Cheney takes on Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney has suddenly become one of the most outspoken GOP critics of Donald Trump.

Even more surprising: The Wyoming Republican hasn’t faced any serious blowback from the president.

Criticizing Trump is not new for Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican. But she has increasingly called out Trump over his foreign policy decisions and leadership during the coronavirus crisis — a risky move in today’s GOP, where any break with Trump can fuel a primary challenge or nasty Twitter tirade from the president.

But Cheney’s found a balancing act that few Republicans have been able to achieve. And as the prospect of a post-Trump GOP begins to come into view, her relative independence from the president could position her for another rapid rise in party leadership.

“She’s got values, she’s got guts, and she says what’s on her mind. That resonates with a lot of people,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

In her latest rebuke of Trump, Cheney openly questioned whether the president was aware of reports that the Russians offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops and demanded the administration take a more aggressive posture toward the Kremlin.

And a few days before, Cheney took a veiled shot at Trump by tweeting out a photo of her dad wearing a mask with the caption: “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK. #realmenwearmasks” — the same phrase that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been using to take digs at Trump, and one that touches on a sensitive subject for the president: his manhood.

Cheney’s colleagues say she’s avoided Trump’s wrath because there’s no question about her credentials — the name Cheney is practically synonymous with conservatism — and because she’s strategic about her battles with Trump.

Plus, Cheney aggressively defends the president in the spots where it matters to the White House, like impeachment, and spends far more time attacking Trump’s favorite foes, such as Pelosi or China. That has enabled Cheney to carve out her own space in the party, without alienating Trump’s base or jeopardizing her bona fides on the right.

“I’ve never known our conference chair to not speak her mind, in a professional and thoughtful way,” said retiring Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). But, he added, Cheney is also “a strong defender of the president where they agreed. So she calls it when she sees it — sort of the Wyoming spirit, I guess.”

Cheney’s office declined to make her available for an interview, and she refused to answer questions from POLITICO in the Capitol this week.

Cheney’s allies insist her public critiques of the president are not motivated by her future political ambitions, but rather by her personal convictions.

Still, some GOP lawmakers and strategists believe that putting some distance between her and Trump — in contrast to her fellow Republican leaders in the House, like Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana — could come in handy if Trump goes down in November.

“If the elections are as dismal for Republicans as they appear today, the finger-pointing will begin immediately,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye. “That presents an opportunity for someone like Cheney to say that, while they supported much of the agenda, they were a truth-teller when the party needed it.”

Added one Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak frankly: “I believe she is trying to establish her own lane for the future, distinct from Trump and his acolytes.”

Cheney, the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and one of the party’s most hawkish national security voices, has already quickly climbed the leadership ranks in a GOP conference long dominated by older men.

In only her second term in the House, Cheney, 53, was tapped by her colleagues to serve as the party’s conference chair — a key messaging post within the House GOP, especially with Republicans in the minority. Cheney also signaled where she saw her political future when she declined to run for an open Senate seat, instead opting to remain in a House leadership role that could catapult her to the speakership one day.

“Remember, she had a chance to run for Senate and decided to stay in the House, which I think shows a lot of where her passion lies,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, the GOP’s chief deputy whip.

Since arriving in Congress in 2017, Cheney has earned a reputation for clashing with members of her own party: She confronted then-Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin over defense spending, duked it out with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky over military action toward Iran, called for Rep. Steve King of Iowa to step down for making racist remarks and briefly launched a primary bid against Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

So it has come as no surprise to Cheney’s colleagues that she has tangled with Trump, too. But in recent months, her public criticism has seemed to grow louder.

In one notable incident last month, McCarthy — a close Trump ally the president calls “My Kevin” — repeatedly dodged questions during a news conference about Trump’s baseless tweets suggesting MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered a former aide. Cheney, however, went out of her way to make clear how she felt: she vehemently disagreed with the attacks.

“I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough. We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Cheney told a group of reporters after the news conference ended. “He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died.”

For some, it was reminiscent of when Cheney stood up for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, two impeachment witnesses who were both publicly attacked by Trump on Twitter.

Cheney has also positioned herself as a voice of reason in the GOP when it comes to the coronavirus crisis. When Trump was calling to reopen the economy as early as Easter, she warned against it. And when many on the right were attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Cheney rushed to his defense.

“Dr. Fauci is one of the finest public servants we have ever had. He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives,” she tweeted. “We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day.”

Cheney is even more outspoken when it comes to foreign policy and national security issues. She called Trump’s recently announced plans to remove U.S. troops from Germany “dangerously misguided,” blasted the president’s idea to host peace talks with Taliban leaders at Camp David, and said it would be a “very serious mistake” if Trump failed to retaliate against Iran for downing an American surveillance drone.

But unlike some of the other Republicans who have lambasted Trump, Cheney has managed to remain unscathed. Trump’s base is notably not driven by issues of foreign policy.

And in fact, the president has repeatedly praised the two-term congresswoman and singled her out at White House events, declaring that Cheney has an “unlimited future” and that Wyoming is “lucky” to have her as its representative.

“She’s never personal about it,” Ferguson said of Cheney’s criticism of the president. “It’s an honest discussion about how she feels about the policy. And so many people attack the president on personality.”

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Tucker Carlson’s Journey From Coronavirus Alarm-Puller to COVID Truther

Tucker Carlson’s Journey From Coronavirus Alarm-Puller to COVID TrutherIn early March, while President Donald Trump’s loudest allies at Fox News downplayed the coronavirus pandemic, with some claiming it was nothing more than an “impeachment scam” to destroy the president, Tucker Carlson received widespread—and usual, considering his notoriously far-right rhetoric—praise for calling out his colleagues and Trump for “minimizing” the impending danger.The Fox News primetime star continues to receive plaudits for reportedly convincing the president to finally take the crisis seriously. Days after that March 9 monologue, which was delivered shortly after Carlson privately spoke with Trump about the virus, the president publicly addressed the nation and his administration began pushing social-distancing guidelines.While Carlson sounding the alarm much earlier than his Fox News peers may have a had a positive impact (on his viewers, especially, as studies show his audience took protective measures before Trump confidant Sean Hannity’s), it didn’t take long for the right-wing TV host to shift gears and rage against social distancing, lockdowns, and any other measure implemented to slow the spread of the virus.Over the past two months, Carlson has devoted much of his coronavirus coverage to discrediting public-health experts, specifically top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force. On top of telling his audience to stop listening to Fauci and other health officials, the Fox News star has repeatedly boosted a fellow contrarian, former New York Times reporter-turned-spy-novelist Alex Berenson, as an expert on the deadly virus.Less than a month after his much-lauded call to action on the virus, Carlson declared the crisis to be over—a claim that received far less attention from the mainstream press than his rogue stance against the president. Despite the United States having already experienced 13,000 deaths by that point, Carlson pointed to revised models showing lower expected deaths to call for the easing of stay-at-home orders, insisting that the “short-term crisis may have passed.”Since the Fox star’s assertion that the pandemic was essentially over and it was time to go back to business as usual, the nation has suffered roughly 115,000 more deaths and at least two million more confirmed cases.Carlson, in his quest to convince viewers that social distancing was futile and lockdowns were useless, began taking aim at Fauci almost immediately, framing the Medal of Freedom honoree as a power-hungry bureaucrat who had suddenly become the most powerful person in the world. Furthermore, the conservative talk-show host repeatedly portrayed the top doctor as incompetent and unknowledgeable about infectious diseases.One way Carlson often sharply criticized the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was by highlighting his shifting opinions on the virus as more information became known about the disease. In particular, he hit Fauci for initially saying mask-wearing was unnecessary—a position the renowned immunologist quickly reversed, as have other health officials who initially worried that masks might instill a false sense of security.Tucker Carlson Wants to Have It Both Ways on CoronavirusAt one point in mid-May, following Sen. Rand Paul dressing down Fauci in a Senate hearing, Carlson applauded the pro-Trump Republican before delivering his own lengthy takedown of Fauci, arguing that the top doctor’s advice was “buffoon-level stuff,” later describing him as “the chief buffoon of the professional class.” Weeks prior, Carlson called it “national suicide” for Fauci to urge aggressive social-distancing restrictions.“We should never let someone like that run this country,” he fumed.Besides repeatedly dismissing social distancing, Carlson has also told his viewers that the virus is just not that deadly, even as the death toll continues to rise. In late April, for instance, Carlson pointed to some antibody studies—which have since largely been dismissed due to a large number of false-positive statistical errors—and the laughable claims made by a pair of California doctors who pushed for reopening by claiming the disease “just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was.”The segment was steeped in so much disinformation on the disease that MSNBC host Chris Hayes, his direct 8 p.m. time slot competitor, directly called out Carlson for peddling “coronavirus trutherism” the next evening, picking apart the arguments put forth by the Fox star.“There is a reason many of the employees of Fox News, which is based in New York, are working from home right now,” Hayes pointedly stated. “At least someone there understands why it is important to continue to keep physical distance.”Weeks later, Carlson again pointed to antibody tests and cherry-picked surveys to claim the deadly virus was relatively tame.“We now know, thanks to widespread blood testing, that the virus isn't that deadly,” he said on May 21. “An enormous percentage of coronavirus infections produce mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, they're asymptomatic. The death toll is a tiny fraction of what we were told it would be.”Carlson, meanwhile, has also seemed more than willing to accept that the death toll—which is now approaching 130,000—is overinflated and possibly a hoax, despite overwhelming evidence showing it has likely been undercounted. Besides giving airtime to “COVID Contrarian” Berenson, who has repeatedly suggested the death toll is inflated or would remain low, he has also hosted Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume to make those same claims. “Dr. Birx said tonight during the briefing at the White House that all deaths from anyone who died with coronavirus is counted as if the person died from coronavirus. Now, we all know that isn’t true,” Hume said on April 7 before relaying anecdotal evidence: “ I remember my own doctor telling me at one point when I was discussing prostate issues, he said about prostate cancer—I didn't have it, as it happened, but he said, ‘You know, a lot more people die with it than die from it.’”In recent weeks, amid nationwide unrest following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, Carlson has spent far more time demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement than covering the outbreak of new coronavirus cases, many of which are occurring in the states that rushed to reopen. When the Fox host did shift from fear-mongering about a race war to cover the virus, however, he actively minimized the damage of the pandemic while once again claiming lockdowns do not work.Just as multiple states began seeing a massive uptick in confirmed cases following relaxed restrictions and Memorial Day weekend celebrations, Carlson definitively declared social-distancing rules to be useless.“We do think it’s worth, for a minute, taking a pause to assess whether or not they were in fact lying to us about the coronavirus and our response to it,” he said on June 10, taking issue with media criticizing lockdown protests but praising police brutality demonstrations. “And the short answer to this is: Yes, they were definitely lying.”“As a matter of public health, we can say conclusively the lockdowns were not necessary. In fact, we can prove that and here’s the most powerful evidence: states that never locked down at all, states where people were allowed to live like Americans and not cower indoors alone, in the end turned out no worse than states that had mandatory quarantines, the state you probably live in,” Carlson continued. “The states that did lock down at first but were quick to reopen have not seen explosions of coronavirus cases.”Since making that proclamation, Florida, Texas and Arizona have all set single-day records for confirmed cases, and have reported newly overwhelmed hospitals and ICU capacity. Presented with Carlson's repeated claims that social distancing and stay-at-home orders have been unnecessary, Dr. Irwin Redlener, a Daily Beast contributor and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University outright dismissed the TV host’s analysis.“Tucker Carson is one of the most fervent anti-science commentators on the airway,” the public-health activist told The Daily Beast. “He, like Sean Hannity, seems to relish in unwavering support for Donald Trump, no matter how outlandish, dishonest or ignorant the president’s statements or policies might be. I assume that Tucker is probably a bright guy, but his uncritical support of Trump is a dangerous disservice to his audience.”While Carlson has privately advised the president on several issues and is regularly cited by the president's Twitter account, he has also stood out among his Fox primetime peers in offering up criticism of Trump. Besides subtly calling the president out over his COVID-19 response, Carlson has also knocked the president for not being tough enough in dealing with the protests, arguing that it is placing him on a trajectory to lose.An analysis from Columbia University, meanwhile, has found that if the United States had implemented physical-distancing guidelines just one week earlier in March, as many as 36,000 American lives could have been saved.I Spent a Week Down the Right-Wing Media Rabbit Hole—and Was Mesmerized by ItAs Carlson has dismissed the expertise of epidemiologists and scientists, while boosting spy novelists and talking heads, he has occasionally sought the advice of actual medical professionals to provide pandemic analysis. One of the most frequent voices on his show in this respect has been Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel.While the Fox News primetime star has blasted Fauci and others for their inaccurate predictions and so-called buffoonery, he doesn’t seem to have an issue with Siegel’s history of comically over-the-top projections and medical punditry that seemingly bends over backwards to please the Fox audience.For example, Siegel, who infamously said in March that the “worst-case” for coronavirus is that it “will be the flu,” told Carlson last month that “we're not going to have a big second wave,” citing the low number of cases in Australia. “That’s the southern hemisphere,” he said. “That’s essentially our November right now.”He would eventually walk back that claim on Carlson’s show days later, noting that Brazil—which is also in the southern hemisphere—was experiencing a huge surge in cases. And last week, Siegel lashed out at the European Union for possibly banning American visitors due to the latest rise in cases. “Could this be retaliatory? Possibly,” he huffed. “Could it be public health? Whatever it is, it is not the tone they sounded back in March, when they were horrified at our travel ban, at a time when thousands and thousands of cases were coming here.” And then the unmistakably Carlson-esque reactionary barb. “So I have a message for the European Union tonight: How about remembering what we did for you in the middle of the 20th century?”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Opinion: Trump is facing the thing he dreads most

Declaring in 2016 that "I alone can fix it," Donald Trump made the country's fate all about him. He promised so much "winning" we'd get sick of it, and asked "What have you got to lose?" As President he made everything into a fight between Team Trump (good) and everyone else (bad). He bullied those he couldn't persuade and even survived an impeachment trial. But now, confronted with a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a moment of reckoning over racism, the limit of the president's method is obvious, and he seems on the brink of becoming the thing he most dreads: A loser.
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Republicans have been skipping House Intelligence meetings for months

Democrats see a boycott motivated by partisan politics. Republicans argue they have legitimate security concerns.

Either way, GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee have skipped all but one of the panel's proceedings, public and private, since before Congress went into its coronavirus-lockdown in early March. And that impasse shows no signs of ending, even as the panel takes up issues like China, Covid-19 and the annual intelligence policy bill.

Democrats see it as yet another manifestation of the toxic partisan split dividing the panel during Donald Trump's presidency, in contrast to the still-bipartisan spirit that prevails on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“It seems almost counterproductive on their part,” House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told POLITICO when asked about the Republican no-shows. “It seems rather childish but I hope that they will reconsider.”

The committee, with 13 Democratic and eight Republican members, has held at least seven bipartisan hearings and roundtables, both open- and closed-door, since the pandemic shut down much of Washington in March and April. The sessions, all unclassified, included a virtual hearing in mid-June where representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google answered questions about foreign efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

The lone session to have a GOP presence was an April 28 roundtable attended by then-Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, a week before the Senate hearing on his nomination to be Trump’s director of national intelligence.

Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) noted that Republicans have expressed concerns about alleged political bias by those same big tech platforms. “How do you explain to your constituents that you have representatives from those three companies and you just chose not to show up?” he asked.

Republicans rejected the idea that they’re formally snubbing the committee’s work. The real problem, they say, is that Democrats insist on discussing sensitive information in virtual online sessions instead of meeting in person.

“These things get hacked. Why are we putting ourselves at that risk?” asked Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a member of the committee. “You border on classified information and maybe sometimes even spill into it. It’s just not the way to conduct business. And there is no reason for it."

"Maybe it’s inconvenient for Adam Schiff to come back here from California," Wenstrup added. "It’s just not appropriate within the intelligence community and it’s not fitting of protocol.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said: “I really don’t believe it’s a boycott. It’s not an organized effort at all. I would just say that we have concerns about the format.”

“We’re here. Why aren’t we doing it like we used to?” asked Stewart, who also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which is slated to hold live markups where members can join remotely. “I think we can meet together and do it safely.”

The committee's top Republican, California Rep. Devin Nunes, repeatedly declined to comment when asked about the matter.

Democrats say the Republicans haven’t provided a good explanation about why they’ve withdrawn or indicated what could get them back to the table. But Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) attributed the Republicans' absences to factors like Schiff’s leading role in the president's impeachment — and, before that, the years of acrimony caused by the panel’s GOP-led Russia investigation.

“They have their grievances, right?” Himes said. “The whole thing is absurd but they haven’t even really negotiated.”

Even before the pandemic shutdowns, Republicans on House Intelligence had boycotted a February hearing in Himes' subcommittee on emerging technology and national security, accusing Democrats of staging "publicity events" rather than looking into issues like alleged FBI abuses in domestic surveillance. That hearing occurred weeks after the end of Trump's impeachment trial.

The intelligence committee normally meets in a secure room in the Capitol — one that a specialized CIA cleaning crew had to scrub in March after Daniel Goldman, the panel's former impeachment counsel, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since early March, the intelligence committee has held two open virtual hearings using Cisco Webex, the same video conferencing platform that other congressional panels have used.

The panel has also convened a series of closed but unclassified roundtable discussions with past government officials focused on aspects of the coronavirus — such as Chinese disinformation around the pandemic, biothreats and the intelligence community’s handling of Covid-19. Attendees included former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The roundtables, including some that have been strictly Democrats-only by design, are conducted via Microsoft Teams, which features end-to-end encryption to prevent eavesdropping.

A senior committee official dismissed Republicans' cybersecurity objections as "non-concerns," saying the committee's staff had "consulted our security and the House security” about the risks of a breach. "There was actually less risk of that happening during a Microsoft Teams or WebEx session than there was logging into your House email or Gmail account from your home computer," the official said.

The impasse threatens to derail a series of products the panel is looking to issue in the coming weeks and months.

The committee plans to meet in person, or at least partially, to mark up its annual intelligence authorization bill by the end of July. But because of pandemic-era social distancing requirements, the panel will perform what’s called a “strawman,” where majority members are located in one secure room, the minority in another, with the budget directors and lawyers in another who then walk members through the entire bill by telephone.

The committee is also finishing up its so-called "deep dive" on China, investigating the various national security threats posed by Beijing's use of technology for surveillance, influence and political control domestically and internationally. The panel has been going back and forth with the intelligence community over the draft of its full report, and going through a classification review of the executive summary, which Schiff will make public when the review is finished, according to the senior committee official.

In addition, the Democrat-controlled panel is reviewing the Covid-19 pandemic and the intelligence community’s role in it. In particular, it's examining how the clandestine apparatus is postured to collect, analyze and disseminate intel on global health issues, including cross-border pandemics and epidemics.

Of the various policy efforts, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle believe that the intelligence bill has the best chance to bridge the latest divide.

“The IAA has historically been bipartisan," Swalwell said. "We have to signal to the Congress that we are aligned, as Republicans and Democrats, and that’s what helps us pass that” by wide, bipartisan majorities."

Wenstrup noted that the bill passed in previous years even during the height of the Russia investigation.

“The committee’s been able to work through things before,” he told POLITICO.

Wenstrup and Stewart insisted that if the panel began to convene in person, the GOP would show up.

“If it was in person I believe we would be there,” Stewart said.

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Florida Man Rep. Matt Gaetz goes full white fright on Twitter and gets smashed … again

Florida Man Rep. Matt Gaetz was online today, doing what he does online: saying stupid, frequently racist, shite. Gaetz was responding to the story out of St. Louis, Missouri, of the wealthy white lawyer couple who decided to stand in front of their home and threaten peaceful protesters with guns as those protesters walked—legally—down their street, on Twitter. He tweeted out an image of the couple and wrote:

“In Joe Biden’s America your job is illegal, you are locked in your home, borders don’t exist, MS-13 lives next door and the police aren’t coming when the mob arrives. This is all of us.” Such a strange thing to say, eh? Very quickly, Rep. Gaetz’s Twitter feed was overrun with people wondering how Rep. Matt Gaetz is able to type and breathe at the same time. So, #MattGaetzIsATool began trending, as it seems to do at least once every week these days.

Most people are empathetic by nature, so they wanted to give Gaetz some advice.

Got to stop tweeting while drunk, Matt.

— Nickles (@pessoasclerk) June 29, 2020

That’s good advice. Others wanted to remind Matthew that sadly for the entire planet, we are not in any Democratic official’s “America” at this point in time.

The photo was taken in Trump's America.

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 29, 2020

Of course there were the requisite reminders of how cowardly and craven Rep. Gaetz truly is.

As well as footnotes for Gaetz’s understanding of the world around him.

Yep, MS-13 lives right next door, Matt.

— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) June 29, 2020

Also a reminder that Matt Gaetz is afraid and he’s a racist.

Rep. Matt Gaetz: "Some might call that 'male privilege or 'white privilege.' You know what? Those terms are just racist terms to try to tell people to shut up, and we're done being quiet."

— The Hill (@thehill) June 23, 2020

At this point, this tweet is also obligatory, as Matt Gaetz … is a tool.

Matt Gaetz doing his obligatory tweet to get #MattGaetzIsATool trending on twitter... once again. You'd think he'd take a day off once and a while but the man is a tool.

— Coddiwomple (@wildjaden) June 29, 2020

And also this, because I’m not cursing if I let someone else do it.

And this one made me laugh.


— Ronald Singleterry (@Singleterry) June 29, 2020

Then there’s this.

So we all agree that you are a privileged white person with poor taste, little common sense, who doesn't understand the concept of a well regulated militia and overreacts to the concept of democracy and diversity? Good, that's settled.#MattGaetzIsATool

— Devin Nunes' Slowed Down Testing (@tinkerdogcuss) June 29, 2020

And finally.


— Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman LLCðÂ�Â�Â� (@KurisuS) June 29, 2020

House Dems propose strengthening Congress’ contempt power to break administration stonewalls

House Democrats increasingly frustrated by the Trump administration for defying subpoenas are proposing legislation that would ratchet up their power to punish executive branch officials who reject their requests.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and five other members of the House Judiciary Committee, unveiled a rule change Monday to formalize and expand Congress' power of "inherent contempt" — its authority to unilaterally punish anyone who defies a subpoena for testimony or documents.

Though Congress has long had inherent contempt power, it has been in disuse since before World War II. This power, upheld by courts, has included the ability to levy fines and even jail witnesses who refuse to cooperate with congressional demands.

But such extreme measures have fallen out of favor over the years, as Congress has relied instead primarily on litigation to enforce its subpoenas and officials across government have acknowledged the unappetizing prospect of using force to impose its will. It's even trickier when applied to a coequal branch of government, which may have its own privileges and protections to assert.

But calls for reviving inherent contempt have grown since Democrats reclaimed the House majority last year. Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee, in particular, have fumed as Trump administration witnesses defied their requests and subpoenas for testimony and documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Lieu's measure is cosponsored by Reps. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.).

“We've seen unprecedented and illegal obstruction by the Trump administration to Congress where the administration has essentially directed witnesses not to show up to committees even after they have been given lawful congressional subpoenas,” Lieu said in an interview. “We need an enforcement mechanism.”

Lieu's proposal only focuses on monetary penalties. It would establish a process for negotiations between Congress and executive branch officials when disputes arise over testimony and records. The measure would allow federal agencies to lodge objections to congressional requests, and it would permit the president to weigh in and assert any applicable privileges. The measure would also establish a process for holding recalcitrant officials in contempt, including hearings before the full House in which the subject would be permitted to present a defense and would face questions from lawmakers on the House floor.

If the House supports contempt after such a proceeding, it would then vote a second time to impose a financial penalty of up to $25,000. The penalty would be delayed for 20 days to allow for continued negotiations before subsequent penalties may be imposed up to an aggregate of $100,000. The measure would also bar taxpayer dollars from being used to cover any fines assessed through this mechanism.

Democrats say the measure is a crucial effort to formalize and reinvigorate Congress' long-dormant powers.

Lieu said he is hopeful to implement it quickly but at the very least would like it in future Congress’ toolbox. He said the prospect that inherent contempt would be abused by lawmakers is slim.

“The way to prevent it from being abused is pretty simple: the witness just shows up,” Lieu said.

Inherent contempt became the subject of multiple court fights between the House and President Donald Trump, who has fought congressional subpoenas for his tax returns and financial information.

In those cases, House counsel Doug Letter emphasized that if courts refused to resolve the disputes, it would leave Congress with a slim list of blunt tools to confront an executive branch that’s stonewalling lawmakers. Those tools, which include impeachment, defunding power and the ability to block presidential nominations, would also include — as a last resort — invoking inherent contempt and deploying the House's sergeant-at-arms to enforce the chamber's will. Such a scene would be unpalatable and increase government dysfunction, Letter argued.

Lawmakers are revisiting the issue of inherent contempt in particular as they've renewed their complaints about Attorney General Bill Barr's resistance to testifying before their panel.

Attorney General William Barr.

Barr has yet to appear before the committee since taking his post in February 2019, despite repeated attempts to arrange testimony. Most recently, Barr has agreed to appear on July 28, amid mounting controversies facing his Justice Department, though some Democrats are still doubtful he’ll appear.

Committee Democrats have demanded answers about his role in directing a forceful response to peaceful protests across the street from the White House at Lafayette Park shortly before a nearby Trump photo opportunity. They've also questioned his effort to replace the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan with a handpicked successor who would have sway over multiple investigations into Trump's associates and interests.

Lieu also cites the refusal of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley to testify about their roles in the law enforcement and military response to the D.C. protests. The House has also been tied up in court since last summer fighting for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who ignored a congressional subpoena on the matter. And several witnesses called by the House during last fall's impeachment proceedings also refused to appear, including then-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and top White House national security lawyer John Eisenberg.

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Cheers and Jeers: Day Ending in Y

"He's #1! He's #1!"

George Washington may have been first in the hearts of his countrymen, but Donald Trump has accomplished a lot more firsts during his presidency, believe me...

First to enter office believing that America isn’t a great country First to never come close to majority approval in polling averages of the American people First to lie to the American people at a rate of over 6,000 times a year First to exchange love letters with the Butcher of North Korea First to take Russia's side over America's on virtually everything, including tacit approval of secret Russian bounties on the heads of U.S. troops overseas First to spend most of his presidency watching TV and golfing


First to be elected for his business acumen, despite having lost more money than virtually any other person in American history

First to recommend bleach injections to stop a killer virus pandemic

First to do special favors for countries and corporations who spend money at his golf and sex resorts

First to have over twenty credible allegations of sexual assault or outright rape against him

He’s so proud.

First to edit (inaccurately) an official hurricane prediction map with a Sharpie

First to publicly defend Nazis as "very fine people" and approve of Americans shouting “White power! White power!”

First to snort crushed-up Adderall to (futilely) keep from mentally falling apart

First to break more commandments than any other president while refusing to ask forgiveness but being forgiven anyway by his religious base who believes he was literally chosen by God

First to base his policies on what three dimwit cable TV morning show hosts say

First to blow off his daily security briefings

First to paint his face orange and his lips and eye sockets pink

First to claim he "hires only the best people" while having the highest turnover rate of any president by a mile

First to walk around in public with toilet paper stuck to his shoe

Swell legacy. Suck on that, George.

And now, our feature presentation...


Cheers and Jeers for Monday, June 29, 2020

Note: Here's the posting schedule for the week: Regular old crap through Thursday.  Then on Friday evening, around the same time Trump's fireworks are setting the forests around Mount Rushmore on fire, we'll step into our wayback machine for the annual reading of some really old crap: the very first C&J from July 4, 1776. Then we'll be off the following Monday.  Please adjust your space-time continuum accordingly.


By the Numbers:

Homework’s due in 5 days!!!

Days 'til Independence Day: 5

Biden-Trump head-to-head numbers in Florida per Fox News polling: 49% - 40%

Biden-Trump head-to-head numbers in Florida among Hispanics: 52% - 35%

Public approval, per New York Times-Siena College polling, of the way Trump is handling race relations in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of killer cops: 33%

Rank of the mid-Atlantic States (NY, NJ, PA), New England states, and Pacific states among those with the highest rate of mask compliance, according to Axios-Ipsos polling: #1, #2, #3

Percent chance that the south central region KY, TN, AL and MS are the area with the worst mask compliance: 100%

Rise in consumer spending in May: 8.2%


Puppy Pic of the Day: Weekend hangovers…


JEERS to keeping count. The Covid-19 world tour marches on (10 million cases around the globe now, with 25% of them in the U.S.), and our macabre Monday tradition of maintaining a benchmark of the awfulness for the C&J historical record continues. Let’s check the most depressing tote board in the world with all due reluctance as cases spiral out of control in Republican-governed states like Florida and Texas because, true to form, they put money over lives:

10 weeks ago: 764,000 confirmed cases. 40,500 deaths.

5 weeks ago: 1.7 million confirmed cases, 99,807 deaths

PandemicFact rates this claim: TRUE.

Last week: 2.4 million confirmed cases, 123,000 deaths

This morning: 2.6 million confirmed cases, 128,000 deaths

Late last week Fortress Trump held its first Covid briefing in two months. Said beleaguered infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to the unmasked masses who believe mask-wearing is a Soros-funded mad dog plot to fill your lungs with chemtrails:

"You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility. We have to realize that we are part of the process. We can be either part of the solution or part of the problem."

"Yeah, that’s great we’ll get right on it," said the Trump cultists as they briefly looked up from their pamphlet Being Part of the Problem for Dummies.

JEERS to looking ahead…poorly. President Trump really, really wants a second term in office. And, by god, he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish to cement his legacy as our greatest president in history. Behold the future vision of the world's most futuristic vision guy, as revealed to the American public late last week on Fox News:

"Well, one of the things that will be really great, the word experience is still good, I always say talent is more important than experience I've always said that, but the word experience is a very important word a very important meaning. I never did this before, I never slept over in Washington I was in Washington I think 17 times all of a sudden I'm president of the United States you know the story I'm riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our First Lady and I say 'This is great' but I didn’t know very many people in Washington it wasn't my thing I was from Manhattan, from New  York, now I know everybody and I have great people in the administration.

How to second term

� Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) June 26, 2020

You make some mistakes like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do was drop bombs on everybody, you don't have to drop bombs on everybody you don't have to kill people."

And that reminds me: the National Association of Suicidal Grammarians will be gathering this evening to diagram that paragraph. Doors open at 7. Tonight's special: buy one cyanide capsule, get one free.

CHEERS to Ol' Shortypants.  James Madison, who at 5'4" holds the distinction of being the U.S. president with the lowest center of gravity, died in Montpelier, Virginia 184 years ago yesterday.

Also in Madison’s corner: a rather awesome missus.

He was the chief architect of the United States Constitution, and today he's rolling in his grave over the GOP's manhandling of it. The book Rating the Presidents (a survey of 700 historians and political analysts) sums up his legacy as one of "courageous leadership as president, guided by the principles of the Constitution, which he played so large a part in framing. All Americans owe him a great debt of gratitude." Pay your respects here. But don't tell him that Republicans are now using his sacred founding document as toilet paper. He’s got enough problems as head of the Dead Presidents Condo Association. (“Dammit, Polk. For the last time, get your stuff out of Calvin’s storage unit. and quit using LBJ’s parking space.”)




Yes �

� Engineering (@engineeringvids) June 27, 2020




CHEERS to cool science. You think Earth is a bit turbulent these days? Get a load 'o this:

A whopping 7.5 billion light-years from Earth, two black holes, each about the size of Long Island, rapidly spun around each other several times per second before smashing together in a cataclysmic explosion that sent shockwaves through the Universe.

Neighbor Gladys Higginbotham caught the collision on her smartphone.

Normally, violent unions like this are dark events, but astronomers think they saw a flare of light emerge from this celestial dance—potentially the first time light has ever been seen from black holes merging.

According to the researchers, the black holes are currently exchanging insurance information and have already been booked to settle their case on Judge Judy.

CHEERS to hittin' the road. Sixty-four years ago today, radical socialist (and probably Kenya-born) President Dwight Eisenhower signed the controversial Federal Highway Act, which authorized the construction of 42,500 miles of freeway from coast to coast. It wasn't an easy thing to accomplish:

Between 1954 and 1956, there were several failed attempts to pass a national highway bill through the Congress.

The main controversy over the highway construction was the apportionment of the funding between the Federal Government and the states. Undaunted, the President renewed his call for a "modern, interstate highway system" in his 1956 State of the Union Address.

Thanks, Ike!

Within a few months, after considerable debate and amendment in the Congress, The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 emerged from the House-Senate conference committee. ... During his recovery from a minor illness, Eisenhower signed the bill into law at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the 29th of June.

Soon after completion, parents got their first earful of "Are we there yet?? Are we there yet?? Are we there yet??" God bless America.


Ten years ago in C&J: June 29, 2010

CHEERS to a fine reception.  Wow, I was very impressed with yesterday's proceedings.  It was civil, cordial, friendly, and when it was all over there was much back-slapping by both liberals and conservatives alike.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  I'm speaking, of course, of John Paul Stevens' final day at the Supreme Court:

The 90-year-old Stevens had the last word, telling the packed courtroom, "It has been an honor and a privilege to share custodial responsibility for a great institution with the eight of you and with ten of your predecessors."

Farewell, sir. Thanks for hangin' stickin’ around through the dark days of Bush-Cheney until the cavalry arrived.  Now go on...your tennis court is waiting.


And just one more…

CHEERS to achieving the impossible. John Bolton’s book is 500 (or whatever) pages of opportunistic Trump shaming that should’ve been presented at the impeachment hearings, but is instead stuffed between two covers so the former mad bomber can pad his bank account. But i gotta say, Stephen Colbert thought of a valid way to make it palatable: two Boltons for the price of one...


Also available on long-play cassette.

Have a tolerable Monday. Floor's open...What are you cheering and jeering about today?


Today's Shameless C&J Testimonial

Pence urges Americans four times to ‘pray’—but not once to read Cheers and Jeers Raw Story