Your blow-by-blow recap of the mute-button presidential debate, with a little help from Twitter

No matter what happens, this is Donald Trump’s last presidential debate. That’s the straw American voters grasped at Thursday night ahead of the final showdown between the impeached and infected Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. This debate—the second of what was supposed to be three—was broadcast live from Belmont University in Nashville, moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, and followed the same format as the first debate on Sept. 29, which absolutely everyone absolutely hated. As the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced in September:

The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Of course, that was before Trump reminded the nation why he absolutely has to go. The first debate was, as CNN’s Dana Bash said just moments after it ended, “a shitshow.” (Jake Tapper called it a “hot mess inside of a dumpster fire” moments later.) It was undeniable. Trump’s inability to let Biden or moderator Chris Wallace get a word in forced the CPD to declare that “additional structure” was needed for the debates to follow. On Oct. 19, the CPD revealed that “structure” looked like a mute button. Unfortunately for all of us, muting was only permitted during the initial two minutes granted to each candidate at the top of the six segments. Trump’s been whining about it ever since, perhaps because interrupting Biden at every turn was the Trump campaign’s only game plan. After all, the superspreader-in-chief faces scrutiny from a nation that watched him fail to keep his campaign promises on a massive scale, an electorate who’s seen him fumble just about every chance he had to move our nation forward, and, of course, a country left to fend for itself in the face of a deadly pandemic.

As always, I watched every single second of this debate so you didn’t have to. Let’s go.

It’s important to vote out Trump, but his election goes far past replacing the tyrant in the White House. Will you chip in $5 or more to help our entire slate of Democrats? We’re in the homestretch, and we’re in it together!

Welker announced six topics on Oct. 16. The Today Show weekend anchor and White House correspondent offered these points of focus: fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership. Most of these subjects were tackled in some form in the first debate and subsequent dueling town halls, but “American families” and “leadership” are pretty vague, so this should be interesting, assuming the candidates don’t pull a Pence and just answer completely different questions than those asked. We all know that Trump is lagging in the polls and that his campaign is broke, but more importantly, we know he’d rather talk about anything but COVID-19, and would love to focus on debunked Hunter Biden nonsense, insist that helping our nation’s poorest will destroy the suburbs, and yell about either Leslie Stahl or Hillary’s emails. Trump, through spokeswoman Alyssa Farah, announced his intentions on the morning of the debate; it’s clear he started the day determined to showcase the obsession that got him impeached.

WH director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah previewed this evening’s presidential debate saying Trump will answer the questions he wants to answer and “whether it’s asked or he has the opportunity to bring it up, he’s going to get into this issue of Hunter Biden.”

— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) October 22, 2020

I hate this debate already. Send chocolate.

A few minutes late, a maskless and angry Trump walked onto the stage, while a cheerful Biden emerged from his mask.

here we go pic.twitter.com/Ob4bMFuyaL

— Lauren Chou (@lauren_chou) October 23, 2020

After a polite explanation about the mute button, Trump got the first question.

The moderator just had to read all the rules of the debate like it’s kindergarten because the President of the United States is a child. #Debates2020

— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 23, 2020

THE CORONAVIRUS

Trump was asked how he’d navigate the next stage of the global pandemic. Trump kicked off by listing the number of people who didn’t die.

"You're lucky I didn't kill more of you" is quite an answer #Debates2020

— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 23, 2020

He then flaunted manipulated statistics and lies about surging states and boasts of his own recovery from the virus. He then claimed that other heads of states called him to congratulate him on his performance. He finished by promising a vaccine was coming within weeks and echoing his new refrain about “rounding the curve.” So, he didn’t answer the question.

We are not rounding any "turn" on the pandemic. It’s a vague claim, but it’s just wrong. Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are rising. Deaths are now starting to rise again, too. Most states are doing worse this week than they did last week. pic.twitter.com/y1pr4V9SXW

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 23, 2020

Trump smirked as Biden somberly stated, “220,000 Americans dead.” He then noted Trump’s refusal to take any responsibility for those deaths and declared that he didn't deserve to be president.

"Anybody who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America." - @JoeBiden #Debates2020 #PresidentialDebate2020

— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) October 23, 2020

He shot holes in Trump’s comparison of the U.S. to Europe, warned of at least 200,000 more deaths, entreated people to wear masks, and insisted that Trump has no plan before launching into his own: rapid testing, mask encouragement, and figuring out how to craft plans and direct resources to schools and businesses so that they can re-open safely and successfully. Trump, remarkably, kept quiet the entire time.

"The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks, the president’s own advisers have told him, we could save 100,000 lives...The president thus far still has no plan." —@JoeBiden #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/r930gLOudj

— CAP Action (@CAPAction) October 23, 2020

Welker wanted to know more about the promise of a vaccine “within weeks.”

Debate moderator Kristen Welker exposes @realdonaldtrump for the fraud he is. After claiming that a vaccine would be ready "in weeks," Trump backtracks saying that it's not a guarantee. #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/IjoofogRN8

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump then named names of companies that were on their way. Welker pointed out that his own administration says that it will take months, and asked him if he was being realistic. Trump insisted his timeline was “more accurate,” and implied his own experts didn’t know about his plan to use the military to distribute “a hundred million” vials of a vaccine.

Trump keeps saying the coronavirus will “soon be gone.” If you vote, Trump will soon be gone. #Debates2020

— Rep. Lloyd Doggett (@LloydDoggettTX) October 23, 2020

Biden was asked how he’d help Americans have confidence in a vaccine once approved, citing that 40% of Americans said they have no plans to take one. The former vice president noted the need to be transparent about the approval process. He warned of a “dark winter,” and reminded the audience that Trump said that the pandemic would be over by Easter 2019.

MUST WATCH fact check from @jaketapper on Trump's #COVID lies during the debate: "The president has been lying about the coronavirus pandemic since February." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/dhELfVv1VE

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump touted his “China Ban” that wasn’t a ban and brought up Biden’s critiques of it as being xenophobic, before veering into H1N1.

Trump seems upset that 700,000 people didn't die from H1N1

— Joe Sudbay (@JoeSudbay) October 23, 2020

Biden didn’t bother replying to the H1N1 nonsense, then reiterated that Trump is xenophobic and noted that Trump didn’t send scientists to China and praised Xi Jinping.

Trump replied by spending a long time talking about Biden living in his basement, made a hint about Biden making his money in a questionable way before hinting that Biden made his money in shady ways.

Trump's debate prep is just reading through his own Twitter feed

— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) October 23, 2020

He then lamented having to see Gold Star families before pointing out that young people recover quickly and declaring that if we don’t reopen the nation, we won’t have a nation.

I believe Trump wants to win the election more than anything in the world, but I do not believe Trump wants to be President of the United States at all

— Jay Willis (@jaywillis) October 23, 2020

Welker deftly slipped in a quick fact-check, noting that young people can get COVID-19 and pass it to others. She began to ask Biden a question about pandemic strategy before Biden became the first to challenge the moderator. He asked to respond to Trump’s statement that people are “learning to live with it,” by stating that we’re learning to die with it. He then repeated that Trump refuses to take responsibility for any of it.

Trump then did his signature “excuse me” without waiting to be excused and offered his first Trumpian quote of the night.

Trump just now: "I take full responsibility: It's not my fault that it came here, it's China's fault."

— Kerry Eleveld (@kerryeleveld) October 23, 2020

He then blamed China for containing it within its borders but not from spreading across the planet. Biden repeated the “whole range of things,” all wrong, that Trump said to Americans. Trump again brought up Biden’s “xenophobic” critique, and Biden basically gave it a half-hearted rebuttal.

Welker asked Biden about the economic and social impact of a shutdown. Biden vowed to “shut down the virus, not the country.” He noted that Trump’s ineptitude was the reason people were suffering, not the shutdowns. He then insisted that Trump should have been working with Pelosi to get relief to people. Trump mocked Biden for talking about shutdowns too much and rattled off attacks at states with Democratic governors.

Donald Trump is running to be president of the red states. Joe Biden is running to be President of the United States.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 23, 2020

He also declared that Barron, his son with his third wife, recovered from COVID-19 quickly, painting it as a miracle.

Shouldn’t they mute him when he tells wild lies about a pandemic that has killed more than 200k Americans

— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) October 23, 2020

Biden again repeated that cities and states needed resources to reopen safely, bringing up school ventilation systems as an example. Trump bashed New York as a ghost town where nobody wants to live and repeated several talking points this writer recognized as almost verbatim from his 60 Minutes interview that he leaked today.

NEW YORK IS A GHOST TOWN???!! LMAO BITCH HELLO FROM QUEENS WE JUST WENT FROM ORANGE TO YELLOW, PEOPLE ARE OUT & ABOUT & THRIVING, FUCK YOU

— porochista khakpour (@PKhakpour) October 23, 2020

Biden continued to talk basic strategy and pointing out Trump’s aversion to it.

Trump brought up and bashed as many Democratic governors in swing states as he could—Michigan and Pennsylvania—and Biden brought up Wall Street. Trump attempted to paint Biden as owned by Wall Street while simultaneously claiming he controlled Wall Street. Biden slipped in that his average contribution was $43 before Welker declared the topic completed.

ELECTION SECURITY

Biden was up first and asked about new reports that multiple nations are interfering in our election. Biden brought up that Trump has done nothing to stop Vladimir Putin of Russia, and brought up the way that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been duped by Russia. He then vowed to lay down the law on American adversaries.

Instead of letting Welker ask a question, Trump lived up to his vow to answer the questions that he want, and used his time to first insist he’s hard on Russia before diving into his big goal of painting the Biden family as a corrupt crime family with emails and millions of dollars, all procured from Russia and China. After referencing an unnamed person who had a press conference where unspecified accusations were made, demanded that Biden answer his accusation.

Oh god no don't do the Russia shit #debate #Debates2020

— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) October 23, 2020

Biden denied everything before launching into Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, noting that he’s released all of his. Trump insisted that his accountants told him that he “prepays” all of his taxes, and that’s why he doesn’t pay any taxes. Welker asked him when he’d release his returns, and Trump played the victim, claiming that he “gets treated worse than the tea party,” and is only being audited because he ran for president.

Biden has released his tax returns, so we know he didn't receive $3.5 million from Russia. Trump hasn't released his tax returns, so we have no idea how much money he gets from Russia. And he never disclosed his secret Chinese bank account.#Debates2020

— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 23, 2020

He then shifted into a nonsensical mafia narrative where Biden is known as “The Big Man” and gets 10% of all his sons’ schemes.

You’re in bed with Russia! No YOU’RE in bed with Russia!#Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/LUf056uh1e

— ❥ Nicoco (@PetiteNicoco) October 23, 2020

Biden repeated his demand that Trump release his returns, and Trump repeated his accusations of corruption, painting himself as a victim due to being impeached and hinted at some dirt on Biden’s brother and Iraq.

Welker jumped in before Biden could reply, and asked Biden if there was any truth to the allegations. Biden said there was not, and pointed out that the only bad deeds going on was Trump trying to get dirt that didn’t exist. Trump rattled off some numbers, Biden reiterated that no wrongdoing was found.

Welker asked about the Chinese banking recently uncovered by The New York Times and Trump told a story about how there’s nothing wrong at all with anything he did. Trumpian “excuse me” steamrollers went right over Welker before she insisted on moving on, asking Biden what he’d do to China if elected.

Biden vowed to make China play by the rules and use proper policy to punish them if they do not, instead of Trump’s stupid tariffs. He brought up North Korea, and when Welker went to ask about it to Trump, he rolled over Welker again to hint at Biden crime family nonsense, and Welker actually stopped him to ask about his own policies with China. Trump insisted that his tariffs and sanctions were effective, netted billions of dollars and helped farmers. When Biden pointed out that taxpayers bailed out farmers, Trump claimed China is the taxpayer.

Pres. Trump: "I just gave $28 billion to our farmers." Biden: "Taxpayers' money." "It's what?" "Taxpayers' money. It didn't come from China." https://t.co/zkoTdi6727 #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/T5X1vpvIai

— ABC News (@ABC) October 23, 2020

When Welker finally asked Trump about his relationship with North Korea, Trump claimed Barack Obama told him war was imminent, but he became buddies with Kim Jong Un and that’s why there’s no war. Biden explained North Korean policy under Obama and why it was good policy. Trump insisted that Jong Un just didn’t like Obama. Biden pointed out that was because Obama wanted to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Trump said Obama left him “a mess” before Welker moved onto health care.

HEALTH CARE

Welker asked Trump about his administration’s current effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, and what happens if they win? Trump railed about how terrible Obamacare is and how overturning the individual mandate made it something totally different but it’s still terrible and needs to be replaced by his nonexistent plan which totally always was going to cover preexisting conditions, totally always was going to cover them. He then said Biden would create socialized medicine. Biden was asked the same question. Pointing out that it put him at odds with most of the Democratic primary candidates, Biden vowed to create Obamacare with a public option, which would reduce prescription prices, let people keep their private insurance, and protect preexisting conditions. He clarified that it’s not the next step to fully socialized medicine as Trump always claims, pointed out that providing health care for all will help businesses. Trump, who was obviously communicating with someone in the audience, then leaned into “47 years in government” taunting of Biden, and insisted that his running mate Kamala Harris is “more liberal than Bernie Sanders” before bringing up fracking. He then thanked Welker for her “handling” of things before telling her to ask a question she did not let him finish.

A picture from my mom and dad - the only way they can watch the debates #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/uLaCVK4Xp6

— D'Arcy Carden (@DarcyCarden) October 23, 2020

Trump then repeated his fearmongering about socialism before Biden joked that he must be confused about who he’s running against. Biden then boasted that he won the nomination because he beat all the other candidates.

THE ECONOMY

Trump, deciding he was done with health care, brought up how stocks boomed under him. Trump vaguely accused Biden of harming Social Security somewhere in time, and also said Biden is not “really” from Scranton, in addition to insisting he’s the savior of the stock market and everyone’s 401(k).

Donald Trump: @JoeBiden isn't from Scranton. Scranton: pic.twitter.com/LMZnx4KK33

— Bob Casey Jr. (@Bob_Casey) October 23, 2020

Welker then brought up the struggles Americans are facing under the COVID-19-fueled recession, and asked Trump why he’s not helped. Trump blamed Pelosi. Welker asked Biden why he’s not pushed Democrats to make a deal, and Biden pointed out that the HEROES Act has been withering on the vine for months, and could have helped cities, counties, and states—teachers, firefighters, first responders—while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up.

OMG Biden just reminded me that McConnell said "Let 'em go bankrupt," THIS YEAR. Losing track of time and tragic failure of the GOP-led Senate. We need the Heroes Act yesterday. #Debates2020

— Dorian Warren (@dorianwarren) October 23, 2020

Trump insisted that the HEROES Act was horrible and benefited blue states and illegal immigrants. Biden fired back that he’s a proud Democrat but will be an American president and it shouldn’t be about the politics of each state’s leadership.

Welker then asked about the fight to raise the minimum wage, and asked if this was the right time to do so. Biden said it was, because we need to help businesses. Trump claimed it be a state choice, insisting that $15 would kill small businesses. Biden said there’s no data that supports that myth.

IMMIGRATION

Welker then asked Trump about the recent news that Homeland Security has lost track of the parents of over 500 children separated at the border. Trump then blamed the baby cages on Obama before saying that his administration was looking for these parents, and wrongly implying that the children came to the country alone. Biden was disgusted and fact-checked Trump: The children were with their parents when they got here.

Trump refused to address the actual question and repeated his blaming of Obama for baby cages, claiming that his administration put migrant children in lavish digs.

"It looked like a literal prison camp"@JoyAnnReid talks about visit to facility in Tornillo, Texas, that held migrant children, after "zero tolerance" policy was discussed at #Debates2020. pic.twitter.com/mZcbjMsoEP

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 23, 2020

Welker asked Biden why voters should trust him to overhaul the immigration system. He vowed to create a path to citizenship, particularly for DACA recipients. Trump cited his own overhaul, saying that Biden had eight years to fix the system as vice president. Trump then celebrated his end of “catch and release” before blaming Obama for baby cages again.

The thing I appreciate about Joe Biden right now is that he looks just as disgusted with 🍊 as we are.

— Karla Monterroso (@karlitaliliana) October 23, 2020

RACE IN AMERICA

Welker asked Biden to speak to families of color, who have to have “The Talk” with their children to teach them about the dangers of police that they face as people of color, regardless of their economic class. Biden noted that his daughter is a social worker before stating that there is systemic racism in this country. He then ran through a bulleted list of places where people of color need investment, including education and small businesses.

After bringing up the 1994 Crime Bill and “super predators,” Trump insisted that he’s the best president for Black people since Lincoln—and implied that he might outrank Lincoln, actually.

“I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump says to Kristen Welker, the first black woman to moderate a presidential debate.

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) October 23, 2020

He then claimed liberals cried in his office in gratitude for his work with prison reform and HBCUs, and giving Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate a shoutout.

Black people have concerns beyond the criminal justice system. Goodness. This is so tiring.

— Amara Omeokwe (@TheAmaraReport) October 23, 2020

Biden then denied the “super predator” accusation and pointed out that the Obama administration pardoned (checks calculator) nearly 500 times as many people as Trump has. Trump then asked why Biden didn’t fix everything when he was vice president before saying that he only ran in 2016 because of him and Barack Obama.

Biden contrasted himself against Trump directly to the American people and explained his plan to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. Trump immediately went back to his accusations of Biden family corruption and “the laptop” before Welker, who was done playing around, pulled it back to the topic at hand: race.

Reading several of Trump’s many racist acts to him, she asked him why people should trust him. Trump used his time to insist he’s not racist and disparage Black Lives Matter as people who wanted to kill cops.

Donald Trump - "I'm the least racist person in the room." Trump is not even the least racist person in a room that he's in by himself.#Debates2020 #DebateTonight

— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) October 23, 2020

Biden made an Abraham Lincoln joke at Trump’s expense that Trump pretended he didn’t get, all the better to launch into how not-racist he is, and how he is the best thing Black people have ever seen, and to bring up the 1994 Crime Bill again.

Fact Check: Donald Trump is correct when he says he’s not Abraham Lincoln

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 23, 2020

Biden took responsibility, among with the entire Senate, for the Crime Bill, and expressed regret, particularly for the disparity in cocaine sentences. Trump kept asking why Biden didn’t fix the criminal justice system when he was vice president. In an awkward moment, Biden blamed the Republican Congress, and Trump said he should have convinced them. With that, it was time for

CLIMATE CHANGE

Welker, after pointing out the candidates’ very different visions to combat climate change, asked Trump why his was better. Trump spent most of his two minutes talking about a trillion trees and bashing Obama, but claimed none of it matters since the U.S. can’t force Russia or China or India to do anything.

"India is filthy" Wow. Wonderful. Great way to win over Indian Americans, Trump. Genius.#Debates2020

— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) October 23, 2020

He also declared that the Paris Climate Accord was horrible.

Biden solemnly addressed the real crisis that is our destruction of this planet, laid out a detailed plan to combat climate change, and Trump decided to take aim at The Squad, who he calls “AOC Plus Three,” and accused Biden of wanting to knock down all the buildings with big windows and replace them with buildings that have tiny windows.

AOC +3 is a great girl group name

— John Manuel Arias (@johnmanuelarias) October 23, 2020

Biden laughed the entire time, and dismissed Trump entirely before insisting that the nation could grow and be cleaner under his plan. Trump attacked windmills and solar power with some absolute gobsmacking lies that have nothing to do with science or reality. He tried to get to fracking but Biden jumped in, insisting he’s never been against it. Trump said Biden will turn against fracking because the party said so.

The segment on the urgency of climate change has morphed into a conversation of who loves fracking more, which will be great to show children in 50 years to explain what happened.

— Taniel (@Taniel) October 23, 2020

Trump was then asked about his plans to fight environmental racism. Trump insisted that people of color are all working, and then essentially said he hadn’t heard of environmental racism before bragging about how we don’t get our oil from other countries anymore, proving he’d absolutely missed the point.

It’s actually AOC plus 115 because that’s how many House and Senate members have cosponsored the most ambitious climate legislation in American history.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 23, 2020

Biden, by contrast, spoke to the “fence line” communities that bear the brunt of oil pollution. Trump—not the actual moderator—then asked Biden if he’d shut down the oil industry, and Biden answered him, saying that he’d transition us out of it. Trump then said “he’s gonna shut down the oil industry” and named battleground states like Texas and Ohio, telling them to “remember that” in a desperate ploy for votes.

LAST QUESTION, LAST DEBATE

For the final question, Welker asked each candidate what they would say to people who didn’t vote for them in their inaugural address.

Trump blamed China for the pandemic again before insisting that everyone loved him before it, and bashed about what a horrible president Biden would be. Biden took his time to call himself an “American president” who represents everyone, and vowed to improve conditions for the whole country. He slipped in an entreaty for voters to remember what’s on the ballot and then, thankfully, it was over.

I hope someone immediately ran to give Kristin Welker a drink, candy bar, seltzer, whatever she wants. #Debates2020

— Jess the Writer (@jesilfa) October 23, 2020

It was time for the wives to join the candidates on the stage.

Melania yanks her hand away from Trump. (Spotted by @WalnutDust) pic.twitter.com/NHDzoYfSuT

— The Recount (@therecount) October 23, 2020

Daniel Dale will be working hard tonight.

CNN Factchecker/masochist Daniel Dale on Trump: "This was just a bombardment of dishonesty, much of what we heard before at his campaign rallies about subjects big and small, important stuff like the pandemic, about Biden's policies, about his own record." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/wwOJC8GNvV

— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) October 23, 2020

And me? I never ever have to do another Donald Trump debate Twitter recap for the rest of my life. 

As Trump runs his campaign into the ground, Biden’s been a vision of efficiency

So much for Donald Trump, the biz whiz. Just like Trump ran his businesses into the ground enough times to declare multiple bankruptcies, he managed to burn through $1 billion raised since he took office in 2017, limping into the final month of the campaign with a delightfully meager $63.1 million that surely won't even cover the costs for the rest of his campaign.

"Yikes," tweeted Rufus Gifford, a deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden and former Obama fundraising chief. "Remember when Trump said he would fund his own campaign if he needed to? Well.... He needs to," Gifford added.

Contribute now to take back the White House!

No wonder the Trump campaign announced a final ad buy this week in coordination with the Republican National Committee of just $55 million split between 11 states. Don't be surprised if they wind up yanking ads from some of those states at the last minute.

Also, it's about to get a lot hotter inside Trump's campaign as consultants and aides realize that check likely isn't in the mail and never will be. What was Trump's word for that? Oh yeah—suckers. At least, they can commiserate with all the high-dollar GOP donors who pushed tens of thousands or even millions to Trump's campaign and allied committees/PACs only to watch him pay his legal fees and subsidize the rise of Trump Jr.'s hot read Triggered to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. 

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign has been a vision of efficiency. Here's a side by side, according to Times reporter Shane Goldmacher:

  • Biden ended September with $177 million cash on hand 
  • Trump had $63 million in cash, minus $1.36 million in debts

  • Biden plus party committees had $432 million in total ending September
  • Trump plus committees had $251 million in total

  • Biden's joint ventures with the Democratic Party spent $82.4 million to raise $457 million in July, August, and September
  • Trump's joint committees with the RNC spent $190.8 million to raise $355.2 million in the same period

So Biden and the DNC spent less than half what Trump and the RNC did while raising fully $100 million more. Put another way, Biden spent about 18 cents for every $1 raised while Trump spent 54 cents for every $1 raised. More recently, fundraising seems to have gotten even harder, with the AP reporting that Trump’s grassroots fundraising operation is spending 77 cents for every dollar raised.

The Trump campaign's financial situation was so dire that Trump ditched the campaign trail Sunday to attend a hastily arranged fundraiser in California. Bet those donors feel pretty great about every penny spent. Who knows, maybe they all left with complimentary copies of Triggered

Trump used his campaign war chest like an ATM. Now it’s dead broke and GOP donors are furious

Suckers. That's clearly how major GOP donors feel after realizing that Trump's campaign is basically dead broke, he's dragging down the entire party, and he's even put Democrats in position to potentially take back the Senate

“The Senate majority is the most important objective right now,” said Dan Eberhart, who has given over $190,000 to Trump’s reelection effort, according to the AP. “It’s the bulwark against so much bad policy that the Democrats want to do if they sweep the elections.”

Let’s give Senate Republicans the boot! Give $2 right now for some epic satisfaction on election night.

Eberhart and others feel burned after the state of Trump's campaign war chest has come into clearer view in the final months of the race. Some Republicans donors even founded a separate pro-Trump super PAC, Preserve America, that was explicitly not run by Trump's people because he's clearly not sending his finest. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson recently poured $75 million into that PAC instead of just handing it over to the Trump campaign. 

“You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy told the AP of the Trump campaign's spending habits. 

On the one hand, the Biden campaign is spending more than twice as much in the closing days of race—$142 million to the Trump campaign's coordinated buy with the Republican National Committee (RNC) of $55 million. On the other, Trump and his campaign aides burned through $1 billion like they were on a drunken Beverly Hills lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous bender. 

There's the already reported $10 million Super Bowl ad bought by the campaign so Trump could feel powerful before Democrats had even settled on a nominee. There's also more than $310 million in spending that's concealed by a web of limited liability companies, notes the AP. And somehow, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale managed to purchase a Ferrari, a Range Rover, a $400,000 yacht, and several million-dollar-plus condos after siphoning some $40 million from the Trump campaign alone. 

But really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here're some other choice purchases made by the Trump camp and RNC, according to the AP:

— Nearly $100,000 to prop up the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s book, “Triggered,” pushing it to the top of The New York Times’ bestsellers list.

— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017

— At least $35.2 million spent on Trump merchandise

— $38.7 million in legal and “compliance” fees, including the legal costs of his impeachment proceedings

— At least $14.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention, which was relocated several times and ended up being a mostly virtual event

— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series after Trump was booed by spectators for attending Game 5

— $1.6 million on TV ads so Trump could see himself in the Washington, D.C., media market, where Biden is polling at about 87%

Perhaps the best strategic decision was back in May, when Parscale unleashed $176 million in spending to drag down Biden in public polling. That worked out well. 

If you smell desperation, it’s just the GOP

An Axios piece this week painting a rather dim picture of the final days of the Trump campaign also included this upbeat quote from a senior campaign official: "But the cool thing about the president is he's going to be everywhere in the last two weeks."

Bring it. Trump has very little time left to reverse the direction of this race, and everywhere he goes, he's a vision of repulsion. In Johnstown, PA, Trump begged suburban women to like him while barking, “I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?" In Greenville, NC, Trump bragged about the cold-blooded execution by U.S. Marshals of an antifa activist suspected of killing a right-wing Trump supporter. During his NBC town hall event Thursday, Trump explained to moderator Savannah Guthrie that he retweeted insane conspiracy theories to just "put it out there" and let the people decide. Guthrie responded by channeling what every relatively sane voter (including some Trump voters) have thought for four years. “I don’t get that," she said, dismayed. "You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

"Actually..." tweeted Trump's niece Mary, reminding us all that he is indeed exactly that—someone's crazy uncle.

At the risk of repetition, a couple days ago I took a look at Trump's numbers with key voting blocs in the gold-standard NBC/Wall Street Journal poll—he is underperforming his 2016 levels in every single one of them.

First, Biden's advantage over Trump among key groups in the survey compared to 2016 exit polls:

  • Black voters: Biden +87 (91% to 4%); Clinton +81
  • Women: Biden +26 (60% to 34%); Clinton +13
  • Whites with college degrees: Biden +19 (57% to 38%); Trump +3
  • Seniors: Biden +10 (54% to 44%); Trump +7
  • Independents: Biden +7 (46% to 39%); Trump +4  

Then Trump's advantage over Biden in certain blocs compared to 2016:

  • Men: Trump +5 (50% to 45%); Trump +11
  • White voters: Trump +4 (50% to 46%); Trump +20
  • Whites without college degrees: Trump +21 (59% to 38%); Trump +37

Overall, the NBC/WSJ poll had Joe Biden up by 11 points, and multiple aggregates have him at +10. The Economist has one of the most conservative polling composites with Biden up +8.6. But Biden's campaign went to great lengths this week to discourage Democratic voters from thinking he has a double-digit advantage. In a virtual grassroots summit, campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon called the national public polling "inflated" and added, "We are not ahead by double digits." What she didn't say was exactly how not double-digity the Biden lead is.  

Whatever Biden's advantage, the campaign's effort is clearly aimed at stamping out any complacency that Democratic strategists are certain became the death knell for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But I must tell you, I think they're reading the room wrong. As I wrote this week, a historic number of early Democratic voters are turning out at the polls and they are absolutely reveling in the chance to finally cast their vote against Trump. Although running up the score in early voting doesn't necessarily translate to a win on Election Day, it certainly does suggest high levels of enthusiasm among Democratic voters.

What we can also gather without knowing the exact internal data is that Republicans are acting like losers. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is all but ignoring Trump on the stimulus deal. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who didn't have the guts or integrity to even hear witness testimony during Trump's impeachment trial, suddenly wants to be on record making it crystal clear he thinks Trump is 100% unfit for office. Sounds like someone is burnishing his future presidential cred for a post-Trump GOP. Georgia Sen. David Perdue—who's in a dogfight to save his seat—made the utterly desperate decision to not only introduce Trump at his Friday night rally in Macon, Georgia, but also to butcher the name of Sen. Kamala Harris, with whom he has served fully three years in the U.S. Senate. 

🚨WATCH: Georgia GOP @sendavidperdue mocks the pronunciation of Sen @KamalaHarris’s name during the #TrumpRally today in Georgia Disgusting. #GASen #GApol pic.twitter.com/yUzhT8nC7f

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 16, 2020

Make no mistake, that's a racist dogwhistle from the same candidate who ran an ad this summer lengthening the nose of his Jewish Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff. Perdue's communications director tried to pass off the slight as a simple mistake, but that's the work of a Republican senator clinging to his seat and concluding his best play is to make racist appeals to white voters.

And then there's Trump himself, who devoted the bulk of his travel schedule this week to places he should have locked up by now, including Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa. If you want a window into how desperate Trump is, during his Florida pitch to seniors in Fort Myers on Friday, Trump expressed actual empathy.

"My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one. I feel their anguish and I mourn their loss. I feel their pain," Trump said. "There's nothing to describe it."

Naturally, that was on script. Trump read it, and it was very clearly modeled after Joe Biden's empathic appeal to seniors in southern Florida earlier this week—ya know the one, where Trump later tweeted out a picture of a bunch of seniors in wheelchairs with the tagline, "Biden for Resident."

In the Axios article, senior aides said Stepien's path to victory counts on using Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Maine's second district as Trump's foundation. Stepien tells them winning those states is the "easy part.” Really? Not a single one of those states is a gimme in public polling and, in fact, Trump is polling roughly 4 points behind Biden in Florida—the biggest catch of them all with 29 electoral votes.

Just to give you an idea of how rocky that electoral road is, consider this: Biden's path to 270 starts with California and New York as its building blocks. And those states truly are "easy" ones.

In fact, taking Stepien's calculus a step further, the five biggest red states from 2016 by electoral votes are all battlegrounds this year, even if they didn't start off that way: Texas (38), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15).

And here's the New York Times aggregates for each of those states, from worst to best for Trump:

  • Florida: Biden +4
  • North Carolina: Biden +3
  • Georgia: Biden +2
  • Ohio: Biden +<1 (i.e. Biden's winning by less than one point)
  • Texas: Trump +2

None of this is to say Trump couldn't win, it's just a reality check on how unlikely he is to be victorious. And tons of voting is happening right now, while the polls continue to look very good for Biden. Conversely, if you're Trump, the days are just slipping away. But the emphasis on early voting this year significantly lessens the chances that, for instance, the sitting FBI director could open a last-minute investigation into Biden that causes the bottom to fall out on his campaign. 

So even as a haunting déjà vu feeling hangs over my excitement this year, I just keep looking at the fundamentals, how the campaigns are acting, and the actions of congressional lawmakers who are up for reelection or sharpening their knives for a post-Trump era. The outlook is good, much better in fact than it appeared in 2016. 

And if anxiety is keeping you up at night, the very best antidote to that is taking action—doing has the medicinal benefit of occupying the mind so the hobgoblins of doubt can't hijack it. Together, we can all bring this election home, and then get back to the work of trying to build a more perfect union. 

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Senate Republicans second only to Putin in their reckless disregard for U.S. democracy

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who's up for reelection this fall, took a bold stand for the republic Thursday after Donald Trump had brazenly refused the day before to commit to a peaceful transition of power. “He says crazy stuff," said Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

Wow, strong stuff. Sasse really drew a line in the sand. But despite his hardball tactics, Trump shockingly went straight back at it Thursday. Asked again if he would accept defeat if he lost the election, Trump responded, “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.” Because there's nothing Trump values more than honesty. 

Sasse, his pathetic response, and those of all his Senate GOP counterparts—with the possible exception of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah—are exactly why Trump is destroying this nation without a single care in the world. Every time Trump has done something totally unconstitutional or illegal— like deliberately corrupting our once-sacred elections—GOP senators have waved it off with a wink and a smile. Or worse yet, they've actively worked to band together and save Trump’s presidency, even in the face of a mountain of evidence. Voting to acquit Trump of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness was both a masterpiece of cowardice and the height of complicity. 

Once Senate Republicans proved to Trump that no matter what he did, they could always be counted on to either look the other way or even exonerate him, Trump was free to do absolutely anything. And so he does. 

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who did her part to give Trump his get-out-of-jail-free card during the impeachment trial, had the gall to later suggest that Trump had learned "a pretty big lesson.” Now, there's some serious duplicity. Hope Collins is resting easy at night—maybe just skip that last look in the mirror before bed.

On Thursday, I made an honest mistake while writing up a story for the Daily Kos website. I published a piece that included an outdated poll of the presidential election. I should have caught it, but I didn't. When I realized my mistake, I started shaking as my blood pressure spiked and I sought to get it off the site immediately, which honestly took longer than I had hoped. It's certainly not the first mistake I've made as a reporter/blogger and, frankly, I've done worse.

But in this moment when the world feels upside down and we are all collectively pushing as hard as possible to save our democracy, it just felt horrible to think I may have misled people, however unintentionally, especially given all the misinformation out there. 

I went for a walk to shake it off. Later in the day, I started revisiting the damage done with a touch more perspective. No one had lost their job. No one had died. I hadn't irreparably harmed our democracy or willed future generations to suffer decades of fascist rule. I hadn't personally let children go hungry during a pandemic (though children are going hungry) out of sheer malice. I hadn't left struggling families without food, shelter, health care, and a basic sense of safety and dignity. And on top of the 200,000 already dead, I hadn't consigned tens of thousands more Americans to death in the coming months through the indifference and incompetence of my leadership.

Nope. That's what Senate Republicans like Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, and their entire band of miscreants have done. Through their conniving, they have lent a helping hand to Donald Trump as he's worked to flush every last vestige of this centuries-long experiment down the toilet and hang the American people out to dry.

Pondering all that really put my own misstep on the day in a new light. How do these people sleep at night? Do any of them have a conscience? Do they have kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews they care or worry about? And it may sound silly to even ask, but do they give a damn about anybody else at all but themselves? 

Following Trump’s failure to commit to leaving office peacefully, just one lone Republican senator dared to stand up for our democracy, however small a gesture it was. "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable," Romney tweeted Wednesday evening.

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who trampled the Constitution to steal a Supreme Court seat, promised an "orderly transition" in a tweet without ever mentioning Trump. That's worthless as ever. Mitch McConnell doesn't believe in democracy, he believes in raw power. And if Trump has an opening to contest the election and hold on to power, McConnell will back him 100%. Just like with impeachment.

All that is to say, these people are simply horrific. Perhaps only Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has shown more disdain for U.S. democracy. Frankly, no one summed it up better than the satirical website The Onion. 

GOP Lawmakers Watch Silently As Trump Strangles Each Of Their Loved Ones In Turn https://t.co/rcGwLVYjHW pic.twitter.com/xZeQNpEzK8

— The Onion (@TheOnion) September 24, 2020

Dr. Fauci, finally fed up with Sen. Rand Paul’s bullsh#t, schools him during hearing

Whether you believe that top U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci is doing a solid job or whether you believe he is a grand mastermind in the global deep state conspiracy to destroy the world and get rid of Donald Trump so that Hillary Clinton can start human trafficking your children, you have to admit, he always seems rather unflappable. Dr. Fauci’s general calm and methodical way of explaining our public health crisis is not always perfect, but it is reassuring to many because, in a world where the president of the United States says horrendous things every single day, having a public official who seems competent is something of a revelation.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is what happens when you take Donald Trump and dress him more conservatively, but somehow make him more annoying. He has spent the current pandemic playing the part of science skeptic. Rand would have followed his father Ron into calling COVID-19 a hoax, but then he ended up testing positive for the virus. Like everything between Ron and Rand, Rand is just the shittier version of his racist, useless dad. So when Sen. Paul attempted to once again promote misleading scientific information in an attempt to “gotcha” Dr. Fauci during Wednesday’s hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, watching Dr. Fauci get angry and school little Rand was something to see.

Sen. Rand Paul first attempted to blame the United States’ failure to simply do nothing at all, like Sweden, as the reason for death rates. It’s idiotic for sure, but Paul is trying to argue that Dr. Fauci and others who pushed for mask-wearing and social distancing and other safety measures early on were wrong and alarmist. Paul is wrong. He is not a little wrong. He is 100% wrong, and Dr. Fauci was tired of such sophistry on Paul’s part. 

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, senator, I would be happy at a different time to sit down and go over detail. You have said a lot of different things. You have compared us to Sweden, and there are a lot of differences. You said, well, you know, there are a lot of differences between Sweden, but compare Sweden's death rate to other comparable Scandinavian countries. It's worse. So I don't think it's appropriate to compare Sweden with us. I think in the beginning, we have done things based on the knowledge we had at the time. And hopefully, and I am—and my colleagues are—humble enough and modest enough to realize that as new data comes, you make different recommendations. But I don't regret saying that the only way we could have really stopped the explosion of infection was by essentially—I want to say shutting down—I mean essentially having the physical separation, and the kinds of recommendations that we have made.

Sen. Paul then attempted to promote the Republican narrative that the high concentrations of COVID-19 deaths in places like New York, under a Democratic governor, is proof of some Democratic Party problem in public health, while the Republican Party’s complete negligence is somehow better.

DR. FAUCI: No, you have misconstrued that. They got hit very badly. They made some mistakes. Right now, if you look at what's going on right now, the things that are going on in New York to get their test positivity 1% or less is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four or five things: of masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds, and washing hands.

As time has just about run out, Sen. Paul attempts to throw in one last fake scientific fact.

SEN. RAND PAUL: Or they have developed enough community immunity that they are no longer having the pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop it.

That’s bullshit, and Dr. Fauci very quickly and stridently says: “I challenge that, senator.”

Time is up, but Dr. Fauci is not going to use his easygoing demeanor to allow this crap bag of a senator to get away with pushing fake science.

DR. FAUCI: Please, sir. I would like to be able do this because this happens with Senator Rand all the time. You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said, that in New York, it's about 22%. if you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you're alone in that.

Rand Paul is alone most of the time since his own neighbors hate him and most Americans dislike him as well.

David Frum: Don’t assume McConnell has the votes to confirm

Last night and this morning, I felt like crawling into a hole for the next 40 days or so. And not a deep hole. I didn’t have the energy or joie de vivre for a deep hole. It would have been a shallow hole. Barely a hole at all. Really, I would have just lay down in the dirt until my DNA fused to the worms’ and slugs’ and grasses’ much more upbeat genetic material.

But I’m a more resilient guy ever since I got into therapy and on antidepressants (I recommend both if you’re struggling). And this morning a friend sent me this Atlantic story from former George W. Bush speechwriter and confirmed NeverTrumper David Frum.

He makes some excellent points (one of them being, don't swallow your tongue in abject, pants-shitting fear just yet):

What McConnell did in 2016 was an assertion of brute power, and what he proposes in 2020 is another assertion of brute power. And so the question arises: Does McConnell in fact have the power he asserts?

The answer may be no, for four reasons.

Do tell, David Frum:

The polls do not favor Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, or Thom Tillis—senators from Maine, Colorado, and North Carolina up for reelection this cycle. Yet these competitors may not be ready to attend their own funerals. They may regard voting against McConnell's Court grab as a heaven-sent chance to prove their independence from an unpopular president—and to thereby save their own seats.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also made skeptical noises, and even Lindsey Graham of South Carolina may flinch. He faces an unexpectedly tough race this year, and he is extra-emphatically on the record vowing not to support a Supreme Court confirmation vote in the later part of a presidential year.

Frum also asks if Trump can find a woman nominee (Trump almost needs to nominate a woman to replace the legendary RBG, lest his female support erode even further) at the 11th hour who will be viewed as moderate enough by the senators who could be thinking of defecting.

Any last-minute Trump nominee will face a gantlet of opposition in the Senate, a firestorm of opposition in the country, and probably a lifetime of suspicion from the majority of the country.

Can McConnell and Trump find an appointee willing to risk all that for the chance—but not the guarantee—of a Supreme Court seat? Specifically, can they find a woman willing to do it? The optics of replacing Ginsburg with a man may be too ugly even for the Trump administration. And if they can find a woman, can they find a woman sufficiently moderate-seeming to provide cover to anxious senators? The task may prove harder than immediately assumed.

In addition, Yertle the Asshole’s hypocrisy on this issue is so egregiously off the charts it might create a mutually assured destruction scenario in which Democrats (assuming Biden wins and Dems retake the Senate) feel justified in packing the court by, say, adding two more justices.

But a last-minute overreach by McConnell could seem so illegitimate to Democrats as to justify radical countermoves should they win in November: increasing the number of appellate judges and Supreme Court justices; conceivably even opening impeachment hearings against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

McConnell may want the win badly enough to dismiss those risks. But many conservative-leaning lawyers in the country may be more cautious. And their voices will get a hearing in a contentious nomination fight—not only by the national media, but by some of the less Trump-y Republican senators. This could be enough to slow down a process that has no time to spare.

I think Frum makes some great points, and anything that will keep me from reaching for the shovel is welcome news right now.

So let’s breathe, and keep fighting on.

A Democratic Senate has never been more important. Make it so.

“This guy is a natural. Sometimes I laugh so hard I cry." — Bette Midler on Aldous J. Pennyfarthing, via TwitterFind out what made dear Bette break up. Dear F*cking Lunatic: 101 Obscenely Rude Letters to Donald Trump and its boffo sequels Dear Pr*sident A**clown: 101 More Rude Letters to Donald Trump and Dear F*cking Moron: 101 More Letters to Donald Trump by Aldous J. Pennyfarthing are now available for a song! Click those links, yo!

Lordy, there’s tapes: vulnerable Senate Republicans squirm over Trump’s coronavirus confession

Back in July, as Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst was being pressed on her previous assertion that two Ebola deaths on Obama's watch amounted to "failed leadership," Ernst told CNN that Donald Trump was really "stepping forward" on stemming the coronavirus. At the time, despite 130,000 Americans having already died, Ernst managed to squeeze out that claim with a relatively straight face.  

But now that we know Trump did exactly the opposite by admittedly downplaying the pandemic, Ernst, the erstwhile self-professed hog castrator, is running scared. Thursday marked the second day in a row the GOP incumbent senator who's locked in a very tight reelection race ducked questions about Trump's taped confession that he lied to the American public about how deadly the coronavirus is.

Wanna put the Senate back in the hands of people who actually care about saving American lives? Give $3 right now to boot Senate Republicans from power.

“I haven't read it, I haven't seen it, so give me a chance to take a look,” Ernst told CNN's Manu Raju of the revelations in Bob Woodward's latest book, Rage.

Notice what Ernst didn't say, she hadn't heard it. Yep, there's tapes and that's a big part of what makes this so sticky for Ernst and all her GOP colleagues struggling to hold on to power. Remember, earlier this year they all strapped themselves irrevocably to Trump when they voted to acquit him of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness. GOP senators didn't care that Trump was willfully corrupting U.S. elections in order to win a second term, and now that he has deliberately brought death and destruction to the American people, they're either turning a blind eye or just running for the hills, à la Ernst.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn laughably pooh-poohed the reporting from arguably the most famous journalist of a generation who backed up his account with recordings of Trump himself. “I don't have any confidence in the reporting, so I'm not going to comment,” said Cornyn, who's got a 9-point advantage over his Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, according to Real Clear Politics. Sorry, but at the risk redundancy, there's f'ing tapes. Cornyn may as well just say he doesn't have any confidence in Trump himself, since Trump’s the one who privately told Woodward back in early February how "deadly" the coronavirus was.

And North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who's trailing his Democratic challenger, suggested that Trump's pandemic response has been right on the nose.

“When you're in a crisis you've got to strike the right balance (not to create) a panic,” Tillis told CNN’s Raju. Tillis apparently thinks 190,000 American deaths and counting is "the right balance."

All these spineless GOP lawmakers remain more concerned about their reelection bids than the toll their craven silence has taken and continues to take on the nation. Unconscionably sociopathic.

The most important accomplishment of impeaching Trump was its impact on Joe Biden

Impeaching The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote was incredibly important, and not only because it was the right thing to do. Yes, he committed crimes and abused the power of his office, and yes he deserved to be impeached and removed from that office—the record of every Republican Senator other than Mitt Romney will be forever stained by their votes to acquit. History will remember their cowardice.

Beyond the morality, impeachment has had a clear, long-lasting political benefit, one that will pay dividends for Vice President Joe Biden this November. Thanks to impeachment, everyone knows that the charges Trump leveled against Joe and Hunter Biden on Ukraine—the ones he tried to blackmail that country’s president into investigating, or least announcing an intention to investigate—are utter malarkey.

Trump always feared running against Biden, and he acted corruptly in a failed bid to get enough dirt to derail the former VP’s quest to win the Democratic nomination. The impeachment process shone a bright light on Trump’s actions, and on his lies about Biden, ensuring that the smear campaign ultimately backfired.

Since the end of the impeachment trial, Trump and his minions have continued to bleat on with their completely invented and thoroughly debunked stories about the Bidens. I won’t dignify them by repeating the specifics here. Recently, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been “investigating”—i.e., trying to keep the story in the media—this bullshit.

Never mind that by falsely smearing Biden over Ukraine, Johnson and his fellow Republican senators are all but doing the work of Vladimir Putin for him, as this Associated Press article explained

But the stark warning that Russia is working to denigrate the Democratic presidential candidate adds to questions about the probe by Johnson’s Senate committee and whether it is mimicking, even indirectly, Russian efforts and amplifying its propaganda.

The investigation is unfolding as the country, months removed from an impeachment case that had centered on Ukraine, is dealing with a pandemic and confronting the issue of racial injustice. Yet allegations about Biden and Ukraine remain a popular topic in conservative circles, pushed by Russian media and addressed regularly by President Donald Trump and other Republicans as a potential path toward energizing his supporters.

[...] “Particularly as a public official and somebody who’s responsible for keeping the country safe, you should always be suspicious of narratives that are trying to sort of damage or target the electoral process in your country,” said former CIA officer Cindy Otis, a foreign disinformation expert and vice president of analysis at Alethea Group. “You should always be suspicious of narratives that foreign countries are pumping out.”

As Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld pointed out, Johnson even admitted that his so-called probe would “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.” It amazing; these Republicans always manage to say the quiet part out loud, which I guess is helpful. Nevertheless, to paraphrase what Otter said to his nemesis (and professional Republican, according to the character futures provided) Gregg Marmalard in Animal House, “Gee, you’re dumb.”

Then the Orange Julius Caesar himself got into the act. On August 16 he retweeted material that our own intelligence agencies had previously identified as Russian disinformation—part of its effort to directly influence the presidential election by “denigrating” Biden. As CNN put it: “By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda -- and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday -- Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.” Here’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:

The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda. https://t.co/9y6L6uMKbM

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 17, 2020

Then came the four-day marathon of lies known as the Republican National Convention. Former Florida (where else?) Attorney General Pam Bondi went before a national audience and, once again, did Putin’s bidding by lying about the Bidens and Ukraine. The truth? When Joe Biden sought the removal of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shukin he did so, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post noted, “because the prosecutor was corrupt.” Sargent added some more important facts: “This was U.S. policy, backed by international institutions. GOP senators had no problem with it in real time. As The Post’s fact-checking team puts it, Bondi’s story is ‘fiction,’ and in reality, Joe Biden ‘was thwarting corruption, not abetting it.’” Bondi told some other lies about Hunter Biden, which the WaPo fact-checking team also debunked

When these latter day Marmalards now issue their breathtaking press releases or repeat Russian disinformation about the Bidens and Ukraine, the media—thus far at least—has been taking them for what they are: Utter horseshit. I won’t say the media has learned their lesson, but unlike 2016, when “but her emails” was literally the most reported story of the campaign, this year everyone who isn’t directly sucking at the Trump teat is treating these debunked charges with the (lack of) seriousness they deserve. 

For that, we can thank the impeachment of Donald Trump, which exposed the lies against the Bidens for what they are. The impeachment process inoculated the media and the American public by preparing them for what Trump is now trying to pull on this matter. So thank you Nancy Pelosi, thank you Adam Schiff, thank you Val Demings, thank you Jerry Nadler, and thanks to the rest of the Democratic impeachment team. I’m sure Joe Biden is thanking you as well.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi and her large lobbying fees attacks Biden for … corruption?

Former Florida Attorney General and corrupt government official Pam Bondi was one of the speakers on Tuesday night’s fear and terror revisionist history broadcast by the RNC. As with every single person speaking for the Trump administration, the cosmically lazy writing of their personal narrative brings to mind the phrase “the banality of evil.”

Bondi spent her convention time telling viewers that Joe Biden had only enriched his family during his many decades in public office. She said this while the chyrons below her literally promoted the next three speakers for the RNC being Tiffany Trump, Eric Trump, and Melania Trump. The irony of Pam Bondi telling anyone anything about other people being corrupt was not lost on anyone with at least three brain cells to rub together.

More specifically, Pam Bondi’s Fox News’-level expertise on the matter of corruption, according to her, makes her uniquely qualified to point fingers at Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Of course, Pam Bondi’s job for the past year or so has been to act as a lobbyist for foreign business and government interests. She gets paid to bring political power and influence into our government on behalf of people and organizations that are not citizens of our country. That’s what she does. For money. In fact, according to the Foreign Agent Registration form, filled out by the White House, Ms. Bondi has pulled in almost $1.5 million in lobbying fees from these foreign entities over the past year.

Of course, the government interest for whom she works on behalf of, Qatar, was just implicated, along with Russia, by Trump’s own Department of Justice in an enormous corruption scandal involving the 2018 World Cup.

According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial hosting decisions of world football’s governing body.

After coming from her work on behalf of the government of Qatar to help with the sewage plant that is the Trump White House, Bondi was somehow able to leave this past March to restart her work with that government. In an utterly unsurprising turn of events, Donald Trump’s supposed executive order banning former administration officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments doesn’t apply to Bondi. Pam is right when she says she’s knows all about corruption.