Biden wins on Ukraine as House GOP faces big decision about its future

President Joe Biden and Democrats won big in the House Saturday, when it voted resoundingly in support of Ukraine aid. This could mark a turning point for Republicans, leaving them with a choice: to admit defeat and start governing, or to keep fighting with each other.

For months, both former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and current Speaker Mike Johnson have catered to Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the House GOP on Ukraine aid, insisting that it could not pass without a harsh immigration and border security bill. Once they got that, they turned it down at Trump’s request. Now there’s Ukraine aid and no border deal—a big loss for far-right Republicans and Trump.

This could signal that the fever has finally broken among the governing bloc of the GOP … or not. What it has done is unleash a torrent of anger against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and the extremist Freedom Caucus by some non-MAGA members.

Before the vote, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas slammed his colleagues, saying, “I guess their reasoning is they want Russia to win so badly that they want to oust the speaker over it, I mean that’s a strange position to take … I think they want to be in the minority too, I think that’s an obvious reality.”

Even Biden impeachment zealot Rep. James Comer denounced Greene’s efforts to oust Johnson in an interview on Fox News.

“Now Mike Johnson walked into a bad situation,” Comer said. “It’s gotten a lot worse since he’s been here. But changing speakers is not the right business model.”

Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas completely unleashed his anger toward his MAGA colleagues on Sunday, calling them “scumbags” who “used to walk around in white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime,” during an interview on CNN.

But Greene and her accomplices are showing no signs of backing down.

“There is more support,” for her efforts, Greene said Monday. “It's growing. I've said from the beginning, I'm going to be responsible with this ... I do not support Mike Johnson. He's already a lame duck. If we have the vote today in our conference he would not be speaker today.”

Greene’s cosponsor Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said Friday, "We want Mike Johnson to resign. We don't want to go speaker-less. So the goal is to show him, through co-sponsorship, how much support he's lost and hopefully he'll get the message and give us a notice so that we have time ... to replace him.”

That’s a tacit acknowledgement that they’d lose on the House floor if they tried to force Johnson out, since enough Democrats would vote to keep him now that he’s finally done the right thing. So it’s really up to the rest of the Republicans to decide. Will they squash Greene and her team once and for all? Will they accept that anything they accomplish in the remainder of this election year will have to involve Democrats and finally stop with the ridiculous messaging nonsense? (Fat chance.)

Meanwhile, most of Biden’s major priorities have been successful, including the securing of a debt limit deal with McCarthy. Despite the maniacs’ best effort, the government did not shut down and was funded at adequate levels. Now Ukraine will finally get the critical aid it needs to stave off Russia once the Senate passes the bill on Tuesday. 

On top of all that, the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas collapsed, and the Biden impeachment is dead in the water.

House Democrats hold Johnson’s fate in their hands, and everyone knows it—including the majority of Republicans. Has the fever broken in the GOP? Not as long as Trump is alive and kicking, though his political days might be numbered.

There are likely still big fights to come over next year’s budget, and it’s going to be up to the House GOP to figure out how to salvage something out of its tiny majority before the election.

Donate now to take the House back from Republicans! Chipping in $3 apiece to help flip these 16 vulnerable Republican seats scan help take back the House in 2024!


House passes aid for Ukraine and Israel after months of struggle

Republicans get Ukraine demands met, so of course they change their minds

Mike Johnson owes everything to Democrats, and it could cost him his gavel

Watch yet another House GOP hearing go totally off the rails

A House Oversight Committee hearing into China’s “political warfare” against the United States went off the rails Wednesday when Republican Rep. James Comer interrupted Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin to push attacks on President Joe Biden and his family.

Raskin was using his allotted time to point out that the “smoking gun” whistleblower who Comer and Rep. Jim Jordan were hanging their entire impeachment case on was in fact a Russian mole.  

“That's just simply not true,” Comer interrupted. “But go ahead.”

It is true and the two did go ahead, in an argument that escalated and went on for more than five minutes. 

Of course, Raskin had the benefit of facts and reality on his side. When Comer, who chairs the Oversight Committee, tried to repeat a thoroughly discredited claim that Biden received money from Chinese interests, Raskin reminded him that it was then-President Donald Trump who actually received millions of dollars from China.

Raskin then called Comer’s bluff and asked him to put up or shut up on impeaching Biden, something fellow Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz has previously attempted. That led to this exchange:

Raskin: Where is your impeachment investigation? If Joe Biden took a $9 million bribe from China, why aren't you impeaching him for that?

Comer: Well, who says we're not?

Raskin: I can invite Mr. Moskowitz to come back in. Do you want to move for impeachment today? Because I thought that that was your main agenda item. You said it was the paramount priority of the committee?

Comer: No, this is a hearing on China. And you all have an obsession with Russia and Trump. It's disturbing.

Raskin: We can talk about China and Trump, or Russia and Trump --

Comer: --You need therapy, Mr. Raskin.

Raskin: No, no, you need therapy. You're the one who's involved with the deranged politician, not me. Okay? I've divorced myself from Donald Trump a long time ago. You're the one who needs to disentangle from that situation. 

And I will tell you this: If you believe that it would have been illegal for Joe Biden to take $5 million from Ukraine, it certainly would have been. What do you think about Donald Trump taking more than $5 million from the Chinese government while he was president?

At one point, when Comer claimed that the ongoing GOP investigations into the Biden family didn’t cost many millions of taxpayer dollars, Raskin snarked, "Oh, it's been for free? Okay. All right. Well, you know what, then? We get what we paid for it because you got nothing. You got nothing on Joe Biden."

When Comer tried to continue on with a new speaker and dismiss “Mr. Raskins,” Raskin vociferously demanded his time back—but not before putting Comer’s disrespect on notice:

Let me start with this. My last name is Raskin. Okay? We've sat next to each other for more than a year. You don't have to add the S. Number two, I would like my time restored. Number three, you have not identified a single crime. What is the crime that you want to impeach Joe Biden for and keep this nonsense going? Why? Well, what is the crime? Tell America right now.

You can watch the full exchange in the video below.

Zachary Mueller is the senior research director for America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund. He brings his expertise on immigration politics to talk about how much money the GOP is using to promote its racist immigration campaigns.

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The House GOP can’t even go on vacation without fighting

It wasn’t pretty—particularly on the House side—but Congress got the government funded, but the bruising battle to do that doesn’t end beleaguered House Speaker Mike Johnson’s headaches. In fact, it could put him in an even tougher position with his fractious caucus when they return from their two-week recess, on April 9. Hanging over him are his party’s very slim majority and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to oust him if he brings a Ukraine aid bill to the floor for a vote.

Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck is gone as of Friday, and happy as a clam to be out of it. "No rearview mirror," Buck said in his exit interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "Happy to move on." He added that leadership has “serious problems with setting priorities,” including the ongoing ridiculous impeachment efforts of President Joe Biden and a bunch of cabinet secretaries. “We have a very tragic circumstance in Ukraine. We have spiraling debt, all kinds of out-of-control problems, and we focus on messaging bills that get us nowhere,” he said.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, is hot on Buck’s heels. His surprise announcement Friday that he’s starting his retirement from Congress early, on April 19, will leave Johnson with only one vote to spare—and looking over his shoulder if he puts a Ukraine aid bill on the floor.

Greene has said such a bill would be her trigger to activate her motion to vacate the chair, which would force a vote on removing Johnson from the speakership. A few other Republicans, including Freedom Caucus Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, are playing coy. Just to rub Johnson’s nose in it a little more, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie taunted Johnson with this X (formerly Twitter) poll:

Do you approve of the job Mike Johnson is doing as Speaker of the House?

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 23, 2024

More than ever, Johnson is going to need Democratic votes to hang onto the speaker’s gavel and get anything accomplished. That basically puts Democrats in control of the Ukraine debate. It also puts Johnson in even more of a bind. Having to rely on Democrats for protection and to pass critical bills will create only more turmoil for him with his Republican detractors.

On top of all that, there are vacancies in top seats on committees. In another surprise announcement on Friday, Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger of Texas stepped down. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, currently the chair of the powerful Rules Committee, immediately announced he wanted the Appropriations job, and he’ll likely get it. 

Cole, an ally of the current leadership, could do both jobs but that would probably serve to further enrage the Freedom Caucus and their allies. Reps. Roy, Norman, and Massie are all on the Rules Committee—the deciding voting bloc that has proven to be a massive headache for Johnson already. They could raise hell and demand that another one of their own get the chairman’s seat, another brewing flashpoint for Johnson.

All this while Johnson has to worry about Buck’s parting shot. He warned in an interview with Axios, on March 12, “I think it's the next three people that leave that they're going to be worried about.” One of them—Gallagher—is on his way out, and all the turmoil ahead makes Buck’s prediction even more likely.


Another resignation means the House GOP's margin for error will shrink even faster

Marjorie Taylor Greene threatens to oust new House speaker for ... reasons

With vacations on the line, House finally manages to fund the government

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Ex-FBI source accused of lying about Bidens and having Russian contacts arrested again

A former FBI informant accused of lying about multimillion-dollar bribery allegations against President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and purportedly having links to Russian intelligence was again taken into custody Thursday, two days after a judge said he could be freed ahead of trial, his attorneys said in court documents.

The arrest during a meeting Thursday morning with his lawyers comes after prosecutors appealed a ruling allowing 43-year-old Alexander Smirnov, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, to be released with a GPS monitor ahead of trial on charges alleging he lied to the FBI.

He was taken into custody on a warrant for the same charges issued in California, where the case was originally filed, his lawyers said. Several sealed entries were listed in the court docket, but no additional details about his return to custody were immediately available.

A spokesman for Justice Department special counsel David Weiss confirmed Smirnov had been arrested again.

Smirnov is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.

According to attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, Smirnov was arrested Thursday morning at their law offices in downtown Las Vegas on the same charges. The lawyers did not immediately respond to phone and text message requests for further comment.

Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told his handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid President Biden and Hunter Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

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15 times Ted Cruz shamelessly pushed GOP’s false allegations about Biden

We know Texas Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t unintelligent. Nor does he lack sophistication. After all, the guy graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. So he obviously knows the difference between clear proof of corruption and a sketchy accusation unsupported by the evidence—just as he knows the difference between an authentic Cancun marg and a bottle of premixed Chi Chi’s margarita drink he picks up at Citgo on his way home from the airport.

But being a Republican these days means pretending to be ignorant of basic realities, like whether a guy who campaigns as a dictator will govern as a dictator, or whether unsupported and unconfirmed accusations of bribery are real or simply part of a psyop conducted by a hostile foreign power that’s already attacked our elections twice.

Well, guess what? The obvious conclusion that even people who went to Cornell or Trump University could have arrived at on their own is, in fact, the correct one. The big Biden bribery allegation that congressional Republicans have been flogging for the better part of a year—and which was based on an unverified FBI form from 2020 that even the Trump administration declined to act on—was invented by a comrade with clear ties to Russian intelligence.

Weird, huh?

PBS Newshour:

A former FBI informant charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company had contacts with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence, prosecutors said in a court paper Tuesday.

Prosecutors revealed the alleged contact as they urged a judge to keep Alexander Smirnov behind bars while he awaits trial. He’s charged with falsely reporting to the FBI in June 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016. The claim has been central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.


Prosecutors said that during an interview before his arrest last week, Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov’s contacts with Russian officials were recent and extensive, and said Smirnov had planned to meet with one official during an upcoming overseas trip.

But wait! Ted was so sure these allegations were real, he repeated them ad nauseam. And yet they’re not remotely true. What is true is that Donald Trump—the guy who implied Ted’s wife was heinous—has thousands of financial conflicts of interest that make him, prima facie, unfit to serve as president. These have been sitting out in the open this whole time, and yet Ted seemed more interested in a single, completely made up allegation about the guy who didn’t go out of his way to humiliate Ted and his family.

Weird how the world works sometimes, huh?

Unfortunately for Ted, we’ve collected some receipts, and they make the plucky Harvard Law School grad look pretty dopey. 

Here’s a chronological rundown of some of Ted’s most shameless Biden hits from the past year:


The facts are simple—an informant told the FBI they had evidence that Joe Biden was involved in a $5 million bribery scheme involving a foreign country. Today, top House Oversight leaders will see the documents. More on the latest episode of #Verdict!

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 5, 2023

Well, the facts weren’t that simple after all—though Ted knew his voters were, so that’s why this tweet happened.


As you can see, June 2023 was a big month for bullshit, as Ted just kept piling on:

We have learned of credible evidence that Joe Biden received a $5 million bribe from Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company. Now we’re told there is evidence of that on audio tapes. These are allegations of serious misconduct.

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 13, 2023

There are tapes! That no one has heard or can find! And no one claims anyone is being peed on in any of them—so they must be real! What more could you possibly need?! Impeach!


But wait! Ted’s interrogation of Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate was a CRUZ MISSILE! YouTube confirms it.

This clip is really rich—especially in retrospect. His fake anger no doubt sent a fake tingle down Lindsey Graham’s fake spine.

Yes, why won’t the FBI talk about totally unsupported, unvetted “intelligence” about Joe Biden that the Trump administration decided not to follow up on during Trump’s pitched 2020 election battle with the former vice president? And why aren’t people lining up at FBI offices to make unsupported allegations that Ted is The Zodiac Killer? Because apparently that would be more than enough to convince Republicans to call a hearing.


Now, in case you didn’t notice from that first tweet above, Ted basically launched an entire true crime podcast about the GOP’s false bribe allegation. It’s as if all 10 episodes of “Making a Murderer” had been based on something a Russian money launderer thought he’d overheard at a Green Bay Applebee’s.

So here’s a bit of Ted’s podcast: He brings up the already debunked accusation that Biden pushed to remove Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to help the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had connections to Biden’s son Hunter. In reality, Biden pushed to remove Shokin—as part of a unified U.S. government response—because he wasn’t investigating corruption. 


If Joe Biden took official action that benefited Burisma after depositing $5 million, Joe Biden should be charged & prosecuted for bribery. That is the most grave allegation against a president that we've seen in our lifetimes. #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 14, 2023


And here’s Ted demanding that Joe Biden release the bullshit evidence that would make him look corrupt to people who have no clue—i.e., any and all Trump supporters—because that’s just good government.

Democrats don't want a hearing on the allegations against Joe Biden. If the allegations are false, you know who could disprove them? Joe Biden. He could call for evidence to be released publicly, but the FBI is stonewalling instead. #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023


And here he is plugging that same bullshit podcast episode the very next day. This time he demanded that the fake whistleblower give his fake testimony so the American people could decide for themselves what’s real and what isn’t. The same American people who made the inventor of spray-on hair fabulously wealthy. 

What should come next with the allegations against Joe Biden? This alleged whistleblower should testify in front of Congress on national television so the American people can hear his allegations & assess if he's telling the truth. #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023


And—ugh—another tweet with more unsupported innuendo. And another plug for that same podcast episode. Ted must have been super proud of this one.

Why the hell is the FBI hiding the possible existence of evidence that Joe Biden accepted a bribe? Why did they redact the allegation that there may be 17 tape recordings? #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023


And yet another plug for the podcast. But wait! This one’s for a different episode. Though the bullshit smells the same.

Don't forget to catch the latest episode of #Verdict, where we follow the money & examine what every prosecutor, reporter, or anyone interested in the truth should be asking—did Joe Biden take a bribe? Tune in wherever you get your podcasts!

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 17, 2023


Of course, Ted was dead certain that a former vice president and household name couldn’t have possibly made millions from book deals and speaking gigs. After all, only Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney can demand such gaudy fees.

The Daily Mail:

'You're looking at a tax return that has $10 million in cash that came from a mystery source,' Cruz said on Friday during his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz.

Biden's two S corporations, CelticCapri Corp and GiaCoppa Corp, reported income of $9,490,857 and $557,882 respectively in 2017, Biden's first year as a private citizen after decades in federal elected office as a senator and the vice president.

That money, which Biden says is from book deals and speeches, was then remitted to Biden and his wife primarily as 'distributions' rather than salary, according to CNBC.


And here’s Ted plugging his nonsense podcast again, pointing out that there’s something fishy about the relative of a high-ranking government official making $5 million at a law firm and not, say, $2 billion from a bloodthirsty Saudi murderer, as God and the Founding Fathers intended. 

Nobody would pay Hunter Biden to represent them in a lawsuit. Nobody would pay him for legal work. If he can make $5 million at a law firm in America, it is purely because he's selling access to the “Big Guy.” #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 3, 2023


And here’s the bullshit FD-1023 form itself! READ this! It’s an allegation! For realz! Why didn’t the Trump DOJ follow up on this when it first came to their attention? We may not know for another several months, when this whole thing blows up in Ted’s beard. 

READ this. This is serious, credible evidence that Joe & Hunter Biden solicited & received a $10m bribe from a foreign national. (1) why didn’t FBI fully investigate? (2) why is corporate media ignoring?

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 21, 2023


Explain yourselves, FBI! Why aren’t you publicizing incendiary claims of corruption with no basis in fact? Well, what if we told you they’re based on dubious sources and support a wild, already debunked theory that plays into the hands of an enemy authoritarian regime? Would that change your mind?

With the grave allegations that Joe Biden took a bribe from a foreign national for official favors, the FBI owes the American people complete candor. If they found these allegations to be false, they need to come forward and explain. #Verdict

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 24, 2023


Yeah, well, it’s not true, so ...

If it is true that the oligarch who owned Burisma paid Hunter & Joe Biden $10 million for an official act, then both are guilty of bribery. On the latest episode of #Verdict, we break down all the explosive allegations in the FBI’s form FD-1023. Tune in!

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 25, 2023


Meanwhile, based on this now-debunked claim, Ted thought President Biden should be forced to share a prison cell with his son—which would be particularly cruel, as Hunter prefers to make toilet gin and Joe would naturally insist on making toilet mint chocolate chip ice cream.


Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said President Joe Biden should "share a cell" with his son Hunter Biden as more findings are released by the House.

Speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Cruz said the "evidence is growing and growing" that Hunter Biden sold "official favors from his father Joe Biden."


"Bribery is paying someone something of value in exchange for an official favor. Joe Biden has confessed to it in a video interview," Cruz said after Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley released an FD-1023 document containing a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that the Biden family made a Ukrainian oligarch pay them $10 million. Newsweek has been unable to verify that any such video exists.

In other news, Newsweek has been unable to verify that every pumpkin pie Ted Cruz has served since Thanksgiving 1989 was made from the earwax of his murder victims. 


Aaaannnddd … more innuendo ...

What could Hunter Biden possibly do to earn $5 million from a Chinese company? He had no skills, & no one pays a crackhead $5 million for his talent. The only thing he could have sold was favors from his father. We discuss this corruption on Verdict.

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 3, 2023

I wouldn’t pay Hunter Biden to sit on a board, but I might pay to watch him fight Ted Cruz in Vegas. Or someone would, anyway. Probably not a Putin-connected Russian national, though. Ted’s far too useful to Russia to come to that sort of end.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link

GOP continues bogus ‘investigation’ after star witness turns out to be Russian mole

On Wednesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives impeachment inquiry will question James Biden behind closed doors on the very critical matter of how he repaid a loan to his brother. Banking records have already revealed that there is absolutely nothing to find in this investigation. Joe Biden loaned his brother James $200,000. Two months later, James paid him back. Neither did one thing wrong.

This hearing is a perfect example of why everyone called before this inquiry should demand to testify publicly. Not only has House Oversight Committee Rep. James Comer accused both the president and Democrats in Congress of lying about the loan, even though Comer already had all the evidence in hand to show everything was accurate and above board, but Democrats are being denied their rightful opportunity to rub Republican noses in the ugly collapse of every piece of “evidence” behind this so-called investigation.

In the last few days, the FBI form that Republicans demanded to see, then released themselves after threatening to hold the FBI director in contempt, turns out to be the product of a Russian mole who was fed false information by Russian agents. Meanwhile, a picture of “cocaine” that was included in a court filing in charges against Hunter Biden turns out to be an image of sawdust. 

The only real questions that remain in this investigation are: How much did James Comer, Jim Jordan, and Chuck Grassley know, and when did they know it?

As Spiderman might say, let’s do this one last time

In 2019, Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine on orders from Donald Trump and came back with a story. That story was so ludicrous that everyone passed on it, including Fox News. But there was one place where Giuliani could still get this mess published: The New York Times

According to that story, Joe Biden went to Ukraine and demanded the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because Shokin was investigating Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. Biden allegedly threatened to withhold U.S. aid from Ukraine until Shokin was canned so Hunter could continue to collect his paycheck, and this oh-so-good prosecutor was unjustly fired.

The Times ran the story verbatim, without seeming to do anything like check Giuliani’s sources or look at public records. However, within a few days, Bloomberg dispatched a reporter to Ukraine to check on what Giuliani was selling, and sure enough, it was all bullshit.

Not only had Shokin not been investigating Burisma, he was so notoriously corrupt that officials in both the U.S. and the U.K. called for his removal for years. Biden didn’t start the push to remove Shokin, and he didn’t act alone. Everything that happened in Ukraine was very public, and European officials celebrated when Shokin was finally sacked. 

There was no story. There never had been a story. But that didn’t stop Republicans from continuing to repeat Giuliani’s fairytale.

Then a miracle happened. Republicans learned that the FBI had been given a tip about this subject, one that resulted in an FD-1023 form that seemed to back up everything Giuliani had said in 2019. Over objections from the FBI, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Jim Jordan demanded the form. Then Grassley and Comer released the form to the public, and it became the beating heart of the Republican “impeachment investigation.”

And the form was perfect. Referring to Joe Biden as the “big guy” was in there. A claim that Hunter Biden was hired to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems” was right on the front page. The “17 recordings” of phone calls that supposedly included Joe Biden getting directly involved with his son’s business came from this form. Best of all, it included the claim that a Burisma executive complained about how "it cost 5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden.” 

The form was everything. The absolute proof that Republicans wanted.

Except, of course, everything in it completely contradicted years of public records and statements from those involved. Republicans didn’t let that bother them. Comer defended this form repeatedly, calling Democrats who challenged its contents liars. Grassley declared the importance of those recordings mentioned in the form, even while admitting they might not exist. Jim Jordan practically quoted the form in his questioning of Devon Archer, and then lied about Archer’s testimony when it failed to match up.

Then last Thursday, Alexander Smirnov, the man behind that FD-1023, was charged with lying to the FBI and creating false records. According to CNN, Smirnov has informed investigators that he has “‘extensive and extremely recent’ contacts” with Russian spies. And in an interview after his arrest, Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Businessperson 1.”

“Businessperson 1” is Hunter Biden.

So, Republicans have not only spent the last year pressing an investigation of the president’s son largely instigated by a document that turns out to have been tailor-made for them by Russian intelligence, they opened an impeachment inquiry with a Russian agent as the “heart” of their investigation

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) on the indictment of ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov for lying about the Biden family: “It doesn’t change the fundamental facts.” Reporter: “Doesn’t change the facts? It does change the facts, because they’re no longer facts.”

— The Recount (@therecount) February 21, 2024

The answer to why the FBI was so reluctant to release the document is simple: They don’t release unfounded accusations (unless they come from James Comey or Robert Hur, of course). And that ongoing investigation that had Republicans so excited was the investigation of Smirnov, not Hunter Biden. 

All of this was a lie, and Republicans knew it. Just ask one of the men who toured Giuliani around Ukraine in the first place. 

The FBI had my communications with the CEO of Burisma since my arrest in 2019. The GOP received my communications with the CEO of Burisma during the first Trump impeachment in 2020. They all knew that the 1023 from Alexander Smirnov was a lie. Why did they continue this farce…

— Lev Parnas (@levparnas) February 21, 2024

Republicans are plowing on, keeping up the pretense that this source they made such a big deal about for so long was just “ancillary” to their investigation into what they love to call “the Biden crime family.” They have other evidence, dammit. Like how Joe Biden once loaned his son some money for a truck

But in the last day, another part of the investigation into Hunter Biden has crumbled into dust. As in sawdust. 

Federal prosecutors mistakenly claimed in a court filing that a photo of sawdust they found while searching Hunter Biden's electronics was cocaine, attorneys for the president's son said Tuesday.

How anyone could have ever thought that this material, which was tan in color and sitting on a table saw, was anything other than sawdust is astounding. But a picture of any kind of dust seemed to be convincing to Sean Hannity, so Fox News audiences aren’t likely to be threatened by the truth. (This also raises questions about just what Hannity has been putting up his nose.)

A Russian agent. A fake document. A pile of sawdust. That’s what Republicans have to show for their big investigation.

It would be really great to hear what’s happening behind those closed doors today. Democrats should be having fun.

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Speaker Mike Johnson finds time for impeachment stunt, but not to help Ukraine

House Speaker Mike Johnson has plenty of excuses for not taking up the Ukraine aid package the Senate passed early this week, saying that he’s just got too many serious issues on his plate to help in the fight for democracy against Russian totalitarianism. He told reporters Wednesday morning that “we have to address this seriously, to actually solve the problems and not just take political posturing as has happened in some of these other corners.”

Reporter: You yourself were part of killing the senate compromise bill. You say there need to be solutions, what are house Republicans doing to get to a solution on the border and on Ukraine? Or are you going to actually do nothing?

— Acyn (@Acyn) February 14, 2024

Yes, he seriously accused Ukraine aid proponents of “political posturing” just hours after he led House Republicans in their second—barely successful—sham impeachment vote of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. By the way, that reporter’s question was spot on. Johnson effectively killed the original Senate bill that included a border security package by saying it would be dead on arrival in the House. Now he complains that the aid bill “has not one word about the border.”

Johnson also insists that he’s too busy figuring out how to avoid a government shutdown on March 1 and that it will take time for his team to “process” the Senate’s package. Guess what’s not on the House schedule this week? That’s right: Any appropriations bills to fund the government ahead of the looming deadline. Again, he was able to carve out more time to impeach Mayorkas and to force the Senate to deal with that just days before the government funding deadline.

The Senate is out until Feb. 26 and is going to have to deal with the Mayorkas impeachment as soon as they return. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined the process in a statement, indicating that the House impeachment managers will “present the articles of impeachment to the Senate” as soon as they’re back in, and “[s]enators will be sworn in as jurors in the trial the next day.”

Which means two days of valuable Senate time will be wasted on this because the Senate will never vote to convict Mayorkas, but they have to deal with it anyway. They’ll dispense with it as quickly as the Senate can do anything, but they need every hour for the long process of passing the bills to keep the government from shutting down.

That process between the House and Senate is going nowhere fast because of all the poison-pill riders about abortion, contraception, and trans issues the House Republicans crammed into their spending bills.

On top of all that, Johnson—who just spent an embarrassing week and a half of floor time impeaching one of Biden’s cabinet members—is now demanding that Biden take him seriously and have a face-to-face meeting with him on the Ukraine bill. A White House spokesperson told NBC that Johnson “needed to wrap the negotiations he has having with himself and stop delaying national security needs in the name of politics.” Biden is not included to help Johnson out of this one.

“That body language says: ‘I know I’m in a tough spot. Please bail me out,’” one Democrat involved with the supplemental aid package told NBC.


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Speaker Mike Johnson is getting squeezed from all sides on Ukraine aid

The Senate voted to move forward on the $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in the first-ever Super Bowl Sunday session. The vote was 67-27, meaning that it will easily pass in the Senate when they finally get to it. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been up to his usual obstructing tricks, refusing to agree to shortening the debate time on the bill. That means it will likely not pass until Wednesday, when all the pressure will be on House Speaker Mike Johnson to either get this bill done or prove his MAGA mettle and block it.

There’s a threat looming over Johnson from Georgia’s contribution to the dumbing-down of the nation, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has said she will bring a motion to oust him as speaker if he puts Ukraine aid on the floor. In aid of Greene’s MAGA cause, GOP Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio is circulating a conspiracy theory that the bill contains a setup to impeach Donald Trump again if he is reelected in November. The theory goes that because the bill extends aid into 2025, Trump would either be forced to honor it or face another impeachment if he cancels it.

That’s an implicit warning to House Republicans—and Johnson—to stay on Trump’s good side and block the aid. But Johnson is getting plenty of pressure from the pro-Ukraine side, including from a powerful Republican.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, recently led a delegation of members to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to assure him that he had allies among Republicans in Congress and that U.S. aid would continue. He returned with an urgent message for Johnson and Congress. The situation is so bad, he told Politico, that Ukrainian troops “are already rationing munitions” and “are unable to fully defend themselves on the battlefield.”

“We have to get this done,” he continued. “This is no longer an issue of, ‘When do we support Ukraine?’ If we do not move, this will be abandoning Ukraine.” He predicts that there will be  “overwhelming support” for the bill in the House, adding, “The speaker will need to bring it to the floor.”

It isn’t an empty threat, because Democrats have the tool to go over Johnson's head to put the bill on the floor with a discharge petition, and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries is ready to use it. “House Democrats are prepared to use every available legislative tool to make sure we get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line,” Jeffries said during the annual House Democrats’ strategy retreat last week. He called on Johnson to “move to consider parallel national security legislation immediately.”

The discharge petition needs 218 signatures to be put on the floor. That means as of now, they need six Republicans to join them. That math could change a little depending on the result of tomorrow’s special election in New York to replace expelled Republican George Santos. If Democrat Tom Suozzi wins, Democrats will need just five Republicans, and it sounds like Turner might be willing to be one of them. 

So might Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon. "I know we need to get aid to Israel quickly, and it’s in our national security interests to keep Ukraine independent and help Ukrainians defeat Russia’s barbaric invasion by sending them military weapons,” he told Politico last week. “I’ll work with the likeminded folks and the Speaker to determine what is best way to move forward.”

There is strong support for Ukraine even among House Republicans—101 of them voted for it as recently as September. If this new package makes it to the floor, it will surely pass. Which means the stunningly incompetent Johnson has a tough decision to make: stand with Ukraine or stand with Trump?


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For Republicans, it’s now ‘Trump First, Putin Second, America Third’

From a domestic perspective, the Republican Party’s embarrassing failure to follow through on its Fox News-goaded attempt to impeach Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas proved to be a blessing. It was wholly performative theater, without any legitimacy. The party’s abrupt, equally embarrassing turnabout on immigration—an issue that Republicans had planned on wielding against Democrats going into 2024—was just more evidence of the GOP’s terminal dysfunction. 

As schadenfreude-y as it may have been for Democrats to watch as the Republicans immolated themselves on the altar of immigration, the rest of the world was far more concerned about how the U.S. would follow through on its prior strategic commitments to Ukraine and Israel. By Wednesday morning, aid packages to both nations were hopelessly consigned to the quicksand of GOP intransigence and finger-pointing. Since aid to those countries was tied—at Republicans’ insistence—to border legislation, the Republicans’ pathetic submission of their much-vaunted immigration concerns to Donald Trump’s electoral whims may have doomed the prospects of further aid to Ukraine and Israel for the remainder of the fiscal year.

(Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is now crafting separate packages, without immigration reform included, but their likelihood of success appears murky.) 

From the perspective of our allies, however, what occurred this week is seen less as habitual Republican dysfunction and more as the total abandonment of American resolve. In a week’s time, we have proved ourselves, as Anne Applebaum presciently warned last month in The Atlantic, worse than an unreliable ally: We’ve become “a silly ally”—one that can no longer be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

Applebaum isn’t alone in that assessment. Tom Friedman’s Tuesday opinion piece in The New York Times, acidly titled “The G.O.P. Bumper Sticker: Trump First. Putin Second. America Third,” explains just how damaging and consequential the Republicans’ actions this week have been to the nation.

As Friedman wrote, even before the immigration and foreign aid bill collapsed under the weight of Republican cowardice:

There are hinges in history, and this is one of them. What Washington does — or does not do — this year to support its allies and secure our border will say so much about our approach to security and stability in this new post-post-Cold War era. Will America carry the red, white and blue flag into the future or just a white flag? Given the pessimistic talk coming out of the Capitol, it is looking more and more like the white flag, autographed by Donald Trump.

There is no serious doubt that House Republicans rejected the Senate’s painstakingly crafted immigration legislation, which satisfied nearly all prior GOP demands for border enforcement, at the behest of Donald Trump. Trump prefers to do nothing, effectively maintaining the status quo at the border for another full year so he can use it as a campaign talking point, assuming he's still eligible to hold public office

Fearing Trump's wrath, House Republicans swiftly pronounced the immigration and foreign aid package "dead on arrival" before most had even read it. Meanwhile, Republican senators began to quaver at the prospect of being primaried by Trump-chosen challengers for the audacity of trying to actually pass meaningful legislation. Faced with Trump’s continued vise-like grip on their party, upper chamber Republicans opted to jettison the legislation altogether. 

But, as Friedman observes, there’s another key player in the mix: Vladimir Putin. Putin is well-aware that Trump will abandon Ukraine—and likely NATO—the instant he returns to power. Friedman recognizes that Trump’s interests—and thus the interests of a supine Republican Party intent on enabling Trump’s dictatorial ambitions—now necessarily dovetail with Putin’s.

After Ukraine inflicted a terrible defeat on the Russian Army — thanks to U.S. and NATO funding and weapons — without costing a single American soldier’s life, Putin now has to be licking his chops at the thought that we will walk away from Ukraine, leaving him surely counting the days until Kyiv’s missile stocks run out and he will own the skies. Then it’s bombs away.

This week, one of Putin’s primary assets, the propagandist and “useful idiot” Tucker Carlson, is purportedly being wined and dined in Moscow so he can provide cover for Republicans to gut Ukrainian aid. Carlson’s paywalled, one-on-one interview with Putin, and how it might enable the murderous dictator’s “outreach” to Republicans, is already the talk of Russian state television.

As reported Wednesday by The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova:

State television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, one of the Kremlin’s anti-Western attack dogs, seemed to suggest that Carlson’s interview would torpedo any last hope for approval of new American military aid for Ukraine.

Solovyov said Carlson’s visit came “at the worst possible time for the West,” and he begged Carlson to join the Russian Union of Journalists, which Solovyov heads.

As Friedman points out, this eagerness of Republicans to betray American strategic interests in order to satisfy both Trump and Putin transforms America’s credibility with our allies into a mere afterthought.

If this is the future and our friends from Europe to the Middle East to Asia sense that we are going into hibernation, they will all start to cut deals — European allies with Putin, Arab allies with Iran, Asian allies with China. We won’t feel the change overnight, but, unless we pass this bill or something close to it, we will feel it over time.

America’s ability to assemble alliances against the probes of Russia, China and Iran will gradually be diminished. Our ability to sustain sanctions on pariah nations like North Korea will erode. The rules governing trade, banking and the sanctity of borders being violated by force — rules that America set, enforced and benefited from since World War II — will increasingly be set by others and by their interests.

The saddest fact is that no one should really be surprised by Republicans’ behavior. For a substantial segment of their caucus, their order of loyalty really is “Trump first, Putin second, America third.” Evidently they feel that the risk of betraying their own constituents on the immigration issue is well worth the effort and impact, if it means pleasing their two masters. And if they have so small a regard for their own constituents, there’s little doubt they feel even less toward the American republic writ large.

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Senate inches closer to border deal. Will House GOP and Trump kill it?

Senate negotiators made some progress in talks over the holiday break on a potential border and immigration deal, which was the Senate Republicans’ requirement for agreeing to a vote on President Joe Biden’s Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan supplemental funding package. Over the weekend, the lead Republican in the talks, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, said text could be released soon. The fate of that agreement, however, lies in the hands of his fellow Republicans and their fealty to their de facto leader, Donald Trump.

“Text hopefully this week, to be able to get that out,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “This agreement has to work. Everyone’s counting on this actually working.” Senate leaders were cautiously positive on Monday. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor statement that “it’s been a very promising few days. We have made more progress in the past couple of days on the border than we have in the past few weeks.”

“I was encouraged to see that Senator Lankford and our Democratic colleagues made progress toward an agreement to put meaningful border security policy at the heart of this supplemental,” said Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “Russia is openly mocking the fickleness of Western support for Ukraine,” he intoned with a shocking lack of irony, since it’s entirely congressional Republicans’ fault that U.S. support to Ukraine is endangered. "The Senate cannot afford to get this wrong," McConnell declared.

As Monday wore on, Lankford tempered his optimism and his revised deadline for delivering text to next week, with a Republican conference on the negotiations hastily scheduled for Wednesday to brief skeptical conservatives, showing the cracks that could make Senate Republicans get this very wrong.

Ukraine aid needs at least 10 Republican senators to support it, and they are skeptical at best right now, both on Ukraine and on the immigration deal Lankford is trying to secure. Last month, Republican senators voted unanimously to keep Ukraine aid from moving to a floor vote over the border issue, and now there is a contingent of Republicans who seem intent on torpedoing Lankford’s efforts.

One of them is McConnell’s previous number two, Sen. John Cornyn, who is taking a hard line in the talks on the president’s authority to provide immigration parole to people who have financial sponsors coming from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. These immigrants are not crossing at the southern border; they fly into the country. Cornyn and others want to severely restrict, if not end, Biden’s humanitarian parole authority. “We can’t fix asylum and then just have them release people on parole,” Cornyn told The Washington Post. “That would be a disaster politically, and otherwise.”

Other Republican senators like MAGA star J.D. Vance of Ohio are egging the House extremists on in their threats to shut the government down over immigration. “I think that we have a real fiscal crisis in our country, but I think the most significant crisis we have is what is going on at the southern border,” Vance told the Post. “And I encourage my Republican friends in the House to use all the negotiating leverage they can to solve this problem politically.” Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas will reportedly try to force a “no confidence” vote on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in support of the House’s impeachment effort, which won’t advance in the Democratic Senate.

It seems like the most fervent Republican backer of Ukraine, McConnell, is following rather than leading his fellow Republicans at this point, going along with the demands from his hardliners on immigration. That’s a problem for the future of Ukraine, particularly with House Speaker Mike Johnson taking hard line on talks, insisting that the extreme House immigration bill passed last year is a “necessary ingredient” for the deal. He also moved forward with Mayorkas’ impeachment, despite the lack of cause.

When it comes to immigration, Johnson is catering to the Freedom Caucus. That group hasn’t backed off last week’s government shutdown threats over immigration, and are now even more adamant after Johnson’s agreement for a government funding deal with Schumer.

Hanging over all of this is Trump: Republican lawmakers’ fealty to him; his increasingly bombastic, Hitleresque immigration rhetoric; and his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He would likely end all support to Ukraine and hand the country over to Russia if he got back into office.

The specter of Trump hangs over Congress and over Ukraine. There need to be enough Republicans willing to buck Trump for the bleak outlook for Ukraine aid—and thus Ukraine’s future—to improve.


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