Heather Digby Parton

Trump's new statement makes it clear: The GOP sees its constituents as sacrifices for the cause

One of the Republican Party's go-to strategies to counter a Democratic president's campaign promise to bring the country together is to obstruct everything the president attempts to do, working night and day to keep their people as angry and unhappy as possible so they can call the Democrats a failure for being unable to fulfill their promise. Such a promise is a bit of a sucker's play by the Democrats, to begin with, but it's a natural impulse since Republican administrations so often leave office having put the country through an overwhelming trauma with the nation yearning for healing. It takes a lot of chutzpah for the Republicans to pull this over and over again, yet they have no shortage of that particular characteristic. In fact, one might even call them shameless. And, after all, it works, so why should they stop?

You can go back quite a way in history to find this cycle, but I think the recent example of Barack Obama's presidency is the most vivid.

Obama ran as a guy who signaled a new day in America, one in which a gifted, young, Black politician with a compelling vision of a diverse, multi-cultural society and a smart, technocratic style could usher the country into the new century and put an end to all of the overwrought political turmoil of the post 9/11 era. Obama had big ambitions, not the least of which was an idea that he could take many of the thorniest political arguments off the table with a Grand Bargain that included some offers the GOP supposedly couldn't refuse. The thinking was that if they could just get past some of these big disagreements, the temperature would be lowered and the Democrats would have running room to fulfill their agenda.

There was more than a little bit of hubris in that idea. The economy was in freefall which meant that it was going to take a whole lot of political capital to stop its descent into chaos. And Democrats also made the big mistake of telegraphing their intentions by holding dinners with members of the press and letting them know the contours of the big Grand Bargain plan even before the inauguration. The GOP took notice.

Under the circumstances, the new administration assumed the Republicans would eschew crude partisan politics and work with the Democrats for the good of the country. So it came as quite a shock when the most popular right-wing personality in the country, Rush Limbaugh, came right out and said that he wanted Obama to fail. On his show, Limbaugh said he'd been approached by a major publication and asked to write a 400-word essay on his hopes for the Obama administration. His response?

My hope, and please understand me when I say this. I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, 'Well, I hope he succeeds. We've got to give him a chance.' ... So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, 'Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.'

It did cause quite a stir at the time but Limbaugh was just saying what the Republican establishment was thinking.

Then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, (who also has a habit of saying the quiet part out loud) famously said the next year, in the heat of very intense negotiations, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Columnist George Will said on Fox News Sunday, "of course I want Obamacare to fail, because if it doesn't fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this." Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio even personally sabotaged a bipartisan immigration reform bill that he'd worked on for years rather than give Obama (and the country) a win. But perhaps the best example of the phenomenon I described above came from the Donald Trump prototype, former VP candidate Sarah Palin, speaking at a Tea Party Convention who said very sarcastically, "I gotta ask his supporters, 'how's that hopey, changey stuff working out?'"

Obama promised hope and change and the Republicans thwarted him at every turn. They then taunted him for failing to deliver. It's a very cynical ploy in the best of times but seeing them use that tactic in the midst of a global pandemic in order to ensure Biden fails in his ambition to vaccinate the country and save lives is beyond even my most pessimistic view of Republicans.

I had been wondering about the basic logic of these Republican governors and other officials' stubborn hostility to the vaccines. Obviously, the vast majority of them are not fooled by the massive disinformation campaign that's keeping so many of their constituents from protecting themselves and others. They can see that cases are surging and that the unvaccinated are getting very sick with the Delta strain that's much more virulent than the COVID of last year. Yet they are still passing laws banning mask and vaccine mandates for schools and, in some cases, even workplaces. In the state of Florida, where 20% of all the current new cases are, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is running for re-election selling beer koozies that say "Don't Fauci My Florida." In Tennessee last week Republicans banned state public health outreach to teenagers for vaccines of any kind, not just COVID.

It is now clear that Republicans are going out of their way to ensure that COVID spreads and kills more people. In any normal society, you'd have to wonder how it could possibly serve these people to let their own voters get sick and die. But obviously, they're just relying on their old playbook and have decided it's politically profitable to make Biden's vaccine distribution program fail. Their constituents are basically human sacrifices for the cause.

Trump made this explicit on Sunday with this statement:

Joe Biden kept talking about how good of a job he's doing on the distribution of the Vaccine that was developed by Operation Warp Speed or, quite simply, the Trump Administration. He's not doing well at all. He's way behind schedule, and people are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don't trust his Administration, they don't trust the Election results and they certainly don't trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the Truth

The line is that Biden is failing because some people don't trust him. And why don't they trust him? Because Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, are lying to them about what Biden is doing. It's a neat trick and one they've used quite successfully before. This time they're actually killing people to own the libs.

Yes, Trump should be 'thrilled' by this week's news — indictments and all

Donald Trump's company and its chief financial officer were indicted on Thursday on multiple felony counts and the prosecutors went to some lengths to say they weren't finished yet. In a sane world, one would think that presents a real problem for a man who is planning to run for president but this is Trump we're talking about and he's survived dozens of legal challenges as a businessman and as a politician so it's a fairly good bet he'll wriggle out of this one too. After all, in the last 18 months, he's been impeached twice, botched the handling of a historic global pandemic resulting in more than 600,000 American deaths, incited an insurrection against the U.S. Congress, and his supporters love him more than ever. He famously said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any votes and it appears to literally be true.

This is probably why he is reportedly happy about the indictments, "thrilled" they are what he thinks of as light charges, and already anticipating how the cases can be leveraged for his big comeback in 2024 because it will "hurt Sleepy Joe." He plans to make this latest "witch hunt" a theme of his upcoming rallies and since his political career has been built upon relentless whining, which his followers eat up with a spoon, he may just be right.

Since January 6th, there is a very powerful, unspoken threat should any real danger to Trump and his future plans present itself: violence. It's doubtful that anyone involved in these or any other cases aren't constantly weighing the risks against the benefits in taking steps to hold Trump accountable. He's gotten away with so much that even grounded, rational people have to be asking themselves if he's literally made a deal with the devil.

According to Politico, people around him say that while he has been spending some time at Trump Tower (since he's summering at his Bedminster Golf Club) and has been concerned about these cases, it's far from his top priority.

Aides said that Trump's interest in the Manhattan D.A.'s case pales in comparison to his obsession with the idea that he could still prove to be the winner of the 2020 election. "His world is seriously consumed by that," said another Trump adviser. "In comparison to election fraud, [the D.A.'s investigation] is not even close." According to this adviser, Trump is holding out hope that if the Arizona "audit"/fishing expedition ends up in his favor, a few other states will follow suit, triggering some sort of legal process that would make him president.
He's even questioned the merits of the Constitution, if it can't be used to investigate election fraud.He must have been awfully pleased to see that the Supreme Court seemed to agree with him, at least to the extent that states should be able to make it as hard for people to vote as possible, ostensibly to protect itself from voter fraud, which doesn't exist. Thursday's ruling on the voting case Brnovich v. DNC, from Arizona, ground zero for Trump's Big Lie hysteria, with the full conservative bloc coming together to further weaken the Voting Rights Act, must have made his day.

The court upheld a series of voter restrictions much like the ones that are popping up all over the country in the wake of Trump's Big Lie, although it did not, as was feared, completely eliminate all barriers to such restrictions. It did create a new set of criteria for determining if a voting law is discriminatory, one of which seems to say that any restrictions which may have been in place in 1982 (when the Voting Rights Act was amended) are acceptable. (I guess this is yet another form of "originalism?") The majority opinion cites this example:

"it is relevant that in 1982 States typically required nearly all voters to cast their ballots in person on election day and allowed only narrow and tightly defined categories of voters to cast absentee ballots."

So much for mail-in voting.

That opinion was written by Samuel Alito, a sure signal to the GOP establishment that this one was for them. (Alito is, by far, the most flagrantly partisan justice on the Court.) This decision, which endorses the idea that states can restrict voting because of (non-existent) voter fraud, is solely a Republican Party project. This decision makes it clear that while this court may throw a bone to the left once in a while when it comes down to securing power for the Republican Party, their allegiance is certain. Mitch McConnell must have strained a muscle patting himself on the back for his efforts to make that happen.

At this point, the entire Republican establishment, which includes the Supreme Court majority, is working together to take advantage of the opening Trump's Big Lie has given them. The party strategically targeted the states that Biden won closely and is feverishly passing laws to disenfranchise Democratic voters there. At the same time, they are assiduously working to disempower any form of non-partisan oversight of the election apparatus. In fact, they are using every lever of power at their disposal, from legislative control in the states, to the filibuster and the Supreme Court.

Yet even in light of that, the Democrats are saying that any changes to voting laws must be bipartisan and are letting the GOP get away with obstructing voting legislation for the dumbest possible reason: they think they need to hold on to the filibuster to stop Mitch McConnell and a future GOP president from doing things they don't like in the future. As if McConnell and the Republicans haven't made it crystal clear that they will do as they like by any means necessary. If Republicans need to nuke the filibuster in the future they will not hesitate to do it. In fact, they may do it just to troll the libs the minute they get back the majority.

The consensus among the political press is that this battle is over.

CNN's Senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly insisted on Thursday that the handful of Democrats who believe this drivel are not going to change their minds and the rest of the party is accepting their fate, with the White House planning to fall back on the "bully pulpit" to tell people how they might avoid the undemocratic roadblocks the Republicans are putting in their way.

That's right. The party that controls the House, the Senate and the White House apparently believes it is impotent to protect American democracy from a bunch of right-wing crazies who worship Donald Trump so they're planning to give some speeches instead.

If this cynical consensus is right (and I fervently hope it isn't) all I can say is that it's a good thing we have an empathetic mourner-in-chief in Joe Biden to comfort us when our democracy finally dies. Unfortunately, we probably won't be able to hear his consoling words over the giddy laughter of Trump and the Republicans. They couldn't have dreamed the Democrats would go down so easily.

The GOP cements their legacy as the white supremacist party with filibuster of the 'For The People Act'

The assault on democracy that's taking place all around the country in various state legislatures has come boldly into focus in recent days and not a moment too soon. Democrats across the nation are begging the national government to step in and do something to protect our electoral system. And in a stunning irony, the Republican response is to use the federal government's most undemocratic institution's most undemocratic rule to prevent that from happening.

On Tuesday, Republicans invoked the filibuster to prevent the Senate from bringing S.1, the For the People Voting Rights Act, to the floor for debate, effectively killing the bill. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin had even cobbled together a compromise, giving Republicans a bunch of goodies they have wanted for a long time, including national voter ID and federal permission to purge the voter rolls, just trying to tempt them into even allowing a debate on the issue.

It did no good.

Manchin couldn't even coax one of his "good Republicans" to vote for it. His bipartisan crusade is 0 for 0 so far. Before the vote on Tuesday, Sen. Rafael Warnock, D-Ga, described the GOP's shamelessness perfectly:

"What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to protect minority rights in the society?"

Mother Jones' Ari Berman elaborates:

Congressional Democrats' signature voting rights bill, the For the People Act, is set to be defeated on Tuesday by the very anti-democratic system it's meant to reform.

The 50 Democratic senators who support the For the People Act (or least Sen. Joe Manchin's compromise proposal keeping some key elements of the bill while excluding others) represent 43 million more Americans than the 50 Republican senators who oppose it, according to data compiled by Alex Tausanovitch of the Center for American Progress. Yet because of the 60-vote requirement to pass most legislation, 41 Republican senators representing just 21 percent of the country can block the bill from moving forward, even though it's supported by 68 percent of the public, according to recent polling.

It is certainly true, as Republicans are quick to proclaim, that progressives and liberals have used the filibuster to stop GOP legislation in recent years as Mitch "Grim Reaper" McConnell, R-Ky, escalated the use of the process to an unprecedented frequency in order to entrench his minority party's chokehold on legislation. But not since the Dixiecrats all defected to the Republican Party when they rebranded themselves as the official white supremacy party 50 years ago have Democrats used the filibuster to subvert the electoral process.

And keep in mind that McConnell was happy to change the rules when he needed to do it. His Holy Grail was packing the courts and he made sure that he was unencumbered by the filibuster when he did it. Don't ever doubt that he would entirely eliminate it in a heartbeat if he felt he needed to.

The GOP's overriding goal at the moment is obviously to keep as many Democrats as possible from voting and to subvert any universal commitment to the idea that the democratic process should be non-partisan. After the Republicans all voted to sustain the filibuster against S.1 on Tuesday, CNN's Manu Raju asked McConnell, "are you okay with states like Arizona, that's conducting it's own audit to throw into question Joe Biden's victory there?"

Reminiscent of his smug declaration that he would break his own rules if he had the opportunity to steal another Supreme Court seat (which he did), a dead-eyed McConnell flatly replied:

"I'm ok with the states sorting this stuff out. So, regardless of what may be happening in some states, there's no rationale for federal intervention. They'll figure it all out. They'll go to court. They'll determine whether there's any rational basis for this. That's not unusual in this country."

I guess all those death threats against election officials are the sign of a healthy democracy working like clockwork. McConnell's comments were eerily reminiscent of the old states' rights arguments against desegregation and universal suffrage. Some things never change. This was how they "figured it out" in the states before "federal intervention" 55 years ago:

Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act youtu.be

It is no coincidence that it was after the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court declared the Voting Rights Act effectively dead that states run by the white supremacist party are back to their old tricks. (Remember, one of the Big Lie's fundamental tropes is that urban cities with large Black populations — Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta — all cheated to deny Trump his rightful place as the president of white America.)

In the big picture, this latest assault on democracy is not only a throwback to the days of Jim Crow, although it certainly is that. In this era of disinformation and propaganda, they are also encouraging the idea that our system relies on nothing more than an exertion of power and winning by any means necessary. The vote on Tuesday shows that McConnell and his party, including the so-called "moderates" are all in on that part of the program too.

If what it takes to win means that they have to let states that are important to preserving minority power put QAnon conspiracy theorists and MAGA fanatics in charge of the electoral system, well that's just how it has to be. Sure, these new rules and laws will eventually wend their way through Mitch McConnell's handpicked federal judiciary. And in a few years, some of them will probably be overturned if only to keep up appearances. But expecting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, the man who wrote the despicable opinion overturning the Voting Rights Act back in 2013, to do a 180-degree shift on this issue seems highly optimistic.

There is still a way around all this, of course.

The Democrats could eliminate the filibuster and pass this bill. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to hold a whole bunch of votes like this one to illustrate the folly of pursuing bipartisanship in the hopes that it will persuade the filibuster fetishists to change their minds. After Tuesday's vote, Manchin almost said Republicans were being unreasonable (shock!) by failing to even consider his compromise, so maybe Schumer's plan will work?

We'd better hope so. The Republicans are hard at work in the states to ensure that the Democrats are ousted from power by any means necessary. They better use it while they have it or they are going to lose it for good.

The GOP is now planning a state by state hostile takeover

On Sunday night, CNN aired a two-hour documentary called "Assault on Democracy" chronicling the evolution of the American right's most recent embrace of conspiracy theories and authoritarianism which led to the insurrection of January 6th. Unlike most of the recent TV examinations of this phenomenon, CNN didn't simply go back to the day Donald Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower but traced the beginning of this latest lurch into right-wing lunacy to the election of Barack Obama and the furious backlash that ensued. (The seeds obviously go back much further, but this is a logical place to begin with the Tea Party's seamless transformation into MAGA.)

The program rightly attributes the massive growth in conspiracy theories to the rise in social media during that period and especially takes on Facebook for its algorithms that lead people deeper and deeper into insular rabbit holes. Crude profiteers such as Alex Jones and Breitbart are exposed as well as good old-fashioned talk radio and Fox News. There can be no denying the massive influence of those cynical propaganda outfits on the events that transpired over the past few years.

Perhaps the most disturbing moments in the special were the interviews with some of the MAGA faithful who were at the Capitol on January 6th, which was a trip to Bizarro World in itself. They still don't see anything wrong with what happened and most of them, whether they are QAnon, Proud Boys, religious leaders or local politicians, are obviously 100% sincere in their belief in Donald Trump. If you didn't think he was a cult leader before, you certainly will after hearing them talk about him. It's downright eerie.

Recounting the events of that awful day with all the dramatic footage, some of it new, in chronological order is still as dreadful to watch as ever. And we still are missing huge pieces of what happened that day.

We know that Trump snapped at Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., when the House minority leader asked him to call off his followers as they stormed the Capitol: "Maybe you just don't care as much about this election as they do!" It took much cajoling to get Trump to release the tepid statements he eventually made calling for peace and telling the insurrectionist that they are very special and he loves them. But for all the detailed leaking from the Trump White House over the course of four years, this is one afternoon they've kept a pretty tight lid on. (It's also clear that's one of the main reasons the Republicans have nixed the bipartisan commission, as some people would have to go under oath and testify about all that.)

Perhaps all of this seems tedious by now. After all, we all know the story. Most of us watched it play out in real-time. But as CNN's Brian Stelter pointed out, it's important to keep telling it because the purveyors of lies and conspiracies keep trying to whitewash it into something completely different. He quoted this tweet:

And as I noted last week, conceding to them also means letting down our guard and failing to be prepared for Insurrection Redux. Listening to those MAGA fans in the CNN documentary was very clarifying on that point. Those who took part in the insurrection and have been charged continue to believe they did nothing wrong and are no doubt prepared to do it again. Those who helped incite the mob from their pulpits and various rally stages have absolutely no regrets. There's no doubt that there could easily be more violence.

But just as important in continuing to tell the truth about January 6th is to continue to combat the Big Lie about the election.

The MAGA faithful have been completely brainwashed and I don't think they'll ever change their minds. But devious, partisan players are hard at work in the states subverting the electoral system in ways that are truly insidious. It's so bad that I think everyone is simply obligated to continue to focus very diligently on this issue. To that end. the New York Times reported some very disturbing new details out of Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp signed a new law that allows Republicans to remove Democrats from local election boards:

Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Democrats in the state rightly point out that had these laws been in effect last fall, there's every chance that MAGA-friendly officials would have been put in charge of the election and Trump's requests to "find" votes might very well have been successful.

It isn't just local officials. Some states are going after statewide offices as well.

One of the more unbelievably transparent acts took place in Arizona, the epicenter of Big Lie activism, in which the Republican legislature introduced a bill that would strip the Democratic secretary of state of authority over election lawsuits. But in an act of epic chutzpah, they plan to have the law expire once she is out of office. (I assume they will reinstate it if another Democrat wins, but perhaps they feel they've put up enough roadblocks to ensure that never happens again). In Georgia, they've similarly turned the secretary of state's office into little more than a ceremonial position with little authority.

And this one is especially concerning because it tracks with the growing belief in a crackpot legal theory that state legislatures are the one and only legitimate arbiters of elections, superseding all other elected officials and the courts:

Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature's consent.

It is only a matter of time before one of these states passes a law that openly allows the legislature to overturn an election — and then does it.

If you read the inane rationalizations by these Republican officials, some of whom are quoted saying they believe the Big Lie, it's clear that the assault on democracy is actually just beginning. And it isn't just about Donald Trump. The Republican Party realized that just a few tweaks to the election laws means they can call into question any election result they don't like and take steps to overturn it. They are also very well aware that the specter of January 6th violence hovers still hovers over the country and they have millions of agitated Americans who are willing to believe anything. They have power and they are using it.

Mike Pompeo's whitewashing of Trump's record backfires — hurting his 2024 chances

President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin just met for their first summit since Biden was sworn in. They've known each other for years and there are many stories about their frosty interactions in the past. But hopefully, there will be something of a proverbial "reset" between the two countries coming out of this meeting after the disastrous embarrassment of the Trump years.

Back at home, however, we are very much haunted by the ghosts of old troubles. There used to be a quaint old tradition of members of outgoing administrations keeping quiet for a period of time to allow the new regime to set their own policies and establish their own relationships with foreign leaders. Needless to say, like all other norms and traditions, that one has been chucked in the garbage can and Trump and his top henchmen are all screaming that Biden has already failed.

On Tuesday, Trump issued one of his usual statesmanlike press releases in which he reminisced about his "great" meeting in Helsinki and admitted that he trusted the Russian government more than the "lowlives" who worked in US Intelligence:

Trump's closest Senate ally, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, delivered a headache-inducing spin on Fox News accusing Biden of appeasement telling Sean Hannity that "the liberals believe that we're the problem, not Russia" and exhorting him to threaten Putin:

"We need to go on the offense. We've lost deterrence when it comes to the Biden administration, and we've lost respect. Our allies no longer respect us. Our enemies are not deterred by the president and his administration. He needs to tell Putin, 'If there's another cyberattack in America coming from Russian soil, you're going to pay a price.'"

Are you feeling just a little bit disoriented reading that? It's like a dispatch from Bizarro World. Graham's comments are absurd, of course, and only on Fox News would they be met with anything but shock or hysterical laughter.

Trump's behavior toward Putin was one of the most surreal and suspicious relationships between an American president and a foreign leader in American history and all you have to do is look at his statement from this week to be reminded of it. (Too bad Democrats in Congress are in such a rush to forget it.)

While Graham is just a sad toady to the president in exile now, he's not alone.

No Trump henchman has been out there criticizing and gaslighting more than former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As a paid Fox News contributor he's been all over the network in recent days but he's very obviously preparing his run for the 2024 election with appearances in early primary states. And his interpretation of the Trump national security and foreign policy "achievements" is just as deluded as Graham's. In a scathing op-ed at the Fox News website, Pompeo wrote:

Biden has already signaled to Putin that he is timid and unprepared to confront the Russian challenge – a weakness that ex-KGB agent Putin surely senses. We in the Trump administration created real leverage against Russia he could have used. Instead, he has chosen to abandon it,

He claims that Biden's belief that climate change is the greatest threat to our survival is a "ridiculous mindset – one apparently shared by what are supposed to be some of America's most gifted military leaders" and says that Biden must tell Putin that he sees Russian aggression "in the highest echelon of threats" and will "support our armed forces in deterring it." And he said that Biden really needs to crack down on all the cyberattacks and advised him to "put America first and back up your language with real deeds and not just rhetoric and name calling you're exceedingly more likely to be successful." Seriously.

This is coming from the man who loyally served the Putin genuflecting Donald Trump as CIA Director and Secretary of State for four years as Trump traipsed all over the world cuddling up to every tyrant he could find, excusing any and all bad behavior (other than trade infractions which he dealt with with a wrecking ball).

Even some Fox News journalists have been nonplussed by Pompeo's whitewashing of the past. Sunday host Chris Wallace pointed out that Trump never condemned the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexy Navalny and Pompeo laughably replied "with respect to human rights, I — we take a backseat to no one." That has to be the most fatuous comment he's ever made and that's saying something. There are dozens of examples of Trump's grotesque dismissal of human rights all over the world and here in the U.S. by the Trump administration. He pardoned war criminals and made them into heroes, he celebrated the use of torture and pledged to do it again "only worse" if needed. But perhaps the most egregious was Trump's admission to Bob Woodward that he helped to cover up the dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi:

"I saved his [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's] ass. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop."

Pompeo went along with all of it. There is no question that Pompeo eagerly did Trump's bidding while laying the groundwork for his own run at the presidency. (Recall that one of the many scandals of the administration was Pompeo and his wife's extravagant taxpayer-funded "salons" at the State Department with lots of influential political benefactors.)

In fact, his weird mischaracterization of the last administration as a hawkish aggressor that dominated Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and gained massive respect from America's allies for his (and Trump's) adroit global leadership is obviously how he plans to present himself to the voters. He's going to be Trump but a lot more warmongery. He's already going all over the country, ostensibly to help with midterms but he's actually collecting chits for his own run. He's even ventured into the culture wars, making silly comments like "I met with the Taliban, I met with Chairman Kim. None of that scares me as much as what's happening in our universities and on our campuses today."

This week he announced that he's starting a new PAC which caused quite a kerfuffle on social media:

Many people may think "pipehitter" refers to someone who smokes crack, so it's a good thing they explained it.

This definition is a Navy Seal thing that Pompeo is clearly using to boost his cred with the far-right gun and camo crowd. (He went to West Point but he got out of the service very quickly.) He may run into some trouble with that name, however. It's also the name of accused war criminal Eddie Gallagher's foundation. For his sake, I hope they worked that out ahead of time.

You have to wonder if he's discussed his presidential plans with Trump as well. If not, he'd better tread carefully. You know his old boss is watching all these maneuvers with interest. Despite Pompeo's monster ego, being Donald Trump's loyal servant is really all he has going for him. It's pretty clear he doesn't realize that.

How Democrats can get around their Joe Manchin problem

Last Friday I wrote about how the Democrats plan to spend the month of June deliberately failing to pass their legislative agenda in order to demonstrate how intransigent the GOP is being with their use of the filibuster. It is reminiscent of the House plan to pass "messaging bills" in the last congress as a way of illustrating that the Senate was blocking popular legislation.

How'd that work out?

Judging from the comments from various Democrats in this article, many in the party remain convinced that if they can show how obstructionist the Republicans are being, they can persuade the filibuster clingers in their own caucus to support some reforms that would allow the party to actually fulfill its promises. The fatal flaw in that logic is that it assumes the Democrats even have 50 votes for such a simple agenda. They, of course, do not.

This weekend, Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, threw another bucket of ice cold water on that cunning plan with an op-ed in his local newspaper announcing that he would not vote for the big voting rights bill, the For the People Act, and reiterating his pledge that he will never vote to weaken or end the filibuster. It's tempting to try to parse the word "weaken" to mean something other than "reform" but it's getting a little bit ridiculous at this point. It's pretty clear that Manchin will not touch the filibuster. And while he claims to support the less comprehensive "John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act," he also made it very clear that he believes it must be bipartisan enough to pass a 60-vote majority threshold. He seems to think there will be some Republicans on board with such legislation —which is highly unlikely — but even if there are there will not be 10, which means they will filibuster and we are back to where we started.

A few months back I wondered if Manchin wanted to be remembered as the Strom Thurmond of his time. Apparently he does.

In his new op-ed, Manchin wrote that Democrats "conveniently ignore how [the filibuster] has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past." It's true. It did protect the rights of white racist Southern Democrats like Strom Thurmond. Today's Democrats aren't conveniently ignoring that, however. He is.

Fox News host Chris Wallace grilled Manchin on Fox News Sunday and asked him why, if he really wants bipartisanship, he doesn't keep alive the possibility that he might vote to bust the filibuster, giving the GOP incentive to actually negotiate. He asked, "by taking it off the table, haven't you empowered Republicans to be obstructionists?" Manchin went into a song and dance about how he knows there are 6 or 7 good Republicans who want to work on a bipartisan basis —neglecting to acknowledge that without 10, the GOP will still successfully filibuster every last bill.

At this point it's more than fair to assume that the Koch-funded efforts to pressure Manchin to oppose the For The People Act and protect the filibuster at all costs have paid off. His clumsy, illogical, fatuous rationale doesn't pass the laugh test.

So what does all this add up to?

Well, I'm sorry to say that it looks like it adds up to the end of President Joe Biden's first term agenda. His administration may get a puny infrastructure bill that cannibalizes most of the money from vital programs which benefit average Americans. And that's a win-win for the GOP. There's also a possibility that Congress may pass the Paycheck Fairness Act aimed at increasing gender pay equity and maybe one or two other smaller priorities. There will be the usual fights over the debt ceiling and the budget. But that's probably it.

So once they get done with what Sam Seder calls the June Loserpalooza what are all these elected officials going to do with their spare time? Well, maybe it's time for them to start taking their oversight responsibilities seriously and crank up the hearings? Investigations have apparently been happening behind the scenes, obscured by the need to foreground the legislative agenda. They now need to come up to the front.

Last Friday, the House finally got to hear from former White House Counsel Don McGahn after years of stonewalling. A transcript of the testimony will be released this week but he reportedly confirmed the details in the Mueller Report about Donald Trump asking him to obstruct justice during the Russia Investigation. Democrats missed the chance to have McGahn testify in public and provide a reminder that Trump, the once and possibly future president, behaved in office like a mafia boss instead of a president. And as this weekend's first big rally-style speech grimly demonstrated, Trump is not going away.

Since the GOP refused to back the bipartisan January 6th Commission, the Democrats will just have to do it and the sooner they get started the better. Perhaps the Senate Judiciary Committee could hold some public hearings with testimony from former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows whom they have uncovered was in close contact with Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in the waning days of the administration pressuring him to investigate some of the most batshit crazy election conspiracy theories out there. I see no reason they couldn't call Donald Trump himself to testify. President Gerald Ford testified before Congress about Richard Nixon's pardon when he was still in office. Trump is a private citizen, just as Hillary Clinton was when they publicly grilled her for 11 hours in one of the 14 different Benghazi probes.

They also need a serious inquiry into what happened with the pandemic. The latest brouhaha about the Wuhan lab should certainly be explored but perhaps they might want to take a close look at Trump's collusion with China during the first few months of the pandemic as well. Slate's Will Saletan documented all the public evidence a few months back and it's far more damning than people may realize. And naturally they need to look at all the malfeasance and corruption in the Trump administration's completely inept response to the crisis.

There are a dozen other potential crimes to look at from Trump's foreign policy dealings to the enduring mystery behind the weird, dangerous personnel moves in the intelligence and military hierarchies in the last months of the administration. And that's just for starters.

The Big Lie is growing every day and the Democrats need to use their institutional power to contest this version of events and the entire idea that Trump had a hugely successful presidency and was cheated out of a second term. Joe Manchin and his comrades in the status quo caucus may thwart their ability to legislate needed change but he cannot stop Democrats from shining a light on what the Republicans have done. We simply can't afford to let them sweep it under the rug this time.

Newt Gingrich paved the way for Trump — now he wants to design Trump's comeback

Watching Republican Senators perform their tortured Donald Trump fealty dance over the January 6th Commission on Thursday would have been amusing if it weren't so pathetic. Some furrowed their brows with concern while others defiantly refused to even speak with the grieving mother of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who died that day. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who delivered a scathing speech on the floor of the Senate after Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial, was reportedly calling individual senators and begging them to vote against the bill as a personal favor to him (and no doubt a very special gift for Donald Trump.) Republicans spent the night vamping, preening and delaying so they could vote against the bill under cover of darkness in the wee hours of the morning and then sneak out of town without having to face the media or their consciences. Unfortunately, the vote had to be postponed until Friday so now they will just have to own their shame in front of the whole country.

January 6th is a day that will live in infamy just like December 7th and 9/11. But this one implicates the former president and dozens of elected Republicans have decided that they must circle the wagons to prevent any bipartisan investigation which might put that on the record.

For the most part, the GOP has regained its balance in the wake of the Big Lie and January 6th by simply capitulating to the reality that it's Donald Trump's party and they are just along for the ride. All the polling shows that the vast majority of Republican voters still revere him and if he chooses to run again in 2024, he is the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. If any of them still have reservations, they're comforting themselves with the illusion that his authoritarian madness is better than allowing the government to spend money on average working families and the poor and the sick as President Biden is proposing.

Interestingly, as the Republicans in DC were making fools of themselves on Thursday trying to please the Dear Leader, a former GOP superstar gave a speech at the Reagan Library in which he implored the party to stop catering to Trump and focus on ideology again. Fox News board member Paul Ryan, former speaker of the House and one time Great Young Gun of the GOP, laughably asserted, "voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle."

"They will not be impressed by the sight of 'yes men' and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago," Ryan asserted.

Clearly, he's been out of the country, perhaps visiting another planet, for the last few years. They love "yes men and flatters flocking to Mar-a-lago." In fact, it is a requirement, as his successor the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can attest. (And, by the way, Ryan couldn't even bring himself to mention Trump by name the entire speech. So much for that profile in courage.)

If Ryan wants to put an end to this cycle of sycophancy, he might want to start by having a little chat with his fellow Fox News board members Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. They are just as responsible for the fetid mess the Republican Party has become as Donald Trump is. More actually.

As it happens, Ryan isn't the only former speaker of the House trying to push the Republican party to start pretending they care about policy. Trump's Majordomo Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina has teamed up with 90s throwback Newt Gingrich to do one of those popular 90s reboots everyone's all excited about. Politico reports that they're working on a MAGA Contract for America:

The group is still just beginning to hammer out the details of what a Trumpified Contract might look like. But it is likely to take an "America-First" policy approach on everything from trade to immigration. The source described it as "a policy priority for 2022 and beyond."

Gingrich described it this way:

"It should be positive. School choice, teaching American history for real, abolishing the '1619 Project,' eliminating critical race theory and what the Texas legislature is doing. We should say, 'Bring it on.'"

If there's one thing you can say about Gingrich it's that he's a sunny, upbeat forward-thinking guy, as you can see by what he considers a "positive" agenda. His original Contract with America was a monstrous document, calling for punitive measures against poor women, destroying product liability, extremely harsh criminal justice laws and more. They were the far right's racist dog whistles combined with the mainstream's corporate giveaways but they were sold with an aggressively hostile demagogic pitch that the right-wing voters who listened to talk radio were thrilled to hear.

Luckily, most of it was never enacted although I'm not sure Republican voters ever knew that — or cared for that matter. It was a political document, introduced late in the campaign that served Gingrich's myth more than anything else. He was the great Republican hope of his day, battling mano-a-mano with President Clinton and almost always losing until he was finally forced out after the GOP's 1998 midterm drubbing during the impeachment crisis. Since then he's been a Fox News gadfly desperately seeking relevance. Like so many other aging 90s icons, he's seizing his chance to relive his glory days.

Trump actually already issued a "Contract with the American Voter" in the month before the 2016 election with 28 policies he promised to enact in his first hundred days. (The branding genius has never once come up with an original slogan.) I don't think anyone read it, almost certainly not Trump himself. He has never had any interest in specific policy beyond his singular obsessions with immigration and trade anyway. But he is attentive to the right-wing media zeitgeist which, as you can see by the "ideas" Gingrich threw out, are really what this contract is going to be all about.

It has been said before but deserves to be said again: The Republican party is out of ideas.

The GOP is organized solely around their resentments and Republican voters love Trump because he speaks to what they care about. He even gives them new grievances to complain about! People like Liz Cheney and Paul Ryan think their voters have been hoodwinked by Trump's magical powers while Lindsay Graham and Kevin McCarthy think they can rework Trump's appeal into something recognizable as a functioning political party.

They're all wrong.

Republicans know exactly what they have in Trump and it's exactly what they want. And if there's one person who gets that it's Newt Gingrich. After all, he's the man who laid the foundation for Trumpism all those years ago.

Why Biden's DOJ is protecting Bill Barr

It's only Wednesday but it's already been quite a week for legal activity in Trumpworld. It's eerily reminiscent of those heady days back in 2017 and 2018 when everyone assumed that special counselor Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and potential connections to the Trump campaign was going to lay out all the ugly facts, leading to Trump's impeachment and conviction .. and then planet Earth would tilt back on its axis and we could all resume our normal lives. Yeah, that was dumb. And despite all this latest action from the state of New York as well as the Justice Department and the federal courts, it's highly likely the outcome will be the same this time.

There is some news that could change the equation, however, depending — once again — on what the authorities have uncovered. If they do have the goods, it then depends on whether or not the prosecutors have the guts to take Trump and his cronies to court over it.

On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that the Manhattan District Attorney has convened a special grand jury to hear evidence in the investigation into the Trump Organization. This news comes after the recent announcement from the Attorney General of New York that her office was working with the DA on a possible criminal case in addition to the civil case they've been investigating for some time. The instant commentary on Tuesday from various experienced prosecutors suggests that it would be unusual for a DA to do this unless they believed they have evidence that a crime was committed so it would appear that someone is on the hot seat.

We have no idea what the evidence is, but we do know that the DA's office recently received the Trump tax returns after years of delay. The hiring of an experienced white-collar prosecutor who had years of experience unraveling complex criminal financial webs reportedly jump-started the investigation. According to the various leaks and comments by people who have spoken with the investigators, the prosecution is putting the squeeze on Trump's top money man, CFO Allen Weisselberg and his family. The assumption is that they are trying to get him to flip on Trump. The special grand jury has been seated for 6 months and it can renew so we may be in for a wait to see what that's all about.

Meanwhile, in a blast from the past, we finally saw the release on Monday of some of the material in the Paul Manafort case after it was ordered by a federal judge. Everyone had wondered what exactly was known about Manafort and his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik. It turns out it was a lot. As Salon's Jon Skolnik reported, the previously redacted portions of the documents show Manafort was "sharing internal confidential polling data covered by a non-disclosure agreement…outside the campaign, but he's sharing it with a foreign national with a specific understanding and intent that it would be passed on to other foreign nationals, in this case Russians." Rachel Maddow helpfully explained what it meant:

What we thought happened, happened. Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, sharing this kind of data with a Russian intelligence officer is the proverbial smoking gun in terms of how the Trump campaign was involved in it.

Manafort was not the coffee boy. He was the campaign chairman and he knew that Trump would pardon him.

The president of the United States never had to answer for any of this, which brings us to the other big legal news dump this week (so far, at least). The same federal judge who released the Manafort files, Amy Jackson Berman, was equally hot under the collar when the Trump Justice Department lied to the court. (Judges really, really don't like that. ) She had ordered the DOJ to release the memo that former Attorney General Bill Barr had used to justify his decision to announce that the department did not believe Trump's behavior rose to the level of obstruction despite the massive evidence in Mueller's report. Judge Jackson read the unredacted memo and said she believes that the people have a right to see it. Biden's DOJ disagrees.

I think everyone has expected the new attorney general, Merrick Garland, to comply with the judge's order in order to assure the public of its commitment to transparency. That didn't work out. The DOJ released only the first page and a half of the nine-page memo and said they were appealing the judge's order, claiming that the department was not intentionally misleading in saying that the memo guided Barr's decision when, in fact, he helped craft it after the fact.

Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal on MSNBC expressed extreme disappointment in the decision saying:

I used to make those decisions at the Justice Department and I get why they would do this in an ordinary case because you want to protect prosecutors and these memos are about the prosecutor's thinking in a case. Ordinarily that is protected. But this is the furthest case from ordinary imaginable. This is about a cover-up potentially and protection of the Attorney General's boss, the President of the United States.

I am not surprised, however.

I never thought the DOJ would do anything at all to pursue what went on in the Barr regime. These "institutionalists" always think the best way to restore their credibility is to sweep the past under the rug and just do a good job going forward. And that always ends up just normalizing the pathological behavior of the Republican Party.

Institutionalists are terrified of being further politicized. The right is shameless and couldn't care less if people accuse them of being rank partisans but anyone with integrity is deeply uncomfortable with that. And there's a guy out there with a weirdly acute understanding of people's weaknesses who knows exactly how to exploit that to his advantage. Here's what Trump wrote on his blog in response to the news of the NY Grand Jury on Tuesday night:

This is purely political, and an affront to the almost 75 million voters who supported me in the Presidential Election and it's being driven by highly partisan Democrat prosecutors... Interesting that today a poll came out indicating I'm far in the lead for the Republican Presidential Primary and the General Election in 2024.

As you can see, he is inciting his followers to once again see any legal action against him as a partisan attack against them. (If they were Republicans, he'd just call them RINOs for the same effect. He said it about his own DOJ!) In fact, his probable run for president in 2024 is at least partly motivated by this dynamic. Any legal action will be framed as partisan sabotage and after January 6th it has the added frisson of a subtle threat of violence.

Will anyone really be brave enough to call him on this and hold him accountable? Stay tuned. There's a lot of legal activity out there. I just wouldn't get my hopes up.

Democrats need a plan to beat back Trump's election lies at the ballot box

Last week, to very little fanfare, House Democrats released their 2020 "after action report," also known as an "autopsy." The team, led by Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., included Reps. Jim Himes D-Conn., Katie Porter D-Ca. and Nikema Williams, D-Ga., and was tasked with finding out how the House managed to lose so many seats in an election in which the Democratic nominee managed to unseat an incumbent Republican president. Working with senior staff, Demnocrats analyzed the voter files from the presidential election and other state and local data and compared them with 600 different House race polls in 2020. According to this report in the Washington Post, they didn't really find anything that most observers hadn't already assumed from the results.

It turns out that Democrats underestimated the number of hardcore Trump lovers, which they surmised made the "defund the police" and "socialism" lies more potent in the swing districts. That underestimation is attributed to bad polling, which has been validated by pollsters themselves. Many Republicans just aren't responding anymore and the pollsters failed to successfully weigh their polls accordingly. (This has been going on for a while and really needs to be dealt with.) Maloney told the caucus that such faulty polling led them to spend too much time and money on "red-to-blue" districts and not enough to defend their incumbents in what turned out to be tight races.

They also finally came to terms with the fact that they spend way too much money on TV ads (which is going to make campaign consultants very sad.)

The Democrats always do this after an election and it's a smart policy. In fact, both parties used to do it routinely, particularly after a loss, so you would expect that the Republicans would have been especially curious to know what brought them low in an election in which they lost the trifecta. But as far as I can tell, the last time the GOP conducted a formal autopsy was after the 2012 election when they were delivered the bad news that they would have to stop being racist and sexist if they wanted to grow their party. Obviously, they did not take that analysis seriously.

What the GOP did do after 2018 was test drive some of their newer ideas about how to "win" when they get fewer votes and how to prevent the Democrats from governing. Recall that after the party lost 40 House seats in 2018, the states of Michigan and Wisconsin didn't decide they needed to change their message or their policies. As New York magazine's Eric Levitz wrote at the time:

Republicans' strength in rural areas — combined with heavily gerrymandered district maps — allowed the GOP to retain comfortable state legislative majorities in the midterms, despite receiving fewer votes in statewide races. In response to this outcome, the GOP's legislative majorities in both states aren't resting on their laurels, or resigning themselves to their newly limited authority. Rather, they're using their lame-duck sessions to usurp a wide variety of powers from their states' incoming Democratic governors and attorneys general.

Needless to say, among Republicans' top priorities was supercharging their existing strategy to restrict voting rights, which has now been taken up by red states all over the country, even states like Iowa which voted for Trump in 2020 by double digits.

The 2012 GOP autopsy diagnosed the problem correctly but the party decided to destroy democracy rather than change their toxic message. Donald Trump was just the guy who got the grassroots fully engaged in getting the job done.

As for the Democrats, their 2020 autopsy doesn't go into what messaging should be used going forward but so far it appears that the party is planning to run with a "Morning in America" campaign, betting on the improved economy and the end of the pandemic to allow them to beat the usual predicted mid-term losses. If President Biden can stay fairly popular and the Republicans keep cannibalizing themselves it might work. But if that's all they have in the hopper, I think they are ignoring their own data. There are tens of millions of hardcore Trump worshipers out there. And according to this latest survey by the Democratic polling outfit Democracy Corps, they are ready to rumble:

We were also surprised by how much Donald Trump's loyalist party is totally consolidated at this early point in its 2022 voting and how engaged it is. Yes, they have pulled back from historic presidential year levels: the percent scoring 10, the highest level of interest in the election, has fallen from 84 to 68 percent. But Democrats' engagement fell from 85 percent to 57 per-cent. Republicans are following their political theater much more closely than are Democrats — producing an 11-point gap.

And what are the Republicans excited about? Government spending? Dr. Seuss? Liz Cheney? Nope. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they are obsessed with The Big Lie:

The grassroots effort to punish Gov. Brian Kemp largely fizzled at key Republican meetings across the state this weekend even as record crowds of activists continued a relentless focus on former President Donald Trump's lies about Georgia's election results.

It's not just in Georgia or Arizona, both of which have Democratic senators who won special elections in 2020 and will have to secure their seats in 2022. The Washington Post reports:

The ramifications of Trump's ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country: In emails, phone calls and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count — wrongly insisting that Trump won the presidential race.

A Georgia judge just ruled that local voters can inspect ballots from the 2020 election.

The Big Lie is now the main Republican grassroots organizing and mobilization tool. Sure they're pretending to be up in arms about Mr. Potato Head, but this is what is getting them off of their La-Z-Boys to go down to their local GOP meetings and volunteer. Their Dear Leader said that he "wouldn't be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes" in Arizona and he predicted they're going to Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Hampshire with similar audits. It's unlikely that will happen but it doesn't really matter. Trump is going to start up his rallies again next month and his followers will be fed a steady diet of the Big Lie — which is perversely reinforced if the "proof" cannot be obtained.

And in case you were wondering if the heroine of the republic is ready to step in and lead her small faction away from this hideous mutilation of the electoral process, think again:

And all this hysterical enthusiasm is supposed to be matched in 2022 by euphoric Democratic voters rushing to the polls to register their gratitude to the party for bringing back the economy and getting the vaccines distributed? I have my doubts. Let's hope they realize sooner rather than later that it's going to be metaphorical hand-to-hand combat for the foreseeable future and plan accordingly.

Devin Nunes' latest 'unmasking' scandal clearly exposes the corruption within Bill Barr's DOJ

I was just wondering the other day whatever happened to Congressman Devin Nunes. During the first two years of the Trump administration, the California Republican was Trump's most loyal henchman, running interference for the White House from within the House Intelligence Committee where as chairman he worked diligently to sabotage any meaningful investigations of the president's curious dealings with Russia during the 2016 campaign. For a time you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing Nunes' doleful, hangdog, visage defending Trump through thick and thin.

Nunes had been a member of the Trump transition and in another era would have had to recuse himself from any of the investigations into Trump and Russia since the transition period was heavily implicated. He did not do that and instead jumped right in and proved himself to be a willing spinner on Trump's behalf, denying that he had any knowledge of calls between Trump's adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. There were indeed calls and they ended Flynn's short tenure as National Security Adviser. It turned out that the White House had requested this allegedly independent committee chairman and others to pooh-pooh the Russia scandal in the media and Nunes, being an eager soldier, did as he was ordered.

But Devin Nunes will likely be remembered for one of the lamest political gambits in history for what's known as his "Midnight Ride."

On March 4th 2017, just a little over a month after Trump took office, he tweeted that Obama had "wire tapped" Trump Tower "just before the victory" and called it McCarthyism. This led to a frenzy among right-wingers to prove that Obama had illegally used the power of the federal government to spy on Trump. The night after Nunes was riding in a car when he got a text message that was so urgent he made the Uber driver stop and he raced over to the White House. He met with a couple of young Trump toadies named Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, who hysterically informed him that they had found evidence of "unmasking" of Americans' identities intercepted on foreign surveillance calls during the Trump transition. The following morning Nunes held a strange press conference in which he declared "I have confirmed that additional names of Trump Transition Team members were unmasked," and raced to the White House to "brief" the president. Afterward, he held another press conference in front of the White House and told the press that Trump felt "somewhat vindicated" by what he had to say. The press asked him whether he was more bothered by the surveillance or the "unmasking" and he replied that he was especially bothered by the latter. To the question of whether it was appropriate for the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee which was investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 election to rush over to brief the president he said, "the President needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there I have a duty to tell him that."

The thing is, he obviously wasn't telling the White House anything. They had given him the information the night before.

Nunes mumbled incoherently when confronted with his lie the next day saying, "the president didn't invite me over, I called down there and invited myself because I thought he needed to understand what I say and he needed to get that information." Two days later he finally admitted what he did, releasing a statement through his spokesman, but once again declaring his deep concerns about "unmasking" during the Obama administration and insisting that he had been on the trail even before the White House called him over in the middle of the night to show him the evidence.

He eventually recused himself from the investigation without ever really recusing. And it was clear from that point on that nothing the Intelligence Committee did going forward would be kept confidential. Devin Nunes was Trump's man on the inside and there was nothing anyone could do about it. He issued his own highly anticipated "memo" that revealed nothing, called for the impeachment of FBI Director Christopher Wray, flogged the discredited "Uranium One" scandal, railed against the FISA process, and went hard after the Department of Justice, saying at one point, "I hate to use the word 'corrupt,' but they've become at least so dirty that who's watching the watchmen? Who's investigating these people? There is no one."

After the Republicans lost their House majority, Nunes was apparently working on the Rudy Giuliani project to get Ukrainian dirt on Joe Biden. At least that's what Lev Parnas, Giuliani's accomplice currently under indictment, said when it was reported that they had spoken on the phone. And he was suing people who criticized him, from news organizations to watchdog groups and even a fruit farmer who called him a "fake farmer." But his most famous lawsuit was against a satirical Twitter account that called itself "Devin Nunes's Cow" which was, of course, dismissed.

We now know that Nunes's thin-skinned crusade wasn't just his personal folly.

It turns out that he had friends in high places using the full force of the federal government to help him "unmask" another Twitter handle called @NunesAlt another parody account that made fun of the very sensitive congressman. Two weeks after Trump's defeat last November, the New York Times reported this week, the Justice Department got a grand jury subpoena, a unique power that requires no judge to sign off, to demand that Twitter hand over the identity of @NunesAlt. Twitter refused, citing free speech concerns and the fact that despite the government assertion that this person violated federal law by issuing a threat, they could not produce any evidence that they had. The Justice Department under Merrick Garland later withdrew the subpoena.

But this is yet another example of the level of partisan corruption throughout the Trump administration — especially in former Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department.

Barr's last-minute refusal to help Trump overturn the election was nothing more than a last-ditch effort to redeem some small piece of his reputation but he continued to do Trump and his allies' dirty work nonetheless. Trump and his henchmen spent years caterwauling about the alleged "Deep State" conspiring against them for political purposes yet at every turn we found them abusing their power to punish their political opponents. Remember, it was Nunes himself who said of the DOJ, "I hate to use the word 'corrupt,' but they've become at least so dirty that who's watching the watchmen?" I guess he knew what he was talking about for once.


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