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Trump publicly demands Bill Barr appoint special counsel to probe Biden in off-the-rails Fox News interview

In a wide-ranging and off-the-rails Fox News interview President Donald Trump is demanding Attorney General Bill Barr appoint a special counsel to investigate his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, over Russian disinformation spread by his personal attorney and a conservative media outlet owned by his friend.

Trump told "Fox & Friends" Barr has "got to act" against the former vice president and his son Hunter Biden, insisting the Attorney General give credence to the disinformation before Election Day.

"We've go to get the Attorney General to act, and he's got to act, and he's got to act fast. He's got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption and this has to be known about before the election," Trump demanded, before declaring, "we're going to win the election."

Fox News mentioned the letter sent to Barr by just 11 of the 198 House Republicans calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the Bidens.

Overnight Politico reported: "More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden's son 'has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.'"


Ivanka Trump could be targeted for multiple corruption investigations after her dad leaves office

President Donald Trump's scurrilous attacks on Joe Biden's son could turn the spotlight onto his eldest daughter's shady dealings.

Ivanka Trump, who's a senior adviser in the White House alongside her husband Jared Kushner, has been the subject of repeated ethics complaints detailing her alleged corruption, according to The Daily Beast's Dean Obeidallah.

"If Hunter Biden had received a lucrative deal from a foreign country on the very same day his then-vice president father was meeting with the leader of that foreign country, Trump — and many in the media — would be calling that out as sleazy and possibly illegal," Obeidallah writes. "But Ivanka Trump has done that and worse and we don't hear a peep."

The non-partisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) has been tracking Ivanka Trump's unethical conduct back to early 2017, and has filed complaints covering, among other things, her dealings with China and asked for an investigation into her and Kushner's real estate holdings.

"In April 2017, on the very same day Trump dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government granted preliminary approval for Ivanka's long-sought-after trademarks for her namesake fashion brand," Obeidallah writes.

"Another jaw-dropping example of possible blatant corruption, as CREW detailed, came when Ivanka received preliminary approval for additional trademarks from China's government on June 7, 2018," he adds. "What else happened on June 7, 2018? Her father agreed to lift sanctions against the massive Chinese telecommunication company ZTE, which is partly owned by the Chinese government. The Trumps aren't even trying to hide the conflicts!"

CREW has asked the Department of Justice whether Ivanka Trump and her husband personally benefited from a new tax law that she had worked on, and the watchdog is cataloguing possible violations right up through last week — when she allegedly violated the Hatch Act eight times in 48 hours.

"These allegations demand a full investigation to determine Ivanka and her father's possible role in these sweetheart deals," Obeidallah writes. "Despite what Donald and Ivanka may believe, just because your last name is Trump does not mean you are above the law."

Trump is collapsing into a ball of self-absorbed spite and destruction

In the last weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump is collapsing in on himself. That's the story his campaign and White House team itself seems to want to push in the scurry to avoid blame themselves. On Sunday, a New York Times piece reported on gloom, grievance, and "backbiting" among Trump's staff as his reelection prospects dim, but more of note is the blame getting directed at the big orange hateburper himself.

"Among some of Mr. Trump's lieutenants," reports the Times, there is "a sense that the best they can do for the final stretch is to keep the president occupied, happy and off Twitter as much as possible, rather than producing a major shift in strategy."

Yes, it is truly a shocking development. In the last weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump is ignoring all advice, doubling down on his most hateful behaviors, and choosing closing themes based solely on his own obsessions, grievances, and malevolence. Whoever could have seen that coming? (Aside from everyone.)

The results speak for themselves—no, are so toxic that they are noticeable even to a four-year-flaccid national press. Trump's propensity to target women, select political enemies for demonization, and his renewed vigor in seemingly attempting to goad supporters into violent acts against them are becoming topics with more public weight than any campaign message the shouting twit threatens to stumble into in these last preelection days. It turns out that Donald Trump, left to himself with campaign staff abandoning any further pretense at controlling him, is hateful, spiteful, anti-democratic, misogynistic, openly racist, paranoid, and self-absorbed to the point of self-destruction.

If there's anyone who has survived through four full years of Trump's attentions and they didn't predict that, among his inner circle, they would have to be burrowed so far up his *** that they can peek out his nostrils.

The problem here is that Trump is only going to get worse in the next few weeks—no matter what. If polls continue to look bleak, his narcissistic bitterness will overwhelm him and his demands of his supporters will get even more extreme. His attacks on Democratic leaders that take pandemic precautions—which he considers to be personal attacks on himself and therefore illegitimate, whether the moves save American lives or not—have been getting more vigorous, but his inner circle continues to support those attacks wholeheartedly. He is already obsessing over the notion of invisible election "fraud" as means of delegitimizing the results—as a malignant narcissist, he will adopt whatever delusion is necessary to protect himself from the notion that his own actions are responsible for his failures, as opposed to widespread conspiracy against him.

And if he wins? God help us. A Trump fully untethered from ever having to face voters again, supported by an attorney general who has been so eagerly crooked in tilting the scales of justice that he may already rank as the worst in history, backed by a party fully purged of any but the most obscene lawmakers hailing from the most hard-right of gerrymandered districts; there would be no institutions left. No government scientists, no statistics gatherers, no oversight, no public services, nothing but a hierarchy of sycophants from Washington down to every office. His "conservative" team is turning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into a Trump-tailored propaganda shop during a worldwide pandemic. There's literally nothing left they would not be craven enough to do.

The good news is it looks like he's losing. Possibly even for real this time. The transparent Russian propaganda, though propped up this time by Republican senators and the clownish Rudy Giuliani, isn't motivating his hard-right base into nearly the froth against his male opponent that near-identical hokum spurred when directed at a woman. The Trump question of what do you have to lose has been clarified to all. The notion of choosing a reality show host as world leader does not have the same appeal as it once might have across generic American suburbia.

Trump's campaign and White House staff seem to know it. Last week saw a Washington Post report of the angst of Trump's phalanx of worst enablers as they fretted over possible career repercussions of 1) endlessly lying to the American people and 2) support a corrupt, cretinous toad of a man in 3) reforming the government into a white nationalist-premised, incompetent kleptocracy while destroying longstanding democratic institutions and premises. Consequences! Can you imagine there being consequences for such things? Truly, conservative pundits are beginning to stammer, it would be the end of democracy as we know it.

Lord help us, we are almost there. Only to Election Day, mind you: After that, even under the best-case scenario of American voters delivering a thumping to Trump so severe that not even his scandal-mongers can discredit the results, we still face an embittered Trump and Republican Party willing to dynamite the country into oblivion rather than let it pass unscathed into non-Republican hands.

For now, let's take some comfort in Dear Orange Leader apparently beginning to realize that he is in deep, deep trouble. Hopefully it will unhinge him mostly in ways that harm only himself and his malevolent aides, allies, and hangers-on. If we're lucky he'll demand William Barr arrest himself, or will turn on Rudy Giuliani for failing to sell the Moist Laptop Of Secret Crimes story with enough vim.

GOP senator says he opposed Trump's worst moves in secret. How convenient

As a direct result of being a Trump-backing toady, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a hack during the best of times, is in serious danger of losing his seat to Democratic opponent MJ Hegar in the November elections. In an attempt to stanch the bleeding, Cornyn met with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's editorial board to (ahem) explain himself.

The results, which are being widely mocked around the internets for reasons that will soon become obvious, are an excellent preview of the defense every Republican will be offering up if Donald Trump loses his reelection bid. The less deft ones might want to go ahead and copy-and-paste Cornyn's answers into their own notes now, rather than later; it may be, however, that the Republican Party will distribute them as talking points approximately five minutes after a definitive Trump loss. Or possibly crocheted on a pillow.

Sen. Cornyn wants the editorial board and/or Texas public to know that Actually, he has "disagreed" with Donald Blowhard Corruption Magnet on at least several important Republican things during these last four years. It is just that he did it in "private," because reasons. The Star-Telegram reports that Cornyn told them he privately disagrees with Trump on "budget deficits and debt"—telegraphing an immediate Republican Party reversal-with-somersault switcharoo on whinging about those things endlessly, after allowing and encouraging the Trump team to blow enough holes in the federal budget to make it a colander. He privately disagreed on Trump's bizarrely premised and ridiculously executed trade wars, he wants you to know—trade wars that conflicted mightily with previous conservative ideology, only to be crumpled into a pile of YOLO when Trump did the opposite. Cornyn private disagreed with Trump on pilfering military money for his stupid border wall—it's not clear if this was before or after Cornyn publicly defended Trump doing exactly that and voted to let him do exactly that, so this one was a particularly private objection. He hid it so well he even hid it from himself!

"When I have had differences of opinion, which I have, (I) do that privately," Cornyn told the board, calling it a "much more effective" approach but offering no apparent evidence that it has been "effective" even once.

The short version, then, is this: On the verge of potentially losing his office, Sen. Cornyn would like you to know that despite defending Trump at every turn, including when Trump was impeached for the criminal abuse of his office, he secretly has opposed Trump at least several times and secretly has, you know, the right and non-humiliating opinions on things. Yes, all hail the noble and brave John Cornyn, who absolutely has disagreed with the authoritarian thunderdunce's incompetent moves and incomprehensible stances, but who nobly hid his disagreements rather than take action and risk being tweeted at.

Truly, a more noble figure has never graced public life. What a hero.

Oh—and if Donald wins, please forget he said any of these things. Parkour!

Sigh. Get used to these claims of secret Trump defiance, because if Trump causes Republicans nationwide to be routed from office you are going to be hearing a lot of them, and they're all going to match. Republicans are going to claim they were "against" Trump's incompetence and criminality the whole time, they just, um, did it when you weren't looking. It isn't that they were accessories to Trump's worst behavior, and actively celebrated many of his worst actions. It isn't that they actively worked to prevent criminal acts by Trump from being discovered, whether it be the constant grifting of government funds to line his pockets or an extortion scheme that the Republican Senate scurried to declare a non-issue. It isn't that they used their offices, as lawmakers, to support Trump's racist and white nationalist edicts, or used their committees to push obvious disinformation on his behalf.

Heavens, no. Actually, Cornyn and the others will insist, we were against those things all along. We were very unhappy about all of it. Secretly. Behind the scenes. Please give us new jobs, or hire us on as pundits, or whatever.

This new alleged rediscovery of morals and principles will be the subject of at least six (6) completely ridiculous Republican autobiographies released in the next six months, two dozen eerily similar Republican op-eds, and a full-on interpretive dance pageant held at Republican National Committee headquarters. You can count on it.

If it all sounds like bullshit, congratulations: Your skull has not yet been completely hollowed out by the last four years of insanity. Of course it's bullshit. As senator, John Cornyn allied himself with nearly all of Trump's moves, including the possibly-criminal ones, much less the only stupid ones. There's no doubt he had private concerns about doing some of them, but that didn't stop him. He chose the most craven approach each time, on every topic, and is slinking back to his voters with the most craven approach now, signaling that his principles are now whatever they need to be in this moment, and will be shifting yet again if the moment changes. Whatever you want, voters. Just tell him the tune and he'll dance to it.

Hacks and scoundrels, the lot of them. There's not enough integrity left in the Republican Party to fill a mason jar. If Cornyn saves his seat—and it's going to be close, but he's still a few points ahead—he will switch messages all over again, either surgically attaching himself to Trump or re-re-inventing himself with whatever newly discovered principle each week and month temporarily requires. The Mitch McConnell-led Senate has combined the conspiracy theorizing of House Republicans with a relentless drive to maintain conservative power using every available rule and, when those are not sufficient, inventing new ones; holding power is the only ideology remaining in a party that has gleefully shed all of the others.

Hacks. Just hacks, from top to bottom. They don't even have the decency left to feel shame, when they pull this "well secretly I was actually against those controversial things I supported" nonsense.

Serving oligarchs: Republicans have installed judges to cement minority rules

The analogy of judges being like umpires calling balls and strikes has been used to argue that judges merely apply the law according to the rules, leaving no room for bias. The misleading nature of this claim has never been more apparent.

Objectivity in judging is a myth. As Justice Cardozo noted, "We (judges) may try to see things as objectively as we please, nonetheless we can never see them with any eyes except our own." A test of principled judging is doctrinal consistency. As Ryan Grim and others argue, Judge Barrett fails that test, notably regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When Sonia Sotomayor said at her Supreme Court confirmation hearings that her experience as a Latina woman informs her judging, she broke the rules of the game and had to recant in support of the guise of neutrality. The charade continues.

Serving oligarchs, the Republicans have installed judges to cement minority rule.Dahlia Lithwick notes that Barrett "has clothed herself in a cloak of neutrality" contending that this posture will free her to do "pernicious work that will undercut the very ideals she is sworn to uphold."

Barrett proudly claims to be a constitutional originalist, as if this is beyond reproach, which it most certainly is not. Originalism is both historically and logically problematic. Purportedly constraining judges, it may actually serve to unleash them.

Ronald Dworkin's responsibility theory posits that judging with integrity demands honest and transparent inquiry, analysis and reasoning. Dworkin asserts that any honest consideration of judging must recognize the centrality of interpretation. Under the common law judges do make law, unlike the civil law tradition where law is "found". The making of judicial law can be as corrupted as the making of legislation, and as unappetizing as seeing sausage made.

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's presentation on Dark Money shed light on the anti-democratic influences distorting the law. The Court lacks basic disclosure requirements fundamental to judicial integrity. Litigants appearing before the Court should wear badges demanding an end to the flow of dark money. As this would be disallowed, the public must fight secret plutocratic law.

The unprecedented rush to confirm Barrett denied an opportunity to fully investigate Barrett's record and conflicts. It was pathetic that Senator Whitehouse could only conclude his remarks with a plea to Barrett to "please think about these things" when she is on the Court. With hypocrite in chief Lindsay Graham presiding over Barrett's confirmation hearing precedent and principle were, unsurprisingly, conveniently discarded.

Sandra O'Connor decried unseemly law, by which she meant that which went against public opinion. Today's Court cares little about public sentiment as it routinely rules against it. When McConnell stole the seat from Merrick Garland in 2016 to install Neil Gorsuch in 2017 a nail was put in the coffin of the venerable Court. Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett's confirmation process further stained the Court. The disrespect shown to RBG following her death is abhorrent, and with Trump's overt politicization of Barrett's seat marks a new low point for the Court.

Right wing court-packing has been going on for decades, as has judicial activism by Republican appointed judges. Barrett is a prime example.

Serving oligarchs, the Republicans have installed judges to cement minority rule.

Welcome to the new judicial order where stare decisis and neutrality are (ab)used as swords for the rich. Know the rules and play by them. Stop going to a knife fight with an olive branch. Pack the court if you can democrats. If you fail to do so you will be rendered impotent by the right wing activist federal courts. //

Team Trump's plan to steal the election using the Court to seal the deal is in plain sight.

In 2000, John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett all worked for George W Bush to stop the recount. They may soon vote together to stop the actual counting. Senator Feinstein will surely thank them for their excellent leadership if they do.

Barrett's cagey responses to the senate judiciary committee further expose the discrepancy between judicial theory vs practice. Her refusal to abstain from potential upcoming election challenges before the Court evince a false understanding of the recusal standard. Like her mentor Scalia in Bush v. Gore, she speaks only to actual bias, wearing her robe as a shield, ignoring that the standard for recusal is the appearance of bias. The purpose is to uphold public confidence in the independence and integrity of judicial decision making. There is now little reason for the people to have such confidence.

As the judiciary heads further to the right it is evident it no longer serves the values of the majority of the people. Equal justice under the law is now just a reminder of how wildly the federal judiciary misses the strike zone.

We need to smash the GOP pipeline that produces sycophantic senators. Here's how to do it

Thom Tillis is one of the worst of the worst. The Republican senator from North Carolina has always been a mindless zealot for the conservative cause, but while he's now fighting for his political life as he seeks reelection in a race that could decide control of the Senate, it's critical we remember that craven cowards like him don't just spring forth from nowhere.

Rather, they're cultivated and groomed by the dark architects of the GOP agenda—and the favorite petri dish for the Kochs and their ilk are our state legislatures. That's exactly where Tillis was incubated: For many years before he joined the Senate in 2015, he was a member of the North Carolina state House and was ultimately rewarded for his fealty by getting elevated to speaker.

While he ruled the roost, Tillis did every awful thing imaginable: He blocked Medicaid expansion. He endorsed "personhood" legislation, passed a law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive ultrasounds, and argued states had the right to ban certain types of birth control. He pushed to open up North Carolina's coasts to offshore drilling, said climate change isn't real, and passed a law preventing the state from considering climate science on sea-level rise when making policy. And most notoriously, he enacted a massive voter suppression package that a federal court later struck down, saying it had sought to "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."

With a record like this, it's no wonder he was perfect fodder when Republicans were looking for a Senate candidate six years ago, and it's likewise no surprise that he's performed his duties as a willing Trump sycophant so ably.

But here's the worst part: Thom Tillis never faced a single Democratic opponent in each of his four elections to the legislature. He was unopposed in the general election every single time. And this isn't an isolated story. Far, far too many Republican lawmakers get off with little or no opposition year in and year out. It's why the GOP has been so successful in developing its farm system, producing an endless string of zealots eager to wreck democracy and bow down before Trump.

It's also precisely why we have to crush this pipeline—half of all members of the Senate got their start in state legislatures. The good news is that North Carolina Democrats have put up a fantastic array of candidates for both the state House and Senate this year, and it offers us a three-fer: We can stop the next generation of Thom Tillises, we can develop our own bench, and we can flip both legislative chambers in this crucial swing state right before redistricting starts.

Deregulatory rush shows Trump White House willing to 'scorch the Earth before they go'

With President Donald Trump's re-election very much in doubt, his administration is rushing to ram through regulatory rollbacks that could adversely affect millions of Americans, the environment, and the ability of Joe Biden—should he win—to pursue his agenda or even undo the damage done over the past four years.

Reporting by the New York Times details how the administration is cutting corners as it scrambles to enact as much of its agenda as possible before ceding power on January 20 if Trump loses the election. Required public comment periods and detailed analyses, according to the Times, are being eschewed in favor of streamlined approval processes that have left even staunch deregulation defenders sounding the alarm.

"Two main hallmarks of a good regulation is sound analysis to support the alternatives chosen and extensive public comment to get broader opinion," Susan E. Dudley, director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center and formerly head of regulation in the George W. Bush White House, told the Times. "It is a concern if you are bypassing both of those."

Russell Vought, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told the Times that the president has always "worked quickly... to grow the economy by removing the mountain of Obama-Biden job-killing regulations."

However, critics are warning that some of the proposed changes are being rushed through with insufficient regard to the harm they might cause. Some of the issues that are raising red flags include:

  • Refusing to lower limits on dangerous particulate and ozone pollution, which cause thousands of annual premature deaths.
  • Allowing so-called "bomb trains" that transport highly combustible liquefied natural gas on freight trains.
  • Determining when workers can be classified as employees or independent contractors.
  • Exempting certain commercial drivers from mandatory hour limits and rest periods.
  • Placing limits on how science is used in the air pollution rule-making process.
  • Expanding regulation of immigrants by requiring citizenship applicants to submit biometric data, by forcing sponsors of immigrants to stay off welfare and prove their financial independence.

In response to the reporting, critics of the administration like writer Matthew Kressel said that it helps make clear that if the Republicans in the White House cannot win reelection, they'll "scorch the earth before they go."

And Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, tweeted: "I think people underestimate the amount of time and energy that is going to be needed just to climb out from under the mountain of shit this administration leaves behind."

Many of the changes reflect the agendas of the powerful corporate and other business interests whose key players have donated generously to Trump, belying the president's oft-repeated claim that he is "draining the swamp." Other regulator rollbacks come despite warnings from career officials within federal agencies about the harm they could cause.

Alarmed by the administration's rushed rate of regulatory rollbacks, a group of over 15 Democratic senators earlier this month sent a letter (pdf) to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia warning of "profound economic implications" for some 143 million U.S. workers that would result from curtailing public comment periods for the proposed rule change regarding independent contractors.

"Workers across the country deserve a chance to fully examine and properly respond to these potentially radical changes, and a 30-day comment period is not nearly enough," the letter states.

Donald Trump's reign of corruption has left the federal government in ruins

Who remembers Tom Price? Gee, you might say, that name sounds familiar … he had something to do with the Trump administration, didn't he?

This article first appeared in Salon.

You're right! He was one of those guys who resigned from a cabinet position because he was abusing something … let me see … think I've got it … he was the one who took all those flights on private jets, something like a million dollars worth of flights, including on military aircraft during trips to Europe and Africa with his wife. He refunded $51,887 to the federal government, which he said accounted for the cost of his seat on private charter flights he took before he resigned from Trump's cabinet. But that was just the cost of his seat. The total amount spent to fly old Tom Price around the world on private jets was more than $400,000 in taxpayer dollars.

What cabinet position did he hold that made it necessary for so many trips on chartered private jets and other business aircraft? What was he doing that was so important that he was flying back and forth to Europe and Africa and making trips to Aspen and Salt Lake City and Nashville, and basically jetting all over the place on the taxpayers' dime and staying in first-class hotels and eating out at expensive restaurants and taking his wife along with him a lot of the time? Oh, I remember! He was the secretary of Health and Human Services. He was the dude who resigned after only 231 days in office, the shortest term ever served by an HHS secretary. Price had been a right-wing congressman from Georgia who during his term in the House voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, supported a Republican plan to privatize Medicare, voted to defund Planned Parenthood and sponsored the "Right to Life Act," which would have defined life as beginning at conception and banned all abortions and many forms of contraception.

Busy, busy man, old Tom, with all those flights around the world and fighting to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood and banning abortion. Took up a lot of his time. In fact, it took up the time he could have spent studying the plan to contain pandemics which was left for him at the Department of Health and Human Services by the Obama administration. But old Tom Price didn't study that plan, did he? No, he shelved the Obama pandemic plan, where it stayed as his successor, Alex Azar, was appointed. So it was Azar who was running HHS when COVID hit in February of this year, and it was Azar who left the pandemic plan on the shelf and was first put in charge of the pandemic task force at the White House, until Vice President Pence took over that job. It was Azar who appointed Brian Harrison, a 37-year-old former labradoodle breeder with zero education and zero background in public health as the department's top man in charge of organizing the HHS response to the COVID crisis. Now he has overseen the appointment of two more nonentities with no background in public health or epidemiology to keep Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield "in line," and to control messaging on the coronavirus pandemic coming out of the department. Oh, I almost forgot: Azar also supports ending the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion and every other whacked-out right wing idea that ever came down the pike.

Are you beginning to get the picture here? Health and Human Services is just one Trump cabinet department that has been led by not one, but two half-wit hacks and undercut by the White House from Day One. Both HHS and CDC have been hollowed out and weakened under the control of the Trump White House while some 220,000 Americans have lost their lives and 8 million more have been infected by the COVID virus.

Trump's ravaging of the rest of the government has followed the same script. Remember Scott Pruitt, Trump's first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency? He lasted just about a year before he resigned under the cloud of investigations by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the Government Accountability Office, the EPA inspector general and 11 other federal agencies and congressional committees. Pruitt was another Trumpazoid incompetent who flew around on chartered jets and used EPA employees to reserve tables for dinner at exclusive Washington restaurants. He set the EPA on a course to undo nearly every Obama administration environmental accomplishment. He fired all the scientists on the Board of Scientific Counselors and replaced them with representatives of industries regulated by the EPA.

When he left the agency in disgrace, Pruitt was replaced by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, who proceeded apace to continue the fine legacy left to him by his predecessor. Wheeler has weakened regulations on coal fired electrical plants and declined to raise standards for "fine soot pollution" under a mandated review. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Wheeler's EPA announced that it would not enforce regulations for "routine compliance monitoring [of pollution], integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training and reporting or certification obligations." In other words, polluting industries, here's your get-out-of-jail-free COVID card, courtesy of your friendly EPA.

Donald Trump's pillaging of the rest of the federal government is equally astonishing. He's gone through cabinet secretaries like they were an order of Big Macs. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Gone early on, replaced by Mike Pompeo. Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Out the door in disgrace. In his place, the odious Bill Barr (after a brief appearance by the totally incompetent Matt Whitaker). Secretary of Energy Rick Perry? Bye-bye in a blink. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta? Resigned in disgrace for his connection to a kid-gloves plea arrangement with famed pedophile and presidential friend Jeffrey Epstein. Secretary of Defense James Mattis? Resigned in protest against Trump's haphazard misuse of U.S. military forces. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke? Resigned rather than face federal investigation for using his office for personal gain. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats? Ousted in a Trumpian power play to politicize the intelligence community.

Trump has proceeded to appoint acting secretaries to replace expired acting secretaries. Recently, one of his attempts to get around the rules hit a wall when a federal judge in Montana ordered the removal of the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley, who he found had been serving illegally for 400 days without Senate confirmation. Pendley has been an advocate of selling federal lands to the states or private citizens.

There is more, much, much more, but you get the picture. The damage Trump will be leaving to Joe Biden is incalculable. The death toll caused by his mismanagement of the COVID crisis and the numbers of infections increase by the thousands seemingly every day. The only good thing about a hollowed-out federal government will be the thousands of appointments Biden will be able to make upon taking office, and the dozens of executive orders he'll be able to sign reversing Trump's giveaways to polluters, drug companies and corrupt corporations.

All we've got to do is get out and vote to make that happen.

Why fact-checking may be futile against Trump's black hole of lies

Why fact-checking may be futile against Trump's black hole of lies President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House, responding to the retaliatory missile strikes against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq on Tuesday by the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump is playing a dangerous and cynical game with QAnon

Last night, during the shameful town hall NBC gave Donald Trump so he could avoid another humiliating debate defeat at Joe Biden's hands, Trump played the same game with QAnon that he does with white supremacists and right wing terrorists: Played dumb while giving winking encouragement to his more unhinged followers.

After repeatedly pretending not to know what this "QAnon" thing might be, when asked about it by journalist Savannah Guthrie, Trump then exposed himself as a liar by proving he does, in fact, know what QAnon purports to be about.

"I do know they are very much against pedophilia," he said. "They fight it very hard."

As most people not caught up in the cult of QAnon understand, the loosely organized online movement does not actually fight pedophilia. Its adherents promote a conspiracy theory that claims Trump is some kind of secret warrior in a fight against a worldwide liberal cabal of pedophiles, which leads to accusing innocent people of being sexual predators. That is very different from fighting child sexual abuse in the real world. But by framing QAnon as a sincere movement promoting well-meaning convictions, Trump is establishing a poisonous narrative that threatens to help mainstream it.

This is, after all, how the anti-abortion movement mainstreamed their fringe views, by portraying themselves as good-hearted people who just love the children. That gave pundits and other political gatekeepers permission to look away from their true purpose, which is stripping women of the basic human rights. By claiming to be fighting against child abuse, QAnon appears to be trying to pull off the same trick. And they got a big assist from Trump Thursday night.

So let's be quite clear here: QAnon is not about helping, protecting or saving children from actual sexual predators. They are people who promote lurid and made-up accusations of pedophilia as cover for their true purpose, which is to spin out ever-wilder rationalizations for continuing to support Trump in the face of economic collapse, racist oppression and an out-of-control pandemic.

If anything, the rapidly growing cult is making it much harder for people who are doing the work to fight sexual violence.

"It is not helpful to present child sexual abuse as a shadowy conspiracy, when we know that most perpetrators are actually known to the child," Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, told Salon.

"People who commit child sexual abuse are not strangers or monsters they read about online," Laura Palumbo, the communications director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, added in an email. "The hard reality is that parents, family members, neighbors, mentors and coaches are most often the ones who commit sexual abuse."

This idea that "the danger lurks outside" can make it harder for victims who are seeking help, Hauser noted, because if they tell their story to an adult "it becomes harder for that person to believe" if that adult has bought into QAnon-style images of what child sexual abuse looks like.

In the real world, sexual abuse — both of children and adults — rarely fits the QAnon-style dramatic fantasies of Satanic rituals and kidnapping rings. Instead it looks a lot like, well, the kind of thing Trump was on tape bragging to Billy Bush about — people, mostly men, who exploit their power over another person they know personally in order to sexually violate them.

We can already see evidence of the poisonous way that QAnon directs attention away from serious efforts to combat sexual abuse, especially of minors, and towards their ridiculous conspiracy theories by putting a strain on non-profit organizations that do the real life work of helping children and fighting human trafficking.

QAnon has been using the hashtag #SaveTheChildren on social media as a way to launder their radical views and recruit unwitting new followers. This has presented a problem for the very real child welfare charity Save The Children, who finally responded with a press release in August complaining that the use of their "name in hashtag form" is "causing confusion among our supporters and the general public." They also pointed people to a FAQ sheet debunking the kinds of myths about human trafficking that QAnon promotes.

When QAnon adherents spread an urban legend falsely accusing the furniture company Wayfair of enabling child sex trafficking, the Polaris Project — an organization that fights real human trafficking — was forced to issue a press statement after getting slammed with an "extreme volume" of contacts from people reporting the fake story, which "made it more difficult for the Trafficking Hotline to provide support and attention to others who are in need of help."

Similarly, officials in Oregon reported that 911 and other emergency hotlines were overwhelmed with false reports during the wildfires that swept the state recently, when QAnon accounts started spreading urban legends accusing "antifa" of starting the fires. These calls made it harder for people in distress to get help from first responders, which is alarming considering how dangerous and deadly the fires were. While that example doesn't directly involve sexual abuse, it does illustrate how QAnon whips credulous adherents into a frenzy over fake threats, which then creates a burden and drain on resources needed to fight real dangers in the world.

Zooming out a little more, it's also important to understand that, by supporting Trump, QAnon actually enables many real threats to the welfare of children. Trump's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has undermined regulations meant to protect K-12 students from sexual harassment, a critical tool in fighting child sex abuse. Trump has also cut funding to sexual health care clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, that have long served as safe spaces for young people to report sexual abuse.

We know what's actually needed to fight child sexual abuse, Hauser explained.

"It is helpful to be honest, and to provide young people with honest education about what child sexual abuse actually is," she said. "It's really, really important for young people to understand, and for children to understand that their body is theirs and that they have the right to say no."

And it's important for "young people to be able to be trusted when they say this happened to them."

This kind of advice isn't as exciting as going on a QAnon message board and swapping wild tales of kidnapping rings, but it is the sort of thing that actually stops child abuse. Unfortunately, by spreading misleading tales about what child abuse looks like, QAnon isn't just concocting a silly cover story to justify unjustifiable support for Trump. This movement is flooding the discourse with noise, and making it harder for those who have useful information and advice to be heard.

Trump expresses all his pent-up contempt for women in two words to NBC's Savannah Guthrie

The takeaway from Trump's self-immolation at his Town Hall on Thursday can be found exactly at the 1:57 mark in the video above, when he sarcastically expresses his contempt for moderator Savannah Guthrie, who has clearly gotten under his skin. He mutters it, underneath his breath, and you could be forgiven for missing it, but for a fleeting second we get a glimpse of all the animosity, all the malice, all the narcissism, all the misogyny and contempt this man feels towards women. You can just hear it in his voice:

"Ha Ha. So cute."

From The Independent:

The president and the Ms Guthrie exchanged barbs during a heated opening to the NBC event.
Mr Trump even sarcastically told the TV host "so cute" when she pressed him to denounce QAnon's wild conspiracy theories.

From the New York Times:

"Why aren't you asking Joe Biden questions about why doesn't he condemn antifa?" Mr. Trump asked her.
"Because you're here," she said, matter-of-factly.
"So cute," Mr. Trump responded, in a condescending tone that was unlikely to endear him to the suburban women voters he has been trying to win back.


I think the suburban women will love Trump telling Savannah Guthrie sarcastically that she is "so cute."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) October 16, 2020

And one other note; As of 9:55 EST, nearly a half hour after his own town hall ended, Joe Biden is still there, answering voters' questions.

Trump's town hall stunt backfires

Donald Trump made the wrong choice when he refused to appear for a virtual face-off against Joe Biden.

NBC News was nothing short of reckless in its pursuit to offer the president a platform to continue to promote his dangerous lies even after contracting COVID-19. As Salon's Melanie McFarland wrote, NBC executives' decision to fall back on their long history of providing Trump a national audience "is terrible for democracy." So given the grim state of American media, it's notable that Trump's panicked play to refuse a second debate against the former vice president may have backfired.

A sweaty and often out of breath Trump floundered on his stool under the bright studio lights and accompanying Miami weather Thursday night. While he looked almost suspiciously triumphant over his recent COVID diagnosis, a relentless grilling from moderator Savannah Guthrie certainly didn't do him any favors — at least outside of his already secured base whose Pavlovian disgust for the media was undoubtedly reinvigorated.

Guthrie's past experience working with disgraced "Today" show host Matt Lauer may have prepared her well for managing a most unruly Trump. More than merely moderating questions from would-be voters in the audience, Guthrie was quick to offer relevant follow-ups and fact checks. She was often able to pin down the president's familiar pattern of interrupting the preamble to a question, talking about whatever he wants, pretending the interviewer is interrupting him when she tries to finish, then moving on to the next question. She was prepared and pointed, delivering the grilling I suspect many anti-Trump voters found reassuring.

There was a missed opportunity for Guthrie to work with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, the moderator of Biden's debate which aired at the same time, to have coordinated questions and give voters the debate they were deprived of in a roundabout way — but, alas, television is a business.

With no other reporter to go to, Trump struggled to dodge Guthrie's follow-up questions. In twenty minutes of questioning before turning to the first town hall attendee, Guthrie got Trump to admit that he wasn't tested for COVID before the debate, that he has more than $400 million in foreign debt and that he doesn't read his own retweets. The best part was when she backed him into simultaneously failing to disavow a dangerous and growing conspiracy theory while also disappointing its rabid believers whom he counts as his most fervent supporters.

"Let me ask you about QAnon," Guthrie, a trained lawyer, opened. "It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring, and that you are the savior of that. Now can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true and that –"

Trump interjected: "I know nothing about QAnon ... I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it."

If you've seen even one video testimony from a QAnon devotee, you understand how incredibly deflating Trump's non-denial must feel. This comes the same week that Attorney General Bill Barr admits that he can't deliver John Durham's report on the origins of the Russia investigation before the election. Trump offering his base such dejection this close to Election Day can't be mobilizing.

Clicking away to Biden on ABC offered quite the contrast.

Biden did his best to appear rational and bipartisan, even if he was a bit rambling and evasive in his answers. If you answer questions honestly, however, the opportunity for the Guthrie-sort of grilling vanishes. For that reason, the boring feel of the Biden town hall helped sell him as presidential. That he stuck around and conducted an impromptu, unscripted Q&A further undermines the right-wing push to paint Biden as having dementia.

Ultimately, however, we all lose.

Trump showed himself to be a glib, shameless liar. And that's nothing new. Guthrie's grilling certainly played right into his "liberal" media complaints. But he again spread the lie that masks do not help stop the spread of the coronavirus and with more than 200,000 dead Americans, we're in danger every time he's able to talk to an audience.