Jon Queally

'We must get to the truth': Pelosi announces far-reaching probe into Trump's insurrection

Following demands for such a probe both before and subsequent to the Senate's decision over the weekend to acquit former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 violence on Capitol Hill, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Monday afternoon that she has authorized a 9/11-style commission to further probe the events of that day as well the various dynamics and actions that led up to it.

In a letter to congressional colleagues Monday, Pelosi said that an initial probe and report presented by (ret.) Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré focused on the security failings of January 6, as well as the case presented during the impeachment hearings in the House and the trial in the Senate make clear that a more comprehensive investigation is warranted.

"It is clear from [Honoré's] findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened," Pelosi stated.

According to Pelosi's letter:

To protect our security, our next step will be to establish an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex… and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region."
As we prepare for the Commission, it is also clear from General Honoré's interim reporting that we must put forth a supplemental appropriation to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol.

CNN reports that a "commission of this nature would be established by a statute, passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The commission members would not be elected leaders and would be outside the government."

'Even David Brooks agrees' Democrats should 'absolutely kill the filibuster'

Even New York Times columnist David Brooks—widely reviled over many years for his "wrongheaded and naive" brand of right-wing commentary—agreed Friday with the many progressive voices arguing that Democrats will ultimately be justified in abolishing the legislative filibuster in the U.S. Senate if Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his obstructionist ways.

In his latest column—titled the "The Case for Biden Optimism"—Brooks contends that if current efforts to forge a bipartisan power-sharing agreement fail, efforts to pass a comprehensive Covid-19 economic relief package put forth by President Joe Biden are stymied, and "Republicans go into full obstruction mode" then the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, "should absolutely kill the filibuster."

While progressives have been making this argument intensely for weeks, if not months, many were caught off guard by Brooks' endorsement.

"Can't believe David Brooks and I finally agree on a thing," said Winnie Wong, former top aide to the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, in response to the column.

"Kill the filibuster. Today. Now," said former secretary of labor Robert Reich in a tweet directed at Schumer. "Hell, even David Brooks agrees."

As columnist Ryan Cooper wrote for The Week on Thursday: "[McConnell] is demanding Democrats preserve his ability to block anything they propose with the Senate filibuster, so he can ruin the country and blame it on them, and he is gambling that moderate Democratic senators will be too scared to call his bluff. Democrats should tell McConnell to go pound sand, and nuke the filibuster right now."

Cooper explained:

Recall that the filibuster allows just 41 senators to block most legislation. Activists have begged Democrats to get rid of the filibuster after witnessing McConnell use it to shamelessly obstruct Democratic priorities and then immediately remove it as an obstacle to his own chief priority, confirming right-wing Supreme Court Justices. Yet so far a crucial segment of moderate Democratic senators have resisted, for reasons of "tradition," or worries it will force them to take difficult votes, or simple timidity. Now McConnell has broken yet another Senate norm by threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution unless Democrats agree to keep the legislative filibuster for the next two years. To the best of my knowledge, filibustering the initial organizational rule package in a new Congress has never happened before. (Incidentally, since the Senate will continue to operate under its current rules, that leaves Republicans in charge of the committees so long as it is not passed.)
If Democrats agree, given McConnell's history, he is virtually guaranteed to not allow any normal legislation through, and to drag out the confirmation of any appointee as long as possible. The only way to pass any law will be through the cumbersome and limited reconciliation process. Just as he did under President [Barack] Obama, McConnell wants to throw sand in the gears of government, prevent Biden from accomplishing anything, blame Democrats for the resulting dysfunction, and take back full control of the Senate in two years.

In response to McConnell's request to keep the filibuster in place, Schumer on the Senate floor Friday morning said the proposal "is unacceptable, and it won't be accepted. And the Republican leader knew that when he first proposed it."

In a statement on Thursday, Mairead Lynn, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, also suggested that Schumer should not tolerate McConnell's obstruction for one minute longer and called out the Republican leader's objections to the organizing agreement in the Senate thus far as clearly made in bad faith.

"If McConnell wanted to work with Democrats in good faith," said Lynn, "he would have spent the last two months moving President Biden's Cabinet nominees through the confirmation process—a precedent afforded to every previous president."

McConnell's "unprecedented" and "outsized" demands that would neutralize Democratic control over the Senate, added Lynn, "are nothing more than a last-ditch effort to further obstruct the Biden administration from implementing the will of the people. Enough is enough: McConnell needs to drop his unreasonable demands and let the Senate get to work."

On Thursday, Ezra Klein, Brooks' liberal colleague at the Times, argued that none of the far-reaching bills that Democrats have vowed to pass will be possible in "a Senate in which the filibuster forces 60-vote supermajorities on routine legislation."

Democrats, wrote Klein, "have plenty of ideas that could improve people's lives and strengthen democracy. But they have, repeatedly, proved themselves more committed to preserving the status quo of the political system than fulfilling their promises to voters. They have preferred the false peace of decorum to the true progress of democracy. If they choose that path again, they will lose their majority in 2022, and they will deserve it."

According to Klein, Biden's "agenda will live or die in the Senate"—and if proper action is not taken, he continued, "odds are it will die, killed by the filibuster."

This is exactly why progressive critics have urged Democrats to immediately end the charade orchestrated by McConnell.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, said his read on the situation was this: "McConnell wants to block popular bills this Congress—stuff like D.C. statehood and H.R. 1. He doesn't want to have the filibuster fight with that backdrop, so instead he's picking the fight on a boring-sounding procedure thing hoping it's more favorable ground for him."

"To be clear," he added: "Senate Dems have no reason or need to give into McConnell's BS. It would be a colossal mistake of historic proportions for them to give in. And I don't think they will here."

And as Levin put it on Friday in a tweet linking to Brooks' column: "Killing the Jim Crow filibuster is the institutionalist, pro-democracy position."

GOP nightmare of Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders is about to come true

The long-held Republican nightmare that a champion of working-class people and the common good—one who has dedicated his political career to curbing poverty and injustice while denouncing corporate greed, endless war, and the cruelty of a for-profit health system that leaves millions upon millions uninsured or without affordable access to care—would assume the powerful position of chairing the Senate Budget Committee is about to become reality.

"Time to face the harsh reality, socialist Bernie Sanders will become the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He has vowed to use his position to enact his progressive agenda on healthcare, climate, infrastructure spending, and cutting defense spending," Nikki Haley tweeted Saturday.

While it came from Trump's former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as a kind of ominous warning, Sanders' wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, was among those who shot back with a clever and simple quip. "Yes he has," she tweeted in response.

Not that Jane Sanders was alone:

"You forgot to mention raising the minimum wage and taxing your rich friends," the organizing group People for Bernie tweeted back at Haley.

Republican fears of Sanders taking over the committee go back to at least 2016 when Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, then Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, said ahead of that year's election: ""If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?"

The GOP trepidation over such a reality is about to materialize now that Democrats have seized razor-thin majority control of the Senate. And, while the gavel is yet to be placed in his hand, Sanders and his staff have signaled in recent days that he will be ready and willing to wield it to push the incoming Biden administration—as well as Democratic leadership in the House and Senate—to enact the kind of bold, working-class friendly policies that fueled both of his presidential runs.

Among the chief powers that the chair of the committee will be able to utilize is fostering legislation through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process—a procedural tool that will allow, even under current rules, legislation to pass with a simple majority.

On Sunday, Sanders posted this social media:

"Yes, we can and we must use budget reconciliation to increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour with a simple majority vote in the Senate, just like Republicans did to pass massive tax breaks to the 1%," declared Warren Gunnels, one of Sanders' most senior aides who went out of the way to identify himself as the "Incoming Majority Staff Director" for the "Senate Budget Committee" in a tweet Friday morning.

Following the Democratic wins in Georgia that gave the party back the majority in the Senate, Sanders told Politico in an interview that he has no plans to be sheepish from his perch atop the committee.

"I'm going to use reconciliation in as aggressive a way as I possibly can to address the terrible health and economic crises facing working people today," Sanders told the news outlet. "As we speak, my staff and I are working. We're working with Biden's people. We're working with Democratic leadership. We'll be working with my colleagues in the House to figure out how we can come up with the most aggressive reconciliation bill to address the suffering of the American working families today."

Nina Turner, national co-chair of Sanders' 2020 campaign and now running for U.S. House in her home state of Ohio, has been among those in the progressive movement championing the legislative potential of his powerful new roll in the Senate:

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Sanders himself stated: "When Republicans controlled the Senate they used the reconciliation process to provide huge tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. We're going to use reconciliation to protect working families, the sick and the poor."

Lindsey Graham slammed for equating Trump accountability with divisive 'vengeance'

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was roundly denounced Sunday after sending a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer that characterized the pending trial of President Donald Trump as "vengeance" and "political retaliation" that he argued would further divide the nation.

While the U.S. House impeached Trump for his roll in inciting a violent mob of his supporters to storm the nation's capitol building on January 6—an insurrectionist effort unparalled in U.S. history that left at least five people dead—Graham argues in his letter that Schumer, if he proceeds with a trial in the Senate, would be guilty of "one more unconstitutional action in this disgraceful saga" that he said would only "incite further division."

Critics of Graham, however, immediately pounced on the South Carolina Republican for his faulty logic and the disgraceful nature of the letter.

"Lindsey Graham should take the first step towards healing and resign," quipped People for Bernie in response.

"This is basically extortionate: Sorry, no unity until the demands for accountability are dropped," wrote Washington Post political correspondent Greg Sargent. "The answer to this is 'No. You are the ones who have committed the offense. You don't get to set one-sided conditions for unity after what you did.'"

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) unleashed on Graham in a series of tweets, citing the Republican's own behavior that fostered Trump's lies about the outcome of the 2020 election and his long history of two-faced accomodation to Trump's anti-democratic authoritarianism.

"Graham," said Beyer, "pressured election officials in Georgia to throw out lawful ballots and overturn the result." He then added:

Journalist Rachel Bitecofer noted that what Graham is essentially, if not illogically, arguing in his letter to Schumer is "that those responsible for the attack on the Capitol will be held responsible if the Senate lets the main person responsible evade responsibility." But, she adds, "he fails to consider his own culpability at all—which is significant since he lied about fraud."

Likewise, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J) said that it's nearly impossible to take the words of Graham seriously given the role that he, along with so many of his Republican colleagues in Congress, have said and done to the nation in recent months—including those who voted against certification of the President-elect Joe Biden's win.

"For months GOP leaders spread lies about the election," Pascrell tweeted Sunday in response to Graham's letter. "Acting on those lies fascists ransacked the Capitol and *hours later* 138-of-202 (68%) House republicans voted to make trump a dictator."

"Nothing Republican leaders say about unity," he added, "is worth a nickel."

Sotomayor dissent argues 13 people executed during Trump killing spree 'deserved more from this court'

In a fiery dissent issued just prior to Friday night's federal execution of convicted murderer Dustin John Higgins—the 13th and likely final person put to death under the direction of the Trump administration's Department of Justice—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denounced the court's abdication of responsibility in recent months and said that those killed by the state under the arbitrary end-of-office deadline of Trump's deserved better protections and due process than what they received.

"Sotomayor's dissent... will be remembered long into the future as one of the most thorough, resounding indictments of this administration's reckless, immoral, illegal effort to execute as many people as possible, as quickly as possible." —Sister Helen Prejean

"This is not justice," Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting objection (pdf), backed only by Justice Stephen Breyer, which stated that the nation's highest court "repeatedly sidestepped its usual deliberative processes, often at the Government's request, allowing it to push forward with an unprecedented, breakneck timetable of executions."

As CNN noted, Sotomayor in her statement argued the government should have proceeded with "some measure of restraint" instead of moving with an "unprecedented rush" amid questions concerning the Justice Department's drug protocol, the Federal Death Penalty Act and other disputes.

According to Business Insider:

Sotomayor also condemned the federal government for fast-tracking the executions of two men who tested positive for COVID-19 — Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs — by arguing that a sooner execution would put the inmates out of their potential misery. Sotomayor dissented against the federal execution of Johnson a day earlier on January 14 because he was intellectually disabled and not afforded judicial review.
Six of the 13 inmates killed since July have been Black, and a Death Penalty Information Center report from September 2020 showed that Black Americans are almost 30 times more likely to face the death penalty for the murder of a white victim than the other way around.

Putting the 13 people killed by the federal government since Trump's DOJ lifted a self-imposed ban on executions last July in "historical context," Sotomayor lamented that the U.S. has killed more people in just half a year that it had in the previous six decades combined under Trump.

"[T]he Court has allowed the United States to execute thirteen people in six months under a statutory scheme and regulatory protocol that have received inadequate scrutiny," she wrote, "without resolving the serious claims the condemned individuals raised. Those whom the Government executed during this endeavor deserved more from this Court. I respectfully dissent."

"The Court made these weighty decisions in response to emergency applications," reads the objection, "with little opportunity for proper briefing and consideration, often in just a few short days or even hours. Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale."

Longtime anti-death penalty opponent and activist Sister Helen Prejean said the dissent will go down in history:

As Common Dreams has reported, Trump's killing spree of recent months has resulted in new and elevated calls for Congress to finally step in and abolish the death penalty once and for all.

"State-sanctioned murder is not justice, and the death penalty, which kills Black and brown people disproportionately, has absolutely no place in our society," said Rep. Ayana Pressley (D-Mass.) last week as she, along with incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), re-introduced legislation to ban federal use of the death penalty.

"Ending the federal death penalty—which is as cruel as it is ineffective in deterring crime—is a racial justice issue and must come to an end," Pressley said. "We must finally abolish this inhumane form of punishment and put an end to Donald Trump's unprecedented killing spree. I am grateful for the partnership of incoming Chairman Durbin and my colleagues in this effort."

'Thoughts and prayers to the NRA' as reviled gun lobby group files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

"Thoughts and prayers."

"The NRA's claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt."
—NY Attorney General Letitia James

That is what many opponents of the National Rifle Association wryly stated in response to news that the pro-gun lobby group had officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday in the United States.

In a statement on its website, the NRA—which promotes the interests of the gun industry and gun owners unbothered by the unparalleled level of gun violence seen in the country—said it was leaving New York state, where it is currently registered, to restructure in Texas as part of a "new strategic plan" it is implementing.

"Thoughts and prayers to the NRA fanatical fiends who bear the blood of tens of thousands on their paws," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) in response. "The world will be a better place when the NRA is finally destroyed. Looks like that day is closer."

While the NRA claims in the statement that it is "in its strongest financial condition in years," it said the strategic plan "involves utilizing the protection of the bankruptcy court" and "dumping New York" so that it can reincorporate in Texas to continue its activities without such a "corrupt political and regulatory environment."

Brady United, which has called for the NRA's dissolution for decades, said Friday that "news of the NRA filing for bankruptcy is just the latest proof that the NRA has cheated its members and American taxpayers in pursuit of an extremist agenda that has made our country markedly less safe."

David Hogg—one of the survivors of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida who later became a vocal gun control advocate—was among those who welcomed the news late Friday afternoon and thanked all the tireless activism over the years focused on the NRA's deadly brand of influence peddling.

"Don't read this as the NRA is going away," Hogg added. "They are not yet," he said, "but this is one step closer."

In August, as Common Dreams reported at the time, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the NRA which sought to dissolve the organization based on widespread evidence of corruption and financial self-dealing that violated the state's requirements for nonprofit status.

In a tweet on Friday responding to the NRA's move to divorce itself from New York, James said: "The NRA's claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt."

"While we review its bankruptcy filing," she added, "we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office's oversight."

'His conduct was seditious': 3 House Democrats from Texas demand Ted Cruz be expelled from Senate

Three House Democrats from Texas have called on party leaders in the U.S. Senate to back the expulsion of a member of their state's congressional delegation, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, for what they term "seditious" behavior related to the insurrectionist mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Signed by Reps. Veronica Escobar, Joaquin Castro, and Sylvia Garcia—all from Texas—a Friday letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (soon to exchange title) argued that it "is evident that Senator Cruz echoed Trump's false voter fraud claims for political gain, going so far as sending a fundraising plea during the armed stand-off in the Capitol where members of Congress, staff, and journalists were held hostage for hours."

In addition to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cruz led the Republican effort in the Senate to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory by making baseless claims of voter fraud—the same false claims made by Trump and those in the mob who ransacked the U.S. Capitol in an insurrectionist effort that left five people dead, including one Capitol Police Officer who was murdered.

Cruz's conduct, Escobar said in a tweet that mirrored the letter's message, "was seditious. He must be held accountable and expelled from the Senate."

The letter argues that "Cruz's objection to the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris helped incite the attack and gave credence to a process that had no chance of succeeding and put all of us in danger."

"In his effort to appease Donald Trump and his supporters," it continued, "Cruz encouraged these terrorists to wage armed insurrection against America."

The Texas lawmakers cite Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution—which allows for the punishment, including expulsion, for "disorderly behavior" by a member—to argue that Schumer and McConnell have the authority to initiate such a process for Cruz.

On Saturday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)—the most right-wing member of the Democratic caucus—said that the 14th Amendment "should be a consideration" for both Cruz and Hawley.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states that no U.S. lawmaker holding office "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

While Manchin says, he gets "along fine" with Cruz, "what he did was totally outside the realm of our responsibilities or our privileges."

Progressives, meanwhile, have consistently called for both Hawley and Cruz to resign or be removed ever since last week's attack.

"There can be no normalizing or looking away from what played out before our eyes," Sen. Patty Murray, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said last week as she called on both Cruz and Hawley to resign.

"The violent mob that attacked the Capitol was made up of people who don't accept democracy, and want to take this country by use of force," she stated. "Any Senator who stands up and supports the power of force over the power of democracy has broken their oath of office."

Trump's DOJ just gave up the game: Court filing admits Trump lost 2020 election

In a court filing submitted in late December as part of a lawsuit contesting the status of Trump administration officials serving unconfirmed in "temporary" positions, lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department argued the case should be tossed out because the issue would soon "be moot" given that President Donald Trump lost the 2020 elections and would soon leave the Oval Office.

The admission by the DOJ flies in the face of incessant false claims by Trump that he won in November and continued vows that he will fight to the bitter end to prove—against all evidence and reality—the election was rigged, fraudulent, or otherwise illegitimate.

"They're not going to take the White House. We're going to fight like hell," Trump declared Monday night during a campaign rally in Georgia. "When you win in a landslide and they steal it and it's rigged, it's not acceptable."

The DOJ filing (pdf) itself, dated December 23, was in response to a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which argued that the service of top officials at the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management was unlawful because they were appointed by Trump and continued to lead the agencies without Senate confirmation—a direct violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). The officials named in the lawsuit are Margaret Everson at the Park Service and William Pendley at BLM.

Allowing unconfirmed officials to serve despite the clear violation of the FVRA has been the subject of numerous legal challenges across several federal agencies under Trump during the second half of his term. In the DOJ's filing on this specific lawsuit, one of the arguments for having the court dismiss the case was that soon enough there would no longer be reason to pursue the objections put forth by PEER. It stated:

Plaintiffs' request for prospective injunctive relief against Mr. Pendley and Ms. Everson will become moot on January 20, 2021 when a new administration is sworn into office. At that time, Mr. Pendley and Ms. Everson will, presumably, leave office, requiring that the prospective claims against them must be dismissed. (citations omitted)

While Trump lashed out after former Attorney General William Barr, who resigned last month, said a DOJ review found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would materially impact the outcome of the election, the DOJ's admission in this particular lawsuit was highlighted by PEER in a statement Tuesday.

"The White House and the Department of Justice are not on the same page about the legitimacy of Joe Biden's election as president," said Tim Whitehouse, PEER's executive director. "The official position of the lawyers representing the people of the United States is that there will be a new President on January 20."

Though the in-court acknowledgement by the DOJ of Trump's defeat was notable, Whitehouse does not submit to the argument that the lawsuit itself is moot simply because the president is leaving office. As PEER notes in its statement, the implications of having unconfirmed officials administering major government agencies is that the policies initiated under their command should also be considered unlawful and illegitimate by the court.

"During the past four years, the Justice Department has been repeatedly tasked to defend actions that are indefensible," said Whitehouse, who before joining PEER served as an attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "It remains to be seen how the Justice Department's posture will change after January 20th in handling scores of lawsuits challenging Trump actions that the incoming Biden administration indicates they will repudiate."

'The Walton family is the real welfare queen': GAO report details how taxpayers subsidize corporate giants' low wages

Pinpointing a reality denounced as "morally obscene" by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a new government study shows how some of the nation's largest and most profitable corporations—including Walmart, McDonald's, Dollar General, and Amazon—feast upon taxpayer money by paying their employees such low wages that huge numbers of those workers throughout the year are forced to rely on public assistance programs such as Medicaid and food assistance just to keep themselves and their families afloat.

According to a statement from Sanders' office, the study he commissioned the Government Accountability Office to carry out—titled "Millions of Full-time Workers Rely on Federal Health Care and Food Assistance Programs"—found that an estimated 5.7 million Medicaid enrollees and 4.7 million SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients who worked full-time for 50 or more weeks in 2018 earned wages so low that they qualified for these federal benefits. In addition, an estimated 12 million wage-earning adults enrolled in Medicaid and 9 million wage-earning adults living in households receiving SNAP benefits worked at some point in 2018.

Upon the study's release Wednesday, Warren Gunnels, staff director and policy adviser for Sen. Sanders, tweeted: "The real looting in America is the Walton family becoming $63 billion richer during a pandemic, while paying wages so low that 14,541 of their workers in 9 states need food stamps—all subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. Yes. The Walton family is the real welfare queen in America."

According to the Washington Post:, based on the GAO report:

Walmart was one of the top four employers of SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries in every state. McDonald's was in the top five of employers with employees receiving federal benefits in at least nine states.

In the nine states that responded about SNAP benefits—Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington—Walmart was found to have employed about 14,500 workers receiving the benefit, followed by McDonald's with 8,780, according to Sanders's team. In six states that reported Medicaid enrollees, Walmart again topped the list, with 10,350 employees, followed by McDonald's with 4,600.

In Georgia, for example, Walmart employed an estimated 3,959 workers on Medicaid—an estimated 2.1 percent of the total of non-elderly, non-disabled people in the state receiving the benefit. McDonald's was next on the list, employing 1,480 who received Medicaid, or 0.8 percent of the total of non-elderly, non-disabled people on the program.

"At a time when huge corporations like Walmart and McDonald's are making billions in profits and giving their CEOs tens of millions of dollars a year, they're relying on corporate welfare from the federal government by paying their workers starvation wages," said Sanders in a statement. "That is morally obscene."

With the individual wealth of high-ranking executives and members of billionaire families like the Walton's, who own Walmart, soaring even as front-line, minimum wage employees and their families struggling to stay afloat amid the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, Sanders argues that the stark contrast should be a wakeup call for those who have refused to see how unjust and economically backward it is for the federal government, meaning taxpayers, to subsidize the cruel wages that massive profitable companies force their workers to accept.

"U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America," said Sanders. "It is time for the owners of Walmart, McDonald's and other large corporations to get off of welfare and pay their workers a living wage."

"No one in this country should live in poverty," Sanders added. "No one should go hungry. No one should be unable to get the medical care they need. It is long past time to increase the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15, and guarantee health care to all Americans as a human right."

'Naked political ploy': Outrage after Barr memo aims to bolster baseless Trump fraud allegations

U.S. Attorney General William Barr came under fire overnight after issuing a memo to federal prosecutors that critics warn aims to bolster President Donald Trump's continued baseless claims that rampant voter fraud—which doesn't factually exist—cost him reelection.

According to the Huffington Post:

Barr's memo, sent to U.S. attorneys across the country, authorizes an exception to Justice Department guidelines, telling top federal prosecutors they could "pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases." Barr wrote that he'd already done so in specific instances.
"Such inquiries and reviews may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State," Barr wrote. "Any investigation of claims of irregularities that, if true, would clearly not impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State should normally be deferred until after the election certification process is completed."

The reversal of longstanding DOJ policy—especially under circumstances when no allegations of significant fraud have been substantiated and as Trump continues his refusal to concede or acknowledge the vote tabulations which show he lost the electoral college and popular vote tallies by significant margins—was seen by legal experts as a brazen effort by Barr to legitimatize the president's baseless and dangerous narrative about the integrity of the election.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, tweeted:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was unsparing in her rebuke:

In response to the memo (pdf), Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, denounced the directive as a partisan effort to give comfort to the president's baseless claims while doing serious damage to the reputation of the DOJ as a non-political arm of the government.

"We condemn Attorney General's Barr post-election attempt to weaponize the Justice Department to breathe life into President Trump's baseless and unsubstantiated claims of vote fraud," Clarke said in a statement late Monday night. "Barr's attempt to interject and activate federal prosecutors is clearly part of a coordinated attempt to sow chaos and discord, and undermine confidence in the electoral outcome."

"Americans," she continued, "will see this move for what it is—a naked political ploy and it will not succeed. This move is especially astounding given the Justice Department's deafening silence regarding countless documented instances of voter suppression and voting discrimination this season."

Speaking with the New York Times, Stephen I. Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor, said the memo is deeply troubling. "It would be problematic enough if Barr were reversing longstanding Justice Department guidance because of significant, substantiated claims of misconduct—that could presumably be handled at the local and state level," Vladeck said. "But to do so when there is no such evidence—and when the president's clear strategy is to delegitimize the results of a proper election—is one of the more problematic acts of any attorney general in my lifetime."

Following Barr's issuance of the memo, the Times' DOJ correspondent Katie Benner reported that Richard Pilger, the DOJ official who heads the voter fraud division, resigned his position in objection to the orders it contained:

Pilger will remain in the DOJ, but stepped aside from his job as head of the Election Crimes Branch.

According to the Washington Post, "people said Barr had first broached a similar idea some weeks ago and that political leadership in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, of which the Election Crimes Branch is a part, pushed back. Those officials were blindsided when Barr's memo was released on Monday, the people said."


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