August 14, 2020
President Donald Trump admitted during a TV interview on August 13 that he is attempting to undermine the U.S. Postal Service by blocking funding for the agency—which is expected to deal with a high volume of mail-in ballots during this election season.
“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said Thursday in an interview on Fox Business. “But if they don’t get [it], that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Specifically, The Huffington Post reported, during an exclusive interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, the president said negotiations over the fourth economic stimulus relief package were held up, in part, due to Democrats’ demands for billions of dollars in funding toward mail-in voting.
In another exercise in blame-shifting, Trump said, “It’s their fault,” referring to the Democrats. “They want $3.5 billion for something that’s fraudulent … for the mail-in votes, universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion for the post office. They need that money so it can work and they can take these millions and millions of ballots.”
Indeed, according to HuffPost, Trump has repeatedly spread conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and has suggested he’ll cast doubt on the results of the November election. States are working to increase their capacity for mail-in voting, as many Americans are expected to vote by mail this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Election watchdog and voting rights groups are deeply concerned that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and the Postal Service will result in increased voter suppression.
At a press conference Wednesday, Trump gave similar reasons for why he would not approve emergency congressional funding for the cash-strapped and backlogged agency.
“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess, right?” Trump said. “Are they going to do it, even if they don’t have the money?”
He also claimed the election would “be the great rigged election in history” and “one of the greatest frauds in history.”
Research contact: @HuffPost
August 13, 2020
When former Vice President Joe Biden began thinking about potential running mates this spring, one of the first people to come to mind, insiders told The Hill this week, was Senator Kamala Harris (D-California).
Harris, a first-generation American who is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica—and who previously had served as the district attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, as well as the very first female, Black attorney general of her home state—was both an historical and logical choice for VP.
According to The Hill, “She was a friend to [Biden’s] late son Beau Biden, a former top prosecutor for the state of California and the kind of fighter needed in a campaign against President [Donald] Trump. On top of all that, she already had been through the slugfest of a presidential primary campaign, which included several direct confrontations with Biden, himself.”
And she is the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where she currently is serving her first term.
Over the weekend, upon making his final decision, Biden finished where he began.
“She was always in the narrative from the beginning,” one source who is close to Biden told The Hill. “And even after that, it was always Kamala and this person and Kamala and that person. She was never ever out of the picture. She was always in the mix.”
“He did what he always does,” the source said. “Whenever there’s a discussion about policy or the issues of the day, he would come in with what he thought; but he will and does entertain everyone’s opinions.”
“At certain points, it seems like he may change his mind, but typically he ends up where he starts,” the confidant added.
After pledging to pick a woman as his running mate, Biden brought in various Democrats, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and Representatives Karen Bass (California) and Val Demings (Florida).
“I think he wanted to consider every qualified woman out there,” the confidant said. “Whitmer definitely was having a moment with COVID, Keisha Lance Bottoms also caught his attention, Val Demings also looked good for a while there; he liked Elizabeth Warren’s ideas. He basically wanted to try all of that on for size and see how it added up.”
“But I think he felt like [Harris] was not only the best person for the campaign, but the best partner to govern the country,” the confidant added.
Biden talked at length about nominating someone he is close with—a partner that he said would be “simpatico” with him personally and professionally. He also wanted assurance that Harris, who had been adversarial during the debates, would “have his back”—both during the campaign and, if they won, in the White House.
But in the end, it was the emotional tug of his son Beau Biden that may have tipped the scales, The Hill contends. Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Biden was devastated by his son’s death and declined to run for president in 2016 as he mourned.
Now, as the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden cast his selection of Harris in part as a tribute to his late son, remembering how Beau introduced him to her. At the time, Harris was attorney general of California and Beau was attorney general of Delaware.
“[Beau] had enormous respect for her and her work,” Biden said. “I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”
There were, of course, political considerations for Biden as well.
Democrats say it was imperative he choose a woman of color following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd that provoked a national conversation about race.
During the selection process, a group of influential Black women pressed Biden to choose a Black running mate. A source close to the campaign said Biden’s conversations with renowned Democratic advisers Minyon Moore, Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry and Karen Finney “stuck with the VP” during an important moment in the country’s history.
A white vice presidential pick, many Democrats said, would have risked low turnout among Black voters on Election Day, one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.
“Had he not picked a person of color, it would have been a slap in the face to the entire community on top of just being a terrible political move,” one Democrat who has raised money for Biden advised The Hill.
Still, those who know Harris well say the senator grew increasingly nervous about her standing in the final weeks of the process, particularly as Bass started to make headlines for receiving key endorsements.
“I think in some respects, she thought, ‘I’m a national figure. I’ve run a national campaign, I’ve been vetted.’ And here she is, a senator from California in a race against a congresswoman from California,” said one Harris ally.
Throughout the process, Harris was also seen as the “safe” pick among those on Biden’s shortlist.
“Internal polling showed she was risk-averse,” said one Biden ally. “She was the least polarizing choice. Of course she has baggage, but who doesn’t?”
Indeed, while Harris has some clear drawbacks—she said she believed women who accused Biden of unwanted touching, has been criticized on the left for prosecuting racial minorities for low-level drug offenses; and embraced single-payer healthcare during the primaries — Biden insiders view those as manageable.
And Biden World seems content with Harris.
“He’s running a campaign of low risk, and she was the best choice,” said one Biden ally. “And the fact of the matter is, she’s the best complement to him of all the contenders. So that’s how she won the race.”
Research contact: @thehill
August 4, 2020
Bill Maher— the host of Real Time on HBO who has predicted for more than three years that we will not see the last of President Donald Trump if he is not re-elected—agrees with at least one Congressional leader about the POTUS’s true intentions.
Both Maher and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) are becoming increasingly fearful that the current POTUS will not leave the Oval Office when the time comes on January 20, 2021.
During an interview with Clyburn Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union, host Dana Bash asked the 14-term congressman about a PBS interview that aired on Friday, July 31, during which he said, “Trump thinks that the American people will be duped by him, like the people of Germany was duped by Adolf Hitler.”
When Bash asked whether Clyburn really thought Trump “is comparable to Adolf Hitler,” the number-three House Democrat did not shy away from comparing the president to a brutal totalitarian although the historical reference changed. “I feel very strongly that this man has taken on strong-arm tactics. And I feel very strongly that he is Mussolini,” Clyburn said. “Putin is Hitler.”
Clyburn went on to explain that he thinks Trump will try to cling on to power, Slate noted. “I believe very strongly that this guy never had any idea about being—want to peacefully transfer power. I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections,” Clyburn said. “I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue hold onto office.”
Clyburn went on to call on Americans to “wake up” because history is full of warning signs. “I know a little bit about history, and I know how countries find their demise. It is when we fail to let democracy and the fundamentals of which is a fair, unfettered election. And that’s why he is trying to put a cloud over this election, floating the idea of postponing the elections,” Clyburn said.
Research contact: @Slate
August 3, 2020
Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York)—who is serving out his 16th term in Congress after losing his seat in the June primary to progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman—intends to go out fighting, both for his constituents and against the GOP.
Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee , subpoenaed the State Department on Friday, July 31— demanding copies of documents that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already has provided to Senate Republicans investigating Joe Biden, Politico reported.
According to a press release issued by the committee, the subpoena demands all records purportedly dealing with the Bidens and Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings the department has produced to Republican-led Senate committees. Despite delivering Republican Senate chairmen thousands of pages of records, the Department of State has refused Chairman Engel’s request to provide duplicates to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, Chairman Engel’s subpoena seeks internal State Department correspondence about responding to Congress.
“After trying to stonewall virtually every oversight effort by the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last two years, Mr. Pompeo is more than happy to help Senate Republicans advance their conspiracy theories about the Bidens,” Engel said in a statement. “I want to see the full record of what the department has sent to the Senate and I want the American people to see it too.”
Engel also stated that, “Just days after the conclusion of President Trump’s impeachment trial, in which Secretary Pompeo refused to comply with a duly authorized subpoena for documents and attempted to block testimony of key witnesses, the State Department producing documents to Senate Republicans to help advance a political smear of Vice President Biden.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Politico.
Engel has threatened to subpoena for the documents since May, when the probe of Burisma by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) began ramping up. Johnson has denied that his investigation is meant as a political cudgel or is being influenced by foreign interests seeking to hurt Biden, Politico says.
The House impeached President Donald Trump last year for pushing Ukraine’s leaders to investigate Biden and other Democrats, and withholding security assistance to the country—amid its war with Russia—to exert pressure.
Now, Republicans clearly are trying to change the plot line. Indeed, Trump allies responded by leveling discredited allegations that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, an energy company where his son Hunter served on the board.
Conversely, State Department leaders testified during impeachment proceedings that Biden’s work in Ukraine was done in accordance with department policy, and that efforts to remove the prosecutor were part of an international push to root out corruption.
More recently, top Democrats have cited intelligence suggesting that at least some of the anti-Biden efforts are being fueled by Kremlin-aligned Ukrainians seeking to interfere in the 2020 election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have demanded an all-Congress FBI briefing about intelligence they say shows a specific foreign plot to influence congressional action, Politico reports..
After attending a general election security briefing, Pelosi on Friday morning, July 31, blasted the administration for “withholding” evidence of foreign interference.
The subpoena, directed to Secretary Pompeo, requires that the records be turned over by August 7.
Research contact: @politico
July 31, 2020
Better late than never elected? President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the November general election on Twitter on Thursday, July 30, NBC News reports.
The president seems to be panicking about his prospects for re-election, as the U.S. economy shrinks amid the coronavirus pandemic and voters’ support for his opponent, Joe Biden, surges.
But, NBC notes, the president has no power to delay an election, and Trump’s suggestion has raised alarm bells among legal experts and presidential historians as he continues to push evidence-free claims about the security of voting by mail.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump said on Twitter. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
While states have the authority to delay their primary elections, only Congress can change the date for the general election for president under the Constitution. Since 1845, Congress has required the appointment of presidential electors (now by election in every state) to take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which this year is November 3.
As to whether an election could be delayed indefinitely—such as for a public health emergency as Trump suggests—legal experts have informed NBC News that such a ploy is “out of the realm of possibility.” Even if Congress did agree to change the date of the general election, Trump’s term still would expire on January 20 in accordance with the 20th Amendment of the Constitution.
“That’s constitutionally impossible,” Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said of any indefinite delay. “The president’s term expires and there is no way for him to continue in office beyond January 20 without being re-elected.”
And there’s quite a few things that have to happen before that date: States need to choose their electors for the Electoral College, who then need to meet and choose the president. Then, Congress has to count the Electoral College votes.
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss pointed out that U.S. elections have persisted through wars.
“The president’s tweet is more an attempt to (improperly, and without any evidence) denigrate the election we’re going to have than a real attempt to postpone,” Justin Levitt, a constitutional law and democracy expert at Loyola Law School, said in a text message to NBC.
Levitt was previously a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, working on voting rights litigation.
In his tweet, Trump also gets the facts wrong about mail voting.
“Universal mail voting” and “absentee voting” are not substantively different methods of voting: Both involve the use of ballots transmitted by mail, filled out and returned by registered voters.
Most states are expanding existing absentee voting programs— which Trump appears to praise in his tweet—so people can vote more safely, and there is no nationwide move towards all-mail elections. A handful of states—including Washington and Utah, which already vote entirely or almost entirely by mail—are continuing that practice in 2020.
The vast majority of states are planning a mix of mail and in-person voting in November. Potter suspects that the president’s complaint lies in how voters get their mail ballots—by default or by request.
“If what he means is that people are sent a ballot at home without having to first request it, which is what I think he’s saying, then almost no states do that,” Potter said. “The idea that the whole country is doing voting by mail rather than requesting an absentee ballot is simply factually completely untrue.”
Former Republican strategist and media consultant Rick Wilson replied to the president’s tweet, saying: “Every GOP official should be put on the record today. Simple yes or no answer. ‘Should we delay the election?’ Watch how many of them say, ‘What is Twitter?’ ‘Donald who?’ ‘I haven’t seen the tweet.’ ‘Ya ne govoryu po angliyski.’ ‘I’m late for lunch.’”
Former presidential candidate Tom Steyer simply tweeted: “Somone please inform the president that’s not how this works.”
Research contact: @NBCNews
July 30, 2020
What’s more, Gohmert may have exposed Attorney General Bill Barr to the virus, while the AG was on the Hill to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 28, reporter Olivia Beavers tweeted.
Gohmert defended not wearing a mask, even when he’s not able to social distance, in an interview with CNN last month— saying he’d only wear a face covering regularly if he contracted the virus.
“I don’t have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it,” he said at the time. “But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask.”
The conservative, age 66, attended Attorney General William Barr’s House hearing on Tuesday and spoke with Barr within six feet without wearing a mask.
Indeed, Beavers, a national security reporter for The Hill, tweeted, “Rep. Gohmert, who was without a mask, stood outside the men’s bathroom where Barr went before he walked into the “hearing” room. Once out, Gohmert approached the AG and exchanged a comment or two. Would say from memory, they were within arms length.”
According to The Hill, Gohmert is now the tenth member of Congress with a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19. Representatives. Joe Cunningham (D-South Carolina.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), Neal Dunn (R-Florida), Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania), Tom Rice (R-South Carolina) and Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia;s well as Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), have also tested positive for the disease.
A spokesperson for Barr said Wednesday that the attorney general would be tested for the coronavirus following the exposure to Gohmert.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, may want to take a test, too. Word is, he used the same microphone as Gohmert at the Tuesday hearing.
Research contact: @thehill
July 29, 2020
On Monday, July 27—one day before Attorney General Bill Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee—Representative Eric Swalwell (D-15th District-California), a member of that panel, said that ever since President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen has been sentenced to prison (and then, home confinement), Barr “has taken the job.”
“Unfortunately, Bill Barr already had a job—as Attorney General of the United States, our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Swalwell wrote in a Newsweek op-ed published Monday. “And we must not let him do both jobs at once.”
Swalwell maintained that Cohen’s actions to shield the president from ridicule—as in the hush money payout of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016—are similar to actions Barr has taken in public office.
“It was reprehensible, but Cohen has taken responsibility for his actions and now is paying the price,” Swalwell wrote. “Meanwhile, Barr seems to be carrying out similar order—but deploying weapons more powerful than Cohen could’ve dreamed of: the power and authority of the U.S. Justice Department.”
The congressman listed examples in his op-ed that are likely topics during the House hearing, such as the administration’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s sentence and its dismissal Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was leading several investigations into Trump’s associates, including his other personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Swalwell said that during the hearing Barr “will be expected to explain in detail why he has put President Trump’s personal and political needs above the interests of the American people and our justice system.
“Unless he can provide us with valid rationales for his actions—beyond the self-serving excuses he has provided publicly so far—we must assume the Attorney General has been reduced to the role of an underworld fixer for Donald Trump, which has terrible implications for the health of our democracy and for Americans’ faith in government,” Swalwell wrote.
Research contact: @thehill
July 28, 2020
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Friday, July 24, to reject a Nevada church’s plea to overturn state public-health orders limiting attendance at services—marking the second time Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the liberal justices to uphold emergency measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, located east of Reno in Lyon County, Nevada, argued that public-health orders issued by Governor Steve Sisolak (D) allowed casinos and other secular businesses greater leeway than houses of worship—which were capped at 50 people for indoor services, The New York Times reported.
Governor Sisolak said his order placed fewer restrictions on houses of worship than on movie theaters, museums and zoos. While casinos could admit up to 50% of their capacity, the governor argued that pervasive state regulation of the gambling industry, including on-premises enforcement officers, disqualified them for comparison to unregulated churches.
The Supreme Court denied the appeal without comment. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan comprised the majority.
Four of the more conservative justices dissented, as they did in May when the same majority declined to block similar California orders capping attendance at religious services.
“The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or black-jack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the principal dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.
Justice Alito said that at the outbreak of the pandemic, officials should have broad discretion over emergency measures, adding that several months into the health crisis, greater court oversight was called for.
He said it was “hard to swallow” the state’s claim that casino regulators would keep a firm grip on contagion within well-attended gambling palaces while public health required holding the church to a lower limit.
Justice Kavanaugh filed a separate opinion laying out his own views of the case.
Although the majority didn’t elaborate on Friday’s order, in May, Chief Justice Roberts filed an opinion explaining why he voted to uphold Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order capping attendance at indoor church services.
“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement,” the chief justice wrote then, adding that the Constitution principally assigns such judgments “to the politically accountable officials of the States.”
Research contact: @nytimes
July 27, 2020
The Trump Administration on July 23 discredited news that White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller’s 97-year-old grandmother had died of the coronavirus—the strong disclaimer coming after his uncle reported her passing due to COVID-19 on July 4.
Mother Jones first reported on Thursday that Miller’s uncle David Glosser was “angry and outraged” at President Donald Trump’s “lack of response” to the crisis, which has left more than 140,000 people dead in the United States and has infected more than 4 million.
“This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old,” Glosser wrote on Facebook on July 4. “She survived the acute infection but was left with lung and neurological damage that destroyed her will to eat and her ability to breathe well enough to sustain arousal and consciousness.”
“This is categorically false and a disgusting use of so-called journalism when the family deserves privacy to mourn the loss of a loved one,” the White House told the magazine.
Rather, the White House prevaricated, “His grandmother did not pass away from COVID. She was diagnosed with COVID in March and passed away in July, so that timeline does not add up at all. His grandmother died peacefully in her sleep from old age.”
Mother Jones obtained a copy of the death certificate, which lists “respiratory arrest” linked to COVID-19 as the cause of death. When the news outlet asked about the document, the White House said it was “categorically false.”
“She had a mile [sic] case of COVID-19 in March,” a spokesperson responded. “She was never hospitalized and made a full and quick recovery.”
However, Glosser directly denied the Trump administration’s claim that his mother didn’t die of COVID-19 complications, saying the White House had attempted to conceal the underlying cause of her death.
“Keeping the tragic facts about COVID deaths of our countrymen and women, young and old, from the American public serves no purpose other than to obscure the need for a coherent national, scientifically based, public health response to save others from this disease,” he told Mother Jones.
Research contact: @MotherJones
July 24, 2020
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer, Michael Cohen be returned to home confinement, after the he was sent back to prison earlier this month over a dispute with federal corrections officials, The Hill reports.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, accused the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of trying to violate Cohen’s First Amendment rights by imposing a gag order as a condition of his home confinement.
“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail as retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish the book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media” and elsewhere, Hellerstein said during a court hearing on July 23.
Cohen had been writing a book about his time working for Trump and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit this week alleging that he was sent back to prison in retaliation for the tell-all. Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for various charges, including fraud and lying to Congress.
“This order is a victory for the First Amendment,” Cohen’s attorney Danya Perry said in a statement after the hearing. “The First Amendment does not allow the government to block Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement. This principle transcends politics. We are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”
Cohen had been released to home confinement in May amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the prison population, The Hill said..
Earlier this month, Cohen and his attorney met with corrections officials to finalize the terms of the home confinement agreement and objected to a number of the conditions, including a prohibition against speaking with the media or publishing any sort of writing.
The DOJ denied that the gag order was aimed at stopping Cohen from proceeding with his book or that his being returned to prison was retaliation over the planned publication.
During Thursday’s hearing, Hellerstein, who was appointed to the court by former President Clinton, appeared disturbed by the manner in which BOP officials decided to reincarcerate Cohen and the gag order that they tried to impose upon him.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which defended the BOP’s move in court, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Research contact: @thehill