Fascism: As polling turns against him, Trump lays groundwork for mass violence

Rattled by poor polling numbers in his reelection bid, the alleged president of the United States is encouraging domestic terrorism. That's where we're at, and everyone from top national security experts to local emergency officials are all crystal clear on that. The New York Times reports from a bunch of 'em in a piece that can both contain remarkable factual phrases like "Mr. Trump has descended into rants about perceived enemies" and still somehow soft sell the underlying message:

The nation is preparing for violence on and after Election Day because Donald J. Trump, a fascist, is goading his supporters into that violence with rally claims that any loss on his part will be proof that his enemies cheated.

There is no possible chance that Trump doesn't know what he's doing. His tweeted calls to "LIBERATE" states from governors who imposed widespread pandemic measures resulted in a Michigan militia attempting to do exactly that. Trump is back at it even today, claiming their primary target, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, "wants to be a dictator." He is attaching the legitimacy of the state to calls for mob action—only to repeat those calls when it looks like the first versions are beginning to bear fruit.

The only reason he is not being treated as a radical, dangerous figure who has irreparably violated his own oath of office, necessitating removal, is because Republican Party leadership and lawmakers have themselves embraced and defended those violations. It is self-radicalizing; the farther Trump goes into overtly authoritarian behavior, the more pressure the party feels to defend and normalize their own support for him. The more Trump's circle has succeeded in isolating and excising state and local functionaries who express alarm at his grotesqueries, the more the party has become a homogenized group of anti-democracy, authoritarian-molded radicals themselves.

Trump has clearly been unfit for office in every respect; the impeachment investigation identified his corruption, the pandemic proved his apathetic incompetence, and his continued calls for mob justice against targeted enemies have proven (as have similar quotes repeated through the last five years) that he is not just indifferent to extralegal punishments of his enemies, but publicly fantasizes about them. If Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Attorney General William Barr, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Mark Meadows, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Ted Cruz, and the entire rest of the party had not all decided to ally with him for their own ideological and policy ends, he would have been removed in bipartisan fashion long ago, reduced to a historical footnote.

They didn't, and now local law enforcement officials around the country are preparing for radicals among what Trump has proudly designated his "Army" intent on disrupting Election Day, sabotaging ballot-counting measures, and committing acts of coordinated terrorism targeting his opponents. It's now expected.

Once again we're in a position where the fate of democracy rests on not just beating anti-democratic forces, but doing so in such a convincing fashion that sabotage can't alter the outcome. But now it comes with the near certainty of violence. This is Mitch McConnell's fault: Remember that. This is Lindsey Graham's fault. Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, William Barr. Trump's suggestions to "liberate" parts of America from small-d democratic governance would be intolerable if they believed them to be intolerable. Everything Trump does and will do has happened because they allowed it.

California Republican Party says it won’t take down illegal ‘ballot boxes’ despite state orders

On Monday, it came to light that the California Republican Party was placing what they called "official ballot drop off boxes" in locations deemed to be Republican-friendly (such as, no kidding, "gun stores") in apparent efforts to make it easier for Republican voters to vote than not-Republican voters.

There are two problems with this. First: It's not legal. California law allows voters to designate a person to drop their ballot off at an official location rather than going themselves; it does not allow the "designated person" to be an unattended cardboard box. (And yes, some of the "official ballot drop off boxes" are merely "simple cardboard boxes with no locking security mechanism.")

The second problem is, yes, ballot security. Voters may not be aware that these very much not official "drop off boxes" are managed by unknown Republican operatives, and there's no guarantee the ballots collected in such boxes won't "accidentally" be, to use a recent Trumpian example, dumped into a river. (I kid. Here in California we don't have rivers. They could be dumped into storm drains, though, which would be problematic because all the aspiring sewer actors do not need more lines to practice.) There's nothing to say the ballots the Republican Party claims to be collecting won't be sorted through, perhaps to weed out non-Republican looking names, or otherwise disposed of. That's why California ballot-harvesting laws require a designee.

California officials have now warned the state Republican Party that what they're doing is illegal and may even result in prison time. The Republican Party has responded in the expected way: They don't care, and won't be complying with state demands to remove the boxes.

More specifically, the California Republican Party intends to continue the operation while daring state officials to do anything about it. Party spokesperson Hector Barajas noted that a 2018 state law prohibits election officials from rejecting a ballot solely because it was returned without the required designee signature or relationship to the voter, signaling that the party intends to collect ballots however they want, handle and turn them in however they want, and dare election officials to throw those votes away. Election officials will almost certainly not do that, so here we are.

It's another case of the party's all-encompassing insistence that laws don't matter if bending the law would benefit the party. See also: Dinesh D'Whateverguy, and literally every member of Donald Trump's inner circles, past and present, indicted and not, and the Republican gutting of the Federal Election Commission, and the nullification of election-related impeachment charges against Dear Leader, and take your pick.

And yes, everyone involved is aware of the dichotomy of the Republican Party going to furious lengths to restrict voting access in Texas and other Republican-led states while bending restrictions that they believe are harmful to their own voters. It's not irony, it's fascism.

What California voters need to know right now, however: Do not use those boxes. Don't. California is mailing ballots to all voters; follow the instructions provided to the letter and mail them back. Do not put your ballot in a cardboard box, or a burlap sack, or into the mouth of a large wooden horse that has appeared, overnight, in the empty parking lot of an abandoned mall. Just mail them in, or turn them in where the state itself tells you to.

There's no guarantee that the local Chuckles' Gun Club and Shoebox Votin' Booth will be handling your vote, as America decides between authoritarian rule and democracy, with anything resembling care. The Republican Party is playing fast and loose with the votes of their own most loyal supporters, and that is not something you want to get involved in.

It’s not about Barrett’s religion: It’s about the cover-up of how extreme and unqualified she is

The fact that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett "served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise," in the words of The Washington Post, is a thing. It's a thing that is concerning to a lot of not evangelical or fundamentalist Christian Americans. Republicans are, however, trying to make that a landmine for Democrats, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leading the way. They're saying any questions about her rather out-of-the-mainstream practice is an attack on faith. They are in fact itching to have a fight about her religion.

But that's eliding a larger problem: Barrett has been actively trying to cover-up her association with People of Praise and her fundamentalist beliefs, and People of Praise have been helping. This is what Democrats need to be focusing on. The Post reports that while Barrett has disclosed "serving on the board of a network of private Christian schools affiliated with the group," People of Praise will not confirm that she is a member. Furthermore, in the last few years it has "removed from its website editions of a People of Praise magazine — first those that included her name and photograph and then all archives of the magazine itself." Why are her ties to the group being scrubbed and who is helping her do that?

That goes along with Barrett's failure in 2017 and again this year to disclose that she had signed on to a newspaper ad in 2006 taking the most extreme position on abortion possible, advocating for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and going further, saying she  opposed "abortion on demand" and defended "the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life." That's leaving the door open for banning types of birth control and for investigation and potential prosecution of women who've had miscarriages, the furthest forced birth extremists tend to go. Of course she doesn't want that information in front of the Judiciary Committee or the American public, which supports abortion rights.

So who's covering it up for her? Is the White House advising her to withhold information? Is the Republican-majority Senate  Judiciary Committee staff helping her pick and choose the information senators and the American public get to weigh when considering the nomination? Because it sure seems like a concerted effort, and the kind of thing that raises eyebrows for investigators. What else might she be failing to disclose—and why? This should at least require more time for a more thorough investigation and Democrats should demand that. It's not about her religion: It's about why she is trying to cover up her religion!

Clearly the investigation into Brett Kavanaugh wasn't thorough enough because McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was then chair of the committee, wouldn't let it be. They didn't give enough time. That means there are still outstanding questions about Kavanaugh, and big ones. Like who paid his $92,000 country club fees, his $10,500-a-year private school for his kids, his $60,000 to $200,000 credit card debt, and his $1.2 million mortgage before his confirmation hearings. Which is a question for another time and potentially an impeachment investigation when there's a Democratic-controlled Senate. Potentially.

But on this nominee, there needs to be an investigation. The FBI needs to figure out why there was a coordinated effort to cover this information up, why the People of Praise group has been erasing her from existence in their organization, and what else she could be withholding from the committee. It's not about the organization itself: It's about the effort to prevent the Senate and public from knowing. She, and the Republicans, demean the process by hiding things.

There are already serious questions about her fitness to serve. First and foremost, Barrett accepted the nomination in the first place, in these extraordinary circumstances and mere weeks before a presidential election. Then she participated willingly and knowingly in what turned out to be a coronavirus superspreader event that violated the rules the District of Columbia has in place for public gatherings. Yes, the White House is federal land and not governed by D.C.'s ordinances, but it shows an appalling lack of judgement on the part of this would-be justice to participate in the whole fiasco.

But there are also questions about her actual ability to judge. She actually authored a Seventh Circuit opinion last year "that threatened to hurl corporate insurance policies into chaos" and was quickly and quietly withdrawn to allow the lower court judgement she had initially overturned stand. It was an "episode that stunned attorneys and raised questions about her judgment." Because she made an extremely basic and big mistake. She ignored state law, in this case Indiana’s, in her initial ruling. "Her opinion, absolutely, 100 percent, ignored Indiana law with respect to how those things would be decided," one lawyer involved said. "It was the only time in my career where I had to file a brief that raised this point."

It's a given, even among conservatives, that Barrett got this nomination not for her legal qualifications but because of her ideological ones. That's not even debatable in 2020, after the Trump administration and the kinds of judges—even those rated unqualified—he's promoted. What's remarkable is the extent to which Republicans are still committed to covering up her background. That's a problem, and one that gives Democrats absolutely every reason to fight this nomination. Not on religious grounds: on the cover up.

Barrett is the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee, so Democrats have nothing to lose in this fight

For decades, the American public has been working under the assumption that if someone were nominated to the Supreme Court, that person must be qualified. How else could that individual get to a place where they would even be considered for nomination? That slipped a little with President Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork, who ended up being rejected even by Republicans—enough of them to sink his confirmation. Everything's changed with Donald Trump, however. First Republicans broke all norms and regular procedures by refusing to even talk to President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, for more than half a year before the election. Then we had the Brett Kavanaugh debacle, where the whole country could see the blunt force Republicans would employ to get a guy everyone recognized as the frat-boy bully of their school nightmares onto the court.

Now we've got the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, and an electorate not giving her the benefit of the doubt as to qualifications. CNN reports: "Initial reactions to Barrett are among the worst in CNN and Gallup polling on 12 potential justices dating back to Robert Bork, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan and rejected by the Senate." Barrett has the distinction, along with Kavanaugh, of being "the only two for whom opposition outweighed support in initial polling on their nominations." A plurality does not want her confirmed, 46% to 42%, and 56% say she should recuse herself from any cases resulting from the 2020 election, including 32% of Republicans. Which leads us to the fight Democrats have to have against her confirmation. There's absolutely no downside to Democrats doing everything in their power, limited though it may be, to fight this.

Most of that fight is going to have to be in the Judiciary Committee. The No. 1 thing Democrats should be doing is boycotting the hearings and refusing to allow Lindsey Graham, the chairman, a quorum to conduct most of his business. With any number of Republican senators unavailable at any given time because of quarantine, Democrats need to be nimble and flexible in when they choose to participate. But senators, Democratic or Republican, aren't likely to miss an opportunity to get some video clips of themselves scoring points out there. Knowing they aren't going to give up a chance at their 15 minutes, they need to follow a plan. Chuck Schumer needs to make them do it.

For once, they have to coordinate. They have to find a single plan of attack and stick to it, with their questions coordinated and designed to build a narrative. Already we're seeing the opening—this is a rushed confirmation that Republicans are intent on ramming through before the election and in that rush, they're covering stuff up. We saw the initial evidence of that when Barrett did not submit a newspaper ad she signed on to in 2006 on behalf of a forced-birther group with the materials she provided to the Judiciary Committee—either for this nomination or for her 2017 nomination to an appeals court position. In the ad, she said she opposed "abortion on demand" and defended "the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life." That's not all: In 2017, The Washington Post reports she didn't disclose her affiliation with the radical Christian group People of Praise. The group has scrubbed all references to her from its website. What else is she hiding?

In pushing that narrative, they should also have the less effective of their members step back. Let Sens. Kamala Harris (she has said she intends to participate), Amy Klobuchar, Mazie Hirono, and Sheldon Whitehouse—the sharpest interrogators—take the lead. They were the sharpest and most effective questioners in the Kavanaugh hearings and we need that acuity again now. 

That's not the only Democratic coordination we need to have happen. Schumer should be quietly working with his conference and with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on measures they can take to gum up the works for the Senate after the almost inevitable vote out of committee happens. There are things like War Powers resolutions Democratic senators can bring to the floor that will take precedent over a confirmation vote. Likewise, there are resolutions—most notably impeachment—that the House can send over that have to be considered before nominations. Note that this kind of coordination could be happening already. We're not supposed to see it. To be most effective, it can't be seen coming. McConnell is likely already figuring out how he can combat such measures, so Democrats have to be as wily in figuring out when and how to spring them. Which they should be working on. Right now.

Stopping this is going to be nearly impossible, barring the coronavirus continuing to sweep through Republican ranks and reducing the number of senators McConnell has available at any given time. But that doesn't mean Democrats are powerless, and it doesn't mean they shouldn't find every possible avenue for getting this delayed past the election. It probably won't work, but they've got to try it anyway.

For one thing, it will give them practice on coordinating their messaging and their efforts to reform the courts when they have the White House and Senate in 2021.

Mike Pompeo is now brazenly campaigning for Trump using his federal post

Prior to ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo becoming Trump's secretary of state, it was generally understood that U.S. secretaries of state were not allowed to use the tools of their office for rank partisan politicking. Using government resources to campaign is illegal; turning the top diplomatic job in the country into a tool of partisanship damages U.S. credibility abroad by signaling, to world counterparts, that the U.S. diplomat is In This For Themselves.

All of that is gone now because Donald Trump simply chose to ignore those constraints, and Republicans—with the singular exception of one Mitt Romney, exactly once—wholeheartedly adopted the same merging of party and state as the new way things are done. This was helped along immensely by Trump's surrounding of himself with hard-right ex-House Republicans contemptuous of the rules from the outset. Mike Pompeo is a poster child for this. He continues to assist Trump in the cover-up of a criminal Ukrainian extortion scheme—one timed to allow Russian incursions into that country to proceed and be solidified while much needed U.S. aid was used to pressure for Trump reelection favors. He continues to abet Trump's incompetent dismantling of U.S. foreign policy infrastructure.

And, of course, Pompeo is using his State Department role to campaign aggressively for Trump and Republicans throughout the country. The premise is that key Trump-supporting demographics and swing states just happen to need conservative foreign policy priorities explained to them by, literally, the top U.S. diplomat—one who admittedly has little else to do since all such policy decisions have been stripped from him and his government agency in favor of the new policy, Whatever Trump Last Said. The reality is that Pompeo is touring the country giving campaign speeches to, as the AP reports, a white evangelical church in Plano, Texas; the hard-right Value Voters Summit; and other appearances in Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and of course his home state of Kansas. Pompeo has famously been eyeing higher office himself—a plan that briefly looked scuttled when Pompeo was implicated in impeachable crimes, but one Pompeo appears to be inching back to with hopes that voters no longer remember or resent him for that now that the Trump administration has delivered at least a half-dozen other scandals and death-dealing clusterfucks for them to chew on instead.

The important thing to remember here is that Pompeo is crooked. He is crooked in the William Barr way, and fairly precisely: He has been caught directly assisting in Trump's impeached-for acts; he has been caught in a campaign to cover up those acts and his involvement for Trump's benefit and his own; he has done each of these things in service of elevating Republican power regardless of legality or institutional norms; and he makes no particular effort to hide the use of his office as explicitly partisan, to be used for shoring up allies and punishing enemies.

While Barr pressures his underlings into producing documents meant to portray Trump's detractors and investigators as the "true" criminals of Russian election hacking while undermining further investigations into Trump and all allies, Pompeo weaves through the country on a heavy campaign schedule to tell conservative audiences that they should "go to the polling place and express your preference" for his hard-right claims and declarations, as AP quoted him telling his Texas audience.

Without dwelling on it: Again, Mike Pompeo using his government perch to address the Republican National Convention—from Israel, no less—was such a grotesque insult to supposed diplomatic nonpartisanship that it would have likely ended with Pompeo's removal from his post during any of the last half-century's worth of presidencies. Republican lawmakers, however, are embracing Pompeo's acts as they are Trump's, and Barr's. There is no Republican caucus demanding Trump adhere to the rule of law, or the Hatch Act, or basic expected decencies.

The whole point of immunizing Trump during impeachment was to enable further corruption. It was the expected outcome. It clearly worked, as Trump's rapid gutting of oversight offices and inspectors showed. We are now at a point where Trump and Barr are openly crafting plans to eliminate votes if the November elections do not go his way, and continue eliminating votes for as long as it takes until the Republican Party can claim a crooked victory.

The reasons are not just to retain power, though; Trump's team and Trump's allies need a victory for more personal reasons. There has been a mountain of criminal acts, cover-ups, ethical violations, and rank corruption from Barr, from Pompeo, from Trump himself, and other Trump cabinet members past and present. The moment they lose power, there is a danger that the remaining shards of true, neutral law enforcement will come for them—and those ex-officials will no longer have means to block those investigations.

Every investigation currently being blocked and corrupted can only be blocked or corrupted so long as the corrupters remain in power. Republicans like Pompeo, still identified as having played a role in international extortion whether his Republican Senate allies are supportive or are not, has no time to worry about laws or norms as he scurries around the country to protect himself from the consequences of his own corruption.

Democrats, don’t let RBG’s seat—or the Supreme Court—be further soiled by Trump

Honestly, there isn't much that Senate Democrats can do to fully prevent a Republican majority, slim though it may be, from seating another Supreme Court nominee from Donald Trump, illegitimate as that nomination might be. What they can do, however, is delay it until after the election. And after the election, the chances of blocking it are probably better. There could very well be some defeated Republicans who won't have anything to lose anymore and might just decide not to seal their legacies with something so ignoble as this. Additionally, if they can delay throughout November, Democrats will likely have a new member—Arizona's Mark Kelly, who could be seated as early as Nov. 30 by Arizona law.

To that end, congressional procedural experts have drawn up a memo that's reportedly circulating on Capitol Hill that details the myriad options available to Democrats—both in the House and Senate—to eat up Senate time and prevent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham from rushing the nomination through before Nov. 3. There's no silver bullet here for Democrats to stop the confirmation, but there are tons of BBs.

We talked about a lot of what the Senate can do in this post, but didn't explore the House's options. Like sending over articles of impeachment. (I nominate Attorney General Barr for that one, personally.) The House could act on Senate bills pending in the House, amend them, and send them back as privileged—the Senate could be forced to act on them.

In a perfect world, Sen. Chuck Schumer and team would deploy all of them. As of now, they are not. As of now, with no official appointment, they don't have to. McConnell is going to have to deal with the continuing resolution the House just passed to fund government through Dec. 11 early next week, because the deadline is midnight Wednesday.

Republicans are not devoid of ways of trying to keep Democrats from doing this—they can keep putting up things for unanimous consent, like this resolution expressing support for the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, what Democrats could do is use every tactic from Republicans to engage the Republicans in hours of debate on them. That's something they need to be doing anyway: standing on the floor punching holes in Republican arguments and making them answer for their blind loyalty to Trump.

Democrats can start doing these things now to show McConnell their resolve to stand together in making his life hell, dissuading him from trying to push through the nomination before the election. They can use a wide variety of procedural tactics to force Republicans who need to be spending all their time on their reelection at home to stay in Washington, D.C., having to be subject to a call to come to the chamber at any given time. Sowing as much unrest as possible among those Republicans is always helpful.

It's about meeting McConnell's fire with fire; it's about not being steamrolled, and not letting him and Trump further foul the Supreme Court of the United States.

It’s propaganda, not hypocrisy: Republicans use lying as primary governing technique

There is no point in accusing Republican senators of hypocrisy. Absolutely none. Only hours after the death of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans—who had previously gnashed their teeth at the audacity of the suggestion that the nation's first nonwhite president had the constitutional power to make nominations to the court at any point during the final year of his term—began declaring that this time around, obviously that new rule no longer applies. And obviously the president of their own party, impeached and transparently corrupt, must be granted a scrambling court even as voters line up to cast early ballots.

Hypocrisy implies there’s a previous ideology being upset; there wasn't one, and isn't one, and no serious politics-watcher ever thought otherwise. The principle being upheld by Sen. Mitch McConnell and clan then and now was more simple: Retain power using all available tools, and deny the opposition power using all available tools. There is no "ideology" inside the modern conservative movement, either before Trump's arrival or afterwards, that can survive its first brush with expediency. Each argument lasts only as long as the soundbites require and will be replaced with a new one immediately, without hesitation, when required.

Expediency as ideology is not a senate-only device. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practiced it with aplomb, often resulting in lawyers and courts using his past words against him in new cases—a futile gesture. Of his "originalist," "textualist," or "institutionalist" allies, the same approach is used by All Of Them.

It's not hypocrisy if the principle all along was "whatever best increases power." And it is irrelevant if it is.

The relevant part is that it is accomplished by lying. The practitioners claim some bold new notion of how the world should work, and it is an absolute, baldfaced, bullshit-laden public lie. Those who watch McConnell or Sen. Lindsey Graham in their public appearances can easily identify, at this point, the schtick that makes up their entire persona.

They look the American public in the eye, and they simply lie to them.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/quD1K5j9pz

— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020

It was a lie from the moment he uttered it, and there was not a person in the room who didn’t know it from the outset. The movement is devoted to lying as governing principle. It works because there are countless channels through which those lies can be disseminated, and amplified, and praised. It will continue for as long as it works.

Over and over. About everything, all the time. The Moscow Turtle has never cried a sincere tear in his life, but according to him all Democratic actions are Devastation, all Republican actions are Sorrowfully Required Due To Democratic Existence, and the rest is puppet show. Graham is superb at being outraged in showy defense of the outrageous. Sen. Marco Rubio's usual deployed device is to respond to each act of corruption or depravity with a Bible verse, typically as non sequitur, and wiping his hands of the rest of it. Sen. Susan Collins is forever concerned by gross incompetence or criminality within her movement, and remains equally as concerned the next time around, and will make good on that "concern" exactly zero times as she votes to enable each concerning act one-by-one-by-one.

It's not hypocrisy. They're just liars. Conservatism is a movement of fictions, a series of nonsense falsehoods deployed like a squid ejects ink. Nobody asks the squid whether it stands by the cloud ejaculated in the last crisis. It would be pointless. The squid doesn't remember, and can't tell you.

It is not that the nation is run by a movement of "hypocrites." The nation is run by a collection of liars.

Propagandists.

Those who issue false statements and make false claims relentlessly in order to deceive the public, or to stir their base into new heights of feverishness, or—and this is rather more to the point in this particular year—to justify and endorse criminality in service to the movement. Incompetence, if in service to the movement. A quarter million deaths, if in service to the movement.

The lies are consequential. McConnell and his allies lied their way through the impeachment of a president, simply insisting that the evidence was not evidence and the testimony not testimony. The movement has lied its way through a pandemic, turning even the most rote of pandemic safety precautions—masks, even—into conspiracies and partisan litmus tests.

When Michael Caputo and his aides insisted that children were nearly immune to the virus and could not spread it, it was not ideology. It was a lie meant to keep more of the "economy" open even if the more pertinent metric—deaths—was multiplied.

When the movement claims "antifa"—a group that does not actually exist—is behind police reform protests, it is a lie. It is propaganda intended purely to discredit protestors, and better facilitate state and militia violence against them.

When Sen. Ron Johnson pipelines the work of known Russian operatives into his committee to declare that he has discovered very serious doings, doings that suggest his opponents are secretly corrupt in ways no American law enforcement has ever been able to find, he is fully aware of his own actions. He is not stupid.

When Attorney General William Barr releases a document that grossly undermines a report on Russian election interference that benefited his party, and follows up by launching conspiracy after conspiracy all premised on the notion that it is American law enforcement that is corrupt for going after Republican targets, he is lying to the public for the sake of the party.

The movement of Republicanism is propagandistic in nature. Lies are deployed towards political ends. All involved know they are lies. All involved spread the lies willingly. Fox News exists as propaganda factory. Donald Trump exists as propaganda factory. McConnell exists as propaganda factory. The sitting attorney general, the president's odd private lawyer—the only through line is relentless lying to the public about everything, all the time, for power.

There's no textualist in conservatism. Nonsense about precedents and institutions is barely even given lip service. There are no "deficit hawks," or "small government" idealism. None of those things have survived. The only takeaway from White House press briefings is a single, fundamental point: These are today's lies. If you don't like them, there will be others tomorrow.

There is a word for all of this. Declaring that your leaders are allowed to commit crimes while demanding the arrest of enemies on false charges; the rejection of facts and the explicit declaration that the free press is an enemy of the people for presenting information that conflicts with the state's own preferred interpretations; the altering and realtering of supposed norms so that the opposition is, invariably, declared to be out of control in their requests, so out of control that it is now necessary to alter the rules of government to properly constrain them:

It is authoritarianism. The party is a propaganda movement devoted only to self-preservation. There is not a stitch of prior ideological principle that will survive from 2016 to 2020—or from 2018 on a Monday to 2018 on a Tuesday. The rules are whatever they need to be to suppress the movement's perceived enemies. Not merely for a desperately needed Supreme Court seat, but for the now-existential election and all its myriad details.

Pelosi doesn’t rule out new impeachment inquiries to block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi honored the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by aptly describing her as a “brilliant brain” on the Supreme Court, reminded people that it’s absolutely imperative to get out and vote this November, and the ongoing importance of battling the novel coronavirus pandemic. On the subject of the vacant Supreme Court seat, the Democrat from California didn’t rule out launching an impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump (for the second time) or Attorney General Bill Barr, which would delay the Senate’s ability to confirm a Supreme Court nominee of Trump’s, either. 

When host George Stephanopoulos hypothesized a major concern of progressives—that even if former vice president Joe Biden wins the election, Republicans and the White House might try to push through a nominee anyway in a lame-duck session—Pelosi replied: "We have our options.” The speaker continued, “We have arrows in our quiver that I'm not about to discuss right now but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country. This president has threatened to not even accept the results of the election.”

She stressed that the “main goal” is ultimately to “protect the integrity of the election as we protect the people from the coronavirus." The speaker noted that she believed the late Ginsburg would want that same goal. Pelosi also clarified that “None of us has any interest in shutting down the government,” saying it would be too harmful to so many people in the nation.

“When people say, what can I do? You can vote,” the speaker stressed. “You can get out the vote, and you can do so as soon as possible.” She added that the same day we lost Ginsburg, ten states started early voting.

Stephanopoulos circled back to a potential impeachment inquiry and asked if the House would “rule anything out.” Pelosi drove home the basic tenant of public service: responsibility to the people. 

"We have a responsibility,” she stated. “We take an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States." (If only Trump saw it that way.) Pelosi continued: “We have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people. When we weigh the equities of protecting our democracy, requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.”

Here is that clip.

“We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” Speaker Pelosi tells @GStephanopoulos when pressed on what Democrats would do if Pres. Trump and Republicans push a SCOTUS nomination ahead of the Nov. 3 election. https://t.co/JhU93KY3iQ pic.twitter.com/HOmI8AxREN

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) September 20, 2020

Lastly, Stephanopoulos asked about another big topic among progressives: expanding the court. To that, Pelosi said, “Well, let's just win the election,” adding that she hopes the president will “see the light.” The speaker then used her final talking time to home in on the importance of the Affordable Care Act, and how much the average American has at stake in this election cycle. 

Will Republicans stand by their own statements, or join McConnell in the most profound hypocrisy?

Four years ago, Mitch McConnell infamously refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Instead, McConnell twisted a never-employed 1992 comment from Joe Biden into a “rule”: Nominees to the Court should not be considered in the year before an election. There was absolutely no justification, in law or in practice, for this rule, and while Republicans trotted out statement after statement claiming that they were following some sort of “tradition,” the truth was that McConnell invented this faux tradition whole cloth. 

Even before Donald Trump, McConnell recognized the fundamental flaw in the American Constitution—at too many points, it counts on the participants in the process of government to act with a sense of honor and commitment to the nation. The authors of that document assumed that commitment to country, and a fair dose of public pressure, made it unnecessary to cross every “T” on the to-do list. They did not contemplate the kind of men who were perfectly willing to ignore a president’s nominee to the Court, or to dismiss an impeachment without hearing a single witness. They didn’t contemplate the depth of partisanship that would make these cowardly actions something Republicans would celebrate and encourage.

Like Donald Trump and William Barr, Mitch McConnell saw that the rules as written gave him the power to grab hold of the process of democracy and strangle it. But McConnell wasn’t alone in the fantasy he spun in 2016; a long line of Republicans joined him in fabricating claims and statements, and went before the nation under the pretense of a rule that never existed. It’s clear—it’s long been clear—that McConnell is unconcerned about being caught in his lies. He’s a happy hypocrite, unconcerned with either public scorn or the verdict of history. After all, he expects the nation he’s creating through corruption of the judiciary to write that history. The questions now are: Who will join him, and can they be stopped?

As McConnell spun his rule straight from his nethers, Republicans in 2016 did the same thing that Republicans have long demonstrated as their primary attribute: They fell in line. And if falling in line required lying about Senate rules, the Constitution, or history, they were willing to go there, even if the lies were obvious. Mother Jones has compiled a list of Republican senators who, four short years ago, engaged in chest pounding over the wrong, wrong, wrongness of voting on a Supreme Court nominee in an election year. FactCheck.org has also compiled a set of statements made by Republicans in 2016—and after—that definitely need to be on the lips of every reporter, and constituent, who speaks to them from now until January. Finally, Cosmopolitan put together such a list back in February of 2017, for the express purpose of holding Republicans true to their own statements.

Of course every list is headed by McConnell.

Morning Joe put together a montage documenting Mitch McConnell's shameless flip-flop about the appropriateness of filling a SCOTUS seat in a presidential election year pic.twitter.com/Czc6dmPGbS

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 29, 2019

John Cornyn (from his own website): “I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice, and the best way to ensure that happens is to have the Senate consider a nomination made by the next President.”

Ted Cruz:  “It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Marco Rubio: “The Senate is not moving forward on it until after the election. Senator McConnell, the majority leader, has already made that clear. And I agree with that. There’s been precedent established over 80 years that, in the last year, especially in the last 11 months, you do not have a lame-duck president make a lifetime appointment to the highest court on the land.”

Also Marco Rubio: “Number one, I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term—I would say that if it was a Republican president."

Lindsey Graham: “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/quD1K5j9pz

— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020

Cory Gardner: "I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision." (This statement was made in February 2016, 10 months before the upcoming election. Gardner at first said he would consider a nominee for Obama, before McConnell forced Gardner to recant.)

Jim Inhofe: “It makes the current presidential election all that more important as not only are the next four years in play, but an entire generation of Americans will be impacted by the balance of the court and its rulings. I will oppose this nomination as I firmly believe we must let the people decide the Supreme Court's future.”

Chuck Grassley: “Following the death of Justice Scalia, as Americans were beginning to cast their votes for the next President, I said that we’d move forward with the next President’s nomination to the Supreme Court, regardless of who won. The President has made his selection and that’s what we’ll do."

Also Chuck Grassley: “A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice.”

Still more Grassley: Grassley invited Merrick Garland to a breakfast meeting, not to consider him as a candidate, but to ”explain why he will not hold hearings.”

Joni Ernst: “We will see what the people say this fall and our next president, regardless of party, will be making that nomination.” 

Thom Tillis (from his own web site): “The campaign is already under way. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.” 

Ron Johnson: “I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court, by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate.”

In 2016, Susan Collins called for public hearings on Merrick Garland and praised the nominee. This was, of course, pre-falling in line.

Ditto for Lisa Murkowski, who at first supported holding hearings, only to come back and “revoke” her support after a conversation with Grassley. “Senator Murkowski respects the decision of the chair and members of the Judiciary Committee not to hold hearings on the nominee.” 

As a special bonus, here’s Ted Cruz—not just proclaiming that there should be no vote before the election, but warning about how Merrick Garland is exactly the kind of nominee you could expect … from Donald Trump: "Merrick Garland is exactly the type of Supreme Court nominee you get when you make deals in Washington D.C. A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make—someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. We cannot afford to lose the Supreme Court for generations to come by nominating or confirming someone that a dealmaker like Donald Trump would support ... I proudly stand with my Republican colleagues in our shared belief—our advice and consent—that we should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office. The people will decide. I commend Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley for holding the line and ensuring that we the people get to exercise our authority to decide the direction of the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights.”

House Democrats ponder throwing in the towel on Trump oversight, letting voters bail out the nation

House Democrats are not exactly presenting profiles in courage these days, generally putting the impetus for stopping Donald Trump on voters. Well, gang, we're all exhausted. But you can't just count on voters to bail you out. There's real impetus against Trump right now, yes, but motivating people to vote for something is just as important.

It's important because it sets up the momentum for a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration to jump in full throttle in January. It's also important because they're letting Team Trump get away with murder, literally and figuratively. Some investigations into the cozy deals Clown Prince Jared has been making using taxpayers’ dollars to fight the coronavirus would be one place to start. Attorney General William Barr's systematic dismantling of the rule of law is a pretty important one, too. So is enforcing the House's own subpoena power over Trump officials who aren't even legally officials! But House Democrats are projecting an entirely bad attitude.

Daily Beast reporter Sam Brodey says a question posed to Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, about Trump administration efforts to paper over Russian interference in the election lead to a "disbelieving chuckle. Which then morphed into a full-on fake sob, played up for effect." And then this statement: “Impeachment is the tool the Constitution gives us to deal with serious abuse of power in between elections. […] When you're two months from an election […] the American people are going to have their say very, very soon.” So you don't raise holy hell about Russian interference in an election that's very, very soon because that election is so soon? Bullshit, not to put too fine a point on it.

At the suggestion that the House has reached the limits of its oversight powers, Michigan Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee said that “It feels that way sometimes,” then gave this contradictory explanation: “but I obviously think we still have to pursue every avenue, turn over every rock […] I mean, right now, it's pretty much in the hands of the American people.” Which is it? Turning over the rocks and exposing what we all need to see, or handing it over to voters? The House is the only institution we've got right now that can put Trump's malfeasance on display every single day until the election and prove to voters that 1) he's got to go; and 2) we need a Democratic Senate as well as House to tackle the enormous destruction he's wrought.

An unnamed Democratic aide was less careful about expressing the attitude in the caucus. They told The Daily Beast that Democrats are "finally confident" Trump will be voted out, and thus are mostly trying to "avoid Trump shit." Apart from trying to get further COVID-19 relief passed, doing much else is not on their radar, "even among members of the key committees that have led oversight for the past two years. 'The election is a month out. […] Most members are focused on putting their heads down and getting reelected.'"

The exhaustion is certainly understandable, but the certainty that Trump will be voted out is taking a little too much for granted and maybe, just maybe, the Democratic base needs to see Democrats keeping up the fight. For one thing, exposing Trump's corruption and keeping it in the spotlight could act as a deterrent for Trump to fight the election results, one thing that House Democrats are increasingly alarmed about. Maryland's Jamie Raskin is one of them. “In the age of Donald Trump, if we have learned nothing else it is that we must be prepared for the worst,” said Raskin. “We have to just go out and fight. We need to create a landslide election that cannot be stolen, and then we need to counter all of the propaganda and disinformation, and then we need to put all of our best lawyers in a position to block the efforts to obstruct the election.”

Both of those things are necessary. Preparing for that is necessary. Putting all of Trump's wrongdoing out in front of the public before, during, and after Nov. 3 is a key way of doing it. It's also giving a head start on what has to happen next year: prosecutions of Trump officials who have misused public funds and betrayed the public trust.

There's also the part about how the people's branch of government has to become that again, reassert its coequal power, and start fighting an out-of-control executive branch. It failed to do that with the Bush/Cheney regime and look where we ended up. There is going to have to be a reckoning and there's no time like the present to start preparing for it.