As Republicans itch over next possible Supreme Court vacancy, Democrats mull countermeasures

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016, Senate Republicans discovered a heretofore unidentified, now-infamous caveat to President Barack Obama's constitutional powers: Black presidents aren't allowed to fill vacant Supreme Court seats during an election year. The Senate refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, who was put forward by Obama for the role; instead, the seat was simply left vacant for the duration of Obama's term. When Republican Trump was installed as president the next year, the Senate swiftly confirmed his own conservative nominee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fawning Trump golf partner Sen. Lindsey Graham, among others, have not been shy in declaring that the previously made-up rule no longer applies under Trump. On the contrary, they say the Senate would move swiftly to confirm any last-minute nominees if a vacancy were to arise in the last months of Trump's calamitous term. The recent diagnosis of liberal court icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with liver cancer (she is by all accounts being successfully treated) is putting new focus on these Republican court-packing inventions and un-inventions—and is pushing Democratic senators to more seriously consider expanding the court to rebalance it in the face of blatant Republican sabotages.

Whether Democratic senators will have the guts to actually do the thing remains an open question. But Sen. Tim Kaine—not exactly a liberal firebreather—is among those now open to expanding the Supreme Court if McConnell, Graham, and the others are insistent on undoing their own supposed ban on election-year nominees, notes NBC:

"If they show that they're unwilling to respect precedent, rules and history, then they can't feign surprise when others talk about using a statutory option that we have that's fully constitutional in our availability."

Unfortunately, that is phrased as a threat that depends on if Republicans go any further than they already have, rather than an observation about just how far they have already gone. The Democratic National Committee may go farther; they’re planning to make a call for "structural" court reforms part of the party platform.

The current Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy, and for structural rather than ideological reasons. The blocking of an Obama justice under a newly invented partisan rule that was discarded immediately afterwards put Neil Gorsuch on the court illegitimately; the Republican Senate's role in hiding evidence during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings was a near-perfect runup to the fiasco of discarded impeachment charges against Trump, not because anyone was willing to argue that Trump did not do the political extortion he was charged with but because Republican senators declared they simply did not wish to hear any evidence either way. The court is a product of the same Republican corruption that has debased the rest of Washington, and the nation. The party broke it.

“It would be very dangerous for Americans to begin to believe the Supreme Court was not the legitimate arbiter of our nation's laws,” we often hear. True, but that ship has sailed. The Supreme Court is a parody of itself already; you cannot even make good money making bets as to which conservative justices will discard their own precedents and proclamations to bend each new argument towards the preferred "conservative" outcome, because everybody else also knows that the core of conservative justices will make those flips of logic whenever the need arises. Pointing it out is now a consistent feature—and perhaps the most consistent feature—of non-conservative dissents.

It is true that Trump replacing any Supreme Court position in the next few months would quickly blossom into yet another crisis of government as the Senate swiftly erased whatever self-declared impediments were thrown up in the past, the whole of America watched it happen, and a good chunk of America came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court was now simply a structural appendage of the Republican Party. Again, though: ship, sailed. Watching the Kavanaugh nomination and listening to McConnell's unending carousel of new-rules-that-are-not, does anyone think the Supreme Court is not that appendage right now?

Asked whether Trump wants election delayed, will accept foreign help, Trump team refuses to say

It was another typical day on the Sunday shows, the place where America's most powerful people congregate to, for the most part, brazenly lie to us. Today's version came with one thing that the Trump team Very Much wants to talk about—banning social media app TikTok—and several they very much did not.

The two things they didn't want to talk about: Whether Donald Trump has asked his staff about delaying the November elections, and whether Trump's White House and/or campaign will accept foreign "assistance" in defeating former Vice President Joe Biden.

WATCH: Trump adviser Jason Miller is asked three (3) times whether the Trump administration or campaign would accept foreign assistance in this election. Three (3) times, he refuses to say no. pic.twitter.com/Kcgm021pHP

— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) August 2, 2020

That Trump campaign creature and deadbeat dad Jason Miller was so aggressively unwilling to answer straight-up whether the Trump team would be willing to accept foreign election assistance to beat Biden, on Fox News Sunday, is probably not surprising. Miller instead called it a "silly question," which to his credit is true: Trump himself faced impeachment for extorting a foreign government to provide such help, using the tools of his office, so pretending there is some remaining doubt about whether Trump and his team of people who did such a thing would do such a thing is indeed "silly."

This one is on Fox host Chris Wallace. If you book the oozing gastropod Miller on your show, you know what you're going to get: Lying. Gaslighting. Dear Leader-isms a-plenty. And you would still talk to him ... why? The point of bringing on a spokesperson who you can be absolutely sure will lie about anything and everything pertinent is what, exactly?

Newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, plucked from his House seat after a campaign of vigorously defending Trump from both the thing Trump was impeached over and every last thing he wasn't, had his own moment of not-gonna-answer-that when asked on Face the Nation whether Trump, after suggesting in a tweet that the presidential election be delayed, asked "you or anybody else in the administration to look into" delaying it.

Meadows couldn't answer that one. Or rather, wouldn't answer that one, instead swerving to attacks on pandemic vote-by-mail efforts with the usual aplomb of a treasonous dirtbag man with no particular attachment to seeing those elections happen. He can't answer whether Trump administration members were specifically asked, by Trump, if there was a way to delay the elections? Really now?

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't answer John Dickerson's question about "did the president ask you or anybody else in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the election day?" pic.twitter.com/dclXhW8ZcE

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020

If you can't give an emphatic no to that one, we can all read between the lines. All right then, so it's come up.

None of this bodes very well for the elections, of course. Meadows was among the House Republicans most willing to be crooked on Trump's behalf back in Congress; presumed foreign agent Rep. Devin Nunes has been getting anti-Biden packets from pro-Russian Ukrainians while ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo, of the same vintage, uses his State Department perch to distribute anti-Biden materials to House Republicans while hiding it from Democrats.

There's a coordinated Republican strategy to manufacture foreign dirt, using pro-Russian foreign forces, to attack Biden with conspiracy theories in the final months of the election so that the best American pal foreign autocrats ever had can cling to power for another four years. From Pompeo to Barr, from Nunes to Meadows to Giuliani to Miller, they're sifting through disinformation to see what they can plausibly use before the press, the American people, intelligence services and federal investigators catch wind of it.

It'll probably be very stupid things, given what Giuliani has presented so far, but that doesn't mean they won't go all-in on the effort. If Trump and his team cannot be bothered to form even a mediocre plan for combatting the pandemic that has now killed 150,000 Americans and which may kill 250,000 before November—and they clearly can’t—then arguing that whoever Trump’s running against would be even worse is the only remaining play.

Republicans devolve into party of warring vagrants as prospect of electoral doom looms

Republican lawmakers long ago surrendered any hint of principle or ideal in subservience to a single man—a mad man at that—who is now dragging their party toward a frightful fate in November. Flailing and rudderless, they have now turned into a ship of warring vagrants wildly trying to save their own hides in an election that could deliver total wreckage to what's left of their party.

As the coronavirus continues to roil the nation, Republicans have no one who's even capable of stepping into the leadership void left by Trump and his aides. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't even turn up on the Senate floor Thursday morning to deliver a vision for stewarding another relief package through Congress, despite the fact that House Democrats passed their version of the bill over two months ago. As Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted Thursday during a joint press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republicans "dithered" and now congressional lawmakers are "up against a cliff" as expiration of the original relief package looms.

Over in the House, where fringe Republicans have run roughshod over the caucus leadership for a solid decade, Trump's toadies are making war on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking Republican woman on Capitol Hill whom they apparently deem to be a traitor to their cause—Trump. The House Freedom Caucus is calling on Cheney to step down from her leadership post for daring to defend Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's outspoken and highest profile infectious disease expert, against Trump's attacks. 

And on the electoral front, retiring GOP Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts officially backed the opponent of one of Trump's most loyal allies—immigration right winger and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Republican prospects for holding the U.S. Senate have dimmed to the point where many Republicans argue a Kobach primary win could jeopardize the GOP majority in November. Kobach famously lost his 2018 bid to become governor of the state to Democrat Laura Kelly. 

As Republicans factionalize over how to move forward with the next relief package, their closed-door quarreling has gone public. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz captured the spotlight Tuesday during a closed-door caucus session, asking, “What in the hell are we doing?"—a widely reported quote about his misgivings over the ballooning price tag of the legislation. But what's perhaps most stunning is that the counterweight to Cruz's argument is coming from right-wing stalwarts like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who advocated for including slightly more relief for struggling Americans in the bill in the hopes of protecting GOP counterparts facing tough reelection bids. 

Naturally, Trump isn't doing anything to quell the GOP controversies erupting into full view. He's deployed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to look over the shoulder of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is once again taking the lead on negotiating the relief package for the White House. Meanwhile, neither Senate Republicans nor White House negotiators have included a single Democrat in their floundering talks over the legislation. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion package in May as Republicans eye a price tag of closer to $1 trillion—and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of differences that could sink the bill. 

Both Speaker Pelosi and Schumer denounced their exclusion from the GOP talks. "What we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus and to open our schools and to open our economy," Pelosi said their joint press conference.

Schumer added, "Republicans need to pull their head out of the sand, get their act together, sit down with Speaker Pelosi and me, and start negotiating a real package."

Republicans have apparently forgotten that the only way to pass another bill is through bipartisan compromise. But McConnell is such a weak leader that he can't even forge the semblance of some consensus within his own caucus. That’s his job, but McConnell couldn't legislate his way out of a paper bag. The only time McConnell ever manages to keep his caucus in line is when it's in support of his abuse of power. Take, for example, the Senate GOP vote earlier this year to kill the prospect of hearing from any witnesses during the impeachment trial of Trump. Republicans fell in line for that vote at McConnell's strong urging, and now they're all saddled with having acquitted who ultimately botched the pandemic response, stoke racial divisions nationwide, and is now repeatedly siccing unmarked federal troops on peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights.

As for the House squabble, Trump stoked divisions Thursday with a tweet targeting Cheney's criticism of his foreign policy, including his plans to pull troops out of Germany and Afghanistan. “Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars,” he tweeted. “I am also making our so-called allies pay tens of billions of dollars in delinquent military costs. They must, at least, treat us fairly!!!”

Cheney responded Thursday by promising she would "continue to speak out" against Trump policies with which she disagreed.

In any case, don't expect the collective GOP meltdown to end anytime soon unless Trump's polling numbers miraculously rebound. And the only way for that to happen is for Trump to start governing—something he's both constitutionally bound to do and constitutionally incapable of doing

Democrats ask for FBI briefing on foreign disinformation efforts around Sen. Ron Johnson

Monday, top Democratic lawmakers asked FBI director Christopher Wray to provide classified briefings to Congress on an unspecified but "ongoing" "concerted foreign information campaign" targeting Congress with the aim of disrupting the 2020 presidential elections.

Reporters have now been able to get a bit more information on what those lawmakers have been getting at: Both Politico and The New York Times are reporting that the classified addendum to the letter touches on Sen. Ron Johnson's would-be investigation of Hunter Biden, which has been the pipeline through which Trump "personal lawyer" Rudy Giuliani has been funneling known-false information from his network of Ukrainian criminals and disinformation brokers. Specifically, notes the Times, Sen. Ron Johnson has been relying heavily on a Ukrainian figure thought by the FBI to be a "conduit" for Russian disinformation.

None of this information is new. Johnson's eagerness to solicit testimony from ex-Ukrainian official Andrii Telizhenko was the subject of public alarm and a previous intelligence community warning. Johnson has been dismissive of complaints about his reliance on known dodgy sources, though he was pressured into giving up on the idea of taking Telizhenko's testimony directly.

Reading between the lines here, then, at least one part of Democratic lawmakers’ concerns appear to be that Sen. Johnson is using his committee and "Biden" investigations to legitimize foreign disinformation operations targeting Biden in the 2020 election—or, rather, that at least one foreign disinformation campaign is targeting Johnson, using his eagerness to boost Trump's election chances to dispense election disinformation directly from the mouths of Republican senators.

There are a few things to know here. Most importantly, Johnson cannot claim gullibility in stovepiping foreign disinformation here. After a specific intelligence community warning and after mountains of public reports on the sketchiness of Giuliani's Ukrainian associates, many of whom are pro-Russian Ukrainians forced from their positions by the public and new government, and their debunked claims against their enemies. Johnson has continued to "investigate" information that has already been discredited, and it is clearly intended, like "Benghazi," as means of influencing upcoming elections. Ron Johnson knows precisely what he is doing and who he is dealing with.

So the question is not whether Russian and other foreign disinformation campaigns are targeting Johnson, but the extent to which Johnson is co-conspiring with those brokers to craft and release election-bending smears cooperatively. In his defense, Sen. Ron Johnson is widely regarded as one of the dullest senators in the institution, if not the most dull, and so there is the slightest possibility he does not see himself as coordinating with the disinformation campaign—or, more accurately, does not connect the dots as to what that coordination means, when tied to foreign disinformation sources.

Johnson has long been a puzzle, and that is putting it mildly. He was one of a collection of hard-right Republican lawmakers who inexplicably traveled to Moscow for the Fourth of July, in 2018, and who came back claiming that the Russian hacking and disinformation campaigns in the 2016 presidential elections were being blown "way out of proportion."

There's no particular reason to believe Johnson is not stovepiping foreign disinformation willingly. That was the very premise of Rudy Giuliani's "legal" help to Trump's electoral needs. Johnson was also vociferous in defending Trump when Trump extorted the Ukrainian government by withholding military aid until that government agreed to give a public announcement supporting that disinformation, leading to Trump's impeachment.

What Democrats are not publicly saying, but should, is that Johnson is not acting as target of a foreign disinformation effort, but a co-conspirator. He is a full ally of the Trump-Giuliani-Ukraine-Russia disinformation campaign.

It’s not just Trump—voters are abandoning the Republican Party like it’s a sinking ship

Republican Party fortunes have taken a decisive turn for the worse. Gallup released remarkable data Thursday showing a dramatic 13-point shift in party affiliation since the beginning of the year.

In January, the GOP had a two-point edge on Democrats in terms of voters who either identified as Republicans or leaned Republican—47%-45%. Now Democrats and Democratic leaners enjoy an 11-point edge, 50%-39%. Check out the graph below.

What's so stunning is that it's not just Trump shedding support, it's the entire Republican brand. Think about that. Heading into the GOP-led Senate's January impeachment trial, more Americans generally embraced Republicans than Democrats. But after Senate Republicans acquitted Trump in early February in their sham, no-witness trial, party support shifts in favor of Democrats.

By March, as the coronavirus starts grabbing more headlines, Democrats gain a two-point edge. Democrats then nudge up slightly in April.

But around May, Republicans really begin to tank. That plunge comes in the wake of news in late April that the coronavirus death toll surpassed the 58,220 Americans who died in the Vietnam War. In early May, it becomes clear that Trump and the White House have simply surrendered to the virus and pivoted toward reopening state economies without any national testing/tracing plan in place. At that point, Republicans at both the state and federal levels become willing accomplices in Trump's reckless scheme to reopen America before any of the proper tools are in place. 

In addition, George Floyd's brutal death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparks national outrage, and Trump starts implementing an authoritarian crackdown to combat nationwide protests, most of which are peaceful. 

It's during that late May/June timeframe that GOP affiliation plummets five points in a month while Democratic affiliation rises three points. Just wow.

Party affiliation does fluctuate in the Gallup surveys dating back to 1991, but the outfit says "double-digit Democratic advantages have been relatively uncommon." Democrats held a 10-point advantage in January 2019 just after they routed Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

"Four months before Election Day, Democrats appear to be as strong politically now as they were in 2018 when they reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives and gained seven governorships they previously did not hold," Gallup writes.

Congrats, Republicans. Couldn't be happening to a nicer crew of folks. 

Sen. Joni Ernst says 130,000 American deaths show Trump is ‘stepping forward’

Though it is a holiday weekend, the Sunday news shows continued on in mostly the usual fashion. Trump ally Sen. Joni Ernst, one of the corrupt man-child's most ardent defenders as the Republican Senate nullified impeachment charges against Trump without investigation, once had a lot to day about two (2) Americans dying of Ebola under President Barack Obama, saying it showed "failed leadership." CNN host Dana Bash asked Ernst whether 130,000 Americans dying in the (now fully out-of-control) COVID-19 pandemic also is showing "failed leadership."

Sen. Joni Ernst replied with yet another response seemingly hand-tailored to show just how corrupt, incompetent, and buffoonish the Republican Party has become. After a long filibuster resulting in Bash repeating of the question: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward," she clowned.

CNN's Dana Bash: You said in 2014 that Obama showed "failed leadership" with Ebola, when only 2 Americans died. Would you say Trump's showed failed leadership with coronavirus as 130,000 Americans have died? Sen. Joni Ernst: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward" pic.twitter.com/WQqSC82OSt

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 5, 2020

Lord, now that was just pathetic. I’m embarrassed for both of them.

Again, the whole premise of so-called "news" programs is invalidated if political leaders are simply allowed to bullshit their way through each with no repercussions. Bash's question was spot-on, probing whether a sitting senator's supposed outrage at one pandemic would translate to the next. Clearly, it did not.

What, then, should the repercussions be for being so transparently a hack? Should a buzzer sound? Should a duck drop from the ceiling? During the pandemic itself physical solutions are largely out of bounds, as most of the people praising Donald Trump's brilliant handling of a pandemic now expected by the White House to result in at least a quarter million dead are praising him from inside their own homes because it is simply too unsafe to travel to the studios as usual. That means the best solution is, for now, right out; nobody is going to agree to have a pie-throwing machine installed in their den.

Hecklers, then. I'm going to propose the "news" shows liven up their broadcasts with professional hecklers. If any politician says something as egregiously tawdry as Joni Ernst says regularly, ninety seconds of interview time will be given to a team of hecklers to point it out and roast their target into oblivion.

Hey, it's more news than what's currently being broadcast. If the nation's top political reporters are incapable of bringing shame to those that quite transparently deserve it, we need to bring in people with more appropriate skills.

Trump, right-wing evangelicals want the Supreme Court as an election issue, left says ‘bring it’

You might say the Trump campaign and evangelical right are playing right into the progressives’ hands with the new chatter about Trump agitating for a Supreme Court nomination before the election. Trump believes he could shore up the rabid base and get back older voters and (get this) women with a new Supreme Court justice, particularly if he chooses a woman. Because we are ready to have a fight over the Supreme Court, one that would leave a lot of Senate Republicans very bruised.

Trump is raging, apparently, about Chief Justice John Roberts, who helped deliver three big defeats in the past weeks on Dreamers, LGBTQ rights, and abortion. "So far, we’re not doing so well," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network last week. "It says, look, you've had a lot of losses with a court that was supposed to be in our favor." The Supreme Court is supposed to be his, and do his bidding. It's not so much that he cares about all these evangelical issues, but dammit, he's not supposed to be thwarted by his court.

He's also hearing from the right-wingers regularly that he has been wronged. Like from Mike Huckabee, who tweeted that Roberts has "stabbed the American people in the back" and should "Resign Now." American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp says: "If it were up to me, I'd start impeachment proceedings against John G. Roberts Jr. […] If he's not going to be impeached, he ought to resign and run for Congress." Interesting to see the right embrace impeaching judges, huh? There're one or two who might make good candidates for the left. Like Brett Kavanaugh, who lied his way through two different sets of confirmation hearings on his way to the SCOTUS.

Progressive groups are pushing to have the Supreme Court become a key election issue. They’ve created a new nonprofit advocacy project: Supreme Court Voter. It's kicking off with a $2 million digital advertising blitz in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. "We can’t afford any more Brett Kavanaughs, or our court will be his court," one ad says over an image of Trump. "The future of the Supreme Court is on the line." Members from Demand Justice, American Federation of Teachers, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Voto Latino, the National Women’s Law Center, and Justice Democrats comprise the advisory board for the effort, and it's boosted by the participation of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "The Supreme Court Voter project gives us a chance to mobilize progressives, stop Donald Trump's takeover of our courts and create a fairer more equal and just America," she said in a statement for the project’s debut.

Organizers of the project have done polling through Hart Research Associates, finding "overwhelming concern" from progressives and independents about more Trump Supreme Court justices. "The prospect of him being able to put one or two more justices on the Supreme Court is really a powerful image and scenario as a motivator for people to really care about this election,” said Guy Molyneux, senior vice president at Hart. He added that Kavanugh is especially "powerful as a symbol for a liberal audience of what is wrong with the court." Take that, Susan Collins.

Which takes us back to Trump wanting another Supreme Court fight before November, which so far McConnell is welcoming. Should an opening occur (and there're rumors from the right that Justice Samuel Alito is looking at retirement), Trump is going to want to nominate a fire-breathing, evangelical, far-right activist. McConnell says he'll fit that nomination in—in less than three months before the election—after adopting the supposed rule that a Supreme Court nomination couldn't be considered in an election year when Barack Obama was president.

If Trump and McConnell want to have that fight—at the same time Trump is arguing before the Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be overturned! In the middle of a pandemic!—bring it. We'll take that fight.

Senate Republicans worry that Trump’s racism will cost them in November

Donald Trump is tanking in the polls and threatening to take Senate Republicans down with him. That has some Republican senators wishing Trump would tone it down a little with the racism and the ranting. Sure, they’ve enabled him for three and a half years, but now the polls suggest it might have costs for them.

“He's good with the base,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune told CNN. “But all of the people who are going to decide in November are the people in the middle, and I think they want the President at a time like this ... to strike a more empathetic tone.” Trump shouldn’t be less racist because it’s the right thing to do—he should be less racist because he’s alienating voters he (and Senate Republicans) need in November.

To Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, “[i]t looks like something needs to be adjusted” on the Trump campaign. But talking about tactical campaign tweaks with reference to polling is, again, extremely different from condemning racism.

To Sen. Lindsey Graham, “[i]t's been a couple bad weeks, and structurally we got to up our game.”

What does that mean, though? Apparently, “I just think sort of the cultural wars, the Democrats are on the wrong side of that. But at the end of the day, I think a little more message discipline would help.”

What about Trump’s repeated use of the racist term “kung flu” for COVID-19? “Ask the president about that,” said Sen. Thom Tillis. “Every week you all try to get me into a running commentary on the President's comments about a variety of different things. I really don't have anything to add,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

These Republicans have been there for Trump at every turn, giving him their votes on issue after issue and unqualified judge after unqualified judge, and protecting him during the impeachment trial. Now they’re making it clear they don’t really care how racist he is. They just don’t want it to cost them anything.

Help Democrats win the Senate! Can you chip in $3 to the Democratic nominee in each of these critical states?

Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, but everyone is presuming Trump will just be corrupt again

Most Americans last heard of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman when Donald Trump had both him and his uninvolved twin brother forcibly escorted out of the White House in overt retaliation for Vindman's testimony to House impeachment investigators. Vindman spoke of what he personally witnessed in the Trump White House's effort to extort the Ukrainian government into producing "dirt" on Trump's election opponent before releasing congressionally mandated aid for the war-torn country. It was one of Trump's first acts of vengeance against those that testified against him, after being immunized from lawbreaking by the Republican-led Senate.

Now Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, to full colonel, and according to The Washington Post the question hanging over the Pentagon is whether Trump will once again reach down to retaliate against Vindman, turning the usual promotion process into yet another example of the fascist man-child's use of government as a tool to protect and enable his own lawbreaking.

The Post's article is mostly speculative, with senior officials and the Pentagon expressing concern that once the normally noncontroversial list of hundreds of promotions hits the White House and Senate for confirmation, Trump will create new military controversy by making the move. Nobody believes Trump to be above it. Nobody is seriously pretending, at this point, that Trump has not been using his office to personally retaliate against impeachment witnesses, whistleblowers, investigators, and anyone else who he believes has improperly challenged his absolute authority to do crimes.

Everybody knows Trump is a sack of crap. Everybody knows he has no impulse control to call on, even if it would be in his interest to not do the overly corrupt thing. It's a given. The question, then, is whether his staff can perhaps jingle some keys or whatnot for long enough for the promotion process to go by as it normally does, unimpeded. Perhaps show him a new “antifa" mug, get him riled about that. Perhaps tell him that a fictitious world leader from a fictitious country called him a “poopyhead,” something sure to set him off for two weeks and render him unable to function as anything but short-thumbed tweet machine.

But this seems unlikely, and the subtext of the Post's speculation and sources is that all involved are so dreading having this battle that the promotion roster itself miiiight have been delayed while everyone involved steeled themselves for it, or might have only been delayed for the more prosaic reason of, you know, Trump so f--king up the response to a worldwide pandemic that even the United States military is unable to perform its usual functions at full capacity, while a "senior defense official" tells the Post that actually there was no delay at all, which doesn't seem like the kind of assertion you'd normally insist on being anonymous to pipe up with.

So we'll see. Will Trump take the opportunity to avoid even one new clusterf--k, even as the military reels from what was very close to a direct order to attack American citizens in Washington, D.C. streets? The odds say ... no.

Senate Republicans refuse to even look at Trump’s tweet smearing 75-year-old attacked by police

This morning Donald Trump smeared a 75-year-old American citizen attacked by police in one of the impeached president’s most delusional tweets yet, and that is saying something. "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?" tweeted the conspiracy-promoting crackpot who has barricaded himself in the White House. (A phone. The man was holding what is known in common circles as a "phone.")

For three years, Senate Republicans have evaded questions about Trump's most grotesque behaviors by insisting that they, America's most powerful lawmakers, have not seen them. It is such a tired game that reporters like Politico's Burgess Everett and Andrew Desiderio are printing out Trump's statements to show them to shut-in senators. The result? Senate Republicans refusing to even look at the paper as they flee.

Multiple reporters pressed Republican senators for their thoughts on Trump now peddling insane conspiracy theories about an American citizen who has been hospitalized after being assaulted by Buffalo police force.

Sen. Marco Rubio: "I didn't see it, you're telling me about it, I don't read Twitter, I only write on it." (Rubio "liked" another of Trump's tweets only four days ago, one of at least 1,663 tweets known to have been read by Sen. Insert Bible Verse.)

Sen. Dan Sullivan: “I don’t want to comment right now. I’m on my way to a meeting. I’ll see it when I see it.”

Sen. John Cornyn going for the cornpone I-am-an-idiot routine: "You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head."

Sen. Kelly Loeffler: Fled to an elevator.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Didn't "want" to look at it. Fled.

Sen. Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” (Sen. Cruz does, however, comment on other presidential tweets.)

Sen. Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the president’s tweets.”

Sen. Susan Fret-Level Collins: “I think it would best if the president did not comment on issues that are before the courts.”

Breaking Republican ranks with unusual admissions that they do at least know how to read:

Sen. John Thune: “Most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise that is something you all have to cover.” But: “It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I haven't seen any yet.”

Sen. Mitt Romney: “It was a shocking thing to say. And I won’t dignify it with any further comments.”

With the exception of Romney, each of these Republican senators, and all the others, voted to dismiss impeachment charges brought against Donald Trump with similar defenses. They claimed they had not seen the evidence of Trump's actions, and that they were simply too busy to bother reading it when presented. It is based on cowardice, for the most part, but also on a more transactional calculation: So long as they support Trump, no matter what radicalism, authoritarian proclamations, promotion of violence, or crimes he may commit, the party can continue recrafting America into something more pleasing to their own racist eyes.

There has been no bottom, even after an attack on an American church so that Trump could commandeer it out from under clergy for his own purposes. There will not be one any time soon. They have betrayed their country countless times now; there is no going back.

�In case you didn�t see the tweet...� pic.twitter.com/eoYHYW02dz

— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) June 9, 2020