GOP senators demand impeachment trial as government shutdown looms

With a government shutdown looming, 13 Republican senators, led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas’ pretend cowboy Sen. Ted Cruz, released a letter they said they sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding he make a big stink about holding an impeachment trial for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Lee even posted a copy of the letter with some vaguely legible signatures to his X (formerly Twitter) account. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to dismiss the bogus bit of political theater.

The Republican-led House was able to impeach Mayorkas after one embarrassing failure of an attempt, making it the first time a Cabinet official has been impeached in 150 years. The Senate GOP members making hay out of the impeachment process continue to remind the public how Democratic officials proved (and Republican officials admitted) the entire exercise was disingenuous.

The letter, which was signed by Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Eric Schmitt, Rick Scott, Ron Johnson, J.D. Vance, Roger Marshall, Josh Hawley, Mike Braun, Tommy Tuberville, Ted Budd, Cynthia Lummis, and Marsha Blackburn, contains a lot of what we have come to expect from the do-nothing Republican Party. The general pantomime of the GOP around the impeachment of Mayorkas involves an imaginary belief that the GOP is strong on border security. It is fitting that conservative senators like Lee, who voted against the bipartisan border security deal, would also spend their time trying to create a political theater production of impeachment instead of making the hard compromises and decisions needed to get things done.

Senators like Cruz have used their party’s disarray to take shots at current leaders like McConnell. On Sunday, Cruz told Fox News that “if Republican leadership in the Senate doesn’t like the criticism, here’s an opportunity to demonstrate some backbone.” Cruz and Lee are joined by self-promoters like Sen. Josh Hawley, who has had his own public spats with Republican leadership in recent months.

The government is set to shut down on March 1. House Republicans seem unable to chew gum and … chew gum. Senate Republicans who spent many decades in lockstep with McConnell’s leadership seem to have lost the ability to tie their shoes. The Senate is coming off of an 11-day recess. McConnell has not responded to inquiries from media outlets for his response to the letter as of the writing of this story.

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Ohhhhh yeah! Democrats kicked ass and then some in Tuesday's special election in New York, so of course we're talking all about it on this week's episode of "The Downballot." Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard explain how Tom Suozzi's win affects the math for Democrats' plan to take back the House, then dive into the seemingly bottomless list of excuses Republicans have been making to handwave their defeat away. The bottom line: Suozzi effectively neutralized attacks on immigration—and abortion is still a huge loser for the GOP.

Republican Attorney General who killed a man with his car has to answer for new evidence

Back in September 2020, 55-year-old Joseph Boever was struck and killed by a car being driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Boever was walking on the side of Highway 14 around 10:30 PM when Ravnsborg’s car drifted into the shoulder of the highway and hit Boever. Ravnsborg had been driving home from a Republican fundraiser and reportedly called 911 at the time, claiming to the dispatcher that he might have hit a deer. A sheriff’s deputy came out to quickly survey the attorney general’s car before giving him a ride home.

It wasn’t until the following morning, when Ravnsborg returned to the site, that he discovered Boever’s body. From there a long and drawn out investigation ended this past year with Ravnsborg pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges, serving no time in jail, and paying out $5,000 in fines and court costs. At the time, Boever’s family said the results were “not the ending we hoped for.” This was in part because the investigation was opened up to the public by Ravnsborg’s Republican colleague, Gov. Kristi Noem. Noem has long been calling for Ravnsborg’s resignation, and the attorney general has been facing an impeachment inquiry.

On Wednesday, new evidence was leaked out by way of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price, A Noem appointee. Price sent a letter to South Dakota’s Republican Speaker Spencer Gosch that relitigated quite a bit of the evidence that was already known—and also added some information that was not public knowledge.

Related: What’s the cost of a deadly hit-and-run? For one South Dakota official, it’s $5,000 and no jail time

Related: South Dakota attorney general pleads to misdemeanor, avoids jail time for killing man with his car 

Price tweeted out the letter he sent to make sure the public at large got an eyeful of Ravnsborg’s guilt and felt no doubt over his level of responsibility in Boever’s death. The letter, among other things, claimed that Ravnsborg “had been pulled over for traffic offenses eight times between taking office in 2019 and the fatal crash, including five in which he either identified himself as the attorney general or displayed a badge.” He was never ticketed during any of those stops. But before he had that position, he had received more than a half dozen tickets for speeding.

Also damning, according to Price’s letter, is a claim that Ravnsborg, his Division of Criminal Investigation director, and his chief of staff shared “disparaging and offensive statements regarding other law enforcement officers, judges, a supreme court justice, a legislator, prosecutors, staff members, a former Attorney General, and A United States Senator” by way of text messages. Also, maybe as a teaser, Price wrote about “Text messages that the investigation uncovered between the Attorney General and what appears to be a political consultant wherein the consultant indicated, referring to the deceased, “Well, at least the guy was a Democrat.” The message seems to have been sent just two days after Boever was killed.

In the interest of continued transparency on this important issue, I sent this letter to the Honorable Speaker Gosch today. I can’t speak for the committee, but I’m confident they are interested in the truth and facts as well.

— Craig Price (@PriceDPS1) March 10, 2022

Boever was a registered Democrat but his cousin, former state legislator Nick Nemec, told The Daily Beast he wasn’t an active political operative: “He was just a voter.” Nemec pointed out that the letter was further proof of the battle going on in the GOP with “far-right Republicans, regular Republicans and Democrats. And there’s just turmoil in Pierre right now.”

There has been ample evidence that Ravnsborg’s story has changed and and been shaky from the start:

  1. His insistence that he had no idea what he had hit was called into question as Boever’s glasses were discovered on Ravnsborg’s passenger seat, meaning his face had slammed so hard into the window that his glasses went flying into the car.
  2. Ravnsborg insisted he had not been looking at his phone any time near when he hit Boever, until investigators presented him with evidence that he was reading some kind of “sonspiracy” article about President Joe Biden and China right around the time he hit Boever with his car.
  3. Ravnsborg’s insistence that he never exceeds the speed limits by more than 4 MPH are clearly untrue.
  4. According to Craig, Ravnsborg contacted digital evidence expert Brent Gromer to pick his brain about what investigators may be able to find on his phone. The interaction leads Gromer to write up a report on the meeting, and Ravnsborg has to admit he has made contact with Gromer later on to investigators after having denied any such contact.

One thing Boever’s family could not have foreseen was that right-wing MAGA monster Noem’s ambitions to control her political party would potentially help them receive some justice in the form of political retribution against Ravnsborg.

Obama’s office slams GOP investigation into Ukraine, Joe Biden, in private letter from March

In a letter from March, the office of former president Barack Obama condemned a congressional investigation into former vice president and now presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. You likely remember the Republicans’ incessant focus on Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural energy company. Trump and various Republican allies have alleged that there’s a scandal there, and alleged possible conflict of interest for Joe Biden, who was key on Ukraine policy at the time. And of course, Republicans had claimed this investigation had nothing to do with wanting to distract from Trump’s impeachment proceedings or the upcoming general election. 

In the private letter signed by Obama’s records representative and now available because the office released it to BuzzFeed News upon request, Obama’s office described it as an effort to "to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine” and said it was “without precedent." The letter, which was first obtained and reported on by BuzzFeed News, does not actually explicitly mention Biden by name, and does agree to release the requested presidential records.  

"The request for early release of presidential records in order to give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign--one that has already been thoroughly investigated by a bipartisan congressional committee--is without precedent," the letter, dated March 13 and sent to the National Archives and Records Administration (which maintains presidential records), says in part. 

As a quick review, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson made the record request in November 2019. The two senators have effectively spearheaded the investigation into the Bidens and Ukraine, and have been doing so since last fall. Both wanted records on meetings between Ukrainian officials and the Obama administration from the National Archives. 

The letter from Obama’s office refers to former National Security Council analyst and Russia expert Fiona Hill’s now-viral opening testimony about the notion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had a misinformation effort in the 2016 election. She said it’s “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

The Obama office relented and has allowed the records to be released "in the interest of countering the misinformation campaign underlying this request.” Former presidents (and technically, current presidents, though it’s no surprise that representatives for Trump wouldn’t do so) are allowed to review and use executive privileges on record requests thanks to a federal mandate. But neither Obama’s office nor Trump’s did so. Obama’s office released the records essentially to counter the message that is beneath the request.

The letter finishes: “We emphasize that abuse of the special access process strikes at the heart of presidential confidentiality interests and undermines the statutory framework and norms that govern access to presidential records.”

At the time of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, Republicans went out of their way to distract from any perceived weakness and create an enemy—in this case, Hunter Biden and Ukraine. But it didn’t end there. For example, Sens. Grassley and Johnson have reportedly recently dug into Secret Service documents to see whether Joe and Hunter Biden ever overlapped on trips to Ukraine. It’s endless. Even now, as a global pandemic rages on and the United States continues to fumble public health crisis management, GOP senators continue to dig into the Burisma theories.