Desperate Trump campaign trots out Melania to make partisan attacks

Yet another indication that Team Trump is nervous about next Tuesday’s elections: Melania Trump emerged for a rare campaign event—her first solo event of 2020—on Tuesday and took a much more partisan tone than usual. In her remarks in Pennsylvania, Melania directly attacked Joe Biden (using official campaign talking points, nothing new to see) and attacked Democrats for … being divisive and not leading on COVID-19. She even tried to link her husband’s disastrous coronavirus response to impeachment.

“No one should be promoting fear of real solutions for purely political ends,” Melania said. Which, fair in a vacuum, but context matters. “The Democrats have chosen to put their own agendas over the American people's well-being. Instead, they attempt to create a divide. A divide in something that should be non-partisan and non-controversial. A divide that causes confusion and fear instead of hope and security. That is not the leadership,” she said, in as pure an example of Republican projection as you can probably find.

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Oh, my. Putting a partisan agenda above the American people’s well-being and instead trying to divide and govern through confusion and fear … gosh, how dare those dastardly Democrats do such a thing!

"Let us also not forget what the Democrats chose to focus on when COVID-19 first came into our country,” Melania offered. “While the President was taking decisive action to keep the American people safe, the Democrats were wasting American taxpayer dollars in a sham impeachment.” 

Um. Let’s turn to the timeline, shall we? 

The Senate’s vote on Trump’s impeachment trial was on February 5, three days after Trump restricted travel from China, a restriction that came later than other nations and was incomplete, rather than “decisive action.” At the time, Trump said, “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. … We can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So we’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.”

Trump continued downplaying the threat of the virus—intentionally, as it turned out, with full knowledge that it was a serious danger—for more than a month. For example, February 12, a week after Senate Republicans acquitted him: “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”

February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.”

February 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. … And this is their new hoax.”

March 5, one month after the Senate vote: “With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths.”

March 7: “We’re doing very well and we’ve done a fantastic job.”

By contrast, Joe Biden warned, “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores”—before the coronavirus emerged in China. 

On January 27, he responded to the news of the emerging outbreak, writing “The outbreak of a new coronavirus, which has already infected more than 2,700 people and killed over 80 in China, will get worse before it gets better. Cases have been confirmed in a dozen countries, with at least five in the United States. There will likely be more,” and detailing preparedness measures that should have been taken.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer called on Trump to declare a national emergency on January 26. Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a plan for combating the outbreak on January 28. 

Democrats were responding early—yes, even during the impeachment process, walking and chewing gum at the same time—while Trump continued downplaying the threat for weeks and bragging that his too-little-too-late China travel restrictions had done all that needed to be done. That’s what Melania continues to brag about, despite the facts. Because otherwise, they have to admit they have nothing.

Trump expected splashy Wall Street Journal coverage of Hunter Biden’s emails. He was disappointed

Rudy Giuliani’s ridiculous waterlogged laptop story wasn’t supposed to be the way the public learned about an alleged trove of Hunter Biden emails. It was supposed to come from a much more reputable Rupert Murdoch-owned publication. Not even Fox News, which passed. No, some ostensibly more reputable Trumpsters were trying to sell the email story—minus the laptop angle—to The Wall Street Journal. 

Eric Herschmann, the former Trump impeachment lawyer turned White House adviser, former deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino, and a public relations person who’s buddies with Don Jr. met with WSJ reporter Michael Bender in early October, The New York Times’ Ben Smith reports. At that meeting, they handed over Hunter Biden emails—including some of the same ones Giuliani supposedly got from the laptop—and put his former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, on speaker phone to make allegations that Joe Biden had profited from Hunter’s corrupt use of the family name. That effort to sell the story ran into one big problem: The Wall Street Journal took its time investigating and decided there wasn’t a lot of there there.

While that investigation was ongoing, Giuliani got the New York Post to run his laptop story, which quickly came under question. (Questions like “Are you f’ing kidding me?” and “So Rudy’s basically a Russian asset now, right?)

But Donald Trump knew that The Wall Street Journal was supposedly going to be doing a story on the emails, and he was excited, telling aides that an “important piece” was coming in the paper. While “The editors didn’t like Trump’s insinuation that we were being teed up to do this hit job,” a reporter told Smith, the investigation into the emails continued. But it didn't go on Team Trump’s schedule, which called for a major, splashy article before last week’s debate. Instead, the eventual WSJ article came after Bobulinski went to the press himself, and Trump tried to make him an issue in the debate. The headline of the short article eventually published? “Hunter Biden’s Ex-Business Partner Alleges Father Knew About Venture.”

That’s not exactly what the White House lawyer and former White House lawyer were looking for—they wanted the New York Post insinuations laundered through the respectability of the WSJ. And of course the whole story is further discredited by having multiple overlapping sets of Hunter Biden emails being pushed around by different parts of Team Trump. The laptop story is dubious enough on its own—man from California delivers laptop to Delaware repair shop where blind Trump-supporting owner can’t identify him as Hunter Biden but figures it out from Biden-related sticker on the laptop, etc etc etc, improbability stacking upon improbability—but when you know that that wasn't the only set of supposed Hunter Biden emails, well, it really screams Russian influence campaign. And it screams Trump desperation for any game-changer in the campaign, however illegitimate.

Your blow-by-blow recap of the mute-button presidential debate, with a little help from Twitter

No matter what happens, this is Donald Trump’s last presidential debate. That’s the straw American voters grasped at Thursday night ahead of the final showdown between the impeached and infected Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. This debate—the second of what was supposed to be three—was broadcast live from Belmont University in Nashville, moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, and followed the same format as the first debate on Sept. 29, which absolutely everyone absolutely hated. As the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced in September:

The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Of course, that was before Trump reminded the nation why he absolutely has to go. The first debate was, as CNN’s Dana Bash said just moments after it ended, “a shitshow.” (Jake Tapper called it a “hot mess inside of a dumpster fire” moments later.) It was undeniable. Trump’s inability to let Biden or moderator Chris Wallace get a word in forced the CPD to declare that “additional structure” was needed for the debates to follow. On Oct. 19, the CPD revealed that “structure” looked like a mute button. Unfortunately for all of us, muting was only permitted during the initial two minutes granted to each candidate at the top of the six segments. Trump’s been whining about it ever since, perhaps because interrupting Biden at every turn was the Trump campaign’s only game plan. After all, the superspreader-in-chief faces scrutiny from a nation that watched him fail to keep his campaign promises on a massive scale, an electorate who’s seen him fumble just about every chance he had to move our nation forward, and, of course, a country left to fend for itself in the face of a deadly pandemic.

As always, I watched every single second of this debate so you didn’t have to. Let’s go.

It’s important to vote out Trump, but his election goes far past replacing the tyrant in the White House. Will you chip in $5 or more to help our entire slate of Democrats? We’re in the homestretch, and we’re in it together!

Welker announced six topics on Oct. 16. The Today Show weekend anchor and White House correspondent offered these points of focus: fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership. Most of these subjects were tackled in some form in the first debate and subsequent dueling town halls, but “American families” and “leadership” are pretty vague, so this should be interesting, assuming the candidates don’t pull a Pence and just answer completely different questions than those asked. We all know that Trump is lagging in the polls and that his campaign is broke, but more importantly, we know he’d rather talk about anything but COVID-19, and would love to focus on debunked Hunter Biden nonsense, insist that helping our nation’s poorest will destroy the suburbs, and yell about either Leslie Stahl or Hillary’s emails. Trump, through spokeswoman Alyssa Farah, announced his intentions on the morning of the debate; it’s clear he started the day determined to showcase the obsession that got him impeached.

WH director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah previewed this evening’s presidential debate saying Trump will answer the questions he wants to answer and “whether it’s asked or he has the opportunity to bring it up, he’s going to get into this issue of Hunter Biden.”

— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) October 22, 2020

I hate this debate already. Send chocolate.

A few minutes late, a maskless and angry Trump walked onto the stage, while a cheerful Biden emerged from his mask.

here we go pic.twitter.com/Ob4bMFuyaL

— Lauren Chou (@lauren_chou) October 23, 2020

After a polite explanation about the mute button, Trump got the first question.

The moderator just had to read all the rules of the debate like it’s kindergarten because the President of the United States is a child. #Debates2020

— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 23, 2020

THE CORONAVIRUS

Trump was asked how he’d navigate the next stage of the global pandemic. Trump kicked off by listing the number of people who didn’t die.

"You're lucky I didn't kill more of you" is quite an answer #Debates2020

— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 23, 2020

He then flaunted manipulated statistics and lies about surging states and boasts of his own recovery from the virus. He then claimed that other heads of states called him to congratulate him on his performance. He finished by promising a vaccine was coming within weeks and echoing his new refrain about “rounding the curve.” So, he didn’t answer the question.

We are not rounding any "turn" on the pandemic. It’s a vague claim, but it’s just wrong. Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are rising. Deaths are now starting to rise again, too. Most states are doing worse this week than they did last week. pic.twitter.com/y1pr4V9SXW

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 23, 2020

Trump smirked as Biden somberly stated, “220,000 Americans dead.” He then noted Trump’s refusal to take any responsibility for those deaths and declared that he didn't deserve to be president.

"Anybody who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America." - @JoeBiden #Debates2020 #PresidentialDebate2020

— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) October 23, 2020

He shot holes in Trump’s comparison of the U.S. to Europe, warned of at least 200,000 more deaths, entreated people to wear masks, and insisted that Trump has no plan before launching into his own: rapid testing, mask encouragement, and figuring out how to craft plans and direct resources to schools and businesses so that they can re-open safely and successfully. Trump, remarkably, kept quiet the entire time.

"The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks, the president’s own advisers have told him, we could save 100,000 lives...The president thus far still has no plan." —@JoeBiden #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/r930gLOudj

— CAP Action (@CAPAction) October 23, 2020

Welker wanted to know more about the promise of a vaccine “within weeks.”

Debate moderator Kristen Welker exposes @realdonaldtrump for the fraud he is. After claiming that a vaccine would be ready "in weeks," Trump backtracks saying that it's not a guarantee. #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/IjoofogRN8

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump then named names of companies that were on their way. Welker pointed out that his own administration says that it will take months, and asked him if he was being realistic. Trump insisted his timeline was “more accurate,” and implied his own experts didn’t know about his plan to use the military to distribute “a hundred million” vials of a vaccine.

Trump keeps saying the coronavirus will “soon be gone.” If you vote, Trump will soon be gone. #Debates2020

— Rep. Lloyd Doggett (@LloydDoggettTX) October 23, 2020

Biden was asked how he’d help Americans have confidence in a vaccine once approved, citing that 40% of Americans said they have no plans to take one. The former vice president noted the need to be transparent about the approval process. He warned of a “dark winter,” and reminded the audience that Trump said that the pandemic would be over by Easter 2019.

MUST WATCH fact check from @jaketapper on Trump's #COVID lies during the debate: "The president has been lying about the coronavirus pandemic since February." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/dhELfVv1VE

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump touted his “China Ban” that wasn’t a ban and brought up Biden’s critiques of it as being xenophobic, before veering into H1N1.

Trump seems upset that 700,000 people didn't die from H1N1

— Joe Sudbay (@JoeSudbay) October 23, 2020

Biden didn’t bother replying to the H1N1 nonsense, then reiterated that Trump is xenophobic and noted that Trump didn’t send scientists to China and praised Xi Jinping.

Trump replied by spending a long time talking about Biden living in his basement, made a hint about Biden making his money in a questionable way before hinting that Biden made his money in shady ways.

Trump's debate prep is just reading through his own Twitter feed

— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) October 23, 2020

He then lamented having to see Gold Star families before pointing out that young people recover quickly and declaring that if we don’t reopen the nation, we won’t have a nation.

I believe Trump wants to win the election more than anything in the world, but I do not believe Trump wants to be President of the United States at all

— Jay Willis (@jaywillis) October 23, 2020

Welker deftly slipped in a quick fact-check, noting that young people can get COVID-19 and pass it to others. She began to ask Biden a question about pandemic strategy before Biden became the first to challenge the moderator. He asked to respond to Trump’s statement that people are “learning to live with it,” by stating that we’re learning to die with it. He then repeated that Trump refuses to take responsibility for any of it.

Trump then did his signature “excuse me” without waiting to be excused and offered his first Trumpian quote of the night.

Trump just now: "I take full responsibility: It's not my fault that it came here, it's China's fault."

— Kerry Eleveld (@kerryeleveld) October 23, 2020

He then blamed China for containing it within its borders but not from spreading across the planet. Biden repeated the “whole range of things,” all wrong, that Trump said to Americans. Trump again brought up Biden’s “xenophobic” critique, and Biden basically gave it a half-hearted rebuttal.

Welker asked Biden about the economic and social impact of a shutdown. Biden vowed to “shut down the virus, not the country.” He noted that Trump’s ineptitude was the reason people were suffering, not the shutdowns. He then insisted that Trump should have been working with Pelosi to get relief to people. Trump mocked Biden for talking about shutdowns too much and rattled off attacks at states with Democratic governors.

Donald Trump is running to be president of the red states. Joe Biden is running to be President of the United States.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 23, 2020

He also declared that Barron, his son with his third wife, recovered from COVID-19 quickly, painting it as a miracle.

Shouldn’t they mute him when he tells wild lies about a pandemic that has killed more than 200k Americans

— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) October 23, 2020

Biden again repeated that cities and states needed resources to reopen safely, bringing up school ventilation systems as an example. Trump bashed New York as a ghost town where nobody wants to live and repeated several talking points this writer recognized as almost verbatim from his 60 Minutes interview that he leaked today.

NEW YORK IS A GHOST TOWN???!! LMAO BITCH HELLO FROM QUEENS WE JUST WENT FROM ORANGE TO YELLOW, PEOPLE ARE OUT & ABOUT & THRIVING, FUCK YOU

— porochista khakpour (@PKhakpour) October 23, 2020

Biden continued to talk basic strategy and pointing out Trump’s aversion to it.

Trump brought up and bashed as many Democratic governors in swing states as he could—Michigan and Pennsylvania—and Biden brought up Wall Street. Trump attempted to paint Biden as owned by Wall Street while simultaneously claiming he controlled Wall Street. Biden slipped in that his average contribution was $43 before Welker declared the topic completed.

ELECTION SECURITY

Biden was up first and asked about new reports that multiple nations are interfering in our election. Biden brought up that Trump has done nothing to stop Vladimir Putin of Russia, and brought up the way that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been duped by Russia. He then vowed to lay down the law on American adversaries.

Instead of letting Welker ask a question, Trump lived up to his vow to answer the questions that he want, and used his time to first insist he’s hard on Russia before diving into his big goal of painting the Biden family as a corrupt crime family with emails and millions of dollars, all procured from Russia and China. After referencing an unnamed person who had a press conference where unspecified accusations were made, demanded that Biden answer his accusation.

Oh god no don't do the Russia shit #debate #Debates2020

— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) October 23, 2020

Biden denied everything before launching into Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, noting that he’s released all of his. Trump insisted that his accountants told him that he “prepays” all of his taxes, and that’s why he doesn’t pay any taxes. Welker asked him when he’d release his returns, and Trump played the victim, claiming that he “gets treated worse than the tea party,” and is only being audited because he ran for president.

Biden has released his tax returns, so we know he didn't receive $3.5 million from Russia. Trump hasn't released his tax returns, so we have no idea how much money he gets from Russia. And he never disclosed his secret Chinese bank account.#Debates2020

— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 23, 2020

He then shifted into a nonsensical mafia narrative where Biden is known as “The Big Man” and gets 10% of all his sons’ schemes.

You’re in bed with Russia! No YOU’RE in bed with Russia!#Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/LUf056uh1e

— ❥ Nicoco (@PetiteNicoco) October 23, 2020

Biden repeated his demand that Trump release his returns, and Trump repeated his accusations of corruption, painting himself as a victim due to being impeached and hinted at some dirt on Biden’s brother and Iraq.

Welker jumped in before Biden could reply, and asked Biden if there was any truth to the allegations. Biden said there was not, and pointed out that the only bad deeds going on was Trump trying to get dirt that didn’t exist. Trump rattled off some numbers, Biden reiterated that no wrongdoing was found.

Welker asked about the Chinese banking recently uncovered by The New York Times and Trump told a story about how there’s nothing wrong at all with anything he did. Trumpian “excuse me” steamrollers went right over Welker before she insisted on moving on, asking Biden what he’d do to China if elected.

Biden vowed to make China play by the rules and use proper policy to punish them if they do not, instead of Trump’s stupid tariffs. He brought up North Korea, and when Welker went to ask about it to Trump, he rolled over Welker again to hint at Biden crime family nonsense, and Welker actually stopped him to ask about his own policies with China. Trump insisted that his tariffs and sanctions were effective, netted billions of dollars and helped farmers. When Biden pointed out that taxpayers bailed out farmers, Trump claimed China is the taxpayer.

Pres. Trump: "I just gave $28 billion to our farmers." Biden: "Taxpayers' money." "It's what?" "Taxpayers' money. It didn't come from China." https://t.co/zkoTdi6727 #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/T5X1vpvIai

— ABC News (@ABC) October 23, 2020

When Welker finally asked Trump about his relationship with North Korea, Trump claimed Barack Obama told him war was imminent, but he became buddies with Kim Jong Un and that’s why there’s no war. Biden explained North Korean policy under Obama and why it was good policy. Trump insisted that Jong Un just didn’t like Obama. Biden pointed out that was because Obama wanted to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Trump said Obama left him “a mess” before Welker moved onto health care.

HEALTH CARE

Welker asked Trump about his administration’s current effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, and what happens if they win? Trump railed about how terrible Obamacare is and how overturning the individual mandate made it something totally different but it’s still terrible and needs to be replaced by his nonexistent plan which totally always was going to cover preexisting conditions, totally always was going to cover them. He then said Biden would create socialized medicine. Biden was asked the same question. Pointing out that it put him at odds with most of the Democratic primary candidates, Biden vowed to create Obamacare with a public option, which would reduce prescription prices, let people keep their private insurance, and protect preexisting conditions. He clarified that it’s not the next step to fully socialized medicine as Trump always claims, pointed out that providing health care for all will help businesses. Trump, who was obviously communicating with someone in the audience, then leaned into “47 years in government” taunting of Biden, and insisted that his running mate Kamala Harris is “more liberal than Bernie Sanders” before bringing up fracking. He then thanked Welker for her “handling” of things before telling her to ask a question she did not let him finish.

A picture from my mom and dad - the only way they can watch the debates #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/uLaCVK4Xp6

— D'Arcy Carden (@DarcyCarden) October 23, 2020

Trump then repeated his fearmongering about socialism before Biden joked that he must be confused about who he’s running against. Biden then boasted that he won the nomination because he beat all the other candidates.

THE ECONOMY

Trump, deciding he was done with health care, brought up how stocks boomed under him. Trump vaguely accused Biden of harming Social Security somewhere in time, and also said Biden is not “really” from Scranton, in addition to insisting he’s the savior of the stock market and everyone’s 401(k).

Donald Trump: @JoeBiden isn't from Scranton. Scranton: pic.twitter.com/LMZnx4KK33

— Bob Casey Jr. (@Bob_Casey) October 23, 2020

Welker then brought up the struggles Americans are facing under the COVID-19-fueled recession, and asked Trump why he’s not helped. Trump blamed Pelosi. Welker asked Biden why he’s not pushed Democrats to make a deal, and Biden pointed out that the HEROES Act has been withering on the vine for months, and could have helped cities, counties, and states—teachers, firefighters, first responders—while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up.

OMG Biden just reminded me that McConnell said "Let 'em go bankrupt," THIS YEAR. Losing track of time and tragic failure of the GOP-led Senate. We need the Heroes Act yesterday. #Debates2020

— Dorian Warren (@dorianwarren) October 23, 2020

Trump insisted that the HEROES Act was horrible and benefited blue states and illegal immigrants. Biden fired back that he’s a proud Democrat but will be an American president and it shouldn’t be about the politics of each state’s leadership.

Welker then asked about the fight to raise the minimum wage, and asked if this was the right time to do so. Biden said it was, because we need to help businesses. Trump claimed it be a state choice, insisting that $15 would kill small businesses. Biden said there’s no data that supports that myth.

IMMIGRATION

Welker then asked Trump about the recent news that Homeland Security has lost track of the parents of over 500 children separated at the border. Trump then blamed the baby cages on Obama before saying that his administration was looking for these parents, and wrongly implying that the children came to the country alone. Biden was disgusted and fact-checked Trump: The children were with their parents when they got here.

Trump refused to address the actual question and repeated his blaming of Obama for baby cages, claiming that his administration put migrant children in lavish digs.

"It looked like a literal prison camp"@JoyAnnReid talks about visit to facility in Tornillo, Texas, that held migrant children, after "zero tolerance" policy was discussed at #Debates2020. pic.twitter.com/mZcbjMsoEP

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 23, 2020

Welker asked Biden why voters should trust him to overhaul the immigration system. He vowed to create a path to citizenship, particularly for DACA recipients. Trump cited his own overhaul, saying that Biden had eight years to fix the system as vice president. Trump then celebrated his end of “catch and release” before blaming Obama for baby cages again.

The thing I appreciate about Joe Biden right now is that he looks just as disgusted with 🍊 as we are.

— Karla Monterroso (@karlitaliliana) October 23, 2020

RACE IN AMERICA

Welker asked Biden to speak to families of color, who have to have “The Talk” with their children to teach them about the dangers of police that they face as people of color, regardless of their economic class. Biden noted that his daughter is a social worker before stating that there is systemic racism in this country. He then ran through a bulleted list of places where people of color need investment, including education and small businesses.

After bringing up the 1994 Crime Bill and “super predators,” Trump insisted that he’s the best president for Black people since Lincoln—and implied that he might outrank Lincoln, actually.

“I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump says to Kristen Welker, the first black woman to moderate a presidential debate.

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) October 23, 2020

He then claimed liberals cried in his office in gratitude for his work with prison reform and HBCUs, and giving Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate a shoutout.

Black people have concerns beyond the criminal justice system. Goodness. This is so tiring.

— Amara Omeokwe (@TheAmaraReport) October 23, 2020

Biden then denied the “super predator” accusation and pointed out that the Obama administration pardoned (checks calculator) nearly 500 times as many people as Trump has. Trump then asked why Biden didn’t fix everything when he was vice president before saying that he only ran in 2016 because of him and Barack Obama.

Biden contrasted himself against Trump directly to the American people and explained his plan to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. Trump immediately went back to his accusations of Biden family corruption and “the laptop” before Welker, who was done playing around, pulled it back to the topic at hand: race.

Reading several of Trump’s many racist acts to him, she asked him why people should trust him. Trump used his time to insist he’s not racist and disparage Black Lives Matter as people who wanted to kill cops.

Donald Trump - "I'm the least racist person in the room." Trump is not even the least racist person in a room that he's in by himself.#Debates2020 #DebateTonight

— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) October 23, 2020

Biden made an Abraham Lincoln joke at Trump’s expense that Trump pretended he didn’t get, all the better to launch into how not-racist he is, and how he is the best thing Black people have ever seen, and to bring up the 1994 Crime Bill again.

Fact Check: Donald Trump is correct when he says he’s not Abraham Lincoln

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 23, 2020

Biden took responsibility, among with the entire Senate, for the Crime Bill, and expressed regret, particularly for the disparity in cocaine sentences. Trump kept asking why Biden didn’t fix the criminal justice system when he was vice president. In an awkward moment, Biden blamed the Republican Congress, and Trump said he should have convinced them. With that, it was time for

CLIMATE CHANGE

Welker, after pointing out the candidates’ very different visions to combat climate change, asked Trump why his was better. Trump spent most of his two minutes talking about a trillion trees and bashing Obama, but claimed none of it matters since the U.S. can’t force Russia or China or India to do anything.

"India is filthy" Wow. Wonderful. Great way to win over Indian Americans, Trump. Genius.#Debates2020

— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) October 23, 2020

He also declared that the Paris Climate Accord was horrible.

Biden solemnly addressed the real crisis that is our destruction of this planet, laid out a detailed plan to combat climate change, and Trump decided to take aim at The Squad, who he calls “AOC Plus Three,” and accused Biden of wanting to knock down all the buildings with big windows and replace them with buildings that have tiny windows.

AOC +3 is a great girl group name

— John Manuel Arias (@johnmanuelarias) October 23, 2020

Biden laughed the entire time, and dismissed Trump entirely before insisting that the nation could grow and be cleaner under his plan. Trump attacked windmills and solar power with some absolute gobsmacking lies that have nothing to do with science or reality. He tried to get to fracking but Biden jumped in, insisting he’s never been against it. Trump said Biden will turn against fracking because the party said so.

The segment on the urgency of climate change has morphed into a conversation of who loves fracking more, which will be great to show children in 50 years to explain what happened.

— Taniel (@Taniel) October 23, 2020

Trump was then asked about his plans to fight environmental racism. Trump insisted that people of color are all working, and then essentially said he hadn’t heard of environmental racism before bragging about how we don’t get our oil from other countries anymore, proving he’d absolutely missed the point.

It’s actually AOC plus 115 because that’s how many House and Senate members have cosponsored the most ambitious climate legislation in American history.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 23, 2020

Biden, by contrast, spoke to the “fence line” communities that bear the brunt of oil pollution. Trump—not the actual moderator—then asked Biden if he’d shut down the oil industry, and Biden answered him, saying that he’d transition us out of it. Trump then said “he’s gonna shut down the oil industry” and named battleground states like Texas and Ohio, telling them to “remember that” in a desperate ploy for votes.

LAST QUESTION, LAST DEBATE

For the final question, Welker asked each candidate what they would say to people who didn’t vote for them in their inaugural address.

Trump blamed China for the pandemic again before insisting that everyone loved him before it, and bashed about what a horrible president Biden would be. Biden took his time to call himself an “American president” who represents everyone, and vowed to improve conditions for the whole country. He slipped in an entreaty for voters to remember what’s on the ballot and then, thankfully, it was over.

I hope someone immediately ran to give Kristin Welker a drink, candy bar, seltzer, whatever she wants. #Debates2020

— Jess the Writer (@jesilfa) October 23, 2020

It was time for the wives to join the candidates on the stage.

Melania yanks her hand away from Trump. (Spotted by @WalnutDust) pic.twitter.com/NHDzoYfSuT

— The Recount (@therecount) October 23, 2020

Daniel Dale will be working hard tonight.

CNN Factchecker/masochist Daniel Dale on Trump: "This was just a bombardment of dishonesty, much of what we heard before at his campaign rallies about subjects big and small, important stuff like the pandemic, about Biden's policies, about his own record." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/wwOJC8GNvV

— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) October 23, 2020

And me? I never ever have to do another Donald Trump debate Twitter recap for the rest of my life. 

As Trump runs his campaign into the ground, Biden’s been a vision of efficiency

So much for Donald Trump, the biz whiz. Just like Trump ran his businesses into the ground enough times to declare multiple bankruptcies, he managed to burn through $1 billion raised since he took office in 2017, limping into the final month of the campaign with a delightfully meager $63.1 million that surely won't even cover the costs for the rest of his campaign.

"Yikes," tweeted Rufus Gifford, a deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden and former Obama fundraising chief. "Remember when Trump said he would fund his own campaign if he needed to? Well.... He needs to," Gifford added.

Contribute now to take back the White House!

No wonder the Trump campaign announced a final ad buy this week in coordination with the Republican National Committee of just $55 million split between 11 states. Don't be surprised if they wind up yanking ads from some of those states at the last minute.

Also, it's about to get a lot hotter inside Trump's campaign as consultants and aides realize that check likely isn't in the mail and never will be. What was Trump's word for that? Oh yeah—suckers. At least, they can commiserate with all the high-dollar GOP donors who pushed tens of thousands or even millions to Trump's campaign and allied committees/PACs only to watch him pay his legal fees and subsidize the rise of Trump Jr.'s hot read Triggered to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. 

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign has been a vision of efficiency. Here's a side by side, according to Times reporter Shane Goldmacher:

  • Biden ended September with $177 million cash on hand 
  • Trump had $63 million in cash, minus $1.36 million in debts

  • Biden plus party committees had $432 million in total ending September
  • Trump plus committees had $251 million in total

  • Biden's joint ventures with the Democratic Party spent $82.4 million to raise $457 million in July, August, and September
  • Trump's joint committees with the RNC spent $190.8 million to raise $355.2 million in the same period

So Biden and the DNC spent less than half what Trump and the RNC did while raising fully $100 million more. Put another way, Biden spent about 18 cents for every $1 raised while Trump spent 54 cents for every $1 raised. More recently, fundraising seems to have gotten even harder, with the AP reporting that Trump’s grassroots fundraising operation is spending 77 cents for every dollar raised.

The Trump campaign's financial situation was so dire that Trump ditched the campaign trail Sunday to attend a hastily arranged fundraiser in California. Bet those donors feel pretty great about every penny spent. Who knows, maybe they all left with complimentary copies of Triggered

The ‘wet laptop’ story absolutely is a scandal, but it has nothing to do with Joe Biden

An official in a foreign country stumbles on a briefcase left behind by his opposing number from another delegation. Sneaking a peak at the information inside, the official discovers that it contains not only the usual stacks of diplomatic reports, but secret information providing insight into an upcoming military operation. Immediately, the official rushes this information to his superiors who … have just fallen into one of the most timeworn traps of intelligence tradecraft. The “accidently” left-behind wallet, briefcase, or letter is an absolute classic of Soviet-era dezinformatsiya schemes.

In the argot of spies, a “cobbler” assembles a dezinformatsiya packet, accompanied by more truthful “litter” and “chicken feed” that makes it appear as if a deceptive document is real. If possible, the information is left where it’s handily accessible to the target of the dezinformatsiya campaign, but a special purpose “floater” may be used to pass the information along—often without that person understanding their role in the scheme. 

Now, substitute “hard drive” for “briefcase” and “email” for “document.” Because that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday as the New York Post ran a story about a soggy computer left behind by a mysterious stranger at a Delaware repair shop. That computer was supposed to kick off a scandal about Hunter Biden. But what it really proves is that Rudy Giuliani and Rupert Murdoch are neck-deep in a scheme to spread disinformation to the American public.

That the story of this left behind computer ran in the New York Post on Wednesday isn’t the sign of a successful disinformation campaign—it’s a clear signal of its abject failure.

According to the story, the computer was dropped off at a repair shop in April 2019—as in over a year and a half ago. The computer was left apparently without signing any form or even providing a name. In fact, the shop owner declared that because he is legally blind, he could not identify the person who brought in the supposedly water-damaged computer. However, that shop owner eventually concluded that it was Hunter Biden’s computer because … there was a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation on the computer.

This shop owner has been identified as 44-year-old John Paul “Mac” Isaac. Isaac is a vocal Trump supporter whose social media profile is full of not just statements about voting for Trump, but also  comments about Joe Biden. That includes mention of a “Biden bubble” that keeps Biden from being affected by bad news. His social media also shows that Isaac likes to wear kilts, but that seems beside the point. 

In any case, Isaac is a Trump supporter who has been open about his disdain for Biden and his belief that the media goes easy with stories about Biden. Then in spring of 2019, a computer lands in his lap with a Biden sticker attached. 

What happens next is massively unclear, because in interviews Wednesday afternoon, Isaac gave completely contradictory statements about his follow-up actions. What seems to be clear is that at some later point, Isaac hooked up the hard drive, read the emails, and watched a video that supposedly shows Hunter Biden having sex with a prostitute while smoking crack. Apparently Isaac could see that much.

At some point between April and December, Isaac contacted the FBI. Or at least, that appears to be the case since the Post included an image of a Dec. 9, 2019 grand jury subpoena—though since that subpoena has the name blacked out and the objects to be provided are obscured, it’s only their word that it is actually connected to this incident. However, before giving the laptop to the FBI, Isaac first made a copy of the hard drive which, like his original perusal through the emails and videos, is very likely to have been a violation of Delaware privacy laws. It’s also worth noting that nothing Isaac did appears to be related to actually fixing the damaged laptop. 

At some point Isaac talks to Giuliani and eventually gives him a copy of the hard drive. But what’s extremely confusing is the order of any of these events. Did Isaac talk to Giuliani before or after he spoke with the FBI? Was it Giuliani who told Isaac to take the computer to the FBI? Taking one step back, why did a Delaware computer repair store owner think to call Giuliani in the first place, and how did he get in touch with Giuliani?

However it happened, Isaac made the copy at some point before December 2019. According to a Daily Beast interview, Isaac “switched back and forth” between saying that he contacted the FBI and saying the FBI contacted him. He also claimed that the FBI asked him for help in accessing the drive, though he didn’t indicate that the drive was encrypted or protected in any way. 

There’s are several huge missing pieces in this story. For example, what did Isaac say to the FBI? “Hello, someone brought in a computer, and I think it belongs to Beau Biden.” If so, why would the FBI say anything other than, “Then give it back?” Why would Beau Biden dropping off a wet laptop cause the FBI to have any interest at all?

This, then, is the “official” story from the Post and Giuliani: A mysterious stranger drops off a laptop at a shop belonging to a legally blind Trump supporter who has said disparaging things about Biden. Nine months later, the FBI asks for that computer. Then 10 months after that, Giuliani hands over to the New York Post what he says is a copy of that computer’s hard drive. In between those dates, we have nothing. Well, nothing except for more Facebook statements from Isaac, who does devote some time to saying that Trump’s impeachment is a sham, but says nothing at all about Hunter Biden’s crack-smoking video that he found on a computer left at his store. And we have a lot of statements from Giuliani during this period, many of them essentially identical to what will eventually appear in the Post story.

So … let’s look at this from a different angle.

Giuliani has spent over two years traveling back and forth to Ukraine, making promises that he had found red-hot information supporting Trump’s conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden. In the process, Giuliani has made numerous statements to the media—frequently in The New York Times—claiming that he has the “smoking gun” for Biden’s misdeeds. That included a letter supposedly showing that Biden had worked to protect Burisma holdings from investigation. Except that a few weeks later, a Ukrainian legislator admitted to making up the information to “curry favor with Trump and Giuliani.” The timeline of events showed that the story Giuliani was peddling was not even possible.

But at the same time Giuliani is waving letters in front of the media, someone is dropping off a computer at Isaac’s shop. Then nothing happens in April, or May, or June … nothing happens at all. Until for some reason Isaac decides to take a closer look at that computer. A reason like, perhaps, a phone call from someone who already knew what was on it. That someone might even suggest that Isaac contact the FBI, or they might contact the FBI and tell them to talk to Isaac, because the information now available has it both ways.

Even then, 10 months after the FBI has taken receipt of the laptop, nothing has happened. Christopher Wray is not on TV making an announcement about emails. The DOJ has not announced that it is opening an investigation. No one is talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop, dammit!

So with the clock ticking down to the election, Giuliani takes the hard drive straight to the one person he can trust to make a big deal about it: Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch then points a finger at a booker on Sean Hannity’s show, turning her into an instant editor for the paper he owns, the New York Post, and this brand spanking newly minted “journalist” then publishes Giuliani’s story.

That doesn’t make this an “October surprise.” This makes this an abject failure of a con job. Giuliani and Murdoch are absolutely not in the position they wanted to be at this point. In their ideal world, Emma-Jo Morris would be back in Hannity’s green room, booking Giuliani for his guest appearance to discuss the how The New York Times is running with the astounding breaking news that the FBI is looking into revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop.

That did not happen. What happened instead was that Giuliani had to hand-carry the dezinformatsiya to Murdoch, and Murdoch had to get his mitts all over this mess to package it up for a multiday run on Fox and the Post. This is what is generally known as very, very, very bad tradecraft. 

This is a busted operation from a man whose whole Ukrainian adventure has been marked by:

What Rudy Giuliani and Rupert Murdoch have on their wrinkly fingers is a big ball of dirty tricks shading toward outright espionage, supported by Vladimir Putin.

Sorry, comrades, you’ve been caught.

Pelosi and team are preparing for the eventuality that the House has to decide the election

The putrid heap of orange-tinted lard in the White House will do everything in his power to stay there after Jan. 20, 2021. That includes installing a Supreme Court justice with experience in stealing presidential elections. While the Senate Democrats are still grappling with that particular issue, House Democrats are working on how they're respond to various scenarios, including the scariest: a for-real, legitimate tied electoral vote should that happen.

This is about being prepared for the worst, so don't panic or anything because Trump's polling is still very, very bad for him. But with minority rule being the norm in American governance, it's not impossible that we end up with a tied electoral college. That's what led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to start mobilizing her team with a letter sent Sunday reminding them of the House's responsibility and what they need to do now. Which is basically make sure Democrats win House races in hopes of flipping a few delegations.

It hasn't happened since 1876, but here's how it works in the event of a tie: Each state's delegation gets a single vote. That means holding a majority of state delegations in the chamber. Despite the fact that there are 232 Democrats and 198 Republicans, Republicans still have the delegation edge—all those at-large and one to three member rural red states represented by Republicans have given them a 26-22 edge. So here we go again, the popular vote loser, the candidate that is in opposition to the ruling majority in the House, could still get the majority of votes in the warped Congress and take it all.

"The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of the state delegations to win," Pelosi wrote. "We must achieve that majority of delegations or keep the Republicans from doing so." There are some very close states. Pennsylvania is tied, with nine Democratic seats and nine Republican. Michigan is barely Democratic, seven to six with independent Justin Amash holding the 14th seat there. He's retiring and is likely to be replaced by a Republican. Every single seat matters more than ever this cycle, even though Democrats will easily retain the House.

They need seats to flip, but they need seats where they also get the state delegation. Two they're eyeing right now are Montana's and Alaska's. They're at-large seats, where there's just one seat for the entire state. Our Daily Kos elections team just moved Montana from Likely R to Lean R, with Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams holding a 46-44 edge in the polling average. In Alaska, Democrats are looking the Alyse Galvin to unseat the longest serving member of Congress, Don Young. Galvin is a registered independent, but gained the challenger's spot in the state, which allows independents to contest in party primaries. In 2018, she gave Young the toughest challenge he's had in three decades, getting 46.5% of the vote.

Other than those flips, it's about consolidating seats in close delegations and defending swing state seats. Democrats have a one- or two-vote seat advantage in seven states where they have to make sure vulnerable members stay safe: Arizona (Democratic edge 5-4), Iowa (Democratic edge 3-1), Maine (2 Democrats), Minnesota (4-3 Democratic edge), Nevada (3-1 Democratic edge), and New Hampshire (2 Democrats). Florida has a one-seat Republican advantage, 14 to Democrats' 13. The Alaska and Montana at-large seats are held by Republicans, meaning a Democrat would change the delegation’s vote in a presidential tally.

"We're trying to win every seat in America, but there are obviously some places where a congressional district is even more important than just getting the member into the U.S. House of Representatives," Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and constitutional lawyer, told Politico. This means that Democrats are not just focusing on protecting vulnerable Democrats, but expanding the map.

If House Democrats are preparing for this eventuality, you can be sure that they are gaming out other possible challenges Trump will bring. It’s a balancing act for Pelosi, realizing she has to both combat Trump—she even obliquely threatened a potential second impeachment effort to gum up Senate works and prevent a rushed Supreme Court appointment—and not rocking the boat so much she could tip vulnerable Democrats in those key delegations overboard.

Trump refusing to leave office is not a fantasy, because he’s doing everything to make it real

Our old friend the Fascism Watch hit midnight eight months ago as Senate Republicans affirmed that there was no crime for which they were willing to hold Donald Trump responsible. Despite Trump’s using his high office to extort a foreign nation into providing lies against a political opponent in exchange for desperately needed military aid, the Senate dismissed the idea of calling even a single witness. The disdain they demonstrated then is being repeated now as multiple senators not only reverse their previous “principled stand,” but declare that they will support Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before they even know the identity of that nominee.

In 2016, the idea that Trump might refuse to respect the outcome of the election was treated as a fringe position. In 2020, the idea that Trump might hold onto power no matter what the results at the polls is still being treated as something that isn’t worth consideration. But it demands to be taken seriously, not as a wild idea, but a possible—even probable—outcome.

The question now is not: “Would Donald Trump cheat to hold onto power?” Because that question has been asked and answered almost every day of the last four years. The question now is: “Why would Trump not cheat to maintain his grip on the nation?” And there may be no good answer.

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Four years ago, the Republican Party made a pretense of being against the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and authoritarianism of Donald Trump. Then one by one, they bent the knee. They have made it clear that their loyalty lies not with principle or party, and certainly not with nation. They’ve laid their personal fealty with Trump and Trump alone. For them, there is no going back.

The same Republicans who gave Trump a pass on impeachment, the same Republicans who declared their willingness to trample their own statements in support of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, the same Republicans whose control of the Senate is also on the cusp … have exactly zero interest in “doing the right thing.” Even before Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell discovered that the Constitution was subject to a complete end-around run by anyone willing to put their morality and concern for the nation on a shelf. Not only do they have no incentive to prevent Trump from stealing the election, they have every incentive to help.

With the Senate in his pocket, Trump has been preparing his followers for the rejection of the poll results for months. As Mother Jones points out, destroying faith in voting-by-mail has been an essential part of laying the foundation on which Trump can create claims of an invalid election. 

It’s not difficult to imagine an Election Day scenario in which Trump prematurely declares victory based on his lead among in-person votes, which are quicker to tally than mail-in votes in many states and are expected to lean more Republican. Trump then seeks to invalidate the mail-in ballots that favor Democrats before they’re counted.

This leads to an all-too-possible scenario in which Republican state legislatures either vote to reject mail-in ballots outright, or rule that the vote on the election night is the only “real” vote. Attempts to appeal these decisions in court then roll inexorably upward to a Supreme Court where Trump’s latest appointee joins with Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh to install Trump for a second term—without even necessitating a “swing vote” from John Roberts. Trump continues a string of victory rallies as he prepares to hold up his hand again on Jan. 20.

Should there be protests (and there would be), Trump has also been preparing his followers for that moment. In Portland, Oregon, and in the streets of Washington, D.C., Trump has demonstrated an ability to deploy forces that are more than willing to use chemical weapons and deadly force against even peaceful protesters. He has spent months telling his followers that “Democrat-run” cities are hopeless cesspits that deserve to burn. Fox News has done everything possible to expand on that image of anarchy that needs a hard kick.

Even if the Army and National Guard decided to sit on their hands when Trump calls—and he would call—Trump and Attorney General William Barr have already demonstrated an ability to scoop up thousands of paramilitary forces from executive agencies that are more than willing to literally bust heads for Trump. That’s not even counting the Trump supporters who are willing to bring their own guns in to Rittenhouse the unarmed, a position that Fox News is now busy buffing up to superhero status.

Trump is a guy who always wants things to be “rougher.” Always wants the police to be “tougher.” Who hasn’t hesitated to call his political opponents “traitors” or to call for the death of people who have not faced trial. No matter what the outcome, why would he not use force to hold onto power?

As The Atlantic points out, this threat is much greater than most people are allowing. 

A lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

But that scenario suggests that a defeated Trump pouts in his office and waits for his exit escort to arrive. Trump could just as easily—and perhaps, more likely—simply declare the election invalid. Fox News would certainly back him. Republicans in the House and Senate might take a minute to check the wind direction before joining in. Maybe two hours. Then they would be all in. Trump could put up a front of appealing the outcome in court while Republicans launched “investigations of massive voting fraud” in the Senate. But it would all be for show.

This isn’t a nightmare scenario … or rather, it is a nightmare. It’s just one that Trump’s teams are working to make real. They are already putting in place the legal groundwork and public perception to appeal any outcome unfavorable to Trump. As Mother Jones notes: “The question won’t be whether American democracy can survive Trump. We’ll already know that it hasn’t.”

All that remains to find out is whether democracy can be renewed. For that to happen, everyone needs to go into this election with their eyes open, knowing that the more decisive Trump’s loss, the less likely he is to be successful in his all but certain attempts to deny that defeat. Everyone is going to need to work like hell to get as many people to the polls as possible on Election Day, to see that mail-in ballots are counted, and to hold responsible every official, at every level, who gets in the way of allowing people’s votes to be counted.

You can’t push back a threat if you won’t admit it’s real, and you better not go into a fight without a plan. Donald Trump will absolutely cheat to hold onto power. He’s demonstrated that again and again. He’s been impeached for it. He will not stop now. And everyone, including Joe Biden, better have a plan for what to do when it happens.

Senate Republicans authorize subpoenas in bogus probe angling for October surprise to boost Trump

As Republican Sen. Mitt Romney acquiesced to voting to approve some three dozen subpoenas for one of two bogus partisan probes being conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he worried that at least one of the investigations "had the earmarks of a political exercise."

That's the understatement of the century. In fact, the committee chair, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, just came out last month and confirmed in an interview that one of his two ongoing  investigations "would certainly help" Trump.

Johnson, who is desperately trying to deliver an October surprise to boost Trump's reelection bid, currently has two probes going in his committee. He's hell-bent on delivering the Biden probe that Trump had tried to force on Ukraine before he hit that impeachment wall. But just in case that entirely baseless probe fails to curry favor with the public, Johnson's got a second investigation in the works focusing on the work of Obama administration officials during the transition period following the 2016 election.

That's the investigation for which Republican senators, on a party-line vote, approved a raft of subpoenas targeting people like former FBI director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to Politico. Both men participated in the transition period and ultimately briefed Trump on the intelligence community's conclusions that Russia attacked the 2016 election to help boost his presidential bid. Another GOP target is former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who temporarily took over for Comey after Trump ousted him. Romney's opposition to the Biden-Ukraine probe, however, forced Sen. Johnson to scrap a subpoena vote related to that pet investigation. In fact, that investigation is such a heap of trash, the U.S. Treasury Department recently declared one of the pro-Russian Ukrainians who helped fuel the probe an "active Russian agent for over a decade."

But the GOP's approval of dozens of new subpoenas prompted Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Homeland Security committee member, to introduce a resolution Wednesday afternoon "opposing efforts to launder Russian disinformation through Congress." 

From the Senate floor, Schumer charged that "While the rest of the country has been focused on fighting a global pandemic, for the last few months the chairman and Republicans of the committee have wasted taxpayer resources to run a hit job on President Trump’s political rival." Schumer said he would have more to say on the matter later, but added, "for one of our most important committees to be echoing a Kremlin-backed conspiracy theory is beyond the pale."

Johnson reportedly plans to release an interim report within the coming days on his Kremlin-driven probe into Biden's diplomatic efforts in Ukraine when he was serving as vice president. In the other investigation, Johnson will maintain the power to deliver headlining-grabbing subpoenas into October, even after Congress has recessed in the run-up to Election Day. How convenient. 

The most important accomplishment of impeaching Trump was its impact on Joe Biden

Impeaching The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote was incredibly important, and not only because it was the right thing to do. Yes, he committed crimes and abused the power of his office, and yes he deserved to be impeached and removed from that office—the record of every Republican Senator other than Mitt Romney will be forever stained by their votes to acquit. History will remember their cowardice.

Beyond the morality, impeachment has had a clear, long-lasting political benefit, one that will pay dividends for Vice President Joe Biden this November. Thanks to impeachment, everyone knows that the charges Trump leveled against Joe and Hunter Biden on Ukraine—the ones he tried to blackmail that country’s president into investigating, or least announcing an intention to investigate—are utter malarkey.

Trump always feared running against Biden, and he acted corruptly in a failed bid to get enough dirt to derail the former VP’s quest to win the Democratic nomination. The impeachment process shone a bright light on Trump’s actions, and on his lies about Biden, ensuring that the smear campaign ultimately backfired.

Since the end of the impeachment trial, Trump and his minions have continued to bleat on with their completely invented and thoroughly debunked stories about the Bidens. I won’t dignify them by repeating the specifics here. Recently, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been “investigating”—i.e., trying to keep the story in the media—this bullshit.

Never mind that by falsely smearing Biden over Ukraine, Johnson and his fellow Republican senators are all but doing the work of Vladimir Putin for him, as this Associated Press article explained

But the stark warning that Russia is working to denigrate the Democratic presidential candidate adds to questions about the probe by Johnson’s Senate committee and whether it is mimicking, even indirectly, Russian efforts and amplifying its propaganda.

The investigation is unfolding as the country, months removed from an impeachment case that had centered on Ukraine, is dealing with a pandemic and confronting the issue of racial injustice. Yet allegations about Biden and Ukraine remain a popular topic in conservative circles, pushed by Russian media and addressed regularly by President Donald Trump and other Republicans as a potential path toward energizing his supporters.

[...] “Particularly as a public official and somebody who’s responsible for keeping the country safe, you should always be suspicious of narratives that are trying to sort of damage or target the electoral process in your country,” said former CIA officer Cindy Otis, a foreign disinformation expert and vice president of analysis at Alethea Group. “You should always be suspicious of narratives that foreign countries are pumping out.”

As Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld pointed out, Johnson even admitted that his so-called probe would “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.” It amazing; these Republicans always manage to say the quiet part out loud, which I guess is helpful. Nevertheless, to paraphrase what Otter said to his nemesis (and professional Republican, according to the character futures provided) Gregg Marmalard in Animal House, “Gee, you’re dumb.”

Then the Orange Julius Caesar himself got into the act. On August 16 he retweeted material that our own intelligence agencies had previously identified as Russian disinformation—part of its effort to directly influence the presidential election by “denigrating” Biden. As CNN put it: “By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda -- and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday -- Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.” Here’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:

The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda. https://t.co/9y6L6uMKbM

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 17, 2020

Then came the four-day marathon of lies known as the Republican National Convention. Former Florida (where else?) Attorney General Pam Bondi went before a national audience and, once again, did Putin’s bidding by lying about the Bidens and Ukraine. The truth? When Joe Biden sought the removal of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shukin he did so, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post noted, “because the prosecutor was corrupt.” Sargent added some more important facts: “This was U.S. policy, backed by international institutions. GOP senators had no problem with it in real time. As The Post’s fact-checking team puts it, Bondi’s story is ‘fiction,’ and in reality, Joe Biden ‘was thwarting corruption, not abetting it.’” Bondi told some other lies about Hunter Biden, which the WaPo fact-checking team also debunked

When these latter day Marmalards now issue their breathtaking press releases or repeat Russian disinformation about the Bidens and Ukraine, the media—thus far at least—has been taking them for what they are: Utter horseshit. I won’t say the media has learned their lesson, but unlike 2016, when “but her emails” was literally the most reported story of the campaign, this year everyone who isn’t directly sucking at the Trump teat is treating these debunked charges with the (lack of) seriousness they deserve. 

For that, we can thank the impeachment of Donald Trump, which exposed the lies against the Bidens for what they are. The impeachment process inoculated the media and the American public by preparing them for what Trump is now trying to pull on this matter. So thank you Nancy Pelosi, thank you Adam Schiff, thank you Val Demings, thank you Jerry Nadler, and thanks to the rest of the Democratic impeachment team. I’m sure Joe Biden is thanking you as well.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi and her large lobbying fees attacks Biden for … corruption?

Former Florida Attorney General and corrupt government official Pam Bondi was one of the speakers on Tuesday night’s fear and terror revisionist history broadcast by the RNC. As with every single person speaking for the Trump administration, the cosmically lazy writing of their personal narrative brings to mind the phrase “the banality of evil.”

Bondi spent her convention time telling viewers that Joe Biden had only enriched his family during his many decades in public office. She said this while the chyrons below her literally promoted the next three speakers for the RNC being Tiffany Trump, Eric Trump, and Melania Trump. The irony of Pam Bondi telling anyone anything about other people being corrupt was not lost on anyone with at least three brain cells to rub together.

More specifically, Pam Bondi’s Fox News’-level expertise on the matter of corruption, according to her, makes her uniquely qualified to point fingers at Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Of course, Pam Bondi’s job for the past year or so has been to act as a lobbyist for foreign business and government interests. She gets paid to bring political power and influence into our government on behalf of people and organizations that are not citizens of our country. That’s what she does. For money. In fact, according to the Foreign Agent Registration form, filled out by the White House, Ms. Bondi has pulled in almost $1.5 million in lobbying fees from these foreign entities over the past year.

Of course, the government interest for whom she works on behalf of, Qatar, was just implicated, along with Russia, by Trump’s own Department of Justice in an enormous corruption scandal involving the 2018 World Cup.

According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial hosting decisions of world football’s governing body.

After coming from her work on behalf of the government of Qatar to help with the sewage plant that is the Trump White House, Bondi was somehow able to leave this past March to restart her work with that government. In an utterly unsurprising turn of events, Donald Trump’s supposed executive order banning former administration officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments doesn’t apply to Bondi. Pam is right when she says she’s knows all about corruption.