The assault on the 2020 election is more dangerous than anything else Trump has done

Way over on the farthest left, there’s a cliff; a dark potential called communist totalitarianism. The horrors that wait beyond that cliff have been more than adequately demonstrated by everyone from Joseph Stalin to Pol Pot, and progressives of every nation are extremely aware that the pathways to that cliff must be constantly challenged, heavily patrolled, and always eyed with concern. Likewise on the right, there’s an yawning gyre called fascist totalitarianism. The edges of that pit are lined with the bones of millions, and whether the followers wear brown shirts or black, this system has proven to be extraordinarily effective at hastening a nation from rationality into murderous dystopia.

Only there’s a difference when it comes to how the specters on the left and demons on the right have been handled. Because for decades, but especially within the last four years, the right has worked to take their ogre and simply relocate it to the left; to describe fascism not as something that belongs to them, but as “liberal fascism.” And there’s a reason for this that goes well beyond not just wanted to have themselves associated with goose-stepping men in armbands—a reason that plays directly into what’s happening right now following the 2020 election.

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr ordered the Department of Justice to investigate claims of election fraud for which there is no evidence. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the only reason why Republicans lose races is because Democrats cheat. And the two Republican senators from Georgia attacked their own state over claims that they failed to run a proper election, providing no more evidence than that they allowed Donald Trump to lose.

All of this stands in stark contrast to every election in recent history. Even the most rancorous campaigns of the past have swallowed their pride, made that concession call, and done so swiftly, because they understand the cost of not conceding.

That Republicans would so joyfully attack the machinery of free elections seems extraordinary, even considering the efforts applied for more than a century to make sure that only the right kind of white people get to the polls in the first place. But it shouldn’t be. After all, elections are just another institution, and Republicans have more than adequately demonstrated that they can smash, or subvert, any institution designed to act as a check on power. See impeachment. See the courts. See the Senate report that was quietly released admitting that Trump’s campaign did in fact have repeated contact with Russian agents, regularly coordinated with Russian objectives, and made promises to Russia in exchange for assistance. Nothing came of that. And why should it, considering that Republicans had just voted that they didn’t even have to hear the witnesses before declaring Trump innocent of anything, anywhere, at any time.

The reason that right-wing media is saturated with claims that fascism is “of the left” is simple enough: If there is no gyre, no demons, nothing dark waiting out there beyond the current bounds, then there is never any reason to stop moving to the right. Fling open Overton’s window and let the right winds blow. There are no paths on the right that need to be guarded, nothing bad to watch out for. It’s all good stuff over there.

Historically, of course, this is nonsense. The whole concept of left and right, for more than a century, was specifically designed to describe the space where democracies could operate between those two walls. Fascism is intrinsically of the right. To claim otherwise would certainly be a shock to actual fascists, who not only railed against the left, but did not hesitate to lock up their citizens for the crime of expressing socialist sympathies—when they didn’t simply kill them en masse.

But that’s also part of the goal of the fascism relocation project. It doesn’t mean to assert there’s nothing to fear on the right; it’s an invitation to a new dimension, one that takes the far right off the axis to place it above politics as usual. Once that’s done, everything is permissible, anything is excusable in the defense of moving the nation more toward that wonderful, always brighter, place on the right—even if it means tearing down the whole engine of democracy. 

The last chance for Republicans to denounce Trump has passed. Now it no longer matters

It's Election Day, and Republicans are still being spineless little weasels. Donald Trump has been repeatedly suggesting, in public, that he will not abide by the results of the election but will instead launch both polemics and legal maneuvers to sabotage the counting of votes. He's offered up the bizarre theory that states should declare a winner on election night—something that never happens, as many states need days or weeks to fully count all ballots received and the official certification of results typically happens on dates set by each state.

None of this is abnormal or even remotely conspiratorial; there is a reason the Constitution specifies an early November date as Election Day, but sets the inauguration of the winner to be late January. Nonetheless, the hopelessly incompetent, forever lying malignant narcissist who functions as Republicanism's rotting head is quite certain that it is all a conspiracy against him, personally, and is therefore willing to sabotage democracy itself to keep presidential immunities that will expire upon the next president's swearing-in.

When Politico's Ryan Lizza and Daniel Lippman went to query top Republican lawmakers about Trump's threats to block vote counting and plunge the country into still another constitutional crisis, however, they couldn't find anyone willing to condemn or even criticize Trump.

"Many Republicans insist they are disgusted by Trump’s threats, they just aren’t willing to say so publicly. Dozens of quietly anti-Trump members on Capitol Hill, or who left the Trump administration, usually in disgust, are willing to torch the president—but only under the cloak of anonymity," reports Politico.

There will be no other opportunities to put nation over party for these Republicans. Whether or not elections in the United States will still be considered legitimate, and whether or not votes that go against Dear Leader and his allies will be considered legitimate, it will be decided in the next several days. This is it. It is akin to Trump threatening to sell off a state to a foreign power, or to Trump declaring that he is dissolving the House of Representatives as retribution for impeachment. No matter what argument is offered up, what Trump is proposing is a sabotage of the Constitution.

So far, every public Republican reaction has been to back Trump's conspiratorial pronouncements. A sea of Republican functionaries have launched legal battle after legal battle, already, demanding that votes cast by mail (during a deadly pandemic) or votes at early polling centers (during a deadly pandemic) be nullified. Republican members of the House and Senate, however, have zipped their own mouths shut and have little to say on the schemes.

Instead, they would have us believe that they do indeed have principles, behind the scenes. Not ones they are willing to share out loud, or ones they will offer up with their own names attached. These are principles anonymously held—tossed into the ether as temporary placeholder, meant as ephemeral foothold for later declaring, to the same reporters, that they did indeed have principles all along.

It doesn't count. A principle you are unwilling to act on is not a principle. Whatever you later claimed you did when your nation's democracy was under attack doesn't matter.

When the Constitution conflicted with Dear Leader's visions of grandeur, Republican lawmakers offered no resistance. Not a scratch. If they distance himself from Trump only after voters did the hard work of ejecting him themselves, they are frauds, each and every one. They should be treated as such.

History will record that every Republican lawmaker assisted Trump despite him being openly corrupt, contemptuous of his oath of office, catastrophically incompetent, authoritarian-minded and authoritarian-fixated, racist, a steadfast promoter of white nationalism, and a propagandist not just willing, but obsessive in his efforts to disinform our citizens to acquire and preserve his power.

Trump is a fascist, and they backed his fascist tendencies and demands. Whether they privately were offended by them does not matter. The backers of fascism are called fascists, and there is no qualifying adjective that they can pin to their chests afterward, if their own Dear Leader figure is defeated, that will turn them into retroactive heroes.

Mike Pompeo is now brazenly campaigning for Trump using his federal post

Prior to ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo becoming Trump's secretary of state, it was generally understood that U.S. secretaries of state were not allowed to use the tools of their office for rank partisan politicking. Using government resources to campaign is illegal; turning the top diplomatic job in the country into a tool of partisanship damages U.S. credibility abroad by signaling, to world counterparts, that the U.S. diplomat is In This For Themselves.

All of that is gone now because Donald Trump simply chose to ignore those constraints, and Republicans—with the singular exception of one Mitt Romney, exactly once—wholeheartedly adopted the same merging of party and state as the new way things are done. This was helped along immensely by Trump's surrounding of himself with hard-right ex-House Republicans contemptuous of the rules from the outset. Mike Pompeo is a poster child for this. He continues to assist Trump in the cover-up of a criminal Ukrainian extortion scheme—one timed to allow Russian incursions into that country to proceed and be solidified while much needed U.S. aid was used to pressure for Trump reelection favors. He continues to abet Trump's incompetent dismantling of U.S. foreign policy infrastructure.

And, of course, Pompeo is using his State Department role to campaign aggressively for Trump and Republicans throughout the country. The premise is that key Trump-supporting demographics and swing states just happen to need conservative foreign policy priorities explained to them by, literally, the top U.S. diplomat—one who admittedly has little else to do since all such policy decisions have been stripped from him and his government agency in favor of the new policy, Whatever Trump Last Said. The reality is that Pompeo is touring the country giving campaign speeches to, as the AP reports, a white evangelical church in Plano, Texas; the hard-right Value Voters Summit; and other appearances in Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and of course his home state of Kansas. Pompeo has famously been eyeing higher office himself—a plan that briefly looked scuttled when Pompeo was implicated in impeachable crimes, but one Pompeo appears to be inching back to with hopes that voters no longer remember or resent him for that now that the Trump administration has delivered at least a half-dozen other scandals and death-dealing clusterfucks for them to chew on instead.

The important thing to remember here is that Pompeo is crooked. He is crooked in the William Barr way, and fairly precisely: He has been caught directly assisting in Trump's impeached-for acts; he has been caught in a campaign to cover up those acts and his involvement for Trump's benefit and his own; he has done each of these things in service of elevating Republican power regardless of legality or institutional norms; and he makes no particular effort to hide the use of his office as explicitly partisan, to be used for shoring up allies and punishing enemies.

While Barr pressures his underlings into producing documents meant to portray Trump's detractors and investigators as the "true" criminals of Russian election hacking while undermining further investigations into Trump and all allies, Pompeo weaves through the country on a heavy campaign schedule to tell conservative audiences that they should "go to the polling place and express your preference" for his hard-right claims and declarations, as AP quoted him telling his Texas audience.

Without dwelling on it: Again, Mike Pompeo using his government perch to address the Republican National Convention—from Israel, no less—was such a grotesque insult to supposed diplomatic nonpartisanship that it would have likely ended with Pompeo's removal from his post during any of the last half-century's worth of presidencies. Republican lawmakers, however, are embracing Pompeo's acts as they are Trump's, and Barr's. There is no Republican caucus demanding Trump adhere to the rule of law, or the Hatch Act, or basic expected decencies.

The whole point of immunizing Trump during impeachment was to enable further corruption. It was the expected outcome. It clearly worked, as Trump's rapid gutting of oversight offices and inspectors showed. We are now at a point where Trump and Barr are openly crafting plans to eliminate votes if the November elections do not go his way, and continue eliminating votes for as long as it takes until the Republican Party can claim a crooked victory.

The reasons are not just to retain power, though; Trump's team and Trump's allies need a victory for more personal reasons. There has been a mountain of criminal acts, cover-ups, ethical violations, and rank corruption from Barr, from Pompeo, from Trump himself, and other Trump cabinet members past and present. The moment they lose power, there is a danger that the remaining shards of true, neutral law enforcement will come for them—and those ex-officials will no longer have means to block those investigations.

Every investigation currently being blocked and corrupted can only be blocked or corrupted so long as the corrupters remain in power. Republicans like Pompeo, still identified as having played a role in international extortion whether his Republican Senate allies are supportive or are not, has no time to worry about laws or norms as he scurries around the country to protect himself from the consequences of his own corruption.

It’s propaganda, not hypocrisy: Republicans use lying as primary governing technique

There is no point in accusing Republican senators of hypocrisy. Absolutely none. Only hours after the death of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans—who had previously gnashed their teeth at the audacity of the suggestion that the nation's first nonwhite president had the constitutional power to make nominations to the court at any point during the final year of his term—began declaring that this time around, obviously that new rule no longer applies. And obviously the president of their own party, impeached and transparently corrupt, must be granted a scrambling court even as voters line up to cast early ballots.

Hypocrisy implies there’s a previous ideology being upset; there wasn't one, and isn't one, and no serious politics-watcher ever thought otherwise. The principle being upheld by Sen. Mitch McConnell and clan then and now was more simple: Retain power using all available tools, and deny the opposition power using all available tools. There is no "ideology" inside the modern conservative movement, either before Trump's arrival or afterwards, that can survive its first brush with expediency. Each argument lasts only as long as the soundbites require and will be replaced with a new one immediately, without hesitation, when required.

Expediency as ideology is not a senate-only device. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practiced it with aplomb, often resulting in lawyers and courts using his past words against him in new cases—a futile gesture. Of his "originalist," "textualist," or "institutionalist" allies, the same approach is used by All Of Them.

It's not hypocrisy if the principle all along was "whatever best increases power." And it is irrelevant if it is.

The relevant part is that it is accomplished by lying. The practitioners claim some bold new notion of how the world should work, and it is an absolute, baldfaced, bullshit-laden public lie. Those who watch McConnell or Sen. Lindsey Graham in their public appearances can easily identify, at this point, the schtick that makes up their entire persona.

They look the American public in the eye, and they simply lie to them.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination."

— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020

It was a lie from the moment he uttered it, and there was not a person in the room who didn’t know it from the outset. The movement is devoted to lying as governing principle. It works because there are countless channels through which those lies can be disseminated, and amplified, and praised. It will continue for as long as it works.

Over and over. About everything, all the time. The Moscow Turtle has never cried a sincere tear in his life, but according to him all Democratic actions are Devastation, all Republican actions are Sorrowfully Required Due To Democratic Existence, and the rest is puppet show. Graham is superb at being outraged in showy defense of the outrageous. Sen. Marco Rubio's usual deployed device is to respond to each act of corruption or depravity with a Bible verse, typically as non sequitur, and wiping his hands of the rest of it. Sen. Susan Collins is forever concerned by gross incompetence or criminality within her movement, and remains equally as concerned the next time around, and will make good on that "concern" exactly zero times as she votes to enable each concerning act one-by-one-by-one.

It's not hypocrisy. They're just liars. Conservatism is a movement of fictions, a series of nonsense falsehoods deployed like a squid ejects ink. Nobody asks the squid whether it stands by the cloud ejaculated in the last crisis. It would be pointless. The squid doesn't remember, and can't tell you.

It is not that the nation is run by a movement of "hypocrites." The nation is run by a collection of liars.


Those who issue false statements and make false claims relentlessly in order to deceive the public, or to stir their base into new heights of feverishness, or—and this is rather more to the point in this particular year—to justify and endorse criminality in service to the movement. Incompetence, if in service to the movement. A quarter million deaths, if in service to the movement.

The lies are consequential. McConnell and his allies lied their way through the impeachment of a president, simply insisting that the evidence was not evidence and the testimony not testimony. The movement has lied its way through a pandemic, turning even the most rote of pandemic safety precautions—masks, even—into conspiracies and partisan litmus tests.

When Michael Caputo and his aides insisted that children were nearly immune to the virus and could not spread it, it was not ideology. It was a lie meant to keep more of the "economy" open even if the more pertinent metric—deaths—was multiplied.

When the movement claims "antifa"—a group that does not actually exist—is behind police reform protests, it is a lie. It is propaganda intended purely to discredit protestors, and better facilitate state and militia violence against them.

When Sen. Ron Johnson pipelines the work of known Russian operatives into his committee to declare that he has discovered very serious doings, doings that suggest his opponents are secretly corrupt in ways no American law enforcement has ever been able to find, he is fully aware of his own actions. He is not stupid.

When Attorney General William Barr releases a document that grossly undermines a report on Russian election interference that benefited his party, and follows up by launching conspiracy after conspiracy all premised on the notion that it is American law enforcement that is corrupt for going after Republican targets, he is lying to the public for the sake of the party.

The movement of Republicanism is propagandistic in nature. Lies are deployed towards political ends. All involved know they are lies. All involved spread the lies willingly. Fox News exists as propaganda factory. Donald Trump exists as propaganda factory. McConnell exists as propaganda factory. The sitting attorney general, the president's odd private lawyer—the only through line is relentless lying to the public about everything, all the time, for power.

There's no textualist in conservatism. Nonsense about precedents and institutions is barely even given lip service. There are no "deficit hawks," or "small government" idealism. None of those things have survived. The only takeaway from White House press briefings is a single, fundamental point: These are today's lies. If you don't like them, there will be others tomorrow.

There is a word for all of this. Declaring that your leaders are allowed to commit crimes while demanding the arrest of enemies on false charges; the rejection of facts and the explicit declaration that the free press is an enemy of the people for presenting information that conflicts with the state's own preferred interpretations; the altering and realtering of supposed norms so that the opposition is, invariably, declared to be out of control in their requests, so out of control that it is now necessary to alter the rules of government to properly constrain them:

It is authoritarianism. The party is a propaganda movement devoted only to self-preservation. There is not a stitch of prior ideological principle that will survive from 2016 to 2020—or from 2018 on a Monday to 2018 on a Tuesday. The rules are whatever they need to be to suppress the movement's perceived enemies. Not merely for a desperately needed Supreme Court seat, but for the now-existential election and all its myriad details.

House Democrats summon Trump Postmaster General to explain sabotages, may return from recess early

The sudden collapse of the United States Postal Service's ability to do their core job—deliver mail—is now so widespread a problem as to be stoking widespread public outrage. This may finally result in substantive congressional action—sort of. Perhaps.

House Democrats are now asking (but not subpoenaing) Trump Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on August 24th to explain his actions. DeJoy, who remains heavily invested in for-profit competitors to the USPS even as he guts federal mail delivery capabilities, was previously scheduled to appear on September 17; moving his appearance up by several weeks is an indication that Congress no longer thinks waiting until mid-September is defendable. Democrats ask that DeJoy confirm his plan to appear by tomorrow; DeJoy has also been asked to deliver requested documents by Friday, August 21.

The House is putting off the "urgent" hearing until August 24 "to give Committee Members adequate notice to prepare for your testimony" but also "to avoid conflicting with the Republican convention" beginning later that evening." Which is nice, given that DeJoy is a Republican megadonor who no doubt needs to (virtually) mingle at the now-virtual gathering.

While House Democrats' non-subpoena-based request for DeJoy's testimony gives mixed signals as to just how "urgent" Congress believes the intentional pandemic sabotage of the USPS truly is, there are other signs Congress may begin to move more rapidly. CNN reports that House Democrats are "seriously" considering calling the House back into session "as early as" this week to take actions to protect post offices. "Members are getting heavily criticized in their districts during this recess period for not coming back and trying to do something," notes CNN.

It is not clear what remedies may be plausibly available to the House. The Republican-held Senate is likely to continue to back Trump's sabotages of the USPS, moves he has explicitly said are meant to harm mail-in voting efforts, for the same reason the Senate refused to examine impeachment charges against Trump for using federal funds to extort a foreign nation into providing election help: to assist their own re-elections.

But that's becoming a more and more dangerous move to make. The United States Postal Service is one of the government services Americans most interact with, and the sabotage is creating nationwide problems that Americans are now witnessing in large numbers. Urgently needed medication taking weeks to arrive; "overnight" deliveries of live animals being delayed by over a week; checks, bills, and packages that once took mere days to ship now delayed for a month, or longer; it is untenable for both businesses and individuals. And people are getting furious.

Republican estimations that restricting vote-by-mail will prevent more Americans from casting ballots than are spurred in anger to vote against Republican incumbents come hell or high water or pandemic—it is certainly an all-or-nothing play.

Democrats are also requesting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, currently engaged in an intentional effort to pipeline Russian election disinformation to benefit Trump, to summon DeJoy to testify about USPS sabotage to his own controlling Senate committee. Johnson, however, is a traitor to this nation, and is therefore certain to refuse.

As Republicans itch over next possible Supreme Court vacancy, Democrats mull countermeasures

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016, Senate Republicans discovered a heretofore unidentified, now-infamous caveat to President Barack Obama's constitutional powers: Black presidents aren't allowed to fill vacant Supreme Court seats during an election year. The Senate refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, who was put forward by Obama for the role; instead, the seat was simply left vacant for the duration of Obama's term. When Republican Trump was installed as president the next year, the Senate swiftly confirmed his own conservative nominee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fawning Trump golf partner Sen. Lindsey Graham, among others, have not been shy in declaring that the previously made-up rule no longer applies under Trump. On the contrary, they say the Senate would move swiftly to confirm any last-minute nominees if a vacancy were to arise in the last months of Trump's calamitous term. The recent diagnosis of liberal court icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with liver cancer (she is by all accounts being successfully treated) is putting new focus on these Republican court-packing inventions and un-inventions—and is pushing Democratic senators to more seriously consider expanding the court to rebalance it in the face of blatant Republican sabotages.

Whether Democratic senators will have the guts to actually do the thing remains an open question. But Sen. Tim Kaine—not exactly a liberal firebreather—is among those now open to expanding the Supreme Court if McConnell, Graham, and the others are insistent on undoing their own supposed ban on election-year nominees, notes NBC:

"If they show that they're unwilling to respect precedent, rules and history, then they can't feign surprise when others talk about using a statutory option that we have that's fully constitutional in our availability."

Unfortunately, that is phrased as a threat that depends on if Republicans go any further than they already have, rather than an observation about just how far they have already gone. The Democratic National Committee may go farther; they’re planning to make a call for "structural" court reforms part of the party platform.

The current Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy, and for structural rather than ideological reasons. The blocking of an Obama justice under a newly invented partisan rule that was discarded immediately afterwards put Neil Gorsuch on the court illegitimately; the Republican Senate's role in hiding evidence during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings was a near-perfect runup to the fiasco of discarded impeachment charges against Trump, not because anyone was willing to argue that Trump did not do the political extortion he was charged with but because Republican senators declared they simply did not wish to hear any evidence either way. The court is a product of the same Republican corruption that has debased the rest of Washington, and the nation. The party broke it.

“It would be very dangerous for Americans to begin to believe the Supreme Court was not the legitimate arbiter of our nation's laws,” we often hear. True, but that ship has sailed. The Supreme Court is a parody of itself already; you cannot even make good money making bets as to which conservative justices will discard their own precedents and proclamations to bend each new argument towards the preferred "conservative" outcome, because everybody else also knows that the core of conservative justices will make those flips of logic whenever the need arises. Pointing it out is now a consistent feature—and perhaps the most consistent feature—of non-conservative dissents.

It is true that Trump replacing any Supreme Court position in the next few months would quickly blossom into yet another crisis of government as the Senate swiftly erased whatever self-declared impediments were thrown up in the past, the whole of America watched it happen, and a good chunk of America came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court was now simply a structural appendage of the Republican Party. Again, though: ship, sailed. Watching the Kavanaugh nomination and listening to McConnell's unending carousel of new-rules-that-are-not, does anyone think the Supreme Court is not that appendage right now?

Asked whether Trump wants election delayed, will accept foreign help, Trump team refuses to say

It was another typical day on the Sunday shows, the place where America's most powerful people congregate to, for the most part, brazenly lie to us. Today's version came with one thing that the Trump team Very Much wants to talk about—banning social media app TikTok—and several they very much did not.

The two things they didn't want to talk about: Whether Donald Trump has asked his staff about delaying the November elections, and whether Trump's White House and/or campaign will accept foreign "assistance" in defeating former Vice President Joe Biden.

WATCH: Trump adviser Jason Miller is asked three (3) times whether the Trump administration or campaign would accept foreign assistance in this election. Three (3) times, he refuses to say no.

— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) August 2, 2020

That Trump campaign creature and deadbeat dad Jason Miller was so aggressively unwilling to answer straight-up whether the Trump team would be willing to accept foreign election assistance to beat Biden, on Fox News Sunday, is probably not surprising. Miller instead called it a "silly question," which to his credit is true: Trump himself faced impeachment for extorting a foreign government to provide such help, using the tools of his office, so pretending there is some remaining doubt about whether Trump and his team of people who did such a thing would do such a thing is indeed "silly."

This one is on Fox host Chris Wallace. If you book the oozing gastropod Miller on your show, you know what you're going to get: Lying. Gaslighting. Dear Leader-isms a-plenty. And you would still talk to him ... why? The point of bringing on a spokesperson who you can be absolutely sure will lie about anything and everything pertinent is what, exactly?

Newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, plucked from his House seat after a campaign of vigorously defending Trump from both the thing Trump was impeached over and every last thing he wasn't, had his own moment of not-gonna-answer-that when asked on Face the Nation whether Trump, after suggesting in a tweet that the presidential election be delayed, asked "you or anybody else in the administration to look into" delaying it.

Meadows couldn't answer that one. Or rather, wouldn't answer that one, instead swerving to attacks on pandemic vote-by-mail efforts with the usual aplomb of a treasonous dirtbag man with no particular attachment to seeing those elections happen. He can't answer whether Trump administration members were specifically asked, by Trump, if there was a way to delay the elections? Really now?

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't answer John Dickerson's question about "did the president ask you or anybody else in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the election day?"

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020

If you can't give an emphatic no to that one, we can all read between the lines. All right then, so it's come up.

None of this bodes very well for the elections, of course. Meadows was among the House Republicans most willing to be crooked on Trump's behalf back in Congress; presumed foreign agent Rep. Devin Nunes has been getting anti-Biden packets from pro-Russian Ukrainians while ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo, of the same vintage, uses his State Department perch to distribute anti-Biden materials to House Republicans while hiding it from Democrats.

There's a coordinated Republican strategy to manufacture foreign dirt, using pro-Russian foreign forces, to attack Biden with conspiracy theories in the final months of the election so that the best American pal foreign autocrats ever had can cling to power for another four years. From Pompeo to Barr, from Nunes to Meadows to Giuliani to Miller, they're sifting through disinformation to see what they can plausibly use before the press, the American people, intelligence services and federal investigators catch wind of it.

It'll probably be very stupid things, given what Giuliani has presented so far, but that doesn't mean they won't go all-in on the effort. If Trump and his team cannot be bothered to form even a mediocre plan for combatting the pandemic that has now killed 150,000 Americans and which may kill 250,000 before November—and they clearly can’t—then arguing that whoever Trump’s running against would be even worse is the only remaining play.

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"

— 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.

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.