Lindsey Graham doubles down on Trump’s hatefest against ‘The Squad’

July 16, 2019

In a town that has shown him very little love, President Donald Trump has found Three Stooges who will always step forward in his defense—Attorney General Bill Barr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Alabama), and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

This week, it was Graham who tried to hold White House critics at bay. He appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday morning to champion Trump for attacks he made on Twitter on July 14.

In those posts, the president told a group of Democratic Congresswomen of color, better known as The Squad—Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan)—to “go back” to where “they came” from.

“You can’t leave fast enough,” he said.

And, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caution to the four freshmen legislators last week not to bash moderate House members, Trump noted, “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

While many characterized those posts as “racists attacks,” Senator Graham supported the jibes—according to The Daily Beast, calling The Squad a “bunch of communists” who are “anti-Semitic” and hate the United States.

Graham—who played golf with the president on Sunday after the president sent those tweets said, “We all know that [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country, they’re calling the guards along our border—the Border Patrol agents—concentration camp guards,” Graham was quoted by the Beast. “They accuse people who support Israel as doing it for the benjamins, they are anti-Semitic, they are anti-America. Don’t get them—aim higher.”

He further called on the president to take aim at their policies rather than personally attacking them.“They’re socialists. They’re anti-Semitic,” Graham declared. “They stand for all the things that most Americans disagree with. Make them the face of the future of the Democratic Party. You will destroy the Democratic Party.”

Co-host Steve Doocy, meanwhile, wondered if Graham was saying the president went “too far” with his attacks. Graham, however, wasn’t about to go down that road.

“I don’t think—aim higher,” he stated. “They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies.”

Trump was obviously extremely pleased with Graham’s on-air performance. A short time after the senator’s interview aired, the president fired off a series of tweets quoting Graham calling the Squad anti-America, finishing it off by asking: “Need I say more?”

While Republicans other than Graham in Washington have remained largely silent on Trump urging women of color to leave the country, the president’s tweets Sunday provided Democrats with an opportunity to show a united front, however temporary.

Democrats across the spectrum, from Ocasio-Cortez’s fellow progressives to close Pelosi allies such as Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), denounced the tweets, with Jeffries calling Trump a “racial arsonist.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Out of office message: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigns

July 15, 2019

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said in a press conference on July 12 that he would resign, amid controversy over a hush-hush plea deal that he and his staff made with billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, while Acosta was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

According to criminal justice sources in the Sunshine State, there was sufficient evidence at that time to prosecute Epstein for sexual assault against dozens of underage girls, but instead Acosta prearranged a pact with the alleged offender—and did not provide details of the settlement to complainants in the case.

Details of the slimy deal—which allowed Epstein to register as a sex offender, but to work in his office six days a week and only to sleep in jail for 13 months—resurfaced on July 6; when the politically connected Epstein, whose friends in high places have included Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, was arrested again on sex trafficking charges after he returned from France by private plane to the New York City metropolitan area.

Following the arrest, those same sources accused Acosta of “rewriting history” when he stated, “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the [Southern District of] New York prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

As the story continued to garner headlines and outrage in the days after Epstein was taken into custody, President Trump remained steadfast in his support of his Labor Secretary, but leading Democratic presidential candidates, including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren-—as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—demanded that Acosta quit.

Acosta finally made the announcement on Friday morning to reporters while standing next to the president outside the White House, according to a report by CNBC. Trump said that Acosta had called him that morning, and that it was Acosta’s decision to quit.

“This was him, not me, because I’m with him,” Trump said in a lengthy exchange with the press before departing the White House en route to events in Wisconsin and Ohio, said CNBC. “I said, ‘You don’t have to do this.’”

Acosta told reporters that he did not want his involvement in Epstein’s controversy to overshadow the administration’s accomplishments. Acosta said he will officially resign a week after his announcement; Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will take his place in an acting capacity, Trump said.

According to the CNBC report, Epstein is accused of luring dozens of underage girls to his Manhattan mansion to give him massages that escalated into sex acts. He is charged in New York with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

Epstein had long been under investigation by both federal and local law enforcement for sex crimes against underage girls that took place from 2002 to 2005 in New York and Florida.

Research contact: @CNBC

Speaker Pelosi tells ‘The Squad’ not to knock heads with more moderate House Democrats

July 12, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid down the law to House Democrats on July 10. The elder statesperson and party leader said that in-fighting among caucus members could not be countenanced—either on Twitter or in media interviews—because it would jeopardize their majority vote.

Without naming names, her target was clear: the four liberal freshmen known as “The Squad,” The Washington Post reported.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay,” Pelosi told Democrats.

But “The Squad”—Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York.), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts)—said she was speaking from a bully pulpit and that they didn’t appreciate her tactics of intimidation.

The four are struggling with the speaker’s moves to isolate them in recent weeks, according to the Post’s interviews with the lawmakers, congressional aides and allies.

According to the news outlet, Pelosi has made at least half a dozen remarks dismissing the group or their far-left proposals on the environment and health care. More recently she scorned their lonely opposition to the party’s emergency border bill last month.

And, the Post reported, she defended those comments Wednesday, saying, “I have no regrets about anything. Regrets is not what I do,” doubling down on her claim that the group has little power in the House.

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post. “But the persistent singling out . . . it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

The four women are trying to figure out how to respond, texting one another and weighing whether to confront Pelosi to ask her to stop. But for now, they are focused on their congressional duties, even as they defend their votes in the House that have drawn Pelosi’s ire.

“Thank God my mother gave me broad shoulders and a strong back. I can handle it. I’m not worried about me,” said Pressley, who called Pelosi’s comments “demoralizing.” “I am worried about the signal that it sends to people I speak to and for, who sent me here with a mandate, and how it affects them.”

However, their ability to work together—or refusal to—will have major implications for Democrats as they seek to oust President Trump and retain their majority in next year’s election.

“A majority is a fragile thing,” Pelosi said, according to two people present for the remarks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting, adding that members should show “some level of respect and sensitivity” to more moderate colleagues: “You make me the target, but don’t make our [moderates] the target in all of this, because we have important fish to fry.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Lindsey Graham blames media for downfall of British ambassador

July 11, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) “blamed the messenger” on July 10 —the news media—for forcing British Ambassador to the United States Sir Kim Darroch to step down following the leak of his secret cables.

Graham tweeted that the diplomat who infuriated the Trump administration “got a raw deal” from the press, according to a report by The Hill.

The ambassador’s sudden comeuppance—which was covered by U.S. and global media outlets—followed the disclosure of his opinions about the Trump administration, made in a report to the British government.

In that report, which was leaked to the UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper, the British ambassador called Trump “inept,” “insecure,” and “incompetent”—and noted that the White House is currently “uniquely dysfunctional.”

The ambassador also noted that he did not have much hope for the rest of the U.S. president’s term in office. “We don’t really believe the administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”

After the comments became public, Trump immediately clapped back—escalating the situation in a July 8 tweet: “I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him.”

Early on July 9, the president tweeted again, “The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy….I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool.”

As the situation continued to deteriorate, the ambassador made his decision.

In his letter of resignation, issued on Wednesday morning, Darroch said, “Since the leak of official documents from this Embassy, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador. I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.”

Therefore, he remarked, “Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”

Although Graham pointed a finger at the press to protect the president after the resignation became public, it is clear that the “current circumstances” were caused by Darroch and Trump—and not the members of the press who reported on it.

The ambassador will stay on until a replacement is identified.

Research contact: @thehill

NBC: Mitch McConnell’s U.S. ancestors owned 14 slaves, bringing reparations issue close to home

July 10, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)—who said recently that he opposes paying government reparations to the descendants of American slaves—has a family history that is deeply entwined with that controversial issue: Two of his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners, U.S. census records show, according to an exclusive report by NBC News.

The two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county “Slave Schedules” in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

The details about McConnell’s ancestors, discovered by NBC News through a search of ancestry and census records, came in the wake of recent hearings on reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,”McConnell said June 18, a day before the House reparations hearing. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African-American president.”

NBC News, in several phone calls and emails to McConnell’s office, asked if the senator was aware that his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners. The office did not respond to those requests.

Slavery experts have stressed that descendants of slave owners should not be held personally responsible for the deeds of their forebears. But they have also argued that the families that descended from slave owners, like McConnell’s, are likely to have benefited from the labor of slaves that propped up farm families in earlier generations — a point made by many reparations supporters, who have said that descendants of slaves were never compensated for the economic benefit their forebears made to white families.

“Smaller farms and plantations still benefited enormously from the unpaid labor of enslaved people, which likely helped them build multigenerational wealth,” Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington. DC, told NBC News.

Collins’ assertion is supported by research done by two American professors and one Danish college professor, who found that the Southern slave owners were able to rebound more rapidly economically than non-slave owners after the Civil War.

“We see recovery for the sons of both small and large slaveholders, as well as in the counties that specialized in non-plantation crops,” wrote the authors of  The Intergenerational Effects Of A Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After The Civil War,” a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the nation’s leading nonprofit economic research organization.

McConnell has not mentioned—either personally, or in his 2016 autobiography, The Long Game—that his family owned slaves.

As a legislator, he generally has been supportive of civil rights measures—and he has said that his parents, whom he has described as “very enlightened Southerners,” opposed the rampant segregation that surrounded his family in northern Alabama

However, like most Republicans, he supported the narrowing of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013, and has also been an advocate for strong voter ID laws. Both positions have been criticized by current civil rights leaders for making it more difficult for minorities to vote.

A strong supporter of President Donald Trump, McConnell has repeatedly refused to take up bills in the Senate that have been passed by the Democratic-majority House—earning him the nickname, Grim Reaper, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California).

The slavery issue, as well as his reluctance to discussion reparations, will not aid his cause, as he stands for re-election in 2020 against Amy McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and combat pilot who says that McConnell is to blame for the dysfunction in Washington. Indeed, in her announcement video, McGrath said that the majority leader had turned the capital into “something we despise.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Amash renounces Republican party; will not rule out a run against Trump

July 9, 2019

Representative Justin Amash (I-Michigan)—who last week renounced his membership in the Republican party—said on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s personal attacks against critics might intimidate others in the G.O.P. from speaking out against him; but clarified, “It doesn’t scare me,” Reuters reported.

Amash, 39, became the first Republican congressman to speak out in favor of impeaching Trump in mid-May, after the release of the Mueller report. He said the investigation of Russia’s interference into the 2016 U.S. election had found abundant evidence that Trump had obstructed justice—bucking his party and echoing the conclusions of many Democrats.

Indeed, Amash believes that other Republicans would have joined him in denouncing the president’s oppositional and unethical conduct, had they not been afraid of being singled out by their colleagues for personal, nasty attacks.

“It’s a big part of it. They’re afraid they’ll be attacked,” Amash said on CNN’s State of the Union program on July 7.

“I get people sending me text messages, people calling me, saying ‘thank you for what you’re doing,'” Amash told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a wide-ranging interview.. “They’re not saying it publicly. And I think that’s a problem for our country, it’s a problem for the Republican Party, it’s a problem for the Democratic Party when people aren’t allowed to speak out.”

In response to requests for comment, the president has denied any wrongdoing.

Amash told CNN he is running in Michigan for reelection to Congress as an Independent. Asked about possibly running for president as an independent or libertarian, Amash said, “I still wouldn’t rule anything like that out.”

Trump officially began his re-election campaign on June 18 and more than 20 Democrats are campaigning for their party’s nomination to run against Trump in 2020.

When Amash said he was leaving the party, Trump tweeted, “Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party.”

On Sunday, Amash said that “most people understand that’s not how people are supposed to talk about each other and to each other.”

He said Trump “thinks people owe loyalty to him. But people are elected to Congress with an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath to support and defend one person.”

Amash said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is mistaken in holding off fellow Democrats from pursuing impeachment proceedings.

In the same interview, Amash said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should start impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“From a principled, moral position, she’s making a mistake. From a strategic position, she’s making a mistake,” Amash said. “If she believes, as I do, that there’s impeachable conduct in there, then she should say so. She should tell the American people, we’re going to move forward with impeachment hearings and potentially articles of impeachment.”

Research contact: @CNNPolitics

In a moment that evokes spirit of John McCain, candidate Pete Buttigieg stands against racism

July 8, 2019

At a July 4 campaign event in Iowa, Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg emphatically reproached a man for a racist comment. It was a move that brought back stunning memories of Senator John McCain during his own presidential run in 2008, when he clapped back at a woman’s suspicions about Barack Obama at a town hall meeting—saying, “I have to tell you. Senator Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.”

The issue that provoked the biased remark in Iowa actually had originated in mid-June. At that time, Buttigieg—who currently is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana—pulled himself off the campaign trail for a few days in the wake the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in his hometown. Since then, he has been asked—by both the press and the electorate—to directly address the issues of race and policing.

At the July 4 barbecue, David Begley of Omaha, Nebraska, took the spotlight when he suggested to Mayor Pete, “Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crimes and doing drugs.”

“Sir, I think that racism is not going to help us get out of this,” Buttigieg told Begley, according to a report by CNN Politics.

Buttigieg added.The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence there’s systemic racism. It is evidence of systemic racism, and with all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too.”

He went on to say, “When black people and white people are treated the same by the criminal justice system, it will be easier for white people and black people to live in this country and it will be easier for law enforcement to do their job. But racism has no place in American politics or in American law enforcement.”

“He dismissed me as a racist, which I resent,” Begley told CNN in an interview afterward.

However, Buttigieg has won praise—not only for saying that racism has no place in America, but for honestly admitting that he wanted to make the South Bend Police Department more diverse, but hadn’t yet accomplished the job.

Buttigieg was asked about the shooting during the first Democratic presidential debate and was asked why South Bend’s police force isn’t more diverse.

“Because I couldn’t get it done,” he said at the debate.

“We are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community,” he added. “All of the steps we took, from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”

Buttigieg first acknowledged that he had “not succeeded” in recruiting a diverse police force in a tense town hall in South Bend following the shooting.

Research contact: @CNN

‘Tanks for the memories,’ President Trump, on July 4

July 4, 2019

For a military school graduate who never served as a combatant, the July 4 Salute to America celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., could be the closest President Donald Trump ever gets to the accoutrements of armored warfare.

The event will feature displays of military hardware; flyovers by an array of jets, including Air Force One, the deployment of tanks on the Mall; and an extended pyrotechnics show.

Even more unusual for the nationwide nonpartisan celebration will be a presidential address at the Lincoln Memorial that Democrats fear will ramble across political lines into Trump’s usual campaign rally palaver.

And the expense for all of this, plus the usual concert and parade—and any repairs necessitated afterwards by damage to local roads from the tanks—will be higher than ever before.

The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration, The Washington Post reported on July 2..

The diverted park fees represent just a fraction of the extra costs the government faces as a result of the event. By comparison, former Park Service deputy director Denis P. Galvin told the Post, the entire Fourth of July celebration on the Mall typically costs the agency about $2 million.

For Trump’s planned speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the White House is distributing VIP tickets to Republican donors and political appointees, the news outlet reported—prompting objections from Democratic lawmakers, who argue that the president has turned the annual celebration into a campaign-like event.

The Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign confirmed Tuesday that they had received passes they were handing out for the event.

 “We’ve never seen anything like this,” Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, environment and related agencies, said in a phone interview with the Post. “No ticketed political event should be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Udall said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had yet to respond to a request he and two other Senate Democrats made two weeks ago for a full accounting of how the event would be conducted and what it would cost.

The White House referred questions about the celebration to the Interior Department, which declined to comment.

Brendan Fischer, federal reform director for the Campaign Legal Center, said in an interview with the newspaper that while it may not violate federal ethics law to distribute limited tickets to the president’s speech to party contributors, “it certainly looks bad.”

Since federal appropriations law prohibits using public money for political purposes, Fischer noted, the issue will depend on what Trump says in his speech. If he refers to some of the 2020 presidential hopefuls, or polling related to the race, Trump’s reelection campaign may be required to reimburse the U.S. Treasury.

“The content of the event, and the nature of the event, is probably the determining factor,” as opposed to donors getting to see Trump up close, he said.

The  Salute to America marks the culmination of Trump’s two-year quest to mount a military-style extravaganza inspired by his visit to a Bastille Day celebration in Paris in 2017, The Washington Post reported. His previous efforts to stage a Veterans Day military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in 2018 were scuttled after estimated costs ballooned to the tens of millions of dollars.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

America may settle for nuclear freeze with North Korea

July 2, 2019

It was a shot seen around the world: Creating just the kind of global drama that he craves, U.S. President Donald Trump took a step into the Demilitarized Zone to shake hands with North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un on June 30, amid a swirl of Eastern and Western cameramen and security staff.

But for weeks before the meeting—which started as a Twitter offer by the president to Kim to drop by and “say hello”—a real idea has been taking shape inside the Trump administration that officials hope might create a foundation for a new round of negotiations, The New York Times reports.

No longer would America negotiate for North Korean denuclearization. The new “ask,” according to the Times, would be for a nuclear freeze—one that would essentially preserve the status quo; and, in doing so, recognize and accept the North as a nuclear state.

And while such an agreement would fall far short of President Trump’s original intention to disarm Korea, it might provide him with a retort to campaign-season critics—who say that Kim has been playing the American president brilliantly by giving him the visuals he craves while holding back on real concessions.

The administration still insists in public and in private that its goals remain full denuclearization; however it is willing to concede to a freeze as a limited first step.

American negotiators would seek to expand on Kim’s offer in Hanoi in February to give up the country’s main nuclear-fuel production site, at Yongbyon, in return for the most onerous sanctions against the country being lifted. Trump, under pressure from And it certainly would look like progress, after three personal meetings—in Singapore, in Hanoi, and now in the DMZ Zone—have accomplished little but smiles and handshakes.

However, according to the Times, on Sunday evening, the State Department’s envoy to North Korea, Stephen E. Biegun, said that this account of the ideas being generated in the administration was “pure speculation” and that his team was “not preparing any new proposal currently.”

“What is accurate is not new, and what is new is not accurate,” he said.

Research contact: @nytimes