Guess who’s even more unpopular in Maine than Donald Trump? That’s right, it’s Susan Collins!

The Maine primary is next week, July 14 (delayed a month by coronavirus), when Sen. Susan Collins will finally have an official Democratic opponent. That is almost certainly going to be Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who's led the field from pretty much the beginning of the cycle. Gideon also continues to lead in the general election, according to the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) polling in the state.

Back in March, PPP polled the state and found Gideon had a 47-43 advantage. This month Gideon has the same four-point advantage, leading 46-42. That's no movement in four months, with Gideon not being able to fully campaign against Collins, and Collins throwing everything she's got at reelection. Collins is deeply underwater with just 36% of voter approval and 55% disapproval. That leaves her 9% to try to sway to her side against the headwind of the Trump pandemic. In comparison, Gideon is holding at 37-37 approve/disapprove, with 26% of voters still to woo.

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Collins has lost Democrats and Dem-leaning independents, with just an 8% approval rating from 2016 Clinton voters, down from 32% last year. Impeachment, PPP's polling memo says, "effectively shut off the bipartisan appeal she had for years." She's also tied with Gideon with independents at 44-44. Collins has achieved this fall mostly on her own by deciding she was sticking with Trump. In fact, 46% of voters say Collins is "more a partisan voice for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell" than "an independent voice for Maine," compared to 42% who say she's looking out more for the state than the party.

More bad news for Collins comes with Trump's numbers, because he's not even as disliked as she is. He has 41% approval to her 36%. But they share the disapproval of 55% of the state's voters. Joe Biden leads Trump by 11 points there, 53-42. Notably, Collins still hasn't said whether she voted for Trump in March's presidential primary in Maine when his was the only Republican name on the ballot. As if she can play coy with that one.

Collins, who famously pledged to serve just two terms in the Senate when she first ran in 1996, is seeking her fifth term. Seems like Maine has decided that's three terms too many since she made her promise.

Trump, right-wing evangelicals want the Supreme Court as an election issue, left says ‘bring it’

You might say the Trump campaign and evangelical right are playing right into the progressives’ hands with the new chatter about Trump agitating for a Supreme Court nomination before the election. Trump believes he could shore up the rabid base and get back older voters and (get this) women with a new Supreme Court justice, particularly if he chooses a woman. Because we are ready to have a fight over the Supreme Court, one that would leave a lot of Senate Republicans very bruised.

Trump is raging, apparently, about Chief Justice John Roberts, who helped deliver three big defeats in the past weeks on Dreamers, LGBTQ rights, and abortion. "So far, we’re not doing so well," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network last week. "It says, look, you've had a lot of losses with a court that was supposed to be in our favor." The Supreme Court is supposed to be his, and do his bidding. It's not so much that he cares about all these evangelical issues, but dammit, he's not supposed to be thwarted by his court.

He's also hearing from the right-wingers regularly that he has been wronged. Like from Mike Huckabee, who tweeted that Roberts has "stabbed the American people in the back" and should "Resign Now." American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp says: "If it were up to me, I'd start impeachment proceedings against John G. Roberts Jr. […] If he's not going to be impeached, he ought to resign and run for Congress." Interesting to see the right embrace impeaching judges, huh? There're one or two who might make good candidates for the left. Like Brett Kavanaugh, who lied his way through two different sets of confirmation hearings on his way to the SCOTUS.

Progressive groups are pushing to have the Supreme Court become a key election issue. They’ve created a new nonprofit advocacy project: Supreme Court Voter. It's kicking off with a $2 million digital advertising blitz in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. "We can’t afford any more Brett Kavanaughs, or our court will be his court," one ad says over an image of Trump. "The future of the Supreme Court is on the line." Members from Demand Justice, American Federation of Teachers, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Voto Latino, the National Women’s Law Center, and Justice Democrats comprise the advisory board for the effort, and it's boosted by the participation of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "The Supreme Court Voter project gives us a chance to mobilize progressives, stop Donald Trump's takeover of our courts and create a fairer more equal and just America," she said in a statement for the project’s debut.

Organizers of the project have done polling through Hart Research Associates, finding "overwhelming concern" from progressives and independents about more Trump Supreme Court justices. "The prospect of him being able to put one or two more justices on the Supreme Court is really a powerful image and scenario as a motivator for people to really care about this election,” said Guy Molyneux, senior vice president at Hart. He added that Kavanugh is especially "powerful as a symbol for a liberal audience of what is wrong with the court." Take that, Susan Collins.

Which takes us back to Trump wanting another Supreme Court fight before November, which so far McConnell is welcoming. Should an opening occur (and there're rumors from the right that Justice Samuel Alito is looking at retirement), Trump is going to want to nominate a fire-breathing, evangelical, far-right activist. McConnell says he'll fit that nomination in—in less than three months before the election—after adopting the supposed rule that a Supreme Court nomination couldn't be considered in an election year when Barack Obama was president.

If Trump and McConnell want to have that fight—at the same time Trump is arguing before the Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be overturned! In the middle of a pandemic!—bring it. We'll take that fight.

Nadler mulling impeaching Barr as he lets one more deadline for holding Barr accountable slide

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is inching toward holding Attorney General William Barr accountable for his vast lawlessness, but it's a case of one inch forward, two inches back. Nader is now saying he "may very well" pursue impeachment of Barr after ruling it out in a weekend interview as a "waste of time." Now he says: "I think the weight of the evidence and of what's happened leads to that conclusion."

"What's happened" being the blatantly political removal of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who was conducting investigations into Trump cronies in the Southern District of New York. This follows Nadler's threat to subpoena Barr issued earlier this week for a hearing on July 2. Yeah, about that July 2 date—Barr has now "accepted an invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a general oversight hearing on July 28th," the Justice Department said Wednesday. July 28. Not July 2. Sound vaguely familiar? It should, because Nadler has been playing this game with Barr since early February.

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Back on Feb. 12, Nadler announced Barr would testify on March 31, 2020 about all the things, from what Rudy Giuliani was doing working with Justice Department people to exactly what Barr was doing to interfere in the prosecutions of Roger Stone, Rick Gate, and Michael Flynn. The coronavirus stopped that testimony from happening, but later on in February Nadler wrote a sternly worded letter to Barr demanding information about what Barr has done to intervene in the Roger Stone case and the Michael Flynn case, with a March 13 deadline. And that was after another sternly worded letter on Feb. 10 demanding answers about what the hell Rudy was doing in Ukraine, and why there was an "intake process" in the DOJ for information from Giuliani.

What we haven't seen from Barr is any goddamned answers to any of these questions from Nadler. For all these months. What we have seen is Barr creating his very own armed force of cops to bash Black Lives Matter protesters heads in as he assumed control over a hodgepodge of security forces in Washington for days from a command center he set up. Barr "was effectively the general overseeing the operation that allowed the president his photo op" in front of St. John's Church. A general conducting war on Americans.

So, yeah. July 28. Barr is surely going to voluntarily show up this time. Nadler should start impeachment proceedings immediately, if only to force Barr to finally show up—if he would even bother in those circumstances. It's clear that Barr doesn't take Nadler or his threats seriously, and that Barr believes he himself is as much above the law as he thinks Trump is.

Judiciary Chair Nadler needs to do his job, he needs to impeach Barr

House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler said Sunday that while Attorney General William Barr deserves to be impeached, doing so would be a "waste of time." He told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union," that instead the House would punish Barr by withholding $50 million in Justice Department funding.

"I don't think calls for his impeachment are premature any more than calls for the President's impeachment were premature, but they are a waste of time at this point," Nadler said, following Barr's firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Berman has been investigating Rudy Giuliani and others in the Trump circle, as well as whether Deutsche Bank, with all its ties to both Trump and Jared Kushner and his family, has been laundering money. That's on top of everything else Barr has done, encapsulated in this Twitter thread to show he will do anything to cover up for and protect Trump. Yes, he deserves to be impeached. No, Senate Republicans should not be allowed off the hook, they should be forced to reckon with the walking mound of corruption that is Bill Barr.

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Nadler said as much Sunday. "We've seen a pattern of […] Barr corruptly impeding all these investigations, so this is just more of the same," he told Tapper, noting that Berman's office had numerous cases involving Trump associates. Nadler also said that the Republican Senate is "corrupt" and that was demonstrated when it blew off Trump's impeachment this winter. But, he said, that would just happen again with Barr, so it's not worth the effort. Which is totally not how to demonstrate to the American voting public that the Senate Republicans are corrupt. A functioning House Judiciary Committee would have the impeachment hearings against Barr, calling in Berman and all the other casualties of Barr's corruption, and force the Senate to deal with it. That's what protecting the rule of law is supposed to be all about, which is Nadler's ultimate job, since he's the one holding that Judiciary Committee gavel.

The weekend's events just punctuated how important it is right now to shine a very bright light on Barr's corruption on behalf of Trump. In case you missed the bizarre episode over the weekend, Barr fired Berman in favor of his personal friend Jay Clayton, a corporate lawyer who's been Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission who has never once prosecuted a case, could get the job. The exchanges leading up to Berman's actual capitulation were bizarre, to say the least, with Barr initially stating on Friday evening that Berman was stepping down, which Berman emphatically denied. Then Barr said okay, he's not stepping down so Trump is firing him, to which Trump said nope, not him, this was all Barr's idea. In the end, Berman, a loyal Republican who had even donated $5,400 to Trump's 2016 campaign, capitulated.

Barr has proven again and again that he considers his job to be Trump's personal lawyer and protector, with a big dollop of racism authoritarianism on top. Barr was even responsible for that horrific Trump Bible photo op, "essentially assuming battlefield control over a hodgepodge of security forces in Washington for days from a command center he set up" to violently clear protesters from Lafayette Square for the publicity stunt. The man is dangerous. He must be held accountable, and the Senate Republicans have to be forced to decide whether they'll do it.

A ‘very concerned’ Collins just rubber-stamped another Trump nominee. Of course

Back in March, Sen. Susan Collins was concerned about Rep. John Ratcliffe, impeached president Trump's pick to serve as director of national intelligence. That was when the nomination was fairly new, after Ratcliffe had already been considered and rejected as a "chicken-plucking liar" in Mark Sumner's perfect words. Since that time, Ratcliffe proved his fealty to Trump in a completely over-the-top impeachment hearing process/Republican shouting competition.

So of course Trump nominated him officially, no doubt appreciating a fellow fabulist, which gave Collins heartburn. As she loves to remind anyone who will listen, she sponsored the legislation which created the DNI position. Back in March, she fretted "I don’t know Congressman Ratcliffe. As the author of the 2004 law that created the director of national intelligence position, I obviously am very concerned about who the nominee is, the qualifications and the commitment to overseeing the intelligence community in order to provide the best-quality intelligence." So much for that.

Collins voted for him in committee Tuesday, in a closed hearing. Which means Collins didn't have to comment on it again. Go figure.

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Luxury hotel chains, including Gordon Sondland’s, among those capitalizing on ‘small business’ loans

Remember Gordon Sondland? Of course you do, from back in the before time when the national crisis was impeachment. He’s the now-former ambassador to the European Union, who got that cushy job by being a big donor to Donald Trump's inaugural committee. Trump might have fired him from that sweet gig, but that doesn't mean Sondland's out of the money loop with Republicans at all. Because guess who got some of that "small business" coronavirus emergency loan money?

Provenance Hotels, the hotel chain Sondland owns, got some of that loan money according to a spokeswoman, along with some very wealthy, very connected to Republican lawmaker hoteliers. How much Sondland landed isn't clear, but the company spokesperson told the Portland Business Journal: "Now that we have been approved for our SBA PPP loan, we hope to bring back a significant portion of those employees and retain them for as long as possible." Let's certainly hope so. Not all business are doing so, figuring the terms of the loans are so good that it doesn't matter if they flout the rules and spend the money on other costs.

One of the biggest winners was Dallas hotel executive Monty Bennett, also a Trump major donor. He got a combined $59 million for three of his companies—Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which operates a Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas; Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc., which operates 100 or so hotel properties around the country; and finally the management firm that oversees both chains. Bennett's given Trump $150,000 just in the last six months, and was rewarded nicely. Ashford’s group said in a statement that the loan program "is working exactly as intended by providing much needed capital to small businesses and larger businesses that have been the hardest hit—hotels and restaurants." The Bloomberg article doesn't say whether Ashford also claimed to be retaining its employees.

It does, however, report that Ashford expects to get more loans on top of the $30 million it got in the first round. If Bennett is spending all that money on keeping his 1,000 or so employees paid, great—keeping people afloat right now is the main thing.

But when this is all over? There had better damned well be a wealth tax that claws this money back.

Susan Collins has nothing to say about lessons in latest post-impeachment retaliation from Trump

Sen. Susan Collins didn't even manage to work herself up to "concerned" in reacting to impeached president Donald Trump's firing of Michael Atkinson from his post as Intelligence Community inspector general. "I have long been a strong advocate for the Inspectors General," the senator, a member of the Senate Select Committee Intelligence wrote.

Then she fluffed herself a bit. "In 2008, I coauthored with former Senators Claire McCaskill and Joe Lieberman The Inspector General Reform Act (P.L. 110-40), which among other provisions requires the President to notify the Congress 30 days prior to the removal of an Inspector General along with the reasons for the removal. In notifying Congress yesterday, the President followed the procedures in that law," and here's where we finally get to her reaction. "I did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive."

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So what are you going to do about it, Senator? "While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted." Oh, that's it? You're not going to do anything? Even fret your brow?

Fortunately for Collins, this time Trump has retaliated against a perceived enemy, there aren't any reporters around to remind her about that whole "the president has learned from" impeachment nonsense. She gets to issue statements from self-isolation without having to face questions about her own culpability for Trump's actions.

Pelosi, Trump start talking about the next phase of coronavirus stimulus, need to be talking bigger

The new Daily Kos/Civiqs poll is chock-full of important and astounding information about how the American public is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. In and amongst that data is the suffering, and the reason why Congress still has a lot of work to do to get us through this crisis. Through March 30, one in FIVE Americans who were working before the outbreak say that they have been laid off or furloughed from their position. Nearly 40%—fully 39%—of households have lost income. More than a quarter, 26%, has already been affected by a layoff, furlough, or cut hours and another 15% feel extremely concerned that it will happen to them. Another 28% are moderately or slightly concerned they'll lose income because of the disease and its economic impact.

That's a lot of economic uncertainty that a one-time check for $1,200 isn't likely to allay. The enhanced unemployment benefits that were included in the third coronavirus stimulus bill will help a lot of people, but it won't help everyone including all those people still working but with fewer hours. There's still so much work to be done to get the country through this, and with money practically free to borrow now, yes, Congress should be "tossing money out of helicopters" to answer it, since the Fed is unlikely to do it. Give everyone money, and while you're at it, all the things Speaker Nancy Pelosi is talking about, especially what was in the House bill that didn't make it into the Senate's bill.

In an interview in The New York Times Pelosi "emphasized the need to secure more equipment for health workers on the front lines, known as personal protective equipment, and ventilators for hospitals" and House Democrats would make another "push to bolster pensions and medical leave provisions, and would work to ensure that other aspects of treatment for the coronavirus, beyond the initial test, would be covered by the government." She also talked about more direct aid to families, including "a possible retroactive rollback of the limit on the state and local tax deduction, a change that hurt high earners in states like New York and California." Fine, if that's what it takes to get Republican support, but that's not a sword to die on.

The sword to die on is health care for everyone infected by this disease. It's food security for everyone. It's making sure that the nation's millions of incarcerated people aren't left to die locked up. It's making sure that the gig workers and minimum-wage workers and the undocumented workers who are securing our food supply have the protections they need on the job and in society. It means at least $2 billion to secure this year's elections AND saving the U.S. Postal Service to conduct the necessary vote-by-mail elections.

It means not just postponing student loan payments, but cancelling student loan debts. It needs to have Housing Security, including a moratorium on evictions, a national mortgage and rent holiday, and at least $200 billion to keep housing stable.

It could also have the infrastructure Donald Trump endorsed in a tweet Tuesday: "Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4." Whatever, if that gets Trump on board, as long as it's green, sustainable infrastructure. That, by the way, should include broadband infrastructure—the entire nation needs to have access to reliable, high-speed internet. That's one thing this crisis has demonstrated in spades; the technology gap can cripple communities. Earmarking those trillions now would be great for getting people to work on infrastructure right out of the gate when it's safe for people to be out in the world again.

So yes, Phase 4 or whatever Donald Trump wants to call it, provided he gets Republicans in Congress—who are so far rejecting the notion that more has to be done—on board. They're not going to have much choice, realistically. It's not going to take very long for the pressure to build on them to realize that they haven't done nearly enough to get us out of this thing standing.

McConnell rewrites history to blame massive fail on coronavirus on (checks notes) impeachment

Sen. “Moscow” Mitch McConnell went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Tuesday, as he often does when he wants to be especially awful. He was exceptionally awful in all the most predictable ways: blaming the crisis we're in right now on impeachment—because of course he did—and rewriting all of the last three months of history while doing it.

The slow response by President Donald Trump and Congress to the COVID-19 crisis, McConnell said, was because the impeachment "diverted the attention of the government." Except that's total bunk. The Senate was still functioning while the impeachment trial was going forward during the last week in January, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was confirming the initial cases in the U.S. The business of the Senate included a Jan. 24 all-senators briefing on coronavirus with Trump health officials, including the CDC director and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. You remember that meeting, right? That's the one that happened just before three Senate Republicans dumped millions’ worth of stocks, collectively. That's the action they decided to take when confronted with the calamity that had hit our shores.

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In fact, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who had received additional briefings, blew off the warnings. "The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China," he said. "For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready." He came to that conclusion on Feb. 4, the day before the Senate voted against the impeachment charges against Trump.

Continuing on with the rewriting of history in the Hewitt interview, McConnell gave credit to Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton for being "first" to warn of the dangers of coronavirus. "He was first. I think Tom was right on the mark." Right on the mark meaning spouting bigoted and dangerous conspiracy theories about how the virus might have been (wink, wink) a chemical weapon developed in "China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases." Sure Mitch, you go ahead with the idea of Cotton being the big epidemiological brain in the Senate GOP.

Because it's Mitch, there's more. More typical Republican denial of the breadth and depth of this crisis, and how it's affecting real people. "I'm not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn't otherwise be able to pass," he sniffed, dismissing the necessity for further action by Congress to save the whole damned country. No, he's got his eyes on his true prize.

When the Senate gets back, it will "go back to judges. […] My motto for the rest of the year is to leave no vacancy behind."

Obamacare lawsuit? What Obamacare lawsuit? Senate Republicans play dumb

It's a horrendous look for Republicans, in the middle of a potential national epidemic and global pandemic, that their party and their White House are going to tell the Supreme Court this fall that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and should be destroyed. So it's no great surprise that Republican senators who have to face voters in November don't want to talk about it.

Asked by The Hill about their position on this lawsuit, they dodged and weaved. Freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is going to have a hard time making this answer work for the next eight months: "I'm not saying whether I support it or not. It's in the hands of the Supreme Court now, so we'll see," she said. Maybe she feels the need to tread lightly here—she does have a primary opponent. He's just "some dude," but apparently Ernst still isn't willing to go out on any kind of limb by saying she thinks affordable health care for people is good.

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Arizona's stand-in, Sen. Martha McSally, who is there by appointment filling the late John McCain's seat, is trying to use that hook from impeachment days—it's in the court now, it’s in a "judicial proceeding"—and she won't comment. As if the Supreme Court was hanging on the words of a fill-in senator it’s never heard of before to make its decision. That's about as pathetic a response as you can get. Even McSally's counterpart, the other just-filling-in-for-now senator, Kelly Loeffler from Georgia (who's only been there a couple of months), did better. Eventually. Stymied by the in-person question, she had her office follow up in an email. "Regardless of what the courts do or do not decide, there is no question Congress needs to address healthcare issues facing Americans," Loeffler's spokeswoman said, offering that the senator wants a bill that "lowers insurance costs" and "expands coverage options." Which the ACA does, of course, for most people. But she's new. How could she be expected to be prepared to speak intelligently about the one thing that has dominated electoral politics for 10 years?

Sen. Thom Tillis, a vulnerable Republican from North Carolina, also wouldn't defend the lawsuit or even give his position on it. "What I'm more focused on is how we get back to a rational discussion about protecting pre-existing conditions, the kinds of things that are potentially at risk that for the life of me I can't understand why anyone would be opposed to, providing some certainty by just voting those provisions into law independent of the lawsuit." None of us can understand why anyone would be opposed to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, so this legal challenge is kind of a mystery. Except for the part where Republican attorneys general and governors and the Republican president are saying they should be struck down by the court. That's something Tillis should have to answer for.

Steve Daines of Montana was nearly as bad as McSally. He just brushed the question off, saying, "We're going to be talking about a lot between now and next year." Which means nothing, considering they've been talking a lot about it for 10 years and have managed to do absolutely nothing. Well, not nothing, actually. Republicans held literally dozens of repeal votes in the House and also brought three lawsuits trying to destroy the law. Spoiler alert: They will not have a plan in 2021 if the Supreme Court invalidates the law. Perhaps the most pathetic of the lot is Colorado's Cory Gardner, who seems resigned to his losing fate and didn't even bother to respond to the question.

On the issue that flipped the House in 2018, and that is at the top of voters' minds in 2020, Senate Republicans still don't have any answers. But they've got several months to come up with something to say before the Supreme Court and the case are back in the news with the arguments in the case. Judging by past performance, they'll have nothing.