Kerry Eleveld

These two 2020 Wall Street Journal op-eds by Trump insiders were borderline treasonous in retrospect

Every editorial page has misfires over the course of a year, but the Wall Street Journal really set itself apart this year as not only publishing its usual reality adjacent pieces, but actually managing to gaslight Americans in advance on two of the biggest betrayals of the year.

Sure, there was conservative columnist Peggy Noonan spouting off about how "insubstantial" and "embarrassing" Kamala Harris was shortly before she made history as the first woman and person of color to be elected vice president. And who can forget GOP Sen. Tom Cotton longing to turn the U.S. Military on American protesters in the pages of the New York Times? Even so, Wall Street Journal gets my vote for offering two of the most pernicious and misleading op-eds of the year.

In June, Mike Pence, supposed chief of the coronavirus White House task force put pen to paper to assure Americans that the so-called second wave of COVID-19 cases was all just a fictional media narrative. "In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a "second wave" of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown," Pence wrote in the lede of the piece.

Beyond spouting a bunch of platitudes about Trump's amazing leadership, Pence said the country was "winning the fight," cases had "stabilized," and new outbreaks were being contained through early detection and increased testing. Trump had "rallied the American people to embrace social-distancing guidelines" and, because people had done so, "all 50 states have begun to reopen in a safe and responsible manner," Pence wrote.

"The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different," he added, concluding, "We've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives, and we've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That's a cause for celebration, not the media's fear mongering."

When Pence wrote that op-ed in mid-June, the U.S. has just passed 115,000 COVID-related deaths and was averaging some 750 deaths per day over a 5-day period. At the time of this writing (Dec. 20), the U.S. had surpassed 317,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the country recorded a record 3,600 earlier in the week. Heckuva job, Mikey. And thanks for Wall Street Journal for lending your pages to the guy who had already botched the coronavirus response from Day 1.

And then there was White House whatever-thingamajig Mick Mulvaney telling all the pearl clutchers in early November that Donald Trump would " concede gracefully" if he lost. Who coulda guessed that the guy who told everyone to just "get over it" after Trump tried to trade foreign aid to Ukraine for a fabricated investigation of his political rival would be so wildly off about Trump's "graceful" exit.

Mulvaney asserted that the misguided questions about Trump's commitment to a peaceful transition of power came from people who "still think he should've been impeached, believe the polls, and consider the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN reliable sources." Totally, Mick—fake news!

Here's the reality about a month out from Trump's constitutionally ordained exit:

"Senior Trump administration officials are increasingly alarmed that President Trump might unleash—and abuse—the power of government in an effort to overturn the clear result of the election," wrote Jonathan Swan of Axios on Dec. 19. "These officials tell me that Trump is spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power." That's where Trump was over a month and some 60 consecutive court losses into his epic attempt to engineer a fascist power grab.

But Mulvaney, clearly expecting a loss, was already laying the foundation for Trump's string of bogus legal challenges. "Voters need this election to be fully litigated. Whoever occupies the presidency cannot have rumors floating around for the next four years about dead people voting or ballot dumps in the middle of the night," he wrote. "The U.S. needs to know that the winner is actually the winner. And once Americans know that, I have every expectation that Mr. Trump will be, act and speak like a great president should—win or lose."

Thanks for playing, whatever-thingamajig Mick. Does a "great president" declare martial law because he was too much of a loser to legitimately win? We know—just get over it.

GOP Sen. Loeffler weighs subverting democracy in craven effort to win Senate runoff

Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler locked herself into an impossible political position Wednesday when she signaled she hadn't ruled out objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to officially tally the votes from the Electoral College.

"I haven't looked at it," Loeffler told reporters Wednesday, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Greg Bluestein. "January 6 is a long way out and there's a lot to play out between now and then," she added, while also refusing to acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden won the race.

Loeffler may have simply been bluffing in a nod to tantalizing Donald Trump's rabid base, but walking back that potentiality will be next to impossible without thoroughly galvanizing the right wingers against her.

Loeffler's Democratic challenger, Rev. Raphael Warnock, was quick to respond, tweeting, "Say it with me @KLoeffler: @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris won the election. It's disrespectful to Georgia voters to say anything else."

Warnock's retort was also targeted at motivating the Democratic base to action on Jan. 5 over Loeffler and her GOP counterpart Sen. David Perdue's continued refusal to recognize the rightful winners of the state's presidential contest: Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman and person of color to serve as the nation's second in command.

Loeffler's gambit comes just one day after GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell finally conceded Biden had emerged victorious. McConnell's acknowledgement came after Senate Republicans had underwritten Trump's all-out assault on U.S. election for more than five weeks, but it still drew a rebuke from Trump in the wee hours of Wednesday morning claiming he won the election "by a lot."

"Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!" Trump added.

Following McConnell's concession to Biden Tuesday, the GOP Senate leadership team had explicitly implored members of their caucus not to contest the election results during congressional certification on Jan. 6—a doomed bid that would require at least one GOP senator to join forces with a Republican representative from the lower chamber. Loeffler clearly decided Trump's tweet had left her little choice but to continue spinelessly paying lip service to his fascist fantasies and those of his supporters.

It's not much a surprise, frankly. Loeffler—who has repeatedly leveraged her Senate post to profit off the nation's pandemic crisis—is nothing if not an opportunist.

The only real surprise these days is when Republican lawmakers take a stand in favor of our democracy instead of attacking it. But doing that involves the type of integrity that virtually ensures someone will also have to renounce their membership in the Republican party. Loeffler's only saving grace is that congressional certification takes place one day after the Jan. 5 runoff. By then, she'll have dropped Trump's voters like a hot potato to get back to placing more impeccably timed stock trades for profit.

Trump cultists threaten to make America ungovernable by intimidating public servants out of jobs

While the arrival of vaccine doses is finally bringing some hopeful news about the pandemic, the state of U.S. democracy continues to be at an historic low point fueled by the complicity of the Republican Party.

The past week has included a rash of threats against public servants trying to fulfill their duties and uphold their oaths of office. Nowhere was that more evident on Monday than in Michigan where the Capitol building was shut down to everyone but the 16 electors and others essential to certifying the state's Electoral College vote after credible threats of violence emerged. Each elector was provided with a police escort, but the atmosphere was so toxic, one elector ultimately decided to wear a bullet-proof vest to faithfully cast her vote for the state's rightful winner, Joe Biden.

The situation in Michigan followed on a week in which a so-called "enemies" list of state and federal officials who weren't sufficiently loyal to Donald Trump surfaced on the internet, according to the Washington Post. The list included the officials' home addresses along with photos of them covered by red targets and hashtags such as #remembertheirfaces and #NoQuarterForTraitors.

That sentiment bled into a weekend of protests turned violent from Washington State to Washington D.C., with four people stabbed and another shot in Olympia while a series of altercations broke out in D.C.

And it's not just public officials who are being targeted. The Georgia GOP election official who warned earlier this month that someone would wind up getting killed if Republicans didn't speak up outlined instances in which random citizens are getting caught in the crossfire.

"We have people stalking outside of our elections offices in Cobb County," said Gabriel Sterling last Thursday. "We've had a warehouse manager, he was simply taking trash out to the dumpster, and he had somebody follow him with a camera telling him he's going to prison."

Hate crimes spiked across the country following Trump's 2017 defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville as "very fine people." But Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, told the Post threats targeting government officials increased last year and were then exacerbated by the onset of coronavirus restrictions.

"The direction of the threats and intimidation against state and local officials took an eerie turn in the last couple of years and accelerated during the pandemic because aggrieved people are interacting with their government at the local level — in public health and elections," Levin said. "And those officials are the very ones labeled as legitimate targets for aggressions on cable news, social media and particularly by the president."

Following the spate of violent threats, the question becomes who will even want to serve in these positions anymore?

"There is an ugliness and cruelty in our national rhetoric that is reaching a fevered pitch here at home, and that should worry us all," said Diana Lachiondo, a local Idaho health official who was forced to flee a meeting last week about pandemic restrictions when menacing protesters showed up at her home. Lachiondo, who recently lost reelection, added, "I'm out. ... I've got a light at the end of the tunnel here. But who is going to want to run in the future? Do you need to live in a gated community to feel like you're safe? That is my concern going forward . . . what does this mean for our democracy?"

One of her colleagues, physician Ted Epperly, agreed the problem isn't going away anytime soon. "I think it'll take a lot of healing, quite frankly, to get us back to working together as a society," he told the Post. "I'm sure people will write about this for years to come," he added. "What happened? What happened here in this country? Who are we as people?"

'I don't know how this ends without violence and death': Trump's angry mobs spark terrorism fears

As more than 200 Republican members of Congress ignore their oaths to the Constitution and abet Donald Trump's fascist attempt to overturn the election results, their cowardly silence is damn near ensuring that someone—or multiple people—will end up dead.

"I don't know how this ends without violence and death," Clint Watts, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace Wednesday.

The pattern of threats is unmistakable and it is growing. Here's a brief overview:

  • The plot to kidnap the Michigan governor
  • Armed militia members showing up at the home of Michigan's secretary of state while she was decorating for Christmas
  • Violent threats directed at Georgia's secretary of state, his family, and random election workers
  • A Georgia election official's urgent warning that death threats in the state will get someone killed
  • Death threats made against the Arizona secretary of state and her family
  • The Arizona Republican Party asking whether people are willing to die for Trump's cause
  • Armed protesters showing up at the homes of Idaho health officials and terrorizing their families

As Watts pointed out, many of the most concerning threats are arising in states where militias and fringe right-wing groups have traditionally thrived—Idaho, Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia. Watts also believes the worst is yet to come. The relatively close election, he said, created a delayed response of sorts where people were waiting for an outcome and Trump's cultists believed he might still prevail. But, Watts added, "They now have had time to think about what they want to do, they have heard continuous false claims—which they want to believe—and now they are being pushed and pointed to places to mobilize." Watts added the dynamic was only going to get worse in the months ahead after Trump is ejected from the White House, the coronavirus starts to be less of a threat, and there's more public targets as people start returning to public life.

But as the threat of violence grows, the vast majority of GOP lawmakers continue pouring gasoline on the pyre. On Wednesday, 17 Republican attorneys general joined a doomed pro-Trump lawsuit seeking to overturn election results and subvert the will of the people in a handful of states. On Tuesday, GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy torpedoed a symbolic resolution that would have recognized Joe Biden as rightful president-elect for the purposes of the inaugural ceremonies. And many state GOP lawmakers continue making various legal and rhetorical efforts to push support for Trump's fascist coup attempt.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is issuing clear calls to violence. "We will soon be learning about the word 'courage', and saving our Country," Trump tweeted Thursday, before spouting more unfounded gibberish claiming that he actually won the election until it was "FIXED!"

The toxic mix of events left MSNBC's Wallace practically speechless Wednesday on her show Deadline: White House. How, she wondered, could Republican lawmakers and even conservative media personalities possibly fail to draw the line at stoking violence over an election Trump clearly lost?

"That line is in the rear view mirror," responded former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. "They crossed it. ... We cannot be fantastical in wishing that what has happened has not happened in our thinking. It has happened."

Schmidt went on to assert that the Republican party is no longer committed to the American ideal of representative democracy.

"They all know that Biden has won the election," Schmidt said. "What they're doing is for no purpose other than power. The Republican party is an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power for self-interest, and the self-interest of its donor class. There is no fidelity to the American idea and ideal."

Watch it:

Steve Schmidt says the Republican party is "no longer dedicated to American democracy"

Georgia GOP senators aren't done selling their souls to Trump

As Georgia's two GOP senators eye their January runoffs, there's clearly no line they won't cross to keep Donald Trump and his cultists in their corner. So when it came time to back a doomed pro-Trump lawsuit filed against their own state by the indicted attorney general of Texas, they were all in.

"We fully support President Trump's legal recourses and Attorney General [Ken] Paxton's lawsuit," Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue wrote in a joint statement Tuesday. As if their support for Paxton's ludicrous challenge to the validity of Georgia's twice-certified vote count wasn't enough of a slap in the face to the state's GOP leadership, they added, "No one should ever have to question the integrity of our elections system and the credibility of its outcomes."

Georgia's votes have been counted and recounted a total of three times now and, not surprisingly, Joe Biden has prevailed every time because ... well ... he won the state. Trump simply can't accept being a loser, which is what he is—a loser.

Both Republican senators already sided with Trump over state GOP officials when they called the state's elections an "embarrassment" and pushed for Georgia's secretary of state to resign. But Loeffler and Perdue giving Paxton their imprimatur at the expense of their own state's GOP leadership team once again is so transparently desperate and spineless. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the votes of Georgia and three other states—Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The notion that the Supreme Court is going to let Texas interfere with the votes of four other states is laughable on its face. So laughable, in fact, that Paxton's most likely motivation for filing such ridiculousness is that he's in search of a pardon Trump reportedly plans to dish out like candy to all his criminal friends.

Additionally, Georgia's Republican attorney general wasted zero time in calling Paxton's suit "constitutionally, legally and factually wrong."

But hey, once you've made a deal with the devil, there's no turning back. Loeffler and Perdue—two of the richest and most corrupt members of Congress—aren't going to let a little thing like integrity stand in the way of keeping their incredibly lucrative public service posts. Those two Senate seats have been nothing short of gold for the pair of them, so why not throw Trump another bone? If they win their runoffs, the two of them will laugh all the way to the bank.

Watch: Top Georgia GOP election official excoriates Senate GOP for abetting Trump in extraordinary video

A top Georgia election official issued a searing indictment Tuesday of his GOP colleagues in Washington for helping to fan the flames of Donald Trump's baseless fraud claims.

Detailing a series of death threats made against elected officials and private citizens alike following Trump's attack on the state's election results, lifelong conservative Gabriel Sterling, a top aide to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told reporters the whole situation had gotten out of hand and someone could end up dead because of it.

"It has to stop!" Sterling implored of the threats to his boss, his boss' wife, and various other officials and private citizens caught in the crossfire. "Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up and, if you're going to take a position of leadership, show some."

"This is elections," Sterling continued, "This is the backbone of democracy. And all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. … Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed. And it's not right."

Both of the state's GOP senators facing runoffs in January—Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—have fully backed Trump's fraud claims.

Watch it:

Trump's sadistic narcissism: The gift that could keep on giving to Republicans indefinitely

As we watch the slow-rolling train wreck Donald Trump is currently engineering for Republicans in Georgia, it's enjoyable to imagine what kind of havoc Trump may very well visit upon the GOP for the next several years.

Precisely because Senate Republicans allowed Trump to turn the state's two Senate runoffs into a divisive family feud, Trump could conceivably continue to wield outsized power in GOP primaries for the foreseeable future. In fact, Republicans got a preview of Trump's spiteful wrath after Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine dared to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect recently on CNN. Trump later tweeted, "Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested," he added, angling for a primary fight.

As the New York Times recently wrote:

What's alarming to national Republicans is that the awkwardness in Georgia may only offer a preview of what the party might confront during the post-Trump era, which itself may be a misnomer.
With Mr. Trump signaling that he intends to try to keep control of the party and potentially seek the White House again in 2024, G.O.P. lawmakers and operatives are bracing for a period in which they're effectively handcuffed to a former president who demands veto power in intraparty elections.
"It's very possible, if not likely, that Trump will be in a kingmaker position for the 2022 primaries," said Todd Harris, a longtime Republican ad-maker. "Whether people like it or not, this is Trump's party. And nothing that happened on Election Day or since then has done anything to change that."

Since being the operative word there. Congressional Republicans had a chance to sever ties with Trump, or at least to curb his influence on the party. Instead, they chose to sidle up to him in service of maintaining their hold on the Senate majority. That choice may or may not pay off in January, but it is certainly giving Senate Republicans heartburn at this very moment and will continue to do so right up through January.

GOP Sen. David Perdue's mastery of pandemic profiteering continues

GOP Sen. David Perdue has truly made a name for himself as the Senate's ultimate pandemic profiteer. In yet another display of Perdue's cut-throat opportunism, the Associated Press reveals the Republican senator, who is facing a crucial runoff in January, made a series of impeccably timed stock trades last spring for a handsome personal profit.

This particular profitable series of trades centered on the Atlanta-based technology firm Cardlytics. In late January, as U.S. senators received briefings about the severity of an impending coronavirus outbreak, "Perdue sold off $1 million to $5 million in Cardlytics stock at $86 a share before it plunged, according to congressional disclosures," writes the AP.

But after Cardlytics' stock price plummeted over news of the pandemic and a simultaneous leadership change, Perdue bought back roughly a quarter to a half million in stock at just $30 a share. By Tuesday of this week, those shares had quadrupled in price to $121 a share.

The AP writes that Perdue's trades weren't necessarily illegal since there's no direct evidence yet that he acted on nonpublic information. But congressional members undoubtedly had a better grasp of what kind of threat the pandemic posed to both the nation's public health and the economy, and experts are urging a scrutinization of the trades.

"This does seem suspicious," said John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia University law school professor who specializes in corporate and securities issues, adding, "You need more than suspicions to convict."

The rather toothless Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Perdue of ethics violations for some of his past trades that also emitted a whiff of corruption.

But the sheer volume of Perdue's impeccably timed trades, whether illegal or not, have come to epitomize the measure of the man. Perdue, a supposed public servant, clearly spends the vast majority of his time and energy focused on his own bottom line and that of his rich buddies.

That is particularly abhorrent when Perdue adopted a public posture last spring similar to Donald Trump of downplaying a public health emergency that has now claimed more than 250,000 American lives and counting.

As his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has pointed out, Perdue urged the listeners of a local Georgia podcast on March 11 not to overreact to the coronavirus threat: "I think we have to realize that the risk of this virus in the United States right now still remains low."

All the while, Perdue was calculating how many ways he could score some big bucks off the near-certain calamity to come.

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020 · 4:02:37 PM Eastern Standard Time · Kerry Eleveld

UPDATE: NYT is reporting that Perdue's trades of Cardlytic were so eyebrow raising, they prompted a Justice Department inquiry into their legality. DOJ ultimately closed the probe, but the trades were clearly too unseemly to entirely ignore.

Don Jr urges voters to turn out for Senate runoffs as Trump continues to push fraud claims in Georgia

As Donald Trump desperately seeks a third tabulation of Georgia's votes to once again solidify his loser status, Republicans are beginning to fret over the toll his imaginary fraud claims will have on GOP turnout for the two critical Senate runoffs in January. In fact, the threat level must be pretty All-CAPS epic because Don Jr. himself took to Twitter Monday morning to stem the fallout.

"I'm seeing a lot of talk from people that are supposed to be on our side telling GOP voters not to go out & vote for @KLoeffler and @PerdueSenate," Don Jr. tweeted a day after the Trump campaign insisted on yet another recount of the state's voting results, which have already been certified. "That is NONSENSE. IGNORE those people. We need ALL of our people coming out to vote for Kelly & David," he added.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Team Trump issued a statement accusing Georgia election officials of delivering "the People false results" while providing zero evidence the count was somehow fraudulent. "There must be a time when we stop counting illegal ballots," it said. Biden ultimately won the state by about 13,000 votes—close, but not recount close.

But apparently the constant drumbeat of baseless claims from Team Trump that a bogus voting system massively disenfranchised Trump voters isn't such a great turnout message.

Will Georgia's most corrupt GOP senator please stand up?

Things are really going well for Senate Republicans in the two Georgia runoffs due to take place on Jan. 5. Not only are Republicans in the middle of an epic civil war over the state's election results, they are now rallying around two candidates who appear to specialize in abusing their power for personal gain. In fact, the ethics scandals of Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been so prolific, we decided a side-by-side comparison was in order.

We undertake the comparison with the understanding that Perdue starts with a built-in advantage of having been a sitting senator since 2015 while Loeffler has been clawing her way into contention for barely a year now. But Loeffler has really given it the ol' college try, doing her level best to leverage her relatively new seat at the table.

Let's send GOP Sens. Perdue and Loeffler packing. Give $4 right now to clean house in January.

Sen. Loeffler

  • Coronavirus stock dump: Loeffler, who sits on the Senate Health Committee, and her husband began dumping more than $18 million in stocks in late January, shortly after she was privy to a private all-members briefing on COVID-19. She and her husband, who chairs the New York Stock Exchange, also acquired stocks of companies that stood to gain from the crisis. She was cleared of ethics violations by a Senate committee, but insider trading by congressional members is notoriously hard to prove. With an estimated fortune of $500 million, Loeffler is the wealthiest member of Congress.
  • Fundraising ethics violation: Loeffler overtly solicited campaign donations on Fox News while standing inside the U.S. Capitol, which is illegal. After Loeffler bemoaned the "dark, liberal money is pouring into our state" for the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs, she added, "That's why it's so important that everyone across the country get involved. They can visit to chip in 5 or 10 bucks, and get involved, volunteer."
  • Honorable mention: Loeffler stood to benefit from a seedy effort by her fellow GOP senator, David Perdue, who tried to secure an extra tax break for a small pool of his wealthy donors, which happened to include Loeffler before her appointment to the seat.

Sen. Perdue

  • Pandemic profiteering: Similar to Loeffler, Perdue began buying up stocks (Pfizer, among others) and selling off stocks (Caesar Entertainment casino) shortly after the private pandemic briefing for senators in late January. Like Loeffler, the Senate Ethics Committee cleared Perdue.
  • Debit card scandal: Shortly after Perdue pushed to roll back regulations on prepaid debit cards, he bought stock in one of its industry leaders.
  • Defense contractor scandal: Perdue bought stock in a submarine parts manufacturer shortly before taking the helm of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and helped craft a budget bill that benefitted the company, pushing up its stock. Then Perdue dumped those stock acquisitions for a profit.
  • Sports team scandal: Perdue pushed for a regulatory change that would have benefitted a very small pool professional sports teams owners who contributed liberally to his campaign coffers. He failed, but one of those donors included Loeffler.

To be fair, Perdue is really running away with this competition. But since Loeffler is worth half a billion dollars, give or take, we hate to count her out. Perdue, with a net worth ranging anywhere from roughly $15 million to $42 million, is among the richest members of Congress, but it's really chump change compared to Loeffler.