Trump administration gave private jet companies over half a billion in pandemic bailout funds

Hey, want to get upset over something other than, you know, 400,000 dead Americans due to staggering administration incompetence, or the whole "a significant percentage of the United States population supports a violent fascist coup" thing? Sure you do.

You might remember Trump Treasury Rich Guy Steven Mnuchin moving to axe nearly a half billion in emergency pandemic lending after Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, under the pretense that Our Work Here Is Done or somesuch—this, after slow walking distribution of emergency funds in the first place.

One business sector that did very well by the Trump administration's distribution of emergency funds, however, was the private jet industry.

Yeah, the private jet industry. No, we're not in a Great Gatsby remake. This is just how things work now.

Accountable.US reports that private jet companies, as a group, made out pretty well when it came to handing out emergency pandemic funds. Private jet companies received over $643 million in federal aid, spread across three emergency programs. The majority, over half a billion dollars, came in grants from the Payroll Support Program.

"[A]t least 49 private jet companies have been given access to all three programs, taking up to $87.38 million in federal COVID stimulus funds between them," notes the report.

What can you say? They've got lobbyists, and you don't.

So then: How mad should we be about this? It's hard to immediately say. It is true that we do not want workers out of work, not even workers who cater primarily to an upper class that does not particularly care whether the rest of us live or die. It is also true that those industries are among the most expendable in the nation. Like cruise lines, there is a strong case to be made that pushing the entire industry into a crevasse and covering it over would do significantly more worldwide good than harm.

What wasn't being done, while we kept the private jet industry afloat lest our minor celebrities and executives of mid-tier spendthrift companies be forced to share cabin space with riffraff, is coming up with a plan to stave off a depression-level homelessness crisis after eviction moratoriums expire. Or a plan to distribute the vaccines that were urgently demanded, until the administration lost interest. Or any federal food distribution plan that did not rely primarily around the principle of Sucks To Be You.

How much would it have cost to give every household in America a rotating supply of droplet-filtering masks? Not a whole lot, right?

We could have even chartered all the private jets in the nation to help deliver them. It wouldn't have been the most efficient plan, but we could have met halfway on this one.

Major conservative broadcaster is suddenly cracking down on lies about the election: report

The Washington Post is reporting that Cumulus Media, which hosts the radical ravings of far-right hosts like Mark Levin and Parler part-owner Dan Bongino, is cracking down on conspiracy rhetoric from its stable of propaganda-spewing fascists—at least, when it comes to claims from their hosts that Donald Trump is still justified in claiming the presidency.

Calling for "national calm NOW," the network's executive vice president of content told his employees that the company "will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved and there are no alternate acceptable 'paths.'"

In short, we have found the bounds of what Cumulus and subsidiary Westwood One are and aren't willing to tolerate on their networks. Their hosts were free to make entirely false claims declaring that our nation's democracy was "rigged," or that Joe Biden won only through rampant invisible "fraud" that not a single Trump ally has been able to identify except in fever dreams. But now that those exact claims have led to violent insurrection in an attempt to overthrow elected government, the precise outcome those claims were declared to justify, the network is perhaps aware that those touched by violence incited by their hosts have a more-than-decent shot of suing their network into this planet's asthenosphere.

The begrudging truth is, however, that this is a reasonable and prudent move as insurrectionists plan additional violent acts in coming weeks, so respect is due. The coup is premised on the notion that because pro-Trump forces (falsely) believe the election was "stolen" from Trump, Trump's allies are justified in taking whatever actions against their country they deem necessary to return the presidency from him—including the assassination of anti-Trump government figures, taking lawmakers hostage, and/or putting guns to the heads of national lawmakers until they agree to return Trump to power.

Radio and television hosts who themselves affirm the false conspiracy are, without question, provoking such violence. It would be different if Trump's claims had been proven, at any point, to have merit; we now know through court cases, recounts, and audits that they are utterly false, and that Trump's allies do not even dare make the same claims when in venues where their lies would result in legal consequences. We know, for a fact, Trump's allies are perpetrating a seditious hoax.

The incessant broadcast of false claims demanding the overturning of a United States election has now led to violence, insurrection, and sedition. Voices that continue the same false claims even as further violence is planned have allied themselves with that sedition; firing them for contributing to an attack on democracy is, literally, among the mildest actions that could be taken.

If the company was a responsible one (and no company that gives the treasonous, violence-promoting and conspiracy-inventing fascist drivelsnot of a Dan Bongino could ever be considered responsible), it would have recognized that its hosts were eagerly pushing for an overthrow of American democracy before that coup was realized. But backing out now is still better than most other conservative propaganda networks have managed.

Fox News, for example, continues to side with the insurrection. Their hosts continue to spread known falsehoods intended to convince Americans that the next president will not be a legitimately elected leader. And networks like Newsmax and OANN worked hard to stoke fascist insurrection with claims so outlandish they were assured to produce a violent result.

While Cumulus now begrudgingly concludes that the coup spurred by their rhetoric now has lasting consequences the company cannot continue to shoulder, Fox News and other outlets are not so sure. They, along with the majority of Republican lawmakers, suspect they can ride out the violence by denying complicity, even as they repeat the same anti-democratic propaganda, to the same violence-justifying crowds, as if the attack on the U.S. Capitol did not happen.

Newly sworn-in GOP rep: Some Republicans voted to overturn election due to fears for 'safety of their families'

In a phone interview with Reason reporter Matt Welch published on January 8, newly sworn in Republican Rep. Peter Meijer, of Michigan, wasted no words in condemning those responsible for the attempted toppling of our government. But he also reported a chilling detail from the events of that night: Rep. Meijer claims that some Republican lawmakers voted to throw out the ballots from Arizona and Pennsylvania not because they truly believed Trump's claims, but were concerned for "the safety of their families."

"One of the saddest things is I had colleagues who, when it came time to recognize reality and vote to certify Arizona and Pennsylvania in the Electoral College, they knew in their heart of hearts that they should've voted to certify, but some had legitimate concerns about the safety of their families. They felt that that vote would put their families in danger," said Meijer.

That, too, is a signal of just how dangerous the American fascist movement and Donald Trump have become. If lawmakers are altering votes based on the threats Trump and his allies pose to their own families—and in light of a genuine coup attempt looking to murder those disloyal to Trump, their concerns are valid—then we are already in a period in which our government's actions are being controlled, at least in part, by terrorists.

Through the rest of the interview, Rep. Meijer was clear-eyed as to was responsible for fomenting this insurrection against our nation. And it should be singled out, because the congressman stands largely alone in his party in saying so.

"[Trump supporters] were being lied to. They were being misled. Some of my colleagues in Congress, they share responsibility for that. Many of them were fundraising off of this Stop the Steal grift. I don't understand how you can look in the mirror and go to sleep at night without that weighing on your conscience, I fundamentally do not. I'm just at a loss for words about how some of them have acted in ways that are just knowingly, provably false. And they know they're lying, too.

"I mean maybe I'm coming in here with too naive an expectation of human capacity and decency, but I also was an interrogator in Iraq, so it's not like I'm a Pollyanna."

And he sounds truly furious with his Republican colleagues:

"What to me was the most bewildering was folks giving speeches that were written that morning as if we weren't in a body that had windows broken in just a few hours earlier, law enforcement drawing weapons. As if a woman hadn't been shot and killed 100 feet from where they stood, right? There was still dried blood out there. And they were giving the exact same speeches, the exact same arguments, telling what they thought their people wanted to hear rather than telling them what they needed to hear."

But it is the news that at least a few of those colleagues stood by their "provably false" claims because they feared pro-Trump forces would target their own families that turns Wednesday's events darker still. Trump's terrorist allies did not need to succeed in their insurrection to bend some in Congress towards their demands. The threats were sufficient.

Trump's acting secretary of defense is either incompetent or a traitor. He must be removed

Twenty years after 9/11, when part of the Pentagon itself was destroyed in a terrorist attack intended to decapitate United States military leaders, the federal reaction to a new act of terrorism on American soil proved so incompetent as to defy description. As mobs chanted demands that the vice president be killed and hunted congressional leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Capitol Police officers were left on their own, without help, and no word on when help would arrive.

A large part of that was due to what appears to be no substantive response from the Department of Defense as this nation's top lawmakers hid from terrorists in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. And it now appears that that inaction, by Trump Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, very nearly caused the fall of the U.S. government. And that, regardless of intent, is an inexcusable failure. Miller has proven unfit for his office, at best. His failure to respond to a terrorist attack in any substantive way endangered the entire country; during a national crisis, he proved at best incompetent.

He must be removed from his post immediately for that failure alone. It may be more important to remove "acting" Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller from his post than it is to remove Trump himself; while Trump worked to provoke the attack, during an assembly of known-violent extremists known to law enforcement as potential domestic terrorists, it is Miller that decapitated the nation's response to the insurrection as terrorists hunted officials inside the breached halls of Congress.

A later investigation will determine whether Miller's intent was treasonous. There is no interpretation of the facts, however, that can justify Miller's disgraceful failure to mount a response to an ongoing terrorist act. He cannot remain in his post.

As we learn the true events of last Wednesday's attempted coup, the true nature of both the attack and the horrific lack of federal response are becoming clear. We now know that the attack was not spontaneous; within the larger crowd of willingly violent Trump allies, a subset was armed, knew where they were going, and intended to execute Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other Trump opponents. As calls for backup from Capitol Police, lawmakers, and congressional staff went unanswered, the assassins came very close to succeeding.

We also know that top Trump administration officials knew in advance of the threat to the Capitol, but downplayed threat assessments given to the Capitol Police and to Congress so as to justify a far weaker law enforcement presence than for any other major (or even minor) planned mass protest. This lack of preparation comes after a Trump administration gutting of Department of Homeland Security intelligence officials, part of a larger purge of officials deemed insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump.

But perhaps the most consequential actions were by newly appointed Trump Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller—the same Christopher Miller that President-elect Joe Biden called out for blocking national security briefings to the incoming administration. The timeline now makes clear that even long after Capitol Police had reported multiple officers injured and the Capitol building being overrun, Miller still took no significant action.

According to the timeline of the Wall Street Journal, officer injuries were reported at 1:18pm. By 1:41, Capitol Police were overrun. Capitol Police chief requested National Guard support at 2:22pm, one of numerous officials to do so—many hiding inside the building awaiting immediate help.

It was not until 5:45pm formally approved the dispatch of the Maryland National Guard. The delay in response? Hours.

It is difficult to imagine that, after two decades of security theater and an unending list of curtailed public freedoms after 9/11, the federal response to an actual terrorist assault on the U.S. Capitol could consist of exactly nothing, for hours, as congressional security forces fought by themselves to protect national leaders from execution. It is impossible to imagine—and yet it happened, and many days after the attack, neither Miller nor any other executive branch appointee has deigned to so much as brief the public on how such a massive failure could have taken place. We were under the impression federal forces were competent enough to defend from even far larger terrorist attacks. We were wrong.

Even with ample advance notice of the threat, even after the attackers had used social media to publicly plan their assault, brag about their weaponry, and announce their intent, the terrorists remained unimpeded by federal forces for hours.

We were told that the security precautions that have justified the aggressive paramilitary treatment of American protesters for decades was for security purposes, to keep the nation safe: Met with an actual terrorist attack, the same forces stood down.

Either we have been lied to, and for decades, or Chris Miller and other administration leaders willingly looked the other way as an attack on this nation's capital unfolded. It is almost certain to be both.

Acting Secretary of Defense Miller must answer for his apparent role in defeating a timely response to an insurrection. He, and his Department of Justice counterparts, must answer for the lack of backup outside and inside the designated target of a mass gathering of known insurrectionists—and, especially, for the inability to muster such backup even as McConnell, Pelosi, Pence, and other leaders hid in offices as their own security teams made clear that inaction could lead to executions.

It is not forgivable, or recoverable. Miller operated either with an assumption that the terrorists were not who they plainly self-identified to be—and remember, there was no reason to believe that foreign actors could not have been mingling with the crowd, carrying out their own missions or assisting American counterparts in identifying routes and strategies—or Miller willingly sat on his hands as the attempted coup unfolded.

In prior remarks, Joe Biden singled out the Department of Justice and Department of Defense as the two agencies where political hires were continuing to stonewall national security briefings of the incoming administration. It should not go without notice that these were the two agencies responsible for assessing the risk to the Capitol in advance and providing backup and rescue services when it became necessary—and that both of those teams failed, spectacularly and perhaps deliberately, in both tasks. In a recent open letter, all living ex-secretaries of defense condemned Trump's attempt to overturn the election results and warned, specifically, that military leaders could be charged with crimes for abetting them. It was an unprecedented warning amid a sea of unprecedented warnings. And it was prescient.

It is now necessary to ask whether Chris Miller mounted an incompetent response to a terrorist attack because he truly is incapable of his job, or whether he did so in a conspiracy siding with the terrorists. That is how horrific his response is. That is how unthinkable the actions of top federal leaders are. We need not await an answer before acting: Whatever may have occurred, it was so damaging to the nation that Miller cannot remain in his post another moment. He must be removed.

The coup isn't over: Republican leaders continue to stoke the same conspiracies after deadly Capitol attack

Only days after a violent coup by supporters of Donald Trump came unspeakably close to murdering top U.S. leaders, including Trump's own vice president, Republicans are expressing outrage not over the coup attempt, the attempted murders, or the unforgivable lack of federal response, but over private companies deciding that they cannot continue to support the online tools used to help coordinate the violent attack.

Republican lawmakers have given only lip service to coup condemnations; instead, they have devoted the vast majority of their statements to insisting that "unity" demands taking no action to remove Donald Trump, even after he provoked an insurrection, and declaring that the greater travesty is online efforts to isolate and expel those that advocated for and planned the violence.

Trump's own handpicked leader of the Republican National Committee, in the meantime, a woman who willingly abetted malevolent hoaxes claiming that the United States elections that removed Trump from power were fraudulent and should be nullified, was reelected to lead the party by a unanimous vote.

That is evidence enough that Republican lawmakers and leaders have no remorse over their own parts in stoking, relentlessly, the fraudulent propaganda that domestic terrorists then used as justification for attempting to murder Trump's enemies in Congress. It is also the reason the acts of individual lawmakers should be investigated, by Congress, and expelled en masse if warranted. But further evidence can be found in the materials being distributed by Republican candidates and officeholders in the immediate aftermath of the murders.

They want constituents to know that their attacks on America's democracy and government will continue, and that they are proud of their actions to date.

In new campaign materials, recent North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Sandy Smith bragged of her involvement in an attempted overthrow of the government.

"I was at the March for Trump and the Stop the Steal Rally, supporting the President, fighting for our country and our Constitution!" says Smith, a fascist, seditionist and traitor. Of the participants in the event: "None were inciting violence," she claims.

Of "Republicans in DC": "To them, it's fine if Biden stole the election and takes office."

"No wonder the establishment cheated to get Trump out."

Sandy Smith, a Republican congressional candidate, is unrepentant in continuing to stoke the provably false propaganda claim that the United States elections were "stolen." Every court in the land has decried these claims; there is, literally, no evidence for them. Not a stitch. The claim is a lie, and it is a lie that Trump's fascist enablers signaled before the election he would pursue if he lost. It is a hoax intended to overthrow this nation's government, and Sandy Smith is a traitor knowingly peddling it.

In a pinned Tweet, Smith claims she herself won her election for North Carolina's 1st District seat, "if we audit" it. She did not. She lost. Her claims are false, and she is a traitor.

She is not the only Republican who has continued to claim that the elections that ousted Trump were fraudulent, of course. Over a hundred Republican lawmakers claimed the same, even as pooled blood continued to dry outside the chamber doors Wednesday evening. It is a false claim, explicitly demanding the nullification of an election based on a propagandistic hoax perpetrated by a deranged madman and his fascist allies. The Republican Party is a fascist movement. There are no "good" Republicans after Wednesday: There are only ex-Republicans or seditionists. The party has made clear what it stands for.

The Arizona Republican Party and other state parties, all of them stripped of any leaders perceived to be insufficiently loyal to their orange-hued tax-dodging rapist leader, have only doubled down on their support for a traitor, which is to be expected. It is a party with no remaining morals; it cannot be forced to condemn a coup it itself attempted to bring into being with anti-American lies.

This coup is not over. From Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy to Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, the party continues to claim the election that ousted Trump is invalid and that "unity" requires allowing the organizational tools of the coup, its party allies, and their own seditious rhetoric to go unmolested as they continue to push the same pro-Trump hoaxes that American fascists used to justify their attempted murder of top national leaders. This coup is not over, and its enablers fully intend to rebuild their hoaxes rather than abandon them.

This GOP congressman objected to seating fellow Republicans in states Trump falsely claims to have won

Republican Rep. Chip Roy objected this evening to the seating of the House delegations from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the six states Trump allies falsely contend Donald Trump "won" despite certified results showing the exact opposite. The move was largely symbolic, but Roy issued a statement chastising those Republicans for promoting Trump's claims of "rigged" elections while accepting the results of those same elections in their own races.

"After all, those representatives were elected through the very same systems—with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials—as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states."

Those Republicans did not, however, agree that their fraudulent anti-democratic claims of invisible and unprovable election fraud tarnished their own races. By a 371-2 vote, the House moved to swear in all duly elected members.

While Roy may have intended to put his fascism-enabling colleagues on the spot with the vote, it has already been demonstrated time and time again that his party will engage in whatever propaganda efforts are necessary, and cross whatever lines need to be crossed, to retain and expand power. Trump's claims of election fraud are a hoax; neither he nor the entirety of the Republican Party has succeeded in identifying any such fraud in any courtroom.

Roy is one of seven House Republicans who have challenged his colleagues' attempts to overturn the presidential election as "unconstitutional."

If Roy truly intends to object to a fascist push by his party that has this nation's past military leaders unanimously condemning such plots as "dangerous" and unlawful," he can resign from his party and refuse to be part of it. As of this moment, he has not done so.

All 10 living former defense secretaries condemn GOP attempts to overturn the election

In The Washington Post, all ten of this nation's living former secretaries of defense have written an opinion column uniformly opposing any military involvement in Republicans' ongoing attempts to overthrow the results of November's presidential elections. Among the signers are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, Mark Esper, and James Mattis.

"Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic."

The letter also explicitly dismisses the idea of challenging the election results at all, with military assistance or without it: "The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived."

They also call upon acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, by name, to carry out the transition from Trump to Biden administrations "fully, cooperatively and transparently," noting that he is "bound by oath, law and precedent" to do so. This appears to be a direct reference to Joe Biden singling out the Defense Department as one of the departments that has not provided full cooperation with the transition.

It is an extraordinary letter, not for its contents but for the spectacle of all former secretaries of defense uniting to reject the notion that the military would participate in a violent coup—which has been among the options contemplated by a delusional and treasonous Donald Trump and his allies. It is clearly intended to signal to current military leaders that they would stand on solid ground in resisting such "criminal" orders.

That is was felt to be necessary, by all signatories, is a shocking reflection of how close even top past military officials believe the nation to be to a potentially violent coup—one backed by a majority of House Republican, and at least a dozen in the Senate.

Listen: Washington Post releases full tape of Trump pressuring Georgia state officials to commit fraud

The Washington Post has just released the full one-hour audio recording of Donald Trump's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger. Also on the call on Trump's behalf were chief of staff Mark Meadows and prominent conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell.

Over the course of the rambling call, Trump appears to threaten or extort Raffensberger and state legal counsel Ryan Germany. He argues that Raffensberger needs to "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have."

At one point in the conversation, after Raffensberger states that he cannot legally provide requested data, Trump says "I don't want to know how. You guys can do it very confidentially."

Trump's intent is clear throughout the conversation. He wants Raffensberger to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss in the state by any means necessary, wants the state to illegally leak information it cannot otherwise provide him, wants the state to back up his evidenceless claims of fraud, and threatens both officials with unspecified alleged crimes if they do not comply.

Listen: Trump caught on tape threatening Raffensperger and demanding state 'find' votes to overturn Biden win

In an hour-long phone call on Saturday, Donald Trump demanded that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger commit multiple crimes in order to overturn the results of the state's presidential election. It is the latest and most shocking yet of Trump's efforts to retain power regardless of which laws must be broken, and it is all on tape.

The Washington Post obtained the recording of Trump's call to Raffensberger, and reports that Trump "alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims."

Trump urged Raffensperger to announce that he had "recalculated" the election results. There is little way to interpret the conversation other than a request by Trump for the state's election office to commit an unambiguous act of fraud.

"So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state," Trump said. At another point, he said that it would be a "criminal offense" if Raffensperger and his office did not back up Trump's false claims of ballot destruction, and a "big risk to you and [state legal counsel Ryan Germany]."

Though Trump's conversation would appear to constitute a criminal act, lawyer Cleta Mitchell and chief of staff Mark Meadows were also on the line; neither voiced objections to Trump's demands.

Asking that an election be fraudulently overturned is unquestionably a violation of Trump's oath of office and an impeachable act. Trump and his top advisers have crossed every line: endorsing fraud, encouraging sedition, and demanding the toppling of government. It is unforgivable, and every Republican who stands with him is betraying this nation.

Disturbing report finds concerns that some members of the Secret Service are 'politically aligned' with Trump

The Washington Post is reporting that there are going to be some changes to the Secret Service's presidential security detail in the Joe Biden administration. This is not unusual in itself, but the Post says the changes come "amid concerns from Biden allies that some current members were politically aligned with President Trump."

This is an unpleasant story in every direction. It may be unfairly maligning professionals in a deadly dangerous job. It may not be unfair, and there may truly be issues within the agency that justify what nervous Biden allies fear.

It has been difficult to interpret the behavior of Trump's own Secret Service detail these last few years. Some members have been quick to bend to Trump's insistence that those around him not wear masks during the pandemic. There has been no apparent pushback even as Trump has repeatedly infected members of his own security teams forced to attend plainly unsafe rallies and photo ops. You can brush much of this aside as enforced neutrality even in the face of danger, but then again: Despite the seemingly absolute necessity of the agency remaining politically neutral, a member of the service tapped by Trump for a top White House political position—a remarkable situation to begin with—is now being allowed to return to the Secret Service despite taking the most partisan possible of career shifts. That agent, Trump White House deputy chief of staff Anthony Ornato, will not be returning to help guard Biden. But he will be returning to a posh position at the agency's training center, reports the Post.

There's no word on whether the new curriculum will include how to organize events that expose your ex-colleagues to a deadly disease because the president got bored with safety measures, but it seems like it would come up. You can just return from that to a top job within the agency? Really? Huh.

In any event, Biden's security detail is going to feature some of the same faces that once guarded Biden as vice president, said to be ones Biden "knows well." But it will also by necessity feature some of the same faces that have guarded Trump, and ... boy, it's hard to know how to feel about that.

On one hand, these are people who have undoubtably watched Trump do or attempt crimes and have done nothing about it, so they take their jobs as neutral, invisible protectors quite seriously. Biden could feel confident that he could do anything, including appointing the family dog ambassador to Italy in exchange for a dog biscuit-based bribe, and his security detail would never let the arrangement leak. Right?

On the other hand, I think it is fair to inherently distrust anyone who has worked around Trump for that long, in quarters that close, but never shoved him into a sack and driven him into the mountains for a while so that the rest of us could get a moment's peace. It is the Melania Rule: If you can stand even being near the man, you may be pretty messed up yourself.