Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag

Good Afternoon!!

There isn’t any big overarching story dominating today’s news, so I have a mixed bag of articles to share.

I’m going to begin with a story that should be a huge scandal, but the mainstream media and cable news stations have been slow to cover it–I’m not sure why. I posted the story a couple of times here after Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast broke it on January 5: Herschel Walker Staffer: Matt Schlapp ‘Groped’ My Crotch.

A staffer for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has alleged to The Daily Beast that longtime Republican activist Matt Schlapp made “sustained and unwanted and unsolicited” sexual contact with him while the staffer was driving Schlapp back from an Atlanta bar this October.

The staffer said the incident occurred the night of Oct. 19, when Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union and lead organizer for the influential Conservative Political Action Conference, “groped” and “fondled” his crotch in his car against his will after buying him drinks at two different bars.

The staffer described Schlapp, who had traveled to Georgia for a Walker campaign event, as inappropriately and repeatedly intruding into his personal space at the bars. He said he was also keenly aware of his “power dynamic” with Schlapp, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in national conservative politics.

Read more at the link. Yesterday, CNN finally picked up the story and discussed it extensively on the air; and The New York Daily News published an article about it. Maybe now it will get more attention.

From the CNN story: GOP strategist alleges powerful conservative Matt Schlapp sexually assaulted him.

A Republican strategist alleges that Matt Schlapp, the influential chairman of the American Conservative Union, groped and fondled his groin as he drove Schlapp back to an Atlanta hotel several weeks before the November midterm election.

The strategist, a male in his late thirties who was working for the Georgia GOP and Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign at the time, told CNN that Schlapp made the unwanted sexual advances on the ride back from two area bars on October 19. Schlapp allegedly invited the strategist, who was assigned to drive Schlapp, to join him in his hotel room. The staffer declined the offer, and hours later reported the incident to senior campaign staff….

The staffer says he called and texted friends in real time to tell them what happened. CNN reviewed a text exchange between the staffer and a friend in politics, where the staffer is clearly upset and wondering how to tell the campaign that one of their surrogates had allegedly assaulted him. The exchange is being made public for the first time.

“He’s pissed I didn’t follow him to his hotel room,” the staffer wrote.

“I’m so sorry man,” the acquaintance responded. “What a f**king creep.”

The staffer later texted, “I just don’t know how to say it to my superiors thst heir [sic] surrogate fondled my junk without my consent.” [….]

Schlapp runs the ACU, the organization most widely known for staging the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. Both Schlapp and the group occasionally butted heads with Donald Trump before he was elected president in 2016, but have since become fierce loyalists. Schlapp, who served in the George W. Bush White House as director of political affairs, took over the ACU in 2014. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, worked as Trump’s communications director for nearly two years, from 2017 to 2019.

More on the text messages:

According to text messages reviewed by CNN, Schlapp suggested meeting the staffer for drinks.

“I have a dinner at 7. May grab a beer after if you want to join let me know,” Schlapp texted the staffer. The staffer told CNN he joined Schlapp because of the ACU leader’s standing in conservative political circles.

Once at the bar, the staffer says Schlapp began to inappropriately invade his personal space. After leaving the bar, the staffer alleges Schlapp sexually assaulted him as he was driving Schlapp back to his hotel. The staffer said he did not respond in the moment because he was stunned into silence and was focused on getting Schlapp out of the car as quickly as possible.

Later that evening, Schlapp called the staffer, according to a call log reviewed by CNN, to confirm the staffer would be driving him to another Walker event the next morning. After receiving the call, the staffer says he broke down and memorialized what happened by recording videos of himself describing the alleged assault.

“Matt Schlapp, of the CPAC, grabbed my junk and pummeled it at length. And I’m sitting there (in the car) saying, ‘What the hell is going on that this person with a wife and kids is literally doing this to me, from Manuel’s Tavern to the Hilton Garden Inn there at the Atlanta Airport,’” the staffer says in one of the self-recorded clips, which CNN reviewed. “He literally has his hands on me. And I feel so f**king dirty. Feel so f**king dirty. So I don’t know what to do in the morning.”

The next morning, the staffer told top Walker campaign officials about the alleged incident and they immediately directed him not to drive Schlapp and to pass on a number of a car service.

Why isn’t this story getting more traction? Is it because Schlapp is so powerful within the GOP? He heads up organizations that are virulently anti-gay. I’m waiting for it to come out in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Next, Joe Biden’s lawyers found a second batch of classified documents in Delaware. There’s no comparison with what Trump did, but I’m worried that this may prevent the DOJ from prosecuting Trump for actually stealing government documents and refusing to return them.

The New York Times: Second Set of Classified Documents Were Found at Biden’s Wilmington Home, White House Says.

The second set of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president were discovered at a storage space in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Del., a top White House lawyer said on Thursday….

The White House statement, by Richard Sauber, a special counsel to Mr. Biden, did not answer fundamental questions about the contents of the documents, who packed them and whether anyone had gained access to them after he left office. It also did not say when the second batch had been found.

The statement came after the White House acknowledged this week that an earlier batch had been discovered on Nov. 2 in the closet of an office at a think tank that Mr. Biden had used after leaving the vice presidency.

The statement added that the Biden team immediately notified the Justice Department and arranged for it to take possession of the documents.

Mr. Sauber said Mr. Biden’s team had also searched a house the president owned in Rehoboth Beach, Del., but found no documents stored there.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden told reporters in Mexico City that he was “surprised” to learn in the fall that his lawyers had found classified government documents in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

He said his staff had fully cooperated with the National Archives and the Justice Department, but made no mention of the documents later found in Delaware.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers discovered “a small number” of classified documents in his former office at a Washington think tank last fall, the White House said on Monday, prompting the Justice Department to scrutinize the situation to determine how to proceed.

As you probably know, the Justice Department is investigating and will eventually decide whether a special counsel should be appointed. So far, there isn’t any comparison between what Trump and Biden did, but of course Republicans will make that claim. Here’s a good thread on the differences between the two.

Read the rest on Twitter.

Jim Jordan, who will be in charge of the Judiciary Committee and the so-called “weaponization of government” subcommittee, is probably salivating over this story. This is from Loch K. Johnson, Frederick Baron, and Dennis Aftergut at The Bulwark: Jim Jordan, Church Committee Pretender.

Members of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives are trying to stick a civil libertarian label on the subcommittee they’re creating to “investigate the investigators.” Its formal name will be the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. But when talking about it to the press, some Republicans have taken to calling it a reincarnated “Church committee.”

They are invoking the 1975-76 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho). That committee was launched after a bombshell 1974 New York Times report about Nixon-era CIA domestic surveillance on anti-war activists and other dissident American citizens.

Two of us (Johnson and Baron) served in key staff positions on the Church committee. The comparison is preposterous. The new House subcommittee is not remotely up to the Church committee standard—in origin, composition, or purpose.

To begin with, the Church committee bore serious moral authority, which arose from its truly bipartisan mission: tough-minded rethinking of intelligence agency activities under administrations of both parties stretching back almost twenty years.

Indispensable to its credibility was the energetic participation of steely moderate Republican senators like Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), Charles Mathias (R-Md.), and Richard Schweiker (R-Penn.). These were statesmen—intellectually honest and adept. In particular, Baker performed an indispensable, fair-minded role for Church committee Republicans, as he had done on the Senate Watergate Committee.

One example: Concerned about the Church committee’s probe into FBI activities against Martin Luther King Jr., Baker sought evenhandedness without obstruction. “Let’s have a balance, not just focus on King,” Baker said. “Perhaps a session on FBI infiltration of the KKK, too.”

On the Church committee, GOP senators—including the committee’s vice chairman, the conservative John Tower (R-Texas)—were willing to pursue the truth about the actions of Republican administrations. In turn, Democratic senators, including Church, Walter Mondale (D-Minn.), and Gary Hart (D-Col.), were willing to probe the actions of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. That commitment to nonpartisan inquiry catalyzed the committee’s powerful, evidence-based critique of intelligence agency misconduct, and serious proposals for agency reforms later adopted in the Ford and Carter administrations.

What the Church Committee did:

The Church committee unearthed dramatic breaches of law and American norms:

  • CIA assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro in Cuba and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo.
  • FBI COINTELPRO surveillance, infiltration, and disruption targeting King, his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the anti-Vietnam War movement.
  • CIA and FBI mail-opening programs that snooped on broad swaths of U.S. citizens.

Those legitimate subjects of investigation are a far cry from what the new House subcommittee is setting out to do: fishing for stories about the mythical deep state and looking into “ongoing criminal investigations”—that is, going after the law enforcement officials investigating the January 6th insurrection.

Read the rest at the link.

Republicans are also salivating about the opportunity to “investigate” Hunter Biden. That could come back to bite Trump though.

The New York Times: Hunter Biden’s Tangled Tale Comes Front and Center.

The way Republicans tell it, President Biden has been complicit in a long-running scheme to profit from his position in public life through shady dealings around the world engineered by his son, Hunter Biden.

Taking a first step in their long-promised investigation, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday demanded information about the Bidens’ banking transactions from the Treasury Department. And in an earlier report on the Bidens intended to lay the groundwork for hearings they plan to hold, they said they had evidence “demonstrating deliberate, repeated deception of the American people, abuse of the executive branch for personal gain, use of government power to obstruct the investigation” and more.

The real Hunter Biden story is complex and very different in important ways from the narrative promoted by Republicans — but troubling in its own way.

After his father became vice president, Hunter Biden, a 52-year-old Yale-educated lawyer, forged business relationships with foreign interests that brought him millions of dollars, raised questions about whether he was cashing in on his family name, set off alarms among government officials about potential conflicts of interest, and provided Republicans an opening for years of attacks on his father.

And after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015, Hunter descended into a spiral of addiction and tawdry and self-destructive behavior.

He is sober now and no longer entangled in foreign business deals. He is a visible presence in his father’s life — his oldest daughter was married at the White House in November, and he attended a state dinner last month.

But the investigation into his previous dealings may be coming to a head.

David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, is closing in on a decision about whether to prosecute Hunter Biden on charges stemming from his behavior during his most troubled years.

Investigators have pored over documents related to and questioned witnesses about his overseas business dealings. They include his role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company led by an oligarch who at the time was under investigation for corruption — a position that Hunter accepted while his father, as vice president, was overseeing Obama administration policy in Ukraine.

They also include his equity stake in a Chinese business venture, and his failed joint venture with a Chinese tycoon who had courted well-connected Americans in both parties — at one point he gave Hunter Biden a large diamond as a gift — but was later detained by Chinese authorities.

Investigators have similarly sought information about interactions between Hunter Biden’s business associates and his father.

But Mr. Weiss, people familiar with the investigation say, appears to be focused on a less politically explosive set of possible charges stemming from his failure to meet filing deadlines for his 2016 and 2017 tax returns, and questions about whether he falsely claimed at least $30,000 in deductions for business expenses.

Mr. Weiss is also said to be considering charging Hunter Biden, who has openly acknowledged his years of struggle with drugs and alcohol, with lying on a U.S. government form that he filled out to purchase a handgun in 2018. On the form, he answered that he was not using drugs — an assertion that prosecutors might be able to challenge based on his erratic behavior and possible witness accounts of his drug use around that period.

One more sad story for us old fans of 1960’s rock. Yesterday, guitar legend Jeff Beck died suddenly of bacterial meningitis.

From the NYT obit: Jeff Beck, Guitarist With a Chapter in Rock History, Dies at 78.

Jeff Beck, one of the most skilled, admired and influential guitarists in rock history, died on Tuesday in a hospital near his home at Riverhall, a rural estate in southern England. He was 78.

The cause was bacterial meningitis, Melissa Dragich, his publicist, said.

During the 1960s and ’70s, as either a member of the Yardbirds or as leader of his own bands, Mr. Beck brought a sense of adventure to his playing that helped make the recordings by those groups groundbreaking.

In 1965, when he joined the Yardbirds to replace another guitar hero, Eric Clapton, the group was already one of the defining acts in Britain’s growing electric blues movement. But his stinging licks and darting leads on songs like “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down” added an expansive element to the music that helped signal the emerging psychedelic rock revolution.

Three years later, when Mr. Beck formed his own band, later known as the Jeff Beck Group — along with Rod Stewart, a little-known singer at the time, and the equally obscure Ron Wood on bass — the weight of the music created an early template for heavy metal. Specifically, the band’s 1968 debut, “Truth,” provided a blueprint that another former guitar colleague from the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page, drew on to found Led Zeppelin several months later.

In 1975, when Mr. Beck began his solo career with the “Blow by Blow” album, he reconfigured the essential formula of that era’s fusion movement, tipping the balance of its influences from jazz to rock and funk, in the process creating a sound that was both startlingly new and highly successful. “Blow by Blow” became a Billboard Top 5 and, selling a million or more copies, a platinum hit.

Along the way, Mr. Beck helped either pioneer or amplify important technical innovations on his instrument. He elaborated the use of distortion and feedback effects, earlier explored by Pete Townshend; intensified the effect of bending notes on the guitar; and widened the range of expression that could be coaxed from devices attached to the guitar like the whammy bar.

Drawing on such techniques, Mr. Beck could weaponize his strings to hit like a stun gun or caress them to express what felt like a kiss. His work had humor, too, with licks that could cackle and leads that could tease.

Click the NYT link to read the rest. I saw the Jeff Beck Group at The Boston Tea Party in 1968 or 1969. The warm-up group was Buddy Miles. Rod Stewart was impressive as the lead singer. That was before he went more mainstream. Anyway, it was a great show. The Tea Party was a great big hall–no seats or anything and it was LOUD.

Have a great Thursday everyone!!


Tuesday Reads: GOP Clown Show

Clowns, by Philippe Jacquot,

Clowns, by Philippe Jacquot

Good Afternoon!!

The GOP clown show has begun. Last night House Republicans voted to gut the House ethics committee as part of a rules package agreed to by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Also in the rules package, they approved a new subcommittee under the Judiciary Committee headed by Rep. Jim Jordan that will supposedly investigate the “weaponization” of the federal government. In the first bill taken up by the new House, they voted to eliminate funding for new IRS agents that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: House Republicans move to defang ethics office investigating its members.

House Republicans moved to pre-emptively kill any investigations against its members as it curtailed the power of an independent ethics office just as it was weighing whether to open inquiries into lawmakers who defied subpoenas issued by the House January 6 select committee last year.

The incoming Republican majority also paved the way for a new special subcommittee with a wide mandate to investigate the US justice department and intelligence agencies, which could include reviewing the criminal investigations into Donald Trump and a Republican congressman caught up in the Capitol attack inquiry.

The measures took effect as House Republicans narrowly passed the new rules package that included the changes for the next Congress, 220-213, setting the stage for politically charged fights with the Biden administration over access to classified materials and details of criminal investigations.

Seeking to protect itself, the rules package first undercut the ability of the office of congressional ethics (OCE) to function, with changes that struck at its principal vulnerabilities to defang its investigative powers for at least the next two years, according to sources familiar with its operation.

The changes to the OCE are twofold: reintroducing term limits for members of the bipartisan board, which would force out three of four Democratic-appointed members, and restricting its ability to hire professional staff to the first 30 days of the new congressional session.

The issue with the changes, the Guardian previously reported, is that the OCE requires board approval to open new investigations, while new hires are typically approved by the board. The term limits would mean Democrats need to find new board members, which can take months – far longer than the 30-day hiring period.

In essence, the changes mean that by the time the OCE has a board, it may have run out of time to hire staff, leaving it with one counsel to do possible investigations into the new House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and other Republican lawmakers who defied January 6 select committee subpoenas.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney on the planned “weaponization” subcommittee: Mutually assured obstruction: House GOP aims ‘weaponization’ panel at DOJ.

House Republicans are declaring what amounts to an investigative war on the Biden administration, pledging to probe “ongoing criminal investigations” at the Justice Department.

Veterans of some of Congress’ recent major probes, and the department itself, predict that they’ll be told to pound sand.

Evil Clown vs Smiley, by Herr Karl

Evil Clown vs Smiley, by Herr Karl

 

GOP lawmakers are dramatically escalating their standoff with the administration by launching a wide-ranging investigative panel to probe what they call the “weaponization of government.” It’s a broad mandate that will allow the party to look into any government agency or program that it views as suspect, including the FBI, IRS and the intelligence community — making good on a key demand of a band of hardline conservatives who opposed Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the gavel.

And it’s an opening salvo that promises to escalate quickly. The Justice Department is certain to fiercely protect its most sensitive investigative files and prosecutors are simply not going to hand over information on open criminal probes, legal experts say. The resulting conflict promises to erode the already strained relationship between DOJ and congressional Republicans.

“This will be a separation of powers hornets’ nest,” said former House General Counsel Stan Brand, who represented witnesses before the Jan. 6 select committee, including Dan Scavino, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump. “In order to insulate the process from taint, [DOJ] will have to draw clearer ‘lines in the sand’ over what they will provide.”

The genesis of the proposed select panel — which would operate underneath the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — has exacerbated concerns among DOJ allies about how GOP lawmakers will use their broad directive.

Notably, those seeking to access ongoing criminal matters are among the staunchest political allies of the former president whose efforts to overturn the 2020 election are the subject of a special counsel investigation. Several GOP members of Congress — including House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Va.) — allied closely with Trump, prompting the department to scrutinize their actions.

Perry declined to rule out serving on the panel in an ABC interview on Sunday, asking: “Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise.”

Both Perry and Jordan were subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee to testify about events surrounding the Capitol attack by a mob of the former president’s supporters. Both declined to comply with the subpoena.

Though GOP leaders have not yet announced any members of the new investigative panel, McCarthy has indicated to House Republicans that he anticipates Jordan will lead it. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), who pushed for the investigative body for months, is viewed as a likely member. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has also said publicly he expects to participate.

There’s much more on the plans for the new subcommittee at the link. I can’t imagine these bozos will pry anything from the DOJ. There’s obviously a serious separation of powers issue there.

Republicans in the House also plan to “investigate” the origins of the Covid pandemic. The Washington Post: House GOP to embark on sweeping probe of covid origin, U.S. response.

House Republicans on Monday commissioned a special investigative panel focused on the coronavirus pandemic, hoping to leverage their new, powerful majority to press scientists and federal officials about the origin of the public health crisis and the government’s response to it.

Lovely Clown, by Leonid Afrenov

Lovely Clown, by Leonid Afrenov

Party lawmakers officially chartered the new effort in a sprawling package setting the chamber’s rules for the next two years, awarding it a sweeping mandate — from looking into vaccine development, school closures and other mitigation measures to examining the roughly $5 trillion in emergency federal aid approved since early 2020.

Republicans have long derided Democrats, public health experts and others who advocated for an aggressive government response to covid-19, which has claimed millions of lives globally. At the center of GOP criticism is the suspicion that the coronavirus originated out of laboratory experiments in Wuhan, China, potentially backed by U.S. money — a view at odds with peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to a more likely origin in a Wuhan market.

In the process, Republican lawmakers also have clashed with scientists and doctors on a wide array of policies meant to arrest the spread of the virus — opposing vaccine mandates, blasting in-person capacity limits and rejecting new federal funding for tests, treatments and other tools.

With new control of the House, however, the GOP aims to surface those concerns in a more prominent setting, questioning a wide array of current and former government officials, potentially including Anthony S. Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The panel, officially named as the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, essentially replaces a Democrat-led legislative body that had focused its work on monitoring emergency coronavirus aid for fraud. Under Republicans, it does not yet have a leader, but it is expected to hold its first hearing in February.

Sigh . . .

You can read more about the McCarthy rules package at The New York Times: New House Rules Make It Easier to Dump Speaker, and Harder to Spend or Raise Taxes.

According to Andrew Solender at Axios, there’s another secret addendum to the rules package: House Republicans in the dark on McCarthy’s shadow document.

A private document that only some House Republicans have seen and others refuse to talk about could play an outsized role in the governance of the chamber over the next two years.

Why it matters: The document contains concessions — not included in the rules package passed on Monday night — that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to rebellious Freedom Caucus members to secure the speaker’s gavel.

 — Those members have threatened to kill McCarthy’s speakership as swiftly as they acquiesced to it if he reneges on their handshake agreements.

Driving the news: The existence of a “secret three-page addendum” containing “the most controversial concessions” that McCarthy made in order to get elected was first reported by Punchbowl News on Monday and confirmed to Axios by multiple GOP aides and members.

  — One of those concessions is three seats set aside for conservatives on the Rules Committee, as well as representation for them on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

  — Other McCarthy giveaways include votes on congressional term limits and a select committee on the weaponization of the federal government, a debt limit strategy and a more open amendment process on appropriations bills.

  — One thing the document doesn’t contain, according to NRCC Chair Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who said he’s seen it, is promised committee chairmanships for specific members: “No names, just representation [on panels].”

Read the rest at Axios.

Ben Werschkul at Yahoo Business on the IRS defunding bill: Here’s why the House GOP made defunding the IRS its first priority.

The House GOP’s first policy bill out of the gate didn’t address inflation or gas prices or immigration, but instead went after the Internal Revenue Service.

Dark Clown, by

Dark Clown, by BERTOLINO Florent

The bill was passed Monday evening on a straight party line vote of 221 to 210 to reverse much of the $80 billion in extra funding set aside for the agency by 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act. need of reform.” [….]

The claim from countless Republicans, from Speaker McCarthy on down, is that the influx of money will lead to a flood of 87,000 new IRS agents who will then turn and harass everyday Americans. Some critics of the agency go even further and claim these new agents will be armed.

But fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked the claims, and the agency itself pushed back in a Yahoo Finance op-ed from then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in August.

The viral claims are “absolutely false,” Rettig wrote at the time, adding his agency “is often perceived as an easy target for mischaracterizations,” but he promised the new money will not lead to increased audit scrutiny on households making under $400,000.

The plan is instead for much of the money to go toward wealthy tax cheats. IRS estimates of the so-called “tax gap” — the difference between what taxes are owed to the government and what is actually paid — is hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Much of the $80 billion will be focused on taking a bite out of the gap, focusing on wealthy tax payers. The investment is projected to pay for itself and then bring in over $100 billion in increased tax revenue over the coming decade.

By contrast, a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Monday afternoon found that the net effect of the House GOP bill’s to defund the agency would increase the deficit by more than $114.3 billion over the coming decade if enacted.

Fortunately, this bill will most likely die in the Senate, and if it somehow gets to Biden’s desk, he will veto it.

In other news, Republicans are gleeful, because a small number of classified documents were found while lawyers were cleaning out an office used by Joe Biden before he became president. The lawyers immediately contacted the National Archives and turned over the documents, and the DOJ is now looking into what happened. There’s no comparison between this and Donald Trump’s stealing of hundreds of classified documents and refusing to return them, but Republicans will have a field day anyway. One hopes the press will recognize the differences.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The Trump and Biden classified-document revelations are not the same.

After serving as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, Joe Biden did what high-profile former politicians so often do: He set up a think tank at a prominent university.

Biden’s was called the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, headquartered at the University of Pennsylvania. But unlike other elected officials and other such institutions, Biden’s engagement with the Penn Biden Center was soon back-burnered. By April 2019, he was a candidate for the presidency.

In November, almost exactly two years after Biden’s election, attorneys for the president were emptying an office at the center when, according to their account, they discovered about 10 documents bearing classification markings. The next day, the documents were turned over to the National Archives. The Justice Department is now reviewing them.

In its most concise distillation — documents with classification markings found in president’s office — the scenario seems like a mirror of the controversy that swirled around Donald Trump for much of last year, including the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago property. Trump and his allies have, predictably, tried to draw this comparison, looping in funding that Penn (broadly; not the Biden center) has received from China.

365-days-with-this-clown-ylli-haruni

355 days with this clown, by Ylli Haru

“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump fumed on the social media platform he owns. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”

But, just as the fundamental issue with the Trump documents is not whether they were classified, the situations with the two presidents are not obviously comparable in the way that Trump suggests.

At this point, we don’t know much about the Biden documents beyond what his team has made public, which is certainly an important caveat. According to the Biden team’s statement, the documents were found in a locked closet and quickly turned over to the government. What they contain is unclear, as is their current classification level or status. (There are, of course, numerous existing documents that are no longer classified but which may nonetheless still carry classification markings.) One person, tongue presumably in cheek, told CBS News that the documents did not contain nuclear secrets.

Obvious differences are that Biden didn’t take the documents deliberately and his attorney turned them over to the National Archives as soon as they discovered them. Read the rest at the WaPo.

Meanwhile, the DOJ is still attempting to get Trump to return any documents that he still possesses. Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: DoJ seeks to question Trump team that found more classified documents.

The US justice department is intensifying its investigation of Donald Trump’s unauthorized retention of national security materials as it prepares to question the people who searched the former president’s properties at the end of last year and found more documents with classified markings.

The department was given a general explanation from Trump’s lawyers at the time about who conducted the search – a company said to be known to Trump with experience handling classified records cases – when the new documents marked as classified were returned to the government around Thanksgiving last year.

But the department, unsatisfied with that accounting, last week convinced a federal judge in a sealed hearing to force Trump’s lawyers to give the names of the people who retrieved the documents with an intent to question them directly, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move by prosecutors to ask a federal judge to compel the information marks the latest escalating twist in the criminal investigation into Trump’s potential unauthorized retention of highly sensitive government documents as well as obstruction of justice.

The pattern of prosecutors now seeking judicial intervention at every turn signals an aggressive posture from the special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the investigation after being appointed to insulate the department from accusations of political conflicts with Trump, who is now a 2024 presidential candidate.

The justice department told Trump’s legal team in October that it suspected the former president was still in possession of additional documents with classified markings even after the FBI seized hundreds of sensitive materials when agents searched his Mar-a-Lago property on 8 August.

After initially resisting suggestions to retain an outside firm to search his properties for any classified documents, Trump retained people to search his other properties including Trump Tower in New York, Trump Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, Mar-a-Lago, and a storage unit in Florida.

The search, carried out by a company described as being a known entity to the former president, turned up at the storage unit at least two more documents with classified markings that Trump’s lawyers then hurriedly turned over to prosecutors on the documents case.

That’s it for me today. What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Election Aftermath

The Yellow Cow, Franz Marc

The Yellow Cow, Franz Marc

Good Afternoon!!

I’ve been sitting here for awhile with my laptop open, staring into space; and I just realized that I’m kind of in a daze after the past few days.

Election day was much better for Democrats than I expected, even though I had read convincing arguments from Democratic polling experts Simon Rosenberg and Tom Bonier that they could do well. I actually included their predictions in my election day  Tuesday post via a piece by Rosenberg.

My worst fears didn’t materialize, and that’s great; but we’re still in a kind of limbo waiting for results in Arizona and Nevada. It will also be a long time before California counts all the votes, so we may not know who controls the House for some time. In the Senate, we may not know until the December 6 Georgia runoff.

One thing we do know for sure is that abortion rights was an extremely important issue for voters in many states.

The New York Times: ‘My Main, Core Issue’: Abortion Was the Driving Force for Many Voters.

It was a driving force for a retired banker in San Antonio, an artist in Racine, Wis., an event planner in Miami Beach. It motivated college students and retirees, men and especially women. Even those who might usually skip a midterm election had been compelled to make time to cast a ballot.

Across the nation, voters felt an obligation to weigh in on what, for many, was a vital matter: abortion rights.

“Abortion was my main, core issue,” said Urica Carver, 41, a registered Republican from Scranton, Pa.

A single mother of six children, Ms. Carver, a caseworker for the state, said she would have most likely supported Republicans in the midterms. But the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer magnified an issue that outweighed all others, she said. Abortion, she said, was a personal decision, and she would want her own daughters to have the option if needed.

Ms. Carver voted a straight Democratic ticket. “If they didn’t support that right, regardless of who they were,” she said, “they were not getting my vote.”

Two Poodles, Pierre Bonnard

Two Poodles, Pierre Bonnard

Abortion played a larger role in midterm election results than even many Democrats, who had made it central to their campaigns, expected. Pre-election polls had shown Americans fixated on inflation and crime, with abortion still a concern but not as much of a priority.

Those opposed to abortion rights also said the issue moved them to vote. But in states with ballot initiatives that could affect abortion access, the issue drew more people who supported abortion rights, or did not want more restrictions.

In all five states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot on Tuesday, voters chose to protect access to the procedure or reject further limits. And in some places where the future of abortion rights were uncertain, Democratic candidates who campaigned on the issue fared well — particularly in Michigan, where voters re-elected the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship and the Democrat John Fetterman won the Senate race.

Read the rest at the NYT.

John Hendrikson at The Atlantic: How Abortion Defined the 2022 Midterms. Where Dr. Oz stumbled, John Fetterman only had to say Roe v. Wade. And so it went across the nation.

In red and blue states alike, reproductive autonomy proved a defining issue of the 2022 midterms. Although much preelection punditry predicted that the Pennsylvania Democratic nominee John Fetterman’s post-stroke verbal disfluency was poised to “blow up” the pivotal Senate race on Election Day, the exit polls suggest that abortion seismically affected contests up and down the ballot.

Concerns over the future of reproductive rights unequivocally drove Democratic turnout and will now lead to the rewriting of state laws around the country. In deep-red Kentucky, voters rejected an amendment that read, “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” In blue havens such as California and Vermont, voters approved ballot initiatives enshrining abortion rights into their state constitutions.

In Michigan, a traditionally blue state that in recent years has turned more purple, voters likewise enshrined reproductive protections into law, with 45 percent of exit-poll respondents calling abortion the most important issue on the ballot. In the race for the Michigan statehouse, the incumbent Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, trounced her Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon, who had said that she supports abortion only in instances that would save the life of the woman, and never in the case of rape or incest. Dixon lost by more than 10 percentage points and almost half a million votes.

After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ended the federal right to abortion in June, many observers wondered whether pro-abortion-rights Democrats would remain paralyzed with despair or whether their anger would become a galvanizing force going into the election season. The answer is now clear—though, in fact, it has been for some time.

In August, just six weeks after Dobbs, Kansas voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that could have ushered in a ban on abortion. That grassroots-movement defeat of the ballot initiative was a genuine shocker—and it showed voters in other states what was possible at the local level.

William James Webbe, The White Owl, 'Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,' signed with monogram and dated '1856'

William James Webbe, The White Owl, ‘Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,’ signed with monogram and dated ‘1856’

Right leaning Axios reports that anti-abortion groups think the problem is that Republicans distanced themselves from the abortion issues: Republicans’ abortion silence backfires in midterms, by Oriana Gonzalez.

The blame game has begun around what led to Republicans’ disappointing results in the midterms, with some outside groups zeroing in on the party’s lack of an abortion message.

Driving the news: Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a large anti-abortion organization with close ties to GOP leaders, slammed Republican candidates who distanced themselves from abortion bans and failed to clearly communicate their stance on the issue, calling it “political malpractice.”

The group said in a memo that to “win in competitive races,” candidates needed to focus on defining their opponents as “abortion extremists” and “contrast that with a clearly defined pro-life position centered around consensus such as pain-capable or heartbeat limits.” [….]

They specifically praised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, whose closely watched race is headed for a runoff.

Yeah, no. I don’t think that would have worked. The candidates who did talk about it mostly didn’t do well.

More points of view on what kept the anticipated “red wave” from happening

Noah Berlatsky at Public Notice: The red wave that wasn’t.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the results of the 2022 midterms were still uncertain. Control of both the House and the Senate remained up for grabs; the latter may ultimately be determined by a run-off in Georgia in December.

We do know one thing though. Joe Biden has had the most successful midterm of any president in 20 years. The Democrats in disarray narrative looks a lot more like Republicans in disarray. The American people, it turns out, did care about inflation. But they cared about democracy too….

The Democrats currently have 50 seats in the Senate and a narrow majority of 224-213 in the House. Holding that, or losing a handful of seats in the House, may not seem like an impressive outcome. Usually, though, the president’s party gets clobbered in the midterms. Donald Trump in the 2018 midterms lost 40 seats in the House. Barack Obama lost a whopping 63 seats in 2010. In comparison, his 13 seat loss in 2014 seems relatively mild, even though it shifted control to the Republicans again. George W. Bush lost 31 seats in his 2006 midterm.

You have to go back to the 2002 midterm, in the rally around the flag aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to find a midterm in which the president’s party made any gains. The Republicans that year picked up eight seats, solidifying their hold on the House. Before that, the president’s party lost control of the House in every other midterm election since 1978.

Biden’s achievement — even if he ends up losing a handful of House seats — is all the more remarkable because his popularity remains in the doldrums. Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight has his approval at around 41.4 percent. That’s lower than Trump’s (42.2 percent) and or Obama’s (44.8 percent) at the same point in their presidencies, when they experienced catastrophic losses.

Biden’s low approval ratings and high inflation nationally led many pundits to believe that there would be a red wave in line with most midterms. Pundits said that New York governor Kathy Hochul could be in danger of losing her blue state to challenger Lee Zeldin. Analysts also suggested Democrats could lose a Rhode Island House seat they’d held since 1991, as Republican Allen Fung looked prepared to unseat Democrat Seth Magaziner. Colorado Democratic Senator Michale Bennett was supposed to be in trouble. So was Washington state’s senator Patty Murray.

Oops! The media’s favorite meme, “Dems in disarray,” might need revisions. Read more at Public Notice.

Cows, by Vincent Van Gogh

Cows, by Vincent Van Gogh

This is a “guest essay” at The New York Times by Sohrab Ahmari: Why the Red Wave Didn’t Materialize. Ahmari thinks the Republicans’ failure to help or even empathize with working class Americans explains their electoral losses.

A week before the midterms, a video circulated online of a Starbucks barista crying while explaining the need for a union: “I’m a full-time student. I get scheduled for 25 hours a week, and on weekends they schedule me the entire day — open to close.” The manager is bad, the staffing is inadequate and the stress is overwhelming.

The video should have elicited sympathy from anyone familiar with the lousy wages and grinding conditions that characterize today’s service economy. That was not, though, the response of the full spectrum of conservative media and personalities, from Fox News to The Daily Wire to Sebastian Gorka.

“Boo Hoo!” replied Media Research Center TV, a conservative media site. “This ‘person’” — the barista happens to be transgender, hence, I suppose, the scare quotes around “person” — “was in tears because they had to work eight hours a day on the weekend.”

Episodes like this may be one reason the red wave didn’t materialize, why Republicans failed to usher in a new dawn of prosperity for the multiracial working class that Republican leaders from Senator Ted Cruz to the House policy honcho Jim Banks say they want to champion. When it came down to it, the Republican Party offered ordinary American workers little that might have bolstered their power or leveled the economic playing field. That failure helped dash conservative hopes for a clean Republican sweep.

Read more at the NYT.

Some Republicans and pundits are blaming Trump.

The New York Times: Trump Under Fire From Within G.O.P. After Midterms.

Donald J. Trump faced unusual public attacks from across the Republican Party on Wednesday after a string of midterm losses by candidates he had handpicked and supported, a display of weakness as he prepared to announce a third presidential campaign as soon as next week.

As the sheer number of missed Republican opportunities sank in, the rush to openly blame Mr. Trump was as immediate as it was surprising.

Hunting Dogs in a Boat (1889) by Winslow Homer

Hunting Dogs in a Boat (1889) by Winslow Homer

Conservative allies criticized Mr. Trump on social media and cable news, questioning whether he should continue as the party’s leader and pointing to his toxic political brand as the common thread woven through three consecutive lackluster election cycles.

Mr. Trump was seen as largely to blame for the Republicans’ underwhelming finish in Tuesday’s elections, as a number of the candidates he had endorsed in competitive races were defeated — including nominees for governor and Senate in Pennsylvania and for governor of Michigan, New York and Wisconsin.

“Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser with ties to Pennsylvania, said in an interview.

Former Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who has long supported Mr. Trump, said, “I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party,” adding that the party “can’t become a personality cult.”

The chorus of criticism, which unfolded on Fox News and social media throughout the day, revealed Mr. Trump to be at his most vulnerable point politically since the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The Washington Post: How Trump, infighting and flawed candidates limited Republican gains. This is one of the Post’s trademark gossipy reports with 5 authors and many sources, so you’ll need to go read the whole thing if you’re interested. Here’s the intro:

Florida Sen. Rick Scott made a plea to about 35 of his colleagues during lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices in early August: Send money to the NRSC from your personal campaign accounts. The candidates were in need.

The Republican outlook had gone from glossy to grim since the July campaign finance reports. Despite $5-a-gallon gasoline and a historically unpopular president, Democratic Senate candidates in pivotal states had big financial and polling leads. First-time Republican candidates propelled by former president Donald Trump, on the other hand, were viewed unfavorably in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona and Georgia.

But Scott’s hopes of a united GOP response were dashed as soon as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stood to address the same room: Send 20 percent of the money from their leadership PACs, he told the senators, to the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group controlled by his own loyalists, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The implication, said multiple people familiar with the exchange, was that senators needed to choose sides in a months-long battle between the two Senate leaders about the best strategy for winning, a conflict that would have serious consequences in the fall.

Bull, 1911, by Franz Marc

Bull, 1911, by Franz Marc

At least one senator left the meeting frustrated that Scott had to come hat-in-hand so late in the campaign, according to people briefed afterward. Other senators raised private concerns broadly about how Scott had managed the committee. Others blamed McConnell….

From the outside, this year’s elections looked like a virtual Republican lock. Since Lyndon B. Johnson, new Democratic presidents have lost an average of 45 House and five Senate seats in the midterms. Republicans went to the polls Tuesday needing to gain just five House seats and a single Senate seat to take control, amid soaring inflation and broad dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction.

But behind the scenes, nothing came easy to Republicans this cycle, as their historic tail winds collided with the fractious reality of a political party in the midst of a generational molting. GOP leaders spent much of the last year fighting against each other or plotting against their own primary voters. They were hobbled by unprepared first-time candidates, fundraising shortfalls and Trump, whose self-concern required constant attention — right up to the eve of the election, when he forced party bosses to beg him once again to delay a presidential campaign announcement.

That’s all I have for you today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!


Sunday Reads: The Village People

Good morning, let’s get this party started…cartoons via Cagle:

On Monday…I may be live tweeting this court proceeding:

In college I did my thesis on women in early Medieval Irish Literature…so this next link was up my dark alley:

This is an open thread, please take it easy today.


Fabulous Friday Reads

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

Steve Bannon is in court for his sentencing hearing right now. I’m keeping an eye out for the final decision, but so far Judge Carl Nichols has said he will have to serve at least a month in prison because that is the mandatory minimum sentence for contempt of Congress. The maximum is 2 years. According to CNN, the judge has called a short recess, after which he will announce the sentence. Bannon declined to speak, saying that his lawyers had spoken for him. I’ll update the post as soon as I learn Judge Nichols’ final decision.

UPDATE: Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison. Obviously, he will appeal his conviction. From Yahoo News: Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for criminal contempt of Congress.

WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, ex-White House strategist and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in federal prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols sentenced Bannon to four months each on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, but the prison terms will be served concurrently.

A jury found Bannon guilty of the charges in July of two counts of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear for a deposition before the panel and the other for refusing to produce requested documents. Each count carries a minimum potential sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of $100 to $1,000.

Federal prosecutors sought six months in jail, while Bannon’s attorneys asked the court for probation.

Trump’s legal problems continue to escalate. Down in Georgia, former White House Counsel Pat Cippolone, and form George Senator Kelly Loeffler have each testified to the grand jury in the election interference case, and Lindsey Graham has been ordered to testify as well. And Trump crony Kash Patel has testified to the grand jury in stolen documents case.

CNN: Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler testify to grand jury in Georgia investigating 2020 election interference.

Prosecutors in Georgia have secured grand jury testimony from two prominent witnesses – former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – in their investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Their grand jury appearances in recent months, which have not been previously reported, highlight the wide-ranging investigation underway as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis probes efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to try to keep him in power.

Cipollone was the top White House lawyer at the end of the Trump administration and attended some of the meetings where Trump and his allies discussed ways to subvert the election results. He was among the former President’s advisers who pushed back along with the Justice Department, which found no evidence to support the claims of widespread fraud.

Cipollone has provided testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, as well as to a federal grand jury in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation, where he invoked Trump’s privilege claims to decline to answer some questions. He declined to comment on questions about the grand jury.

The revelation that Loeffler testified before the grand jury comes as hundreds of Loeffler’s text messages have surfaced, revealing new details about the Georgia Republican’s correspondence about efforts to challenge the election in the months leading up to and immediately following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

More details at the CNN link.

The Washington Post: Lindsey Graham must testify in 2020 election investigation, court rules.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) must appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by President Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

Graham’s lawyers had asked the court to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), claiming that a sitting senator is shielded from such investigations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied Graham’s request and upheld a lower-court ruling narrowing the range of questions prosecutors can ask.

“Senator Graham has failed to demonstrate that this approach will violate his rights under the Speech and Debate Clause,” the order states, referring to the constitutional provision that protects lawmakers from being questioned about legislative activity.

Graham can ask the full appeals court to reconsider the order or ask the Supreme Court to intervene….

Willis wants to question Graham about calls he made to Georgia election officials soon after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” about the Trump campaign and the “multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results” of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.

Graham’s legal team has said in court filings that his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate clause.”

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

CNN: Trump adviser Kash Patel has appeared before grand jury in Mar-a-Lago document probe.

Kash Patel, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump who has been deeply involved in disputes over classified records Trump kept from his presidency, appeared recently before the federal grand jury looking into the handling of documents at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Patel spent several hours throughout the morning of October 13 before a grand jury at the US courthouse in Washington, DC. But it’s not clear if Patel answered the grand jury’s questions or declined to respond citing his Fifth Amendment protections, which is within his rights.

He is one of a handful of advisers around Donald Trump after his presidency who could have legal risk related to the Mar-a-Lago situation, according to court records and the sources, though it’s unclear if he is a target of the Justice Department probe. Patel served as a national security and defense official during the administration, and this summer became one of Trump’s designees to interact with the National Archives and the Justice Department as both agencies have tried to repossess classified records Trump kept from his presidency.

He has claimed in media interviews he personally witnessed Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency, and has argued he should be able to release classified information….

CNN spotted Patel walking the halls of the federal courthouse mid-morning last Thursday, remaining in the grand jury area for several hours until about 1 p.m. One of his attorneys, Stanley Woodward, ducked out of the ongoing Oath Keepers trial where he is a defense attorney for another defense client to escort Patel, wearing a bold red plaid jacket, down from the grand jury meeting area and out of the building. When asked at the courthouse by CNN, Woodward refused to say what Patel’s matter was about, and only confirmed that he represented the Trump adviser.

Read more at CNN.

Amanda Marcotte has a good article at Salon about the mainstream media’s election coverage: Please, media, stop pitting abortion against inflation — Republicans suck on both issues.

Cable news in the weeks before an election is the ninth circle of hell. For proof, look no further than the way MSNBC subjected Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to an interview by 79-year-old white guy plagiarist and organized crime apologist Mike Barnicle. Abrams, whose only crime is being a “Star Trek” nerd who wants Georgia to suck less, was subjected to this crotchety fraud demanding she stop talking about abortion rights so much, arguing that what voters supposedly care about is “the cost of gas, food, bread, milk, things like that.” Because, as all old men who have never changed a diaper know, having and raising babies is totally free, unlike a gallon of gasoline.

ruby-ring-thomas-linker

The Ruby Ring, by Thomas Linker

Abrams handled the question as well as she could, pointing out that you “can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child.” She went on to outline her plans to help Georgians with rising housing prices and other economic problems. But as much as it’s fun to kick around Barnicle for being out of touch, the sad truth is the false premise of his question is endemic throughout the mainstream media coverage of the 2022 midterm elections. Everywhere you turn, pundits and reporters are treating this election as if it’s a choice between fighting inflation and protecting abortion rights.

This is, and it cannot be stressed enough, total hooey. When it comes to the ballot box, there is absolutely no trade-off between reproductive rights and the economy. Either way, voting Republican is bad: Bad for the economy, bad for abortion rights. Pretending otherwise is misleading to the point of outright dishonesty. 

To say Republicans have no plan to fight inflation if they retake Congress is really an understatement. They have nothing concrete to offer about the issue beyond using it as a stick to beat Democrats with. The second polls close on Election Day, all GOP interest in relieving Americans’ economic woes will dry up.

We know this because Republicans aren’t even being subtle about their future plans, which most definitely do not involve giving a fig about inflation. As Heather “Digby” Parton wrote for Salon on Wednesday, Republicans are largely plotting to gin up fake scandals to demonize President Joe Biden. And that’s the best-case scenario.

Read the whole thing at Salon. It’s excellent.

President Joe Biden made the same point yesterday. Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Joe Biden’s Walk-and-Chew-Gum Campaign.

For most of President Joe Biden’s tenure, Fox News’s Peter Doocy has played the role of pressroom scourge. A barbed question so nettled Biden back in January that the President was caught on a live microphone calling him a “stupid son of a bitch,” for which he quickly called Doocy to apologize. That specific query is the same one that still haunts Biden’s Presidency and his party today: “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?” The answer, then and now, can be nothing other than the blindingly obvious: yes.

Doocy, at the tail end of a White House photo opportunity. With less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, the President was signing an order to release fifteen million more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “It’s not politically motivated at all,” Biden insisted, though even the most diehard Democrat would have a hard time seeing the move as anything other than a last-ditch effort to stop gas prices at the pump from rising further before the vote. Republicans were quick to pounce: Was this the kind of strategic use for which the stockpile was intended?

As Biden stood to leave, Doocy shouted a question. “Top domestic issue: Inflation or abortion?” he asked.

“They’re all important. Unlike you, there’s no one thing,” Biden retorted. “We oughta be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

In The Book Store Painting Irina Sztukowski

In The Book Store, by Irina Sztukowski

Finally, The Washington Post has an exclusive on Elon Musk’s plans to destroy Twitter if he manages to buy it: Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce.

Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk: Musk’s $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippledthe service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.

The impact of such layoffs would likely be immediately felt by millions of users, said Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics and now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI. He said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed,the cuts Musk proposed were “unimaginable” and would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and exposure to offensive material such as child pornography.

“It would be a cascading effect,” he said, “where you’d have services going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves.”

Twitter is where I go to get the very latest breaking news, but I guess the days of being able to do that are numbered.

What are your thoughts on these stories? What else is on your mind today?