Tuesday Reads

41En0i6p+NSGood Afternoon!!

There’s lots of gossip in the news because two Trump books were released today and a third is coming out next Tuesday. There’s also quite a bit of actual news out there: Fired Social Security Administration head Andrew Saul is still whining about his firing. Texas Democrats fled the state to once again try to block Republicans’ voter suppression bill. Biden will deliver a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia today. People in Cuba are demonstrating against the dictatorship there. The Trump Organization has removed Allen Weisselberg from many of it’s subsidiary businesses. Lets see how much of this news I can cram into this post.

First up, the gossip. Here are some links to check out if you want to know what’s in those tell-all books without spending money:

Axios: Trump unloads on Kavanaugh in new Michael Wolff book.

NBC News: Michael C. Bender This Air Force One fight over Trump’s Covid mask helped transform the 2020 race.

The Washington Post: ‘I Alone Can Fix It’ book excerpt: Inside Trump’s Election Day and the birth of the ‘big lie.’

Der Spiegel: Michael Wolff on His Latest Trump Book“There Was No Plan. He Is Deranged.”

CNN: Trump said whoever ‘leaked’ info on his White House bunker stay should be ‘executed,’ new book claims.

The Daily Beast: New Michael Wolff Book Says Murdoch Told Fox to Call Arizona Against Trump: ‘F*ck Him.’

Social Security Administration News:

The Washington Post: Fired and defiant, former Social Security chief is cut off from agency computers.

Ousted Social Security commissioner Andrew Saul, the Trump appointee who declared Friday he would defy his firing by President Biden, on Monday found his access to agency computers cut off, even as his acting replacement moved to undo his policies.


Andrew Saul

“I’m here to do the job,” Saul said from his home in Katonah, N.Y., where he had led the agency since the coronavirus pandemic forced most operations to shift in March 2020 to remote work, “but I can’t do anything with the communications shut down.”

Saul, 74, called his firing and that of his deputy David Black, in an email from the White House Personnel Office, a “palace coup” that he said blindsided him, given that his six-year term was not set to expire until 2025. As Republicans made plans to defend him, Saul said he had no public announcement — yet — on his strategy to remain in office as the “duly confirmed Social Security commissioner.”

“There will be more,” said Saul, a wealthy former women’s apparel executive and prominent Republican donor who had served on the board of a conservative think tank that has called for cuts to Social Security benefits. “Stay tuned.”

CNN: Biden administration took steps to ‘off-board’ fired Social Security chief, administration official says.

The Biden administration has worked to off-board the fired commissioner of the Social Security Administration who said he would report to work on Monday despite being terminated on Friday, an administration official said.

“As with any employment termination, the government has taken steps to off-board Andrew Saul as we would any other former employee,” an administration official says.

Those steps should essentially prevent Saul, who was a holdover from President Donald Trump’s administration and refused to resign when requested last week, from accessing the agency’s systems after his termination. Saul previously told the Washington Post that he still planned to report to work on Monday by signing in remotely from his home in New York….

Saul has questioned the legality of the President’s decision, but a White House official says they believe the President has the authority to remove these officials due to precedent from the Supreme Court. A Justice Department memo written Thursday also outlined the justification.

Ironically, Biden’s firing of Saul was enabled by the conservative Trump Supreme Court.

Check out the Slate story to learn how SCOTUS made it easier for Biden to get rid of Trump’s political appointees.

The fight for voting rights:

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Texas Democrats are on a desperate mission to stop GOP voting bills.

Texas state lawmakers, enacting an intricately plotted escape, left their posts and the Lone Star state itself and took flight to Washington on Monday on an extraordinary mission to halt Republican restrictive voting bills built on former President Donald Trump’s fraud lies.

After stepping off two chartered jets, they insisted they planned to stay until a highly unlikely scenario unfolds in which moderate Democratic senators kill filibuster rules used by the GOP to block voting rights reform.

“We are coming to DC to put pressure on them to act, because this isn’t just Texas,” Texas Democratic state Rep. John Bucy III told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday.

“All over the South and in Republican states, we are seeing voter suppression bills. We need Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” said Bucy, who unlike his colleagues set off the long drive from Texas to the US capital.

The spectacle is the latest stunning example of how the US political system is on the edge of meltdown as a result of turmoil triggered by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, which are now taken as fact by millions of Republican voters. The move also represents the growing desperation of Democrats who believe that their chances of winning future elections, including in 2022 and 2024, are being undermined by orchestrated assaults on the voting system by the GOP.


Texas Democrats flee on chartered flight to Washington DC.

Ian Millhiser at Vox: The GOP voting bill that literally caused Texas Democrats to flee the state, explained.

So what, exactly, is in this bill that led Democrats to literally flee their homes in order to keep it from becoming law?

The short answer to that question is that there are two versions of the bill, both modest compared to some GOP voting proposals, though both still worrisome. Both the House and the Senate versions of the bill would add new restrictions to Texas’s already very restrictive laws governing absentee voting. They also would prevent drive-through polling sites, an innovation that some Texas counties used during the pandemic to protect voter health. And they impose new restrictions and paperwork requirements on individuals who help disabled voters and non-English speakers cast a ballot.

The bills would also make it much harder for election officials to remove partisan poll “watchers” sent by political campaigns or parties if those poll watchers harass voters or otherwise attempt to disrupt the election — with the Senate bill making it particularly difficult to remove such saboteurs. And the Senate bill could impose a draconian array of civil and criminal penalties on election officials, political campaigns, and even individual volunteers who commit fairly minor violations of the state’s election law.

The state’s Republican leadership, moreover, has made it quite clear that it is willing to wield the criminal law harshly to punish even very minor election-related transgressions. Texas’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is currently prosecuting a 62-year-old man who mistakenly voted a few months before his right to vote was restored — the man, Hervis Rogers, was nearing the end of his parole period after being convicted of two felonies. If Rogers is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the crime of voting.

If the GOP’s bill passes, in other words, Texas may do far more than simply make it harder to vote. They could give officials like Paxton broad authority to bring criminal charges against individuals who commit minor offenses no more serious than what Rogers did.

To read more details about the bill, head over to Vox.


Politico: Biden to call for ‘a new coalition’ to defend voting rights.

In a high-profile voting rights speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden plans to “blast the denial of the right to vote as grounded in autocracy, undemocratic, un-American, and unpatriotic,” a White House official shared with POLITICO.

And the president will call for a “new coalition” of advocates, activists, students, faith leaders, labor leaders, and business executives “to overcome this un-American trend and meet the moment” through “turnout and voter education.”

Biden will say “in no uncertain terms” that attempts to limit voting access in Republican-led states “are the most significant threat today to the integrity of our elections, and to the security of the right to vote for people of all races and backgrounds,” said the official, who shared some details of the speech. And the president will take aim at election changes that “could allow partisans to throw out the votes of anyone for made up reasons,” in what appears to be a reference to Georgia’s new law where the state legislature now appoints the majority of the board of elections and that board can replace local election officials.

Biden’s speech on voting rights at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center on Tuesday comes as the president is facing rising pressure from civil rights activists, progressives and some in party leadership to use new and aggressive tactics to combat Republican voting laws.

The protests in Cuba:

The New York Times: ‘Everyone Has a Tipping Point’: Hunger Fuels Cuba’s Protests.

Hospitals and pharmacies have run out of medicines as basic as penicillin and aspirin. Blackouts have become maddeningly frequent and agonizingly long. Cubans lucky enough to have foreign currency wait in line for hours for staples like beans and rice.

A searing economic decline, leading to hardships Cubans have rarely seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union devastated their country in the 1990s, has stirred the island’s largest protest movement in decades, eliciting a chorus of support from American politicians and angry threats from Cuba’s government.

Cubans take to the streets to protest economic 

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” President Biden said in a statement on Monday, citing what he called “decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”

His comments followed an astonishing wave of demonstrations on Sunday, when thousands took to the streets around the nation, shouting phrases like “freedom” and “Homeland and life,” a twist on the governing Communist Party’s motto: “Homeland or death.”

Protesters even overturned a police car and looted a government-run store — acts of open defiance shared widely online in a nation with a long and ruthlessly effective history of quashing dissent.


Cubans take to the streets to protest economic situation.

The Washington Post: Biden seizes on protests with tougher tone toward Cuba.

In sharply warning Cuba’s leaders Monday against repressing a wave of anti-government protesters, President Biden signaled a more muscular approach toward a communist regime that he had previously pledged to engage, taking a step toward shifting a Democratic message that some in the party feel has been politically costly.

A day after the island’s biggest demonstrations in decades, Biden praised Cubans’ “clarion call for freedom” following “decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime” — rhetoric that has often been more typical of conservative Republicans in Florida. Later, Biden warned Havana against “attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.”

By siding so starkly with the dissidents, Biden seized on what some Democrats see as an unexpected opening for their party to chart a course correction on Cuba and rebrand its strategy after years of being seen by some voters — particularly in Florida — as too accommodating of the authoritarian regime and perhaps too soft on communism in general.

“It is an opportunity for us to change the course of events in Cuba,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the son of Cuban immigrants and a vocal critic of prior Democratic efforts to forge closer relations with the Cuban government.

“If we can help change the course of events in Cuba and give echo to the cries of the Cuban people, that will inure to the benefit of this administration,” Menendez said, adding that he and Biden were scheduled to speak late Monday.

The Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg:

The Washington Post: Trump Organization removes indicted top finance officer Allen Weisselberg from leadership roles at dozens of subsidiaries.

The Trump Organization has removed indicted chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg from his leadership roles at more than 40 subsidiary companies, according to corporate filings in the United States and Scotland.

The changes were made Thursday and Friday, a week after a grand jury in Manhattan indicted Weisselberg on 15 felony counts, including grand larceny and tax fraud. Weisselberg was accused by New York prosecutors of helping run a 15-year scheme to evade income taxes by concealing executives’ salaries — including more than $1.7 million of his own income — from tax authorities. Two Trump corporate entities were indicted alongside Weisselberg.


Allen Weisselbeg perp walk

On Thursday, the Trump Organization removed Weisselberg as a director of the company that runs its golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, according to British corporate records.

The next day, the company filed paperwork in Florida to remove Weisselberg as a director at 40 different subsidiaries registered in the state, according to an online database of Florida records.

Those subsidiaries included a holding company that owns many Trump businesses, a corporate entity that handles payroll for many Trump employees, and even a Trump project in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that went bust more than a decade ago.

Previously, Weisselberg had shared the leadership of these companies with one of former president Donald Trump’s adult sons or, in the case of the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., with Trump himself. Now, records show, the Trump family members are left in charge.

That wraps up my news summary for today. Have a nice Tuesday Sky Dancers!

12 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    An important column by Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Less Trump Pays for Jan. 6, the More It Costs Us.

    Trump was impeached for his leading role in the insurrection, but not convicted. The stain of that second impeachment notwithstanding, he left office without sanction. He lives in freedom, cushioned by continued wealth and influence. He still has the Republican Party in his thrall, and within that party, the only orthodoxy that matters is whether you also want to “stop the steal.” After a brief and uncharacteristic silence on this point, Trump now hails the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as heroes.

    “These were peaceful people, these were great people,” he said during a recent interview on Fox News, in which he also embraced the MAGA martyrdom of Ashli Babbitt, who was killed inside the Capitol.

    We are not the only democracy to have had a corrupt, would-be authoritarian in high office. But we have had a hard time holding that person minimally accountable, much less keeping him out of contention for future office, which would have been accomplished had he been removed from the White House.

    As it stands, Trump has all but announced his plan to run for president in 2024, and Republican Party activists are eager to give him the nomination.

    Who is to blame for the former president’s return to prominence? Is it the Democratic leaders who have been content to leave him to his own devices, or is it the Republican ones who have surrendered to his delusions and those of his most devoted fans?

    Neither group is blameless, but the problem goes beyond our political elites, however fearful, timid or craven they happen to be. This isn’t the first time the United States has struggled to hold insurrectionists accountable for their actions.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. Beata says:

    With two pieces of legislation (the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) being held up in the Senate because of the filibuster, Biden is out advocating for better “turnout and voter education”? Come on, man, our democracy is at stake and that’s the best you can do? Pathetic. May LBJ and MLK come back to haunt you in your dreams, Joe.

    Abolish the filibuster!!!

    • quixote says:

      That was my first thought, too. “Turnout” is 2021-speak for “let the voters solve it because Congress is (again) feckless.” (I know, I know. Repubs. *Nobody cares*. They just want the problem solved. If that means taking Manchin and The Other Crossfitter out to the woodshed: Just. Do. It.)

      Plus, if you’re serious about turnout, what’s with gently waving your hands and saying it’s a good idea. Make it mandatory, like the Aussies. The fine is miniscule, often not even enforced, but it’s enough to remind people that this is a civic duty and to just about double turnout compared to the US. (High 80% instead of high 40%.)

      • bostonboomer says:

        And make election day a national holiday!

        • quixote says:

          Yes! That’s the first thing to do. And as one clever legal beagle pointed out, that has a budget component so it could be part of the Dem infrastructure bill passed by reconciliation.

  4. dakinikat says:

    The Kavanaugh thing at Axios is a hoot:

    “Trump unloads on Brett Kavanaugh for his Supreme Court votes: “Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.”

    It’s like thanks we all knew it but why did you do it any way?

    • dakinikat says:

      Twitter is atwit with examples like this.

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. Beata says:

    Sky Dancers, you are a life force!