Sen. Joni Ernst says 130,000 American deaths show Trump is ‘stepping forward’

Though it is a holiday weekend, the Sunday news shows continued on in mostly the usual fashion. Trump ally Sen. Joni Ernst, one of the corrupt man-child's most ardent defenders as the Republican Senate nullified impeachment charges against Trump without investigation, once had a lot to day about two (2) Americans dying of Ebola under President Barack Obama, saying it showed "failed leadership." CNN host Dana Bash asked Ernst whether 130,000 Americans dying in the (now fully out-of-control) COVID-19 pandemic also is showing "failed leadership."

Sen. Joni Ernst replied with yet another response seemingly hand-tailored to show just how corrupt, incompetent, and buffoonish the Republican Party has become. After a long filibuster resulting in Bash repeating of the question: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward," she clowned.

CNN's Dana Bash: You said in 2014 that Obama showed "failed leadership" with Ebola, when only 2 Americans died. Would you say Trump's showed failed leadership with coronavirus as 130,000 Americans have died? Sen. Joni Ernst: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward" pic.twitter.com/WQqSC82OSt

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 5, 2020

Lord, now that was just pathetic. I’m embarrassed for both of them.

Again, the whole premise of so-called "news" programs is invalidated if political leaders are simply allowed to bullshit their way through each with no repercussions. Bash's question was spot-on, probing whether a sitting senator's supposed outrage at one pandemic would translate to the next. Clearly, it did not.

What, then, should the repercussions be for being so transparently a hack? Should a buzzer sound? Should a duck drop from the ceiling? During the pandemic itself physical solutions are largely out of bounds, as most of the people praising Donald Trump's brilliant handling of a pandemic now expected by the White House to result in at least a quarter million dead are praising him from inside their own homes because it is simply too unsafe to travel to the studios as usual. That means the best solution is, for now, right out; nobody is going to agree to have a pie-throwing machine installed in their den.

Hecklers, then. I'm going to propose the "news" shows liven up their broadcasts with professional hecklers. If any politician says something as egregiously tawdry as Joni Ernst says regularly, ninety seconds of interview time will be given to a team of hecklers to point it out and roast their target into oblivion.

Hey, it's more news than what's currently being broadcast. If the nation's top political reporters are incapable of bringing shame to those that quite transparently deserve it, we need to bring in people with more appropriate skills.

Trump, Ratcliffe implausibly claim Trump was never told of Russian bounties for murder of US troops

Numerous news agencies have now confirmed the story broken by The New York Times on Friday: The Russian government secretly issued bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, offering cash to militants in exchange for the killing of American soldiers. The Russian intelligence unit in question is believed to be the same one behind the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal, in 2018.

The Trump administration's response to this now-undeniable news is coalescing around a bizarre argument: Despite the immediate danger to U.S. forces, nobody in U.S. intelligence told Donald Trump or Mike Pence it was going on.

Despite the Times reporting that Trump's National Security Council met in late March to present Trump with a "menu" of possible retaliatory responses, both Trump and his surrounding toadies now claim that Trump and Pence were not told of the clear and substantive danger to U.S. troops. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, newly installed in the post after maudlin and sycophantic performances as a House Republican defending Trump during impeachment proceedings, gave the most definitive declaration:

"I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday. The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate."

This is almost certainly a lie—as would be expected from Ratcliffe. There are few plausible scenarios in which top U.S. intelligence officials would hide a Russian operation to assassinate U.S. soldiers from the White House, and fewer still in which this would happen, but the Times' government sources would instead falsely invent a scenario in which he was.

Trump's installed team, however, is suggesting one of only two possible scenarios. One, that those surrounding Trump and Pence did not feel a high-level Russian espionage operation directly promoting the murder of U.S. troops was worth White House attention.

Or two, the U.S. intelligence community was intentionally hiding information about the Russian operation from Trump and Pence. If so, that would be an astonishing choice, and would suggest that intelligence officials believed there were national security reasons to keep Trump and Pence in the dark about just how much the U.S. knew about Russian operations.

The Director of National Intelligence is either suggesting that Trump and Pence are such impotent figures that his office did not bother to alert them or discuss with them a Russian plot to murder Americans, or that his office believed telling Trump about the Russian scheme would itself compromise U.S. security. Both of those possibilities are alarming.

It seems far more likely that both Ratcliffe and the White House are lying, directly, about Trump's involvement. At the end of March, Trump and Putin spoke by phone five times in three weeks, an "unprecedented" level of communications; the White House, as usual, has concealed the contents of those calls.

Trump's own denials are scattershot and ridiculous. In a petulant pair of tweets Trump proclaimed that "Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News @nytimes," before wandering off to attack Hunter Biden again.

But Mark Meadows was not Trump's chief of staff during the period in question, and Trump is misstating the actual story. Russians did not "attack" U.S. troops directly, but have offered bounties for others to attack them. Trump, or whoever is tweeting for him, seems to have little ability to comprehend the thing he is denying—a point in favor of Ratcliffe's claim that Trump is simply too stupid to be of use to intelligence officials, to be sure.

Again: We will almost certainly learn that Ratcliffe, Trump, and Trump's indignant but forever-lying spokescreatures are lying blatantly about Trump's knowledge of the Russian operation. That is almost a given. The next question to be answered is why Trump (and Pence), despite learning of the bounties in March, have taken no action in response to Russia's act.

That answer, too, seems self-evident. It is the same reason it was necessary to install a thoroughly corrupt but loyal House Republican into a top intelligence spot to begin with.

Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, but everyone is presuming Trump will just be corrupt again

Most Americans last heard of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman when Donald Trump had both him and his uninvolved twin brother forcibly escorted out of the White House in overt retaliation for Vindman's testimony to House impeachment investigators. Vindman spoke of what he personally witnessed in the Trump White House's effort to extort the Ukrainian government into producing "dirt" on Trump's election opponent before releasing congressionally mandated aid for the war-torn country. It was one of Trump's first acts of vengeance against those that testified against him, after being immunized from lawbreaking by the Republican-led Senate.

Now Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, to full colonel, and according to The Washington Post the question hanging over the Pentagon is whether Trump will once again reach down to retaliate against Vindman, turning the usual promotion process into yet another example of the fascist man-child's use of government as a tool to protect and enable his own lawbreaking.

The Post's article is mostly speculative, with senior officials and the Pentagon expressing concern that once the normally noncontroversial list of hundreds of promotions hits the White House and Senate for confirmation, Trump will create new military controversy by making the move. Nobody believes Trump to be above it. Nobody is seriously pretending, at this point, that Trump has not been using his office to personally retaliate against impeachment witnesses, whistleblowers, investigators, and anyone else who he believes has improperly challenged his absolute authority to do crimes.

Everybody knows Trump is a sack of crap. Everybody knows he has no impulse control to call on, even if it would be in his interest to not do the overly corrupt thing. It's a given. The question, then, is whether his staff can perhaps jingle some keys or whatnot for long enough for the promotion process to go by as it normally does, unimpeded. Perhaps show him a new “antifa" mug, get him riled about that. Perhaps tell him that a fictitious world leader from a fictitious country called him a “poopyhead,” something sure to set him off for two weeks and render him unable to function as anything but short-thumbed tweet machine.

But this seems unlikely, and the subtext of the Post's speculation and sources is that all involved are so dreading having this battle that the promotion roster itself miiiight have been delayed while everyone involved steeled themselves for it, or might have only been delayed for the more prosaic reason of, you know, Trump so f--king up the response to a worldwide pandemic that even the United States military is unable to perform its usual functions at full capacity, while a "senior defense official" tells the Post that actually there was no delay at all, which doesn't seem like the kind of assertion you'd normally insist on being anonymous to pipe up with.

So we'll see. Will Trump take the opportunity to avoid even one new clusterf--k, even as the military reels from what was very close to a direct order to attack American citizens in Washington, D.C. streets? The odds say ... no.

NOAA panel determines agency head violated ethics code in ‘Sharpiegate’ debacle

Last September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's acting chief scientist announced that the agency would be conducting a probe of NOAA's apparent public buckling to Donald Trump on whether or not Hurricane Dorian was headed for the state of Alabama when all agency science demonstrated it was not. After Trump erroneously tweeted a claim that Alabama would be in the path of Dorian, you may recall that all hell broke loose when the National Weather Service told Alabama residents that no, they were not actually in danger, upon which Trump had a fit at being corrected and the administration threatened mass firings in the agency if they didn't back Trump on where Trump thought the hurricane was headed.

That verdict is now in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a panel commissioned by the agency determined that acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs and Deputy Chief of Staff Julie Roberts violated agency ethics "intentionally, knowingly, or in the reckless disregard" of the agency's Scientific Integrity Policy, according to the probe's final report. What's not clear is whether it will result in any significant changes whatsoever.

Trump's false Hurricane Dorian claim, which reached its public apex in an act of supreme White House gaslighting now known as Sharpiegate, was before the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps the most known public episodes of Trump's uncontrollable malignant narcissism turning into genuine public policy crisis. In a passing tweet on September 1, Trump gave an off-the-cuff warning to various states to "BE CAREFUL!" as Hurricane Dorian approached, erroneously including Alabama in the list of states that would be affected.

Trump was wrong about that, and Alabama's National Weather Service office tweeted a quick correction aimed at state residents, reassuring them the state was not in danger. It should and could have ended there, a minor gaffe by a public official that was quickly nullified, but Donald Trump is a genuine malignant narcissist, with symptoms so severe that they alter his very perceptions of reality, and he had an multi-day absolute raging meltdown over the correction that culminated, and this is true, in a decompensating Oval Office Trump displaying a posterboard-sized map of Dorian's once-projected progress on which Trump himself had drawn in new, obviously faked forecast lines encompassing Alabama with, yes, his own black marker.

Technically speaking, altering a federal government forecast map or warning in such a fashion is illegal, for the obvious reason that malevolent figures could use faked government warnings to defraud Americans or cause public panic, but it was only a small part of Trump's furious, extended insistence that a minor error on his part was not an error, and that it was the entire rest of the United States government that was wrong.

It quickly went farther still, with Donald Trump telling his White House staff that the Alabama office's correct tweet needed to be "corrected" to match his own views, an order carried out by then-Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, upon which Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross personally phoned acting NOAA administrator Jacobs with a threat to fire the entire political leadership team at NOAA if they did not "fix" their contradiction of Dear Leader, upon which NOAA released an unsigned, unattributed statement from "a spokesperson" disavowing the Alabama correction and claiming that office, not Donald Trump, was in the wrong.

It was an act of fraud by all involved, for no larger goal than placating a raging but delusional incompetent who insisted that harm be visited upon the scientists that he believed had attacked him by telling the public correct forecast information when he had tweeted an incorrect version. It was an act of overt authoritarian government, and the most egregious one, before only a few months later Trump would insist that a new worldwide pandemic would not arrive in the United States, would not kill Americans in large numbers, and did not need to be met with aggressive emergency preparations because he, the delusional babbling boob, simply said so.

NOAA leaders should have resigned, but bowed to the intense pressure of the near-satirically corrupt Trump team. NOAA's report on the matter now confirms that Jacobs and Roberts should have at the least refused to put the statement out as an official NOAA claim.

The recommendations of NOAA Assistant Administrator Stephen Volz revolve mainly around "clarifying" the ethics policies and formulating new agreements between NOAA and its supervising officials in the Department Commerce to, when possible, Not Be Corrupt—including the establishment of "a scientific integrity policy" covering "the career and political leadership at Commerce." We can safely assume Wilbur Ross will have absolutely no interest in Not Being Corrupt training, so those particular recommendations will likely go nowhere.

More troubling, however, is that the acting NOAA administrator is himself disputing the conclusions of the report. The Washington Post reports that Jacobs, in a statement, "applied an overly broad interpretation" and that NOAA was correct to issue the statement because "The intent was to reconcile the forecaster’s duty to convey information to the public with probabilistic numerical model guidance that was still showing a small, but non-zero, chance of impacts."

Translation: Agency heads are still very afraid, and rightly so, of what Trump and team will do to them if they do not toe whatever lines they are told to toe, and so we will be going with the premise that technically speaking it's not absolutely impossible that a hurricane could, say, make a quantum jump to land on top of Idaho so technically speaking Trump could warn whatever state he wanted to warn and it wouldn't be NOAA's place to correct him.

You cannot say that those fears are unfounded. The Trump team has now dived fully and wholly into corruption, freed by Republican nullification of impeachment charges to seek vengeance on every government watchdog and inspector that has dared to impede them in even the slightest way. It is a given that Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump, and the newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows would have absolutely no qualms about removing Jacobs or other officials even now, if they dared question Trump's now Sharpie-backed insistence that hurricanes go wherever Donald Trump says they will go.

Mike Pompeo ‘urged’ Trump firing of inspector general asked to investigate Mike Pompeo

On Saturday, The New York Times reported what we probably should have presumed all along: It was Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who "urged" Donald Trump to fire the State Department's inspector general, continuing the widespread purge of government officials responsible for oversight of the impeached president and his team of corrupt incompetents.

The official non-reason Trump gave for firing inspector general Steve Linick was that Trump had "lost confidence" in him, the same catch-all Trump has used to dispense with all other watchdogs who investigated, or merely raised questions about, illegal acts by Trump's team. While the White House seems uninterested in giving any more plausible rationale for the firing than Trump's ever-vocal gut, it does appear Mike Pompeo had a specific reason why he might have wanted his department's watchdog out: Linick had been asked to investigate charges that Pompeo had been corruptly using a State Department employee to run personal errands for himself and his wife.

Mike Pompeo has remained steadfastly loyal to Trump. He was identified as a key player in Trump's withholding of congressionally earmarked military funds to Ukraine in an attempt to force that nation's government into crafting materials to help him smear his presumed election opponent, and defied congressional demands for testimony. He is quite definitely the sort of person who would use government resources to have personal favors done, and would not be the first, second or sixth of Trump's cabinet appointees to be credibly identified as doing so. He is certainly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the sort to sabotage government investigations into such wrongdoing.

House Democrats are already vowing investigation into Linick's firing; there is no plausible rationale for Trump firing inspectors general across government, immediately after his impeachment, other than as a government-wide attempt to block all remaining oversight into his team's actions. Senate Republicans, as usual, are using Trump's action to either reaffirm their loyalty to Trump over the rule of law or to reaffirm their commitment to saying Trump probably oughtn't break laws while doing not a damn thing in response.

The eternally dumb Sen. Ron Johnson, proven a traitor to his own oath and nation during impeachment, as well as both before and after it, suggested that he was comfortable with the firing because Linick had not been sufficiently helpful in assisting Senate Republicans with an unidentified Senate investigation almost certainly pertaining to continued election-year efforts to smear Trump opponent Joe Biden.

The less dumb Sen. Chuck Grassley, also a traitor to his own oath and nation for the same multi-year patterns of behavior, issued the now bog-standard sternly worded statement noting that Congress requires explicit written reasons for such a firing, and that he will continue to be slightly huffy about that until the precise moment somebody asks him to take an actual action upon which he will fold like an origami swan.

Sen. Mitt Romney, alone in his impeachment opinion that perhaps if top administration officials are doing crimes it would behoove the Senate to at least momentary feign an interest in acting as check against such acts, gave a similar statement. Trump’s actions are a “threat to accountable democracy,” Romney warned, without suggesting he would engage in even the smallest of acts to combat that threat.

So the answer is no. No, it does not appear that the Republican Senate is willing to take any action as Trump continues his purge of those who have been investigating, or who have merely been charged with watching over, his team's continued pattern of grossly unethical and/or criminal acts.

It is likely that Grassley and other Republican concern-bearers will take no actions to support House efforts to call witnesses and probe the reasons for the firings, much less engage in such probes themselves. The party has made it absolutely clear that Trump and his allies are allowed to use government for their personal gain, and are allowed to sabotage any government effort or fire any government employee necessary in order to obtain that gain. They betrayed their country unforgivably in refusing to even conduct a trial or hear from direct witnesses, during impeachment; the play now will be to allow Trump to commit any number of further crimes, rather than conducting oversight between now and November. Trump's corrupt acts will not disappear then, whether or wins or loses, but for Johnson, Grassley and the others, putting off judgment day is paramount. Even if it is only temporary, it is now a party necessity.

Tapper to Senator Johnson: I find it hard to believe that if President Obama had gotten rid of four Inspectors General in six weeks that you would have the same attitude that you seem to have right now pic.twitter.com/7e9sBsVUT1

— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 17, 2020

Senate Republicans move to quietly confirm lying Trump toady Rep. Ratcliffe during pandemic chaos

The rise to power, for ambitious conservatives, has been greatly simplified in the last few years. Attach yourself to crackpot far-right and conspiracy theories; use the fame to propel yourself to a House seat in a noncompetitive, always-Republican district; do your best to attract the attention of Donald Trump, who carefully sifts through the candidates and selects only the most toadying, dishonest, and conspiracy-riddled for new administration positions. If it worked for Mike Pompeo, it'll work for anyone.

While the rest of the nation is distracted by a true national emergency, Senate Republicans are taking the opportunity to quietly schedule hearings for fervent Trump acolyte Rep. John Ratcliffe's confirmation as Trump's new director of national intelligence. Ratcliffe had to bow out of the nomination in scandal the last time Trump attempted it; after the Senate nullification of impeachment charges, however, Senate Republicans seem to be signaling that there's no "scandal" left that they won't pave over to do Trump's bidding.

CNN reports the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr, intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Ratcliffe next week. Burr has been mired in his own, far worse scandal of late after it was disclosed that he responded to secret government briefings on the likely severity of the upcoming pandemic by dumping his own stock market holdings before the resulting market crash. Burr had opposed Ratcliffe's prior nomination last year, but has now evidently changed his mind.

CNN implies Burr's change of heart might be because he has been under heavy attack from Trump, who views him as disloyal for his unambiguous recognition that yes, the Russian government did indeed act to manipulate the 2016 elections. But it may be that Burr, at least in theory being investigated by the Justice Department for his stock dumping, has come to the same post-impeachment conclusion as every other non-Romney Senate Republican: In for a penny, in for a pound. If we're going to erase Trump's proven extortion attempt against a foreign nation, using the tools of government to brazenly abuse the office in a manner long recognized, unambiguously, as corrupt, it's impossible to argue that merely installing a Trump-loyal sycophant of sketchy record as top intelligence official is an authoritarian-minded bridge too far.

But CNN also implies that the move forward to install Ratcliffe is because the current part-time acting Trump pick, odious hyperpartisan Twitter troll Richard Grenell, is deemed so universally unacceptable that both parties would rather install a rotting tuna in the post than leave him in it. There may be more truth to that one.

Ratcliffe is, in typical Trump adviser fashion, about the last person you would want in the role of director of national intelligence. He has little relevant experience. As a House Republican, he has proven a pathetic and dishonest partisan, aggressively promoting Trump-favoring conspiracy theories like the notion that the intelligence community's probe of 2016 Russian election hacking was actually a Democratic-led plot against Trump. These conspiracies were enough for Senate Republicans to signal Ratcliffe's nomination would be a heavy lift even for them last time around, but it was the discovery that Ratcliffe had "embellished" his resume by a considerable amount that led to his eventual withdrawal from the nomination.

Ratcliffe had claimed terrorism experience, claiming that as U.S. attorney he had "convicted" terrorism-linked individuals—but the federal officials who actually prosecuted the case disputed that, saying they couldn't identify Ratcliffe as having "any" role in that prosecution. Ratcliffe similarly claimed he "arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day" as U.S. attorney—the case he was apparently referring to actually swept up only 39 workers, was widely considered an embarrassment and a failure, and had no apparent involvement by Ratcliffe whatsoever.

That was enough, back in August, to send the seemingly perpetually dishonest Ratcliffe packing. After Trump's renomination, however, it seems that everyone involved, from Ratcliffe to Burr to Trump, have decided that "shame" is no longer something Republicans can have.

The confirmation hearing will be eventful, however, with at least Democratic senators eager to probe Ratcliffe's claims that the investigation into Russian hacking was a Democratic plot against the glorious ascendant Trump. And Republican estimations that Ratcliffe's confirmation can be sneaked through a busy news cycle might instead find that news-starved, entertainment-starved Americans stuck at home might not have anything more pressing to do than watching Richard Burr and other Republicans again humiliate themselves for Donald's benefit.

Reuters: White House classified COVID preparedness meetings, blocking experts and hampering response

At every possible moment Donald Trump and his team of Republican incompetents chooses the worst possible path. Reuters is now reporting via four administration sources that the White House "has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified."

"The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions" have been held in a secure room—excluding government experts who did not have the requisite security clearances, says Reuters. The administration has literally been keeping coronavirus response discussions secret from some of the government's own experts.

Did it make a difference? It likely did. Reuters quotes an anonymous official as saying "some very critical people" were not allowed in those discussions, which began in January. It also seems evident that the classification was used by the White House, yet again, to withhold information from the public that the White House believed could be damaging to Donald Trump: The news that the now-pandemic was all but certain to arrive here, would have real and damaging effects, and would cost American lives.

This is Sen. Moscow Mitch McConnell's fault, and the fault of the other Republican senators. They knew full well during impeachment that the White House was improperly classifying his discussions with foreign leaders so as to avoid disclosing them to the public. They knew full well he was placing his own interests, and his own ego, over public safety. They gave him full authority to continue doing it.

Trump’s self-absorbed incompetence continues to drive federal coronavirus response

Hello there. It is whatever day of the week it is, and Donald Trump's blazing incompetence is still severely hampering a federal coronavirus response that should have been in full swing many weeks ago.

But don't worry: Things aren't as bad as they seem. The Washington Post reports,"Inside the White House, some officials privately acknowledged Monday that Trump has exacerbated the problem with his misleading and false statements, as well as his callous comments."

See there? We may have lost our only chance to keep a new coronavirus from reaching epidemic levels throughout the nation, but White House staffers are willing to at least privately acknowledge that Trump may be screwing things up, even if they aren't willing to say so publicly. Feel better? No? Huh. Well, they tried.

Since the coronavirus emerged in China, the Trump administration's response has been focused largely on massaging Donald Trump's ego. Trump did not want virus concerns to disrupt the stock market, so Trump played down those concerns. Trump went further, claiming that those warning of the virus' danger were partisans whose only aim was to damage him.

Public officials either went along with these claims or did not—and when they did not, Trump appointed Mike Pence the new head of COVID-19 communications so that the administration's messaging could be better monitored and shaped.

That initial stalling for Trump's own personal benefit may turn out to be tremendously costly. Trump's blustering press conference performance on Monday, speaking almost exclusively in economic terms before bailing from the room early, didn't help. On Tuesday the White House continued to flog economic concerns, suggesting a vague program of tax cuts would soon be revealed but being stubbornly opaque about the status of virus testing and other medical details.

The common refrain throughout from White House officials has been the “bold” and “decisive” decision-making of Dear Leader. Mike Pence lathers it on thick and heavy in every televised appearance: Every decision Dear Leader has made has been bold and decisive and not at all similar to or worse than those of a potted plant. Even now, the primary concern of Trump's White House team is the stability of the notoriously unstable Trump; all other coronavirus concerns are voiced only after the requisite cradle-rocking to soothe Trump's nerves for another few hours.

It might be self-serving on the part of the coronavirus "task force." But it also might be necessary. Trump's incompetence and unwillingness to take the epidemic threat seriously has damaged the public response, but he is still incompetent and unstable, and can still damage the public response much, much more. If he believes public health experts are not properly praising him, he can replace them with full-time toadies, as he has elsewhere in his post-impeachment sweep of insufficiently loyal public officials. If he watches Fox News and sees people being angry about containment measures affecting their lives, he can go on television or on Twitter and demand that containment measures be lessened simply because he believes the public would praise him for it.

Trump's incompetence doesn't just matter. It's the driving force behind the federal government's disaster preparedness efforts, or lack thereof.

That continues, every day. Trump's reluctance to issue an emergency declaration in Washington state, for example, is hampering state efforts to expand medical capacity.

Trump's history of bold, decisive lying matters as well. During a public health emergency in which it is vital that the public believe and listen to health officials, Trump is a literally unbelievable figure. Trump has surrounded himself with liars proven on countless occasions to be willing to lie to the public; the White House has little credibility now, regardless of its declarations. Trump has claimed that any number of world events are "fake news," a conspiracy against him. His mocking dismissals of the seriousness of the virus have already spread to his supporters; will experts be able to reverse any of that damage?

This is what Republicans voted for when they ignored Trump's self-serving behavior, even when it became criminal. This is precisely the sort of national emergency that any president can face, at any moment: Republicans either presumed that this one would not face one, or that he would rise to the occasion (he cannot), or simply made the estimation that the damage done to the nation by having a president incapable of non-self-centered calculations would be worth it, because that damage would not be done directly to them.

That's quite the risk. But they knew, from Mitch McConnell down, that they were taking it.

Trump’s pardons again make a mockery of Republican claims that he ever cared about corruption

Remember how Republicans spent months insisting that Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine not because he wanted to cheat on the 2020 elections but because he really, really cared about corruption? Even though he never mentioned corruption in his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? Even though the Pentagon certified that Ukraine was fighting corruption and should get the money?

Ha ha ha, yeah, all those claims Republicans made, against all the evidence, that Trump cared about corruption, and what does he do? Well, first, during his own impeachment trial, Trump stood side by side with a world leader charged with corruption to unveil a major foreign policy plan. Now he’s handing out pardons and sentence commutations to a corrupt politician, a corrupt former law enforcement official, a corrupt lobbyist, and a couple corrupt rich guys. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane all the way back a month or two to hear from Republicans about how much Trump cares about corruption.

Help Democrats retake the Senate! Can you give even $1 to the Democratic nominee in each of these competitive states?

“Corruption is not just prevalent in Ukraine. It’s the system. Our president said time out, time out, let’s check out this new guy,” according to Rep. Jim Jordan, during the impeachment inquiry.

”President Trump had good reason to be wary of Ukrainian election meddling against his campaign and of widespread corruption in that country,” said Rep. Devin Nunes.

“When it comes to sending US taxpayer money overseas, the president is focused on burden sharing and corruption,” Trump’s impeachment defense insisted.

Had Trump expressed serious concern about corruption anywhere before he turned his eyes to Ukraine? From Sen. Ron Johnson, “If the subject was Ukraine, he’s expressed his concern about corruption in Ukraine, which everybody understood was endemic―including [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, who won. So I haven’t talked to the president about other countries where that might have come up.”

Again and again they told us that Trump cared so much about corruption that he held up nearly $400 million in aid that Congress had appropriated for Ukraine and that the Defense Department had signed off on because of Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts. And then Trump goes ahead and commutes the sentence former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got for trying to sell an open Senate seat to the highest bidder. He plans to pardon former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who committed perjury, tax fraud, and more. 

So it goes. Donald Trump cares about corruption like he cares about anyone not named Donald (or possibly Ivanka) Trump: only when it benefits him to claim he does.

Susan Collins is so concerned about Trump that she’s going to make a sternly worded phone call

The White House better be prepared. It’s going to get a sternly worded phone call from Sen. Susan Collins over the impeached president’s interference in the sentencing of Donald Trump’s buddy Roger Stone after his conviction in federal court. She told reporters that Wednesday, saying that Trump should "play no role whatsoever when it comes to sentencing recommendations" and that he "should not have commented" and that she wished he "would not tweet." No word on whether she's also going to talk about the tweeting on the phone call. But boy, that's sure going to strike terror in Trump's heart.

She also has questions for Attorney General William Barr, she says, but she's not sure if there should be any hearings yet over Trump and Barr turning the Department of Justice into Trump's defense counsel. She wouldn't want to be hasty. Still, a sternly worded phone call might be happening. I'm sure she really wishes it would help. But don't worry, she says, about Trump being "emboldened" by being let off the hook by her and her Republican pals.

Her time's up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

He wasn't acting out because he knows now that there are no limits to his power, now that the Senate will let him do literally anything. It's just him acting like a toddler, she says. He "often acts in an impulsive manner," she explained in a USA Today interview. "I think the president was angered by impeachment and that is reflected in the personnel choices he made," she said. Because that makes it so much better, the fact that he's now a 4-year-old on speed, and it had absolutely nothing to do with her.

No, she's not responsible at all for his behavior now. She was doing her solemn duty and certainly, she told the Bangor Daily News, if the president had committed "treason or bribery," she would definitely have voted to impeach. The House, however, called Trump's treason and bribery in withholding aid to Ukraine in order to force that country to interfere in the presidential election on his behalf "maladministration." So they didn't meet her bar.

But boy, Trump, she better not catch you doing this again, or you'll be in big trouble.