Anything to attack Biden: Republicans pretend not to know presidents sometimes work off camera

Republicans are always on the lookout for their next attack on President Joe Biden, and on Monday, Fox News personality John Roberts pulled one out of thin air.

“With war raging in Israel, the @WhiteHouse called a lid for @JoeBiden at 11:46am,” Roberts tweeted. A “lid,” as Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary explains, “is what White House press secretaries use to indicate that there will be no news coming out of the White House that day.” Relevant to this manufactured controversy, the Political Dictionary goes on to say:

However, it’s important to note that calling a lid does not necessarily mean that the President’s workday is over or that no more newsworthy events will happen that day.

The President may still have private meetings, phone calls, or other activities that are not open to the press.

In fact, a lid may mean that the behind-the-scenes work of the presidency is particularly intense in ways that keep the president away from the news cameras.

For instance, on Monday afternoon, Axios reports, “Biden convened a call with the leaders of the U.K., France, Italy and Germany, who together issued a joint statement unequivocally condemning Hamas.” A five-nation joint statement doesn’t just happen. It takes work and back-and-forth and negotiation over the very exact wording. Much of that work was done after the White House called a lid.

Here’s another example of what might be going on: On May 1, 2011, the Obama White House called a lid in the early afternoon. Unusually, the lid was lifted in the late evening. In a 10:30 PM statement, then-President Barack Obama announced the operation that had killed Osama bin Laden.

As a former White House correspondent—including during the Obama years—Roberts knew that calling a lid did not mean work at the White House had ceased for the day. But he tweeted the implication that it did, and a number of Republicans took it and ran with it.

“Alabamians don’t work those kind of hours,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville commented in a quote-tweet of Roberts on Monday afternoon. The Senate is not in session this entire week, so Tuberville is at his leisure to be not working at home in Alabama or Florida or wherever he lives.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene quote-tweeted a different Fox News personality’s tweet about the lid. “We have Americans held hostage by Hamas and Joe Biden is taking the day off,” Greene wrote. “President Trump would never do this. He would not stop working until he got our people back.”

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer piggybacked on the general line of attack with a “Where is President Biden?” tweet, though he had the self-awareness not to pretend he didn’t know what a lid is. Other right-wing media personalities joined in on the claim that Biden wasn’t doing anything on Monday.

This attempt to paint Biden as missing in action came just hours before the joint statement with the U.K., France, Italy, and Germany went out. That wasn’t the only attack, of course. Republicans have also been busy trying to draw a line between the recent release of impounded Iranian funds and the attack. Although, as Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner noted, use of the money has to be approved by a third-party arbiter, it must be used for humanitarian purposes, and none of it has been spent yet anyway.

It’s true that the party of Donald Trump and his endless “executive time” may have forgotten that most presidents do work when the cameras are off. But mostly Republicans are just dishonest and desperate to turn every significant news event into an attack on Biden. This is why Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel saw the initial Hamas attacks on Israel as “a great opportunity for our candidates”: To Republicans, what’s happening in the world—even if it involves hundreds of people being killed—is always less important than the partisan advantage they might be able to leverage out of it. It’s a disgusting mindset, but they’re not backing off from it.

Sign the petition: No to MAGA impeachment. Focus on what matters.

Harlan Crow blows off another Senate committee

Harlan Crow, Texas real estate magnate and very dear friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has instructed his lawyer to tell yet another Senate committee to pound sand. Congress doesn’t have the authority to oversee the Supreme Court, the lawyer asserted in a response to the Judiciary Committee’s request for details of the millions of dollars in gifts, travel, hospitality, and real estate transactions provided to Thomas by Crow—money and perks that Thomas has failed to disclose for decades, potentially in violation of federal disclosure laws.

“After careful consideration,” Crow’s lawyer, Michael Bopp, writes, “we do not believe the Committee has the authority to investigate Mr. Crow's personal friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas.” Of course it has that authority. That whole “checks and balances” business we all learned about in civics class—that’s what that’s about. The founders wouldn’t have allowed for the impeachment of Supreme Court justices if they didn’t intend for Congress to be able to check the court.

Crow’s lawyer isn’t just asserting that the Supreme Court is off limits, but that anyone a justice receives special favors from is off limits, too. Life’s great when you’re an untouchable billionaire in America. What the committee was asking for is Crow’s records, not Thomas’, as Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin pointed out. “Mr. Crow’s letter relies on a separation of powers defense when Mr. Crow does not work, and has never worked, for the Supreme Court.”

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It’s similar to the argument that Crow’s lawyers made to Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Finance Committee, when he requested records disclosing all the expensive things Crow has bestowed upon Thomas and Crow’s reporting of these gifts for tax purposes, which the committee oversees. Bopp responded to Wyden with a refusal and claim that the Finance Committee doesn’t have the right to ask for that information, writing that the “Committee must have a legitimate legislative purpose for any inquiry, and the scope of the inquiry must be reasonably related to that purpose.”

Wyden slammed back, assuring Crow’s attorney that his “claim is without merit” and “ignores the Committee’s extensive history considering legislation on matters related to the gift tax, which is a backstop to both our nation’s income and estate tax regimes.” He demanded the information again, and in a statement said it was possible that the committee would have to “follow another route to compel his answers, and I’m prepared to make that happen.” In other words: a subpoena.

Durbin suggested he would consider that route as well, now that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has returned from her illness and Democrats have a majority vote on the committee again, with the power to issue subpoenas. “The Committee will respond more fully to this letter in short order,” Durbin said.

Crow clearly believes he’s not answerable to anyone, and by extension, neither should Thomas be. It’s the premise Chief Justice John Roberts has also adopted with his absolute refusal to appear before the committee to talk about the massive lapses in ethics that have come to light recently. They’re all taking the “Supreme” part of the title way too literally.

Crow insists that he’s a “private person,” “just an old guy” with a penchant for collecting Supreme Court justices to go along with his Nazi memorabilia and statues of dictators. The fact that he’s poured tons of money into right-wing causes, and recruited other millionaires and billionaires to the cause of turning the Supreme Court into the hyperpartisan political entity it is doesn’t mean that he’s not acting with the purest of motives when it comes to his friendship with Thomas.

That seems to be the prevailing attitude on the court, and that’s a massive problem for the nation when public confidence in the highest court has plunged to the lowest level in decades, in multiple surveys. Notably, most were conducted before all the revelations of Thomas’ extremely generous and secretive friend.

It is objectively dangerous for the court to be considered illegitimate by the people. It’s even more dangerous to have the court behave so badly. The government as a whole is resting on what’s a pretty flimsy piece of parchment, after all. It continues to exist as a democracy only as long as we all agree that it should. Or as long as every official who took an oath to the Constitution abides by that commitment.

The current majority on the court isn’t doing that. They won’t do that. They won’t even talk to Congress about whether or not they should be living by the most basic of ethics rules. That has to be fixed, and it has to be done by Congress and the White House. The only way to deal with the problem quickly is to expand the court. After that, further reforms can be examined, but right now, it’s the best way.


Billionaire Crow won't disclose gifts to Clarence Thomas, refuses Senate request

One very rich billionaire bought Supreme Court and made himself richer

That creepy painting shows us Clarence Thomas has been bought by the worst people

Hell yeah! Democrats and progressives simply crushed it from coast to coast on Tuesday night, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard are devoting this week's entire episode of "The Downballot" to reveling in all the highlights. At the very top of the list is Jacksonville, where Democrats won the mayor's race for just the second time in three decades—and gave the Florida Democratic Party a much-needed shot in the arm. Republicans also lost the mayor's office in the longtime conservative bastion of Colorado Springs for the first time since the city began holding direct elections for the job 45 years ago.

Chief justice temporarily blocks Title 42 end, indicates further action from court could come soon

Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s planned lifting of the anti-asylum Title 42 order, granting a so-called emergency appeal from a slate of Republican attorneys general. “So-called emergency appeal,” because the appeals court panel that had last week denied the GOP request noted that the group of 19 attorneys general had waited too long to file their request.

The Biden administration had planned to lift the debunked public health order that’s used the pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers in violation of their rights Tuesday evening, following a lower court order. Roberts instructed the administration to respond by this evening, indicating more action could be imminent. Legal expert Mark Joseph Stern noted that Roberts’ administrative stay “does not hint at the eventual outcome.”

RELATED STORY: D.C. Court of Appeals panel rejects GOP effort trying to keep anti-asylum policy in place

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Republicans have simultaneously claimed that the Biden administration has an “open borders” policy while insisting that the Title 42 policy—which was implemented against the advice of public health experts by noted white supremacist Stephen Miller and Mike Pence at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020—must stay in place indefinitely. They have also insisted this public health order remain as they’ve consistently challenged other pandemic-related orders by the administration.

“The Biden administration, for its part, has insisted it is prepared to lift Title 42, saying the restoration of regular immigration procedures, such expedited deportations, will allow the U.S. to gradually reduce migrant arrivals and the high rate of repeat crossings recorded during the pandemic,” CBS News reported.

That last part is crucial: Title 42 in fact led to an increase in apprehensions, because desperate people blocked from their asylum rights and expelled have had no choice but to try again. It’s a failed policy, and its lifting would put our country back on the side of respecting U.S. and international asylum law. In a statement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that as required by Roberts’ order, “the Title 42 public health order will remain in effect at this time and individuals who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to be expelled to Mexico.”

“While this stage of the litigation proceeds, we will continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way when the Title 42 public health order lifts,” Mayorkas continued. “We urge Congress to use this time to provide the funds we have requested for border security and management and advance the comprehensive immigration measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office.”

House Republicans set to take power in the next Congress have indicated they’re serious about leading on immigration policy … by pushing a harebrained idea to impeach Mayorkas. Over what crimes? They haven’t figured that part out yet.

Vice President Kamala Harris similarly noted the need for lawmakers to lead on comprehensive immigration measures, and she called out for Republicans for failing to come to the table. They obsess on the issue of immigration only when it’s election season (my words, not hers). For example, a proposed framework that would have passed permanent relief for young immigrants in exchange for harsh border measures recently failed, derailed by Republicans’ “border first” excuses even though there was border stuff in there.

"I think that there is so much that needs to happen to address the issue," the vice president told NPR. "And sadly, what we have seen in particular, I am sad to say, from Republicans in Congress is an unwillingness to engage in any meaningful reform that could actually fix a lot of what we are witnessing.”


Biden admin set to lift anti-asylum Title 42 order next week, but GOP appeal may now delay that

'Arbitrary and capricious': In victory for asylum-seekers, judge orders end to Miller pandemic order

Testimony confirms Title 42 was never about public health, it was about deporting asylum-seekers

Continuing his quest to endanger alleged whistleblower’s life, Rand Paul names him in Senate speech

Sen. Rand Paul continues to be a flaming heap of whistleblower-outing trash. Whistleblowers are protected for reasons that an alleged libertarian like Paul should appreciate—that protection encourages people to come forward when they see something wrong in government. But after Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read Paul’s question naming the person who Republicans believe to have been the whistleblower on Donald Trump’s impeachable Ukraine call, Paul took matters into his own hands.

He’s already read the question, with the name, to reporters. But apparently he didn’t get enough attention for that, so on Tuesday, Paul brought a large poster of his question up with him as he made a floor speech in the Senate, during which he read the question.

To recap: the chief justice refused to read Paul’s question because it named a rumored whistleblower, possibly endangering that person. Paul then held a news conference to read the same question, and then, as if he hadn’t done enough, read it on the Senate floor while standing before it printed on a large poster, for anyone watching C-SPAN to hear and see.

Paul has insisted that this is all innocent because he doesn’t know that this is the whistleblower, he just happens to be asking lengthy questions about a random person whose name hasn’t come up in the impeachment for … reasons. I think we know the reason, and the reason is that Rand Paul is a terrible piece of human trash and he’s part of a political party that rewards that.

Pelosi serves well-deserved shade on McConnell, Chief Justice Roberts over sham impeachment

No one can twist a political knife quite like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Think of the now-legendary clapback at impeached president Donald Trump at last year's State of the Union address. She's the queen of shade, and you just knew that Mitch McConnell was going to be on the receiving end of some of that. It hit Saturday morning in a brutal tweet that cast a wide penumbra, taking in the potted plant who presided over last week's sham impeachment trial.

"It is a sad day for America to see Senator McConnell humiliate the Chief Justice of the United States into presiding over a vote which rejected our nation's judicial norms, precedents and institutions which uphold the Constitution and the rule of law," she wrote. Ouch. That's all she said. That's all she needed to say. Chief Justice John Roberts is going to come out of this thing looking like a tool, and it's because of McConnell's machinations. It's because there was no way McConnell was going to let this impeachment trial be anything but a travesty.

History is not going to look kindly on either of those men.

It's time to end McConnell's destructive stranglehold on the republic. Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as Senate majority leader.

Collins, Alexander prove that fix has been in all along on Trump’s impeachment trial

There will almost certainly not be a 50-50 tie in the Senate impeachment trial on whether to have additional witnesses and documents. Sen. Susan Collins, almost immediately following the closing of Thursday night's session, showed that she'd been given the "hall pass" from McConnell to vote "yes" on witnesses. In a three-paragraph statement that was probably written before the trial even began.

Moments after Collins’ statement, as if it were totally choreographed to try to make her look like the hero, Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that he is a "no" because "there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense." He goes on to say essentially, yes Trump definitely did it, but we don't need to impeach him over it.

If, as expected, Sen. Mitt Romney votes for witnesses, that leaves just Sen. Lisa Murkowski as an unknown. She’s said she's thinking on it. That's most likely false, because the main thing has been trying to give Collins cover, and McConnell is not going to allow Chief Justice Roberts being in the position of having to decide whether or not to break a tie.

We have to end their hold on the Senate. Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as majority leader.

Elizabeth Warren asks killer trial question on Supreme Court legitimacy. Chief Justice Roberts wilts

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren clearly wanted Chief Justice John Roberts to ponder his place in history Thursday when she sent this doozy to him to read aloud at the Senate impeachment trial: “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” 

In other words: Hey, we all know this is a sham trial, the American people know this is a sham trial. Any chance you’ll do the right thing and protect the integrity of the court and your legacy by casting your vote for witnesses in the event of a 50-50 tie? Kapowie!

Do yourself a favor and watch Roberts read it below.


Rand Paul continues his efforts to get the Ukraine whistleblower killed

Sen. Rand Paul has not been getting enough attention during this impeachment process, so he executed his predictable and promised stunt on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, submitting a question to Chief Justice John Roberts during the Q&A session that presumably contained the name of the whistleblower. Roberts refused to read the question, so Paul left the floor to have an "impromptu" press conference (and probably hit the send button on a fundraising email).

CNN's Manu Raju reports, "At press conference, Paul says: 'I can tell you my question made no reference to any whistleblower.' Then Paul reads aloud his question which names a Schiff's staff member and names the individual who has been reported as possible whistleblower—and asks about their contacts." This was an apparent effort to get the press to publish the name, since he seems intent on getting the whistleblower killed.

It likely won't work. One reporter asked, "With all due respect, shouldn't you be at the impeachment hearing right now?" Of course he should have been, and the sergeant-at-arms should be putting him in the Senate jail right now. He should also be disqualified from sitting as a juror in this impeachment trial and have his vote taken away—if either Roberts or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to save this trial from being a total farce.

Now is the time for Chief Justice Roberts to rise to the defense of his country

Assuming that there are three Republican senators who care enough about their country and the rule of law to want witnesses and documents in Donald Trump's impeachment trial (not a given by any means) Chief Justice John Roberts could be put in a difficult position. He would have to break the a 50-50 tie either voting for a sham trial or a real one. Or, do what the conventional wisdom expects and choose not to decide and let entropy win. At a stalemate, the side asking for witnesses would lose.

Thus far, Roberts has been more of a spectator than an umpire, to use his infamous analogy during his confirmation hearing of what his role on the Supreme Court would be—"calling balls and strikes." He's watched while Republican senators made the presentation by House managers a farce, napping through the discussion, playing with toys, standing in the back of the room chatting, reading unrelated books, or just flat out leaving the room for long stretches. That is against the rules of impeachment trials, rules he's there to enforce. That has not impressed the experts. So far, Roberts has been "less of a force than some people expected or hoped for," Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor and impeachment expert told the Washington Post. Few watching this have high hopes that he'll rise to the challenge.

No matter how we get there, the end goal is the same: John Bolton must testify.

The only peep out of him on the proceedings was a "both sides" scolding of Rep. Jerry Nadler spurred on, of course, by Sen. Susan Collins' note tattling on him. He's done something helpful in rebuffing Sen. Rand Paul's efforts to out the person who blew the whistle on Trump's Ukraine extortion. That was done behind the scenes, even before the question and answer period began Wednesday.

So, with his chance to actually do the job, call the balls and strikes, the big question is whether he'll step up to save the institution of the Senate from itself, try to save the republic from Trump, or even try to save his own legacy. One Democrat, Sen. Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, is going to attempt to force the issue by offering a motion putting pressure on Roberts to decide. Republicans will almost certainly defeat it, but that doesn't mean Roberts couldn't be the hero all of his own accord.

Senate Republicans make clear: It’s not about Ukraine. It’s about ending American democracy for good

On Wednesday, the Senate conducted the first of two days of question-and-answer in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, with the House managers and Trump’s legal team. Throughout the sessions, Trump’s team made it clear that any attempt to get at the truth of what happened would result in retaliation in the form of asking for an endless stream of witnesses, fighting every request in court, and holding up activity in the Senate “for a very long time.” Meanwhile, the House managers continued to swing for the fences with a number of stirring moments, sharp responses, and ringing calls for the Senate to do its job for the country.

From the start of this session, it was clear that Republicans were not taking the day seriously. Confident that enough of their members had fallen in line to suppress any possibility of subpoenaing a witness, the Republican side indulged in question after question written for no other reason than to promote conspiracy theories and smears by having Chief Justice John Roberts read them aloud. But even that wasn’t the worst damage done during the course of the evening.

As the night wore on, Trump legal team member Alan Dershowitz rose repeatedly to make it very clear what Republicans were authorizing: They were not just embracing foreign interference, but literally allowing Donald Trump to do anything in pursuit of reelection.

Much of the evening seemed to be the Ted Cruz Show. Having abandoned any pretense that they were seeking information, Republicans allowed the Texas assassin to have a hand in at least eight questions, all of them designed to spread ridiculous, corrosive smears against the whistleblower, Rep. Adam Schiff, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s defense team joined in eagerly, citing information from the worst of right-wing sites as “public information” to justify repeating claims. By the end of the night, Senate Republicans had endorsed every aspect of the conspiracy theory that Trump had tried to extort from Ukraine, and they had gone on to indict the whistleblower as having a hand in the “double bribery.”

Again and again, Republicans such as Cruz and Josh Hawley demonstrated that they were laughing up their sleeves, playing the “Roberts will repeat anything” game. That included using questions to make statements that Adam Schiff had collaborated with the whistleblower, long after Schiff had explained—again—that he had not met the whistleblower, that he did not know the whistleblower, and that no member of his staff was involved in preparing the whistleblower’s complaint. It didn’t matter, because for Cruz, getting out the facts was never the point of the exercise.

A special award goes to Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. At one point in the late afternoon, he managed to concoct a question so vile that Roberts refused to read it—the only time that happened, even though some of the questions from Cruz included recitations of multiple false charges.

Trump’s team leaned into the chance to spread unfounded information. Despite hours and days of chest-beating over “hearsay” or “second-hand information,” Trump’s attorneys relished every word of the beyond-Q conspiracies that came their way (including a rare appearance from benchwarmer Pam Bondi so bad that it’s already gathered more than two million views). And when not rolling in vile claims with absolutely no foundation, they used much of their time to directly threaten the Senate, stating again and again that any attempt to call a witness would be met with an unending string of requests, privilege claims, and court fights. 

In the middle of the evening, Schiff made a major play and said that, to expedite the process, the House managers would agree to be bound by decisions from Roberts when it came to validating subpoenas, authorizing witnesses, and requesting documents. Citing the way that the House had taken as many as five depositions in a week, Schiff made it clear that there was no reason that a process involving witnesses had to be lengthy. But Trump’s legal team said that it would not agree. Instead, it continued its threat to respond to any call for witnesses by wrecking the Senate, drowning the trial in frivolous requests, and demanding a string of witnesses (including every member of the Biden family, every House manager, the whistleblower, people cited in right-wing media … an unending parade). And Republicans on both sides of the table pretended that this threat wasn’t simply an argument that any legal process can be crushed by the power of the White House.

But it wasn’t the cudgel of delay, or the giggling efforts of Cruz, Hawley, Paul, and others to place their hands under Robert’s robe and make him talk that did the most damage. The worst damage to the evening, the trial, and America’s future came from doddering Alan Dershowitz, who used the evening to expand his previous defense to a degree that didn’t just exonerate Trump in this case, but also exonerated him in any possible case. 

In a pair of appearances, Dershowitz expanded on his theory that abuse of power isn’t a permissible cause for impeachment. Deliberately and directly contradicting the historical sources he cited, Dershowitz called every constitutional expert in America a “never Trumper” for daring to disagree with him. And while claiming to be the only reasonable man in the country, he said he didn’t stand alone … because he had found a single attorney in 1867 whose views were similar. And 1867 is closer to when the Constitution was written, so that view wins. If you ignore all the people involved in the writing of it.

Then, having literally made up dictionary entries to support his redefinition of legal terms, Dershowitz went not just all-in, but completely overboard. According to Trump’s finest legal mind, there is nothing that Trump can’t do in pursuit of reelection. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. So long as Trump believes that his reelection would be good for the nation, he can extort foreign governments for made-up dirt. He can directly threaten an ally. There is no limit.

Along the way, Dershowitz also argued that there is absolutely nothing wrong with launching an investigation into a political opponent. In fact, he asserted that a run for office itself can be justification for investigating an opponent. He directly embraced the idea that a president launching investigations of his political opponents using domestic or foreign sources wasn’t just fine; it was desirable. He argued that daring to run against Trump painted a target on anyone’s back, and that Trump had all the power he needed to shoot at it.

If there was any doubt going into the evening, Dershowitz removed it: voting to acquit Trump means voting not just to dismiss this charge, but to embrace the idea that Trump trumps the law. He didn’t hint that Trump could do anything he wanted in pursuit of reelection; that was the core theme of his whole presentation. That was the point. That was what he said.

The Senate listened to a presentation from Trump’s legal team according to which there is nothing Trump can do in pursuit of reelection that isn’t justified. There is no limit to how Trump can use his power to persecute political opponents. According to the theory that was put forward on the floor of the Senate, Trump could simply lock up every Democratic opponent, or suspend elections indefinitely, and that would be just fine—not only an impeachable offense, but a good thing.

Republicans are going to vote for that. Republicans are going to press the button on not just a step toward autocracy, but a full-on embrace of it. They’re going to do it with a smile.