Morning Digest: Why we won’t know the winner of New York’s mayoral primaries for weeks

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

New York City, NY Mayor: A final poll from Ipsos ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff Democratic primary in New York City shows Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a strong position to secure his party's nomination, in contrast with other recent polls that have shown one of his top rivals, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, prevailing in the end. But regardless of who's leading, it may not be until mid-July until we know who's actually won—more on that in a bit.

First, the new survey, which gives Adams the lead with 28% when it comes to voters' first-choice preferences, while 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang edges out Garcia 20-15 for second. This is the strongest performance in some time for Yang, the one-time frontrunner, but it's not good enough: Ipsos shows Adams beating him by a wide 56-44 spread in the seventh and final round of ranked-choice tabulations.

We've seen a few other polls in the last few weeks, and while they all agree that Adams is in striking distance to take the nomination, they're not united in designating him as the undisputed frontrunner. The best recent numbers for Adams prior to Ipsos' new data came from a Marist College poll conducted in early June that had him defeating Garcia 56-44 in the last round of tabulations.

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But those contrasted with Public Opinion Strategies' survey for the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, that found Garcia narrowly beating Adams 52-48 after ranked-choice tabulations were complete. The Democratic pollster Change Research, on behalf of a pro-Garcia super PAC, showed something very similar, with Garcia triumphing over Adams in the end by a slim 51-49 margin.

One big challenge for pollsters is that New York City will be the largest jurisdiction in America to ever hold an instant-runoff election, and no one, including the candidates, is quite sure what to expect. Vividly illustrating the terra incognita this new system is uncovering, Yang and Garcia made news over the weekend by campaigning together, an alliance that would never come about in a traditional primary.

The accord however, didn't quite amount to a formal coalition: While Yang implored his voters, "Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2," Garcia didn't ask her supporters to make Yang their second choice. (It's not clear why Yang assented to such a one-sided arrangement, but Garcia says his team "absolutely knew what I was gonna say.")

The joint appearances drew a furious response from Adams, who spent his final days accusing his rivals of banding together to stop New York City from electing its second-ever Black mayor. Attorney Maya Wiley, who is also Black, had a very different response, expressing her support for ranked-choice voting and condemning Adams' description of the alliance as a form of "voter suppression."

No matter what, though, we're very unlikely to know for sure who's won the Democratic nomination until mid-July. While votes will be tabulated Tuesday after polls close at 9 PM ET for ballots cast in-person during the early voting period and on Election Day, mail-in votes will not be counted until the week of July 12. The New York City Board of Elections said last month that the delay is a result of a state law that allows absentee votes to be received for up to two weeks after Election Day, and for voters to fix any minor errors.

Ranked-choice tabulations will not occur on election night but will instead start June 29. You'll notice that this date is long before the count of mail ballots will begin, raising the obvious question of why anyone would bother tabulating any instant-runoff scenarios before all votes are counted, since they won't be representative of the full electorate. (If there's a good explanation, we haven't heard it.)

Instant-runoff voting is also being used in other city primaries, including races for comptroller, borough president, and City Council, many of which are open due to term limits. A big exception, though, is the crowded race for Manhattan district attorney: Because the post is a state-level office, the ballot measure New York City voters approved in 2019 to establish ranked-choice voting doesn't apply, so the victor only needs a plurality to prevail.

Key elections in the rest of the state, including the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, are also being conducted with plurality rules, so there's a better chance we'll know the winners of these races somewhat earlier, though delays in processing mail ballots still apply.

Senate

AK-Sen: Donald Trump has endorsed former Alaska cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka in her quest to dethrone Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom Trump has long despised for her insufficient fealty. Tshibaka once wrote approvingly of "conversion therapy" and hasn't answered questions as to whether she still believes in the discredited practice herself. On a now-defunct personal blog, she also warned that the "Twilight" series of vampire books and movies "is evil and we should not read or watch it" because it "leaves us open to the enemy's attacks."

MO-Sen: Attorney Mark McCloskey, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate, pleaded guilty late last week to a misdemeanor assault charge after he and his wife brandished firearms at a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. McCloskey paid a $750 fine and surrendered the weapon he pointed at protestors last year, but he said immediately after his sentencing that "I'd do it again" and quickly purchased a new rifle that he proudly showed off on social media.

Meanwhile, it looks like we can rule out Republican Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer for this race: A spokesperson told The Missourian that the congressman "has no interest in pursuing other offices."

NC-Sen: File this one under endorsements you don't want—if you're running in a GOP primary: Retiring Sen. Richard Burr, who was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial, just described former Gov. Pat McCrory as "the only one in the race that can win the general election" in next year's Senate race in North Carolina. It's not clear whether McCrory actually considers Burr's comments to be a formal statement of support, but the surest sign we can look for is whether rival campaigns try to use this against him at some point.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh earned an endorsement on Monday from EMILY's List ahead of next year's Democratic primary for this open seat. Arkoosh is the only woman running a serious campaign for Team Blue's nomination, and that looks unlikely to change now that Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan have both taken their names out of contention.

Governors

AL-Gov: State Auditor Jim Zeigler said Monday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential Republican primary campaign against Gov. Kay Ivey, but don't mark him down as a candidate yet. Zeigler took this very action back in 2018, but he ended up staying out of that contest for governor. The auditor said later that year that he'd formed an exploratory committee for a 2020 Senate race, but he never so much as filed FEC paperwork afterwards.

AZ-Gov: Former Rep. Matt Salmon unveiled an endorsement Monday from extremist Rep. Andy Biggs for next year's Republican primary. It's hardly a surprise that Biggs decided to back his predecessor in Congress: Back in 2016, Salmon issued a retirement announcement that caught almost everyone off guard except Biggs, who immediately entered the House race with Salmon's endorsement.

CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is out with a trio of TV ads as part of what Politico says is a $3 million opening reservation ahead of the unscheduled recall vote, and while the first spot touts his accomplishments, the other two take aim at his many far-right enemies.

One commercial begins, "The same Trump Republicans who refuse to accept the presidential election are back, passing voter suppression laws across the country. Now, they've set their sights on California." As footage of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plays, the narrator declares, "Different tactics, same assault on democracy."

The final ad, which is running in Spanish, makes many of the same arguments while also focusing on a figure closer to home. The narrator reminds viewers that a recall organizer named Orrin Heatlie wrote that his allies "supported tracking immigrants with microchips."

ID-Gov: Far-right anti-government militant Ammon Bundy, who unsuccessfully tried to file paperwork for a gubernatorial bid last month, has now officially kicked off his campaign for the GOP nomination. (For what it's worth, that filing snafu appears to be have been resolved, since Bundy's campaign is now listed as "Active" on the Idaho secretary of state's website.)

Bundy is best known for leading an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, in protest of federal land management policies. While other militants were convicted of charges in relation to the occupation, Bundy himself was acquitted. Yet despite his reputation, Bundy may not be the most extreme candidate in the race, since he's competing with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin for the title. Both are challenging incumbent Gov. Brad Little, who has yet to declare for re-election.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit executive Jon Baron announced Monday that he was joining the crowded Democratic primary for this open seat. Baron, who formed an exploratory committee back in March, is a former official in the Clinton-era Department of Defense who went on to serve on boards and commissions during the Bush and Obama administrations, though this is his first run for office.

Baron later worked as vice president of Arnold Ventures, a group supported by a billionaire couple that describes its mission as "invest[ing] in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice." The nonprofit was in the headlines last year after it launched a program where it attempted to reduce crime by flying drones over Baltimore; Baron says he had nothing to do with this controversial initiative, which ended after six months.

NJ-Gov: Farleigh Dickinson University has put out the first poll of New Jersey's gubernatorial race conducted after the June 8 primary and finds Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy up 48-33 on former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. A poll taken by Rutgers shortly before the primary had Murphy ahead 52-26.

OR-Gov: On Friday, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla became the first elected official to announce a campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. Kulla, who works as a farmer, won his first campaign in 2018 in his county, which is located southwest of Portland.

WI-Gov: Despite (or perhaps because of) her caginess, Wisconsin political observers have been quite certain for some time that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would challenge Democratic Gov. Tony Evers next year, and new remarks she made over the weekend have them more convinced than ever. At a gathering on Saturday night, Kleefisch referred to a slew of Republican voter suppression bills and said that, with a different governor in office, "I can tell you she will sign them on day one"—with an emphasis on the word "she," according to the Journal Times' Adam Rogan. Still, there's no word on when she might announce.

House

FL-07: A trio of Florida Republican congressmen have endorsed Army veteran Cory Mills' bid against Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy: Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, and Greg Steube.

GA-06: Republican Jake Evans announced Monday that he was resigning as chair of the Georgia ethics commission ahead of what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says is his anticipated campaign against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath.

MO-04: On Thursday, Cass County Commissioner Ryan Johnson became the second Republican to enter the race to succeed incumbent Vicky Hartzler, who is giving up this safely red seat in the west-central part of the state to run for the Senate. Johnson joins former state Sen. Ed Emery in what could be a crowded contest.

Johnson, who is a veteran of the Army and Coast Guard, previously worked for another Missouri Republican congressman, Sam Graves, before he helmed the dark money group Missouri Alliance for Freedom. Johnson won elected office for the first time last year when he narrowly unseated an incumbent in the primary.

NM-02, Where Are They Now?: President Joe Biden announced Friday that he was nominating former Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small for a position at the Department of Agriculture, a move that ends speculation that she could instead try to retake her old seat from Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell. The current version of the 2nd District in southern New Mexico backed Donald Trump 55-43, but Democrats could shift it to the left now that they're in charge of the redistricting process for the first time in decades.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman announced Monday that she would take on scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton in next year's Republican primary for attorney general.

Guzman, who was the first Latina to serve on the body, joins a nomination fight that also includes Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who has a terrible relationship with the party's nativist base. She refrained from going after Bush on his attempts to renovate the Alamo, though, and instead argued that she's the only Paxton challenger who has the experience and credibility to hold this post.

Guzman almost certainly lacks the name recognition of both her foes, though she did enter the race with an endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which the Texas Tribune describes as "the powerful tort reform group that supported Paxton for attorney general in the 2014 and 2018 general elections." A primary runoff would take place if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Other Races

Staten Island, NY Borough President: Former Rep. Vito Fossella's lethargic comeback campaign picked up an endorsement over the weekend from Donald Trump ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff Republican primary.

Fossella, who retired from Congress in 2009 after the public learned about his second family, faces two intra-party opponents: New York City Councilman Steven Matteo, who has the backing of the borough's Republican Party and a number of police unions, and former borough party chair Leticia Remauro, who has the Conservative Party in her corner. Four Democrats are also competing for an office that has been in GOP hands since the 1989 election.

Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

Last year, Senate Republicans were already feeling so desperate about their upcoming midterm prospects that they rushed to wish Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa a speedy and full recovery from COVID-19 so that he could run for reelection in 2022. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage for any politician, and Republicans were clinging to the idea of sending Grassley—who will be 89 when the '22 general election rolls around—back to the upper chamber for another six-year term.  

GOP fortunes have improved slightly since then, with historical trends improving their midterm prospects since Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But the Senate map is still a long ways away from a gimme for Republicans, and several recent developments have brought good news for Democrats. 

The first of those is a new poll from the Des Moines Register showing that nearly two-thirds of Iowa voters (64%) believe "it's time for someone else" to hold Grassley's seat versus the 27% who want to see the octogenarian reelected to an eighth term. Women voters were especially brutal, with seven out of ten saying they were ready to give Grassley the heave-ho.

Grassley's numbers with GOP voters lagged too, with just 51% committing to supporting him again, while just 7% of Democrats and 23% of independents agreed. Grassley's overall job approval clocked in at a meager 45%; it's his lowest level since 1982.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., upends Republican thinking that another Grassley run could help safeguard the seat. In fact, Grassley may be a liability in the general election, or GOP primary voters may choose an alternative. In any case, Iowa's Senate race could prove more competitive than Republicans had hoped. 

Meanwhile, the GOP primary race for North Carolina's open Senate seat has been scrambled by Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of hard-right Congressman Ted Budd, according to Politico. Following Trump's input at the state party convention earlier this month, former North Carolina governor-turned-Senate candidate Pat McCrory rushed to dismiss the endorsement as falling "flat" in the room.

Now, retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr is coming to McCrory's rescue, reportedly arguing both publicly and privately that he is "the only one in the race" who can win the seat statewide. “Pat McCrory has a commanding advantage," Burr told Politico.

Burr, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of impeachment charges, also took a swipe at Trump's rationale, or lack thereof.

“I can’t tell you what motivates him," Burr said of Trump. "I’ve never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That’s unusual.”

Judging by Budd's own internal polling, Burr has a point. McCrory enjoys far higher statewide name recognition, and he's leading Budd by about two dozen points, 45%-19%. Another Republican contender, former Rep. Mark Walker, garners just 12% of the vote, with 23% still undecided. 

McCrory, who has been meeting with GOP senators to make his case, is running as an establishment Republican. Budd obviously occupies the Trump lane now. It's a scenario that could easily leave one side or the other feeling resentful depending on which Republican prevails, and any result on the GOP side could wind up depressing at least some general election turnout among Tar Heel Republicans.

But that’s the least of the GOP’s worries, according to McCrory’s camp, which is intent on catastrophizing the ultimate result of a Budd primary win.

“If Republicans want a majority in the U.S. Senate, they will nominate Pat McCrory,” said McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw. “Otherwise, Democrats are going to take this seat and keep the majority."

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: After Juneteenth, a reckoning of sorts

Washington Examiner:

Arizona election analysis finds GOP voters disenchanted with Trump helped Biden win

Benny White, a Republican election researcher who previously ran for Pima County recorder, joined with Democrat Larry Moore and independent Tim Halvorsen, two retired executives from election company Clear Ballot, performed an analysis of the cast vote record in the November general election in Maricopa County. White has worked on over two dozen previous election audits, and Moore has had experience in more than 200, White told the Washington Examiner.

White, who said he voted for Trump in both elections, spent weeks with his team analyzing the cast vote record, which was obtained through a public records request on May 7. The data can be used to confirm vote tabulations and better understand voting patterns and behavior.

Here’s a piece on Opal Lee from Variety (Why 94-Year-Old Activist Opal Lee Marched to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday).

Derek Robertson/Politico Magazine:

How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party

The Barstool-ification of the GOP could reconfigure its cultural politics for a generation.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”

Is it surprising that Republican politicians would constantly prefer to talk about the party’s record on race in the 1800s? https://t.co/6FAItTC78m

— Michael Freeman (@michaelpfreeman) June 20, 2021

Brian Karem/The Bulwark:

The GOP’s Alternate Reality Industry

Plus, Eric Swalwell’s restroom run-in with Ted Cruz.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, told me of a chilling revelation he had when he once happened across Ted Cruz in the Senate men’s room during Trump’s second impeachment trial. Swalwell calls his epiphany “my pro-wrestling theory.”

According to Swalwell, many of the members of the GOP look at themselves as something like pro-wrestling performers. They know it’s fake—kayfabe, as it’s called in wrestling—and so do the voters. “For most of these guys, they don’t look at their constituents as the people they represent,” Swalwell told me in an interview for my “Just Ask the Question” podcast. “They look at them as their fans.”

Which brings us to that restroom run-in during the impeachment trial. Swalwell, recall, was one of the House managers making the case for holding Trump to account for the events of January 6. When Swalwell ran into Cruz, the Texas senator told him, “Hey I just want you to know you’re doing a great job out there.”

Swalwell was taken aback. Cruz had scorched him on Twitter and on Fox News within 24 hours of running into him in the restroom—yet according to Swalwell, the senator acted like “we’re two pro wrestlers. We’re bros.”

It’s kayfabe, baby. But do you even lift, bro?

The UK has warned the US 3 times. We're 1 for 2 so far. 1. Covid is coming. Response: "It won't happen here" X 2. Alpha variant. Response: Solid vaccination campaign, a bump instead of a surge ✓ 3. Delta variant. Response is lacking any sense of urgency to date pic.twitter.com/uUjRm4QVMQ

— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) June 19, 2021

iNews (UK):

G7 summit was ‘super spreading’ event for Cornwall as cases rocket 2,450% after Johnson and Biden visit

Areas of Cornwall where G7 events were focused saw infections rise more than 2,000 per cent in the seven days leading up to the end of the meeting between global leaders .

The G-File, from ⁦@JonahDispatch⁩: American Passover https://t.co/x2vdErUr5T

— The Dispatch (@thedispatch) June 18, 2021

David Rothkopf/USA Today:

Joe Biden is better on the world stage than any president since George H.W. Bush

It is probably unfair to compare Biden's early performance to the first months of Donald Trump, the only president in U.S. history to have had zero public service experience of any kind before he took office. In fact, it’s probably unfair to compare him with any of his predecessors since the senior Bush. Former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, former Texas Gov. George W. Bush and freshman Sen. Barack Obama all came into office with little or no international affairs experience. And it showed.

Good Lord. This ⁦@DouthatNYT⁩ column is incoherent. The reason liberals aren’t as exercised about Russia these days is that they’re not worried about Biden selling us out to Putin. https://t.co/qEHj5TT13h

— Dan Kennedy (@dankennedy_nu) June 20, 2021

Axios:

Juneteenth forces U.S. to confront lasting impact of slavery economy

Why it matters: That lack of generational wealth still denies Black families the economic security that many white families take for granted.

By the numbers: Around $50 trillion of economic resources and labor has not been paid to Black people since slavery, Rochester told Axios. Advocates say this legacy of slavery must be addressed to tackle systemic racism.

EXCLUSIVE: Last year MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said he’d convert 75% his factories to making masks. He did. It was a multimillion-dollar bust. Now he’s sitting on millions of masks he despises & wants to burn. He told me all about it @thedailybeast https://t.co/ehjXsruIZP

— Roger Sollenberger found true love, suckers (@SollenbergerRC) June 19, 2021

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca/The Bulwark:

How Juneteenth Observance Can Rekindle Our Democracy

Our failings remind us of the importance of our democratic values.

But our rememberance cannot be merely a passive observation of past events. Like Independence Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day—as the holiday will now officially be known—must be at once a celebration, a reminder, and a challenge.We celebrate the universal and lasting importance of democratic values and institutions.We are reminded of the fact that even democratic nations quite often fall short of these values. And, hopefully, we rise to the challenge of our shortcomings by using the opportunity of democracy to create an ever more perfect union. Democracy and democratic values do not lose their importance because of human failing. Human failing reminds us of the need for democracy and democratic values.

It’s Juneteenth, the rest is fancy ‘no one will use it’ stuff. It’s like trying to rename the Bronx Zoo (they’ve tried and failed).

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results. https://t.co/ziMUb9M1FI

— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) June 19, 2021

Troy Patterson/New Yorker:

The Celebration of Juneteenth in Ralph Ellison’s “Juneteenth”

In a pinch, any passage of Ellison will do. The novelist was a tremendous writer of passages who spent four decades, between the incandescent accomplishment of “Invisible Man” and his death, in 1994, producing many reams of stunning ones that never coalesced into a proper novel. He had the problem of a house fire that consumed at least some of a manuscript; he had the challenge of setting down an expansive parable about race in America in bright, hard language, like the radiant vernacular of a jazz-head Joyce. He had been dead for seventeen years when the bulk of this latter work was published as an eleven-hundred-and-thirty-six-page behemoth called “Three Days Before The Shooting . . .”—a vast slab of gorgeous marble amounting to an incomplete monument. “Juneteenth,” published in 1999, at three hundred and sixty-eight pages, is the fine effort of his executor, John F. Callahan, to shape the manuscript into a comprehensible sculpture.

This by @Calthalas in @ForeignPolicy is really good #MedievalTwitter #twitterstorians https://t.co/J6XDMarXJH

— Matt Gabriele (@prof_gabriele) June 20, 2021

Harry Siegel/Daily Beast:

Eric Adams Wears a Gun, Brandishes Dead Rats, and Maybe Lives in Jersey. He Could be NYC’s Next Mayor.

There’s only been one, or maybe two, mayors of New York City in my lifetime who were not weirdos: the gentlemanly and restrained David Dinkins for sure; and arguably the Clash-loving, dad joke-making Massachusetts native Bill de Blasio, a veteran of the Dinkins administration who’s gone after this year thanks to term limits. Ed KochRudy Giuliani, and even Mike Bloomberg were each, in their own inimitable ways, unhinged.

If the polls hold and former cop, Republican, and Louis Farrakhan admirer and current vegan Eric Adams wins the Democratic primary on Tuesday that will almost surely decide the city’s next mayor, we’ve got another character coming. Adams’ oft-recited political origin story involves getting beaten up by the police as a teen along with his older brother Conrad after they broke into the apartment of a prostitute he says owed them money for running errands, and then deciding to become a cop himself to reform the NYPD from within.

Liz Cheney Upset That Her Colleagues Want To End What Trump Called ‘Endless Wars’

On Thursday, the House voted to repeal the 20-year-old Authorization for Use of Military Force used by President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

And Liz Cheney was not happy.

RELATED: GOP Sen. Tim Scott Says ‘Liberal Elites’ Use Race To Obtain Power – ‘Plot To Stop Conservative Values’ From Spreading

‘Warmongering Fool’ Cheney: ‘AUMF Repeal Without Comprehensive Replacement Is Dangerous’

The neoconservative congresswoman, whom Trump has called a “warmongering fool” on multiple occasions, said on the House floor, “AUMF repeal without comprehensive replacement is dangerous, misguided, and ignores the security challenges facing our nation.”

“This legislation removes a critical tool used by previous administrations – Republican and Democrat – to defeat terrorist threats originating in Iraq,” said the Wyoming representative who was ousted from House leadership in May for constantly criticizing former president Donald Trump and supporting his second impeachment.

Cheney once again finds herself on the opposite side of Trump, who constantly spoke out about the dire need for America to end its “forever wars” and “endless wars” abroad.

House Voted 268 To 161 To Repeal AUMF

Cheney said Thursday that repealing AUMF “would send a message of weakness to our adversaries and allies alike” and that it “is not part of a comprehensive replacement providing adequate authority to combat terrorists or those who want to do our nation harm is a vote to leave America exposed to our enemies.”

But the House still voted 268 to 161 to remove the authorization.

Every Democrat voted in favor, despite twice voting to block Trump’s efforts to withdraw troops from Afghanistan just last year – working in tandem with Cheney.

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District disagreed with Cheney, saying in a statement that the vote to repeal AUMF was a “matter of basic constitutional hygiene and a small but significant step forward in reasserting Congress’s war powers authorities.”

RELATED: Scarborough Gushes Over Biden For Putin Meeting – ‘Can’t Think Of A More Successful Diplomatic Trip In The 21st Century’

Massie: ‘Saddam Hussein’s Regime Was Defeated In 2003. 2003, That’s 18 Years Ago’

“The 2002 AUMF is no longer relevant and its repeal would not impact ongoing operations in the Middle East,” Gallagher added.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie said, “Saddam Hussein’s regime was defeated in 2003. 2003, that’s eighteen years ago.”

“Obama declared the Iraq War ended in 2011, but the AUMF was never repealed,” Massie added. “It gives a blank check to any current or subsequent administration to keep American soldiers in Iraq indefinitely, and puts us at risk of getting into another war.”

 

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Elise Stefanik’s post on democracy group board sparked a staff uproar

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election and voted against certification of Joe Biden’s win, currently serves as a board member for a revered U.S. organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy.

The congresswoman’s position on the National Endowment for Democracy’s board has rankled fellow Republicans, foreign policy scholars and some former NED board members, who say her statements, along with her support for GOP-authored election laws, are at odds with the organization’s mission.

“How is it consistent for someone like her to be on the board of NED given its mission for promoting democracy all over the world and in America with the view that she and many Republicans have for changing our election processes to make it harder for people to participate in our democracy?” said former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), a former NED board member.

“It’s kind of like the Catholic Church appointing a self-described atheist as a cardinal,” said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Elise Stefanik is part of the threat to American democracy. It’s a travesty that she’s on the board of an institution whose goal is to promote democracy.”

Stefanik’s remarks also have caused internal tensions at the congressionally funded, non-partisan organization. After the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, some staffers at NED circulated a letter internally raising concerns about her position on the board, according to four people familiar with the matter.

“There was a lot of staff unhappiness,” said one of the people.

A NED spokesperson confirmed that the group’s president, Carl Gershman, received the letter and informed the board of directors of its contents. When the board met on January 8, members discussed both the insurrection and Stefanik’s position on the board for roughly half an hour. Stefanik did not attend the meeting and no formal vote or action was taken on her membership, according to a person familiar with the meeting. But some board members bristled at staff trying to interfere with the makeup of the board.

“Who is in the Board is a Board decision and the staff has no role in it,” one NED board member said in a text message. “It’s totally improper for them to try to veto Board members.”

Ultimately, officials at NED have not budged. Though the group denounced the violence at the nation’s Capitol, it has held firm to the belief in the need for bipartisan representation in its ranks.

“The Endowment is a congressionally funded and authorized organization and, as such, has relied on, and benefitted from broad bipartisan support,” NED chairman Kenneth Wollack said in a statement. “This support is even more remarkable given our country’s polarized political environment. We do not have litmus tests on views expressed by individual Board members.”

When called for comment, Gershman, who is retiring later this summer, said: “People are elected to three-year terms and she’s in her first term and that’s all I have to say about that.”

Ali Pardo, a spokesperson for Stefanik, said the congresswoman was “proud to have one of the strongest records in the House supporting and leading bipartisan efforts to fund the National Endowment of Democracy and the mission of supporting and strengthening democratic institutions around the world.”

She added that, “Congresswoman Stefanik is one of the most prominent voices countering authoritarian regimes like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, especially through her work on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”

The National Endowment for Democracy was founded as an independent, but government-funded non-profit in 1983 for the purpose of strengthening democratic institutions by supporting civil society around the world. President Ronald Reagan, in a speech in 1982, had called for such an organization to be created to “foster the infrastructure of democracy” and Congress authorized funding the next year.

Over the years, it has provided small grants to thousands of private civil-society groups and earned a reputation for giving support to groups promoting democratic values and institutions in closed societies and aspiring democracies. It spends $300 million a year funding activists who work on free and fair elections, free markets and human and labor rights in projects in around 100 countries.

Stefanik was elected to the board in January 2019. A Harvard graduate who had risen rapidly through the ranks of Republican institutions, she was considered an up-and-coming, policy-minded conservative. She had worked in the Bush White House on the Domestic Policy Council and was a staffer on Paul Ryan’s 2012 vice presidential campaign; establishment figures like Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan championed her career. When she won a seat in Congress in 2015 from an upstate New York district at age 30, she became an immediate star in the GOP firmament.

But within a year of joining NED, the congresswoman’s reputation changed. She played a prominent role defending then-President Donald Trump during his first impeachment, even earning a shout-out at the White House after his Senate acquittal. After the 2020 elections, she questioned whether the presidential results in Georgia — a state Joe Biden narrowly won — were fraudulent, saying that “140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters” in Fulton County. No such fraud took place though Stefanik has not backed off her initial accusation.

On the day of the Capitol riots, Stefanik condemned the violence but refused to blame Trump for inciting it. She subsequently voted to object to the certification of Biden electors in four states.

“President-Elect Biden was certified, but that debate was important for the American people to hear,” she said.

In the weeks and months since, Stefanik has voted against the creation of a commission to look into what happened on Jan. 6. She also told Steve Bannon’s radio show in May that she “fully” backed the widely-criticized Arizona election “audit” into that state’s presidential vote.

Her alliance with Trump helped her ascend politically. When the Republican Party moved to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican Conference Chair, its members turned to Stefanik as a replacement. When Stefanik got the job, she thanked Trump for his support.

Stefanik is not the only sitting lawmaker to work with NED. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) are honorary board members. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) is a NED officer, serving as vice chairman.

Nor is Stefanik the only member of Congress who voted against election certification while serving on a board with bipartisan prestige. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who voted against certification, currently serves on the honorary board of the Fulbright Association, an alumni organization for the Fulbright Program that has spoken out against the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) voted against certification and also serves on the board of Texas Christian University, where a brief pressure campaign was launched to have him removed after the Capitol riot.

Though NED focuses almost exclusively on promoting democracy abroad, the organization did weigh in on the insurrection at the Capitol. In a statement, it called the event a “violent and seditious assault” and said that “after a free and fair election, when incumbents are defeated, a peaceful transfer of power must result.”

“The integrity of elections in this country is a proper topic for the NED, although it’s not their focus, and I think respecting the integrity of the election we just went through is something that I’m sure most of the [board members] care about,” said former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, who served as chairman of NED from 2001 to 2009. Weber declined to specifically discuss Stefanik’s role on the board.

In its April 2021 issue, the Journal of Democracy — an initiative of NED and published jointly by NED and Johns Hopkins University — ran an article that called out lies about voting fraud in the U.S., saying it had “cemented a perception among tens of millions of Americans that the election was ‘rigged,’” and “manufactured distrust” that had “deeply damaged our democracy; the path to repairing it is not at all clear.”

One of the authors of that article, Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at MIT, said Stefanik was a “soft enabler, certainly” of Trump. But he also said he thought she could continue serving on NED’s board.

“I wish Republicans had not gone down the path of even hard or soft denial of the election outcome but it seems to me if we’re going to have bipartisan boards and commissions inevitably we’re going to have people who defended parts of Trump’s denialism,” he said. “That is kind of the nature of bipartisanship these days.”

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Unwilling to wait until 2024, ‘Speaker Trump’ is now a thing Republicans want

Republicans can’t help themselves. No matter how big of a loser Donald Trump is, and he’s the biggest of them all, they just can’t quit him. In fact, they’re so desperate to keep him front and center in the electoral debate, that they’re now talking about making him speaker of the House

And in a little-known quirk of the House’s rules, he wouldn’t even need to be elected to anything to make that happen. 

Article 1, Section 2, states, “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers...” There are no other legal requirements for the position, including age, or actually being elected to anything. For some time in the mid teens, House conservatives actually agitated for Senator Ted Cruz to become speaker. In 2013, former Secretary of State Colin Powell received votes for speaker. In 2015, Sen. Rand Paul got a vote. 

Now, in all of American history, the speaker has always been a member of the House. But that’s a norm, a tradition, not an actual requirement. And we all know how much water that carries with both the modern conservative movement and Donald Trump. Zero. And so, a new conservative scheme is born: the drive to make Trump the next speaker. It started with this exchange on wingnut radio:

Speaker of the House Donald Trump? He’s not ruling it out.

The former president called the idea “very interesting” after conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root pressed him Friday to run for a Florida congressional seat in 2022 with the goal of leading a Republican takeover of the House and supplanting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Why not instead of just waiting for 2024, and I’m hoping you run in 2024, but why not run in 2022 for the United States Congress, a House seat in Florida, win big, lead us to a dramatic landslide victory, taking the House by 50 seats, and then you become the Speaker of the House,” said Mr. Root on his USA Network show [...]

“You’ll wipe him [President Biden] out for his last two years, and then you’ll be president. Do it! Do it! You’ll be a folk hero,” Mr. Root said.

Of course, Root clearly doesn’t know about the non-requirements to be speaker. Other conservatives do, and they’re starting to talk. One told The Atlantic’s Peter Nicholas, “If 150 members of Congress went to Trump and said, ‘We want you to be our leader,’ I think he’d do it.” 

Of course he’d do it! Could there be a better scenario for Trump than to be handed something without having to do a lick of work? It’s his dream come true! And you know who is really excited at this possibility? Steve Bannon. 

Bannon unspooled a wild chain of events to me, to explain away that hurdle: Trump would serve only 100 days, setting in motion the Republican policy agenda and starting a series of investigations, including an impeachment inquiry into Biden. Then, Trump would step down, turn the gavel over to McCarthy, and prepare for a 2024 presidential run. “He’d come in for 100 days and get a team together,” Bannon said. “They’d have a plan. That plan would be to confront the Biden administration across the board. I actually believe that there will be overwhelming evidence at that time to impeach Biden, just as they did Trump. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“On the 101st day,” Bannon added, “he’ll announce his candidacy for the presidency, and we’ll be off to the races.”

Adorbs. 

Bannon thinks that 1) House minority leader Kevin McCarthy would step aside, even for some time, to hand the gavel to Trump, 2) that Trump would have the votes in the House to win a speaker election, 3) that Trump would have enough of his shit together to put together a team in that short time frame, 4) that Trump would have a “policy agenda,” when they couldn’t even bother to have a party platform at the 2020 Republican convention, 5) that they’d have anything to impeach Biden on with supposed “overwhelming evidence,” and 6) that Trump would willingly hand over the gavel once he had it. Though it is nice of him to admit that Democrats did have “overwhelming evidence” against Trump. 

Still, rather than mock this, and it is so eminently mockable, it behooves us to encourage this talk. As I’ve written, midterm elections are almost always referendum on an incumbent president, leading to typical losses. 

History says that the party of a first-term president nearly always faces catastrophic loses in Congress in his first midterm election. In the House, the average is an over 30-seat loss. In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack, 2002 was an exception, so exceptions do exist. Regardless, Democrats face some historical headwinds that are compounded by a reapportionment and redistricting process that favors Republicans, a Senate map that features nearly every single difficult 2020 presidential battleground [...] and the systematic Republican effort to make it harder for core Democratic constituencies to turn out and vote.

In a normal year, we’d be talking about how to minimize losses and what a Biden administration might do with Republican congressional majorities. But this isn’t a normal year, and Republicans are doing everything in their power to keep it that way [...]

[B]y letting loser Trump call the shots and by letting him insert himself into the political debate, Republicans very well risk turning 2022 into a referendum on … Donald Trump. We already know how those go—they goose the liberal base vote without any corresponding Republican vote unless Trump is on the ballot. And he isn’t.

Keeping Trump front and center in the political debate, along with the conservative movement’s inability to get worked up much about President Joe Biden, 2022 threatens to upend the conventional debate, from a referendum on the incumbent, to yet another referendum on Donald Trump. By essentially putting Trump on the ballot—for speaker of the House—Republicans could give liberals yet another reason to turn out in the numbers they did in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And without Trump being literally on the ballot, the chances of Republicans turning out the hidden deplorables are dramatically lowered. 

Right now, this “Speaker Trump” discussion is floating on the edges of the political debate. But with Bannon on board, it shouldn’t be long before Trump himself is promoting the idea. And from there? Who knows. “Will you vote for Trump for Speaker” could be yet another item on the conservative litmus test, to go with “who really won the 2020 election.”

DCCC taps members for large leadership team

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a slate of nearly two dozen members who will join its leadership ranks as it looks to preserve a narrow House majority after redistricting.

The expanded roster is a part of DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s pledge to ensuring diversity is reflected in the upper echelons of the committee, something lawmakers complained that his predecessor failed to achieve in the early days of the past cycle.

Some notable additions: Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas — whom Maloney tapped as a vice chair last year — will also lead recruitment efforts this cycle, with the help of Reps. Sara Jacobs of California, Joe Neguse of Colorado and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Incumbent-protection efforts will be helmed by Rep. Ami Bera of California with assistance from Reps. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia and Steven Horsford of Nevada. All three used to represent swing areas that have become safer in recent years.

In interviews, members said that their early efforts have focused on helping swing-seat incumbents prepare for the midterms by studying what went wrong in 2020 and identifying and convincing strong candidates to run in 2022, even while the district lines themselves are months away from being finalized.

“It's harder in a redistricting year, but generally you're able to recruit,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Candidates that declare know there's a caveat that, 'Well, if the district doesn't look anything like a seat that is viable for me, then I may not run.' Or if they get lumped in with an incumbent.”

But she said she’s been encouraged by the level of interest so far: “We’ll have primaries,” she predicted, pointing to the crowded field in the open seat currently held by Rep. Charlie Crist, a Florida Democrat who is running for governor.

Recruiters note that redistricting will freeze fields for both parties. And Democrats hinted that some familiar names might surface in 2022 — candidates who will be ready to launch quickly when maps materialize.

“Oh I think you’ll definitely see some former incumbents. You’ll see people who came close last time,” Veasey said in an interview. “I think you’ll see some surprises — movie stars.”

Redistricting will also shake up the committee’s Frontline program for endangered incumbents. The DCCC named 32 members to it last spring, but that number could grow and contract. Depending on the new lines, battleground members could find themselves in bluer districts, and safe-seat members could be suddenly in swing territory.

Bera said in an interview that he’s been encouraging Frontline members to study the results of the various analyses of the 2020 election, completed by the DCCC and outside groups. “Certainly we’re looking at what polling kind of missed, because I think everyone ought to be doing that. It wasn’t just the Democratic Party,” he said.

His other advice: Be prepared for a potential drop-off in turnout for a midterm year and to combat GOP attacks on socialism.

”Let the data dictate what you learned, and then you take those lessons and feed them back into how we move forward," he said. "I think that's what we're going through. I would argue the Republicans are probably not going through that same analysis, and they’re tying themselves to Trump."

Also joining the leadership team: Reps. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Scott Peters of California and David Trone of Maryland, who will be regional vice chairs. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia will return as national finance chair, and Rep. Adam Schiff of California will lead finance efforts in the battleground seats, putting to use the large online fundraising apparatus he amassed during the first impeachment trial.

The DCCC has not named a redistricting chair, as its GOP counterpart has. But the regional vice chairs will be monitoring new maps, and the committee has a designated redistricting team on staff, led by Gisel Aceves. A former executive director of BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Aceves moved to the DCCC this cycle.

As previously announced, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland will lead organizing for the committee, and Rep. Linda Sánchez of California will oversee Latino engagement. And Reps. Donald Norcross of New Jersey and Bobby Scott of Virginia will serve as committee liaisons to the labor community.

Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara Lee of California is bringing some of her “Representation Matters” mentorship program for women of color under the DCCC umbrella. And Reps. Sharice Davids of Kansas, Dan Kildee of Michigan, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Raul Ruiz of California will spearhead the committee’s work with Native American tribes and Indian Country.

“With their diverse array of backgrounds and experiences, we are on an even stronger footing to recruit candidates, build powerful campaigns, and deliver for the American people,” Maloney of New York said in a release announcing the team.

Posted in Uncategorized

GOP hands Dems a new line of attack: They’re for ‘Trump over the cops’

Republicans often blast Democrats for wanting to defund the police. But Democrats have a new rebuttal: The GOP won’t defend the police.

In the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the GOP’s love for law enforcement — a longtime hallmark of the party — is being called into question as some members on the right continue to whitewash the insurrection and even foist blame on the police officers who protected lawmakers that day.

Democrats are ramping up attacks on Republicans who refused to investigate the riots or formally honor the cops who responded, some of whom were tasered, maced and beaten with flag poles by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Members of President Joe Biden's party are not only painting their colleagues across the aisle as disrespectful of law enforcement, but also arguing that the GOP’s unflinching loyalty to Trump has compromised its core values.

That dynamic was on full display in the Capitol Wednesday as D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who suffered a concussion and heart attack while fending off the Jan. 6 mob, visited the Hill seeking meetings with the 21 House Republicans who voted against a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to police officers for their service during the attack. Fanone says freshman Rep. Andrew Clyde — the Georgia Republican who recently downplayed the insurrection by comparing it to a ”normal tourist visit” — refused to shake his hand after the officer introduced himself in an elevator.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), one of the House’s impeachment managers during Trump’s second trial, was quick to seize on the interaction, tweeting “that to honor Trump, @housegop will dishonor the police.”

“It's hard to accuse Democrats of defunding the police when you are dishonoring the police,” Swalwell said in an interview. “It makes me wonder: Was there prior support [in the GOP] for law enforcement? Or just phony political pandering? Because when the rubber meets the road, they're choosing Trump over the cops.”

It’s a clear attempt to flip the script on Republicans, who yoked Democrats in key battleground districts to liberal calls to “defund the police” as part of an effective messaging strategy that Democrats struggled to counter in the 2020 election cycle. But now, Republicans may find themselves on their heels — and see their own narrative undermined — if these Democratic attacks stick.

Yet Republicans aren’t sweating the prospect of being tagged as anti-police, arguing that Democrats are just trying to deflect from their own problems on an issue where they know they're politically vulnerable.

"All you need to do is ask Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez if Democrats support law enforcement,” said National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams, referring to four members of the House liberal alliance known as "the Squad."

“After elected House Democrats spent the last year calling police instruments of white supremacy and advocating for their complete abolition, no voter will believe House Democrats support law enforcement," McAdams added.

Still, Democrats see an opening after a wedge started to form between the GOP and law enforcement during this spring's debate over a proposed independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6. While 35 Republicans supported the effort in the House, Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill — despite a lobbying campaign from the mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died following his response to the Jan. 6 attack after suffering from a stroke.

Those tensions surfaced again in the House again this week, when nearly two dozen Republicans opposed legislation to bestow the highest congressional honor on Capitol and D.C. police officers who defended the building from rioters. Hard-line conservatives took issue with the bill for referring to the siege as an “insurrection” and accused Democrats of just trying to play politics.

Firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who voted against the measure, argued there are better ways to honor the police. She also lit into Democrats for their positions on police reform.

“I hope that every police officer that has gone to other members of Congress here asking why they voted no yesterday went to the Democrat members' office who wanted to remove their qualified immunity, who wanted to make them personally liable for doing their job,” Boebert said, citing a legal doctrine shielding offers from legal burdens for behavior on the job that Democrats want to overhaul.

“Every Democrat who has called to defund the police," Boebert added, "I hope they are held accountable. Democrats are using [police officers] as pawns for their political game, and I’m tired of it."

The escalating rhetoric over support for law enforcement comes as some Trump acolytes on the Hill continue to downplay the Jan. 6 assault. At a hearing this week, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) accused the cop who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt of “lying in wait” before he “executed” her and falsely claimed none of the rioters had firearms. And on Twitter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) suggested without evidence that FBI operatives had a hand in “organizing and carrying out the Jan 6th Capitol riot.”

Democrats have wasted no time hitting back. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said the “GOP loves to say ‘back the blue’ but really it is only when politically convenient.” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) called his Republican colleagues “either evil or nuts.” And Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) labeled the GOP opposition to the gold medal bill as “sick” and “pathetic.”

And it’s not just Democrats who have called out Republicans for how they’ve treated the police since Jan. 6.

“On January 6, as the violent mob advanced on the House chamber, I was standing near @RepGosar and helped him open his gas mask. The Capitol Police led us to safety,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection. “It is disgusting and despicable to see Gosar lie about that day and smear the men and women who defended us.”

Two of Gosar's brothers appeared on CNN Thursday morning to disavow the Republican lawmaker's dismissive response to the insurrection and his vote against the proposal to honor law enforcement.

"First off, I'd like to thank Officer Fanone for his and the other Capitol Hill police officers for their bravery and heroism on that day," David Gosar said. "And on behalf of the actual sane members of our family, which is everyone but Paul, we apologize on behalf of our family to him for his despicable comments and disgraceful conduct through this whole incident."

Meanwhile, some Democrats are wary of overplaying their hand or politicizing such a sensitive issue. The back-and-forth also runs the risk of upending lawmakers' bipartisan negotiations on a police reform deal.

But Democrats, who have searched for ways to combat the GOP’s policing attacks, also see their opponents' actions as an opportunity to highlight the contrast between the two parties on law enforcement — as long as they also show voters what they stand for. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also pointed to the unified Republican votes against a Covid aid bill earlier this year that included funding for local police departments.

“That’s a pretty poor record,” Maloney said.

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.

Posted in Uncategorized

Former WH adviser Fiona Hill considered pulling a fire alarm during Helsinki Summit—to shut Trump up

I don’t know about you, but I used to feel pretty on edge whenever Donald Trump left the country. As bad as it was having him here, seeing him take overseas trips felt a bit like that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Lecter escapes from his cage and no one can find him. What will happen? Will Trump shove Montenegro’s prime minister out of the way like an unruly child trying to get to the front of a Sno-Cone queue? Will he stand next to murderous dictators looking like Droopy Dog at the tail end of a four-day bath salts bender? Or will his diseased offal heap of a brain spin the wheel and do something truly Dadaistic, like appointing his horse to the Senate while ordering Ted Cruz to pull a wagon of turnips through Mar-a-Lago 16 hours a day with a Trump-branded bit in his mouth? 

My point is, anything could happen with this guy. And while that’s a great trait in a shock jock or a WWE wrestler, it’s not something I want to see in a man whose preternaturally stubby fingers hover over the nuclear button. But I’m just a garden-variety, standard-issue American with an ordinary interest in not dying gruesomely for no reason. Imagine how much worse it was for people on the front lines of Donald Trump’s war on reality.

Well, you don’t have to imagine. Former presidential adviser and National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who was a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has an insider’s take.

On the June 15 edition of Don Lemon Tonight, Hill recounted how truly horrifying Trump’s performance at the 2018 Helsinki Surrender Summit was. Remember? Trump took Russia President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies and looked like a beaten animal that still thought it was going to get a Trump Tower Moscow deal one day.

Transcript!

LEMON: “I just want to read something that you told the BBC about the Trump-Putin press conference, this is in Helsinki, and you said this. You said, ‘My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’ I literally did have in my mind the idea of faking some kind of medical emergency and throwing myself backwards with a loud, blood-curdling scream into the media.’ I mean, of all the disastrous things that you have seen on the world stage, Fiona, where did that moment fall, and did you seriously consider that? Was it that bad?”

HILL: “I did seriously think about it. First of all, I looked around to see if there was a fire alarm, but we were in a rather grand building attached to the presidential palace … and I couldn’t see anything that resembled a fire alarm.

Look, I had exactly the same feeling that Deborah Birx had during the infamous press conference where there was the suggestion by President Trump about injecting bleach to counteract the coronavirus. It was one of those moments where, it was mortifying, frankly, and humiliating for the country. And it was also completely, I have to say, out of step with what had happened in the meeting prior to that.

The meeting itself was quite anodyne. Putin had tried to pull a fast one again. He always likes to stoke outrage. He had come up with the idea of potentially allowing the United States to interview some operatives from the Russian military intelligence services who had been just indicted for their interference in the 2016 elections, but of course he was just about to announce to the world as well that he would then like to interview a few Americans, including our former ambassador Mike McFaul and a number of State Department and other officials who he’d also got in his crosshairs, so he knew that that was going to stoke outrage.

But it was the press conference itself and the way that President Trump unfortunately handled himself which was, you know, the worst moment of all. And as I said, I just thought let’s just cut this off, let’s try to end it, but of course I couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t just add to the terrible spectacle.”

Think about that. A top presidential adviser literally thought about pulling a fire alarm to save Donald Trump, and the nation, from Donald Trump. The best idea I could ever come up with was anonymously sending him a case of Velveeta-slathered sex toys—and that was after four years of racking my brain. But pulling a fire alarm was probably a better idea. Giving him a shiny new firetruck to play with would have also been a viable option.

Fast forward to today where, if none of President Biden’s advisers thought about tackling him to the ground and bringing in an exfil team to get him away from Putin, we’re already far, far ahead of where we were as a country at this time last year. 

But none of this will convince the members of the Republican Bizarro World Caucus, better known as the entire Republican Party, except for Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, plus a smattering of other consensus-reality dead-enders. The GOP currently imagines a world where Joe Biden, who has five decades of relevant experience, somehow collapses under the weight of his own competence.

Who wants to take this one? 😂 pic.twitter.com/8PIY2wkY5j

— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) June 16, 2021

Uh huh. Sure, Lauren. You might want to up your daily intake of gingko biloba if you really can’t remember “a more unqualified person.”

Meanwhile, Biden was busy providing us with a refreshing study in contrasts.

Who looks a beaten-down Russian dog this time around? It isn't Biden. pic.twitter.com/C2yOKtALWZ

— Dawn Got Vaccinated! (@viewsfordays) June 16, 2021

We’re also supporting our allies now, instead of humiliating the ones Putin doesn’t like.

2017 G7 vs. 2021 G7 pic.twitter.com/JG9ZuBi3ya

— The Recount (@therecount) June 11, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot better about where we are today than one year ago. At the very least, there’s a much better chance of Biden bringing Putin to heel, rather than the other way around.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.