had wanted to include in the interim package. "And in the meantime, also take a look at how much debt we've racked up and not try to wave something through the Senate, of that consequence, without full participation." The Senate is not expected to return before May 4. Across the country, state and local governments are clamoring for the federal government to rescue them from what could quickly become a fiscal catastrophe, saying that they may need as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars as the pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources. Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to state and local governments in the aid package set for passage, though it was not ultimately included. Already, Congress approved $150 billion in funding for state and local governments as part of earlier coronavirus legislative aid — assistance governors and local leaders said would ultimately not be enough. A Congressional Research Service report last week on initial coronavirus aid said that "early evidence suggests that the COVID-19 economic shock will have a notable impact on state and local budgets," pointing to the "sizable share of economic output" that derives from state and local governments. Bipartisan leadership of the National Governors Association called for $500 billion in aid to state governments to account for budget shortfalls, while counties and mayors have called for an additional $250 billion in emergency relief. On Monday, Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., unveiled a legislative proposal for $500 billion in state and local funding.

By Steven T. Dennis and William Selway

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he favors allowing states struggling with high public employee pension costs amid the burdens of the pandemic response to declare bankruptcy rather than giving them a federal bailout. “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he said Wednesday in a response to a question on the syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show. “It’s saved some cities, and there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” The host cited California, Illinois and Connecticut as states that had given too much to public employee unions, and McConnell said he was reluctant to take on more debt for any rescue. “You raised yourself the important issue of what states have done, many of them have done to themselves with their pension programs,” he said. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.” His statements set up a conflict with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said on Bloomberg Television Wednesday a “major package” of aid for state and local government will be in the next stimulus legislation considered by Congress. McConnell may also find himself in conflict with President Donald Trump. The president said Tuesday after meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that states will need assistance. “And I think most Republicans agree too, and Democrats,” Trump said. “And that’s part of phase four.” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, noted he blocked additional state and local aid in the latest relief package, which passed the Senate Tuesday and is set for a vote Thursday in the House.

by Mike Brest

Investigative journalist John Solomon clarified an update he reported last week on U.S. Attorney John Durham's review of the Russia investigation. During an interview with Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, Solomon said that over "this week — the last couple weeks ... some criminal investigative activity" indicated there "could be a handful of indictments and much more information." Dobbs's verified Twitter account promoted Solomon's reporting as him saying indictments could come last week. A Monday blog post on Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett's personal website said, "Russia Spygate Indictments Coming ‘This Week.’" That piece was later shared on Twitter by President Trump. Solomon, who recently founded a new outlet called JustTheNews.com, put out a statement Wednesday on Twitter to respond to the reaction he was was seeing, stressing he never said indictments are imminent. "Because I care about accuracy I want to make clear that what I intended to say, and actually said on air, was that my reporting for the week ending last Friday ('this week') had uncovered activities consistent with ... building criminal cases that could lead to a small number of indictments. I did not intend to, and didn’t actually, say indictments were coming this week. Only prosecutors know such timing and I have no indication indictments are coming this week," he tweeted. "My reporting indicates there is clear evidence that criminal cases are being built that could lead to future indictments or plea deals. Will keep on reporting what I know."

John Solomon reported indictments are imminent before he said he never reported that indictments are imminent.

By Justine Coleman

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called for the reopening of his state and the country late Monday, saying there are "more important things than living.” Patrick said on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he was “vindicated” after being criticized for saying in March that he thought “lots of grandparents” across the country would risk their survival to keep the country afloat economically. “There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” he said Monday. “I don’t want to die," he added. “Nobody wants to die, but man we gotta take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.” The Texas official stood by his March remarks and said the country “should not have been locked down.” “I’m thankful that we are now beginning to open up Texas and other states because it’s long overdue,” Patrick said. “We cannot endure this much longer,” he added. “Every month we stay closed, it’s going to take two to three months to rebuild.” Patrick also said that “every life is valuable,” but Texas should not be shut down because a small percentage of the population is dying. Texas’s 2019 population estimate reached almost 29 million people. The coronavirus has infected 19,458 Texans, leading to 495 fatalities, according to the state health department. - What is more important than living? So-called pro-life people are willing to let people die. Maybe they are not really pro-life, how can you be pro-life and yet be willing to let people die.


The “Last Week Tonight” host took aim at the right-wing media for pushing dangerous disinformation concerning COVID-19.
By Marlow Stern

John Oliver returned to his “blank void” on Sunday night for another quarantine edition of Last Week Tonight. And the main story of the evening concerned the miniature protests that have been popping up against stay-at-home orders over COVID-19. And these little misguided protests have been thanks to the dangerous disinformation being pushed by those in the right-wing media who’ve repeatedly downplayed the danger of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 165,000 people worldwide, including more than 41,000 in the U.S. There’s Rush Limbaugh—or “A man with millions of listeners, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and almost certainly, a room in his basement that his housekeeper isn’t allowed to go into,” cracked Oliver. On March 11, Limbaugh said on his radio program, “All of this panic just is not warranted. When I tell you… that this virus is the common cold. When I said that, it was based on the number of cases. It’s also based on the kind of virus this is. Why do you think this is COVID-19? This is the 19th coronavirus!” “OK, no Rush. Just no,” said Oliver. “It’s called that because it was first identified in 2019, you giant potato.” He wasn’t finished: “No to your stupid quarantine beard. You look like if Santa was #MeToo’d, kicked out of the North Pole, and forced to move to a condo in Tampa with all linoleum floors.” Then there’s Fox News, with host Sean Hannity calling it a “hoax” and “hysteria,” and Laura Ingraham calling Democrats “panic pushers” for warning about the potential dangers of the disease. “When people started dying, and that argument became harder to sell, the network seemed to pivot from trying to downplay the warnings to downplaying the deaths,” Oliver explained, before throwing to Dr. Phil (yes, really), who said on Fox News, “The fact of the matter is…365,000 people [die] from swimming pools but we don’t shut the country down for that!”

By Daniel Politi

Protesters gathered in several states across the country Saturday to demand an end to stay-at-home orders that were put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The demonstrations took place in several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Many of those who broke social-distancing rules carried signs that had phrases like, “This is tyranny, not quarantine” and “Shut down the shutdown.” One of the largest rallies took place in Austin, where some 300 people gathered with many carrying signs, flags, T-shirts, and caps that made their support for President Donald Trump explicit. Protesters chanted, “Let us work!” and “Fire Fauci” as many did not seem to believe there was any need to keep distance from each other while they shook hands and hugged at the protest that was heavily promoted by conspiracy-theory peddling website Infowars. Some attendants were disappointed by the scene that unfolded on the steps of the Capitol. “We thought it was going to be a lot bigger than this,” a protester told the Austin American Statesman. Several hundred people also gathered outside the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order with some chanting, “We are not sheep.” “I believe that we’re over reacting to this. Ohio numbers are not that large for us to have people lose their businesses. It’s just not warranted,” one protester said. “I would like to see Ohio open up now! None of this is warranted for our numbers.” - Trump, Fox News, GOP and the right wing are putting American lives at risk, they do not care about the American people just the dollars they are losing.

With Dorothy Wickenden

Mitch McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, but he didn’t come to national prominence until the Obama Presidency, when, as the Senate Majority Leader, he emerged as one of the Administration’s most unyielding and effective legislative opponents. In the past three years, McConnell has put his political skills to work in support of Donald Trump’s agenda, despite the lasting damage that his maneuvering is doing to the Senate and to American democracy. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how and why McConnell, who faces reëlection this year, became one of Trump’s staunchest allies.

By christina capatides

Speaking with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Thursday, TV doctor Mehmet Oz ignited a social media firestorm by saying that reopening America's schools presented an "appetizing opportunity" because it might only kill 2% to 3% of the population. "We need our mojo back," Oz said. "Let's start with things that are really critical to the nation, where we think we might be able to open without getting into a lot of trouble. I tell you schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet [medical journal] arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. And you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they're safely being educated and being fed and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk on the backside, it might be a tradeoff some folks would consider." The population of the United States is just over 328 million, so to lose 2-3% of the population would mean anywhere between 6.56 million and 9.84 million deaths. The backlash on Twitter was swift and fierce, propelling the hashtag #FireDrOz into the platform's top trending phrases for hours.

By EJ Montini, Arizona Republic

Opinion: The congressman would remove experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci from the decision-making process in a way that would get Americans killed. I’m guessing that Rep. Andy Biggs believes that he is in a very safe place, a place far away from the virus that causes COVID-19 and has killed nearly 22,000 Americans as of Monday afternoon. A virus for which we have no vaccine and for which there is no known deterrent other than safe social distancing. Biggs must believe that he is immune to this thing. Or he has had himself hermetically sealed and locked into a steel-enclosed safe at the bottom of a salt mine, from which he is still managing to issue press releases and tweets. Because otherwise there is no logical reason for Biggs to be suggesting, essentially, that you should be willing to die for the economy.

Which is first: The economy or lives?
Biggs wants to remove from the national decision-making process Dr. Anthony Fauci, our top infectious diseases expert and one of the few grown-ups in the room when President Donald Trump holds press conferences. Biggs also would remove Dr. Deborah Birx, another high-profile health expert. If we take doctors out of the room more people will die.

By Jonathan Chait

When Congress enacted an emergency plan to send $1,200 checks to every American adult, Republicans joked that President Trump would want to sign his name on the checks. A few weeks later, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was exploring this outlandish desire, a reporter asked, “Is that right? Do you want to sign those checks?” Trump denied it: “No. Me sign? No.” Last night, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s name will be displayed on every check. A measure passed by both parties to alleviate an economic emergency has been expropriated by his reelection campaign. Trump’s presidency has largely consisted of outrageously corrupt notions proceeding from fearful accusation to accepted reality. Within a few days, this one will also probably be forgotten. Trump has never respected any meaningful distinction between the federal government and the Trump Organization. He expects every federal employee, especially its law-enforcement agents, to advance his personal political agenda. He has functionally mixed its budget with his own by having the government pour money into his properties, and he has treated its official powers as if they are his own personal chits. The authority he has gained through the emergency response to the coronavirus has vastly expanded the potential for corruption, and every sign indicates that Trump is already engaging in systemic abuse. Some of the corruption is lingering just below the surface. Trump is speaking constantly with corporate leaders, who can position themselves at the front of the line for federal contracts or relief payments. He supports bailouts for industries with a shaky claim to the public purse, like cruise lines, and has staunchly opposed any rescue for the United States Postal Service, which handles essential government communication. Trump of course has been trying to force the post office to raise rates on Amazon, in retaliation for Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post. The economic crisis has put the post office on life support, giving Trump the leverage he wants to make it punish a detested rival. Trump has treated the distribution of the federal government’s supply of emergency medical equipment like he is walking around the neighborhood with a money clip, pulling out bills and patting grateful recipients on the cheek. When New York governor Andrew Cuomo noted that he retains power to reopen public spaces, Trump exploded, “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!” Trump routinely threatens Democratic governors not to complain about his mismanagement if they want help from Washington, conflating the authority of the government with his own authority (“When they disrespect me, they are disrespecting our government”). He has used the precious supply of ventilators as in-kind contributions, allowing endangered Republican allies like Martha McSally and Cory Gardner to hold them up as proof of their clout.


There is a growing resistance on the right that threatens to add additional stress to a political system already nearing the breaking point.
By Will Sommer, Erin Banco, Sam Stein

A protest movement is taking hold targeting states that have extended social-distancing rules, closed schools, and restricted access to large religious gatherings. And it’s being fed by loyalists and political allies of President Donald Trump. At issue are seemingly contradictory directives from Trump—who said on Tuesday that his team was in the process of drafting new guidelines that would allow some states to bring critical industries back to work, possibly this month—and public health officials and many governors, who have urged people to stay home as the number of coronavirus-related deaths continue to rise. The tension has prompted Republican lawmakers and supporters of the president to publicly call for Americans to defy their local orders, claiming they infringe on constitutional rights. On Monday, Richard Grenell, acting director of the Office of National Intelligence and the U.S. ambassador to Germany, posted a photo of the Bill of Rights on Instagram with a title “Signed Permission Slip to Leave Your House.” Below the post, in the caption, Grenell wrote, “Love this!” A reporter tweeted the post after its publishing saying, “Seems the top US intelligence chief ADNI ⁦@RichardGrenell⁩ isn’t a fan of the stay at home orders.” Grenell responded, “‘Seems’ Grenell is a fan of the Constitution to me.” Already, protests against social-distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders, and other public safety measures have been bubbling up in states across the country. In Idaho, anti-government activists encouraged gatherings around Easter. Conservative activists in Oklahoma are planning a “get back to work” rally at their state capitol on Wednesday. Roughly 75 protesters met outside the Ohio statehouse on Monday to protest restrictions, with several carrying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flags that became ubiquitous at Tea Party rallies. The open acts of defiance aren’t just being embraced by fringe activists mobilized through social media posts. Elected officials have called for pushing aside public safety experts in the name of remedying “societal fallout.” In Texas, the House Freedom Caucus has called on the governor to lift the state's stay-at-home order. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) scoffed at restrictions other states had placed on activities such as going to beaches and church—while leaving the suggestion that others should do the same. And a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said it was “time to not comply” with the commonwealth’s governor, Andy Beshear, over a plan to record and quarantine churchgoers during Easter Sunday. The public demonstrations of frustration and resistance have begun to draw parallels to the Tea Party protests that popped up during the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency. The circumstances are far different—a reactionary movement to bank bailouts and the first African-American president versus resentment towards strict public health guidelines. But the theme of individualism versus statism is a through line that GOP operatives believe could be similarly galvanizing on the right.

By Erin Banco, Lachlan Cartwright

In a series of conversations last September, senior Department of Justice officials worked with representatives of the Australian government to hammer out an arrangement to win the release of a pair of Australian bloggers imprisoned in Tehran. At the same time those talks were taking place, Attorney General Bill Barr and his lieutenants were speaking to the Australians about another matter: getting their help as the Department of Justice looked into the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Barr, like his boss, President Donald Trump, had long had a view of the Russia probe that bordered on hostile, and his review has been widely seen as an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, which led to the indictment of multiple Trumpworld associates. Just days before the culmination of talks in September—which coincided with an official Australian state visit—Trump himself pushed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr with this inquiry. Barr followed up about the Mueller re-investigation, two U.S. officials and a third individual familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast, even as American and Australian officials finalized their arrangement to try to free the pair jailed in Iran. According to four sources—including those two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official—the American government agreed to help facilitate the release of the Australian bloggers, in part by agreeing to pull back from pursuing the extradition of an Iranian scientist held in Australia. "This story suggests that the president is continuing to use the authority of his office to pressure foreign leaders into assisting him in covering up Russia’s assistance with his 2016 victory." — Prof. Claire Finkelstein

While Baier pointed out the rank hypocrisy, his Fox News colleague Brit Hume waved off Trump's comments as just another of the president’s exaggerations.
By Justin Baragona

Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday called out conservatives for exhibiting some hypocrisy over President Donald Trump asserting he had “total” authority over states’ decisions, pointing out that their “heads would’ve exploded” if the previous president made similar remarks. During an unhinged coronavirus briefing on Monday, the president insisted that he had absolute power when it comes to states’ social-distancing guidelines, claiming that he has authority over governors to decide when states should reopen amid the pandemic. Despite legal experts rebutting his assertion, the president doubled down on Tuesday and likened Democratic governors to mutineers. Appearing on Fox News’ The Daily Briefing on Tuesday, Baier was asked by host Dana Perino to react to the growing back-and-forth between Trump and governors, especially with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo firing back at president’s claims. “First of all, the Constitution is pretty clear,” Fox News’ chief political anchor replied. “Constitutional scholars will say that this is not the president flicking on the switch, it’s the governors and the local authorities that have that going forward.” “I think that there’s hypocrisy here in that, one, if President Obama had said those words that you heard from President Trump, that the authority is total with the presidency, conservatives’ heads would’ve exploded across the board,” he continued.

By Lawrence Douglas

Should I vote or should I protect my health? That was the stark choice that Wisconsin voters faced on Tuesday – thanks to their elected state representatives. Like much of the rest of the nation, Wisconsin is under a statewide stay-at-home order. The order is designed to slow the spread of a disease that has already sickened nearly half a million Americans and taken the lives of 13,000. Given the gravity of the threat, the mayors of Wisconsin’s 10 largest cities urged the state to delay the Tuesday election – lest the state put “hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk by requiring them to vote at the polls while this ugly pandemic spreads”. Nearly a dozen other states had already chosen to postpone their primaries given the national state of emergency. Invoking his emergency powers, the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, likewise sought to delay the election until early June. But Wisconsin said no. In a decision staggering in its cynicism and recklessness, the Republican-controlled state legislature flatly refused to delay the election. What did they hope to gain? Yes, there was the Democratic primary, but that was of little concern to the Republican lawmakers. Of great concern, however, was Tuesday’s vote in a state supreme court contest. This vote pitted the sitting state supreme court justice Daniel Kelly, a strong conservative voice on the bench, against Jill Karofsky, a lower court judge supported by progressives. Never mind that America is alone among advanced democracies in permitting many state judges to be elected officials. In this case, Republican lawmakers hoped that by suppressing the urban vote, they would help Kelly’s re-election bid. This, in itself, was nothing new; suppressing the vote of urban and minority citizens has emerged as staple of Republican politics in recent years. Unusual here was only the brazen willingness to use a pandemic – rather, than say, voter IDs – as the means of suppression. And so Republican lawmakers forced urban voters into a Hobson’s choice: head to one of the few available polling stations – in Milwaukee only five of 180 designated polling stations were open – and risk exposure to Covid-19, or follow the state’s stay-at-home order. Still, much of the chaos and hardship could have been avoided had the state chosen to rely more heavily on absentee ballots. Such ballots permit citizens to vote by mail, and so Wisconsin voters could have had their voice heard without sacrificing their health. But here again Republican lawmakers said no, racing to the US supreme court to bar an extended reliance on absentee ballots.

By Sam Levine

The state’s holding of a primary during a pandemic is just the latest example of Republicans’ naked bid to keep power at all costs. Less than 72 hours before polls opened in Wisconsin on 7 April, the state legislature convened to weigh an emergency request from the governor, Tony Evers. With Covid-19 cases in the thousands, Evers implored the lawmakers to delay in-person voting for the state’s presidential primary and mail a ballot to every voter in the state. It was a meeting only in name. Republicans, who control 63 of 99 seats in the state assembly, sent just one member. He brought the session to order and then immediately ended it without taking up the governor’s request. It took just 17 seconds. In the Republican-controlled state senate, the same thing happened, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It took even less time. The legislature’s defiance was a naked display of unabashed power – an elected body refusing its governor’s request and turning its back on its constituents in a time of crisis. The Republican lawmakers who didn’t even bother to show up for the emergency session on Saturday knew that their re-election was guaranteed because of a successful party effort over the last 10 years to entrench themselves in power. Even in a state at the center of some of the most hard-nosed fights over voting, it was a stunning series of events. That assault on democracy began in 2011, when Republicans drew new lines for political districts in Wisconsin. It was part of a national Republican effort, called Project Redmap, to capture state legislatures and, with those victories, to gain control over redrawing the lines of each district. The goal of Redmap was to conjure districts that would advantage Republicans and disadvantage Democrats – a process called gerrymandering. The writer and author David Daley called Project Redmap “the most audacious political heist of modern times”. Karl Rove, former senior adviser to George W Bush announced the redistricting effort in the Wall Street Journal, claiming, rightly, that whoever controls redistricting also controls Congress. Later, according to the New Yorker, when Rove addressed potential funders of Redmap in Dallas, he said “People call us a vast rightwing conspiracy. But we’re really a half-assed rightwing conspiracy. Now it’s time to get serious.” For $1.1m – a small sum in campaign dollars – Republicans won the state legislature and went on to curb Democratic power by passing a strict voter ID law, making it harder for minorities and students to vote, and later stripped statewide elected officials of some of their authority. “I don’t think many people who are aware of what’s going on, and are tuned into politics and government in this state, would say that it’s anything even resembling a democracy,” said Jay Heck, the executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog group.

The deliberate chaos and unthinkable images from the state’s primary marked Republicans’ dress rehearsal for November
By David Daley

If any lingering doubts remained, Tuesday should have erased them all. Republicans will weaponize anything – even in-person voting during a deadly pandemic – to maintain power, avoid accountability and bend electoral rules in their favor. Worse, the US supreme court will have their back. Make no mistake: the deliberate chaos and unthinkable images from Wisconsin on Tuesday – Americans on line for hours, wearing homemade masks, risking a gruesome respiratory disease to exercise their right to vote – wasn’t just a warning sign for November’s elections. It was Republicans’ dress rehearsal. It’s scarcely 200 days until the real show. The coronavirus has already pushed more than a dozen states to postpone primaries and forced fearful Ohio and Wisconsin governors into court the day before an election, desperate to avoid worsening a public health crisis. It’s quite likely that the virus will threaten in-person voting in many states and cities in November as well. That’s why a growing non-partisan chorus has called for expanding vote-by-mail options this fall. It can be done; five states already conduct all their elections this way and every state allows some level of mail-in voting. It doesn’t favor either party – just ask Republicans in Utah and Colorado. It’s safer during a pandemic, but also secure: a study of hundreds of millions of votes in Oregon, ever since it became the first to adopt all-mail elections, found fewer than 15 fraudulent ballots cast over more than a decade. Republicans, however, have fought efforts to fund expanded voting options this fall. President Trump recently told Fox & Friends: “If you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” On Wednesday, he tweeted that vote by mail creates “tremendous potential” for voter fraud and mused that “for whatever reason, [it] doesn’t work out well for Republicans”. Georgia’s state house speaker knows that reason, opposing it because it “will certainly drive up turnout” and “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives”. But while the quiet part sometimes comes out louder than expected, most of the Republican party’s anti-vote-by-mail excuses are ludicrous. If the president’s intention is to conjure phoney visions of voter fraud, others hope to simply slow-walk reform. When Senate Democrats attempted to add election protection safeguards to the first coronavirus stimulus package, the Republican senator John Barrasso insisted they “have no place in an emergency rescue package for the American people”. Election assistance funding, sniffed his colleague Marsha Blackburn, “has nothing to do with Covid-19”. On Tuesday, however, the connection between voting and the virus should have been clear enough for even a Republican senator to see. When Robin Vos, Wisconsin’s Republican assembly speaker, tried to deny it, he wore a mask and full personal protective gear. He looked like one of those mean government agents looking to capture ET, which only undercut his assurances that voters stacked up in the five available Milwaukee precincts had absolutely nothing to fear.

by Greg Evans

The Republican speaker of the House for Wisconsin, Robin Vos, has been mocked on social media after he told the public that it was 'incredibly safe to go outside' while wearing full protective gear. Vos was speaking before the state's Democratic primary elections, which were still held on Tuesday, despite lockdown measures and concerns about voters becoming infected with coronavirus. Voters were reportedly angry at having to wait in line to vote, with images of some lines, clearly ignoring social distancing advice, while some states had already postponed their elections until a later date. However, Vos was adamant that it was safe for people to go outside and that they couldn't guarantee if things were going to be any safer a few months down the line.

By Tucker Higgins

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Monday to reverse an order extending the absentee ballot deadline for voting in the Wisconsin elections scheduled for Tuesday, stepping into a back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans in the state over when voting would take place. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed an executive order suspending in-person voting in the state earlier on Monday after trying and failing to convince the GOP-dominated state legislature to postpone elections until May. His order was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the evening. The Supreme Court, which was considering a case brought before Evers issued his executive order, was not considering whether voting would take place on Tuesday, but only whether to keep in place an order that extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be postmarked. In an unsigned order from which the court’s four liberal justices dissented, the court did away with the extension. The top court’s five Republican-appointees, none of whom attached their name to the court’s order, reasoned that extending the date by which voters could mail absentee ballots “fundamentally alters the nature of the election.”

Some legal scholars said the decisions by the state and U.S. supreme courts could undermine confidence in the rule of law. Others said they were the product of judicial philosophy, not partisanship.
By Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — In a pair of extraordinary rulings on Monday, the highest courts in Wisconsin and the nation split along ideological lines to reject Democratic efforts to defer voting in Tuesday’s elections in the state given the coronavirus pandemic. Election law experts said the stark divisions in the rulings did not bode well for faith in the rule of law and American democracy. “Election cases, more than any other kind, need courts to be seen by the public as nonpartisan referees of the competing candidates and political parties,” said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It is therefore extremely regrettable that on the very same day, on separate issues involving the same Wisconsin election, both the state and federal supreme courts were unable to escape split votes that seem just as politically divided as the litigants appearing before them.” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of a recently published and prescient book, “Election Meltdown,” said the pandemic had made a bad situation much worse. “Monday’s performance by the courts augurs a nasty partisan divide in the judicial branch,” Professor Hasen said. “It threatens the legitimacy of both the election and the courts.” “Already before the coronavirus crisis, 2020 was shaping up to be a record-setting year for election litigation,” he said. “Covid-19 means there will be even more lawsuits than before over issues like absentee ballot protocols and the safety of in-person voting.” When the Supreme Court rules on emergency applications, it almost never gives reasons. But the court’s conservative majority on Monday spent four pages explaining why it had refused to extend absentee voting in Tuesday’s elections in Wisconsin.

By Jeff Zeleny, Senior Washington Correspondent

(CNN) Just eight US governors have decided against issuing statewide directives urging their residents to stay at home as the outbreak of the coronavirus escalates and spreads across the country, the last holdouts in the nation. The governors, all of whom are Republican, have offered a variety of explanations for why they have not followed the lead of their colleagues from coast-to-coast -- along with countries across the world -- by ordering people to restrict their movement in hopes of slowing the pandemic. In doing so, they've collectively ignored the stay-at-home pleas of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who said in a CNN interview: "If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that." Absent a nationwide order, which President Donald Trump once again on Friday declined to give, a patchwork of rules has emerged in all corners of the country that offer conflicting guidance for how citizens should protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. "I leave it up to the governors. The governors know what they are doing," Trump said at his daily White House briefing. "States that we are talking about are not in jeopardy." But as the week wore on, with the death toll rising, confirmed cases mounting and an absence of national leadership, several once-reluctant governors ultimately heeded the call and issued statewide orders of their own. It wasn't until late Friday that Alabama took action, with Gov. Kay Ivey reversing course and imposing a statewide mandate beginning Saturday. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson followed suit, one day after saying his state didn't easily lend itself to "a blanket order." He signed just that, but said it wouldn't take effect until Monday. The remaining exceptions are eight red states, all of which Trump carried four years ago and is hoping to do so again in the fall. They stretch from the South to the Midwest and the West, spanning the alphabet from Arkansas to Wyoming.

By STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS | South Dakota legislators decided Thursday to investigate allegations that Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer was drunk during a meeting earlier this week that involved legislation related to the coronavirus outbreak. Both Langer, a Dell Rapids Republican, and Senate Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, will be under investigation for their conduct during a marathon session that stretched from Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak. As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee. Jensen declined to tell The Associated Press who had told him about Langer's behavior, but said he noticed on a video broadcast of the meeting room that both Langer and Greenfield's speech was slurred. He did not make an accusation regarding Greenfield on Tuesday morning. Greenfield told his colleagues on the phone that he had not seen Langer drinking. The Senate decided that Jensen could not move to immediately establish the committee due to a technicality, but Senators suggested he could bring it up to the Executive Board, a committee of senior legislators from the House and Senate that decides on legislative proceedings.

Conservatives, business groups and politicians urge president to get economy going as outbreak continues
By Victoria Bekiempis

As Donald Trump has pushed his shock policy reversal to try to soon get many Americans to go back to work, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he has been supported by a wide array of rightwing figures, business groups and conservative politicians. Some of those conservatives have taken the president’s concerns over the dire health of the US economy a step further – suggesting that the inevitable deaths of many people to the virus might be an acceptable cost of doing business in the face of a shocking economic collapse that saw more than 3 million new people register for unemployment. “My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor, said last week on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. “Don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick continued. Patrick even suggested many older Americans would happily risk their lives for the sake of the economy. “No one reached out to me and said: ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” Patrick also said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that, I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.” The extreme rightwing media figure Glenn Beck shared the sentiment. “I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working, even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country. ’Cause it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country,” Beck said on an episode of his program on Blaze TV. The Republican Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson also questioned whether the economic impact of physical distancing was worth it, appearing to rate the coronavirus threat as less than fatal car accidents. “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.” Johnson also said “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4% of our population, [and] I think probably far less”.

At least four states have banned most abortions or passed anti-trans legislation.
By Katelyn Burns

A group of anti-abortion activists wants Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to have abortion care providers cease operations during the novel coronavirus pandemic. In a Tuesday letter, signed by the heads of 52 anti-abortion advocacy groups including Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life, and the Family Research Council, the groups called for restrictions on medication and surgical abortion providers in order to “free up much needed medical equipment” and ease an alleged strain on emergency rooms stemming from patients with complications from abortion care. (Complications from abortion care are rare, according to medical research.) But the letter illustrates a broader trend: While many people are seemingly coming together to try to survive the virus — the Senate, for example, unanimously passed a $2 trillion relief package Wednesday — the pandemic hasn’t erased politics entirely. House Democrats, for example, proposed environmental reforms for industries receiving a coronavirus bailout. (The House’s bill has been dropped, however; the chamber plans to vote on the Senate’s version Friday). Meanwhile, social conservatives have taken advantage of the pandemic to further many politically divisive policies, like state-level bans on “elective” abortions, under the guise of protecting the interests of public health. But a closer look at the policy demands being made by anti-abortion conservatives shows that this is just politics as usual. The letter contains five specific demands for HHS during the pandemic: ensuring that emergency response funds are not given to abortion providers, urging abortion providers to cease operations in order to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for treating Covid-19 patients, not expanding telemedicine for medication abortion access, continuing actions to stop mail-order abortion prescriptions, and promoting “medically accurate” information to abortion care patients.

Senate Democrats ripped a GOP proposal to give the Trump administration $500 billion in funds for companies with little oversight.

As Senate Democrats went to the floor Sunday night to vote — the first time they’d been there in days — they had one thing on their minds: a secret “slush fund” for Corporate America. That’s what Democrats are calling a $500 billion “Exchange Stabilization Fund” included in the massive Senate GOP proposal to rescue the U.S. economy from the coronavirus crisis. The fund, which would come under the control of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is designed to aid distressed industries. It includes $58 billion for U.S. airline and air cargo companies, a source of significant controversy during the last three days of closed-door talks between senators of both parties and the White House. But the language drafted by Senate Republicans also allows Mnuchin to withhold the names of the companies that receive federal money and how much they get for up to six months if he so decides. That was way too much for Democrats, many of whom lived through the political furor surrounding the 2008 financial-services industry bailout. They remember facing the populist backlash and being pounded by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. They aren't going to do it again. “We’re gonna give $500 billion in basically a slush fund to help industries controlled by Mnuchin with very little transparency? Is that what we ought to be doing?” asked Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.). “We're not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” railed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who made corporate accountability a big part of her White House campaign. “We're here to help workers, we're here to help hospitals. And right now, what the Republicans proposed does neither of those. “ Even moderate West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin lashed out at the Republicans over the lack of controls on the Exchange Stabilization Fund. “It’s throwing caution to the wind for the average person working on Main Street, it’s balls to the walls for the people working on Wall Street,” Manchin declared. “It’s the same ol’ story from Mitch McConnell.”

After weeks of minimizing coronavirus, now conservatives are trying to blame Democrats for the pandemic
By Amanda Marcotte

For weeks, Donald Trump clearly believed he could lie the coronavirus away. As David Leonhardt of the New York Times carefully chronicled, starting on Jan. 22, Trump began a campaign of falsehoods geared towards tricking Americans — and especially the stock market — into thinking everything was going to be fine, this epidemic was "very well under control," that "like a miracle" the virus "will disappear" and that anyone who suggested otherwise was participating in a "hoax." Fox News and other right-wing media, in the endless infinity symbol of conservative lies, both led and followed Trump on this, blanketing red-state America with a steady drumbeat of assertions that the "liberal media" was exaggerating the crisis to hurt Trump. Furthermore, all this happened in the face of substantial evidence that Republican voters and Fox News viewers, who tend to be older and live in rural areas with poorer access to medical care, are more likely to die from coronavirus. Life, as the Twitter dorks say, comes at you fast. Coronavirus has been reported in 49 states now, and cities are going on lockdown to prevent the spread. After multiple failed stunts geared toward trying to trick investors, Trump finally held a serious press conference on the crisis Monday. All those right-wing pundits on Fox News and talk radio, being utterly shameless, have switched seamlessly from denying that we have a coronavirus problem to claiming that Trump has been showing mighty leadership — and oh yeah, trying to blame Democrats for the problem. The shift from outright denialism to North Korea-style fawning and deflecting the blame was, of course, entirely predictable. The entire right-wing noise machine, now shaped completely around the bottomless ego-flattering needs of a failed businessman who demagogued his way into the White House, has always disdained facts in favor of keeping up a relentless drumbeat of tribalist messaging to convince their audiences that they are always in the right, no matter what. Any disagreement from liberals, in this worldview, reflects their secret anti-American agenda. Still, it never stops being remarkable how shameless conservative punditry can be about insisting they were always at war with Eastasia and that we're crazy to suggest that, just yesterday, they told us we were at war with Eurasia. For instance, for weeks — and as recently as last week — Fox News host Sean Hannity continued to use the word "hoax" to describe the coronavirus crisis and suggested that public health experts were "scaring people unnecessarily." Now Hannity is singing a different tune, admitting that we "need to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

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