McConnell holds joint infrastructure event with Biden in Kentucky, infuriating MAGA Republicans

So where was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday when the House GOP clown caucus failed once again to get its act together to elect a speaker? In a move sure to infuriate Republican extremists, McConnell made a rare joint appearance with President Joe Biden in Covington, Kentucky, to tout a major project funded by the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021.

The event offered a sharp contrast to the chaos engulfing the House with the new narrow GOP majority unable to elect a speaker on its second day in control.

Biden began his remarks by thanking McConnell for providing the votes needed to get the infrastructure bill passed according to a transcript of the speeches.

"I wanted to start off the New Year at this historic project with the bi-partisan agreement because I believe it sends an important message to the entire country," Biden said. "We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward. If we drop our egos and focus on what is needed for the country."

In his remarks, McConnell said, “Even while we have big differences on other things ..  this bridge, I think, symbolizes coming together ... If you look at the political alignment of everyone involved, it’s the government is working together to solve a major problem at a time when the country needs to see examples like this, of coming together and getting an outcome … I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

McConnell had fully expected to take over as Senate majority leader on Tuesday when the new Congress convened. But instead, Democrats ended up increasing their Senate majority by one seat in the midterms.

Unlike his spineless House counterpart Kevin McCarthy, McConnell may realize it's beneficial for party leaders to stand up to rather than appease extremist MAGA Republicans. He has blamed Trump for putting up poor quality candidates like Herschel Walker in Georgia and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania who lost potentially winnable races that left him as minority leader.

RELATED STORY: McConnell launches mad hunt for whoever whiffed Trump's impeachment then backed his loser candidates

He doesn’t want that to happen again in 2024 when the Senate map favors Republicans. Democrats must defend three seats in states won by Trump—in Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Montana (Jon Tester), and West Virginia (Joe Manchin) as well as in purple states, including Arizona (Kyrsten Sinema, now an independent).

Additionally, Trump has insulted McConnell in posts on his Truth Social platform as an “Old Crow” RINO (Republican In Name Only) and leveled ethnic slurs at his wife, Trump’s former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. And Trump lashed out at McConnell and Chao again on Tuesday on his Truth Social platform in the wake of McCarthy’s failure to win the speakership. Trump is backing McCarthy’s bid for speaker.

“There is so much unnecessary turmoil in the Republican Party,” Trump said, adding that the disorder is due in large part to “Old Broken Crow” McConnell, his wife Chao “who is a sellout to China,” and their “RINO” allies. They “make it difficult for everyone else by constantly capitulating to Hopeless Joe Biden and the Democrats.” 

Of course, McConnell is responsible for much of what ails the nation, including packing the judiciary with Federalist Society conservatives, including three hard-line Supreme Court justices. But McConnell has begun to take a stand against MAGA Republican extremists, even if his actions are too little, too late after he failed to vote against Trump in the 2021 Senate impeachment trial. McConnell incurred the wrath of Trump when he got 18 other Senate Republicans to join him in supporting the infrastructure bill in 2021. In the House, McCarthy opposed the bill, while only 13 Republicans supported it.

RELATED STORY: There are no ‘good’ Republicans, and the sooner that is universally acknowledged the better

He further infuriated MAGA Republicans when he helped the Senate pass the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill in December, including $45 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, to fund the government in fiscal year 2023.

RELATED STORY: Santos scandal just the beginning of bind that promises to haunt Republicans straight into 2024

On Wednesday, Biden and McConnell appeared together to tout the $1.63 billion in federal grants that Kentucky and Ohio will receive to help repair the overloaded Brent Spence Bridge and build a new span adjacent to it. The bridge over the Ohio River connects Cincinnati and Covington, and is a heavily used freight route connecting the Midwest and the South.

Other speakers at the event included two Republicans, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and former Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, as well as two Democrats, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who is up for reelection in 2023, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and J.D. Vance of Ohio did not attend the event.

Biden has accomplished much more than expected with Democrats narrowly in control of Congress during his first two years in office. But after the November midterms, Republicans gained a narrow House majority and plan to try to stall Biden’s agenda and launch investigations into his family and Cabinet members.

Conservative commentators were irate about the joint appearance. Mark Levin called McConnell a “total fraud” on Twitter. Laura Ingraham tweeted, “Behold the uniparty!”

On Tuesday, McConnell broke the record for longest-serving Senate party leader whether in the majority or the minority, Politico reported. The record had been held by Democratic Sen. Mike Mansfield of Montana, who served as majority leader for 16 years.

In his floor remarks to open the new Congress, McConnell actually paid tribute to Mansfield: “Mansfield was a canny strategist who knew how to rally his conference. He knew when to go to battle, and when to coordinate with his counterpart Everett Dirksen,” McConnell said. “In short, he knew how to work the Senate.”

In November, McConnell beat back a leadership challenge. Ten senators voted for Sen. Rick Scott of Florida instead of McConnell. 

Vice President Kamala Harris and other senior Biden administration officials will be blanketing the country this week to promote the president’s economic plan. On Wednesday, Harris will be in Chicago and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit New London, Connecticut. On Thursday, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will join White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in San Francisco, California.

Those visits are related to the following infrastructure projects funded under the 2021 bill: four moveable bridges crossing the Calumet River in Chicago; the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London, Connecticut; and the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Here is a video of Biden’s visit to Covington, including the speeches by Biden, McConnell and others. McConnell’s speech begins at the 29-minute mark and Biden’s at the 35-minute mark.

(Updates throughout with details from the event in Covington, Kentucky.)

GOP disarray: Trump blasts Mitch, Bowers calls out GOP ‘fascism,’ Colorado senator switches to Dems

While Joe Biden and fellow Democrats are getting things done, the GOP is increasingly in disarray as it embraces the MAGAverse and the cult of Trump. In fact, so much is going on that it might be time for periodic roundups of the internal fissures within the GOP.

Democrats still face an uphill battle in the November midterms, but the tide is turning in our favor. So let’s start with the dust-up between Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Last week, McConnell conceded that the House has a better chance of flipping than the Senate. During a stop in Kentucky, McConnell told reporters:

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said. “Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” he added, without mentioning any names.

But it was clear that he was referring to Trump-backed candidates in key swing states who are all trailing their Democratic opponents in recent polls—Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, and Blake Masters in Arizona. McConnell is backing pro-impeachment incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, while Trump is supporting her 2020 election denier rival, Kelly Tshibaka, in Alaska’s Senate race.  

That didn’t sit well with the master of the MAGAverse. Over the weekend, Trump posted this on his Truth Social platform:

Why do Republican Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate. This is such an affront to honor and to leadership. He should spend more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!

Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, served as secretary of Transportation during Trump’s four-year term, but resigned shortly after the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

Immediately after the insurrection, McConnell took to the Senate floor to say that Tump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6. However, he spinelessly voted to acquit Trump at his second impeachment trial a few weeks later.

As for Chao, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was a child, there have been questions raised as to whether she aided her father’s shipping company through her government positions. The U.S. Transportation Department's Inspector General's office investigated Chao for potential violations of ethics rules and misuse of her position, and published its findings in March. Chao's father, James S.C. Chao, founded a shipping company, now called the Foremost Group, which her sister Angela now heads. The firm does significant business in China.

McConnell’s criticism of Trump was relatively mild compared with what Arizona’s ousted House Speaker Rusty Bowers had to say about Trump and his party in an extraordinary interview with The Guardian. Bowers, a staunch conservative, testified in a public hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection about the pressure he faced to overturn Arizona’s presidential election result that gave Joe Biden a narrow win.

Earlier this month, Trump got his revenge when Bowers lost a Republican primary race to challenger David Farnsworth, who claimed that the 2020 election had been satanically snatched from Trump by the “devil himself.”

Bowers detailed to The Guardian how Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman pressured him to have the state legislature use an arcane Arizona law to switch the election outcome to Trump. He resisted the bullying. ”The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves—that to me is fascism,” Bowers said.

With the primary loss behind him, Bowers, who is a Mormon, felt unhindered in letting loose on Trump and the GOP. “The constitution is hanging by a thread,” he told The Guardian. “The funny thing is, I always thought it would be the other guys. And it’s my side. That just rips at my heart: that we would be the people who would surrender the constitution in order to win an election. That just blows my mind.”

Bowers said he remains optimistic that the GOP will one day find its way back on to the rails, but said that things are likely to get much worse before they get better. He said the Arizona GOP seems to be lost at the moment. “They’ve invented a new way. It’s a party that doesn’t have any thought. It’s all emotional, it’s all revenge. It’s all anger. That’s all it is,” Bowers said.

And in Colorado, one GOP state senator went even further when he announced Monday that he couldn’t remain a Republican any longer and was defecting to the Democrats. State Sen. Kevin Priola wrote in a two-page letter that there is “too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge.” He added: “Simply put, we need Democrats in charge.”

Priola cited two main reasons for switching parties: Many Republicans peddling false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and the party’s efforts to block legislation that would fight climate change even as Coloradans endure worsening wildfires and drought.

Priola has served in the Colorado legislature as a Republican since 2009, first as a representative and then, starting in 2017, as a senator. Term limits bar him from seeking reelection in 2024. His defection increases the Democratic state Senate majority ahead of the November elections.

“I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has,” Priola wrote. “Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism,” he wrote, adding: “Our planet and our democracy depend on it.”

Guardian says House Jan. 6 committee to hold six public hearings in June, but is that enough?

The Guardian is reporting that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack is planning to hold six public hearings in June on how Donald Trump and some allies broke the law in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But Rick Wilson, a former top GOP strategist and the co-founder of The Lincoln Project, sounded alarm bells, saying the committee members are not putting enough effort into making their case to the public.

The British newspaper, citing sources familiar with the inquiry, said it had reviewed a draft schedule prepared by the House committee. The first hearing is scheduled for June 9 and the last hearing on June 23 will be televised in prime time.

The Guardian wrote:

We want to paint a picture as clear as possible as to what occurred,” the chairman of the select committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson, recently told reporters. “The public needs to know what to think. We just have to show clearly what happened on January 6.”

The select committee has already alleged that Trump violated multiple federal laws to overturn the 2020 election, including obstructing Congress and defrauding the United States. But the hearings are where the panel intends to show how they reached those conclusions.

According to the draft schedule, the June public hearings will explore Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, starting and ending with prime-time hearings at 8 pm on the 9th and the 23rd. In between, the panel will hold 10 am hearings on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 21st.

The Guardian said the schedule is still subject to change. The two prime-time hearings are scheduled to last between one-and-a-half and two hours, while the four other morning hearings will last between two and two-and-a-half hours.

Each hearing will be led by a select committee member, the sources told the newspaper, but the questioning of witnesses who have been subpoenaed to appear will be primarily conducted by the committee’s top investigative lawyers. The investigators also intend to use flash texts, photos, and videos to illustrate the testimony, the sources said.

The Guardian report added that the panel will lay out how the efforts to overturn the election results unfolded over a 65-day period from the time Trump falsely claimed victory until Jan. 6:

The select committee is expected, for instance, to run through how the Trump White House appeared to coordinate the illegal plan to send fake electors to Congress, the plot to seize voting machines, and the unlawful plan to delay the certification of Biden’s win.

The panel is also expected to chart the reactivation of the Stop the Steal movement by the Trump activist Ali Alexander and associates, and how he applied for a permit to protest near the Capitol on January 6 but never held the “Wild Protest” and instead went up the Capitol steps.

The select committee additionally intends to address the question of intent, such as why Trump deliberately misled the crowd that he would march with them to the Capitol, and why he resisted entreaties to call off the rioters from obstructing the joint session on January 6.

The sources said the current schedule calls for capping off the six hearings with a close examination of video footage of leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys groups meeting in a parking lot on Jan. 5 and their activities at the Capitol.

The sources said the select committee wants to draw a connection between “Trump’s political plan for January 6 and the militia groups’ violence at the Capitol in what could form evidence that Trump oversaw an unlawful conspiracy.”

Wilson sharply criticized the committee’s plan to only hold six hearings in a Twitter thread:

“SIX HEARINGS? SIX? Are. You. F*cking. Kidding. Me?" before adding, "Does no one understand the ballgame here?"

2/ Does no one understand the ballgame here? The witnesses from the Trump world will filibuster, bullshit, evade and jerk themselves off on live TV for roughly 40% of the hearings. Everyone will have a long statement at the opening.

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) May 23, 2022

Wilson went on to say: "You have to create a spectacle. You have to make people care. You have to have drama. You have to drag and grind the people who tried to do this so long and so hard their knees bleed. A coup attempt that goes unpunished is a training exercise."

And he warned that should the GOP take control over Congress next year, they will hold months of hearings on Hunter Biden’s laptop, begin impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden for failing to secure the border, and hold months of “show trials” on Afghanistan or antifa.

4/ I PROMISE you, if the GOP was in charge of this, the hearings would NEVER, EVER, EVER stop. cc: @kurtbardella @TaraSetmayer Six hearings means the GOP will try to disrupt them (see Gaetz et al previously) and the Democrats will mumble their objections.

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) May 23, 2022

Just for comparison’s sake, the Senate Watergate Committee headed by Democratic Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina began holding public hearings on May 17, 1973. In all, the committee held 51 days of public hearings, a total of 319 hours, before issuing its final report on June 27, 1974.

Here are highlights of that Senate committee’s hearings:

In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began holding formal impeachment hearings against President Richard M. Nixon, and in late July approved three articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned in August 1974 before he could be impeached in a House vote.

Of course, now we probably don’t have that amount of time to hold extended public hearings given the looming midterm elections, but the question is whether the House committee is allowing enough time to make its case to the American public.

Democracy in peril: Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign began months before Zelenskyy took office

Ukraine may have saved our democracy and its own back in 2019 by resisting Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the country’s government into announcing an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden.

What many people don’t realize is that Rudy Giuliani had already begun pushing to get the Ukrainian government to announce such an investigation as early as January 2019, when he met in New York with Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko. That’s months before Volodymyr Zelenskyy, running on an anti-corruption platform, won the April 21, 2019, presidential run-off election against incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Biden officially announced his candidacy just four days later.

I would recommend that everyone read the Ukrainegate timeline prepared by Just Security, an online forum that analyzes U.S. national security policy. It outlines the complex chain of events in the campaign to pressure Ukraine that eventually resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. And there was a a quid pro quo offered to Poroshenko—although it did not involve withholding weapons, according to the Just Security timeline.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in late Feburary 2019, Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Poroshenko to press him to initiate an investigation of Hunter Biden and a debunked theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton. They said if Poroshenko went along he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House. That would have been a boon to Poroshenko, who was in a tough campaign for reelection against Zelenskyy.

Now imagine an alternate history in which Ukraine’s top prosecutor had announced an investigation of the Bidens in March 2019. Poroshenko was pushed to the brink, but did not yield to the pressure.

Poroshenko and Trump in 2017

It would have come completely out of the blue, since there was no “perfect” phone call or whistleblower at the time. Just think about how CNN or The New York Times would have reported on the investigation. How would Biden have reacted to a nasty smear campaign against his sole surviving son, who was in a fragile state as he struggled to recover from substance abuse problems? 

New York Times story dated Feb. 26, 2019 said Biden had held a family meeting earlier that month in which there was a “consensus” that he should run for president. But at the same time, Biden acknowledged in a speech at the University of Delaware that he had been uneasy about “taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign” against Trump. “I don’t think he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against,” Biden said.

If Ukraine had done Giuliani’s bidding, Biden might very well have decided against entering the race. At best, Biden would have entered the campaign as a weakened frontrunner, with a dark cloud hanging over his head. Either way, Democrats would have faced an even more contentious primary contest, which might have yielded a weakened candidate whom Trump would have had a better chance of defeating.

A second Trump term would have posed an undeniable threat to our democracy. As for Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s puppet would have continued undermining NATO and done little to help Kyiv resist Russian aggression.

In Trump’s mind, Ukraine, not Russia, was his enemy. 


Let’s look more closely at what happened in the months before Zelenskyy’s inauguration on May 20, 2019. What happened after his inauguration was well-documented by Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson in March 14’s “Trump’s Ukraine extortion campaign didn’t begin or end with `I would like you to do us a favor.”

In August 2018, polls showed that Biden was leading Trump in a head-to-head matchup, and also leading the potential Democratic primary field. Biden indicated that fall that he was strongly considering a 2020 presidential bid. Around the same time, Giuliani Partners was hired by the Boca Raton, Florida, company Fraud Guarantee, co-founded by Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman. Giuliani ultimately was paid $500,000 for undisclosed business and legal advice, according to Reuters.

Lev Parnas in 2020
Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were later convicted in a campaign fraud finance case, for using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations. There was a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump American First PAC from a shell company set up by Parnas and Fruman. That was enough for both men to get invited to an exclusive donors’ dinner in April 2018 with Trump at his Washington hotel, at which both men urged the president to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, an anti-corruption crusader, claiming that she was unfriendly to Trump, The Washington Post reported
Parnas and Fruman became Giuliani’s facilitators and translators as he revved up efforts to go after Biden, even though he had yet to declare his candidacy.


Now there’s one big unanswered question: Was Giuliani wittingly or unwittingly acting as a “useful tool” to spread disinformation prepared by Russian intelligence aimed at derailing Biden’s presidential campaign? It’s not implausible, because U.S. Intelligence has already confirmed that Russia was spreading disinformation about Biden’s mental health
Giuliani and Trump in 2016
The Washington Post reported in October 2020 that U.S. intelligence agencies had warned the White House in 2019 that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence and being used to feed disinformation to Trump. Giuliani did ask Ukraine to probe accusations that Ukrainian officials plotted to rig the 2016 presidential election in Hillary Clinton’s favor, by leaking evidence against Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager. Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate a mysterious Democratic National Committee server that Trump believed was hidden in Ukraine.
During the November 2019, House Intelligence Committee hearings, Fiona Hill, the former Russia expert for the National Security Council, called out House Republicans for pushing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” Hill said.
Giuliani was pushing allegations that Biden, while vice president to Barack Obama, pushed to get Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin dismissed, in order to avoid a corruption investigation of Ukraine’s Burisma energy company, whose board members included Hunter Biden. But Giuliani could not have come up with this conspiracy theory on his own, because it was totally baseless. It’s logical to assume that this notion was spoon fed to Giuliani, who eagerly swallowed it.
One method used by Russian intelligence operatives is to put ideas into the head of someone who is receptive to the same goal—in this case derailing Biden’s candidacy. The notion that Biden stood a good chance of defeating Trump in 2020 must have really stuck in Giuliani’s craw. It was Biden who turned “America’s mayor” into a national laughingstock in an October 2007 Democratic presidential debate.

“Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There’s nothing else! There’s nothing else! And I mean this sincerely. He’s genuinely not qualified to be president,” Biden said.

At the time, Giuliani was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He ended up running one of the most humiliating campaigns in modern U.S. political history, raising more than $60 million and winning only one delegate before dropping out. Giuliani then vanished into the political wilderness for eight years, only to reemerge as Trump’s personal lawyer and hatchet man.

Giuliani had access to Trump, who had repeatedly expressed his willingness to get dirt on his political opponents from foreign sources. Giuliani’s international consulting practice had clients in Ukraine dating back to at least 2008, including Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion.
During Trump’s first impeachment trial, Giuliani put out this intriguing tweet:

...incriminating documents. It was already a fully-intact bribery/extortion case. The reason you don’t know about it is because of the cover up by the corrupt Democrats and their establishment media!

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) January 27, 2020

The dossier was allegedly handed to Giuliani sometime in the fall of 2018. That raises some obvious questions: Who prepared it? What were its contents? Who were the witnesses? And who gave the dossier to Giuliani?

There are many possible suspects. A month before Trump’s first impeachment trial, NBC News published a guide to the controversial figures helping Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. The story noted that “most of them have ties to pro-Russian political figures or oligarchs.” Three names stand out in this rogues’ gallery: Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russia member of Ukraine’s parliament; Kostiantyn Kulyk, a former prosecutor; and Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian energy tycoon with deep ties to Russia.

Derkach studied at the FSB intelligence service academy in Moscow in the 1990s. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote that a top-secret CIA assessment had concluded that Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation which involves Derkach, identified by U.S. intelligence as a Russian agent, who has been providing anti-Biden information to Giuliani.

Kulyk did prepare a seven-page, English-language dossier in late 2018 that accused Hunter Biden of corruption related to his service on Burisma’s board, according to The New York Times. The dossier also made the dubious claim that U.S. diplomats covered up for crimes committed by the Bidens. Ukrainian officials said Kulyk had ties to a warlord in eastern Ukraine, accused of working for the Russian intelligence services. It’s not clear whether this was the same dossier that Giuliani was referring to in his tweet.

Firtash has been fighting extradition from Austria to the U.S. on bribery and racketeering charges. Parnas has alleged that Giuliani offered help with Firtash’s U.S. legal problems, in exchange for helping with the hunt for compromising information on the Bidens. Federal prosecutors also alleged that Parnas received a $1 million loan from a lawyer for Firtash. 

Firtash was also involved in investment projects with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who previously was paid millions of dollars to work as a political consultant for Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.


At the annual White House Hannukah party on Dec. 6, 2018, Parnas and Fruman held a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani. CNN reported that Trump tasked them to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, according to associates of Parnas. 

Parnas and Giuliani in 2018

In December 2018, Parnas and Fruman arranged a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor general who was the source of the debunked reports that Joe Biden had him fired to stop him from investigating wrongdoing in Burisma.

Biden actually was among multiple Western officials who had urged Ukraine to dismiss Shokin from his post at the country’s top prosecutor because of his insufficient efforts to combat corruption.

Bloomberg News reported that Giuliani met for the first time with then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko in New York on Jan. 25-26, 2019. Giuliani held another meeting with the Ukrainian prosecutor in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-February. Parnas and Fruman attended both meetings.

And then in late February we get to the quid pro quo, with Giuliani’s associates telling Poroshenko that if Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens, he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House.

Yet why didn’t the Trump administration try to extort Poroshenko by withholding shipments of lethal weapons? Perhaps because there might have been a previous quid pro quo.

In March 2018, the Pentagon approved the sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. In early April, a Ukraine anti-corruption prosecutor froze four cases involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, The New York Times reported. Ukraine also announced it was halting all cooperation with the Mueller investigation. One of the cases resulted from the mysterious black ledger. In August 2016, Ukraine officials revealed the existence of a secret ledger, which appeared to detail payouts totaling $12.5 million to Manafort for his work as a consultant to Yanukovych.

But there was a catch that rendered the Javelin sale mostly symbolic. The U.S. insisted that the missiles be stored in western Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the frontlines in the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian forces were battling pro-Russian separatists, The Atlantic reported.

During their early 2019 meetings, Lutsenko fed some information to Giuliani, including bank records that detailed Burisma’s payments to Hunter Biden. But the records did not indicate any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, according to a New Yorker profile of the Ukrainian prosecutor. Lutsenko told The New Yorker that he suggested to Giuliani that, if U.S. authorities opened an investigation into the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine, the prosecutor-general’s office would share any relevant information.

But Lutsenko soon realized that what seemed most important to Giuliani was to get him to announce investigations into the Bidens and into claims of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to The New Yorker. Lutsenko said he didn’t have any grounds to open such investigations under Ukrainian law. Lutsenko said he sensed that Poroshenko was worried that publicly announcing such investigations would damage Ukraine’s relations with the Democratic Party.

Ukraine had enjoyed strong bipartisan support until Trump came along. Trump’s Republican loyalists were already spouting conspiracy theories put forth by Russian intelligence that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election to help Clinton.

“I was near the red line, but I didn’t cross it,” Lutsenko told The New Yorker. “I was wondering what kind of game he (Giuliani) was playing. I felt like we were getting scammed.”


Imagine the consequences today if Poroshenko and Lutsenko had crossed that red line back in early 2019.

Instead, Giuliani and his associates were back at square one with Zelenskyy’s election. That set in motion the series of events leading to Trump’s “perfect” phone call to Zelenskyy, the arms-for-dirt extortion plot, and the president’s eventual impeachment (the first one, anyway).

The Mueller probe barely uncovered the tip of the iceberg, because its scope was limited to looking only into collusion between Russia and Trump during the 2015-2016 presidential campaign.

The DOJ should make a deal with Parnas and/or Fruman to reduce their sentences in exchange for information about whether Russian intelligence used Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election by undermining Biden’s campaign. It is also high time that a counterespionage investigation be opened against Manafort, if it is not already under way.

And above all else, we need a comprehensive investigation of Trump’s dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs over the decades. With the help of former Attorney General William Barr and others, Trump has been able to escape any consequences for his ties to Russia.

Our nation will never be secure until these criminals are exposed and held to account.

Donald Trump did what the Chicago Seven were wrongly accused of doing: He incited a riot

When The Trial of the Chicago 7 was released in fall 2020, Aaron Sorkin felt the story was relevant because of how Donald Trump had demonized legitimate protests that followed the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. The director and screenwriter told Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro that “protesters in cities across America being met by police violence, riot clubs … looked like 1968 and ... it felt like we had just kind of, like a rubber band, snapped back to 1968.”

But Sorkin said his perspective on the film’s relevance changed after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

“First of all, Donald Trump did exactly what the Chicago Seven were on trial for,” he said in February 2021. “He incited a riot. Not just a riot, an insurrection. Let’s be clear, this wasn’t a protest that went wrong. It was an attack on the U.S. Capitol. They did what they went there to do.”

But as a screenwriter, Sorkin never could have imagined the real-life scenario played out by Trump—both in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection and on that day itself—as more details have been revealed over the past year.

As commander-in-chief, Trump was ultimately responsible for the security of the nation’s capital. But evidence shows that the president deliberately did nothing to protect the U.S. Capitol from the riot he was inciting. 

There’s certainly strong evidence that Trump’s actions were so egregious that he could be indicted for what the Chicago Seven were wrongly accused of: conspiring to incite a riot and actually inciting a riot. Yet there’s a high legal bar to convict someone of incitement because of free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, members of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol have indicated that there are more serious charges that Trump and his cronies could face.

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, has suggested that by failing to stop the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump violated the federal law that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding before Congress. That’s punishable by up to 20 years in prison.


I didn’t need to view The Trial of the Chicago 7 to make comparisons between what happened from Aug. 25-29, 1968 in Chicago with the Jan. 6 insurrection. That’s because I was a first-hand witness. I was only 17 and had come to Chicago ahead of freshman orientation week at the University of Chicago, and worked as a volunteer for Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign.

None of the protesters went around saying Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, or Tom Hayden sent them. No one showed up clad in tactical military gear or armed with stun guns, bear spray, baseball bats, and flagpoles. That week, people were mostly running away from police rather than attacking them.  

We were there to show our opposition to the Vietnam War and support for a “peace plank” in the Democratic Party platform after a tumultuous year that had already seen the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

I still have vivid memories of what happened on Sunday night, Aug. 25—the eve of the convention’s opening day. We had set up a McCarthy literature table in Chicago’s Old Town nightlife district. Shortly after 11 PM, we heard loud screams coming from nearby Lincoln Park as police moved in to enforce a curfew. The city had denied a permit for protesters to camp out in the park.

Soon the streets were filled with police chasing and clubbing protesters. The smell of tear gas permeated the air—the opening salvo of what a federal commission later determined was “a police riot.”

A photographer bleeding from a head wound given to him by police during the riots in Grant Park outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention gives the peace sign as he is interviewed, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 28, 1968.

The Second City comedy club opened its doors so people could seek refuge, and declared an open bar. Finally, early Monday some of us packed into a VW Beetle and drove to safety on the South Side.

During the Chicago Seven trial, two of my acquaintances testified for the defense. I was working part time as an editorial assistant on the Chicago Sun-Times’ City Desk with photographer Duane Hall. He was clubbed by Chicago police on Wednesday, Aug. 28 near the Conrad Hilton Hotel on the worst night of violence during convention week.

One of my roommates, Ed Phillips, was a medic in Grant Park that night who testified that he ended up bleeding from a head wound after being clubbed by a Chicago police officer. The prosecution asked him whether he could identify the police officer who attacked him. Ed replied something to the effect of: “No, he hit me from behind.”

In September 1968, The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, formed by President Lyndon B. Johnson after the King and Kennedy assassinations, set up a study group that was headed by lawyer and future Illinois governor Daniel Walker to investigate the violence during the convention protests.

The Walker Report, issued on Dec. 1, found that while some protesters had deliberately provoked police, the police had responded with “unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions” against protesters and bystanders alike. The report characterized what happened as “a police riot.”

LBJ’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark, did not seek indictments related to the convention protests and was barred by federal judge Julius Hoffman from testifying before the jury as a defense witness in the Chicago Seven trial.

News crews interview activist Jerry Rubin (1938 - 1994) outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, August 1968. Rubin, who founded the Yippie political party with Abbie Hoffman, and five others, called the Chicago Seven, were indicted for conspiracy and inciting a riot during the convention.

Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, however, insisted on making an example of leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement by putting them on trial. Mitchell himself later spent 19 months in prison after he was convicted in 1977 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up as chairman of Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Eight alleged leaders of the Chicago protests were charged under the 1968 Anti-Riot Act: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Renee Davis, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, John Froines, and Lee Weiner. A mistrial was declared in the case against Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, who was chained and gagged in court after protesting being denied his choice of legal representation, which brings us to the Chicago Seven.

All seven defendants were acquitted on the charge of conspiring to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot. Five of the seven were found guilty of crossing state lines to incite a riot and sentenced to the maximum five years in prison. Their convictions were reversed by an appellate court because of Hoffman’s biased and improper conduct of the trial.


The controversial Anti-Riot Act used to try Seale and the Chicago Seven was the creation of racist conservatives.

The Chicago Seven were charged under the long controversial Anti-Riot Act of 1968, colloquially known as the H. Rap Brown Law. Brown was a civil rights activist and, for a time, served as chairman of both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and as Minister of Justice of the Black Panthers. He was also among the prime targets of COINTELPRO, a covert FBI program that spent years using blackmail, surveillance, and other tactics against groups and individuals from Martin Luther King to the Weatherman organization and the Panthers.

In 1967, after the FBI had identified Brown as a target for “neutralizing,” he was charged and prosecuted for carrying a gun across state lines and inciting a riot. The prosecution of Brown inspired segregationists and other advocates of “law and order” to insert the Anti-Riot Act in a 1968 fair housing bill. The act criminalizes, among other things, traveling in, or employing instrumentalities of, interstate commerce in connection with inciting or organizing a riot.

It sat on the books mostly unused after the Chicago Seven trial because of questions of whether it banned constitutionally protected speech. But more recently, the Department of Justice has used the act against violent white supremacists, including organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in no small part because there is still no federal domestic terrorism statute.


In the days immediately following the Jan. 6 insurrection, legal experts debated over whether Trump could be charged with inciting a riot along with other even more serious offenses. Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason wrote in The Washington Post on Jan. 7, 2021 that the Biden Justice Department should convene a grand jury investigation of “Trump’s unprecedented assault on America’s democracy.”

“We want to avoid the risk of criminalizing political differences. But that understanding has nothing to do with what happened at the Capitol. It’s impossible to characterize Trump’s incitement of the riot as having anything to do with the legitimate exercise of his executive power—just the opposite,”  Eliason wrote.

The House article of impeachment, passed a week after the insurrection, read: "Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." Multiple civil lawsuits filed against Trump by Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police officers also laid out a compelling case for charging Trump with incitement.

It puts things in a clear perspective if you compare what Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley did in 1968 with what Trump didn’t do in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Daley exaggerated the threat posed by the protests and did everything possible to discourage demonstrators from coming to Chicago. The city denied all but one of the permits requested by protest organizers to hold rallies and camp out in city parks. The permit refusals resulted in police initiating the violence.

During convention week, Daley had forces in place to prevent protesters from getting anywhere near the convention hall. There were 12,000 members of the Chicago Police Department on 12-hour shifts, while the U.S. Army deployed 6,000 troops to protect the city; nearly 6,000 members of the Illinois National Guard were also sent to Chicago. These forces actually outnumbered the 10,000 activists who showed up. And there were hundreds of federal and local undercover agents circulating among the protesters and their leaders.

When it comes to Jan. 6, Donald Trump did the exact opposite.

Just five days after the Electoral College cast their votes, Trump put out his tweet calling for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to meet to count the electoral votes. It, along with the entirety of Trump’s permanently banned account, has since been deleted by Twitter.

As the lawsuits filed by Capitol Police officers note, Trump supporters immediately took his message as a call to arms.

Dec 20.

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 7, 2021

A user named “EvilGuy” posted on “I will be open carrying and so will my friends. We have been waiting for Trump to say the word. There is not enough cops in DC to stop what is coming.”

Another user wrote: “Storm the People’s House and retake from the fuckin’ commies.” 

A ProPublica-Washington Post investigation found that pro-Trump Facebook groups swelled with at least 10,000 posts a day before Jan. 6, with many calling for executions or other political violence. But Trump ignored the threats of violence by his more extreme supporters and encouraged people to come to the “Big Protest Rally in Washington, D.C.” on Jan. 6. The Poynter Institute’s Politifact compiled a list of seven tweets sent out by Trump between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3. Only one of them, a retweet, made a passing reference to “peaceful protests.”

Prior to Jan. 6, there were two Trump-endorsed rallies in the nation’s capital that were billed as the “Million MAGA March”—on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12—which included members of extreme right-wing hate groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. On both occasions, Trump supporters clashed with counterprotesters as well as police, several police officers were injured, and dozens of people were arrested.

Authorities had grounds to deny permits for Jan. 6 rallies or insist that the main rally be held in a park far from downtown Washington. Instead, a permit was issued to Women for America First for a “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse outside the White House. But the permit from the National Park Service did not authorize a march from the Ellipse.

Here’s what Democratic Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands said at Trump’s impeachment trial on Feb.10 regarding how Trump simply ignored the permit’s restrictions.

BuzzFeed News reported that the Capitol Police actually approved permits for five smaller rallies on Jan. 6, at points surrounding the Capitol—one permit was issued to a group that didn’t exist and the others went to what appeared to be proxy groups affiliated with Stop the Steal, a group led by right-wing activist Ali Alexander.

Trump covered his ass by using the word “peacefully” once in his closing speech at the Ellipse rally, while repeatedly saying there was a need to fight.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

There was no cordon of police or National Guard deployed to block the marchers from making a beeline to the Capitol where they would join protesters who were already at rally sites around the Capitol. Instead, an email sent by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the National Guard would be present to “protect pro-Trump people,” and many more would be available on standby, according to the House select committee. They weren’t needed because counterprotesters didn’t show up.

At the House committee’s first hearing on July 27, four Capitol Police officers directly linked Trump’s words to the rioters’ violent actions.

“All of them—all of them—were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,’” Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino A. Gonell told the House panel. And what was Trump doing at the time? He was watching the violence unfold instead of taking immediate action to stop the attack, ignoring pleas from his daughter Ivanka, Fox News hosts, and top aides.

As former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN, ”All I know about that day is he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV, as he often did. 'Look at all of the people fighting for me,' hitting rewind, watching it again. That's what I know."


Back in 1968, thousands of people came to Chicago “to protest in the finest American tradition outside and in the vicinity of the convention,” defense attorney William Kunstler said in his opening statement in the Chicago Seven trial. The organizers called for people to march peacefully to the convention hall and proclaim their stance on the issues—primarily ending the Vietnam War, which was then at its peak, with more U.S. troops killed than in any other year.

“We are not going to storm the convention with tanks or mace,” David Dellinger said at a pre-convention press conference. “But we are going to storm the hearts and minds of the American people.”

And there’s another important distinction. Trump and other speakers at the Jan. 6 rally, like Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, riled up the crowd with calls to “fight” long before any violence broke out.

Officers from the Chicago Police Department confront a wounded antiwar demonstrator bleeding from the head after a demonstrator who had climbed a flag pole to lower the U.S. flag was pulled down by police during preparations for an outlawed protest march on the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 28, 1968.

Most of the defendants’ remarks cited by the prosecution in the Chicago Seven trial were made after the police had brutally attacked protesters, when emotions were running high.

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, Rennie Davis was trying to bring the situation under control in Grant Park. He asked the police to pull back after a young man lowered a flag to half-staff; officers began beating people as they arrested him.

“That just set off the police and they came crashing in. As they approached me, I literally could hear police yelling, ‘Kill Davis!’ I was hit on the head and knocked to the ground. I was on the ground crawling with my two arms trying to get away and just being clubbed and clubbed and clubbed,” Davis said in an October 2020 interview with The Guardian ahead of the release of Sorkin’s film.

Davis required 13 stitches for his wounds. Cook County Hospital workers risked their jobs to hide him as police searched the hospital to arrest him. That night the whole world was watching as the worst violence of the convention week erupted as delegates at the convention nominated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as the Democratic presidential candidate.

And now for a slight confession: I actually managed to get inside the International Amphitheater on the final night of the convention, on Thursday, Aug. 29. I don’t know how many other protesters can claim that distinction.

I didn’t have a Viking helmet or a spear. Nor did I hit any police officers, or use bear spray to break through their lines. It was much less dramatic. I was “Clean for Gene”—without a beard or long hair.

I joined a march, led by McCarthy delegates, down Michigan Avenue toward the International Amphitheater, but a cordon of police and the National Guard blocked the march several miles from the convention site. Some protesters sat in the street and were maced and arrested while others retreated back to Grant Park. The wife of a Wisconsin McCarthy delegate said she was too distraught to attend the convention for the acceptance speeches and gave me her guest pass.

My guest pass to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I promised to protest for her and rolled up a McCarthy poster that had a quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I waited patiently until the acceptance speeches were about to begin. But as soon as I held up my poster, I was forced to leave the gallery by city workers packed into the guest section so they could show support for Mayor Daley.

I did get a consolation prize: As I was leaving the hall, I picked up a bunch of discarded “We Love Mayor Daley” placards. I proudly hung them over the toilet in the bathroom of my dorm room and  off-campus apartments for several years.