Well, the investigation is over.
Via Cagle Cartoons:
This next link is from yesterday but it still is important:
This is an open thread…
Thanks to the Delta variant, and people refusing to be vaccinated, Covid-19 cases are rising around the country, particularly in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. At least Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is trying to get the situation under control. But in the other three states, governors are working against public health.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted Louisiana’s mask mandate at the end of April, he warned that loosening restrictions wasn’t a “one way street” and that he would reimpose the rules if COVID-19 came roaring back.
On Monday, as hospitals statewide buckled under an unprecedented surge in patients, Edwards followed through on his word.
Schools, businesses, universities, churches, and any other indoor public settings in Louisiana will require a face mask for entry beginning on Wednesday, under a proclamation Edwards signed that expires September 1.
“It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID. In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this just another surge,” Edwards told reporters Monday in announcing the order he had already signed. “This is the worst one we’ve had thus far.”
The return to restrictions comes as the pandemic enters a new stage defined by the delta variant, a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 first identified in India that now accounts for most new cases in Louisiana. On Monday, the state reported 11,109 new confirmed and probable infections of COVID-19. More than 2,000 of those cases were among children.
One-third of all US Covid-19 cases reported in the past week were in just two states – Florida and Texas – according to White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.
The cases are mainly in areas where vaccination rates remain low, Zients said at a briefing Monday.
“In fact, seven states with the lowest vaccination rates represent just about 8- 1/2% of the US population, but account for more than 17% of cases, and one in three cases nationwide occurred in Florida and Texas, this past week,” Zients said.
In the past two weeks, daily case rates have gone up fourfold, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
The increase comes as the Delta variant spreads and the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans hovers around 49.7%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals are once again filling up with patients as the virus tears through the unvaccinated population.
“There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated,” Zients said. “And we need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Each and every shot matters.”
It doesn’t seem to matter to some Republican Governors.
On Saturday, Florida recorded 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, breaking its one-day record for new cases. But even as the state swells with fresh infections, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis remains hellbent on his war against mask mandates. He even recently barred school districts from instituting mask mandates when classes reconvene in August.
DeSantis feels so good about his war on masks, he’s even laughing about it. “Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” DeSantis joked to a largely maskless crowd at a conference for the American Legislative Exchange Council in Utah last week, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines recommending mask-wearing amid the surge of the Delta variant. “I don’t see you complying.”
He continued, prompting applause, “I think it’s very important that we say unequivocally, ‘No to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, and no mandates.’ Floridians are free to choose and all Americans should be free to choose how they govern their affairs, how they take care of themselves and our families.”
The governor, who is reportedly eyeing a bid for president in 2024, has spent most of the pandemic fiercely opposing COVID safety measures—a stance public health officials say has allowed the virus to run rampant across the state and has now made Florida the epicenter of the pandemic in this country. To DeSantis’ sort-of credit, he has made recent efforts to boost vaccinations, though at the same time he’s selling anti-Anthony Fauci merchandise on his website.
In Mississippi, where ICU beds are nearing capacity with a surge of unvaccinated individuals, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves blasted the CDC’s mask guidelines as “foolish” and claimed that it reeked of “political panic.”
“It has nothing, let me say that again: It has nothing to do with rational science,” Reeves said on Thursday.
Except that it does. As Dr. Fauci warned on Sunday, “Things are going to get worse.” The country’s top expert on infectious diseases told ABC’s This Week, “You want them to wear a mask so that if in fact they do get infected, they don’t spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children, or people with underlying conditions.”
In Texas, Governor Abbott is also trying to kill his constitutents. The New York Times: Gov. Greg Abbott bars mandates for vaccinations and masks in Texas.
In an executive order issued on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of the nation’s second-largest state, prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, saying that protection against the virus should be a matter of personal responsibility, not forced by a government edict.
The order also reinforced his prior directive prohibiting local officials from requiring face masks, despite growing calls from city leaders for greater flexibility to reverse the renewed spread of Covid.
The daily average of cases in Texas as of Friday was 8,820, according to a New York Times database, a 209 percent increase over the past 14 days. Cities across the state are facing a surge in hospitalizations reminiscent of the alarming spikes that occurred before Covid cases began nosing downward with the arrival of vaccines.
With 56 percent of the state’s population unvaccinated — including nearly five million children under 12 who are not eligible — health officials have expressed concern about the state’s vulnerability.
It was always going to be a long battle against the coronavirus, but many Americans didn’t want to face that fact. At STAT News, Megen Molteni writes: For many, the belated realization that Covid will be ‘a long war’ sparks anger and denial.
In May, when the CDC said fully vaccinated people could ditch masks and social distancing, it seemed to signal a return to normalcy. But epidemiologists cautioned at the time that the move wasn’t likely to be permanent, and shouldn’t be interpreted as the end of Covid-19 as a daily concern. Colder weather or a right hook in the virus’s evolution could bring restrictions right back.
Still, Americans seem shocked by the recent turn of events. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised everyone — even those who’ve gotten Covid-19 shots — to go back to indoor masking, a decision driven by new data showing the hyper-contagious Delta variant colonizes the nose and throat of some vaccinated people just as well as the unvaccinated, meaning they may just as easily spread this new version of the virus, while stilling being protected against the worst manifestations of the disease.
The prospect of contending with a prolonged outbreak phase — and adjusting again to a constantly evolving roster of restrictions — has brought back another feature of pandemic living in America: anger.
This time it’s not just the mostly Republican anti-masking refrain rearing its defiant head (though fights over school mask mandates have returned with a vengeance). Coast to coast, and across the political spectrum, contempt for unvaccinated people is rising. “It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, said on July 22, as her state, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, reeled from a 530% rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations in just three weeks.
Among the vaccinated, there’s a sense that the freedoms they gained by getting the shots — travel, eating out, concerts, sports, school, seeing friends — are now being jeopardized by those who are still holding out.
Though this new flavor of outrage might look and sound like righteous indignation, mental health professionals say that what’s behind it is fear.
“It’s scary to admit that somebody else has power over you and you’re at their mercy and you’re afraid of them, but showing that is not a very American ideal,” said David Rosmarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a clinician at McLean Hospital. “Instead of expressing that fear, it’s a lot more comfortable to blame somebody else.”
Anger is what people in his profession refer to as a “secondary emotion.” It’s a feeling that arises in response to a more primal emotion, like fear and anxiety over having some aspect of your life threatened. “The reality is that there are millions of people who are miseducated about something, they’re making a big mistake that will have massive consequences that might affect you and your family and that makes you scared,” Rosmarin said. “But nobody is saying that.”
Unfortunately, there’s another looming disaster caused by the pandemic: the CDC eviction ban is expiring, and in Washington everyone is accusing everyone else of being responsible for dealing with the situation. And it’s complicated by a Supreme Court ruling.
The White House said Monday that it was unable to find a legal means to extend the eviction moratorium, despite the fact that millions of Americans could soon lose their homes even as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.”
Citing a Supreme Court decision issued in late June, the White House said it was unable to unilaterally extend the moratorium for evictions. Late last week, Psaki issued a statement pressuring Congress to act, but the House went into recess before a vote could be held. Were it to pass the House, it is unclear if an extension of the moratorium would be able to pass the Senate.
The federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend, yet more than 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind in rental payments totaling more than $20 billion, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. Without federal protections in place, many renters will now need to pay months of back rent.
“On this particular issue, the president has not only kicked the tires, he has double, triple, quadruple checked,” Gene Sperling, the White House COVID-19 economic relief coordinator, said at a briefing on Monday, adding, “The rise off the Delta variant is particularly harmful for those who are most likely to face evictions, and as that reality became more clear going into the end of last week, I think all of us started asking what more can we do.”
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Caused the Looming Eviction Disaster. Why Won’t Democrats Say So?
On July 31, the federal government’s eviction moratorium expired, potentially forcing millions of Americans out of their homes during yet another COVID surge. In the days before the eviction cliff, House Democrats attempted to extend the moratorium, but Republicans easily blocked their measure. Democratic lawmakers then spent the weekend arguing over who was to blame for the looming catastrophe.
Curiously, most Democrats chose not to focus on the primary culprit: the Supreme Court. In late June, five conservative justices signaled that they would not let the White House extend the eviction ban beyond July 31 absent further congressional authorization. These Republican-appointed justices set the terms of the debate, yet were largely absent from Democrats’ blame game. As a result, most vulnerable Americans will likely not understand they face homelessness in a pandemic because of SCOTUS. This strange dynamic is symptomatic of a deeper pathology in contemporary American politics: Democrats appear incapable of explaining how the Supreme Court stymies their own agenda—and the resulting confusion shields the court from criticism, consequences, and accountability when its decisions wreak havoc.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Biden to extend the eviction moratorium on his own, she framed the issue as a matter of morality. But the president’s inaction was almost certainly a legal calculation. To understand his hesitation, it’s key to remember that the recently expired moratorium was not the same policy that had been in effect since the start of the pandemic. Congress passed its first eviction ban in March 2020, explicitly prohibiting landlords from kicking out tenants who could not afford rent because of the pandemic. After this provision expired that August, Donald Trump issued an executive order asking the CDC to take action. The CDC responded in September with its own eviction moratorium set to run through the end of 2020. It was rooted in a federal law that allows the agency “to make and enforce such regulations” that are “necessary to prevent” the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. In December, Congress passed legislation that explicitly extended the CDC’s moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021. The agency then extended the ban several more times.
While the CDC kept the moratorium in place, a group of landlords sued to block it, claiming it exceeded the agency’s authority. On May 5, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with the plaintiffs against the ban but stayed her order. One month later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit court refused to block the ban. The plaintiffs then appealed to SCOTUS, which came within an inch of ending the moratorium. Five justices—Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—believed it violated the law. But Kavanaugh, who cast the decisive fifth vote, wrote separately to explain that although he believed the CDC had “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he would not invalidate the ban. Instead, weighing the “balance of equities,” he would allow it to remain for “a few weeks.”
“In my view,” the justice declared, “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”
Kavanaugh’s analysis is dubious at best. (Maybe that’s why Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t join it, instead quietly voting to keep the moratorium in place.) Congress already gave the CDC expansive powers to fight the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. The agency acted pursuant to this law when it determined that mass evictions would force many Americans to live unhoused or crammed together in close quarters, transmitting the virus more widely. Crucially, when Congress chose to extend the moratorium, it simply passed a law extending the CDC’s own ban. By doing so, lawmakers chose “to embrace” the agency’s action and “expressly recognized” that it had the authority to issue the ban, in the words of the D.C. Circuit. It would not make a lick of sense for Congress to extend the CDC’s moratorium if it did not believe the CDC had authority to issue it.
More eviction reads:
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: There’s plenty of money to avoid evictions. States just have to spend it.
The Washington Post: Liberals erupt in fury at White House over end of eviction moratorium. [the “liberals” referred to in the headline are actually far left Bernie bro types]
That’s it for me today. Sorry this post is such a downer. As always, this is an open thread.
Good Day Sky Dancers!
It was perhaps wishful thinking that made us think that just electing someone other than Trump would ever give us a semblance of a “normal” America. I’m not even sure I know what our normal is these days. I’m sitting here in a 4th surge plague-ridden New Orleans and realize that just like you can lead that horse to water, you can’t make him drink, that you can also give folks vaccines and the promises of better schools and roads, but you can make them embrace it.
BB has me very interested in artists doing”magical realism.” I realized many of the artists I’ve enjoyed recently actually fall into that category without knowing it. So, between what I hinted at above and my search for a sense of “magical realism” in things, I found that the Weimar Republic was a hotbed of the artform. I daily harken back to that period of a hapless democracy driven by a crazy few into a fascist world-destroying war. So, let me give you some sense of why this rainy morning has brought me back to the Weimar Republic and history repeating.
Many today’s journalists are joined in the sense of cult outrage at the idea that Former President Obama might actually want a 60th birthday bash and believe it has to be a super-spreader event of Trump Rally proportion. This side-car circus may distract from some fascinating journalism in other places. Let’s go to those other places.
First up, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker follows the “Big Lie” money. No surprises here, but this is essentially the funding of continued insurrection. Here’s the headline: “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie. Donald Trump’s attacks on democracy are being promoted by rich and powerful conservative groups that are determined to win at all costs.” Go read the entire article and read the narrative about the Republican crusade to ensure that only old white guys vote.
Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who has tracked the flow of dark money in American politics, told me that a “flotilla of front groups” once focussed on advancing such conservative causes as capturing the courts and opposing abortion have now “more or less shifted to work on the voter-suppression thing.” These groups have cast their campaigns as high-minded attempts to maintain “election integrity,” but Whitehouse believes that they are in fact tampering with the guardrails of democracy.
One of the movement’s leaders is the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (alec)—a corporate-funded nonprofit that generates model laws for state legislators—on ways to impose new voting restrictions. Among those deep in the fight is Leonard Leo, a chairman of the Federalist Society, the legal organization known for its decades-long campaign to fill the courts with conservative judges. In February, 2020, the Judicial Education Project, a group tied to Leo, quietly rebranded itself as the Honest Elections Project, which subsequently filed briefs at the Supreme Court, and in numerous states, opposing mail-in ballots and other reforms that have made it easier for people to vote.
Another newcomer to the cause is the Election Integrity Project California. And a group called FreedomWorks, which once concentrated on opposing government regulation, is now demanding expanded government regulation of voters, with a project called the National Election Protection Initiative.
These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.
This is well-funded and quite coordinated. We saw a lot of this as state after state magically rolled out the same voter suppression laws. This is the true threat to our current Biden Republic.
Alexander Vindman writes for The Atlantic today on that little matter of Trump’s Ukraine shakedown. Here’s the headline for that: “What I Heard in the White House Basement. I knew the president had clear and straightforward talking points—I’d written them.” Again, this is a long, worthwhile read. This happened in the same room where Obama and Clinton watched the raid on Osama Bin Laden. (This is a preview from his upcoming book.)
By the time I sat down at the table in the basement conference room on July 25, preparing to listen to Trump’s call with President Zelensky, my workdays had become consumed by the Oval Office hold on funds. On July 18, I’d convened what we call a Sub-Policy Coordinating Committee, a get-together of senior policy makers for the whole community of interest on Ukraine, from every agency and department, to work up a recommendation for reversing the hold on the funds. By July 21, that meeting had been upgraded to a Policy Coordination Committee, requiring even more administrative and intellectual effort, which convened again two days later. We even scheduled a higher-level Deputies Committee meeting for the day after the Zelensky call. Chaired by the deputy national security adviser, these meetings bring together all of the president’s Cabinet deputies and require an enormous amount of advance research and coordination.
Many of us were operating on little sleep, working more than the usual NSC 14-hour days. I’d barely seen my wife, Rachel, or my 8-year-old daughter, Eleanor, in weeks.
In the week leading up to the call, I’d discerned a potentially dangerous wrinkle in the Ukraine situation. Actions by the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested a hidden motive for the White House’s sudden interest in Ukraine. Operating far outside normal policy circles, Giuliani had been on a mysterious errand that also seemed to involve the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d participated in a meeting at the White House at which Sondland made a suggestion to some visiting top Ukrainian officials: If President Zelensky pursued certain investigations, he might be rewarded with a visit to the White House. These proposed investigations would be of former Vice President and current Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Sondland’s proposal was clearly improper. Little could have been more valuable to the new, young, untested leader of Ukraine—the country most vulnerable to Russia—than a one-on-one meeting with the president of the United States. A bilateral visit would signal to Russia and the rest of the world a staunch U.S. commitment to having Ukraine’s back as well as U.S. support for Zelensky’s reform and anti-corruption agenda, which was crucial to Ukraine’s prosperity and to closer integration with the European Union. That’s what all of us in the policy community wanted, of course. But making such a supremely valuable piece of U.S. diplomacy dependent on an ally’s carrying out investigations into U.S. citizens—not to mention the president’s political adversary—was unheard of. Before I’d fully picked up on what was going on, that meeting with the Ukrainians had been abruptly broken up by Bolton. But in a subsequent meeting among U.S. officials, at which Sondland reiterated the idea, I told him point-blank that I thought his proposition was wrong and that the NSC would not be party to such an enterprise.
I wanted to believe Sondland was a loose cannon, floating wild ideas of his own, with support from a few misguided colleagues. But he wasn’t a freelancing outlier like Giuliani. He was an appointed government official. His maneuverings had me worried.
So, let’s try something from The Guardian. Sidney Blumenthal writes: “Want to make Jim Jordan sing about the Capitol attack? Ask Jefferson Davis’. This throws us way back to John Brown’s Raid, believe it or not.
After a bloody insurrection was quelled, a congressional committee was created to investigate the organization of the insurrection, sources of funding, and the connections of the insurrectionists to members of Congress who were indeed called to testify. And did.
Within hours of the assault Brown and his band were cornered in the engine room of the armory, surrounded by local militia. Then the marines arrived under the command of Col Robert E Lee and Lt Jeb Stuart. At Brown’s public trial, his eloquent statements against slavery and hanging turned him into a martyr. John Wilkes Booth, wearing the uniform of the Richmond Grays and standing in the front ranks of troops before the scaffold on which Brown was hanged on 2 December, admired Brown’s zealotry and composure.
Nearly two weeks later, on 14 December, the Senate created the Select Committee to Inquire into the Late Invasion and Seizure of the Public Property at Harpers Ferry. Senator James M Mason of Virginia, the sponsor of the Fugitive Slave Act, was chairman. He appointed as chief prosecutor Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.
Davis was particularly intent on questioning Senator William H Seward of New York, the likely Republican candidate for president.
“I will show before I am done,” Davis said, “that Seward, by his own declaration, knew of the Harpers Ferry affair. If I succeed in showing that, then he, like John Brown deserves, I think, the gallows, for his participation in it.”
In early May 1858, Hugh Forbes, a down-at-heel soldier of fortune, a Scotsman who fought with Garibaldi in the failed Italian revolution of 1848, a fencing coach and a translator for the New York Tribune, knocked on Seward’s door with a peculiar tale of woe. He had been hired by Brown to be the “general in the revolution against slavery”, had written a manual for guerrilla warfare, but had not been paid. Seward sent him away and forgot about him.
Forbes wandered to the Senate, where he told his story to Henry Wilson, a Republican from Massachusetts. Wilson, who later became Ulysses S Grant’s vice president, was alarmed enough to write to Dr Samuel Gridley Howe, a distinguished Boston physician and reformer, founder of the first institution for the blind, and Massachusetts chairman of the Kansas committee. Wilson relayed that he had heard a “rumor” about John Brown and “that very foolish movement” and that Howe and other donors to the Kansas cause should “get the arms out of his control”.
But Howe, a member of the Secret Six, continued to send Brown money.
The investigating committee called Seward and Wilson. On 2 May 1860, Seward testified that Forbes came to him, was “very incoherent” and told him Brown was “very reckless”. Seward said he offered Forbes no advice or money, and that Forbes “went away”.
Davis pointedly asked Seward if he had any knowledge of Brown’s plan to attack Harpers Ferry.
Seward replied: “I had no more idea of an invasion by John Brown at that place, than I had of one by you or myself.”
Again, this is a long read but fascinating. I took many trips as a Girl Scout and Elementary school kid to John Brown’s cave in Nebraska City. I never actually read this account of the senate investigation with the soon-to-be insurrectionists to our Republic in charge.
If you want some real clickbait on places not to hold your next Birthday Bash, check out this from The Hill and Albert Hunt: “‘Freedom-loving’ conservatives stoked the latest round of infection and death.”
I write columns about politics and government, occasionally indulging as a frustrated sports writer; I don’t write about business or leisure activities except:
- I would avoid any cruise ships embarking from Florida. The state barred these ships from requiring passengers and staff to be vaccinated. That was upheld by a conservative appeals court.
- I’d think twice about locating or expanding a business in Texas. The state prohibits most private concerns from requiring customers to be vaccinated. There are severe punishments for avoidance.
- I’d skip any August vacation plans to Branson, Mo., or Nashville, Tenn. In Taney County, where Branson is located, the Ozark destination spot for country music and other entertainment, fewer than 40 percent of residents are vaccinated following state resistance efforts. Tennessee fired its top public health officials — apparently for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated; a Nashville area evangelical pastor threatened to evict any parishioners who wear masks.
Hopes that the misery of the pandemic is over are diminishing. There are more than 75,000 new infections daily, six times greater than a month earlier, overwhelmingly from the Delta variant and almost all among the unvaccinated.
Hospital intensive care units face overcrowding, again. If the spread isn’t stopped, new variants — perhaps more lethal — will emerge.
There are a few unvaccinated for religious reasons, and people of color who have historical reasons to distrust public health workers and the CDC.
But chiefly, the vaccination failure is because Coronavirus has been politicized among conservatives, with right-wing politicians, judges, think tanks and activists charging it’s all about personal liberty. This ignores the fact that exercising those personal liberties risks the liberties — and lives — of others.
Accordingly, there is a pressing need for a more forceful public and private response to a looming crisis brought about largely through conservative hypocrisy.
Conservative Republicans used to argue that government should only sparingly dictate practices to private companies; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are ignoring that philosophy. Republicans also used to argue that the government closest to the people governs best; their updated version adds the caveat: ‘unless local governments are run by liberals or minorities and the state government by Republicans.’
There’s the politicized judiciary. in a speech to the Federalist Society late last year — after the election — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito lashed out at the social distancing, mask wearing and other COVID measures: “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.” Of course, we actually have: rationing for food, gas and other resources during World War II; pervasive wage and price controls from 1971 to 1973.
Ah, America, confuzzled and misinformed.
Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Newsmax that the former president has been holding meetings with his “cabinet” despite not being president.
There’s a video interview with Maggie Haberman if you want to go there.
This is way longer than I assumed it would be but hope you can find some time to read some of these.
What’s on your reading and bloggling list today?
Take a look at this:
Those cartoons are via Cagle.
It is late, I forgot this was Sunday…take it easy. Stay safe.
Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.
The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.
The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.
Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.
The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.
Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.
“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.
“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.
Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.
President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.
The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.
The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.
Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”
A bit more:
The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.
After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.
The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.
The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.
So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.
David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.
…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.
Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)
In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.
What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.
“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.
All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.
If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:
Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.
Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.
Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.
Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”
On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”
He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]
As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:
“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”
Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.
Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”
On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.
“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”
Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.
He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.
Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.