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These Trump voters explain why they finally turned on him — and will now vote for Biden

With the presidential election only two weeks away, the media will be paying close attention to what swing voters have to say. Daniel Marans, a HuffPost reporter, spoke to two swing voters in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania who favored President Donald Trump in 2016 but are voting for former Vice President Joe Biden this year — and Marans asked them why they are rejecting the president now.

Michael Scott, a chef, and food service worker Lee Kuczynski went from voting for President Barack Obama to supporting Trump four years ago. When Marans asked them why they "switched" to Biden, Kuczynski replied that Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic "turned me off." Kuczynski, pointing to the protective face mask she was wearing, noted that wearing a mask is one of the most important things Americans can do during the pandemic — and Trump, she lamented, "is not for it."

Another factor, Kuczynski told Marans, was "the way [Trump] talks about our military." And Scott agreed with her reasons for supporting Biden.

When Marans asked Kuczynski what she thought of Biden "as a person," she responded, "Compassionate. Very compassionate. I think he's a people person. I think he's here for us."

Marans also asked Kuczynski what she "saw in Trump the first time," and the Pennsylvania voter explained, "I felt that he was something new. He was a businessman. And if a businessman can run a business, why can't he run our government?"

But now, Kuczynski believes that voting for Trump in 2016 "was a big mistake."

Kuczynski also cited Biden's support for universal health care and protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions as one of her reasons for supporting Biden. The voter told Marans, "I'm a diabetic. I have high blood pressure. And now, I'm dealing with the coronavirus. And I pay for my health care through where I work, and it's not cheap. It's very expensive."

Watch the clip below:

news & politics

Kentucky paper busts Trump and McConnell's failed pledge to bring back coal: 'Inability to meet promises' made

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are facing backlash from Kentucky voters for reneging on their promise to bring back coal.

Although hopes were initially high for Trump and McConnell's ability to work together, a piece published in the Louisville Courier-Journal suggests the president and Senate leader failed in Kentucky. At a time when coal-fire units were facing great peril and on the brink of becoming obsolete, former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) urged the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to vote against the closure of the last coal-fired unit within the historic Paradise fossil plant.

"Hopes were high for President Donald Trump, who had campaigned on a promise to revive the industry, to sway the TVA," the publication wrote. "He tweeted his support, and Kentucky's powerful Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also pushed to keep the plant open."

Despite the tweeted commitment, the TVA still opted to shut down the coal-fired unit just days later. Now, more than 2,700 are without jobs despite Trump and McConnell's vow to ensure jobs were salvaged. Jon Rogers, whose family coal company also fed the Paradise fossil plant, weighed in. According to Rogers, even the power of an elected office still has limitations.

"You've elected a person occupying the most powerful office on earth. So you think they can get it done," said Rogers as he conceded, "There's a limit to their power."

Rogers also noted that coal is not even a key issue as the president's re-election campaign nears Election Day. "Even President Trump now, he doesn't talk about coal," Rogers said. "You just don't hear it."

Now, Trump is being lambasted for once again reneging on previous promises he made in order to secure the presidency. According to the publication, the coal-fire unit closure is a prime example of that.

"The closure was a stark example of Trump's inability to meet the promises he made to voters to reverse coal's decline. Since then, a cascade of bankruptcies, coal plant closures and mine layoffs across the U.S. further diminished coal's political clout," the publication wrote.

Hopes for the comeback that many politicians said they could help coal achieve are fading fast. And those politicians are talking much less about the "war on coal" that helped push them to past victories — if they discuss coal at all.

Many fear that it may already be too late for coal to make a comeback in the United States which will only lead to more job losses in the coming months and years until coal jobs are officially rendered obsolete.

election '20

Trump used his campaign war chest like an ATM. Now it's dead broke — and GOP donors are furious

Suckers. That's clearly how major GOP donors feel after realizing that Trump's campaign is basically dead broke, he's dragging down the entire party, and he's even put Democrats in position to potentially take back the Senate.

"The Senate majority is the most important objective right now," said Dan Eberhart, who has given over $190,000 to Trump's reelection effort, according to the AP. "It's the bulwark against so much bad policy that the Democrats want to do if they sweep the elections."

Eberhart and others feel burned after the state of Trump's campaign war chest has come into clearer view in the final months of the race. Some Republicans donors even founded a separate pro-Trump super PAC, Preserve America, that was explicitly not run by Trump's people because he's clearly not sending his finest. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson recently poured $75 million into that PAC instead of just handing it over to the Trump campaign.

"You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn't have burned through it as stupidly," veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy told the AP of the Trump campaign's spending habits.

On the one hand, the Biden campaign is spending more than twice as much in the closing days of race—$142 million to the Trump campaign's coordinated buy with the Republican National Committee (RNC) of $55 million. On the other, Trump and his campaign aides burned through $1 billion like they were on a drunken Beverly Hills lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous bender.

There's the already reported $10 million Super Bowl ad bought by the campaign so Trump could feel powerful before Democrats had even settled on a nominee. There's also more than $310 million in spending that's concealed by a web of limited liability companies, notes the AP. And somehow, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale managed to purchase a Ferrari, a Range Rover, a $400,000 yacht, and several million-dollar-plus condos after siphoning some $40 million from the Trump campaign alone.

But really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here're some other choice purchases made by the Trump camp and RNC, according to the AP:

— Nearly $100,000 to prop up the release of Donald Trump Jr.'s book, "Triggered," pushing it to the top of The New York Times' bestsellers list.

— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017

— At least $35.2 million spent on Trump merchandise

— $38.7 million in legal and "compliance" fees, including the legal costs of his impeachment proceedings

— At least $14.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention, which was relocated several times and ended up being a mostly virtual event

— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series after Trump was booed by spectators for attending Game 5

— $1.6 million on TV ads so Trump could see himself in the Washington, D.C., media market, where Biden is polling at about 87%

Perhaps the best strategic decision was back in May, when Parscale unleashed $176 million in spending to drag down Biden in public polling. That worked out well.


Billionaire wealth has surged by nearly $1 trillion during 7 months of pandemic and economic collapse

Over just the past seven months—as millions lost their jobs and health insurance, tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered permanently, and more than 200,000 Americans were killed by the coronavirus—U.S. billionaires saw their combined net worth surge by more than $930 billion, bringing the collective wealth of just 644 people to a staggering $3.88 trillion.

That's according to an analysis released Tuesday morning by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), progressive organizations that have been tracking the explosion of billionaire wealth since the start of coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March. (See the groups' compilation of billionaire wealth data here.)

The new analysis shows that the collective wealth of America's billionaires grew by $931 billion—or nearly 33%—between March 18 and October 13, a period that also saw unprecedented job loss, a nationwide surge in hunger, and a sharp increase in housing insecurity.

The groups noted that the jump in billionaire wealth over the past seven months exceeds the size of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) so-called "skinny" Covid-19 relief bill and the estimated two-year budget gaps of all state and local governments, which have been forced to lay off more than a million public-sector workers due to revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.

"Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again," ATF executive director Frank Clemente said in a statement. "We have extraordinary gains in wealth by a small sliver of the population while millions suffer, this time from the ravages of the pandemic, much of which could have been avoided."

"In the short-term we need a robust pandemic relief package that meets the urgency of the moment, not Senator McConnell's skinny bill that offers political cover," Clemente continued. "In the long-term we need major reform that taxes the extraordinary wealth of the billionaires and millionaires and uses that wealth to create an economy that works for all of us."

The new analysis shows that a handful of billionaires "have seen a particularly astonishing increase in wealth" over the past seven months:

  • Jeff Bezos' wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $203 billion on October 13, an increase of 80%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott's wealth of $65.7 billion on that day and the two had a combined wealth of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg's wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $101 billion on October 13, an increase of 85%, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Elon Musk's wealth grew from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $92.8 billion on October 13, an increase of 277%, boosted by his Tesla stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 656%, to $49.2 billion from $6.5 billion seven months earlier.

"With Mitch McConnell's Senate paralyzed with inaction, U.S. society is kicking into inequality overdrive, with wealth surging up to U.S. billionaires," said Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality. "The juxtaposition between surging billionaire wealth and the imploding livelihoods of ordinary Americans is grotesque and unseemly."


How toxic masculinity became a threat to public health

As if the first two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States weren't enough to inspire serious political changes to stop the coronavirus, health experts have sounded the alarm that a third wave is underway. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the nation, specifically in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana, as the seasons change and the election nears.

It's certainly taken a lot of resilience and strength to persevere through this pandemic — particularly given the backdrop of political chaos, uncertainty and immense change in our daily lives. Yet perhaps it is this attitude of "staying strong," and acting stoically — which is rooted in a culture that favors and thrives off toxic masculinity — that has hurt and continues to hurt us the most.

Toxic masculinity, which has become a household phrase over the last few years, is when the archetypal image of masculinity, like displaying strength, becomes harmful to oneself. In 2005, in a study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence." The phrase is used to describe the issues men face or sometimes, wrongfully, justify them. Certainly, in a patriarchal society, toxic masculinity not only defines people but politics — as its mores trickle into our entertainment, discourse and politics.

Notably, the pandemic response is being led by the most psychologically compromised, toxic men in America. As I wrote last weekend, President Donald Trump's insistence on depicting himself as so strong as to be able to "work through" his COVID-19 illness is deeply harmful, and apt to put Americans' lives at risk who mimic his behavior — either by working while sick or hiding symptoms.

Meanwhile, Trump's re-election campaign has tried to frame Trump as a "warrior" — masculine, strong and void of emotion. The administration's individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric personifies toxic masculinity, and trickles down to Trump's underlings, too. In June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming there was no second wave of COVID-19, despite all the evidence to the contrary. "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy," Pence wrote then, adding "our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people."

Yet as psychologists will warn, there is a dark side to resilience.

"There is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events," psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk wrote in Harvard Business Review. "However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances." In other words, self-sufficiency is not always a show of strength; humans, as social creatures, rely on others for society to function and to remain healthy. Denying that means hurting ourselves, either by delaying care or eschewing guidance that may help us or save others.

I've often wondered how much my so-called "resilience" in all of this is just making me numb and tolerant, in an unhealthy way. When looking at which countries have the pandemic somewhat under control, we look and judge their leaders. It's interesting to do this through a gendered lens. For example, New Zealand has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the world under Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's leadership. That's partly because she never advertised grandiose ideas about being above or stronger than the coronavirus. As I've previously written, the strengths—such as empathy and compassion— Ardern has brought throughout her tenure are the very same traits that have been used against women seeking leadership positions in the workplace and in the public sector. When male leaders display traditionally feminine qualities, they can also be maligned as weak — former House Speaker John Boehner, for example, used to shed tears in public; Politico's response was to ask, "Why Does John Boehner Cry So Much?"

It's obvious the Trump administration is terrified of appearing "weak" during the pandemic. But where has that gotten us? Prioritizing the economy over our health. Over 8 million infections, and 218,000 Americans dead. And the politicizing of wearing masks, as though wearing them were a sign of weakness — something Trump mocked his opponent Joe Biden for at their first and so far only debate.

As much as toxic masculinity's social repercussion are harmful to our physical health, it is also taking a toll on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Network Open in September showed that three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic compared to before it. According to an analysis of Google Trends, symptoms of anxiety increased too.

Why? In part, it could be a result of having to power through these extraordinarily abnormal times without seeking help — that "bootstraps" mentality innate to toxic masculinity. One's attempts to hold it together can devolve into emotional suppression, which in return can cause more emotional distress. In July 2018, Penn State researchers found that women tried to suppress their fears about the Zika virus reported higher levels of fear later. "It turns out that not only is suppression ineffective at handling fear, but it's counter-productive," one researcher said. "It creates a cycle of fear — and it's a vicious cycle."

As a society, many of us — particularly men — haven't been authorized to express sadness publicly, and these studies reflect that. With over 200,000 Americans dead of coronavirus, their loved ones are grieving. Seven months later, we've yet to have a moment of national reflection to mourn.

As it is with the death of a loved one, grief isn't lessened by ignoring one's uncomfortable emotions. Instead, it requires collective vulnerability, compassion and patience. As author David Kessler told HBR:

Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. [...] We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims.

As we try to stay strong through this pandemic, the strength we seek to feel will come from falling apart and allowing ourselves to feel the loss and the chaos—physically and emotionally. By persevering through that, still standing in so much unknown, we can experience real strength. In other words, the non-toxic kind.


White House documents expose the truth: Trump lied — and people died

President Donald Trump has known for over a month that new coronavirus infections have been soaring even as the White House has lied about the seriousness of the surge, documents released Tuesday by a leading Democratic lawmaker show.

HuffPost reports Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, published six weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports (pdf)—dated August 16, August 23, August 30, September 6, September 13, and September 20—proving the administration has known since early September that Covid-19 infections were rising rapidly.

However, instead of being forthcoming with the American people and the world, Trump opted to hide the reports while spuriously claiming that the virus "affects virtually nobody"— even as it caused record infections and deaths in numerous states in September.

Not only did the administration fail to honestly inform the nation, Trump held several so-called superspreader rallies and other events in September, including in states hit hard by surging Covid-19 infections, such as Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

On October 1, Trump declared that "the end of the pandemic is in sight." The following day, he announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports also show that the White House was fully aware that the number of states in the so-called "red zone"—where new coronavirus cases rose above 100 per 100,000 people and where more than 10% of test results were positive—soared from 18 on September 13 to 31 on October 18.

On October 19, Trump told campaign staffers on a phone call that "people are tired of Covid... People are saying, 'Whatever. Just leave us alone.' They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," a reference to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Clyburn released a statement on Tuesday calling the reports proof that "Trump's contempt for science and refusal to lead during this crisis have allowed the coronavirus to surge."

"Contrary to his empty claims that the country is 'rounding the turn,' more states are now in the 'red zone' than ever before," Clyburn said. "It is long past time that the administration implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day and could get even worse in the months ahead."

Indeed, according to prominent University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, "the darkest part of the pandemic [will occur] over the course of the next 12 weeks."

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 8.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 221,000 deaths in the United States, representing just under 20% of the global death toll of 1.12 million people.


Pat Robertson: 'The Lord told me' Trump will be reelected — and help set off the Apocalypse

Christian fundamentalist evangelical and televangelist Pat Robertson is predicting that President Donald Trump will win reelection and usher in the end of the world.

The 90-year-old Robertson, this week on his long-running show, "The 700 Club," predicted, "I want to say, without question, that Trump is going to win the election…. He's going to win; that, I think is a given."

Robertson went on to say that after Trump wins in November, major wars will follow. Those wars, according to Robertson, will be part of the End Times — and Christians who vote for Trump can help to bring that about.

The far-right evangelical argued, "We've never seen the likes of it before, but I want to relate to you again: there is going to be a war. Ezekiel 38 is going to be the next thing down the line. Then, a time of peace and then, maybe the end. But nobody knows the day or the hour when the Lord is going to come back. He said the angels don't know it, and only the Father knows it."

Trump's reelection, according to Robertson, will be part of a series of events in which Jesus Christ returns to Earth.

"I am saying that if things that people thought would be during the millennial time with the coming of Jesus, they are going to happen in our lifetime," Robertson told viewers. "And the next thing is the election that's coming up in just a few weeks — at which time, according to what I believe the Lord told me, the president is going to be reelected."

Robertson continued, "I'm saying by all means, get out and vote. Vote for whoever you want to vote for, but let your voice be heard. But it's going to lead to civil unrest and then, a war against Israel and so forth…. I think it's time to pray. But anyway, that is the word. You ask what's going to happen next, and that's what's going to happen next."

One of the most prominent figures in the far-right evangelical movement, Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network in the early 1960s and launched "The 700 Club" in 1966. Robertson, the son of the late Democratic Sen. Absalom Willis Robertson, ran for president in 1988 but lost to Vice President George H.W. Bush in that year's GOP presidential primary.

Robertson has a long history of predicting the Apocalypse, going back to at least the 1970s. In 1976, Robertson predicted that the Apocalypse would occur in 1982 — and when that didn't happen, Robertson predicted, in 1990, that 2017 would be the year of the Apocalypse. But since the End Times didn't come about in 2017, Robertson now has high hopes that a second Trump term will mean the end of the world.

human rights

Trump expresses all his pent-up contempt for women in two words to NBC's Savannah Guthrie

The takeaway from Trump's self-immolation at his Town Hall on Thursday can be found exactly at the 1:57 mark in the video above, when he sarcastically expresses his contempt for moderator Savannah Guthrie, who has clearly gotten under his skin. He mutters it, underneath his breath, and you could be forgiven for missing it, but for a fleeting second we get a glimpse of all the animosity, all the malice, all the narcissism, all the misogyny and contempt this man feels towards women. You can just hear it in his voice:

"Ha Ha. So cute."

From The Independent:

The president and the Ms Guthrie exchanged barbs during a heated opening to the NBC event.
Mr Trump even sarcastically told the TV host "so cute" when she pressed him to denounce QAnon's wild conspiracy theories.

From the New York Times:

"Why aren't you asking Joe Biden questions about why doesn't he condemn antifa?" Mr. Trump asked her.
"Because you're here," she said, matter-of-factly.
"So cute," Mr. Trump responded, in a condescending tone that was unlikely to endear him to the suburban women voters he has been trying to win back.


I think the suburban women will love Trump telling Savannah Guthrie sarcastically that she is "so cute."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) October 16, 2020

And one other note; As of 9:55 EST, nearly a half hour after his own town hall ended, Joe Biden is still there, answering voters' questions.

more news

Progressives unite for last-ditch effort to delay Amy Coney Barrett vote — by impeaching Bill Barr

Progressive activists are urging House Democrats to essentially kill two birds with one stone by impeaching Attorney General Bill Barr — which would delay the confirmation vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

"Attorney General Barr has acted to subvert the laws that he, as our nation's chief federal law enforcement official, is duty-bound to uphold," more than 20 progressive groups signed in a joint letter.

"Attorney General Barr has made a career out of undermining our democracy and it is pellucidly clear that he has been ramping up efforts to undermine the upcoming elections and invalidate the votes of millions of Americans," the groups wrote.

The groups explained that the Democrats in the House of Representatives have power that Senate Democrats lack — they can delay the confirmation of Judge Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court by impeaching Barr, as it would force action by the Senate and scuttle the current calendar being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) according to Senate rules.

"Should you impeach Attorney General Barr prior to October 23rd, the Senate would be required to take one of two actions. On one hand, the Senate would be obligated to hold a trial, which would occupy a day or more of floor time and delay the hasty and irregular consideration of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court associate justice," the groups explained. "In the alternative, Senate Republican leadership would be forced to go 'nuclear' by changing the rules that govern how that chamber responds to receiving articles of impeachment from the House of Representatives."

"Either outcome is desirable," the groups concluded.

Demand Progress, Our Revolution and the Sunrise Movement were among the progressives organizations that signed on to the strategy.

Democrats are missing a big chance to increase turnout and take down the Trump machine

The anxiety over changes and irregularities with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in August finally spilled over. A functioning postal service undergirds many of our society’s most basic functions, so there was no shortage of reasons to be alarmed. However, one concern—the threat to November’s election—overwhelmingly rose to the top. And the public outcry over that threat pushed a normally lethargic House majority into action, winning some mild but incomplete reversals from USPS.

Keep reading... Show less

Ted Cruz still thinks he can be president

With an eye toward his 2024 presidential ambitions, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is staking out his extreme right territory and once again trying to make waves. He's got half a dozen senators signed onto a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent a change in the size of the Supreme Court. Yes, he only has five other senators, and yes a constitutional amendment requires support of two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and three-quarters of the individual states. He has a second proposal that would be less stringent, requiring a supermajority in the Senate to consider making changes in the size of the courts.

"Make no mistake, if Democrats win the election, they will end the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court, expanding the number of justices to advance their radical political agenda, entrenching their power for generations, and destroying the foundations of our democratic system," he said as his party is about to ram a radically conservative, unqualified ideologue onto the Supreme Court where she'd potentially be positioned to help Donald Trump cling to office by subverting the will of the people. Cruz added that "We must take action before Election Day to safeguard the Supreme Court and the constitutional liberties that hang in the balance." That's not likely to happen, since McConnell wants to do one thing above all—get Barrett on the court—and then leave town for the remainder of the campaign.

Cruz doesn't really care about this happening, before or after the election. This isn't about the sanctity of the courts. It's about Ted Cruz wanting to be president and taking whatever hard line he thinks will get the Republican base behind him. How do we know? Here's Ted Cruz in 2016, when he wasn't just justifying the Republican blockade against President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, but about blocking a potential President Hillary Clinton's nominees: "There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That's a debate that we are going to have."

It wasn't a problem to change the size of the court four years ago, not if it meant fulfilling the number one goal of the extremist Republicans, a goal that's now within their reach—a wack-job Supreme Court majority. We've seen the lengths they'll go to to gain that, and presuming a miracle doesn't happen and Barrett advances, to preserve that. This effort from Cruz is part and parcel of that.

But it's mostly Cruz claiming his spot as Trump's inheritor for 2024, knowing that the courts will remain the key objective of those setting the Republican agenda: corporate interests and far-right evangelicals. That's where the money and the base voters, respectively, all come from. Which is one more reason for Democrats to blow it all up in 2021—get rid of the filibuster and expand the courts and cut Cruz off at the knees, figuratively.

Trump's business appears to have cut Matt Gaetz a RNC hotel discount that went unreported to the FEC

The campaign to re-elect Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a reliable ally of President Donald Trump, appears to have received a deep discount on lodging at Trump International Hotel in Washington during the Republican National Convention in August, federal records show. Such a discount would violate federal election law barring corporations from contributing directly to campaigns, according to campaign finance experts.

Recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show the Gaetz campaign made four separate payments, ranging from $216.20 to $261.47, for lodging at Trump's hotel on Aug. 27, the last of four nights of the convention when Trump gave his acceptance speech from the White House lawn.

On that evening, the price for rooms for one adult through began at $795 and ran as high as $2,070, The Daily Beast reported. On the three convention dates prior to Trump's keynote address, the hotel priced its cheapest room at $695 a night. (Rates for rooms this week range from $695 to $895.)

It appears the hotel cut the Gaetz campaign a discount far below market rates. Even if the campaign had booked the cheapest room available, it appears to have paid about one-third of the market rate, saving anywhere between $470 and $530. Such a discount would represent an in-kind donation to the Gaets campaign, courtesy of Trump Old Post Office LLC. (The FEC treats any item of value as money.)

A photo of Gaetz at the hotel alongside White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and New Jersey convention delegate Joseph Belnome was posted to the latter's Instagram page on the day of the hotel payments.

Corporate contributions to candidates are illegal under federal election law. It is also illegal for companies to cut campaigns a special deal not given to other customers. When campaigns pay below normal prices, they must report the discount as a contribution. Per the Federal Election Commission:

[A]nything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office is a contribution . . .

For purposes of this section, the term anything of value includes all in-kind contributions. . . [T]he provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services is a contribution . . .

If goods or services are provided at less than the usual and normal charge, the amount of the in-kind contribution is the difference between the usual and normal charge for the goods or services at the time of the contribution and the amount charged the political committee.

The Gaetz campaign did not report a discount in its latest filing.

While it is possible that the Gaetz campaign booked the rooms in advance, it is unlikely to have made much of a difference. First, the reservations were unlikely to have been made with much advance notice. Trump, who canceled his previous plans to accept the nomination in Jacksonville, Fla. — itself a back-up to the original location of Charlotte — was still weighing in early August whether to give his speech from the White House or Gettysburg, Penn. Plans for the D.C. portion of the convention were not announced until Aug. 13.

Even if Gaetz — who recently accused Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., of trying to bribe Trump for his support — was given an early heads-up, he may not have been alone. Everson, an independent journalist who reports extensively on the Trump Hotel, first noticed the price hike on Aug. 6. If Gaetz somehow had the foresight to book the rooms months in advance, the rates would still be improbably low, according to Everson.

As the Trump hotel reportedly hiked its prices, other luxury D.C. hotels were cutting their rates. Accommodations for single adult rooms on Aug. 27 started at $367 at the Mandarin Oriental and $263 at the Fairmont Washington, the Daily Beast reported on Aug. 6.

Trump's 2020 financial disclosures show the president made $40.5 million last year from the luxury hotel, which occupies the federally-owned Old Post Office building. The government controls the Trump Organization's lease, which the company has sought to offload.

Gaetz, one of the president's most ardent supporters, recently appeared at a Trump campaign rally in his home state of Florida, where the president repeatedly called him "Rick."

Jordan Libowitz, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which also noted the disbursements, told Salon that a steep discount for Gaetz would not surprise him.

"Gaetz is particularly close to Trump and has been to Trump properties more than any other Representative — tied with Kevin McCarthy," Libowitz said. "But he's still behind Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul."

"So how he got a discount is really a question he'd need to answer," Libowitz added, pointing out that standard room rates at the hotel range from the high-300s to mid- to high-400s.

The deal echoes another scandal centering around Gaetz from earlier this year, when the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) probed nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds that the panhandle conservative paid over the years to a campaign donor to rent the entire sixth floor in a historic building in downtown Pensacola. Watchdogs considered the price to be below market rate.

The OCE ended its investigation in early July without reporting any wrongdoing. Gaetz' campaign reported a $3,786 payment on Sept. 4 to the law firm he tapped during the inquiry, according to his FEC filings, or one week after his hotel stay.

While it is unclear what that payment concerns, Politico reported in late July that Gaetz appeared to have violated House ethics rules after funneling taxpayer money to Darren Beattie, a consultant and former Trump aide. Beattie was ousted in 2018 after it was revealed that he had spoken at a conference featuring prominent white nationalists.

Gaetz and the Trump International Hotel did not reply to Salon's request for comment.

A primer for US senators: Here are all the questions our leaders failed to ask​ Amy Coney Barrett

After three days of Kabuki theater, a television mini-series produced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, did you learn anything that Judge Amy Coney Barrett didn't want you to know?

Really, it's not hard to frame questions that produce informative answers, including when the response is a dodge. Let me show you, starting here:

Judge Barrett, you testified your judicial philosophy is to follow the law as written. Can you please cite examples of where the law required you to render a decision contrary to your personal beliefs?

Notice how that is framed. Barrett can't swat it away, as she did so many questions as hypotheticals. It asked her to speak about the decisions she already rendered.

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

As a relatively new judge, appointed by Donald Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals three years ago, Barrett has not written all that many opinions. Were the judge to respond that she has yet to encounter that issue here's the follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you given thought to how you would deal with that conflict, especially an irresolvable conflict, between your most deeply held beliefs and the law?

Framing Matters

Again, notice the framing. The question is not what you thought but have you thought about a conflict between personal beliefs and the law.

Were the nominee to say that she had not pondered this—which would be preposterous — then the line of inquiry shifts to how deeply she has thought about the law. If she says she has indeed thought about it the question to ask is, "What did you conclude, if anything?"

Next question:

Judge Barrett, have you talked in your Notre Dame law classes and other forums about resolving conflicts between personal beliefs and Supreme Court rulings your students must work under with when they become lawyers and jurists?

That's a question Barrett might try to slough off with the "I don't recall" diversion. To deal with that ask this:

Well then, Judge Barrett, let's assume I'm not a senator, but the most serious student in your class and that I hope to become a trial court judge or, like you, an appellate court judge. So, what do I do, professor, when confronted with a wide chasm, or worse a complete contradiction, between the law as decided by our Supreme Court and my beliefs?

Following Your Own Advice?

The goal here is to get her to talk about how she analyzes such conflicts as well as her advice. And if she gives her advice the obvious follow up is short and sweet:

Would you, Judge Barrett, always take your own advice?

How that question is answered — candidly, philosophically, or evasively — would give senators and the public insight into what is going on behind the mask that Barrett, like all judicial nominees, wears during such hearings.

I could go on with more questions like this but the point I want to make here is that nothing like this emerged from three days of hearings in what is supposed to be the most exclusive deliberative body in the world, the American Senate. Their questions indicate our senators don't respect that.

That so many bad questions were asked was unsurprising, but also shocking given that most Judiciary committee members are lawyers. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a subsidy grabbing Republican, is the Senate's only pig farmer. The rest of them ought to know how to ask useful questions.

Judiciary Committee members in both parties should ask questions that probe the souls of nominees — simple, direct questions stripped of rhetorical filagree. Their questions should force nominees to instantly choose between dissembling, looking idiotic to other lawyers or telling the truth.

We would be wise to castigate every member of that committee, in person if you attend a political or social event, for making novice lawyers on their first day in a courtroom look good.

There's one other question I would have asked. It's based on my own life experience as the father of eight now grown children:

Awful Choices

Judge Barrett, obstetricians in troubled deliveries sometimes must make an awful choice between saving the life of the mother or the child. How would you weigh that choice?

Again, the framing is how to make a choice, not what choice.

Concise follow-ups would note that each year about 700 American women die in childbirth. So do about 21,000 of roughly 3.8 million infants.

More questions:

Judge Barrett, are laws that restrict the freedom of choices that doctors, the mother, or if incapacitated her spouse, make during troubled labor a proper exercise of the police powers of the state?

If the doctors conclude that someone will die why should the crude axe of state police power be applied at all?

If there is any role at all for exercising the state's police power in these tragic situations please articulate it.

Whatever her answer, smart follow up questions should focus on freedom, including the freedom to decide who will die. Framing questions in terms of liberty versus policing powers would be illuminating about the nominee's thoughts.

Another follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

If that sounds cruel let me note Barrett chose to use her children as props. She could have had them stay home playing with dolls and footballs.

Again, notice that the frame is not what would you decide, but have you thought about this. And trust me these are real-world questions that physician and parents must decide, preferably in advance, but all too often in the unexpected moment.

Asking Better Questions Lessons

Here's a recommendation to make all Congressional hearings less Kabuki theater and more a service to us, the people who own our government.

Every member of Congress, in both parties plus independents, should not ask another question until they have sat through a class, including role-play exercises, on how to frame questions.

Congress already has the perfect expert to teach this — Rep. Katie Porter, Democrat of California.

The freshman lawmaker, a former University of California Irvine law professor, frames only smart questions during House Financial Services hearings. No matter how witnesses reply, Porter is ready to follow so that we the people learn about the integrity of each witness or lack thereof.

Porter questions are free of flourish. Porter never preens. Instead, her five-minute examinations are packed tightly. Whether in interrogations designed to embarrass a mandarin like Jamie Dimon of Chase Bank or subtle sideways approaches that sneak up on the witness like the velociraptor who surprises the big game hunter in the original Jurassic Park film, she gets revealing responses.

Smart woman. Would that our senators were half as smart in asking questions.

Featured Photo: Screenshot from Washington Post television of Judge Amy Coney Barrett with most of her children at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Trump's '60 Minutes' interview is looking like a disaster before it even airs

Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, along with their running mates, are slated to appear on Sunday in the upcoming episode of the CBS news and interview show "60 Minutes." But reporting from CNN and Trump's own comments made it clear on Tuesday that his interview with the network did not go to his liking.

"I am pleased to inform you that, for the sake of accuracy in reporting, I am considering posting my interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, PRIOR TO AIRTIME! This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about," Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday evening. "Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!"

Trump also released a brief clip of "60 Minutes" host Lesley stahl, trying to shame her for not wearing a mask:

Presumably, Stahl wasn't wearing a mask during her onscreen interview, and had yet to put one on in the clip Trump posted. It was an odd attempt to shame her, given his repeated statements casting doubt on and diminishing the importance of mask use during the pandemic. It may indicate that mask-wearing was a subject of a dispute between them during the interview.

Trump's claim about "Electoral Intrusion" reflects a bizarre trend in conservative rhetoric. Foreign election interference was discussed extensively following the 2016 campaign because of Russia's efforts to meddle in the democratic process. But trying to turn that idea around and accuse critics of Trump and the GOP of domestic election interference makes no sense, because Americans and American media are expected to be a part of the electoral process.

CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins published a report Tuesday that also pointed to a disastrous interview.

Collins said that while CBS was at the White House to conduct the interview, Trump "abruptly" ended the discussion after 45 minutes. He reportedly said they had enough material to use for the show. He then declined to reappear on the show along with Vice President Mike Pence for another segment, as had been planned.

Trump's tweets suggest that he was not happy with the questions and fact-checking he was faced with, perhaps because they were critical of his handling of the pandemic. But we'll have a better idea of what happened at least by Sunday — maybe even sooner, if the White House decides to release its own footage.

Mark Meadows' election filings raise questions of unlawful spending and campaign coordination

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows reported spending tens of thousands of dollars through his campaign and leadership PAC on what appear to be personal expenses, including gourmet cupcakes, a cell phone bill, grocery purchases, lavish meals, thousands of dollars at a Washington jeweler and lodging at the Trump International Hotel, according to FEC filings.

A number of the expenses align with Lynda Bennett's failed campaign to fill the North Carolina seat left vacant in the U.S. House of Representatives by Meadows, both before and after Trump named Meadows for the White House job.

Meadows had endorsed Bennett, a friend and ally, and when the Republican primary in that district grew unexpectedly contentious in the wake of Meadows' resignation, local Republicans began to suspect that the chief of staff was putting his thumb on the scale. Salon's investigation now raises questions about whether Meadows' support ventured into the financial realm as well.

Meadows announced late last December that he would not run for re-election in his North Carolina congressional seat, but his campaign went on to spend more than $60,000 before he officially converted the committee to a leadership PAC. In that same time his campaign raised just $300.

He created Freedom First PAC in early July, and it has since spent more than $14,000, federal filings show, including on cupcakes, Costco, a cell phone and lodging at President Trump's Washington hotel. Despite its spending, Freedom First has reported raising no money at all, which is highly unusual for any PAC, especially in the run-up to a national election.

It is illegal to spend campaign and PAC funds on personal expenses, such as groceries and meals.

"After Meadows announced he would not seek re-election, then took a job in the White House, his campaign account continued to spend large sums of money on food and beverage and lodging, including at the Trump Hotel, even though it was no longer fundraising," Jordan Libowitz, of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington (CREW), told Salon. This pattern, he continued, "raises serious questions" about the purpose of that spending.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, "is going to prison for using his campaign account for personal expenses, including at restaurants and hotels," Libowitz added. "Meadows needs to explain what these expenses were for."

Brendan Fischer, director of regulatory oversight at the Campaign Legal Center, agreed. He told Salon, "Campaign funds may be used to support one's candidacy or duties as an officeholder, but after a person is no longer a candidate or congressional officeholder, campaign expenditures can look much more questionable."

Between January and March of this ear, the Meadows campaign reported spending a total of $5,570 in donor funds on food and beverage items. About $1,600 of that went to the Capitol Hill Club, a mainstay hangout for House Republicans, just around the corner from Republican National Committee headquarters, including an $1,100 purchase on Jan. 13 — the same day Hunter resigned from the House for manifold campaign finance violations.

Hunter's campaign had spent more than $100,000 at the Capitol Hill Club dating back to 2008. The Meadows campaign reported spending about half that amount at the GOP haunt in 109 separate expenditures since 2012, though most of those reports came in the four years after Trump's election: more than $37,000 since 2017.

"There are plenty of possible reasons for this, especially because he was still a candidate for most of it," Libowitz explained of the meals, which ranged from several thousand dollars to very small sums, a handful below $20.

"He could be having fundraising meetings. Or meeting with campaign staff. Or he could, like Duncan Hunter, be using the campaign card to pick up his own tab," Libowitz continued. (The campaign reported raising just $786 gross between January and April, $292 of that in net contributions — and nothing at all thereafter.) "In and of itself, it doesn't prove anything," he added, "but it does at least ask for explanation."

A week after that serendipitous Capitol Hill Club expense, the campaign reported spending $312 on food and beverage at The Grove Park Inn & Resort, a four-star country club in Asheville, North Carolina, in Meadows' home district. It expensed a $15 parking fee for the same affair.

Campaign filings also show a $84 campaign expense at Lavender Moon Cupcakery in Alexandria, Virginia, on Feb. 12, and last month his leadership PAC — the direct extension of his campaign committee — dropped another $70 at the same bakery in two visits a week apart, with a $400 lodging expense at Trump International in between.

The Meadows campaign also told the FEC that it spent a total of $1,100 on food and drinks at Trump's Washington hotel, after Meadows had announced the end of his campaign. This included $500 on March 3 of this year — Super Tuesday in the Democratic primary race. (Hotel insiders know Tuesdays as "lobbyist night.")

Trump named Meadows his new chief of staff three days after that.

On March 30, the day that Meadows officially resigned from the House — more than three months after announcing that he would not run for re-election — his campaign reported spending $2,650 on "printed materials" from Washington custom jeweler Ann Hand.

"I have no legitimate explanation for that one," Brett Kappel, campaign finance expert at Hammon Curran, told Salon. "It's illegal to make a false statement to the FEC. If he used campaign funds to buy jewelry for someone, that could be another personal use violation. The FEC allows campaigns to use campaign funds to buy gifts for donors or volunteers — but they have to be disclosed as such."

The purchase, however, is not flagged as a gift, something Meadows did for previous purchases. While Hand's website does not advertise printed products such as stationery, the store, which deals predominantly in politically-themed jewelry and accessories, sells printed American Eagle silk scarves at $350 apiece.

The site also showcases a number of custom and individualized pieces, including some made for members of Congress and the White House. A single Trump-Pence pin studded with Swarovski crystals costs $65 — two percent of what Meadows expensed. In October 2019, the campaign reported spending $925 on "Logo Lapel Pins with Magnets" from Coates Designers in Franklin, North Carolina.

Photos show that Meadows' wife, Debbie, wore a necklace to the Republican National Convention event on the White House lawn which matches an Ann Hand design.

The purchase underscores the unusual phenomenon: Meadows was no longer campaigning, but his campaign still racked up expenses. While it's normal for campaigns that have ended to have a grace period to wrap up loose ends, many of the disbursements that Meadows listed are difficult to understand in those terms, since he was no longer a political candidate.

For instance, Meadows paid campaign associate Henry Mitchell more than $5,000 for "field representative mileage" in five installments between January and March.

"There's still campaign work that can be done as a campaign winds down. It's not out of the ordinary to keep someone around to help out," Libowitz said of those expenses. "But at 58 cents a mile, back-of-the-envelope math has it at 900 miles some weeks. That's a ton of driving."

It's not clear why Mitchell was putting on so many miles, or where. However, the Republican primary to replace Meadows had already grown chaotic by February, with Bennett, his friend and hand-picked successor, facing a number of candidates, some to her right. At the time, local Republican operatives speculated that Meadows had been trying to tip the scales in her favor, according to Politico.

Two days after his Super Tuesday expense at Trump hotel, Meadows' campaign reported giving $4,000 to Bennett's campaign: $2,000 for the Republican primary; and $2,000 for the general election. Trump had announced Meadows would be hired as chief of staff the previous day, and as mentioned above, he officially resigned from Congress at the end of the month.

Furthermore, FEC filings show that the Meadows campaign continued to spend campaign money in the months after his resignation and before he filed to create Freedom First PAC on July 1. These expenses include phone bills, in-flight internet, food, groceries and consulting.

In mid-April, two weeks after Meadows signed on with the White House, his campaign reported a $360 meal expense at the Capitol Hill Club, in the middle of coronavirus lockdowns. That week the Capitol Hill Club, which had been shuttered, posted a mailer about delivering charity meals to frontline workers.

Asked if the Meadows campaign could have expensed meals as a charity gift, Kappel said it was possible, but pointed out that if so, the filing should have indicated that.

"The FEC would probably allow that, but it would have to be reported more specifically than this. A memo entry would be sufficient — something like 'charitable contribution of food for hospital workers' — but the receipt doesn't show that," he said.

In the end, Meadows' efforts did not sustain Bennett, who lost her June 23 primary to pro-Trump political newcomer Madison Cawthorne. That same day, the Meadows campaign reported a $2,300 payment to Henry Mitchell, the aforementioned field representative, for "management consulting." (Mitchell was formerly the chair of the Buncombe County Republican Party, in Meadows' district.)

A week later, on the last day of the Meadows' campaign's official existence, his campaign reported a $600 expense at a Safeway grocery store.

Furthermore, the Meadows and Bennett campaigns, along with Right Women PAC, which was founded by Meadows' wife, are the only three political committees in the U.S. to report payments to a company called Tower Digital, which was founded by Meadows' brother — who apparently registered Bennett's campaign domain in October 2019, according Politico.

Additionally, Meadows' campaign lists political expenditures that on their face do not seem to fit the needs of a candidate who has already announced he will no longer be seeking elected office.

For instance, the campaign reported paying pollster McLaughlin & Associates $11,200 on Jan. 7, three weeks after Meadows announced he would no longer be campaigning. That same day the campaign reported a $3,000 payment to Hammond & Associates for "Fundraising Consulting," with another $3,032 consulting payment to the company on Jan. 10, filings show.

"The only legitimate answer is that Meadows asked his campaign vendors to submit any outstanding invoices or receipts so that they could be paid, but if he had done that you would expect one lump sum payment," Kappel told Salon. "If Meadows had polling done in the interest of a candidate he wanted to replace him, that would be an excessive in-kind contribution."

Although Meadows made his retirement announcement in December, Politico reported that skeptical North Carolina Republicans noticed a number of coincidences surrounding Barrett's entry into the race — among them the October domain registry, as well as other indications she had a heads-up on Meadows' announcement, the timing of which caught other GOP hopefuls off guard.

It is unclear why Meadows paid a polling company weeks after announcing his retirement from Congress, and possibly months after having made the decision, as Politico's reporting suggests. Similarly, it seems Meadows would owe an explanation for $6,000 in fundraising consulting expenses for a dead campaign that went on to raise less than $300 in net contributions for all of 2020 to date.

"While some of the campaign's expenses in the first quarter might be justified," Brendan Fischer of the CLC told Salon, "those meal and grocery expenses from the period after Meadows resigned from Congress raise the most red flags for me. Those post-April expenses for meals at the Capitol Hill Club and groceries cannot possibly be connected to Meadows' candidacy or congressional duties, since he was neither a candidate nor a congressman at that time."

The spending continued after Meadows established his new PAC, Freedom First, which has not raised any money since its July 1 inception. It remains unclear exactly what could legitimize the $14,500 in campaign expenses reported since then.

Those expenditures include several meal purchases, including $1,000 at the Capitol Hill Club on July 21. Remarking on that expense, Fischer pointed out that the FEC, in response to a CLC complaint, fined former Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, in 2019 for using his old campaign account to pay for Capitol Hill Club dues and meals, among other things.

Then, in August, Freedom First reported its largest expenditure: A $10,000 PAC donation, the maximum amount allowable under election law, made to Ralph Sexton Ministries on Aug. 10. The Meadows campaign had previously reported only one other contribution to the organization, of $1,000 in April 2019.

Sexton ran a church in Asheville that Debbie Meadows and Lynda Bennett both attended. He introduced the two women, along with Jim Jordan's wife, Polly, to a crowd of churchgoers this winter, according to local outlet the Mountaineer. Sexton announced his retirement from the church on Saturday, two months after the $10,000 contribution from Freedom First.

Bennett's campaign finished $70,000 in debt, and she still needs to return the Meadows campaign's $2,000 general election contribution, since she lost the Republican primary and is not on the ballot in November. Her campaign has $1,000 cash on hand, according to filings.

However, the lion's share of Bennett's outstanding debt is owed to herself: She loaned her campaign $80,000 on the last day of 2019, days after Meadows announced his retirement.

Freedom First has still not raised any money after all of this activity, but it continued to spend into September, including at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. In August it filed a series of payments to Tower Digital, Meadows' brother's company, as well a $240 payment to Costco and $1,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

"You can't use campaign funds to buy your groceries at Costco," said Kappel.

Freedom First's most recent payment was reported on Sept. 24: an Uber ride, for $80.32.

Lynda Bennett's campaign did not reply to Salon's detailed request for comment. The White House did not reply to multiple detailed requests for comment.

Democrats may 'never win another national election': SCOTUS mail-in voting ruling raises alarm

Adivided Supreme Court rejected a Pennsylvania Republican effort to curtail mail-in voting, but experts say the Democratic victory may be short-lived — and confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would be a "disaster for Democrats."

With Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberals, the court split 4-4 to reject a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block an order from the state's Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received within three days of Election Day — even if they do not have a clear postmark. The tie left the state decision in place, which Democratic lawyers hailed as "great news for voting rights."

The four conservative justices, who would have blocked the state court ruling, did not issue a dissenting opinion to explain their votes.

"The unfathomable thing about the four justices siding [with] PA Republicans tonight: they would've stripped a state supreme court of the authority to say what the law is in their own state," Bard College Professor Steven Mazie wrote on Twitter. "That's way beyond right field. It's judicial activism on steroids."

If the conservatives had prevailed, the decision "would create legal chaos over a wide range of issues," attorney Max Kennerly added.

Some Supreme Court reporters called the split "really scary" and "terrifying." If Barrett is confirmed next week as expected, the court's conservatives could potentially upend the election.

"Tonight four conservative Supreme Court justices indicated their support for a radical, anti-democratic theory that would stop state Supreme Courts from enforcing state election laws to protect the franchise," Slate's Mark Joseph Stern wrote. "And Barrett could soon give them a fifth vote . . . The 2020 election may be in her hands."

Though the court allowed the state order to stand, "that victory may only last a matter of days," Vox's Ian Millhiser reported. "Indeed, the GOP may be able to raise this issue again after Barrett is confirmed, potentially securing a court order requiring states like Pennsylvania to toss out an unknown number of ballots that arrive after Election Day. If the election is close, that could be enough to change the result."

Some legal experts said it was possible, but unlikely, that the court would take the same case up again.

"It's possible that Republicans can renew their application if and when Judge Barrett is confirmed, in the hopes that she'd side with them," Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote. "That said, that close to the election, it's hard to imagine that all four of tonight's dissenters would want to upset the status quo."

Even if the case does not return to the high court, Barrett could be the deciding vote in numerous other challenges brought by Republicans or President Donald Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and other states, according to Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court's split decision leaves many questions unanswered only14 days before the election.

"We have no guidance from the court as to when and whether a state Supreme Court can rely on a state Constitution when it expands or changes state voting rules in a presidential election," Hasen wrote. "Even though Democrats opposed the stay sought by Republicans in the case, they begged the court to fully take the case and give an explanation as to the scope of state court power in this case. This lack of guidance could be a huge problem in the two battleground states — North Carolina and Pennsylvania — with Democratic state Supreme Courts and Republican legislatures who could battle over any post-election voting rules."

Trump has repeatedly said he wants Barrett on the court in time for the election, because it "will end up in the Supreme Court." He declared that he was "counting on them to look at the ballots" at the first presidential debate.

And other Republicans have echoed the president's rhetoric. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who opposed Merrick Garland's nomination months ahead of the 2016 election, has argued that it is imperative to confirm Barrett before the election. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who likewise opposed Garland, also argued that it was necessary to speed through the confirmation, because "the court will decide" litigation about "who won the election."

Barrett, who has not ruled on any election-related cases on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, demurred when asked during her confirmation hearings if she would recuse herself from cases that could determine the outcome of the presidential election despite precedent possibly requiring her to do so.

"I commit to you to fully and faithfully applying the law of recusal, and part of the law is to consider any appearance questions," Barrett told Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. "And I will apply the factors that other justices have before me in determining whether the circumstances require my recusal or not. But I can't offer a legal conclusion right now about the outcome of the decision I would reach."

All of this potentially makes Monday's ruling a disaster "for anyone who cares about democracy," Millhiser wrote.

"If Democrats win this election, and they don't pack the Supreme Court," he added, "they could very well never win a national election again."

This polling expert saw warning signs for Clinton in 2016 — now he sees few hints of hope for Trump

Dave Wasserman, a polling expert with the Cook Political Report, closely watches polling at the district level in the United States. And in 2016, he saw signs in the data that Donald Trump was performing better than many expected in areas like New York's 22nd District — where Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were tied in 2012. Those warnings turned out to be prescient when Trump eked out a narrow win in three key swing states while losing in the popular vote.

Now, though, Wasserman has said he sees little sign of hope for Trump's re-election, even as Democrats continue to fear that former Vice President Joe Biden's polling lead will evaporate in the coming days:

An important point about his claims is that Wasserman, a nonpartisan analyst, is privy to a lot of information that isn't publicly available. While there's a lot of public national and state-level polling, district-level polls are harder to come by. Many pollsters keep this info private, though they will share it with people like Wasserman. This data can give a closer glimpse into trends and demographic changes in the electorate that other polls may be missing.

But according to Wasserman, this data should give Trump no solace. It's consistent with Biden's estimated 10-point lead in the FiveThirtyEight national polling average. He explained his findings in an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post.

"In 2016, district-level polling in late October showed flashing red warning signs for Clinton in districts dominated by White non-college voters," he said. "It wasn't being detected so much in state-level polling, because the state polling chronically under-sampled those voters."

But in 2020, Wasserman is seeing a consistent pattern, and it's not good for Trump.

"Trump is underperforming his 2016 margins by eight to 10 points in most competitive districts. If Trump won a district by three last time, he's probably losing it by six this time. It's a pretty consistent pattern," he explained.

There are some exceptions and variations, but overall, it's a brutal picture for the president. He won by the skin of his teeth in 2016 — and he is dramatically underperforming that race.

Trump is doing worst in "upscale suburbs," Wasserman explained, while he has improved somewhat in his support in some Latino communities. Biden is doing better than Clinton did in districts that are predominately populated by "blue-collar Whites," though not as well as the Obama-Biden ticket did in 2012.

But Biden is improving most in areas dominated by college-educated white people, and that demographic may well be decisive on Nov. 3. It also means Trump has a difficult path forward to claw back from the hole he's in.

"Trump needs to boost turnout of non-college Whites by five points nationally, just to offset their declining share of the population since 2016. But he also needs to increase the share of those voters he's winning," said Wasserman. "Trump's gains among non-Whites can only get him so far, because there's really not much of a Hispanic vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. So he's got to solve this riddle with both persuasion and turnout. He needs to persuade more White voters — both college and non-college — to stick with him. And he really needs to boost non-college White turnout."

It's not impossible that Trump could pull it off, but it's hard to see it happening.

New report reveals Trump's hidden bank account in China

President Donald Trump has a bank account in China which until now has been hidden from the public. The account, as first reported by The New York Times Tuesday evening, does not appear anywhere on the president's financial disclosure forms.

Trump for years attempted to claim he and President Xi of China were good friends.

"Mr. Trump's own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state," the Times reveals. "He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company."

Trump operates his business empire as a "pass-through," which means that ultimately all profits makes their way to the president and his family.

"And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president's tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump's public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear."

The Times goes on to report Trump paid China in taxes from 2013 to 2015 far more than the zero taxes he paid to the U.S. government during the same years.

One of Trump's companies in China "reported an unusually large spike in revenue — some $17.5 million, more than the previous five years' combined. It was accompanied by a $15.1 million withdrawal by Mr. Trump from the company's capital account."

"Until last year, China's biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president," the Times adds.

Read the entire report at The New York Times.

State Department employees outraged after Pompeo addresses group supporting 'ex-gay' therapy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is consistently among the most Trump-like of the impeached president's corrupt, trollish officials—and he continued to cement that status after reportedly ignoring internal protests from his own department employees in order to address a right-wing religious organization that supports so-called "ex-gay" therapy, the Miami Herald said.

The report said that Pompeo's speech to the Florida Family Policy Council, a group also affiliated with several other anti-LGBTQ organizations, was covered in red flags, including staffers finding links to conversion therapy—which is torture—on the group's site, as well as anti-gay flyers at the location where the speech was to take place. So Mike—ever-conscious about his employees and his department's alleged pro-LGBTQ efforts—cancelled the speech, right? Nah. He not only continued on with it, he promoted it.

The Miami Herald reports that "[o]ne source described several aides as 'appalled' the event still took place despite the concerns, and that afterward, the secretary highlighted his appearance in his latest 'Miles with Mike' message to department employees." A State Department spokesperson tried to soothe alarm over the speech by later claiming that Pompeo honestly had no idea about the concerns, which maybe someone somewhere would believe if this administration didn't lie like it was going out of style.

Then there's also Mike's record. "Before joining the Trump administration, first as CIA director and then as secretary of State, Pompeo made his views on LGBTQ rights explicit," Mother Jones noted, "opposing same-sex marriage and once alluding to homosexuality as a 'perversion.'" During a Senate confirmation hearing in 2018, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker pressed Pompeo on the term, and asked him if he stood by it. "Senator, when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry," Pompeo replied. "I stand by that."

Of course, working for a thrice-married adulterer is apparently just fine and dandy. Anyway, that Republicans still continue to tout this administration as pro-LGBTQ is laughable, and made all the more ridiculous considering one pro-LGBTQ effort the administration touts actually belonged to the previous administration. Awkward.

"[T]here was of course no policy that the Trump administration created to fight decriminalization of homosexuality overseas," writer and activist Michelangelo Signorile noted this past summer. "As I wrote in The Washington Post, the Trump administration is simply continuing existing State Department policy put in place by the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular—in stark contrast to most domestic pro-LGBTQ polices, which the Trump administration rolled back."

But hey, the Trump campaign enlisted Tiffany Trump to mangle the term "LGBTQ" at a "Trump Pride Event" in Florida this past weekend, where she claimed, "I know what my father believes in. Prior to politics, he supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQIIA+ community." Okay. Maybe whatever this "LGBQIIA+" is might support him—don't think we didn't notice you dropping the "T" there, Tiffany—but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, new polling has 74% of registered LGBTQ voters supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"Of them, 92 percent said they were 'definitely or probably' voting in the presidential election—and over 80 percent said they felt more motivated to vote now than in any other recent election," the polling said.

Trump Jr. says dad’s ‘next move’ is to ‘break up’ the FBI: ‘He has to get rid of these things’

Donald Trump Jr. on Sunday called on his father to "break up" the FBI if he wins a second term.

During an interview on Fox News, host Maria Bartiromo asked the president's son what his father would do if the FBI does not do his bidding by smearing the son of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and by preventing Democrats from increasing the use of mail-in ballots.

"We have to keep fighting," Trump replied. "We're fighting with one leg and two arms tied behind our back. You know, we don't have the mainstream media that's willing to at this point, not even just boost the other side, but literally run cover for what would arguably be the biggest corruption scheme in American political history. This is the stuff that makes Watergate look like kindergarten."

According to the younger Trump, the FBI tried to "knowingly peddle" information about his father's connections to Russia.

"They refuse to acknowledge their own corruption," he explained. "And the reality is, I think, when Donald Trump wins, he has to break up the highest level of the FBI. He has to get rid of these things. And more importantly, maybe break up the swamp in general."

"You know, why is the Department of the Interior headed out of Washington?" Trump asked. "Why don't we spread all of those things up throughout America?"

"That's Donald Trump's next move," he predicted, "if I'm him and if he wins, which I think he will. Because what's going on is disgusting. This is the stuff of communist China!"

Watch the video below from Fox News.

Donald Trump Jr.: Dad's 'next move' is to 'break up' FBI

New poll reveals the disturbing extent of the delusional QAnon cult

As outlandish as QAnon's beliefs are, the conspiracy cult has been gaining ground in the Republican Party. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that roughly 50% of President Donald Trump's supporters now embrace at least some of QAnon's claims.

QAnon believes that the United States' federal government has been infiltrated by an international cabal of pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that Trump was put in the White House to lead the fight against the cabal. According to the fictional belief set, an anonymous figure named Q is providing updates on Trump's battle. And one of QAnon's beliefs is that R&B superstar Beyoncé isn't really African-American but rather, is really an Italian woman named Ann Marie Latrassi who is passing herself off as Black as part of the conspiracy.

The Yahoo/YouGov poll, conducted October 16-18, asked participants, "Do you believe that top Democrats are involved in elite child sex trafficking rings?" — and 50% of Trump supporters said "yes" compared to only 5% of former Vice President Joe Biden's supporters.

The poll also asked, "Do you believe that President Trump is working to dismantle an elite child sex trafficking ring involving top Democrats?" — to which 52% of Trump supporters responded "yes," while only 4% of Biden supporters said "yes."

Yahoo News reporters Andrew Romano and Caitlin Dickson note that only 16% of Trump supporters who were familiar were QAnon were willing to dismiss the entire movement as conspiracy nonsense that has no basis in fact.

The inroads that QAnon has made in the GOP were evident when, in August, QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican congressional primary in Georgia. Because her district is overwhelmingly Republican, Greene will likely win the general election on November 3 and be sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2021.

Well-known Republicans who have made donations to Green's campaign include Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. And after her primary win, Trump congratulated Greene on Twitter and exalted her as a "future Republican star."

Nina Jankowicz of the nonpartisan Wilson Center told Yahoo News that it's "really crazy" that "such a high number" of Trump supporters embrace QAnon's conspiracy theory.

Jankowicz explained, "It seems, increasingly, like we're dealing with two different sets of facts in this country, sometimes more. The fact is that QAnon is a movement, a conspiracy that has been cited by the FBI as potentially inciting terrorist and other violent extremist acts in this country. It shouldn't be something that we're this split (on) along partisan lines."

During a recent town hall event hosted by NBC News, moderator Savannah Guthrie grilled Trump about QAnon — and he maintained, "I know nothing about QAnon." But Trump added that from what he has heard, "They are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that."

Jankowicz told Yahoo News, "The fact that we have so many political candidates who are public adherents of QAnon and a president who himself has refused to disavow the theory (amounts to) a tacit endorsement of a different set of facts. That's what's really worrisome about it."