Florida man revels in vexing his GOP colleagues. His name isn’t Donald Trump

Leadership abhors a vacuum and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is Exhibit A. First, McConnell had the chance to finish off Donald Trump’s political future during his second impeachment but failed to seal the deal.

Next, McConnell had a chance to give Americans a Republican vision they could vote for in November, but he demurred—choosing instead to offer nothing for which Republicans could be held to account as a cynical campaign strategy.

Now, McConnell’s getting burned on both fronts—by Scott and Trump alike. Trump is getting his jollies by carpet bombing the 2022 landscape with endorsements at will. At the same time, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's running the Senate GOP's bid to retake the upper chamber, has pounced on McConnell's unsteady grip on the caucus.

After Scott dropped his disastrous 11-point plan to "Rescue America" last month on "an unsuspecting party,” he relished the upheaval he created, according to a delightful Washington Post account.

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Scott used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to malign his critics as "careerists in Washington" and jeered, "Bring it on." He also restructured the National Republican Senatorial Committee's fundraising efforts to line his own campaign coffers and then punched back at his detractors.

“We don’t spend much time worrying about criticisms from anonymous Republican consultants who lost the Senate last cycle and who have gotten rich off maintaining the status quo,” Chris Hartline, NRSC communications director and Scott campaign spokesperson, told the Post.

But the pugnacity of Scott and his allies doesn't reverse the fact that he's adding significant deadweight to GOP efforts in November.

For one, he sucking up a lot of money for himself. Donors at some of his events (including in Florida) have been asked to divide their first $10,800 between Scott's campaign account and his own leadership PAC before gifting more to the NRSC account.

The Senate GOP committee is pretty flush at $33 million—$13 million more than at the same point in 2020 and more than twice as much in 2018.

But Scott isn't up for reelection and, as one GOP strategist noted, “He is doing it in a state where there is an incumbent senator who is in-cycle." That would be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

But that's just one example plaguing what colleagues joke has become the "National Rick Scott Committee." Another change includes Scott whittling down the cut for candidates who let the NRSC fundraise off their images in digital ads. Candidates used to split the haul 50-50 with the committee along with getting donors' names but, under Scott, they get just 10% of donations plus donor names.

Overall, the takeaway among many of the colleagues Scott is supposed to be helping is that "Rick Scott seems to care a lot more about his political future than the Senate incumbents he is supposed to be working for,” according to one anonymous source.

But one group that is extremely pleased with Scott's efforts is Senate Democrats.

“We’ve got three words for him: Keep it up,” said David Bergstein, the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been readily highlighting Scott's plan to raise taxes on more than 100 million American households as well as sunset Medicare and Social Security.

"No NRSC chair has done more for Senate Democrats than Rick Scott,” Bergstein added.

Someone else who applauds Scott's self-serving actions is a fellow Florida man who loves anyone and anything that becomes a thorn in McConnell's side.

“I don’t agree with everything in the plan, but Rick is a good man,” Donald Trump said.

Trump’s statement, however, surely says more about his hatred for McConnell than it does Scott's stewardship of the NRSC.

“I’d take Romney over McConnell,” Trump recently said of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who became the lone GOP senator to vote in favor of Trump's first impeachment. “I think he’d do a better job, and I think Romney is a lowlife.”

For his part, McConnell would be in a much better position to put Scott's GOP agenda to rest if he would bother to pound out a plan of his own. But the fact is, Scott dared to tell Americans what Republicans stand for and McConnell hasn't. And there's really no telling who will be running the Senate GOP caucus if Trump runs again in 2024 and wins.

McConnell can thank himself for that too.

I’m Just Going To Say This: Trump’s Endorsement Of Dr. Oz Is The Wrong Move

Former President Trump has issued a full-throated endorsement of Mehmet Oz – better known as Dr. Oz – in the Pennsylvania GOP primary for the U.S. Senate.

Trump issued a statement late last week which uncharacteristically did not simply contain the usual soundbites we’ve become accustomed to in his endorsements.

Rather, it’s a long-winded effort, seemingly designed to convince GOP voters of why they should support Oz even if he isn’t the perfect candidate.

“This is all about winning elections in order to stop the Radical Left maniacs from destroying our country,” Trump said.

“The Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a tremendous opportunity to Save America by electing the brilliant and well-known Dr. Mehmet Oz for the United States Senate.”

RELATED: Candidate Trump Endorsed To Replace Liz Cheney Called Him ‘Racist And Xenophobic’

Trump Endorsement of Oz is a Bad Move

But this isn’t just about winning elections. It’s about winning elections with candidates that aren’t useless RINOs like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and are, in fact, conservative, America-first politicians.

Here are just a few of Oz’s views that should have made Trump skeptical enough to never endorse the good doctor.

Oz’s comments on abortion alone are alarming. In a 2008 interview with the National Review of Medicine, Oz actually argued that his politics would be similar to that of Oprah Winfrey in many aspects.

“I’m not socially conservative,” he added. “I don’t believe that we should be intruding into the private lives of homosexuals and we should not be creating obstacles during the difficult time that women have when trying to terminate a pregnancy.”

In a 2019 interview on the Breakfast Club radio show, he noted that he dislikes abortion on a “personal level” but suggested he would not want to “interfere with everyone else’s stuff” because “it’s hard enough to get into life as it is.”

Dr. Oz On Abortion

Trump’s endorsement states that Oz is “pro-life,” something the Daily Beast claims is a “shameless flip-flop.”

“Not only was Oz supportive of abortion rights, he seemed puzzled that people would spend time fighting abortion rights—going so far as to say that, as a physician, he was ‘really worried’ about the anti-abortion movement and that eliminating Roe would have negative effects on women’s health,” they wrote.

RELATED: Report: Biden’s Brother James, Son Hunter Received 150+ ‘Concerning’ Payments

Dr. Oz On Guns

Trump, aside from lauding Dr. Oz for being pro-life, also claims the Pennsylvania Republican “will always fight for and support our under-siege Second Amendment.”

But will he?

Oz’s campaign site seems to confirm: “He opposes anti-gun measures like red flag laws and liberal gun grabs. Dr. Oz knows we cannot compromise our ability to protect ourselves.”

Interesting thing, those red flag laws. Here he is in a 2019 interview stating such laws “help protect you and your family” and have been shown to prevent mass shootings.

Go ahead and look at that clip again. In the same segment, Dr. Oz goes on to suggest he’d like to see an anonymous call-in system for people to report concerns over others’ social media posts.

“Part of the hope I gather is that we’ll make a system so that I can call in and say there’s evidence besides my testimony that this person is dangerous,” he states. “Look at their Facebook feed or social media postings or comments they’ve made to other co-workers.”

Government surveillance and infringing on God-given rights based on social media posts doesn’t seem like a warrior for conservatism.

Dr. Oz On Obamacare

Oz was a strong advocate during the Obama years of health insurance mandates and even bragged that he helped get Obamacare passed by serving on President Obama’s council.

CNN reports that while he doesn’t fully support Obamacare, “Many of Oz’s statements on health care align with some of the key tenets of the Affordable Care Act.”

Dr. Oz On Fracking

Oz, who is running in a state where fracking is of tantamount importance, often raised concerns about the practice in the past.

In multiple columns Oz co-authored with Dr. Mike Roizen, former chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, the two raised concerns about health risks involved in the practice.

Inside Climate News writes that “the two physicians cited the environmental and health risks associated with fracking on several occasions and, in one column, warned expecting mothers who live near natural gas wells against drinking the water and counseled them to keep three kilometers away from fracking fields.”

Now, he’s fracking’s number one fan.

We live in a time where too many Republicans try selling their conservative wares just to get elected only to start functioning like barely-disguised left-of-center RINOs once they get into office.

Trump should know better.

Trump Endorsements All Over Map

Trump has also thrown his support in Wyoming to Harriet Hageman, the attorney running against Liz Cheney in an upcoming primary.

Hageman vociferously supported Cheney during her 2016 congressional campaign, and strongly opposed President Trump at the time.

In fact, she tried to stop Trump from getting the Republican nomination in 2016, and called him “racist and xenophobic.”

The GOP Needs True Conservatives

Mr. Trump, to quote comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, “What are you doing?”

There’s little doubt one of the greatest failures of the Trump presidency was his inability to clear out the deep state riffraff within his own administration.

Too many faux conservatives kneecapped his presidency and continue to destroy his legacy to this day. Winning elections isn’t everything. Winning them with actual conservatives is. And the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

If Trump wins in 2024, what exactly will change if he continues to hire and support people that actively want to destroy him and conservative values along the way?

It’ll be the same stalled agenda. The same impeachment proceedings. The same effort to destroy America just so Democrats can get power back in 2028.

The post I’m Just Going To Say This: Trump’s Endorsement Of Dr. Oz Is The Wrong Move appeared first on The Political Insider.

Hawley injects QAnon conspiracy theory into Jackson SCOTUS nomination. Democrats should shut it down

Noted insurrectionist and treason-curious Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has decided to bring some QAnon seasoning to the disgustingly and blatantly racist appeals for opposition to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackon’s Supreme Court nomination. In a long and slimy Twitter screed that does not merit linking to, Hawley suggests that Jackson isn’t just “soft on crime”—the dog whistle Republican narrative—but has coddled sex offenders and in particular pedophiles.

Hawley went so far as to say that “her record endangers children,” a charge that has probably already been picked up on by the worst of the worst QAnon conspiracy theorists who feed the right-wing media. Expect it to show up on Fox News any minute now.

That makes Sen. Dick Durbin’s attitude a little too dismissive. The Judiciary Committee chair told Politico: “I don’t believe in it being taken seriously … I’m troubled by it because it’s so outrageous. It really tests the committee as to whether we’re going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee.”

Yes, yes it does. Particularly when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—after that screed from Hawley was posted—lied through his teeth, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that “I think Judge Jackson will be treated respectfully. I think the questions will be appropriate.” No. The questions will not be appropriate. Hawley just proved that, and McConnell needs to be pressured into holding him to account for that.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates responded appropriately. “This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny.” The full statement:

Judge Jackson’s is a proud mother of two whose nomination has been endorsed by leading law enforcement organizations, conservative judges, and survivors of crime. This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny. It’s based on a report unanimously agreed to by all of the Republicans on the US Sentencing Commission, on selectively presenting a short transcript excerpt in which Judge Jackson was quoting a witness’s testimony back to them to ask a question, and on omitting that her rulings are in line with sentencing practices across the entire federal judiciary regarding these crimes. In the overwhelming majority of her cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. Probation recommended.

There is the problem that when you are explaining, you are losing. But what Bates says is all true, and it’s what Democrats need to bring to next week’s hearing for Jackson: the facts. But they have to bring those facts with anger and fire and ferocity. They have to be prepared to humiliate the worm Hawley (and Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, and Marsha Blackburn—the very worst of the Republicans are on this committee) to the utmost.

That means some discipline and some coordination among Democrats, which is far too often missing in these hearings. They’re generally too enamored with the sound of their own voices and the rare opportunity to carry on in front of national television cameras to actually be effective.

They can take some inspiration from Twitter. For example, using this:

Clarence Thomas wanted to strike down a law allowing federal courts to order civil commitment for sex offenders. I look forward to Hawley's forthcoming articles of impeachment against this soft-on-crime, child predator-coddling justice. https://t.co/yV8QB1lYUQ https://t.co/aW7ZOB9yqE

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) March 17, 2022

This shit has to be called out for what it is. Forget the “comity” of the Senate hearing room. Forget the pomp and circumstance of the hearing room. When the likes of Hawley tries to advance this kind of malevolent bile, Democrats need to be united in attacking back and exposing it.

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Trump Ally Sean Reyes Is Preparing To Primary Mitt Romney For Utah Senate Seat

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, an ally of former President Donald Trump, is reportedly planning to primary Mitt Romney for his Utah Senate seat in 2024.

Politico revealed that Reyes is discussing a potential run with political players in state politics and supporters and allies associated with Trump.

A source for the outlet who is close to Reyes said he is “very seriously considering running” regardless of what Romney decides to do in 2024.

“He’s confident that regardless of what Senator Romney wants to do, he’s going to pursue this,” they told Politico.

RELATED: Tulsi Gabbard Demands Mitt Romney Resign After He Accuses Her Of ‘Treason’

Sean Reyes May Challenge Mitt Romney in 2024

Romney has a couple of options in the 2024 election cycle.

A national poll last month shows that Senator Romney runs even with fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz at 4% of those voters making a choice for the Republican presidential primary.

That number ranks well below the 53% Trump received in the same poll, but would land him some votes.

Another poll one month earlier shows 64% of Republicans in Utah disapprove of Romney’s job performance, including half who strongly disapprove.

Last spring, the Senator had boos and catcalls cascaded down upon him from well over 2,000 Republican delegates at the Utah Republican State Convention.

The Republican Party in Weber County, Utah, issued a formal censure of Romney for his multiple votes to convict Trump during his impeachment trials.

Trump issued a statement around that time calling the Utah senator “a stone-cold loser!”

RELATED: Mitt Romney Blames ‘America First,’ Jabs Trump, Obama In Statement On Russia Invasion Of Ukraine

Romney’s Odd Behavior

Politico describes Sean Reyes as “a Trump loyalist” and reports that he’s met with the former President on two occasions “and each time Trump encouraged him to run against Romney.”

“When he meets with Trump, the only thing that comes up is ‘Will you run against Romney? I need you to run against Romney. Get that guy out,’” their source is quoted as saying.

Reyes backed Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.

Asked about the prospect of running against Reyes, a confident Romney welcomed the challenge.

“Were I to decide to run again, the best news I could get would be that Sean Reyes was my opponent,” he said laughing and walking away.

Romney, often touted as center-right, moderate, or simply the voice of reason in the Republican Party, has been engaged in some extreme commentary and behavior of late.

He blamed the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Trump-touted concept of ‘America First.’

“Putin’s impunity predictably follows our tepid response to his previous horrors in Georgia and Crimea, our naive efforts at a one-sided ‘reset,’ and the shortsightedness of ‘America First,’” said Romney.

This week, Romney joined Democrats as the only Republican to vote against repealing the transportation mask mandate.

Even eight Democrats had more courage than Romney and voted to end the yearlong mask charade.

He also engaged in truly extreme rhetoric, the likes of which you’d expect to hear “The View” or CNN, rather than a supposedly level-headed member of Congress, when he accused decorated Iraq War veteran and former Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian asset and spreading “treasonous lies.”

And, lest we forget, Senator Romney took part in a Black Lives Matter march to the White House in 2020.

Romney was filmed marching with protesters while explaining that he was walking “to make sure that people understand that Black Lives Matter.”

“We need a voice against racism … we need many voices against racism and against brutality,” he said. “And we need to stand up and say black lives matter.”

The post Trump Ally Sean Reyes Is Preparing To Primary Mitt Romney For Utah Senate Seat appeared first on The Political Insider.

As GOP blames Biden for Russia-Ukraine, remember these words: ‘I would like you to do us a favor’

There are 46 Republicans in the Senate today who in 2020 voted against convicting Donald Trump for withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to get President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up or manufacture dirt against a political opponent Trump feared. (Fifty-two Republican senators voted to acquit Trump, but six are no longer in the Senate.) The specifics here are important as we consider how those Republicans are responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine—and how they are characterizing President Joe Biden’s response.

During a 2019 phone call, Zelenskyy said, “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” Javelins are an anti-tank weapon and have been essential in Ukraine’s defense against Russia. All you really need to know about Trump’s response is that it began, “I would like you to do us a favor though ...”

Trump froze $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as he made his extortion attempt, only unfreezing the aid months later after a whistleblower complaint about it. That frozen aid, coupled with his “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” as a direct response to Zelenskyy’s ask for more Javelins were at the center of Trump’s first impeachment, on which Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote guilty.

Romney voted guilty, and Sens. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were not in the Senate at the time. Every other Republican in the Senate—along with all 195 Republicans who voted in the House—voted against holding Trump responsible. (And Hagerty, Lummis, Marshall, and Tuberville absolutely would have voted not guilty given the chance.)

Trump has praised Vladimir Putin as Russia invaded Ukraine, and insisted that the invasion would not have happened if he had been in office. Trump is now claiming credit for NATO’s strength (after he threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO) and for U.S. military aid to Ukraine, all part of his campaign to insist that this would not be happening if he were in the White House. In reality, what Putin would or wouldn’t be doing if Trump was in the White House is a mystery, but what we absolutely know is that if Putin invaded Ukraine, a Trump-led United States would not be taking a leading role in a major international diplomatic response.

Republicans, meanwhile, have largely either dodged answering whether they’re with him on his view of Putin or have tacitly supported Trump’s stance.

The Republican talking points are much more focused on blaming Biden than on blaming Putin. “Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a renewed invasion of Ukraine is reprehensible,” House Republican leaders said in a group statement last week, before moving directly to their real interest. “Sadly, President Biden consistently chose appeasement and his tough talk on Russia was never followed by strong action.” These are people who literally voted against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid to try to create a scandal that would harm Biden’s chances in 2020. Many House Republicans followed their leaders in blaming Biden more than they blamed Putin, and the same is true in the Senate.

And no wonder. Once Trump got Republicans to back him in attempting to extort elections help from Ukraine, where wouldn’t they go with him?

Sarah Palin For Senate? She Says ‘If God Wants Me To’ She’ll Challenge Murkowski For Alaska Senate Seat

One-time Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin told a conservative Christian group that she’d consider running for a Senate seat in Alaska “if God wants me to.”

Palin, the former Governor of Alaska, made the comments in an appearance at the Leading with Conviction Conference in Pasadena, California, last month.

The conservative politician expressed interest in taking on Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who voted to convict former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial.

“If God wants me to do it I will,” Palin said after New Apostolic Reformation leader Ché Ahn asked her if she was planning on running for the Senate seat.

RELATED: Sheila Jackson Lee Becomes Third Democrat Arrested By Capitol Police After ‘Voting Rights’ Protest

Sarah Palin For Senate?

Sarah Palin warned the audience that conservatives and Republicans would need to have her back if she ran for Murkowski’s Senate seat.

“What I would do if I were to announce is say you know what, you guys better be there for me this time because a lot of people weren’t there for me last time and that’s why characterization-wise, I got clobbered,” she continued.

Palin went on to accuse former President Barack Obama and his administration of sending in “flying monkeys” to destroy her career.

The former governor said she was inundated with ethics probes, FOIA requests, and media criticism that she simply couldn’t continue battling while effectively running the state.

“The Obama administration sent their flying monkeys,” she claimed, suggesting “it stalled our administration.”

The harassment, she suggested, ultimately led her to resign. Still, she refused to concede that she had quit.

“Every e-mail, every conversation was scrutinized,” said Palin. “So, there’s a difference between quitting and saying enough is enough.”

RELATED: Sarah Palin Calls McCain Out For Lying About Choosing Her As Vice President in 2008

Murkowski Already Facing Primary Opponent

Sarah Palin isn’t the only conservative who would replace Murkowski.

Kelly Tshibaka released an ad a little over a month ago portraying herself as an outsider looking to upset the establishment. The ad featured some very Trump-like themes.

“I’m a conservative, pro-life, pro-second amendment,” she states. “And America first, always.”

Tshibaka, as Alaska’s News Source reports, is “closely aligned politically with former President Donald Trump.”

She has also reportedly hired several advisers with ties to the former President to help her campaign to defeat Murkowski.

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Palin spoke of Tshibaka and had some reservations about the name recognition factor when it comes to defeating the incumbent.

“Kind of the scary thing about it is I’ve been in politics seems like all my life in Alaska and I never heard of her so that kind of made me hesitant,” Palin worried.

The former running mate of John McCain, for better or worse, certainly has the name recognition to generate interest in a Senate campaign.

Trump and Palin have shared conservative values but also a shared disdain for both Murkowski and the late Senator McCain.

Trump has already endorsed Tshibaka, though it has more to do with Murkowski’s failure to advance the Republican agenda and do what is right for Alaska than anything else.

“Lisa Murkowski is bad for Alaska,” he said in a statement. “Murkowski has got to go!”

Would he possibly shift his endorsement should Palin jump into the race?

Murkoski famously joined McCain and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in abandoning their party and helping to keep the Affordable Care Act alive.

She more recently had a role in voting to confirm appointees for President Biden who have aided the revocation of ANWR drilling permits, a potentially devastating move for Alaska’s economy.

 

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Senate Democrats say FBI ignored tips in Brett Kavanaugh investigation

Here at Daily Kos, we all suffered through Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, recalling his indignant behavior while questioned, especially as juxtaposed with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s grace and clarity. We, too, likely recall that Donald Trump was relentless in pushing Kavanaugh's confirmation through. Recently, as Daily Kos covered, Michael Wolff revealed a conversation he supposedly had with Trump in his new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, in which Trump took credit for essentially “saving” Kavanaugh's life and expressed feeling disappointed in him in the end, saying he hasn’t had the “courage” to be a great justice.

This background lends an interesting light to a new report from The New York Times, in which fresh details on the FBI’s inquiry into Kavanaugh are causing serious—and legitimate—upset among some Senate Democrats. As covered by the Times, Jill Tyson, an assistant director at the FBI, wrote a letter to Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons explaining that the most “relevant” of more than 4,000 tips the agency received while investigating Kavanaugh were actually passed on to White House lawyers in the Trump administration. It’s unclear how those tips were handled, and Senate Democrats want answers.

For background, the letter from Tyson was actually written in response to a letter sent by Whitehouse and Coons back in 2019, in which they wanted more clarity on how the supplemental background check into Kavanaugh actually went down. Tyson’s letter stressed that the agency did not conduct a criminal investigation, only a background check. To Democrats, the agency failed in its duty to fully investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct—from Ford as well as subsequent allegations from two women who accused him of sexual misconduct—during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. Kavanaugh has denied all allegations.

On Wednesday, seven Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee replied to the letter asking for more information about how Trump’s White House handled the investigation and those thousand of tips. Democrats who signed on to the letter included Sens. Cory Booker, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Mazie Hirono, and, of course, Whitehouse and Coons. 

Whitehouse spoke to the Times in an interview about the letter. Whitehouse told the Times Tyson’s response suggested the agency ran a “fake tip line” with responses never being “properly reviewed,” adding he assumed it was not even done in “good faith.” 

In a letter the Democratic lawmakers sent on Wednesday, and which was released to the public on Thursday, they argued: “If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all.”

As we know, neither Ford nor Kavanaugh were interviewed as part of the investigation. According to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the FBI ultimately interviewed just 10 people before closing its investigation. Democrats have long suggested the investigation into Kavanaugh was incomplete and politically contained. 

Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans sink to new, amoral lows this week on everything that matters

Let's check in on this week in congressional Republicans, just a kind of check up to see how that revered institution of Joe Manchin's is doing vis-a-vis the GOP.

On Tuesday, the House passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, intended to address the rise of hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander people during the pandemic. It directs the Department of Justice to facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes and reports of hate crimes and work with state, local, and tribal law enforcement to establish reporting and data collection procedures on hate crimes. There were 62 Republican "no" votes on that bill. Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, said he voted against it because he didn't think it would work. "We can't legislate away hate," Roy said. Maybe that's why he's pro-hate of LGBTQ people.

In a related measure, 180 House Republicans refused to join Democrats in "Condemning the horrific shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, 2021, and reaffirming the House of Representative’s commitment to combating hate, bigotry, and violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community." That was on Wednesday. "Some Republicans took issue with the resolution's mention of the coronavirus nicknames, and GOP leaders urged members to oppose it, according to a GOP source," reports Forbes. "Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) said in a floor speech she had 'hoped' to support it but that it's 'just another vehicle for delivering cheap shots against our former president.'"

Speaking of seditionists, 175 of them voted against the bipartisan national commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol. Among those voting against the commission was Rep. Greg Pence. He's the Republican brother of former Vice President Mike Pence. Who the mob on Jan. 6 had come to the Capitol to kill. They put up a noose and everything.

Greg Pence said that his brother was a "hero" for doing his job of coming back to certify the election after the attack. This Pence voted to overturn the election results that night. This Pence is more beholden to Trump than his own brother. "I think the whole thing is to spend the summer impeaching, again, Donald Trump," he told HuffPost. "That's all we're doing. It's a dog-and-pony show. … It's another impeachment." That's also a hell of an admission about what happened on Jan. 6, that it was all at the instigation of Trump.

While we're talking Jan. 6, check this out:

Kevin McCarthy doesn't answer a question about whether he's absolutely sure that no House Republicans communicated with January 6 insurrectionists pic.twitter.com/pntSzt7mIJ

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 20, 2021

That's House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, refusing to answer whether he knows for certain that no House Republican was in contact with the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

While we're on the subject of seditionists, there’s Sen. Ron Johnson. On Thursday, the dumbest man in the Senate claimed that he was conducting his own investigation into Jan. 6. "I'm doing my own investigation to really accurately recreate what happened on January 6th but Nancy Pelosi's commission is not going to dig into this in any bipartisan fashion," the vacuous, dangerous idiot said on Fox News. "She gets to pick all of the staff members. This is a joke and should be voted down." That is not true. The House Republican who helped write the bill creating the commission says so. "The commission creates the rules as a team. They then hire as a team." Like facts are going to stop Johnson.

He says he "talked to people that were there," which suggests that Johnson is among those who needs to be subpoenaed about the events of that day. Anyway, he talked to them and they all said that nothing we saw in front of our very eyes that day happened. "By and large it was peaceful protests except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol, and that's really the truth of what's happening here," Johnson said. Yeah. Agitators. Undoubtedly antifa and BLM. "This is all about a narrative that the left wants to continue to push and Republicans should not cooperate with them at all."

He just won't shut up. "The fact of the matter is even calling it insurrection—it wasn’t," Johnson insists. “I condemned the breach, I condemn the violence, but to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply a false narrative."

The thing is, he's fundamentally speaking for the majority of the Senate Republicans. Starting at the top. Before the House voted Wednesday, Sen. Mitch McConnell announced that he will oppose the commission. Not one Republican senator, not even Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, has said they will vote for the commission. She sidestepped the question from reporters multiple times, but did say that "if" it happens, Trump should have to testify. Utah's Mitt Romney also avoided answering the question, but said that if it happens it needs to be limited in scope, that the "key thing that needs to be associated with this effort would be the attack on this building."

The reality is, Trump still owns the vast majority of Republicans. He is definitely calling the shots. Even with McConnell, who keeps pointing to the words he mouthed in defending his vote to acquit Trump for the crime of inciting the insurrection, but caved to pressure from Trump to oppose the commission.

This is what the Democrats who oppose filibuster reform—Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Tom Carper (he's been quieter about it)—are enabling. They're refusing to cut McConnell and Johnson and all the others who are afraid to buck Trump out of the process of governing. Which means they're effectively letting McConnell and crew call the shots.

If they're not stopped, they will use their violent, amoral insurrection to steal the vote in 2022 and 2024, and make absolutely sure that Democrats never win the House, Senate, or White House again.

McConnell and Republicans can only sweep away the Jan.6 insurrection with Manchin’s help

Generations of senators who came before us put their heads down and their pride aside to solve the complex issues facing our country. We must do the same. The issues facing our democracy today are not insurmountable if we choose to tackle them together.

That's Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat arguing in a Washington Post op-ed that the filibuster must be preserved because ... reasons. Those reasons being something about how senators are better than everyone else and know better than anyone else and how dare any lesser being question that. I might be exaggerating a bit. But not much.

Manchin expanded on those deep thoughts the next day, on CNN. "January 6 changed me," Manchin said. "I never thought in my life, I never read in history books to where our form of government had been attacked, at our seat of government, which is Washington, D.C., at our Capitol, by our own people." Gosh, life-changing stuff. It must have really made him focus on how to secure our fragile democracy.

So after experiencing that life-changing day, when that institution he so reveres was attacked, and sharing it with those Republican colleagues he says are worthy of so much trust and respect, what must he think now that they're all lining up to oppose the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who absolutely controls his conference, officially trashed the bill Wednesday, effectively killing it in the Senate. As long as the filibuster stands, anyway.

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"After careful consideration," (yeah, right) "I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6th. As everybody surely knows, I repeatedly made my views about the events of January 6th very clear. I spoke clearly and left no doubt about my conclusions," McConnell said Wednesday morning. Never mind that McConnell's remarks on Jan. 6 came when he was defending his refusal to hold Donald Trump accountable for instigating the attack by voting to convict him in an impeachment.

And never mind that the agreement reached between House Homeland Security leaders Democrat Benny Thompson and Republican John Katko is scrupulously bipartisan—to a fault, considering how much leeway it gives McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to sabotage it.

Even with that, McConnell has decided to kill the commission directly. Not just McConnell, either. Look at supposedly moderate Republican Sen. Rob Portman. "We have plenty of resources," he said Wednesday. "We had all of our investigative staff involved in both committees. They’re all cleared and up to speed… it’s faster to do something in Congress than to set up a commission where you have to get the staff hired and get them their clearances."

What about Manchin's great "moderate" friend, Sen. Susan Collins? She told reporters that she might deign to vote for it, provided that it has an artificial end date before the 2022 election year. That would give ample opportunity for McConnell and McCarthy, should it actually pass (which it won't), to drag their feet on naming commission members and ensuring that it can't even get to work before fall. They really don't want this to happen. They really don't want accountability.

They don't want to keep this from happening again.

So back to Manchin and what happened on Jan. 6 and what has happened since. Here's how it "changed" him, he wrote in that op-ed. "Our ultimate goal should be to restore bipartisan faith in our voting process by assuring all Americans that their votes will be counted, secured and protected." By not passing S. 1, the bill that would ensure every American's access to the ballot and ensure that elections are held with the highest degree of transparency and security possible. That's because he thinks the people spouting the Big Lie should be listened to, catered to.

Manchin is insisting that the rights of the rioters, the insurrectionists, and the seditionists receive equal deference to the rights of law-abiding American citizens whose votes the seditionists were trying to nullify. Seditionists who stormed the Capitol, threatening the life of then-Vice President Mike Pence and any member of Congress who crossed their path that day.

Now Republicans who aren't actively trying to rewrite the history of that day are trying to cover up what led to that day and what happened on that day, and trying to prevent a reckoning. They'll be able to do so. Joe Manchin, and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for that matter, are granting them that ability by refusing to end the filibuster.