Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

Last year, Senate Republicans were already feeling so desperate about their upcoming midterm prospects that they rushed to wish Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa a speedy and full recovery from COVID-19 so that he could run for reelection in 2022. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage for any politician, and Republicans were clinging to the idea of sending Grassley—who will be 89 when the '22 general election rolls around—back to the upper chamber for another six-year term.  

GOP fortunes have improved slightly since then, with historical trends improving their midterm prospects since Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But the Senate map is still a long ways away from a gimme for Republicans, and several recent developments have brought good news for Democrats. 

The first of those is a new poll from the Des Moines Register showing that nearly two-thirds of Iowa voters (64%) believe "it's time for someone else" to hold Grassley's seat versus the 27% who want to see the octogenarian reelected to an eighth term. Women voters were especially brutal, with seven out of ten saying they were ready to give Grassley the heave-ho.

Grassley's numbers with GOP voters lagged too, with just 51% committing to supporting him again, while just 7% of Democrats and 23% of independents agreed. Grassley's overall job approval clocked in at a meager 45%; it's his lowest level since 1982.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., upends Republican thinking that another Grassley run could help safeguard the seat. In fact, Grassley may be a liability in the general election, or GOP primary voters may choose an alternative. In any case, Iowa's Senate race could prove more competitive than Republicans had hoped. 

Meanwhile, the GOP primary race for North Carolina's open Senate seat has been scrambled by Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of hard-right Congressman Ted Budd, according to Politico. Following Trump's input at the state party convention earlier this month, former North Carolina governor-turned-Senate candidate Pat McCrory rushed to dismiss the endorsement as falling "flat" in the room.

Now, retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr is coming to McCrory's rescue, reportedly arguing both publicly and privately that he is "the only one in the race" who can win the seat statewide. “Pat McCrory has a commanding advantage," Burr told Politico.

Burr, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of impeachment charges, also took a swipe at Trump's rationale, or lack thereof.

“I can’t tell you what motivates him," Burr said of Trump. "I’ve never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That’s unusual.”

Judging by Budd's own internal polling, Burr has a point. McCrory enjoys far higher statewide name recognition, and he's leading Budd by about two dozen points, 45%-19%. Another Republican contender, former Rep. Mark Walker, garners just 12% of the vote, with 23% still undecided. 

McCrory, who has been meeting with GOP senators to make his case, is running as an establishment Republican. Budd obviously occupies the Trump lane now. It's a scenario that could easily leave one side or the other feeling resentful depending on which Republican prevails, and any result on the GOP side could wind up depressing at least some general election turnout among Tar Heel Republicans.

But that’s the least of the GOP’s worries, according to McCrory’s camp, which is intent on catastrophizing the ultimate result of a Budd primary win.

“If Republicans want a majority in the U.S. Senate, they will nominate Pat McCrory,” said McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw. “Otherwise, Democrats are going to take this seat and keep the majority."

Unwilling to wait until 2024, ‘Speaker Trump’ is now a thing Republicans want

Republicans can’t help themselves. No matter how big of a loser Donald Trump is, and he’s the biggest of them all, they just can’t quit him. In fact, they’re so desperate to keep him front and center in the electoral debate, that they’re now talking about making him speaker of the House

And in a little-known quirk of the House’s rules, he wouldn’t even need to be elected to anything to make that happen. 

Article 1, Section 2, states, “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers...” There are no other legal requirements for the position, including age, or actually being elected to anything. For some time in the mid teens, House conservatives actually agitated for Senator Ted Cruz to become speaker. In 2013, former Secretary of State Colin Powell received votes for speaker. In 2015, Sen. Rand Paul got a vote. 

Now, in all of American history, the speaker has always been a member of the House. But that’s a norm, a tradition, not an actual requirement. And we all know how much water that carries with both the modern conservative movement and Donald Trump. Zero. And so, a new conservative scheme is born: the drive to make Trump the next speaker. It started with this exchange on wingnut radio:

Speaker of the House Donald Trump? He’s not ruling it out.

The former president called the idea “very interesting” after conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root pressed him Friday to run for a Florida congressional seat in 2022 with the goal of leading a Republican takeover of the House and supplanting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Why not instead of just waiting for 2024, and I’m hoping you run in 2024, but why not run in 2022 for the United States Congress, a House seat in Florida, win big, lead us to a dramatic landslide victory, taking the House by 50 seats, and then you become the Speaker of the House,” said Mr. Root on his USA Network show [...]

“You’ll wipe him [President Biden] out for his last two years, and then you’ll be president. Do it! Do it! You’ll be a folk hero,” Mr. Root said.

Of course, Root clearly doesn’t know about the non-requirements to be speaker. Other conservatives do, and they’re starting to talk. One told The Atlantic’s Peter Nicholas, “If 150 members of Congress went to Trump and said, ‘We want you to be our leader,’ I think he’d do it.” 

Of course he’d do it! Could there be a better scenario for Trump than to be handed something without having to do a lick of work? It’s his dream come true! And you know who is really excited at this possibility? Steve Bannon. 

Bannon unspooled a wild chain of events to me, to explain away that hurdle: Trump would serve only 100 days, setting in motion the Republican policy agenda and starting a series of investigations, including an impeachment inquiry into Biden. Then, Trump would step down, turn the gavel over to McCarthy, and prepare for a 2024 presidential run. “He’d come in for 100 days and get a team together,” Bannon said. “They’d have a plan. That plan would be to confront the Biden administration across the board. I actually believe that there will be overwhelming evidence at that time to impeach Biden, just as they did Trump. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“On the 101st day,” Bannon added, “he’ll announce his candidacy for the presidency, and we’ll be off to the races.”

Adorbs. 

Bannon thinks that 1) House minority leader Kevin McCarthy would step aside, even for some time, to hand the gavel to Trump, 2) that Trump would have the votes in the House to win a speaker election, 3) that Trump would have enough of his shit together to put together a team in that short time frame, 4) that Trump would have a “policy agenda,” when they couldn’t even bother to have a party platform at the 2020 Republican convention, 5) that they’d have anything to impeach Biden on with supposed “overwhelming evidence,” and 6) that Trump would willingly hand over the gavel once he had it. Though it is nice of him to admit that Democrats did have “overwhelming evidence” against Trump. 

Still, rather than mock this, and it is so eminently mockable, it behooves us to encourage this talk. As I’ve written, midterm elections are almost always referendum on an incumbent president, leading to typical losses. 

History says that the party of a first-term president nearly always faces catastrophic loses in Congress in his first midterm election. In the House, the average is an over 30-seat loss. In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack, 2002 was an exception, so exceptions do exist. Regardless, Democrats face some historical headwinds that are compounded by a reapportionment and redistricting process that favors Republicans, a Senate map that features nearly every single difficult 2020 presidential battleground [...] and the systematic Republican effort to make it harder for core Democratic constituencies to turn out and vote.

In a normal year, we’d be talking about how to minimize losses and what a Biden administration might do with Republican congressional majorities. But this isn’t a normal year, and Republicans are doing everything in their power to keep it that way [...]

[B]y letting loser Trump call the shots and by letting him insert himself into the political debate, Republicans very well risk turning 2022 into a referendum on … Donald Trump. We already know how those go—they goose the liberal base vote without any corresponding Republican vote unless Trump is on the ballot. And he isn’t.

Keeping Trump front and center in the political debate, along with the conservative movement’s inability to get worked up much about President Joe Biden, 2022 threatens to upend the conventional debate, from a referendum on the incumbent, to yet another referendum on Donald Trump. By essentially putting Trump on the ballot—for speaker of the House—Republicans could give liberals yet another reason to turn out in the numbers they did in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And without Trump being literally on the ballot, the chances of Republicans turning out the hidden deplorables are dramatically lowered. 

Right now, this “Speaker Trump” discussion is floating on the edges of the political debate. But with Bannon on board, it shouldn’t be long before Trump himself is promoting the idea. And from there? Who knows. “Will you vote for Trump for Speaker” could be yet another item on the conservative litmus test, to go with “who really won the 2020 election.”

Former WH adviser Fiona Hill considered pulling a fire alarm during Helsinki Summit—to shut Trump up

I don’t know about you, but I used to feel pretty on edge whenever Donald Trump left the country. As bad as it was having him here, seeing him take overseas trips felt a bit like that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Lecter escapes from his cage and no one can find him. What will happen? Will Trump shove Montenegro’s prime minister out of the way like an unruly child trying to get to the front of a Sno-Cone queue? Will he stand next to murderous dictators looking like Droopy Dog at the tail end of a four-day bath salts bender? Or will his diseased offal heap of a brain spin the wheel and do something truly Dadaistic, like appointing his horse to the Senate while ordering Ted Cruz to pull a wagon of turnips through Mar-a-Lago 16 hours a day with a Trump-branded bit in his mouth? 

My point is, anything could happen with this guy. And while that’s a great trait in a shock jock or a WWE wrestler, it’s not something I want to see in a man whose preternaturally stubby fingers hover over the nuclear button. But I’m just a garden-variety, standard-issue American with an ordinary interest in not dying gruesomely for no reason. Imagine how much worse it was for people on the front lines of Donald Trump’s war on reality.

Well, you don’t have to imagine. Former presidential adviser and National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who was a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has an insider’s take.

On the June 15 edition of Don Lemon Tonight, Hill recounted how truly horrifying Trump’s performance at the 2018 Helsinki Surrender Summit was. Remember? Trump took Russia President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies and looked like a beaten animal that still thought it was going to get a Trump Tower Moscow deal one day.

Transcript!

LEMON: “I just want to read something that you told the BBC about the Trump-Putin press conference, this is in Helsinki, and you said this. You said, ‘My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’ I literally did have in my mind the idea of faking some kind of medical emergency and throwing myself backwards with a loud, blood-curdling scream into the media.’ I mean, of all the disastrous things that you have seen on the world stage, Fiona, where did that moment fall, and did you seriously consider that? Was it that bad?”

HILL: “I did seriously think about it. First of all, I looked around to see if there was a fire alarm, but we were in a rather grand building attached to the presidential palace … and I couldn’t see anything that resembled a fire alarm.

Look, I had exactly the same feeling that Deborah Birx had during the infamous press conference where there was the suggestion by President Trump about injecting bleach to counteract the coronavirus. It was one of those moments where, it was mortifying, frankly, and humiliating for the country. And it was also completely, I have to say, out of step with what had happened in the meeting prior to that.

The meeting itself was quite anodyne. Putin had tried to pull a fast one again. He always likes to stoke outrage. He had come up with the idea of potentially allowing the United States to interview some operatives from the Russian military intelligence services who had been just indicted for their interference in the 2016 elections, but of course he was just about to announce to the world as well that he would then like to interview a few Americans, including our former ambassador Mike McFaul and a number of State Department and other officials who he’d also got in his crosshairs, so he knew that that was going to stoke outrage.

But it was the press conference itself and the way that President Trump unfortunately handled himself which was, you know, the worst moment of all. And as I said, I just thought let’s just cut this off, let’s try to end it, but of course I couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t just add to the terrible spectacle.”

Think about that. A top presidential adviser literally thought about pulling a fire alarm to save Donald Trump, and the nation, from Donald Trump. The best idea I could ever come up with was anonymously sending him a case of Velveeta-slathered sex toys—and that was after four years of racking my brain. But pulling a fire alarm was probably a better idea. Giving him a shiny new firetruck to play with would have also been a viable option.

Fast forward to today where, if none of President Biden’s advisers thought about tackling him to the ground and bringing in an exfil team to get him away from Putin, we’re already far, far ahead of where we were as a country at this time last year. 

But none of this will convince the members of the Republican Bizarro World Caucus, better known as the entire Republican Party, except for Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, plus a smattering of other consensus-reality dead-enders. The GOP currently imagines a world where Joe Biden, who has five decades of relevant experience, somehow collapses under the weight of his own competence.

Who wants to take this one? 😂 pic.twitter.com/8PIY2wkY5j

— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) June 16, 2021

Uh huh. Sure, Lauren. You might want to up your daily intake of gingko biloba if you really can’t remember “a more unqualified person.”

Meanwhile, Biden was busy providing us with a refreshing study in contrasts.

Who looks a beaten-down Russian dog this time around? It isn't Biden. pic.twitter.com/C2yOKtALWZ

— Dawn Got Vaccinated! (@viewsfordays) June 16, 2021

We’re also supporting our allies now, instead of humiliating the ones Putin doesn’t like.

2017 G7 vs. 2021 G7 pic.twitter.com/JG9ZuBi3ya

— The Recount (@therecount) June 11, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot better about where we are today than one year ago. At the very least, there’s a much better chance of Biden bringing Putin to heel, rather than the other way around.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Not shocking: The Republicans’ star witness at Trump’s first impeachment was lying

When former special ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker appeared to testify before the House in hearings connected to Donald Trump’s first impeachment, Republicans were thrilled. Volker was part of the “three amigos,” who Trump had sent to Ukraine to force out experienced diplomats and see that Rudy Giuliani got all the assistance he needed in extorting the Ukrainian government into pretending to investigate Joe Biden. 

As soon as Volker completed his testimony, it was clearly at odds with that delivered by other witnesses. Volker testified that he never talked about the company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board, in his discussions with Ukrainian officials. He completely omitted any reference to a series of meetings and calls on July 10, 2019, after which then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman took his concerns about what was going on to the NSC’s lead counsel. Volkman contradicted the content of text messages he sent on July 19, in which he joined Rudy Giuliani in urging the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of Biden. He left out how Burisma and the Bidens factored into a statement Trump wanted from the Ukrainians. And he completely failed to testify about how he had insisted—as text messages showed—that Ukrainian officials had to include both claims that Ukraine had interfered with the U.S. election in 2016, and that Biden had tried to block an investigation into Burisma, if they wanted to “prevent a recurrence” of Trump blocking military aid to the country.

But what really excited the Republicans was the fact that Volker provided them with the Big Talking Point: a claim that there was “no quid pro quo” connecting the request for an investigation into the Bidens and the release of U.S. assistance to Ukraine. In his deposition to the House committee, Volker made it clear: “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden.”

But text messages at the time also made it clear this wasn’t true. And calls that CNN released this week while looking into the actions of Giuliani make this one thing exceedingly clear: In his sworn testimony to Congress, former ambassador Kurt Volker was lying his ass off.

As The Washington Post reports, it was Volker’s testimony that Republicans leaned on when they claimed that Trump had been exonerated. 

“Ambassador Volker … confirmed what the President has repeatedly said: there was no quid pro quo,” tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan. 

“Ambassador Volker, you just like took apart their entire case,” said a grateful Rep. Michael Turner during questioning.

In his testimony, Volker didn’t hold back. “At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden. As you know from the extensive real-time documentation I have provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions.”

How could this be the case when Volker repeatedly texted concerning an investigation into Burisma? The pretense that Volker put forward was that he didn’t know. He didn’t know why Trump wanted an investigation into a particular Ukrainian energy firm as part of his deal. He didn’t know why this was so vital that it could be a factor in allowing an ally to be preyed on by Russian forces.

Volker wasn’t the only one. His former “amigos”—Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry—pushed the same line. Apparently Trump and Giuliani had it out for this one gas company. After that, they all pled blissful ignorance. 

Yeah, but … Volker was on the call when Giuliani said this to one of the Ukrainian president’s top assistants:

“All we need from the President is to say, I’m going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists, and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out.”

That was just one of several instances where Giuliani explicitly drew the connection between what was being asked of the Ukrainian president with the Bidens. Volker was on that call. Pretending that he didn’t know what he was asking when he asked about Burisma would mean not just acknowledging an astounding ignorance about the country he was supposed to be assisting—past allegations against Burisma had played a key role in both U.S. and U.K. actions in Ukraine—it would mean he wasn’t actually listening to what Giuliani said during their conversations with Ukrainian officials. In Volker’s testimony he claimed that “In referencing Burisma it was clear he was only talking about whether any Ukrainians had acted inappropriately,” which never made any sense at all. It still doesn’t.

The Post suggests that Volker hewed a very narrow line in his testimony and that he “referred specifically to the idea that Biden wasn’t brought up in the text messages he turned over—rather than at all in any conversations.” But that’s attempting to parse things way, way too finely.

It’s clear that when Volker, Sondland, and others mention Burisma in their text messages, that this is shorthand for announcing an investigation into the role Joe and Hunter Biden played in connection to that company. That’s specifically what Giuliani asks for, again and again.

And in his testimony, Volker goes much further than The Post suggests. Volker’s full statement to the committee, apparently in response to a question by Rep. Adam Schiff, was this:

“At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. As you will see from the extensive text messages I am providing, which convey a sense of real-time dialogue with several different actors, Vice President Biden was never a topic of discussion.”

It might be possible to twist that statement so that the last mention of Biden is directed toward the text messages. It’s not possible to do so with the first mention. “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden” is simply a lie. An out and out lie. A lie that was intended to cover Volker’s ass, and which Republicans seized on as justification to exonerate Trump.

It was always clear that Volker was lying when he claimed to not understand the connection between Burisma and Joe Biden. The most recent revelations just underline the extent of that lie.

it may be too late for a do-over of that first impeachment, this time with honest testimony. It’s not too late to charge Kurt Volker for his lies.

Even federal judges are referencing far-right conspiracy theories to overturn our laws

It should be noted, yet again, that being an actual, bonafide judge in the United States of America requires no qualifications whatsoever. You either are appointed as a judge or win an election to become one, and the rest is filler to be worked out by whoever's been tasked with updating the webpages. They say anybody in America can grow up to be president, but that is obviously a lie. But anyone can grow up to be a judge in America. Louie Gohmert was a judge.

Being a judge is in fact one of the few occupations in America that does not require you to even have a head. Unfortunate roller coaster accident? Got too close to Dick Cheney during a hunting trip? No problem. You can still write opinions. Years before his untimely death, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia outsourced all his important opinions to a family of grumpy squirrels that had taken up residence in his attic and nobody noticed or said a damn thing about it.

In a Friday night news dump, a California judge issued a ruling announcing that the state's assault weapon ban, in place since 1989, was unconstitutional because reasons. It caused a stir primarily for using language that sounded conspicuously like what the National Rifle Association and American militia groups have long been spouting in their newsletters and pamphlets, and mostly for Judge Roger Benitez's comparison of weapons designed explicitly for mass murder to a "Swiss Army Knife." An AR-15 rifle "is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," Benitez said in his ruling. Whether he had his pants on while writing that sentence is unknown; whether he cribbed it exactly from a gun manufacturer's ad is ... probably worth exploring.

That is not, however, the only bit of bizarre editorializing in the ruling. Judge HasAHead also took it upon himself to opine that assault weapons actually are far less dangerous than ... the COVID-19 vaccine. "The evidence described so far proves that the 'harm' of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is an infinitesimally rare event. More people have died from the Covid-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California."

If I were head dictator of judgeships this one would be off the bench in five seconds flat for putting the "harm" of assault-rifle-assisted mass shootings in scare quotes, but I ain't and he's not. The part that's getting more heat is that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez appears to be flat-out lying in that second sentence, and that’s us saying it nicely.

The Washington Post fact-checks Benitez on this one, but to anyone who does not live entirely inside Tucker Carlson's inflamed colon the problem here should be obvious. The number of people who are believed to have died from the COVID-19 vaccine is, at this time, approximately zero. There has been some very public speculation as to whether some of the vaccines might cause an extremely rare form of blood clot, one that may have killed three people in this country after millions and millions of doses, but the data is not conclusive and the clots seem to appear in the unvaccinated general population at roughly similar rates.

Meanwhile, mass shootings continue to be a regular occurrence in California, just as they are elsewhere. Even if you presume all three deaths suspected of being vaccine linked were indeed caused by a vaccine, it's not even close.

All we can assume here is that this particular judge is referring to far-right conspiracy theories about the vaccine from the dark nether regions of the American political psyche. It's possible we can attribute the blatant factual error to Fox News and to Tucker Carlson's white nationalist conspiracy show, but the suggestion that lifesaving, normality-saving vaccines are killing people in greater numbers than AR-15s does feels more like something plucked more directly from the Q crowd, from frothing far-right militias, or both.

Unfortunately, there's no particular recourse for this sort of judicial conspiracy peddling. For particularly grotesque behavior on the bench, the House and Senate can remove a federal judge via impeachment, but that is reserved for only the most egregious of cases and "is factually wrong when issuing weirdly premised opinions" isn't it. This is why, in fact, the Republican-held Senate was so obsessive in filling as many judicial vacancies as possible with hard-right ideologues while blocking nominees from a Democratic administration: stuff the benches with hard-right conspiracy theorists, hard-right conspiracy theories become the stuff that governs us. The judge's ruling is absolutely certain to be appealed, but the Supreme Court is itching to undo a century of laws itself and will probably not let the unending goofiness of this written opinion stop it from writing a more dignified goofy version that scrubs out the most embarrassing parts.

So far, though, there's been no ruling from hard-right judges declaring that making fun of bad judicial opinions kills more people each year than AR-15 "freedom bringers" do, so we can at least point and shake our heads here. Maybe it's cathartic. Maybe it's whistling past the graveyard.

New video shows Rep. Mike Nearman coaching people on how to breach Oregon Capitol

Oregon state Rep. Mike Nearman let armed protestors into the state’s Capitol building in December, which led to a violent encounter with the police who sought to remove them. The protestors attacked the police and used pepper spray. 

Nearman willfully endangered the lives of those officers, along with the lives of his fellow lawmakers and Capitol staff. Although the original video of the Republican opening the door was pretty damning, a new video has emerged that leaves no doubt that the storming was planned.

Newly surfaced YouTube video shows Nearman giving instructions to his constituents on how to breach the Capitol building, step-by-step, in a scheme he calls “Operation Hall Pass.” During the in-person and live-streamed event on Dec. 16 gives his chuckling audience guidance on what to text him, where to stand, and how to get in. He knows what he is doing is illegal, which is why he intersperses his instructions with coy language. He says he will deny knowledge of the scheme, and claims he’s just rattling off random numbers—which happened to be his cell phone number. 

The Oregonian broke the story.

“We’re talking about setting up Operation Hall Pass, which I don’t know anything about and if you accuse me of knowing something about, I’ll deny it. But there would be some person’s cell phone which might be” and he recites a phone number beginning with 971.

Nearman was speaking to an anti-union group called the Freedom Foundation, which is funded by billionaires such as Charles Koch and the DeVos family. And as we all know, his instructions were followed five days later, during a special session on Dec. 21.

Nearman lets in the mob

Democrats in charge of the legislature have already stripped Nearman of his committee assignments, and forced him to give up his badge to access the building.   He’s been asked to resign, but has refused. The Oregon GOP is, as expected, deadly silent and complicit, just as national Republicans have been about Jan. 6. 

Nearman also faces criminal charges.

This video compiles the Dec. 16 plotting and the Dec. 21 breach. 

NEW FOOTAGE: watch Oregon's @RepNearman tell people, step-by-step, how to breach the Oregon Capitol... with his assistance. Days later, the breach happened. Videos adapted from @Oregonian Story https://t.co/9tNZpxZHnH pic.twitter.com/pEQO6KsiaB

— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) June 5, 2021

Additionally, during the Freedom Foundation plotting event, Nearman explained the best day for the breach, saying “Monday, you’ve got one crack at it there.” The anti-mask maniacs ultimately stormed the Capitol during a one-day special session, held just before Christmas … on a Monday.

Don’t for a second think that these conservative traitors aren’t above promoting violence to stay in power. As sick as this was, state Rep. Nearman is nowhere near as crazy as the current crop of Republicans in the nation’s House, like Reps. Jim Jordan, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.  In what reality would someone think that any of these people would be “above” giving  advice and tours to insurrectionists prior to Jan. 6, which they have been accused of doing?

The truth is going to come out, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

How’s this for a rallying cry? If we lose the midterms, Trump will run again and (could) steal 2024

I never thought a fascist takeover of the galaxy could ever be less entertaining than the one depicted in The Phantom Menace, but here we are. One major American political party remains tethered to reality, whereas the other is a barmy cult of personality that worships at the clay feet of the worst human being I’ve ever laid eyes on outside of the port-a-potty queue at the annual Chilton, Wisconsin, Beer Festival—which is a long story, but trust me. And the line to pee in the creek is even worse. I only wish I were kidding.

Being the guileless backwoods naif that I am, I figured Donald Trump would be forced to slink away after the sound beating he received in November from the guy he kept calling a senile loser. After all, when George W. Bush left the country in a smoldering heap after his eight years of misrule, Republicans scrambled away from him like Quint trying to escape the shark on the deck of the Orca at the end of Jaws

But Trump is different. For one thing, he doesn’t have the common decency to concede an election he lost—by a lot. For another, he’s somehow mesmerized a majority of Republicans into believing he’s their bumblefuck messiah, despite having surrendered the White House and his congressional majority during his truncated tenure—and despite having incited a deadly insurrection based on corrosive lies about the integrity of our elections.

So here we are. I fully expected Republicans to dip a diffident toe or two back into consensus reality after the big dopey Dr. Zaius cosplayer was 86’d from the White House, but it looks like they’re all-in on febrile fantasy. 

The Maricopa County audit, the conspicuous (and appalling) lack of enthusiasm among Republicans for a Jan. 6 commission, the rebuke of ultraconservative but anti-Big Lie Republican Liz Cheney, polls showing that a majority of Republicans still think the election was stolen from Trump—it’s all more than a little scary. I was already freaking out about 2024 and the possibility that Donald Trump would run again instead of vanishing forever under a pile of fast food detritus after removing a load-bearing McRib box.

Then MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan welcomed Yale professor Timothy Snyder and Emory University professor Carol Anderson, both historians and experts on democracy, onto his UpFront show. He asked them a chilling hypothetical: What happens if Republicans hold Congress in 2024 and a Democrat wins the White House?

Buckle in. This gets weird.

"If the Republican candidate is running on the Big Lie, if that's their issue in 2024...the Republican candidate who loses the election will indeed be appointed by Congress to be President of the United States," Prof @TimothyDSnyder tells me tonight. Wow.pic.twitter.com/Vaj4QL5Brx

— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 25, 2021

Transcript!

HASAN: “Tim and Carol, I’m going to ask you both the exact same question I asked Norm Ornstein and Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the show last week. If the Republicans are in control of the House and Senate come 2024 and a Democrat wins the presidential election narrowly, do you believe a Republican Party in Congress will certify that Democratic candidate’s win in Congress? Yes or no? Tim.”

SNYDER: “I think if the Republican candidate is running on the Big Lie, if that’s their issue in ‘24 the way that it seems to be in ‘22, then the answer to your question is the Republican candidate who loses the election will indeed be appointed by Congress to be president of the United States.”

HASAN: “Wow. Carol?”

ANDERSON: “Given that we have Republicans now who refuse to back the Jan. 6 commission, which was about the overthrow of an election … a fair election, given that we have the refusal of the Republicans to go in on impeachment, and given that they’re doing all of this work to undermine democracy with voter suppression and taking over control of electoral certification, I see this as a dress rehearsal for 2024 where they will not certify.”

HASAN: “Wow. So that’s Norm, Ruth, Tim, Carol. Four experts on this show all have answered this question in a very, very depressing way, but it’s important that we have this discussion.”

Jaw ===> floor

These experts aren’t in the mold of modern-day Republican “experts.” Ornstein, a contributor to The Atlantic and The Washington Post, helped draft parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history at New York University who “writes frequently for CNN and other media outlets on threats to democracy around the world.”

None of them, as far as I know, makes a living selling mediocre pillows to donkey-brained dipshits. So that’s scary shit, indeed. But it could also be an opportunity. Why? Because Donald Trump is a coward.

Let me explain. 

In a recent Politico story on Republicans’ attitude toward a potential Trump 2024 run, Trump flunky and perduring magic toadstool hallucination Lindsey Graham said this: 

“It’s more likely than not that he does” run, Graham said. “How we do in 2022 will have a big effect on his viability. If we do well in 2022, it helps his cause. I want him to keep the option open.”

So there it is, from Hermey himself. Graham doesn’t explain why Trump’s viability as a candidate would be improved if Republicans take back Congress in 2022 and then build their momentum enough to hold onto it in 2024, but I will: It would make stealing the election a piece of cake. 

Trump is a loser. Full stop. He lost in 2020 and, if our elections are conducted in 2024 the way they always have been (i.e., with Congress’ certification of the results being taken as a mere formality), Trump would almost certainly flame out, assuming President Joe Biden isn’t handed some major crisis that he fails to get under control.

After all, Trump lost by 7 million votes last time, and that’s before he tried to shiv democracy with his stabby little Chucky doll hands. The guy’s poll numbers were underwater for all but a few days of his White House tenure. On the day he left office, his aggregate disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight, was a whopping 57.9%. Sure, the guy would likely skate through the primary process and would almost certainly be the GOP nominee if he ran, but he’d likely be dead in the water in the general election. Who (beyond his death cult) would want him back?

Most of the country has moved on and never wants to lay eyes on this sodden heap of off-brand urinal cake ever again. But Republicans—who, let’s not forget, make up less than 30% of the population—can’t get enough of the guy. Fifty-three percent of these deludenoids still think Trump is the rightful president, FFS. 

And so there’s our opportunity. Participation in midterm elections is typically far less than that of presidential elections. Voter turnout was strong in 2018—particularly in the suburbs—as many Democrats, independents, and disaffected Republicans came out to rebuke Trump and his agenda. Trump was on the ballot in 2020, and 81 million people came out to toss his ass, swamping the MAGAs’ own enthusiastic turnout.

Without a doubt, Trump can be a motivating factor, whether he’s on the ballot or not.

So here’s our motivation—and our rallying cry—for 2022.

If we lose Congress in the midterm elections, Trump will almost certainly run again, seeing his opportunity to cheat and manipulate his way to victory regardless of the actual results. If we keep Congress, Trump may finally slink away, knowing that he’d have little to no chance of pulling off another upset.

Incumbency is a huge advantage in a presidential election, and Trump won’t have that this time. His only advantage would be the likelihood—dare I say the guarantee?—of Republican treachery. But that can’t happen if there aren’t enough treacherous GOPsters in Congress to pull off an election theft.

So if you want Trump to run again—to be a major part of your waking life again—by all means, skip the midterm elections. If you don’t, show the fuck up, and make sure your friends and neighbors do, too.

That’s a rallying cry for 2022 if I’ve ever heard one. If we win in 2022, which we must, Trump will likely bugger off—finally and forever. Because he knows he can’t win, and he’s nothing if not a coward. If we lose, well, that could be the end of democracy as we know it.

Let’s win. In the face of insurmountable odds, let’s make sure we win.  

The alternative is simply too awful to consider.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

There’s a second federal investigation underway looking at Rudy Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine

Even before the 2016 election, Donald Trump and his supporters were pushing back against news that Russia was directly interfering in the U.S. presidential election. Even though Russia had engaged an army of false social media accounts, a network of sites dedicated to generating Trump-favorable false stories, and teams of dedicated hackers digging into documents at the DNC, Trump refused to say a bad word about the land of Vladimir Putin. Instead, Trump and his campaign pushed a conspiracy theory that all the hackers, bots, and Facebook ads didn’t actually come from Russia. Instead, said Trump’s campaign, the U.S. was being taken for a ride by that most powerful of opponents … Ukraine.

Trump and members of his campaign team pushed a completely unsupported idea that the “Cozy Bear” hackers were actually Ukrainians just pretending to be Russian. Then Trump took the whole thing further, insisting that Hillary Clinton’s emails were somehow stored on a “missing server” that was somewhere in Ukraine. That there was no missing server in the first place wasn’t a problem. 

It was all ridiculous. But over the next four years, Trump set out to prove that not only was Ukraine behind the 2016 hacks, they were also hiding criminal activity on the part of Joe Biden and his son. So, with the help of Rudy Giuliani and a cast of seemingly hundreds of eager to help scam artists, Trump spent months making connections with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine and leaning on the Ukrainian government. Those efforts not only earned Trump his first impeachment, it seems they also opened the 2020 election to foreign interference … from Ukraine. By way of Rudy Giuliani.

As The New York Times reports, federal prosecutors are now investigating whether a group of  Ukrainian officials launched a scheme to use Trump to get things they wanted in exchange for false information that Rudy Giuliani could spread in hopes of harming President Joe Biden. Which … yes. Yes, that happened. And it’s already been well-documented by House investigators

It’s been clear for months that Giuliani established ties to both exiled oligarch Dmytro Firtash and corrupt officials like parliament member Andriy Derkach. Firtash, who is also connected with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and employs Trump attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, gave Giuliani the indicted Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas to act as his guides to the Ukrainian underworld. With both Trump and Firtash leaning in, Giuliani had no trouble finding plenty of people willing to sign off on statements that smeared Biden—even if some of those same people instantly folded when questioned and admitted that they were just trying to “curry favor” with Trump.

However, Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine did have some very serious consequences, including giving power to hoodlums who wanted a U.S. ambassador out of the way so they could increase their level of corruption. Giuliani gleefully served that role, helping to demean and dismiss a dedicated career official so that he could get crooks to sign onto his scheme.

Now that Giuliani is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation that has seen his home and office raided, it seems that prosecutors are also looking at the people on the other end of the pipe. Particular attention seems to be focused on Derkach. Derkach has been both named by the intelligence community as an “active Russian agent” and sanctioned by the Treasury Department. He’s also one of Giuliani’s primary sources for claims against Biden and his son, Hunter.

The only person standing up for Derkach appears to be Giuliani, who said in an interview, “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent.” He said that after being officially warned that Derkach was … a Russian agent. Which is a pretty important denial for Giuliani.

The federal case against Giuliani seems to center on to what extent he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian elements in lobbying Trump to take actions such as the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. That Giuliani did such a thing as a dupe of corrupt former officials supported by an oligarch who can’t even set foot in his own country for fear of arrest … that’s bad. But if it turns out that Giuliani did this as the knowing partner of someone who had been identified to him as an active agent of Russia … that’s considerably worse.

This investigation is based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, and is apparently running in parallel with the investigation into Giuliani’s activities being based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Hopefully they’re sharing notes.

Trump lickspittles have taken over Republican Party, but a handful of rebels play long game

All Republicans are awful. They are greedy, selfish, death-worshipping assholes. Let’s just stipulate that because it’s objectively true—it’s no accident that while they were happy to toss aside their supposed fealty to “family values” and “national security” during the Trump years, the one thing they got accomplished was tax cuts for the über-wealthy. Their priorities have always been clear. 

That said, we can divide Republicans into two camps, one of them full of morons beyond belief, and the other not so dumb. The first has surrendered itself completely to the felon-in-waiting Donald Trump, who cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House—only the third president to lose reelection in the last hundred years. He isn’t just the nation’s biggest loser, but a living reminder of the GOP’s lack of any actual ideological core beyond tax cuts for the rich. Remember, Republicans didn’t even bother writing a party platform during their presidential convention! Why bother writing anything down when all that matters is what Trump thinks in the moment, subject to his changing irrational whims? 

The Trump lickspittles have won the battle for control of their party. But there is a smaller faction—those Republicans who, while ideologically odious, at least remain loyal to the Constitution and the principles of American democracy. It’s a low bar to meet and a distressingly small number of Republicans meet it, but they exist. 

Yet while this small minority of Republicans might be on the outs today, they’re playing the long game, and it’s a smarter game to play. They may not be the future of the party, but they have more of a chance to do so than any of the Lickspittle caucus ever will. 

Six Republicans voted for the Jan. 6 commission: 

  Bill Cassidy, Louisiana   Susan Collins, Maine   Lisa Murkowski, Alaska   Rob Portman, Ohio   Mitt Romney, Utah   Ben Sasse, Nebraska

This nearly mirrors the list of Republicans who voted to convict during Trump’s second impeachment trial. The only differences are that Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey is missing (he didn’t bother to stick around) and Portman was added to this list. 

Of those, Portman is retiring, Collins represents a blue state, and Murkowski is protected by the strange politics of her state (including the brand new “top-four” jungle primary that protects her from being ousted in a traditional Republican-only primary). 

Cassidy, Romney, and Sasse, however, represent solid red states (even if Utah isn’t particularly Trump-loving), and Sasse, in particular, has presidential ambitions. (Maybe Romney too.) 

Over in the House, 35 Republicans voted for the commission—a stunningly large number of defectors—led by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who was recently cancelled from the House leadership. That is a significant increase from the 10 who voted for Trump’s second impeachment. And if you look at that list, it’s not a list of “liberal Republicans,” or even moderates. No liberal Republicans are left, and precious few moderates, as well. Most were solid conservatives standing up for the Constitution. 

It would be hard to point to any elected official and not think that they have higher-office aspirations. So these Republicans, in all future campaigns, will have this vote hung around their necks during their primaries. It’s the reason so many Republicans took the coward’s way out and stood by Trump. They were afraid to face their base voters having stood up to Trump. There are the loyalists, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are far gone in Q-conspiracy land and worship their idol Trump. But aside from those, there are the opportunists—the Sens. Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzes, Republicans working feverishly to capture that Trump electoral magic in a bottle and releasing it for their own benefit in their inevitable future presidential bids. George P. Bush is the latest of that crowd to humiliate themselves in a bid to win Trump’s approval. 

What the Liz Cheneys and Ben Sasses know, because it’s obvious, is that Trump will never anoint any of that crowd—not the loyalists, and not the opportunists—for anything in which he or his spawn have their eye on. He is loyal to himself first, and Ivanka Trump second. Then, to a lesser degree, his sons. And after that, the spouses and partners. That’s it! 

There isn’t a chance in hell that a Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024. It might not be Donald Trump himself—he might be too indicted, too convicted, too in jail, or too dead from all those disgusting Big Macs he eats. But if it isn’t the Liar in Chief himself, it will be one of his children. The loyalists might not care, pathetically worshipping at the altar of Trump. But the opportunists are making a bet that will never pay off. They will never inherit the Trump movement, because Trump doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but himself and his clan. They have thrown in with an odious, morally obscene man who will never give them the approbation they so desperately want from him. 

Cheney and Sasse are ambitious politicians. They know what they face inside their party, and they’re making a calculated bet that someday sanity will return to their party, and their brand of competent conservatism will once again have value. These are smart politicians, and they know the pitfalls and dangers they face ahead. They may lose their next primary bids. They may be further ostracized and marginalized. They may simply fail to stem the tide of a Republican Party falling deeper into conspiracy territory. 

But if the Republican Party ever breaks out of this current fever, they’ll be there to pick up the pieces and lead it onward. 

The chance that happens is slim. What, 5% or 10%? Let’s not pretend odds are good. But it’s not out of the realm of impossibility. And even 10% is a higher chance of success than the big 0% the lickspittles have of ever becoming president, becoming leaders of their party, or even winning any seats coveted by the Trump clan. 

Prosecutors investigating Giuliani seized wider array of materials than previously disclosed

Oopsies. Looks like the investigation into personal Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is broader than what was previously reported. A court document unsealed Tuesday revealed that federal prosecutors obtained correspondence from email and iCloud accounts that appear to belong to two former Ukrainian government officials, according to CNN. Additionally, prosecutors seized a cell phone and iPad belonging to a pro-Trump Ukrainian businessman.  

CNN also accessed redacted portions of the court filing by cutting/pasting it into a new document and found that federal prosecutors obtained the "historical and prospective cell site information" of both Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, an attorney who informally advised Donald Trump and aided Giuliani's dirt digging efforts. Investigators executed a search warrant on both attorneys last month.

According to CNN, the Ukrainians involved are former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, former head of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, and businessman Alexander Levin.

The court filing came from Joseph Bondy, the defense lawyer for indicted former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. It contained some juicy revelations, including the fact that federal prosecutors had described materials they obtained starting in late 2019 and extending through last month. Bondy was petitioning the judge in Parnas' case for a status conference on the seized materials, which he believed to be relevant to Parnas' defense. 

But here's the juiciest part of the CNN scoop:

Bondy wrote that the evidence seized "likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications" between Giuliani, Toensing, former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, "high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as a means to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump."

Just to be clear, none of this is verified and even Bondy used the term “likely.” But wow—encrypted communications between Trump, Barr, Sekulow, Graham, and Nunes, potentially related to an effort to silence Parnas and presumably his partner, Igor Fruman, in advance of Trump's first impeachment inquiry. 

Hard to know whether Bondy is right, but any encrypted communications among that cast of characters that proved fruitful for prosecutors would certainly be interesting.