Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.
Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.
DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts
The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.
“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”
State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.
“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.
In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.
DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida.
More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.
The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.
“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”
NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.
The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.
Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.
“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”
Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.
About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.
This story is still developing.
Multiple Trump Investigations
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.
Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.
Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.
In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.
Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.
The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.
The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.
Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.
A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”
The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.
Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.
Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”
— Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.
— “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
— Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.
The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.
In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.
“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.
Judge Loose Cannon
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.
The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.
The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.
“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”
As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.
Justice Elena Kagan Speaks
Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.
“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.
Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.
However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.
In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….
Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”
Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser
Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.
“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.
Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).
To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.
Read more at the NYT.
Links to revelations from the book:
That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?
Right now the Southern states are experiencing the kind of surges that hit us in the Northeast at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately these states are dealing with the Delta variant, which spreads much more easily than the early versions of the virus. That’s bad enough, but many Republican governors are making it worse by fighting against simple mitigation strategies that can protect their citizens.
Dakinikat sent me this article from Yahoo News: Southern Hospitals, Crushed By Delta Strain, Report Running Out Of ICU Beds.
Hospitals across the southern United States are reporting dramatic surges in coronavirus patients, forcing some to close their emergency rooms and others to treat more patients than they have capacity for as the delta variant of the virus continues to wreak havoc on regions with large swaths of unvaccinated residents.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday said the state had “very startling” figures showing the largest, single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He said state hospitals had just eight beds in the ICU left for severely ill patients.
In Louisiana, an epicenter of the current wave, hospitalizations were climbing at the fastest rate since the pandemic started. Last week, the head of the state’s largest hospital described recent weeks as the “darkest” thus far, saying doctors were no longer able to provide patients adequate care under a crush in admissions.
“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, who runs the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, said last Monday.
O’Neal added later that week that dozens of children and young adults were now in the hospital, a reality that’s new under the delta variant. Half of the 12 children admitted were under the age of 2, The Advocate reported.
At least Louisiana has a Democratic Governor–Jon Bel Edwards–who actually cares about the situation. Not so in Florida and Texas, where Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott seem determined to kill as many of their citizens as possible.
Florida reported similar circumstances, with many hospitals over capacity. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 43% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, prompting complex logistical issues as hospital workers race to find space for a tide of sick residents.
And in Texas several hospitals said they were closing their emergency rooms due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, directing patients elsewhere.
The delta variant has upended the country’s reopening plans, prompting cities and states nationwide to reinstate social distancing measures and mask mandates that were relaxed just months ago and meant to usher in an era of relative freedom. Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in every state in the U.S. and hit the highest levels this week since February, averaging more than 100,000 a day.
Many of the states with the biggest outbreaks have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates and are led by Republican governors and legislatures that have made it much more difficult to protect their citizens. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has banned vaccine passports and mask mandates for some businesses and schools. Arkansas’ Hutchinson said he made an error when he barred new mask mandates in April, and Texas’ Greg Abbott (R) has faced revolt from some school districts who have threatened to sue over his order to ban mask mandates.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: Kids are the victims of new GOP bid to politicize the pandemic.
America is being forced yet again to learn the same, repetitive lesson of the pandemic: Fighting a raging, evolving virus with cynicism-laced politics rather than medical data only leads to the same result – a prolonged national nightmare.
School kids are the latest victims as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, prioritize ideology over public health guidance. The governors are clashing with local officials who are resisting their orders banning school mask mandates, which appear to directly contradict traditional conservative resistance to distant, centralized power.
The Delta variant of Covid-19 is challenging the long-held belief that children don’t get hit hard by the coronavirus. The American Association of Pediatrics reported last week that the US had an 84% increase in new Covid-19 cases among children from July 22 to 29, and Dr. Aileen Marty – an infectious disease expert at Florida International University – told CNN last week that children’s hospitals in the Sunshine State are “completely overwhelmed.”
As the Delta variant scythes across the country – especially less-vaccinated Republican states – there are increasing signs that leaders like DeSantis and Abbott have locked themselves into absolutist positions that they will be unable to water down without sustaining serious personal and political damage. But the price for their path is more sickness and death in crowded Covid-19 units among people they were elected to serve.
“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Monday. “Politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.” [….]
The irony is that by resisting similar measures, these Republicans have proved true warnings by federal health officials that the Delta variant represents a grave threat. Now the same dynamic may play out again, as they ignore CDC advice that all kids in schools should wear masks.
Both governors enjoy strong support in conservative media. DeSantis was recently celebrated by right-wing pundits for his handling of the pandemic and is seen as a possible alternative nominee in 2024 if ex-President Donald Trump decides not to run again. ThSo their refusal to change course as conditions worsen only bolsters the impression that those who want a political future in the GOP must now demonstrate their contempt for common-sense health measures, just as surely as they must repeatedly prove their devotion to Trump.
There’s much more at the CNN link.
Both Abbott and DeSantis have ordered school districts not to require masks; some school officials are resisting. DeSantis is even threatening to defund schools that require masks. CNN: Florida governor’s office says state could withhold salaries of officials who enact school mask mandates.
In a move that escalated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight over mask mandates, the governor’s office said Monday that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.
Last month DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules based on parents’ rights to make the health care decisions for their children who are students. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.
Several school districts are considering mask mandates and a few have said masks will be required, with some opt-out exceptions.
A statement from the governor’s office on Monday says the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”
His spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, pinned a tweet Monday that reads: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”
It’s close, but I’d have to say DeSantis is the worst. How bad is Covid in Florida? Newsweek: Florida’s COVID Death Rate Is More Than 32 States Combined.
According to a COVID tracker created by The New York Times, Florida is currently recording a seven-day average of 122.1 deaths in the state from the virus, a figure larger than 32 other states combined.
Florida’s figure is also more than double that of the second most affected state, Texas, which is currently recording a seven-day average of 57.6, closely followed by California with around 42 people dying every day.
Louisiana and Missouri have also been badly affected, with average death rates of 33.4 and 25.1 each, while Maine and Vermont are faring the best, reporting figures of 0.1 and 0.3 respectively.
Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year.
In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase.
Cases among children are surging too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.
Public health experts and pediatricians said last fall that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to start classes in-person was the amount of viral spread in the community at large. With cases so much higher than last year, districts are going against those recommendations by welcoming students to campus and limiting online learning options. Those moves follow instructions from the state government, which also prohibited schools from requiring masks for all children.
Over the seven days prior to last Friday’s state report, Florida saw 13,596 cases among children under 12, and 13,858 cases among ages 12 to 19.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: When it comes to the new coronavirus surge, Florida is an obvious outlier.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in his state amid dire warnings while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the increasingly hardline Republican.
Abbott’s request came on Monday as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their coronavirus patient overflow.
Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.
The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.
The Republican governor has directed the Texas department of state health services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources.
He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.
As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.
The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.
The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.
It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.
“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”
Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.
CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.
I feel for the citizens of Texas and Florida–especially the young children, who are at the mercy of their parents’ political ideologies as they return to school. This is completely insane!
That’s my rant for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay safe and healthy wherever you live.