Tom Boggioni

'Always the victim': Critics slam Melania Trump's self-centered statement on Capitol Hill riots

An official statement from Melania Trump on the tragic deaths that occurred in the halls of Congress after Donald Trump incited a mob to go after U.S. lawmakers blew up in the face of the White House because the first lady managed to make it all about herself.

While noting the deaths of Trump supporters -- and leaving Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick last -- the first lady also included a tone-deaf complaint by writing, "I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me – from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda."

That sentence alone caused critics to harshly criticize the president's wife for playing victim, with one commenter writing, "This is a trash statement from a trash first lady."

You can see a sampling below:

'I don't think it changes anything': Top GOP leader undercuts senators planning to contest election results

Responding to the efforts of what is expected to be at least 13 U.S. senators who are planning to throw up a roadblock to the certification of former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential win, the number two Republican in the Senate called it a waste of time.

Following reports that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he and 11 other U.S. want an emergency 10-day audit of the election results that showed Donald Trump lost before transferring power to Biden, Sen. John Thune (R-SC) said they were free to make the attempt but it is doomed to fail.

According to the Washington Post, Thune told reporters, "Now that we're locked into doing it, we'll give air to the objections and people can have their day in court and we'll hear everybody out and then we'll vote. In the end, I don't think it changes anything."

Thune's comments were echoed by a handful of other Republicans, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) issuing a statement saying, "The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice. President Trump's lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed. The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence."

You can read more here.

McConnell faced with 'nightmare' scenario if Senate is forced to vote on $2000 COVID checks: CNN

According to CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza, the last thing Senate Republicans want to do is be forced into a vote on upping the COVID-19 aid relief checks from $600 to $2000, but that is the box that Donald Trump put them in when he made the suggestion before Christmas as he threatened to veto the aid package bill.

Grateful Democrats immediately jumped on the president's suggestion and are attempting to force a vote and, as CNN's Cillizza writes, it will likely be a "nightmare" for senators to have to vote on the record.

"It puts them in a very small box," he wrote. "Either vote to massively increase the national debt -- by giving $1,400 more to every qualifying individual in the country -- or vote against what is much-needed money for people who have been devastated by the economic effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic."

According to the CNN regular, no matter which way GOP senators vote, it will likely come back to haunt them later: either making a stand to help out desperate constituents or angering fiscally conservative voters for running up the national debt even more.

"It's a lose-lose. Bigly," he wrote. "Especially if you are Sens. Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue, both locked in tight runoff races on January 5. Both incumbent Republicans need base conservatives with them to win, so a vote for more government spending isn't a good one. But they also can't actively agitate the rest of the state -- including swing voters in the suburbs who want the government to help those struggling as much as they can. It's a nearly impossible line to walk, politically speaking."

With that in mind, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in an even bigger bind: Anger his biggest supporters by encouraging the rank and file to give away more tax dollars, or shoot down the proposal and risk losing the two seats in Georgia -- costing him his Republican-majority Senate.

As Cillizza put it: "This will be a major test for McConnell. If this winds up getting to a vote -- either on cloture (to end debate) or a final floor vote -- it is very bad news for Senate Republicans."

Trump 'wants to screw Mitch McConnell' for betraying him on the election results: columnist

In his column for the Daily Beast, longtime political observer Michael Tomasky claims the country is watching "The Last (For the Time Being) Crack-Up of King Donald," while the president sulks at Mar-a-Lago over his election loss and plots to damage the Republican Party as he exits the presidency.

Although the president reportedly signed the COVID-19 aid bill at the last minute Sunday night -- while also forestalling a government shutdown -- the columnist said the president did great damage to the Republican Party by delaying the signing and infuriating the public by spending the weekend golfing after threatening a veto.

Calling the signing delay -- and the anxiety it caused over Christmas week -- "insane,' Tomasky suggested that the damage Trump is doing to the GOP is on purpose as both a loyalty test and to show Republican lawmakers that, even as he is leaving office after a humiliating defeat, he can still make them or break them.

"Trump is a 5-year-old, and everything with him is 5-year-old simple. Caveman simple," he wrote. "Thus, he can't think about the Republican Party, or the Senate under a Biden presidency, or anything of the sort."

Despite the fact that the president is scheduled to campaign for Georgia Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue before their runoff election against their Democratic challengers, Tomasky wrote that the president would really like to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lose control of the Senate and suffer.

"He wants to screw Mitch McConnell. There's nothing complicated or tactical about this. McConnell acknowledged that Joe Biden won the election. Therefore he must suffer. Boom. Caveman simple," he wrote before adding that Trump would like to see both of the GOP Senate candidates to lose because he also lost the state.

"Trump doesn't care who runs the Senate if he's not president," Tomasky wrote. "To the extent that he's capable of a little strategery, he may well be thinking that he'd rather the Democrats have the run of the place in 2021 and 2022, and maybe even into the two years after that. They'll be easier to run against. Or so he thinks, because he assumes that if Democrats control Congress and the White House, America will have descended into socialist hell by 2024."

The columnist went on to note that the president is probably wrong about that, since the Biden administration will likely be measured on how it handles the COVID-19 crisis it inherited from Trump which inflicted so much damage on the country due to Trump's mismanagement.

You can read more here (subscription required).

Ted Cruz helped Texas fracking billionaires reap millions in COVID aid relief: report

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lent a helping hand to two Texas fracking billionaires by asking for changes to rules that would allow them to acquire a $35 million COVID-19 relief loan aimed at helping struggling businesses stay afloat.

The report notes that Texas billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks were on a buying spree as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country -- buying up bankrupt competitors and investing in others -- only to find they were prohibited from taking advantage of the government-backed loan program as one of their many companies struggled.

According to the Journal, they then reached out to Cruz for help.

"Since spring, businesses controlled by the Wilks brothers have hunted for deals among fracking firms going through bankruptcy and taken or increased stakes in at least six other companies, corporate filings show,": the Journal's Ted Mann and Brody Mullins reported before adding, "But the industry was already under pressure from international competition and a sagging oil price by the time the pandemic hit, and its mounting woes prompted the Wilkses and others to turn to allies in Washington, including Mr. Cruz. The Republican senator helped convince the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve to change the rules for pandemic loans to ensure oil and gas firms could participate."

The report goes on to note that the changes Cruz asked for quickly allowed the wealthy Texas oilmen to cash in.

"Soon after the U.S. government changed the rules of its lending program in April, a Wilks family company, ProFrac Holdings LLC, applied for and received a $35 million loan, federal records show," the report notes before adding, "The Wilks brothers are longtime financial backers of Mr. Cruz. The brothers donated $15 million to a super PAC called Keeping the Promise that championed Mr. Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign, making them the largest financial backers of his political career."

Defending Cruz's actions, a spokesperson for the senator stated the senator "... worked to ensure small and medium-sized businesses directly harmed by the economic impacts of this pandemic had access to emergency liquidity," said Lauren Blair Aronson, a spokeswoman for the senator. "The result of his leadership was a program that has helped about 25 U.S. energy producers, including roughly a dozen in Texas, and helped protect over 300,000 oil and gas jobs in Texas."

According to Chris Kuveke of the non-profit BailoutWatch, the COVID dollars were a gift from Cruz to his campaign donors.

"ProFrac's loan is blatant misappropriation of taxpayer dollars," Kuveke stated. "It's hard not to connect the dots."

You can read more here (subscription required).

Trump launches attack on Michigan AG for attempting to sanction his election fraud attorneys

Late Saturday night, Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel over a report that she is seeking sanctions against his election fraud attorneys for wasting the court's time with election fraud lawsuits that were quickly thrown out.

With right-wing Breitbart reporting, "Nessel said she will file complaints with the Attorney Grievance Commission 'because the lawsuits contained deliberate misinformation," the president linked to the article and suggested Nessel was going after the attorneys because they must be "getting very close."

According to the president, "These lawyers are true patriots who are fighting for the truth and, obviously, getting very close. AG should be sanctioned. Fight on!"

You can see the tweet below:

Here's why Trump, Ivanka and Jared could be blindsided by multiple federal investigations after January 20th

According to a report from the Guardian, the question of whether Donald Trump -- as well as his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner -- will be the subject of multiple federal investigations could be dependent on what is described as a "wealth" of documents being left behind by the outgoing administration.

With President-elect Joe Biden yet to put forth a name for his Attorney General, after saying he would let his nominee decide on any criminal federal prosecutions, the Guardian notes that there is no guarantee that the Biden administration will go after the deposed president once he is not shielded by the presidency after January 20th.

Trump is already facing investigations by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and New York Attorney General Letitia James involving allegations of tax fraud and the business dealings of the Trump Organization. Federal investigations and the pitfalls that attend them are another matter.

As the Guardian's Ed Pilkington writes, "Any attempt to hold Trump criminally liable in a federal prosecution would be a first in US history," before adding, "Previous presidents have tended to take the view that it is better to look forwards in the name of national healing than backwards at the failings of their predecessor. And for good reasons – any prosecution would probably be long and difficult, act as a huge distraction, and expose the incoming president to accusations that they were acting like a tinpot dictator hounding their political enemy."

However, according to prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served under special counsel Robert Mueller, ignoring any crimes committed by the president -- including new allegations that Trump is pardoning former associates because they stayed mum during the Mueller investigation -- should not just be ignored.

"If you do nothing you are saying that though the president of the United States is not above the law, in fact he is. And that would set a terrible precedent for the country and send a message to any future president that there is no effective check on their power," Weissman explained before adding, "One of the things we learnt from this presidency was that our system of checks and balances is not as strong as we thought, and that would be exacerbated by not holding him to account."

According to the attorney, the new administration is about to be able to comb through stacks of reports, notes and emails about the Trump administration that were previously denied to congressional investigators.

Those, in turn, could be used to revive precious investigations or launch brand news one that could lead to criminal charges against the soon-t-be ex-president, his oldest daughter and her husband.

As Pilkington wrote, "There are several possible ways in which the justice department could be forced to confront the issue of whether or not to take on Trump. One would be through a revelation as yet unknown, following the emergence of new information.

"Weissmann points out that the Biden administration will have access to a wealth of documents that were previously withheld from Congress during the impeachment inquiry, including intelligence agency and state department files," the report states. "Official communications sent by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump through their personal emails and messaging apps – an ironic move given the flak Hillary Clinton endured from the Trump family in 2016 for using her personal email server – may also become available for scrutiny."

The report notes that Trump's use of presidential pardon power during his final days in office could also open up new avenues to be investigated.

You can read more here.

Trump's increased absences have associates worried about his declining mental state: report

According to a series of interviews conducted by Politico's Michael Kruse, associates and critics of Donald Trump have taken note that he is rarely seen in public since his re-election bid failed and he became a one-term president, with some worried his mental state may be in decline at the prospect of leaving the Oval Office.

Under a headline reading "Is Trump cracking under the weight of losing," Kruse wrote that the combination of silence from the president between rants on Twitter could be a sign that the president is having trouble coping.

According to Kruse, Trump's demeanor and recent actions are setting off alarms.

"It's not just his odd behavior—the testy, tiny desk session with the press, the stilted Medal of Freedom ceremony that ended with his awkward exit, the cut-short trip to the Army-Navy football game. It's even more pointedly his conspicuous and ongoing absences," the report states. "The narcissistic Trump has spent the last half a century—but especially the last half a decade—making himself and keeping himself the most paid-attention-to person on the planet. But in the month and a half since Election Day, Trump has been seen and heard relatively sparingly and sporadically. No-showing unexpectedly at a Christmas party, sticking to consistently sparse public schedules and speaking mainly through his increasingly manic Twitter feed, he's been fixated more than anything else on his baseless insistence that he won the election when he did not."

Speaking with Mary Trump -- the president's niece who is also a psychologist -- she said her uncle is in decline, telling Kruse, "He's never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can't escape from. Psychological disorders are like anything else. If they're unacknowledged and untreated over time, they get worse."

The president's former attorney and "fixer," Michael Cohen claims Trump's "fragile ego has never been tested to this extent."

"While he's creating a false pretense of strength and fortitude, internally he is angry, depressed and manic," he told Kruse. "As each day ends, Trump knows he's one day closer to legal and financial troubles. Accordingly, we will all see his behavior deteriorate until it progresses into a full mental breakdown."

Mark Smaller, the past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association explained that Trump's background under a domineering father is likely coming into play.

"His problem is that he has grown up with vulnerability in terms of his self-worth, self-esteem and a clear sense of himself," Smaller explained. "Somebody with these kinds of vulnerabilities, affirmation, being the center of things, is never enough. Because you can't solve these old wounds, these old, narcissistic wounds—you cannot solve them with affirmation, with being at the center of things. You can't because they persist, so that you need more attention, you need more affirmation, you need to be more at the center of things, all the time, more often. And when realities start to interfere with getting that kind of affirmation, you just want more."

According to Kruse, associates of the president who have known him for years say they are worried about where he is headed, not only as he finishes out his presidential term but after he leaves office.

Trump biographer Gwenda Blair suggested he will never acknowledge or accept he lost the election to former Vice President Joe Biden.

"There's no reckoning with reality. He's going to continue to frame it that he won, he was cheated, he's the victim, and he's going to continue to bend reality as best he can," she explained.

Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee added that the near future with a mentally unstable president is fraught with danger.

"The probability of something very bad happening is very high, unacceptably high, and the fact that we don't have guardrails in place, the fact that we are allowing a mentally incapacitated president to continue in the job, in such an important job, for a single day longer, is a truly unacceptable reality," she warned. "We're talking about his access to the most powerful military on the planet and his access to technology that's capable of destroying human civilization many times over."

You can read more here.

Republicans are furious with Trump for pocketing the money they need for the Georgia runoffs: MSNBC's Kasie Hunt

During an MSNBC "Morning Joe" discussion on Donald Trump's actions in the waning days of his presidency, co-host Wille Geist noted the president is spending all his days playing "victim" in order to scam conservative voters out of more money, which contributor Kasie Hunt said is "pissing off Republicans on the Hill."

As Geist explained, "They're still making a lot of money off that victimhood that has been at the center of Donald Trump's story for so many years. He's now the victim of the media, he's the victim of Democrats, he's become the victim of courts, he's become the victim of state electors doing their job and the victim of the three Supreme Court justices he nominated and got confirmed to the Supreme Court."

"So the narrative of victimhood has to remain in place for the story to continue and for the money to keep flowing and, as you said, Donald Trump is raising a ton of money," Geist told co-host Joe Scarborough. "There are the text messages and emails to the supporters to prove it. 'We need $35 right now to continue to prosecute that case' and that money goes somewhere else, so he's hustling his own voters to build up his own pocketbook and the pocketbook of the Republican Party."

After a discussion on current Congressional negotiations for COVID-19 relief, contributor Hunt turned back to the president's fundraising efforts.

"To your earlier point very, very quickly," Hunt began. "The money that Republicans are gathering, that President Trump is raising -- Republicans on the Hill, they're pissed off because they are taking that money and they are saying, 'Oh, you have to help us win these elections in Georgia to win the Senate majority.' The Trump team is taking that money and doing things for themselves with it."

Hunts comments fall in line with a recent Politico report that stated, "Trump's new political machine is pocketing most of the dough — and the campaigns of the Georgia senators competing in the Jan. 5 races aren't getting a cent."

Politico added, "The predicament has intensified broader concerns within the GOP that Trump will use his post-presidency to advance his own interests at the expense of the party," with GOP consultant Doug Heye insisting, "The reality is Donald Trump does not care about the future of the Republican Party, so if he can raise money off of the Georgia runoffs but keep the money for his own purposes, he will do so."

You can watch the MSNBC clip below:

Here's the case for indicting Trump for federal crimes — even if he pardons himself: attorney

In a comprehensive column for the conservative Bulwark, attorney Philip Rotner examined the multiple legal perils Donald Trump is facing after he leaves office before suggesting federal authorities should indict the president — if warranted — even if he pardons himself.

Although it is only speculation at this point that the president will attempt to absolve himself of all federal crimes by bestowing a presidential pardon upon himself before leaving office, there is also speculation that he will resign and then Vice President Mike Pence would issue the pardon once he assumes the presidency — if only briefly until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

As Rotner writes, and has been well documented, the president will lose his immunity from prosecution at the state level once he leaves office but federal crimes is a completely different matter.

As former federal prosecutors Donald Ayers and Dennis Afergut wrote in USA Today, should Trump self-pardon, "… its legality will be decided in the Supreme Court if Trump were indicted" for federal crimes.

As Rotner explained, Justice Department officials — without interference from the incoming Biden administration — should make the call whether the president committed indictable crimes and then proceed to file charges regardless of a possible self-pardon — then let the courts decide whether they can proceed.

Put simply, he wrote, if the president hands himself an all-encompassing pardon all bets should be off."

Differentiating from a Pence pardon, which he wrote would be game over if it came to appeals to the court to overturn it, Rotner wrote that Trump's self-pardon would be a great test case on the limits of presidential power and could serve as a warning for future presidents.

"Federal prosecutors should view a purported self-pardon as an invitation to file any charges warranted by the facts, full stop. Criminal indictments would not only hold him legally accountable, but also would vindicate the principle that in the United States a president is not a king, cannot be his own judge and jury, and does not have the constitutional authority to pardon himself," he wrote.

Using the opinions of some legal scholars who believe, "…self-pardoning is inconsistent with Article I's insistence that someone removed from office by impeachment shall "nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment," the Bulwark columnist wrote that — should the self-pardon situation arise, prosecutors should put the question of the limitation to the test.

"The only way to test a purported self-pardon would be to file charges, let Trump assert a defense that his self-pardon immunizes him from prosecution, and defeat that defense in court," Rotner wrote. "If there's insufficient evidence to support a criminal charge, that's fine. If there's sufficient evidence to indict, that's fine too. If Trump attempts to pardon himself, it should be challenged by bringing any appropriate criminal charges against him."

Rotner went on to state the president not only has a trail of multiple crimes committed while he has been office that may be prosecutable, but he might be involved in criminality trying to disrupt the transfer of power to the new administration.

Explaining, Trump's "crusade to subvert and overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election … has serious criminal implications," and has is clearly in violation of a federal law making it a criminal act "to 'oppress, threaten, or intimidate' any person in the free exercise of any right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Other statutes dealing with undermining or interfering with elections would also come into play."

However, he suggested investigators might want to avoid going down that rabbit hole writing that it would be a "holy mess."

Summing up, Rotner wrote, "if Trump purports to pardon himself, federal prosecutors should not forgo any prosecution they were otherwise planning to bring," before adding, "Trump should be held accountable outside of the criminal justice system, and the Biden administration should actively pursue concrete changes to the laws, regulations, and norms that govern the presidency."

You can read much more here.