Other democracies prosecute their ex-leaders. Trump should be no exception

Donald Trump believes he shouldn’t be held accountable for any crimes he’s been accused of before, during, or after his presidency. But on Monday, he found himself sitting in a courtroom as the first former U.S. president ever to go on trial for criminal charges. It’s the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accusing Trump of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.  

But while this might be unprecedented in U.S. history, other democracies, including France, South Korea, and Israel have charged, convicted, and even jailed former presidents and prime ministers. So why are we having such a hard time wrapping our head around this as a country?

RELATED STORY: Donald Trump's first criminal trial, Day One

Two previous U.S. presidents were in danger of facing criminal charges. President Warren G. Harding died in office in August 1923 and thus avoided being implicated in the notorious Teapot Dome oil lease bribery scandal and other corruption cases involving top administration officials.

Harding was also a notorious womanizer who had a child born out of wedlock. During the 1920 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee gave Harding’s long-time mistress a monthly $2,000 stipend as hush money and paid $25,000 to send her on a cruise to Japan and China before the election. 

President Richard Nixon came very close to being indicted for his role in the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation in August 1974. Nixon could have faced charges of bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of a criminal investigation, CNN reported. But Nixon’s successor and vice president, Gerald Ford, granted Nixon a full pardon, justifying his decision by claiming that long drawn-out litigation would arouse “ugly passions” and “our people would again be polarized  in their opinions.”

As The Washington Post wrote last week:

In the half-century since Ford announced that pardon, other nations have charted a different path, prosecuting former presidents or prime minsters in France, Brazil, South Korea, Israel and elsewhere for numerous alleged crimes, among them embezzlement, corruption, election interference and bribery.

Some cases have illustrated the virtues of trying to hold the most powerful political officials accountable under the rule of law — as well as the formidable challenges that arise when prosecuting such figures. These former leaders can rely on ample bully pulpits to assail the process, maintain influence, shore up support and, in some cases, reclaim power.

Trump has certainly used his “bully” pulpit to assail the process by attacking judges, prosecutors, and witnesses and claiming that putting him on trial would be ruinous for the country. Here’s what Trump posted on his Truth Social platform on the eve of the start of his trial in which prosecutors claim Trump paid hush money to Daniels to avoid a scandal that could have hurt his 2016 campaign:

Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Criminal Court, before a totally conflicted Judge, a Corrupt Prosecutor, a Legal System in CHAOS, a State being overrun by violent crime and corruption, and Crooked Joe Biden’s henchmen “Rigging the System” against his Political Opponent, ME! I will be fighting for myself but, much more importantly, I will be fighting for our Country. Election Interference like this has never happened in the USA before and, hopefully, will never happen again. We are now a Nation in serious Decline, a Failing Nation, but we will soon be a Great Nation Again. November 5th will be the most important day in the History of the United States. MAGA2024! SEE YOU TOMORROW.

Republicans seem to be in a certain state of denial regarding the upcoming trial. The Daily Beast conducted interviews with more than 20 Republican lawmakers over the past week. They made clear that they were supporting Trump even if he is a convicted felon.

“I don’t think that it matters to the American people, because they don’t believe it to be a fair trial,” North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd, a strong MAGA acolyte, told the Daily Beast. “They believe that all these trials are completely unfair against him to drain him of his resources and it’s completely done the opposite thing, it’s rallied the American people behind him.”

And Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a more establishment Republican who recently became chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will continue to support Trump even if he’s convicted.

“First of all, I don't think that’s going to happen,” Cole said. “But second, I think some of these prosecutions are simply ridiculous on their face, and some of them are clearly harassment.”

Trump is also trying to rebrand himself as the victim of political persecution, even having the temerity to compare himself to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Trump somehow connected the anti-apartheid icon’s 27 years spent in prison to the possibility that he could be jailed by Judge Juan Merchan for violating a gag order in the hush money case.

“If this Partisan Hack wants to put me in the ‘clink’ for speaking the open and obvious TRUTH, I will gladly become a Modern Day Nelson Mandela—It will be my GREAT HONOR,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Mandela’s grandson told the Times of London that Trump is “definitely delusional.”

Trump probably wishes that he could be like Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2020, Putin signed legislation that grants former presidents immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed during their lifetime. Trump has argued for presidential immunity repeatedly without success.

RELATED STORY: Make America like Russia: Trump wants same presidential immunity as Putin

Trump also shares much in common with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has used a similar strategy of “delay, deny, deflect” after he was charged in 2019 with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery while still in office. Netanyahu has also accused prosecutors of waging a “witch hunt” against him.

Netanyahu left office in 2021 after losing a vote of confidence in the parliament, but returned to power in December 2022 as the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Netanyahu and his allies then tried to overhaul the judicial system to give ruling parties more power to override Supreme Court decisions and select judges. Under the proposed legislation, courts would no longer have been allowed to bar politicians convicted of crimes from holding top government posts. These proposals triggered mass protests, and may have helped distract the government from warning signs about Hamas’s plans for a major attack.

But two other Israeli leaders ended up serving prison sentences. Former President Moshe Katsav was sentenced in 2011 after being convicted of rape and other sexual offenses against subordinates, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted in 2015 of fraud, breach of trust, and tax evasion.

In France, two former presidents were convicted of criminal charges. Jacques Chirac was convicted in 2011 of influence peddling, breach of trust, and embezzlement during his time as the mayor of Paris and received a two-year suspended jail sentence. In 2021, former President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence peddling. An appeals court spared him from serving any time in prison. In a separate case, Sarkozy is to go on trial in 2025 on charges or corruption and illegal financing related to alleged Libyan funding of his successful 2007 presidential campaign.

South Korea remains one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies even though four ex-presidents have  been jailed for corruption since the 1980s. Another ex-president committed suicide in 2009 while under investigation. Most recently, President Park Geun-hye was impeached in 2017, and convicted of abuse of power, bribery, and coercion the following year. She was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but received a presidential pardon in 2021 due to poor health.

South Koreans ousted a military dictatorship in the 1980s. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2023, South Korea is a top-tier democracy, ranked 22nd in the world—seven spots ahead of the United States, which was labeled a “flawed democracy.”

Trump has been charged with 88 criminal offenses in four criminal cases. But former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who died last year, also had quite the rap sheet. Berlusconi faced 35 criminal court cases since entering politics in 1994, but only one of his trials resulted in a conviction, Reuters reported. Berlusconi was convicted in 2013 for tax fraud, false accounting, and embezzlement related to his media empire, but what was originally a four-year prison sentence ended up being reduced to a year of community service.

And that brings us to former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist known as the “Trump of the Tropics.” Bolsonaro cast doubts over the results of the 2022 presidential election which he narrowly lost to left-wing former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, claiming without evidence that the country’s electronic voting machines were prone to fraud.

Then on Jan. 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the Congress and other government buildings in the capital Brasilia in a scene mirroring that of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Security forces regained control and arrested several hundred people.

Bolsonaro has been charged by Brazilian authorities with forging a coronavirus vaccine card before he traveled to Florida in late 2022 after his election loss. Authorities are also investigating whether Bolsonaro was involved in plotting a coup to remove Lula from power.

But last July, judges on Brazil’s highest electoral court barred Bolsonaro from running for office again until 2030, making it unlikely that he will ever return to the presidency.

That’s something the U.S. Senate could have done by convicting Trump in his second impeachment trial. At the time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but it was more appropriate for the former president to be held accountable by the criminal justice system and civil litigation. Maybe some GOP senators thought Trump would just go away, but he’s now their presumptive presidential nominee, and McConnell and most other GOP senators have bent the knee and endorsed Trump.

So now as Trump’s first trial begins, our country is rated a “flawed democracy.” Trump and his MAGA cultists have tried to undermine our justice system, the rule of law, and the public’s faith in democracy. The Washington Post reports:

“The notion that not just charges would be brought, but that a former president and possibly future president might be convicted and sent to jail is truly extraordinary,” said William Howell, an American politics professor at the University of Chicago. “How the system and how the American public will respond is going to be really revealing about the nature of our democratic commitments.”
If other democracies can hold their leaders accountable, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same.

Speaker Mike Johnson is getting squeezed from all sides on Ukraine aid

The Senate voted to move forward on the $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in the first-ever Super Bowl Sunday session. The vote was 67-27, meaning that it will easily pass in the Senate when they finally get to it. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been up to his usual obstructing tricks, refusing to agree to shortening the debate time on the bill. That means it will likely not pass until Wednesday, when all the pressure will be on House Speaker Mike Johnson to either get this bill done or prove his MAGA mettle and block it.

There’s a threat looming over Johnson from Georgia’s contribution to the dumbing-down of the nation, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has said she will bring a motion to oust him as speaker if he puts Ukraine aid on the floor. In aid of Greene’s MAGA cause, GOP Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio is circulating a conspiracy theory that the bill contains a setup to impeach Donald Trump again if he is reelected in November. The theory goes that because the bill extends aid into 2025, Trump would either be forced to honor it or face another impeachment if he cancels it.

That’s an implicit warning to House Republicans—and Johnson—to stay on Trump’s good side and block the aid. But Johnson is getting plenty of pressure from the pro-Ukraine side, including from a powerful Republican.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, recently led a delegation of members to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to assure him that he had allies among Republicans in Congress and that U.S. aid would continue. He returned with an urgent message for Johnson and Congress. The situation is so bad, he told Politico, that Ukrainian troops “are already rationing munitions” and “are unable to fully defend themselves on the battlefield.”

“We have to get this done,” he continued. “This is no longer an issue of, ‘When do we support Ukraine?’ If we do not move, this will be abandoning Ukraine.” He predicts that there will be  “overwhelming support” for the bill in the House, adding, “The speaker will need to bring it to the floor.”

It isn’t an empty threat, because Democrats have the tool to go over Johnson's head to put the bill on the floor with a discharge petition, and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries is ready to use it. “House Democrats are prepared to use every available legislative tool to make sure we get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line,” Jeffries said during the annual House Democrats’ strategy retreat last week. He called on Johnson to “move to consider parallel national security legislation immediately.”

The discharge petition needs 218 signatures to be put on the floor. That means as of now, they need six Republicans to join them. That math could change a little depending on the result of tomorrow’s special election in New York to replace expelled Republican George Santos. If Democrat Tom Suozzi wins, Democrats will need just five Republicans, and it sounds like Turner might be willing to be one of them. 

So might Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon. "I know we need to get aid to Israel quickly, and it’s in our national security interests to keep Ukraine independent and help Ukrainians defeat Russia’s barbaric invasion by sending them military weapons,” he told Politico last week. “I’ll work with the likeminded folks and the Speaker to determine what is best way to move forward.”

There is strong support for Ukraine even among House Republicans—101 of them voted for it as recently as September. If this new package makes it to the floor, it will surely pass. Which means the stunningly incompetent Johnson has a tough decision to make: stand with Ukraine or stand with Trump?


House Democrats need to dust off discharge petition and pass Ukraine aid

Republicans get Ukraine demands met, so of course they change their minds

Speaker Mike Johnson had a stunningly awful day—and he did it to himself

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For Republicans, it’s now ‘Trump First, Putin Second, America Third’

From a domestic perspective, the Republican Party’s embarrassing failure to follow through on its Fox News-goaded attempt to impeach Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas proved to be a blessing. It was wholly performative theater, without any legitimacy. The party’s abrupt, equally embarrassing turnabout on immigration—an issue that Republicans had planned on wielding against Democrats going into 2024—was just more evidence of the GOP’s terminal dysfunction. 

As schadenfreude-y as it may have been for Democrats to watch as the Republicans immolated themselves on the altar of immigration, the rest of the world was far more concerned about how the U.S. would follow through on its prior strategic commitments to Ukraine and Israel. By Wednesday morning, aid packages to both nations were hopelessly consigned to the quicksand of GOP intransigence and finger-pointing. Since aid to those countries was tied—at Republicans’ insistence—to border legislation, the Republicans’ pathetic submission of their much-vaunted immigration concerns to Donald Trump’s electoral whims may have doomed the prospects of further aid to Ukraine and Israel for the remainder of the fiscal year.

(Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is now crafting separate packages, without immigration reform included, but their likelihood of success appears murky.) 

From the perspective of our allies, however, what occurred this week is seen less as habitual Republican dysfunction and more as the total abandonment of American resolve. In a week’s time, we have proved ourselves, as Anne Applebaum presciently warned last month in The Atlantic, worse than an unreliable ally: We’ve become “a silly ally”—one that can no longer be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

Applebaum isn’t alone in that assessment. Tom Friedman’s Tuesday opinion piece in The New York Times, acidly titled “The G.O.P. Bumper Sticker: Trump First. Putin Second. America Third,” explains just how damaging and consequential the Republicans’ actions this week have been to the nation.

As Friedman wrote, even before the immigration and foreign aid bill collapsed under the weight of Republican cowardice:

There are hinges in history, and this is one of them. What Washington does — or does not do — this year to support its allies and secure our border will say so much about our approach to security and stability in this new post-post-Cold War era. Will America carry the red, white and blue flag into the future or just a white flag? Given the pessimistic talk coming out of the Capitol, it is looking more and more like the white flag, autographed by Donald Trump.

There is no serious doubt that House Republicans rejected the Senate’s painstakingly crafted immigration legislation, which satisfied nearly all prior GOP demands for border enforcement, at the behest of Donald Trump. Trump prefers to do nothing, effectively maintaining the status quo at the border for another full year so he can use it as a campaign talking point, assuming he's still eligible to hold public office

Fearing Trump's wrath, House Republicans swiftly pronounced the immigration and foreign aid package "dead on arrival" before most had even read it. Meanwhile, Republican senators began to quaver at the prospect of being primaried by Trump-chosen challengers for the audacity of trying to actually pass meaningful legislation. Faced with Trump’s continued vise-like grip on their party, upper chamber Republicans opted to jettison the legislation altogether. 

But, as Friedman observes, there’s another key player in the mix: Vladimir Putin. Putin is well-aware that Trump will abandon Ukraine—and likely NATO—the instant he returns to power. Friedman recognizes that Trump’s interests—and thus the interests of a supine Republican Party intent on enabling Trump’s dictatorial ambitions—now necessarily dovetail with Putin’s.

After Ukraine inflicted a terrible defeat on the Russian Army — thanks to U.S. and NATO funding and weapons — without costing a single American soldier’s life, Putin now has to be licking his chops at the thought that we will walk away from Ukraine, leaving him surely counting the days until Kyiv’s missile stocks run out and he will own the skies. Then it’s bombs away.

This week, one of Putin’s primary assets, the propagandist and “useful idiot” Tucker Carlson, is purportedly being wined and dined in Moscow so he can provide cover for Republicans to gut Ukrainian aid. Carlson’s paywalled, one-on-one interview with Putin, and how it might enable the murderous dictator’s “outreach” to Republicans, is already the talk of Russian state television.

As reported Wednesday by The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova:

State television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, one of the Kremlin’s anti-Western attack dogs, seemed to suggest that Carlson’s interview would torpedo any last hope for approval of new American military aid for Ukraine.

Solovyov said Carlson’s visit came “at the worst possible time for the West,” and he begged Carlson to join the Russian Union of Journalists, which Solovyov heads.

As Friedman points out, this eagerness of Republicans to betray American strategic interests in order to satisfy both Trump and Putin transforms America’s credibility with our allies into a mere afterthought.

If this is the future and our friends from Europe to the Middle East to Asia sense that we are going into hibernation, they will all start to cut deals — European allies with Putin, Arab allies with Iran, Asian allies with China. We won’t feel the change overnight, but, unless we pass this bill or something close to it, we will feel it over time.

America’s ability to assemble alliances against the probes of Russia, China and Iran will gradually be diminished. Our ability to sustain sanctions on pariah nations like North Korea will erode. The rules governing trade, banking and the sanctity of borders being violated by force — rules that America set, enforced and benefited from since World War II — will increasingly be set by others and by their interests.

The saddest fact is that no one should really be surprised by Republicans’ behavior. For a substantial segment of their caucus, their order of loyalty really is “Trump first, Putin second, America third.” Evidently they feel that the risk of betraying their own constituents on the immigration issue is well worth the effort and impact, if it means pleasing their two masters. And if they have so small a regard for their own constituents, there’s little doubt they feel even less toward the American republic writ large.

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Republican Party suffers the most humiliating 24 hours in recent memory

Every party loses an election now and then. Both parties have spent whole decades on the outs, railing from the sidelines while their opponents controlled the agenda. However, it’s hard to think of a 24-hour period where any party has suffered so many self-inflicted disasters as the Republican Party experienced on Tuesday.

This beautiful run of disintegrating dignitas began on Monday evening when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out to explain why the border security deal that had been negotiated over months was exactly what was needed to address “a humanitarian and security crisis of historic proportions.” Then he went behind closed doors three hours later to kill the bill on orders from Donald Trump. 

The morning opened to chaos. Sen. James Lankford, who had been McConnell’s chief negotiator on the bill, explained how it felt to be run over by a bus. McConnell, who once completely dictated the actions of Republicans in the Senate, was revealed as a sad puppet. The remaining Republicans were left stumbling over themselves, trying to justify sabotaging the best deal they’re ever going to get.

In hours Republicans took the issue at the heart of their 2024 campaign and turned it into an anchor that President Joe Biden will hang around their necks.

And their day only went downhill from there.

After a morning spent scrambling to create a reason for their actions that went beyond simple fear of Trump, Republicans got some troubling news about their golden ruler. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia took Trump to task with a 57-page decision that shredded any delusions about “absolute immunity.”

For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.

The unanimous decision was extensive and authoritative enough that experts are suggesting the Supreme Court might not consider Trump’s appeal, assuming Trump’s crack legal team manages to meet the short filing deadline provided by the appellate court.

But that was far from the end. Over on the House side of the Capitol, Republicans had cooked up the ridiculous impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for not being tougher on the border. Despite having just shot down a bill to get tougher on the border, they were determined to plunge blindly ahead under untested Speaker Mike Johnson.

Once again, Republicans learned that just because Nancy Pelosi made running a House vote look easy, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The reason Republicans were so eager to hold the vote on Tuesday evening was because they knew that Democratic Rep. Al Green was in the hospital after undergoing emergency abdominal surgery on Friday. Republicans hoped to take advantage of Green’s absence to give them a buffer against any Republican defections from their unjustified and patently ridiculous impeachment.

But with the vote already underway, Green appeared in a wheelchair to cast the decisive vote, putting the motion into a 215-215 tie. Johnson was forced to flip his vote to preserve the issue for a re-vote at a later date, resulting in a stunning and deeply embarrassing loss for the Republicans.

Democrat Al Green surprised Rs when he showed up for the Mayorkas impeachment vote tonight -- and ultimately helped Ds sink sink measure. (It will pass when when Scalise returns.) But Dem leaders were ready. "It was not a surprise," House Minority Whip Katherine Clark told me pic.twitter.com/HpyJbWBt75

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 7, 2024

And the night still wasn’t over.

Earlier in the week, Republicans had prepared a stand-alone aid package for Israel in hopes that they could avoid having to vote on the Ukraine assistance and border security bill they had demanded for months. Johnson tried to push the Israel assistance package through using an accelerated procedure that required two-thirds of the votes. 

Proving once again that counting is considered higher math for this Republican team, that bill also failed, falling over 30 votes short.

Republicans have suggested that House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who missed the Tuesday night vote while undergoing cancer treatment, will be back on Wednesday so they can call a do-over. However, there is disagreement on this point.

Scalise’s office tells me his return “won’t be tomorrow” https://t.co/ZxyY0McK3S

— Morgan Phillips (@_phillipsmorgan) February 7, 2024

But if there is one thing this Republican-led House knows how to do, it’s hold one humiliating vote after another. So they will probably make it happen someday. 

But even after these two disastrous votes, the day still wasn’t over.

Soon after Johnson finally gaveled an end to fruitless efforts in the House, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced that she was stepping down. McDaniel has been under heavy pressure from Trump for failing to keep the RNC coffers filled with cash. 

McDaniel is the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, but she stopped using her family name at Trump’s request. Now he has essentially fired her. As usual, Trump’s idea of loyalty is strictly one-way.

Republicans are rolling into the new day with absolutely nothing to show for surrendering everything to Trump. The best bill they could have hoped to negotiate is gone, they didn’t get their sham impeachment, they didn’t get their Israel-without-Ukraine funding package, and the chair of the party is packing up to leave. Meanwhile, Trump is entering the day with a much greater chance that he will face criminal proceedings before the election.

There aren’t a lot of New York Times headlines that bear repeating, but this one works:  

And it’s only Wednesday.

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Sunday Four-Play: Lindsey Graham admits there’s no ‘smoking gun’ in GOP’s fake impeachment push

It’s keenly ironic that House Republicans acted on a raft of sketchy, Rudy Giuliani-exhumed allegations to launch a presidential impeachment inquiry in the very same week that he was ordered to pay $148 million for lying on Donald Trump’s behalf. But that’s the difference between our courts and our Congress. In court, you have to tell the truth.

Of course, every House Republican—to a person—is now doing what Rudy did years ago: Appeasing their ocher overlord by conjuring nonsense in a cynical bid to put the faux stink of corruption on President Joe Biden. We’ll have to wait to find out if those congressional fiends eventually get their comeuppance. In the meantime, we’ve got Sunday show clips! So let’s get on with it, shall we?


It’s been glaringly obvious for some time now why House Republicans are trying to impeach President Biden: It’s because Donald Trump wants them to. They’re wholly in thrall to a lifelong punchline who steals top secret government documents and sounds like Hitler slipped on the basement stairs and can’t get up. 

Fortunately, some still see the current Republican Party for what it truly is: a pathetic cult of personality.

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen appeared on “The Katie Phang Show” to discuss the GOP’s fake Biden impeachment, and he very quickly got to the crux of the matter.

.@RepCohen on Speaker Mike Johnson's baseless Biden impeachment inquiry: "He went down to see his daddy Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago and he told him: 'Go back to Washington and impeach Joe Biden.' [...] This is juvenile." #katiephangshow pic.twitter.com/4cN99NgaUW

— The Katie Phang Show (@katiephangshow) December 17, 2023

PHANG: “Let’s start first … with the absurd impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Republicans on three House committees have been investigating President Biden and his son for months now with zero evidence of wrongdoing being discovered. Can you share with our viewers why there was a unanimous vote by House Republicans? Did you hear anything from your Republican colleagues on why they would do, across straight party lines, a vote in favor of this baseless inquiry?”

COHEN: “Totally political. Unfortunately, we have a child speaker. He went down to see his daddy, Donald Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, and he told him, ‘Go back to Washington and impeach Joe Biden. That will make me feel good because I was impeached twice, and I want to say he was impeached, too.’ So this is juvenile. It’s unfortunately an inexperienced speaker who’s dealing with an irrational man, and the Republican Party basically is responding to that as well. The MAGA Republicans do what Trump tells them to. So they’re going to do that, and they’re doing that with Ukraine, too. To keep his deal going with Putin that was so successful, him getting elected president, that he’s … [he doesn't want] to give Ukraine any money because he wants Putin to win the war and he wants Putin to help him in 2024. Trump’s looking at 2024 and Putin’s looking at posterity, and working together.”

Wow, that sure makes Republicans sound cynical and soulless, doesn’t it? But when you’re right, you’re right. And Rep. Cohen is most definitely right.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: The fake Biden impeachment rolls along, and J.D. Vance forgets Mike Johnson exists


If anyone knows about selling his soul to appease Trump, it’s Sen. Lindsey Graham. So it’s particularly noteworthy that even he can’t figure out what House Republicans are impeaching Biden over.

Graham joined Kristen Welker on “Meet the Press” and was asked to weigh in on the GOP’s disingenuous impeachment push. It looked like he would have preferred to discuss just about anything else.  

WELKER: Grassley said he does not see any evidence that the president is guilty of anything. Do you agree with him? LINDSEY GRAHAM: If there was a smoking gun I think we'd be talking about it. pic.twitter.com/pBESdm7HML

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 17, 2023

WELKER: “Okay, let’s turn to the other big story on Capitol Hill, the impeachment, of course—the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Your colleague Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that he does not see any evidence, quote, that the president is guilty of anything. Do you agree with him? Is there any evidence so far?”

GRAHAM: “You know, I haven’t really been paying that much attention to it. They have to prove that President Biden somehow financially benefited from the business enterprises of Hunter Biden. We’ll see.”

WELKER: “Have they done it yet, in your mind?”

GRAHAM: “If there were a smoking gun, I think we’d be talking about it ...”

Look, it was obvious from the outset that Republicans would try to impeach Biden for something. But this is really a stretch—particularly since Trump continually took money from foreign interests while he was cosplaying as president, and did so out in the open.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: DeSantis-bot glitches out, and ex-Trump aide says the former guy is 'slowing down'


Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tells the truth on exactly one topic: Donald Trump. And he didn’t start doing that until Trump decided he’d try to garrote American democracy. He was fine with Happy Meal Hitler trying to kill him and turning our country into a WWE cage match, but lying about the election and trying to overthrow the government were the final straws. Which is good, of course. He’s ahead of the curve as far as Republicans go. That said, as the following clip shows, Christie always knew about Trump’s strong affinity for indiscriminate murder enthusiast Vladimir Putin, and he still tried to get Trump reelected.

Go figure.

Christie joined Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” to warn America about Trump’s increasingly authoritarian rhetoric.

.@GovChristie hits Donald Trump for echoing Vladimir Putin’s criticism of American democracy in an interview with @jaketapper. “It's time to send Donald Trump back to Mar-a-Lago permanently.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/yzXNCeYpBB

— State of the Union (@CNNSOTU) December 17, 2023

TAPPER: “Gov. Christie, you just heard Donald Trump approvingly quoting Vladimir Putin about American democracy, about the American legal system, attacking the criminal charges against him and the ‘rottenness’ of the American political system, quote, unquote. What’s your reaction?”

CHRISTIE: “My reaction is that he gets worse and worse by the day, Jake. And voters better start paying attention to exactly what he’s saying. He has always been approving of Putin right from the beginning of his presidency. That was something that he and I had regular arguments about going all the way back to 2017. And the fact is that—Vladimir Putin as an expert on democracy? This is a guy who doesn’t even know what democracy is and, quite frankly, has spent most of his life trying to undercut democracy all over the world, and Donald Trump is citing him as his expert witness that he’s being persecuted and is innocent. Look, this is a guy who just believes ‘woe is me, woe is me, I can’t believe that I got caught.’ But let’s remember something, and everyone needs to know this. It’s not going to be Vladimir Putin on the witness stand in Washington, D.C., this spring. It’s not going to be some left-wing prosecutor making the case. Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff, has accepted immunity. I did this for seven years, Jake. The reason he’s accepted immunity is because he has admitted he had committed crimes himself, or he wouldn’t need immunity. And he’s going to testify that Donald Trump committed crimes on his watch—a founder of the Freedom Caucus, his former chief of staff who he called the next James Baker. Donald Trump realizes the walls are closing in. He’s becoming crazier. And now he’s citing Vladimir Putin as a character witness, a guy who’s a murderous thug all around the world. It’s time to send Donald Trump back to Mar-a-Lago permanently.”

Hey, thanks for piping up, Chris! Better late than never, right?

Then again, it’s kind of soothing to hear an ex-prosecutor describe exactly how much legal peril Trump is in these days. Hopefully, at least one of the four criminal cases against Trump sees the light of day before he has a chance to send his tank columns into Fulton County, Georgia.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Biden delivers results, Christie swats at Trump, and Musk tanks Twitter


Speaking of Putin, his American Super PAC—aka the GOP—is doing all it can these days to support his Ukrainian war effort. House Republicans are holding up aid to Ukraine so they can play political games with our southern border—a cynical tactic that could help them get elected, which in turn would help Putin, who would then further interfere in our elections on their behalf, and on and on into infinity. 

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen joined Jon Karl on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss this ongoing betrayal of our ally on Putin’s behalf. 

“This is a pivotal moment in American leadership and history,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen tells @JonKarl as negotiations continue over military assistance for Ukraine. “We need to make sure that we help our Ukrainian friends.” https://t.co/zgTIHOEo7W pic.twitter.com/au87GpxIEZ

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 17, 2023

KARL: “What do you think of this idea of having significant changes to the border tied to funding for Ukraine and Israel? Among the changes that Republicans have been demanding are changes to our asylum laws—making it harder for people to declare asylum, restricting that. And even, you know, Republicans want a return to Remain in Mexico, the policy of the Trump administration, which is ‘ask for asylum before you come to the United States and come after, or if, it’s been granted.’”

VAN HOLLEN: “Well, first of all, I think it’s essential that we provide military assistance to Ukraine. This is a pivotal moment in American leadership and history, and we need to make sure that we help our Ukrainian friends against Putin’s aggression—not just to protect their freedom, but because it would send a terrible signal around the world to our allies who would no longer trust us, and to our adversaries, who would be emboldened if we’re not doing that. In terms of border security, I have to look at the details, and the big question, Jon, is, who’s at the table on the Republican side? I don’t mean the individual, but are they really working with the president to try to get border security? Because the president has proposed historical increases in resources for border security.”

KARL: “And they’re asking for policy changes more than resources.”

VAN HOLLEN: “So we have to look at it, you know.”

Well, Republicans ask for a lot of things. Most of those requests are either disingenuous or downright bonkers. After all, Republicans’ proof that Biden favors open borders is that his administration keeps arresting record numbers of border crossers and sending them back. Try to make sense of that one. 

Meanwhile, comprehensive immigration reform would go a long way toward solving our problems at the border, but Republicans prefer they remain unsolved so Fox News can continue scaring its viewers with caravans of brown people. Because if conservatives can’t frighten people, all they’ve got left is a Hitler See ‘n Say as their putative presidential nominee and undisputed standard-bearer.

But wait! There’s more!

That’s all for now! Note: Sunday Four-Play will be on hiatus next week in honor of my annual holiday sugar coma. Hope to see you all again on the cusp of a new year.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

On Thanksgiving, I remember my Jewish ancestors who left Europe and am thankful America took them in

“I’ve got something I’d like to say.” That’s what I usually offer up as a preamble as I try to get the attention of my kids and other family members gathered around the Thanksgiving table. It takes a couple of attempts, but once we’re all on the same page I offer words of thanks for my ancestors. I talk about how brave they must have been to leave the communities of their birth, which were at least familiar to them despite the hardship, discrimination, and all-too-common violence they faced. They came to a land where they didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the culture, and, in many cases, didn’t know a soul.

In this offering, I mention the family names of the people who came and the places they came from. We’ve done quite a bit of genealogical research on my side and my wife’s side of the family, and we’re lucky to have as much information as we do. My goal is to give my kids a sense of who their ancestors were and what they went through to give us a chance to have the life we do here in America. One branch of my father’s family came from Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania; another from Riga, Latvia’s capital; another from Minsk, the capital of Belarus; and the last from Odesa, now in Ukraine, which is a country fighting back with growing success against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s vile aggression.

Growing up, I had learned that all my father’s ancestors were “Russian.” It turns out none of them came from places that are now in that country—and let’s hope its borders don’t expand any further.

The story is similar on my mother’s side. One branch was described to me as Austrian; in fact, they came from Skole in today’s Ukraine. The other was Hungarian and came from Sighet (Elie Wiesel’s hometown) in Transylvania, now a province of Romania. During my Thanksgiving meal talk, I also thank my wife’s family, who came from Vienna, Poland, and Russia. In reality, the primary point of identification in terms of culture and identity for all these people was not the country of origin on their passport, but the fact that they were members of the Jewish people, regardless of any particular level of belief or religiosity.

In addition to being Jews, the family ancestors I’ll be acknowledging were also, of course, Americans. That’s the other part of the thanks I’ll give on the holiday: I’m thankful my ancestors had a place to go, that they could become Americans and make a life here.

The last of them got in just under the wire, arriving a few months after the first world war and only a couple of years before a series of immigration “reforms” severely limited the number of immigrants our country accepted from outside the British Isles and northwest Europe. My wife’s grandmother’s family got out of Poland in 1937, and only because the youngest child had been born here (it’s a long story). One of the oldest living “anchor babies,” I’d surmise. Very few Jews were able to find refuge here at that point and immediately afterward, during the years they needed it most.

I make sure my kids know about these restrictions on immigration as well as the fact that people coming from Asia had almost no chance to emigrate and become U.S. citizens until the early 1950s. We also talk about how although their ancestors and other Jewish immigrants certainly didn’t have it easy, they at least had opportunities that America denied to the large numbers of African Americans and American Indians who had arrived long before our family.

America didn’t treat everyone living here equally, either on paper or in practice. Certainly, as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Patrick Lyoya, and too many others have reminded us, we’ve still got room for improvement on that front as well, to say the least, though we have come a long way thanks to those heroes who fought and bled to get us as far as we have.

Over the course of four long years, the twice-impeached former guy made the process for coming here far more difficult and far more treacherous for refugees and asylum-seekers. But thankfully, The Man Who Lost an Election and Tried to Steal It was unsuccessful in that endeavor. We now have a far more humane president, one who led the Democratic Party to its best midterm performance in six decades as well as another night of victories earlier this month. These are developments for which my family and I are deeply thankful, for many reasons.

Contrast Trump with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania, which for more than a decade has organized a Thanksgiving event in Philadelphia specifically for immigrants. Over 100 people shared the holiday meal in 2019:

Vanessa, who declined to give her last name, says the event is exactly what she and her family needed after being under the threat of deportation.

"We couldn’t miss it today, because recently my parents were in deportation court," she said.

Vanessa says she's thankful her family can stay together just in time for the holiday.

If that organization sounds familiar, it might be because of the wonderful work it does on behalf of immigrants, or it might be because the terrorist who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh specifically mentioned HIAS in a post just a few hours before committing that mass murder:

A couple of hours before opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman, posted on the social network Gab, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and Bowers had posted about it at least once before. Two and a half weeks earlier, he had linked to a HIAS project called National Refugee Shabbat and written, “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?” Another post that most likely referred to HIAS read, “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!”

So while I’m thankful to our country for taking in my family and so many others, I am aware that not everyone approves of America’s generosity, or the support Jews have generally shown for it. There’s another person whose family is also Jewish and from Eastern Europe who expressed a sense of gratitude that reminded me of my own: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. He did so in the context of coming forward to testify in an impeachment inquiry focused on Donald Trump. Vindman has faced antisemitism from the Tangerine Palpatine and his allies in retaliation for stepping forward and telling the truth. Here are his words, words that make me proud to share my heritage with this man:

Next month will mark 40 years since my family arrived in the United States as refugees. When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s story in America.

I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.

Dad, my sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.

Thanksgiving—at least in the form we celebrate in this country—is an American invention, a holiday about each of our relationships to America and to our fellow Americans. It means different things to different people depending on how their ancestors were treated. For me, America is my home, the only one I’ve got. It is the place that made my life and my family possible. My membership in the American people, the diverse yet singular American national community, is central to my identity. Although I don’t always agree with the policies of our government, I love America deeply.

We are living in a time when, once again, demagogues are playing on our deepest fears to argue against taking in people fleeing oppression in their homelands, just as was the case in 1939. Demagogues are also casting doubt on the loyalty of Jewish Americans who were born elsewhere, just as was the case in the Dreyfus Affair over a century ago.

Antisemitism in our country is on the rise from across the political and ideological spectrum. Although the most dangerous anti-Jewish hatred comes from the right wing, the antisemitism on college campuses since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks that killed 1,200 Israeli civilians has been impossible to ignore.

I am truly grateful for what America did for me: taking in my ancestors when they needed a place to go. I know many others will end up being far less fortunate. They are the ones we have to fight for now.

RELATED STORY: Antisemitism surges as Jewish college students across the US face hate and violent threats

This is an updated version of a piece I have posted the last few years on Thanksgiving.

Biden challenger Dean Phillips gets his shot at primetime interview and it goes pretty poorly

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips is running in the Democratic Party’s primary to try and unseat incumbent President Joe Biden. The launch of his campaign has been met with dismal polling numbers, coming in at 6% support, which trails Marianne Williamson at 8%, who in turn trails Biden by more than 50 percentage points.

On Tuesday, Phillips’ campaign made a push, releasing attack ads against Biden and sitting down with CNN’s Abby Phillip for a primetime interview. It didn’t go particularly well. The CNN host asked Phillips about the backlash he’s received from a recently published interview with The Atlantic, where he obliquely questioned Vice President Kamala Harris’ competency to be president.

Phillips’ response was to try on what seemed to be an attempt at a shoot-from-the-hip catchphrase, saying, “I'm the one who says—I'm the one who says the quiet part out loud. I think that's pretty well documented,” but the CNN host pressed him as to why he would repeat these “comments.”

The man who just told everyone that it is “pretty well documented” that he is “the one who says the quiet part out loud” explained, “I do not recall saying those words. I recall those words being shared with me, and saying that’s what people have been saying.”

He proceeded to say both Biden and Harris were good people and that it wasn’t him saying these things. He switched tacks to argue that, in fact, the low approval ratings being touted by media outlets prove that both Biden and Harris have people saying these things about them. Of course, if that’s the metric, Phillips is even less exciting to Americans.

While that didn’t go well, maybe Phillips could get back on board and show solid leadership and diplomacy around Biden’s behind-the-scenes success in helping to broker a hostage deal and temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

ABBY PHILLIP: The reporting is that Hamas would release kidnapped Israeli hostages in exchange for a 3-to-1 ratio of Palestinian prisoners: women and minors—children who are in Israeli prison. If you were president of the United States, would you accept that deal?

REP: DEAN PHILLIPS: No, because we have nine Americans held hostage right now by Hamas, have been there for six weeks, including at least one child. And by now, I would have expected American special forces to perhaps play a hand in extracting them. I think it's absurd, shocking, and dismaying that six weeks later we still have American hostages held by a terror organization in Gaza. I'm happy for the Israelis, don't get me wrong. Hamas should release all hostages. But the fact that we have Americans sitting in Gaza right now held hostage is appalling and should be addressed immediately.

PHILLIP: ​​So to be clear, you would turn down even this opportunity to free 50 hostages, and I want to just clarify for the audience, these are Israelis, but some of them are dual citizens—they hold dual passports, including some Americans.

PHILLIPS: If all Americans are included that are held hostage right now, of course I would approve it. If there's a single American that is still held hostage after this deal. No, I think it's that important, Abby. I think the American president has an obligation to extract Americans. It's been six weeks, and I'm happy that some are being released, but every single American citizen should be part of that group. And if I were the American president, I would not agree to anything until every single one of them is released. I would demand it. And if it wasn't done, we have to use every lever available to us to ensure it.

Phillip decided to try and tease out how unsophisticated the candidate’s statement is as an actual policy position.

PHILLIP: Well, you have said that the war has taken an unacceptable toll on Palestinian citizens and civilians—

PHILLIPS: —And Israelis.

PHILLIP: And, of course, on Israelis. But in terms of the toll on Palestinians in Gaza, you're saying a cease-fire only in exchange for the hostages. It seems pretty clear at this point those are not terms that Hamas will accept. So how will you get them to agree to release all of the hostages, which they've refused to do up until this point, simply by putting a cease-fire on the table?

PHILLIPS: First of all, Hamas should have been eliminated years ago. The fact that a terror organization will not release 200 humans in exchange for the preservation of life of the people they ostensibly represent is appalling. By the way, this is a failure, Abby, of the past—

PHILLIP:—But what will you do about it, is my question? What would you do if you were president? What would you do to change that?

PHILLIPS: Just like I proposed, release the 200 hostages. There will be an immediate—

PHILLIP:—Hamas has to—Hamas has to do that. So how do you get Hamas to do it?

PHILLIPS: Hamas—Hamas has to do it because—ow do you get Hamas to do it?


PHILLIPS: You make the—this is exactly the presentation: Release 200 hostages, an immediate cease-fire, and a multinational security force to maintain security for all Palestinians in Gaza. That eliminates Israel's responsibility.

PHILLIP: Do you think that the Biden administration is deferring too much to the Israeli government in how this war is conducted? Because it kind of sounds like what you're saying is that you think that the United States government should simply just go in there and release the Americans.

Regardless of your position on the conflict in Israel and Gaza, arguing that the Biden administration forgot to ask for all hostages to be released and a cease-fire is not a position. And most importantly, it isn’t a meaningful position in opposition to Biden. Phillips' candidacy remains an enigma.

Campaign Action

Republicans are challenging labor leaders to fights and allegedly physically assaulting one another. Donald Trump says he will abolish reproductive rights entirely and is openly calling for the extermination of his detractors, referring to them as “vermin” on Veterans Day. The Republican Party has emerged from its corruption cocoon as a full-blown fascist movement.

Joe Biden wants to complete his goals on civil rights, taxes, and social services if he’s reelected

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has a simple reelection pitch to voters — let him "finish the job."

So what does that mean? What's left for him to get done?

Unlike Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination who has been releasing videos and statements detailing his agenda, Biden hasn't formally released his plans as part of his campaign.

But his ambitions are no secret, and his goals for child care, community college and prescription drugs have been laid out in detail during the Democrat's first term. He also has unfulfilled promises on civil rights, such as protecting access to the ballot box, preventing police misconduct and restoring the nationwide right to abortion. Banning firearms known as assault rifles remains a priority as well.

The result is a second-term agenda that could look a lot like Biden's first-term agenda, with some of the same political challenges. Almost none of this can get done without cooperation from Congress, and many of these goals already have been blocked or pared down because of opposition on Capitol Hill.

Biden has achieved bipartisan victories on infrastructure projects and public funding for the domestic computer chip industry. But Democrats would need to win wide majorities in both the House and the Senate to clear a path for the rest of his plans.

"We're going to finish as much of the job as we can in the next year," said Bruce Reed, Biden's deputy chief of staff. "And finish the rest after that."

Biden's campaign expressed confidence that the president's agenda would stack up well against Republicans in next year's election. Kevin Munoz, a spokesman, described the election as "a choice between fighting for the middle class or shilling for rich special interests" and he said "it's a contrast we are more than happy to make."

One other difference between Biden and Trump doesn't fit neatly into policy white papers, but it's core to their political foundation. Biden has made defending American democracy a cornerstone of his administration, while Trump tried to overturn his election loss in 2020.

The result of the 2024 campaign could reshape not only government policy but the future of the country's bedrock institutions.


Biden's plans are expensive and he doesn't want to increase the deficit, so that means he's looking to raise taxes on the wealthy.

He already has succeeded in implementing a 15% minimum tax on companies with annual income exceeding $1 billion.

Biden has proposed raising the top tax rate to 39.6%, the corporate tax rate to 28% and the stock buyback tax to 4%.

He wants a minimum tax of 25% on the wealthiest Americans, a levy that would be applied not only to income but unrealized capital gains. The idea, which Biden called the "billionaire minimum income tax," could prove difficult to put in place, not to mention extremely hard to push through Congress, given Republican opposition to higher taxes.


Biden's original signature plan was known as Build Back Better, a cornucopia of proposals that would have dramatically changed the role of the federal government in Americans' lives.

It was pared down because of resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who is a key vote in the narrowly divided Senate and announced this past week that he will not seek reelection. The result was the Inflation Reduction Act, which included financial incentives for clean energy and limits on prescription drug costs, but not many other programs.

Biden will want to bring back the ideas that were left on the cutting room floor. That includes making two years of community college tuition free, offering universal preschool and limiting the cost of child care to 7% of income for most families.

He also wants to resuscitate the expanded child tax credit. The American Rescue Plan, the pandemic-era relief legislation, boosted the credit to $3,000 for children over six and $3,600 for children younger than age 6. The expansion lapsed after a year, returning the credit to $2,000 per child, when his original package stalled.

More work is left on prescription drugs. The monthly cost of insulin was capped at $35 for Medicare recipients. Biden wants the same limit for all patients.


The White House recently announced a new office dedicated to preventing gun violence. Biden also signed legislation that's intended to help officials keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other dangerous people.

But Biden's biggest goal, a ban on so-called assault weapons, remains out of reach because of Republican opposition. Such a ban was in place from 1994 to 2004, but it wasn't extended after it expired. Although the proposal hasn't been spelled out in detail, it would likely affect popular high-powered weapons such as the AR-15, which can shoot dozens of bullets at a fast pace.

Another item on the wish list is universal background checks, which increase scrutiny of sales conducted through gun shows or other unlicensed avenues.


Biden took office at a time of national upheaval over the role of racism in policing and the future of democracy. George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, was murdered by a white police officer, and Trump tried to overturn Biden's election victory, leading to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Biden promised to address both of these issues through landmark legislation, but he came up short of his goals.

On policing, bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill failed to reach a deal, particularly when it came to making it easier to sue over allegations of misconduct. So Biden instead crafted an executive order with input from activists and police. The final version changes rules for federal law enforcement, but it does little to alter how local departments do their jobs.

He similarly issued an executive order on voting rights that aims to expand registration efforts. But Democratic legislation intended to solidify access to the ballot box failed to advance when some members of the party refused to sidestep Senate filibuster rules to pass it.

Biden's presidency was upended by the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed nationwide access to abortion. It's proved to be a potential campaign issue for Democrats, but they have had less success in Congress. Biden said that if his party picks up more seats, he will push for legislation codifying the right to abortion.


On Biden's first day in office, he sent Congress his proposal for overhauling the country's immigration system. The idea went nowhere.

But the president would want to take another swing at the issue in a second term. It will prove an especially urgent topic as migrants continue crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the country looks for the next generation of workers to achieve its economic goals.

Biden wants to allow people who are in the United States illegally to apply for legal status and eventually citizenship. He also wants a smoother and expanded visa process, particularly for foreign graduates of American universities. These steps would be paired with additional resources for border enforcement.


Biden is facing two wars on two continents, and the fallout from each conflict will shape a second term even if the fighting ends before that.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for almost two years, and Israel and Hamas began their latest clash about a month ago. Biden wants to send military support to Ukraine and Israel, something that he describes as "vital" to U.S. national security interests.

"History has taught us when terrorists don't pay a price for their terror, when dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction," he said in a recent Oval Office address.

His plans will require challenging congressional negotiations. Some Republicans are resisting more assistance for Ukraine after Congress has already approved $113 billion in security, economic and humanitarian resistance.

Both conflicts will likely require years of U.S. involvement. For example, Biden is looking for a new opportunity to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East, creating an independent Palestinian country alongside Israel.


Fighting global warming is one of the areas where Biden has had the most success. The Inflation Reduction Act includes nearly $375 billion for climate change, much of it going toward financial incentives for electric cars, clean energy and other initiatives. Biden is also pushing stricter regulations on vehicles and power plants.

But the U.S. is not yet on track to meet Biden's ambitious target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to independent analysts. And there's a lot of work ahead to ensure new programs reach their potential.

One hurdle is red tape for energy projects. The White House argues that it's too hard to build infrastructure such as transmission lines, but legislation to address the issue would likely require compromises with Republicans, who see an opportunity to grease the skids for additional fossil fuel development.

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Sunday Four-Play: Zelenskyy seems skeptical that Trump will bring peace, and Mike Johnson lies

For a guy who’s supposedly a multibillionaire, Donald Trump sure spends a lot of his time scrounging for ha’pennies with which to stuff his gross, linty, panko breading–lined pockets. That reality was on lurid display this week as his real estate empire-cum-perpetual grift machine got flayed over and over during testimony meant to establish just how yuuuge a fraud he and his company really are—and always have been.

Would a really rich guy stiff his blue collar contractors? Would he sell tacky NFTs for $99 a pop to a heaving throng of marks who are still hoping their Beanie Babies recover their value? Would he sell mail-order steaks? And would he sell out his country and, by extension, the whole of Western democracy for the chance to build a big tower in a country led by a brutal, murderous war criminal

Trick question! He’d sell out his country for a week-old Wetzel’s Pretzel, and toss in Eric in his official Team CCCP banana hammock mankini.

No, Trump has been pretending. All along. Do you think Warren Buffett lies awake at night trying to figure out how to squeeze ever-more filthy lucre from his fawning fanboys? Of course not. But Trump does—because he apparently has to. And thanks to Trump’s ever-skeevy ambitions, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests are now reliably represented by a small-ish, but hugely significant, segment of the Republican Party.

In fact, while House Republicans have swiftly passed an aid package for Israel, whose military is already far superior to its enemy’s, it left out badly needed aid for Ukraine (while also offering a deficit-ballooning helping hand to America’s patriotic, hardly working tax cheats). New House Speaker Mike Johnson claims Ukraine aid is still on the agenda, but it’s hard to take him completely seriously given his recent skepticism on the issue, as well as his declaration that any bill authorizing new Ukraine aid should come with “conditions.”

So why are Republicans far more eager to help the ally that clearly needs less help than they are the largely overmatched ally that’s been bravely defending itself against a much larger imperialist aggressor, and doing so on behalf of the world’s liberal democracies? Because Donald Trump made loving Vladimir Putin fashionable. And why is that? Because he’s is a greedy, soulless prick who adores dictators. 

How do you like that? I buried the lede.

And now, on to the usual nonsense.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: GOP still deciding which fanatical, anti-American traitor to anoint as speaker


If this universe really is a simulation—and there’s a fair chance it is, frankly—I really regret buying the “Donald Trump is president” expansion pack. He’s ruined so many lives, after all.

Trump is fond of saying Russia would have never invaded Ukraine had he been president, but it seems far more likely that his lingering presence actually encouraged Pee Wee Putin’s Big Adventure—because Putin knew he had good friends in the USA to rely on if things started to go south. After all, Putin doesn’t need to defeat Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy; he just needs to defeat Joe Biden. Then Trump will be able to pull the U.S. out of NATO, as he’d planned on doing all along, and end the war in 24 hours, as he’s promised. Of course, any “peace plan” would almost certainly be made on his good buddy Vlad’s terms. Putin would likely get all the territory he’s stolen from Ukraine, along with a 600-foot statue of Stalin peeing in the reflecting pool at the National Mall; Zelenskyy would get a some-expenses-paid weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago and double scoops of ice cream every night during his stay.

Zelenskyy appeared on “Meet the Press” with host Kristen Welker, and Welker asked him about a new NBC News report that U.S. and European officials have begun talking with Ukrainian officials about what peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia might look like

WATCH: @NBCNews reports that U.S. and European officials have quietly begun talks around Russia-Ukraine peace negotiations, but Zelenskyy says he is not ready to begin that dialogue with Putin.@ZelenskyyUa: "We can’t trust terrorists because terrorists always come back." pic.twitter.com/aHQXqcQtxJ

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 5, 2023

WELKER: “President Zelenskyy, NBC News is reporting that U.S. and European officials have begun quietly talking to your government about what possible peace negotiations with Russia might look like to end this war. Have you personally been involved in these talks, and what’s the status of these talks?”

ZELENSKYY: “A lot of different voices around us, I’ve heard a lot of different voices and emotions and … a lot of different things, but as for me, I don’t have, for today, I don’t have any relations with Russia. And they know my position, that is the position of my country. That is the position of our people. We don’t want to make any dialogue with terrorists, and the president of the United States and Congress, bipartisan support, all of these people, they know that I’m not ready to speak with the terrorists, because their word is nothing. Nothing. We can’t trust terrorists, because terrorists always come back.”

Yeah, they do, don’t they? We’re learning that in this country, too:

This is the GOP's frontrunner for president. pic.twitter.com/rEzSUaMnp7

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 2, 2023

Welker also asked Zelenskyy about Trump’s boast that he could end the Ukraine war in 24 hours. At the very least, Zelenskyy seemed skeptical. Feel free to either stare at this picture until you attain satori or, if you don’t have that kind of time, watch the following clip. Either way, you’ll get the gist.

WATCH: Fmr. Pres. Trump — the GOP front-runner — has said he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours. Ukrainian President @ZelenskyyUa responds: “If he can come here, I will need 24 minutes … to explain … that he can’t manage this war. He can’t bring peace because of Putin.” pic.twitter.com/iykBUuH6hw

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 5, 2023

I won’t transcribe the entire clip, but Zelenskyy’s big takeaway is this: “If [Trump] is not ready to give [us] our independence, he can’t manage it.”

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: The elephant in the room plops down on 'Meet the Press'


Republicans want to pass aid to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attack, but they also want to make sure wealthy tax cheats can go on cheatin’. What to do? Oh, here’s an idea! Take $14 billion away from IRS enforcement, then pretend that saves the country money, even though it will actually blow another $12.5 billion hole in our budget. But hey, that deal looks pretty sweet to people who don’t pay attention—which includes most voters, unfortunately. After all, it’s easy to scare Americans by shouting “IRS!” Though somehow this video isn’t quite enough to make them shit fluorescent green armadillos till the heat death of the universe:

This is the GOP's frontrunner for president. pic.twitter.com/rEzSUaMnp7

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 2, 2023

Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer joined George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss Republicans’ decision to play silly political games during a fraught moment in our nation’s—and the world’s—history.

After House GOP passes emergency aid package for Israel tied to cuts in IRS enforcement, White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer tells @GStephanopoulos the move is “without precedent in recent history.” https://t.co/Qnz5e41SgQ pic.twitter.com/KwnEAHtjA5

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 5, 2023

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Finally, the president’s request for aid to Israel and Ukraine and Taiwan and others appears to be the victim of a stalemate right now. House Republicans have passed aid to Israel tied to cuts in IRS enforcement. We have the Republican Leader Steve Scalise on the program next. What’s the president’s message to House Republicans?”

FINER: “I think the message is pretty clear, that it is not good for the United States, good for the region, or good for Israel to tie emergency assistance to Israel to what we consider to be essentially a partisan request for a way to offset that spending. … That is basically without precedent in recent history, and we don’t support it, and are urging the members of our party and the members of Congress from any party not to support it either.”

Well, maybe this particular outrage is unprecedented, but remember, Republicans have long since decided that taking hostages and threatening the economy while a Democrat’s in the White House are acceptable governing tactics. So yeah, shocking but not surprising. Like most everything the GOP does these days.


Ah, Mike Johnson. The new House speaker who’s basically just Mike Pence if you gave him a Howdy Doody wig and steeped him in beef broth for 20 minutes. Johnson appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Shannon Bream and said some stuff. Spoiler alert: It was mostly lies and deflections. In other words, business as usual.

Wow. Mike Johnson on Fox News Sunday doesn't rule out voting against access to contraception but then says "I really don't remember any of those measures" when asked about his past votes against reproductive health care pic.twitter.com/4pDl3BGGD3

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 5, 2023

BREAM: “I want to talk about some social issues. You’ve got a lot of critics who say that you’re wildly out of step with the American people. Let’s talk abortion first. One of the groups opposing you [Emily’s list] says this: ‘He wants a total abortion ban with no exceptions. He supported bans that would not only criminalize abortion but ban IVF treatments and common forms of birth control,’ and that you voted against access to contraception. Where are you on these issues? Is that an accurate assessment of where you are, because that’s not in step with the American people.”

JOHNSON: “No, Shannon, look, I’m pro-life. I’ve said very clearly I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I believe in the sanctity of every single human life. So I come to Congress with deep, personally held convictions. But guess what, so do my 434 other colleagues in the House. Everyone comes to Congress with their deeply held convictions. But the process here is that you make law by consensus, and I have not brought forward any measure to address any of those issues. Right now our priorities are funding the government, handling these massive national security priorities that we have and crises around the globe, and taking care of changing and reforming how Congress works. That’s what we’re going to do. Listen, prior to the modern time—until recently, actually—almost all of our nation’s leaders openly acknowledged that they were also Bible-believing Christians. This is not something that should cause great unrest, okay? It’s just that Washington right now, what you’re seeing, Washington and the … press corps are engaging with a leader who openly acknowledges faith and the foundational principles of our country. I think this a healthy discussion, but it doesn’t affect how we run Congress.”

BREAM: “To be clear, though, have you voted against fertility treatments and access to contraception? Would you?”

JOHNSON: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I really don’t remember any of those measures. I am personally pro-life.”

BREAM: “But do you oppose [crosstalk] IVF?”

JOHNSON: “No, no, of course not. No, that’s something that’s blessed a lot of families who have problems with fertility. Of course that’s a great thing. I would support that. But again, these are not issues that are on the front of the agenda, and we can come with our convictions and we can govern in an accountable, transparent manner for the American people, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Okay, while my admittedly limited Googling has failed to turn up much on Johnson’s voting record regarding fertility treatments, he does have a pretty well-established record on birth control. Uhh ... he doesn’t like it. 

An Oct. 30 Rolling Stone article titled “House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Long Crusade Against Birth Control” laid out some of the gruesome details:

Johnson is known for being among the most anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress, and for railing against the use of “abortion as a form of birth control” before he was in office. But his statements and actions suggest he does not see much difference between abortion as a form of birth control and birth control as a form of birth control.

As a lawyer, Johnson worked on multiple cases representing plaintiffs who refused to dispense, counsel, or provide emergency contraception, which they considered to be abortion-inducing drugs. And as a congressman, Johnson has repeatedly voted against efforts to expand, fund, or protect access to birth control and other family planning services — including for members of the military.

While a certain, largely female segment of the Republican party has undertaken efforts to expand access to birth control in the wake of Dobbs, Johnson has not joined those efforts.

And—oh, lookee here—he joined 194 of his Republican House colleagues in voting against the Right to Contraception Act

So let’s take another look at his answer, shall we?

BREAM: “To be clear, though, have you voted against fertility treatments and access to contraception? Would you?”

JOHNSON: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I really don’t remember any of those measures. I am personally pro-life.”

Wait, so that was just a … lie? But Bible-believing Christians never lie! Because lies make Baby Jesus cry

Ah, but don't worry about any of that. Johnson is focused on other priorities. And as we all know, people who’ve been on the job for less than two weeks never get around to doing anything else. The new bill requiring chastity belts for women living within a 500-mile radius of Jason Momoa will be taken up in late March at the earliest. So don’t worry your pretty little heads, ladies! Johnson won't get around to banning contraception until he’s finished screwing up a bunch of other stuff first.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Mike Johnson is a skilled (as in sociopathic) liar, and the GOP still loves Putin


Wait, are Republicans still talking about impeaching President Biden? After that oily ferret orgy of a hearing they held in September? A hearing that was so bad, House Oversight Chair James Comer recently said they don’t want to hold any more hearings

Comer appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo and tried to pretend that impeaching Biden is still a hot topic of conversation anywhere outside the musty pingpong room inside Marjorie Taylor Greene's head. 

Comer tells Maria Bartiromo he thinks Biden should be impeached but is leaving it up to Mike Johnson pic.twitter.com/g2MI0PNiwh

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 5, 2023

BARTIROMO: “Based on what you know today, Congressman, should Joe Biden be impeached?”

COMER: “I think he should, but that’s going to be left up to the speaker. You know, people ask me why I haven’t put someone in jail yet. All I can do is investigate. The House of Representatives can determine whether or not to impeach, but at the end of the day we’re going to need an attorney general who does the right thing and prosecutes people according to the law and doesn’t have a two-tier system of justice.”

Actually, we probably need more than two tiers in our justice system—if only to accommodate Trump’s dozens of felony charges. But hey, if Comer can find a grand jury to indict Biden based on the fact that he loaned money to his brother and his brother—gasp!—paid it back, he’s welcome to test out his theory that Trump is the most unjustly persecuted individual in the history of whiny little snowflake toddlers.

If nothing else, it should be interesting.

But wait! There’s more!

That’s all for now! Hope you remembered to turn your clocks back and aren’t reading this one hour in the future. But if you are, please let the rest of us know if civilization survived.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Sec. of Homeland Security Mayorkas takes Josh Hawley down hard during contentious hearing

On Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. With recent events in Israel hanging over the proceedings, the annual “Threats to the Homeland” hearing focused on rising antisemitism, along with fears of domestic terrorism.

Because Sen. Josh Hawley and his GOP colleagues use all homeland security hearings to promote Republican xenophobia, he brought up a story that has preoccupied right-wing media, concerning a DHS employee who shared pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel posts on Facebook and Instagram. Hawley demanded to know if the employee in question had been fired, painting it as a pervasive issue within the department. Mayorkas explained there is a proper investigative process and that the employee in question is on administrative leave until the investigation concludes.

Ever the prick, Hawley continued hectoring Mayorkas while not allowing him to respond. Mayorkas appealed to the chair to give his uninterrupted answer, then laid Hawley out for the entire world to see.

Number one, what I found despicable is the implication that this language, tremendously odious, actually could be emblematic of the sentiments of the 260,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Number one.

Number two, Senator Hawley takes an adversarial approach to me in this question, and perhaps he doesn't know my own background. Perhaps he does not know that I am the child of a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps he does not know that my mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis. And so I find his adversarial tone to be entirely misplaced. I find it to be disrespectful of me and my heritage, and I do not expect an apology. But I did want to say what I just articulated. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mayorkas has been a target of extremist conservatives for some time, who have tried to scapegoat him as part of their war on immigrants. Mayorkas, the first Latino and immigrant to helm the Department of Homeland Security, has had the gall to be ever-so-slightly more humane in his treatment of asylum-seekers than the previous administration, and as a result has received a lot of right-wing hatred and racism.

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