It’s finally dawning on Republicans that gifting their party to Trump was a strategic misstep

Senate Republicans got an unwelcome intrusion into their swanky campaign donor retreat this week in Palm Beach, Florida, when Donald Trump issued a statement Wednesday threatening to tank turnout among GOP voters if Republicans didn't find a way to overturn the 2020 election results.

According to reporting from The Washington Post, Trump's ill-timed and self-serving statement cast a pall over the gathering.

“It gives everyone cold sweats over the Georgia situation and the prospect he could have some impact again,” said one party strategist, referring to Trump's effect on the Georgia Senate runoffs earlier this year.

On Thursday, a Trump spokesperson followed up with a statement asserting that Trump was actually a GOTV machine. "There is no one in the country that does more to increase voter engagement and participation than President Trump. Through his endorsements and massive Save America rallies, President Trump is single-handedly rebuilding the Republican Party at the ballot box.”

Fascinating. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of depressed turnout among Republican voters in Georgia's runoffs included a quote from 61-year-old Craig Roland, who said Trump's message about the stolen election had discouraged him from voting in the runoffs.

“What good would it have done to vote? They have votes that got changed,” Roland said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever vote again.” 

Trump, speaking to attendees at the Palm Beach getaway, offered a different view. The Post reviewed some audio from his speech, and it's a doozie. Trump bragged about all his electoral successes after four years in which the Republicans lost total control of Congress and the White House alike.

“It was a dying party, I’ll be honest," he told the room full of GOP operatives and Senators, who are now sitting in the minority. "Now we have a very lively party." That's one way of putting it.

Trump went on to blast certain Senate Republicans who have dared to publicly challenge him, name-checking Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska at their own retreat. Nothing like some uplifting rhetoric to foster that ol' team spirit.

“The Republican Party has to stick together,” Trump added. He wasn't being ironic.

Playing up his own baseless election fraud claims (which nearly every GOP senator knows are ludicrous) was a centerpiece of Trump's pitch to the crowd.

Trump called what happened in Georgia "a terrible thing" and said many states were "correcting all the ways we were all abused over the last election . . . last two elections if you think about it." Apparently, Trump is aware that 2018 wasn't exactly a home run for the GOP either.

Congressional Republicans see real opportunities for gaining seats and retaking majorities next year, but not with a message dominated by Trump's obsessive 2020 election fraud lies.

GOP Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who holds an urban/suburban swing seat, said Republicans could "win big" in 2022 with consistent messaging about foreign policy, inflation, immigration, and crime.

However, Bacon said, "If the party wants to make it about the election is rigged, we will lose. Independent voters don’t respond well to that."

The problem for Bacon and other vulnerable Republicans is that it doesn't matter what "the party" wants because no one in GOP leadership has the guts, integrity, or political juice to face down Trump, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blew his chance to shiv Trump during the January impeachment trial. McConnell either couldn't muster the votes to convict Trump or didn't try—either way, he failed.

In the meantime, both the Senate and House campaign arms continue to avidly fundraise by invoking Trump's name and a potential 2024 presidential bid.

Trump is also set to keynote the fall dinner of the National Republican Congressional Committee. When NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota was asked about Trump's threat to sink GOP turnout next year unless Republicans overturned the 2020 results, all Emmer could muster was, "The former president, he’s a private citizen. He, of course, is entitled to his own opinion.” (That's clearly the best Emmer's going to do because it's the second time he's deployed the private citizen/own opinion messaging.)

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel has also promised donors that the party would make "election integrity" a key focus in 2022.

Historically, congressional Republicans enjoy a huge advantage heading into next year's midterms simply because they are the party out of power. The problem for them is they have hung their hat on a guy whose delusional obsession with the 2020 "steal" is overwhelming the entire party. Trump is demanding fealty on that message from every one of his GOP primary endorsees and alternately promising primary challenges for anyone at the state and federal levels who defies him.

In Michigan, where Trumpers are currently knocking on doors trying to find evidence of 2020 fraud, Trump issued a statement threatening any GOP lawmaker who stood in their way.

“Hopefully, each one of these cowardly RINOs, whose names will be identified and forthcoming, will be primaried with my complete and total endorsement in the upcoming election,” Trump said in a Wednesday statement.

To date, the state's GOP-led legislature hasn't launched an audit and an investigation by the Senate Oversight Committee concluded there was "no evidence" of widespread fraud.

So whatever message GOP operatives and lawmakers might hope to feature in next year's midterms: They can kiss it goodbye. Trump is going to go to his grave spewing 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories and he'll happily drag the Republican Party with him.

GA district attorney uses Trump’s own words against him after Trump calls for ‘special election’

Former President Donald Trump truly is his own worst enemy. All he has to do is open his mouth, and laws get broken, indictments start flowing, evidence builds, and criminal cases are shored up.

His most recent gaffe took place in Perry, Georgia, last month, when during a rally, he went after his arch-nemesis Gov. Brian Kemp for refusing to overturn his presidential loss to President Joe Biden. Now the Brookings Institution has updated its report to include some extremely damning comments Trump made in his vitriolic speech.

During the rally, Trump twice said he’d asked Kemp to call a “special election” in order to decertify his defeat in Georgia. 

“I said, ‘Brian, listen, you have a big election integrity problem in Georgia. I hope you can help us out and call a special election and let’s get to the bottom of it for the good of the country,’” Trump said.

The report highlights Trump’s “special election” comments as a new piece of evidence for investigators, one that according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution could reflect the concept that Trump could have declared martial law in order to strong-arm states to hold new elections. 

Trump’s comments are just another piece of evidence in the Fulton County’s district attorney’s office arsenal, as they build their criminal probe to prove election fraud. 

“If he’s prosecuted, I’d be very surprised if that tape of him talking about the Kemp conversation does not end up being played at trial,” Norman Eisen, special counsel to House Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment trial, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The new report lists Trump’s possible charges as criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; interference with an election; racketeering; making a false statement, and destroying, defacing, or removing ballots. 

Additionally, the report focuses on the infamous phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where the president tried to bully Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to turn over his loss to Biden, as first reported by The Washington Post

Trump’s camp is attempting to defend the former president, saying that he didn’t mean what he said at the Perry rally. He meant “special session,” not “special election.” (Trump said “special election” not once, but twice.)

“I’ve been doing criminal law now for over 30 years. I’ve gone after the bad guys and defended the wrongly accused,” Eisen told the AJC. “And the No. 1 rule is if you’re under investigation keep your mouth shut. By coming to Georgia and talking about these events, the former president has deepened his potential risk.”

This one quote shows how out of touch Mitch McConnell is with the GOP base

At some point during the reporting of the newly released book Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky seemed to believe Trumpism was just a passing fancy.

In the book, McConnell called Donald Trump “a fading brand. Retired. OTTB as they say in Kentucky -- off-the-track Thoroughbred,” according to the Lexington Herald Leader

“There is a clear trend moving,” McConnell predicted, toward a Republican Party not dominated by Trump. “Sucking up to Donald Trump is not a strategy that works,” he added.

It's unclear exactly when McConnell offered those keen insights to Woodward and Costa, but what is clear is just how badly the GOP leader has misjudged Trump-era politics.

Though McConnell is correct that playing suck-up never works, Trump and his acolytes are presently running roughshod over the McConnell wing of the party.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the way Trump is already pushing GOP primaries toward extremism rather than promoting the policies and candidates most likely to prevail in competitive general elections. Trump's obsession with endorsing pushers of his 2020 election fraud lies is already narrowing the Senate GOP's chances of netting the one seat they need to regain control of the Senate. 

At the same time, moderates and one-time "rising stars" in the Republican Party—such as Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio—are opting to retire rather than trying to swim upstream in a sea of GOP disinformation about vaccines, 2020, Jan. 6, and myriad other issues.  

Trump has also succeed in bullying GOP lawmakers in swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania into initiating Arizona-style fraudits, ensuring that supporting them will become a litmus-test issue for every Republican lawmaker and candidate in the state. If there’s one thing Republican leaders have wanted to avoid, it’s having their message entirely overshadowed Trump’s election lies.

Any way one slices it, Trump's stranglehold on the party isn't exactly what one would characterize as "fading" at the moment.

In a candid moment several months ago, McConnell even admitted that he has no control whatsoever over Trump's involvement in the midterms, saying bluntly, "Well, he has his own agenda."

Indeed.

In the book, McConnell said the only way he imagined Trump and him "at loggerheads" would be "if he gets behind some clown who clearly can’t win."

“To have a chance of getting the Senate back, you have to have the most electable candidates possible," McConnell added.

Genius. Too bad McConnell didn't take the chance to bury Trump during the impeachment trial earlier this year. McConnell either didn't have the vision or the political juice with his caucus to finally put Trump away. But whether it was lack of insight or lack of leadership, McConnell missed his single best opportunity to render Trump "a fading brand."

Now, McConnell and the GOP—along with the rest of the nation—are paying the price for that incompetence. 

Rudy Giuliani loses communications director, even as he and his world continue to unravel

Handling public relations for Rudy Giuliani seems like a particularly Sisyphean task. So imagine if it was your first job out of college. To begin with, having “Rudy Giuliani” on your résumé can’t be good. You’d be better off leading with “June 2019-August 2021: Sponge-bathed Randy Quaid” than willfully associating yourself with the phantasmagorical twilight of Rudes’ career. Ah, but don’t tell Christianné Allen that.

Allen, a young MAGA “influencer” who hopped onto the Giuliani bandwagon after it had already thrown most of its wheels, is now stepping down—just in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a milestone Rudy is sure to celebrate with a car wash bucket full of Scotch and a cheesy radiator pita or two.

Of course, “America’s Mayor” hasn’t enjoyed anything resembling folk hero status for some time now. Whether it’s being named Donald Trump’s cybersecurity adviser before locking himself out of his own iPhone, doing possibly (probably?) illegal things in Ukraine to enhance the electoral prospects of the worst presidential candidate in the history of democratic self-rule, leaking like a BP oil well while attempting to overturn the results of a free and fair election, or simply rubbing one out in front of Borat, Rudy has been a PR nightmare for years, and it looks like the 22-year-old Allen has had enough. She’s resigned from her job at Giuliani Communications LLC “effective this week,” according to The Daily Beast.

Her tenure began amid the fallout from Giuliani’s Ukraine meddling and then-President Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment. She was later at Giuliani’s side during the Hunter Biden laptop fiasco ahead of the 2020 election, as well as during the post-election litigation and PR blitz that ultimately cost Giuliani his license to practice law in Washington, D.C., and New York.

Her resignation comes at a stressful time for Giuliani, who earlier this year laid off other staff under financial pressure from mounting legal bills. The former mayor must now navigate a PR team shake-up while fighting on several fronts, including civil suits related to his election challenges and a federal investigation into his alleged foreign influence work. At the same time, Giuliani finds himself increasingly isolated from the Republican Party, and his longtime friend former President Donald Trump seems to have all but abandoned him.

Well, Donald Trump abandons everyone after they’ve stopped being useful to him. But when an eager, wide-eyed 22-year-old jumps ship, that’s when you know the iceberg has won.

Luckily, The Daily Beast reports, Rudes has a new team all lined up.

Allen says she has been replaced by Todd Shapiro, a former spokesperson for Lindsay Lohan’s family who also claims to have represented Trump properties, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Hooters of Long Island and New Jersey.

Okay, well, his new PR maven appears to have plenty of experience with both unstable celebrities and gratuitous use of boobs to sell chicken wings—so this should be a lateral move for him.

Naturally, Allen, who, as Giuliani’s lead PR person, has already been through enough public relations disasters for several lifetimes, was diplomatic on her way out the door: “As I reflect, I am proud of the accomplishments we achieved,” she said. “One of which was building Rudy Giuliani’s Common Sense podcast from conception to one of the top political podcasts in the country in under a year. Looking forward, I once again feel blessed to have the opportunity for continued growth and development within a rising tech startup.”

As for Giuliani, he recently felt compelled to tell NBC New York that he has not “gone off the rails” and is “not an alcoholic.” I had assumed he’d said it from a railroad ditch while drinking from a Sterno can hidden in an old sock he’d found in his grandma’s woods, but it looks like he was in a New York City park or something. 

Great time to lose your PR flack, huh? Good luck to Allen as she forges a career outside of Rudyland, although the Turning Point USA “ambassador” doesn’t seem like she’s ready to leave MAGA world.

Well, y’all. I did my first interview in about two years. It was such a treat to join @JennaEllisEsq on her show at #YWLS2021 to discuss something that has been weighing heavy on my heart and that is the global rise of religious persecution and hostility. @TPUSA @RealAmVoice pic.twitter.com/cWY42uqms7

— Christianné L Allen (@Christianne_L_A) June 12, 2021

But after babysitting Rudy for the past two years, anything she does will have to seem like a relief.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Jen Psaki tells Fox News’ Doocy to stop being a part of the problem and help with the solution

The traditional media seems to have a short memory, but no one has a shorter memory than conservative media. Seizing on the decades-long foreign policy disaster that is Afghanistan, conservatives are trying their darndest to blame President Biden’s administration for being the people who finally picked up the corrupt and incompetent can that has been kicked down the road for three administrations now. The issues that the United States and its allies face now that we have withdrawn from our 20-year occupation of Afghanistan are messy. They fall at the feet of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, “architect” of the Afghanistan invasion Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

But regardless of our foreign policy’s pedigree, Joe Biden is the president now. And not unlike the South American caravans of yesteryear, conservative outlets play video of the human suffering and confusion that surrounds Afghanistan’s changing power dynamics and jack their fear and warmongering volume knobs way up. The hope is that the sounds coming from the Middle East and will drown out the wails of thousands of Americans suffering from a pandemic that has continued to rage out of control, due in no small part to conservative policy impotence. Enter Peter Doocy. Like his father Steve Doocy, the Fox News legacy hire’s job consists of coming up with undercooked headline premises and then asking a question of press secretary Jen Psaki, followed up by an even more fact-free Republican-talking point follow up that he will turn into whatever it is he’s going to report back to Fox News.

Press secretary Psaki has made it a practice to pleasantly humiliate Doocy at virtually every press briefing. Monday was no different.

Doocy began by pointing out that the images Fox News, OAN, CNN and others are showing the world right now of the Taliban include them sporting American weaponry and military clothing. Doocy and others have clearly forgotten that this move by the Biden administration is based on the deal Donald Trump cut with the Taliban. The fact that the U.S. withdrawal was very quickly followed by proof that the last 20 years didn’t seem to change anything in regard to regimes is a failure of our military, our intelligence apparatus, the administrations that allowed it to continue, and the traditional media that generates the recent mania. The last group on that list spent most of the past 20 years of our occupation not covering Afghanistan or investigating how poorly we were doing over there for two decades.

And now, after an administration begins to complete the deal the previous Republican administration struck, and after an administration tries to pick up the pieces of a disaster that was started 20 years ago by one of the worst foreign policy initiatives the planet has ever seen, conservatives want to try and pin some kind of trash ‘soft on terrorism’ label to the Biden administration’s lapel.

On Monday, Peter Doocy, doing his continuously pathetic part, attempted to angle his followup to Psaki by saying that the criticisms of President Biden were due to the fact that Americans have been “stranded” in Afghanistan. So far, the administration has estimated that there were somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan the day before the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul. This number does not include the many more Afghans who allied themselves over the past 20 years with the U.S. forces, many of whom are also trying to leave the country fearing reprisal from the Taliban. The New York Times reported that as of Saturday, U.S. military claim they have evacuated “about 2,500 Americans” The administration says that including allied Afghans, just about 28,000 people have been flown out of the country.

On Monday, officials told NBC news that the number of people evacuated over the weekend brought up the total number to 37,000. Psaki said Doocy’s use of the term “stranded” was “irresponsible,” saying that the Biden administration has no plans to just turn around now and pretend that there aren’t people that still need to leave Afghanistan. It’s an important distinction that applies not only to Peter Doocy and Fox News but to most of the media outlets in our country. Our foreign policy can only be level-headed if we report on it with some factual and critical understanding of what is happening. 

"I am just calling you out for saying we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan when we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home. And I think that’s important for the American public to hear,” Psaki said. You cannot have it both ways. It is fine to criticize the president for seemingly not knowing how quickly the Taliban would take control of the capital. If you want to criticize the last president for making a deal that put an accelerant on the chances for heightened bloodshed if the U.S. didn’t leave the country when Biden did, you can criticize that. If Peter Doocy wants to investigate our military and the trillions of dollars we have spent in Afghanistan setting up a government that seems to have easily been toppled, please go ahead.

But we are not trying to re-invade and occupy Afghanistan right away; and attempting to turn this transition into an instant humanitarian crisis belies not only the facts but jeopardizes countless peoples’ lives on the ground in Afghanistan.

Jen Psaki calls out Peter Doocy for falsely claiming that Biden is stranding Americans in Afghanistan, "I am calling you out for saying we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home." pic.twitter.com/HzKZSF5G0s

— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) August 23, 2021

GOP operative charged, including 5 counts of child sex trafficking

On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Minnesota released a statement announcing the arrest and indictment of 30-year-old Anton Lazzaro on sex trafficking charges. The charges include the allegation that Lazzaro recruited and conspired to recruit at least six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts between May 2020 and December 2020.

Lazzaro is the latest GOP operative to be arrested on charges of human trafficking, joining former elected county assessor for Maricopa County Paul Petersen, and Rep. Matt Gaetz’s buddy Joel Greenberg. Lazzaro was reportedly arrested Thursday morning in Minneapolis and made his first appearance in court over video conference later in the day.

According to The Daily Beast, Lazzaro’s luxury condo was raided by the FBI in December 2020.

Law enforcement served the condo building’s management company with a search warrant seeking Lazzaro’s bank records and video surveillance footage a week before the raid, according to a person with direct knowledge. The search warrant appears in federal court records but remains sealed. The prosecutors working on this case did not return phone calls seeking further detail.

The Republican Party has a long history of having members’ names thrown around in sex trafficking and human trafficking cases. Trump’s impeachment attorney Alan Dershowitz has had his name come up in various court documents over the past decade in connection with known child rapist Jeffrey Epstein. Dershowitz has denied all accusations of impropriety. Coincidentally, Lazzaro made the claim that Dershowitz had been subcontracted by his lawyer to help with the case, but Dershowitz denied the connection to The Daily Beast.

One of Lazzaro’s recent jobs with the Republican Party was on the campaign team for Lacy Johnson, the conservative candidate who lost to Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s 5th district. Johnson told the Beast that he and Lazzaro never discussed his personal dating life, but that he was dismayed to hear about the raid and charges.

Lazzaro is facing 10 counts, including conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and five counts of the sex trafficking of a minor. He also faces an attempted sex trafficking charge and obstruction charges. His formal detention hearing is set for Aug. 16, 2021. He will remain in custody until at least that time. The FBI believes that Lazzaro and his cohorts might still have many other victims out there: “Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.”

Here are some photos.

Lazzaro with Trump. pic.twitter.com/hj29nacwoa

— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) August 12, 2021

Lazzaro is well connected! Who’s that in the middle? Looks familiar? pic.twitter.com/lFljBaJnNo

— Frank Marin (@FrankRiveraMar1) August 12, 2021

Donald Trump, serial grifter who never gives back, has soaked up more than $100 million in donations

Donald Trump has amassed a $105 million war chest since leaving office but hasn't dropped so much as a dime on boosting GOP candidates or funding outside efforts to overturn the 2020 elections, according to Politico.

Nope. That's for losers and suckers, and Trump is just a good old-fashioned grifter. Consequently, he has directed nearly all the money he soaked up through his political action committees (Make America Great Again PAC, Save America PAC, and the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee) to pay his own personal and business expenses almost exclusively. That includes paying for travel expenses, more fundraising appeals, the salaries of personal and political aides, and legal fees he racked up trying to mount an impeachment defense and overturn the 2020 results. Trump did make one external donation of $1 million to the America First Policy Institute, which was founded by several of his former aides after he lost reelection. 

But when it comes to high-profile efforts to overturn 2020, like the Arizona fraudit or helping Republican candidates—zip! They're on their own. In other words, the vast majority of Trump's fundraising appeals have nothing to do with where he is actually directing his money. Those Arizona-style audits that more than half of Republican voters actually think could change the 2020 outcome are just window dressing to Trump. They're going nowhere and he isn't wasting a dime on them—but they sure are lucrative.

Another popular fundraising theme for Trump is that he's going to ensure Republicans win back Congress next year. But apparently the sum total of his efforts include dooming the Republican candidates who are perhaps best-suited to win in general elections

A Trump spokesperson now claims he recently made donations to his chosen candidates that haven't yet shown up in campaign filings. And despite telling all the GOP campaign committees earlier this year to cease and desist from using him or his likeness to solicit donations, Trump is now taking credit for their fundraising hauls.

“In addition to the RECORD BREAKING money raised over the last 6 months to my political affiliates, I am pleased to see the entire party benefit from ‘Trump,’ Trump said in a statement after the GOP's national committee and two congressional campaign committees raised close to a combined $300 million in first six months of the year.

Interestingly, though, the statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee hailing its $51 million intake made no references to Trump. 

“The more voters learn about the disastrous impacts of the Senate Democrats’ socialist agenda, the more the momentum builds to elect a Republican Senate majority in 2022,” NRSC chair Rick Scott said in a statement.

Gee, it almost seems like Senate Republicans don't want to be associated with Trump. Rest assured that Trump is lying awake at night smarting over the fact that the GOP committees have raised even a single cent that he believes belongs to him exclusively.

What Trump has lavished money on is attorney fees—the many, many lawyers involved in defending and advising him in everything from his second impeachment to the Russian investigation to a host of personal lawsuits.

Rudy Giuliani, however, the face of Trump's legal resistance following his 2020 loss, appears to have come up dry. The $75,000 Trump shelled out to Giuliani went exclusively to his travel expenses, not legal fees. Sorry, Rudy.

Republican screwups on infrastructure hurt people from Kentucky to Michigan to Mississippi to NYC

The running joke of the Trump presidency—okay, one of the running jokes—was the constant pronouncements of an upcoming “infrastructure week” or that some kind of infrastructure deal was in the offing. Nothing. Ever. Happened. Meanwhile, ask the people of Jackson, Mississippi—who watched as the government at every level failed for decades to invest in keeping their city’s water system up to date, with some residents unable to access water for weeks—to find humor in Trump’s failure to deliver. We’ll come back to that story below.

Once again, infrastructure is the word flying around Washington, D.C., and it’s no longer a joke. There are ongoing conversations in the House and the Senate. We’ve seen a bipartisan deal announced laying out the framework on funding what’s called physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), the urgent need for which will be our focus here. However, let me add that our government—with or without support from Republicans—absolutely must fund equally vital human infrastructure needs such as child and elder care, job training, and education, elements that are just as important in making our economy stronger. As President Biden pointed out in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on June 29, “the human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure.”

Finally, the grownups are in charge.

For anyone who still needs convincing, the consulting firm McKinsey laid out the data on the benefits of serving the common good by investing in our country’s physical infrastructure: there is little doubt about the value of investing in good infrastructure. In 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that every dollar spent on infrastructure brought an economic benefit of up to $2.20. The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that $1 billion of transportation-infrastructure investment supports 13,000 jobs for a year. Beyond the numbers, infrastructure is critical to the health and well-being of the country: the United States could not function without the roads, bridges, sewers, clean water, and airports previous generations paid for.

As you can see below, after a nice bump early in the Obama-Biden years thanks to the 2009 stimulus package, infrastructure spending dropped off and fell to generational lows under the guy who followed them.

It would be impossible to provide even a partial list of the necessary infrastructure projects across the U.S., although this article does a nice job presenting a number of the highest priorities. The Biden White House has produced fact sheets that sum up each state’s physical infrastructure needs, demonstrating what it hopes to accomplish for Americans all across the country.

Images of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan, are burned into all of our minds, but another city’s water-related tragedy may be less familiar. In Jackson, Mississippi, a city of 160,000 inhabitants, over 80% of whom are Black, the majority went without running water for weeks after a brutal mid-February storm. How brutal? An engineer at the state Department of Transportation expressed the following: “I sincerely hope that in 25 plus years from now, we are still talking about this event as the ‘worst one ever.” Even a month after the storm had passed, over 70% of people were still being told to boil their water before using it.

Why did the storm wreak such havoc in Jackson specifically? Because of a century-plus old municipal water system whose vulnerabilities were laid bare by the storm—which also pummeled Texas, killing hundreds and perhaps as many as a thousand people while knocking out that state’s power grid. Jackson residents reflected on the crisis in interviews with Good Morning America.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba specifically blamed Mississippi Republicans, who have dominated the state’s politics for decades, for failing to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs that would have mitigated damage from the storm: “I think that you find less willingness from the state to support a city like Jackson, because they don't necessarily feel that the demographics of Jackson, or even the politics of Jackson resemble the majority opinion.” In other words, they didn’t care one iota about a city full of Black Democrats.

The governor of Mississippi recently murmured something about assisting the city in looking around for low-interest loans. Yip-frickin-ee. The mayor estimated the cost of truly solving the problems faced by the city’s water system—Jackson’s water also has a lead problem rivaling that of the aforementioned Flint—at $2 billion. The Biden plan proposed to send what will hopefully be enough money to make things right for the people of Jackson.

Beyond Flint’s problems, there are dams all over Michigan that are simply falling apart. In May 2020, the Sanford and Edenville dams burst after heavy rains, flooding surrounding areas. Regarding the Edenville dam—aged 96 years—federal regulators revoked its license to generate hydropower in 2018, but the state regulators apparently dropped the ball in subsequent years. Overall, the dams failed because of “years of underfunding and neglect.”

Like in Mississippi, Michigan Republicans have controlled the purse strings for quite some time. They’ve maintained a state Senate majority since 1984, and have run the House since 2010—aided significantly by gerrymandering. From 2011 through 2019, the state’s governor was Republican Rick Snyder. While holding this trifecta of power, Michigan Republicans largely ignored the state’s infrastructure needs. In fact, Snyder, along with other members of his administration, were indicted earlier this year on criminal charges for their actions (or lack thereof) relating to Flint’s water fiasco.

On dams, the kind of flooding residents of Midland and Gladwin counties suffered is common in every part of the country. There are about 91,000 dams in the U.S. Of these, approximately 15,000-16,000 are located in spots where, if they broke, significant loss of life and property destruction would result. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has determined that around one out of every six of those dams are “deficient.” That is a problem we need to address before the next storm.

The most infuriating, most foolish example of active Republican malfeasance originated in the time before President Caligula had made the transition from reality show buffoon to destructive demagogue. It took place at the center of the region with the largest economy of any in the U.S., and concerned its most important ground transportation hub—the one that connects the island of Manhattan to the mainland by train.

We’re also talking about a problem that Democratic President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, with the support of local officials, had actually begun fixing over a decade ago. That was before New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, doctrinaire conservative that he is, metaphorically stood athwart the train tracks yelling “STOP!” It’s a very long story, but it’s one that demonstrates how Republican ideology, Republican lies, and plain-old Republican shortsightedness put the kibosh on a project that remains just as necessary today.

There is only one train tunnel—which happens to be 110 years old—running beneath the Hudson River. For many years, we’ve known that that’s at least one tunnel too few. What was then called the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project would have built a second one, enabling twice as many trains to cross into the Big Apple. Roughly 200,000 people and 450 trains traveled through that sole, aging tunnel on a typical pre-COVID weekday. Other positive effects of the ARC project would have included: “alleviat[ing] congestion on local roads, reduc[ing] pollution, help[ing] the growth of the region’s economy and rais[ing] property values for suburban homeowners.” Oh, and it would have created 6,000 construction jobs right at the point during the Great Recession when unemployment was at its peak, at just about 10%.

The work was already underway when, in October of 2010, Gov. Christie suddenly reversed himself and cancelled the project. As late as that April, shortly after his inauguration, he had reiterated his long-standing support. Why, pray tell, did he take an action that “stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation”? Even though the federal government, along with the states of New York and New Jersey, and the Port Authority, were all contributing to the bill, Christie claimed that New Jersey would end up bearing the burden of cost overruns, and so he pulled out.

It turned out that, as per a 2012 investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Christie was, to put it charitably, incorrect in just about everything he claimed as justification for cancelling the project. Looking back, it’s clear why he did what he did, based on where the money that had been dedicated to building the ARC tunnel ended up—namely in NJ’s “near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.” In other words, he took the money so he wouldn’t have to raise gas taxes, and thereby earn the ill-will of the people who put him in office. What a bozo.

As bad as that decision was at the time, it was rendered even more foolish by a little thing called Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the region in 2012. A year earlier, what had been the ARC project had been tweaked somewhat and re-proposed as the Gateway project, again centering on the building of a new Hudson River tunnel. After Sandy resulted in severe flooding, an Empire State Building-sized amount of dirty, salty water ended up in the tunnels. Repairing the damage with only one tunnel in operation would cause a nightmare for commuters.

But, after initial steps were taken during Obama’s second term that culminated in a cost-sharing agreement between the states—who together would pick up half the tab, with the federal government paying the other half—a new president took office in 2017. And he was a New Yorker, born and bred, so certainly he’d make sure the Gateway project happened. Unfortunately, The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It not only physically abandoned his Fifth Avenue penthouse—he now makes Florida his primary home—he 100% abandoned the city that made him a household name. Progress on the Gateway tunnel ground to a halt, and the funding dried up, as Trump took an “obstructionist stance.”

That brings us back to the Biden-Harris administration, which formally approved the Gateway project just over a month ago. In the last days of June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the tunnel himself. He made clear that his boss was 100% on board, and fully understood the necessity for the whole of the American economy of the project. Shutting down even one of the two tubes in the existing tunnel for repairs without having first built the additional Gateway tunnel would mean, as the one-time Mayor Pete noted: “you would be feeling the economic impact all the way back in Indiana, where I come from.” To be more specific, a study by the non-profit Regional Plan Association found the impact could run as high as $16 billion, and cost 33,000 jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave thanks to the White House on behalf of the region, and took a dig at the twice impeached former Gotham-dweller: “Now we can announce that the hostage that was the Gateway tunnel under the previous administration has been freed,” and added: “We are full speed ahead to get Gateway done.” The project could begin as early as next year, or else in 2023, according to the senator. Still, Christie and Trump set the region back years—perhaps a decade. All of us are still crossing our fingers that not only will the project happen, but also that the new tunnel is completed before the old one gives out.

But of course it’s not only urban centers that have dire infrastructure needs. Martin County is in eastern Kentucky, with a population that is, incredibly, over 99% white. Since 1999, both U.S. Senate seats from Kentucky have been held by Republicans, one of them by Mitch McConnell, who has led the Republican Party in that body since 2007. In the House, Martin County has been represented by Republican Hal Rogers since 1981.

In a video produced by the Biden White House, Barbi Ann Maynard detailed what she and her neighbors don’t have, because their infrastructure is so lacking: “People talk about Eastern Kentucky is poor, and they don't really have anything. Well, how are we ever going to have anything if our government won’t invest in our infrastructure? We’re people too. We’re American citizens. And we deserve access to clean, affordable drinking water.” Running the tap at her kitchen sink, she pointed at the not at all clear liquid flowing out of it and stated simply: “this water disgusts me. I’m afraid of this water.”

Maynard described the language that has appeared “for decades” as a warning on the back of the water bills Martin County residents receive: “If you are pregnant, infant, elderly, have a compromised immune system, consult a physician before consuming this water. If consumed over many years, it causes liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and twice it says increased risk of cancer.” I drink New York City tap water every day, multiple glasses of it, without thinking twice. So while my region has its infrastructure deficiencies, folks in Eastern Kentucky have it even worse in their daily lives, right now.

Maynard continued by talking about the need for roads and bridges, which are either in disrepair or nonexistent across the county, as well as other priorities. The Nolan Toll Bridge was the only way for people in the area to get to the interstate. After being damaged badly, it was closed off rather than repaired. She lamented: “When you lose bridges, roads, you lose opportunities to grow. Businesses can’t come if they can’t get their product out,” and added “because we have [a] lack of infrastructure, that causes companies to not want to come and invest in Martin County.” Maynard has been fighting for increased infrastructure spending in her county for more than twenty years, and summarized the situation thusly: “I know what we could have. I know what it could be like. And I want that for my people.”

The Orange Julius Caesar took up shop in the Oval Office in January 2017, and his party controlled the House and the Senate. Using the reconciliation process, they could easily have passed a massive infrastructure package, or even a medium-sized one, with or without Democrats. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure on Trump’s watch in 2017, he came up with little more than some paper towels to toss the island’s way. Puerto Ricans continue to suffer from Maria’s damage as well as, for just one example among many, earthquakes that revealed serious vulnerabilities in the design of hundreds of schools across the island—another major infrastructure need.

Even after Democrats won the House in the 2018 midterms, Trump still could have accomplished something major on infrastructure. Trump blew off Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fuming about impeachment. Republicans can bleat about how they believe in infrastructure, how they support infrastructure. When the rubber met the (in dire need of repair) road, they failed to deliver.

The Biden-Harris team, along with congressional Democrats, are going to do the work of funding our country’s infrastructure needs in every region, just as they’ve done the work on so many issues—ranging from carrying out a nationwide vaccination program, to rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, to passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, among other accomplishments. This White House knows that strengthening our physical as well as human infrastructure is good politics as well as the right thing to do for the American economy, and for the American people.

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)

Kevin McCarthy really, really, really doesn’t want to talk about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riots

Many snows ago (okay, just one snow), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was adamant that Donald Trump bore at least some responsibility for the Jan. 6 insurrection. Why would he say that? Because the Jan. 6 insurrection wouldn’t have happened without the ocher abomination’s ceaseless barrage of fatuous lies. Had Trump simply admitted he lost when every sane person in the country could clearly see that he had, newly minted conservative folk hero Ashli Babbitt would be alive today, not to mention Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick and several others.

Trump—and his grotesque Hieronymus Bosch hellscape of an ego—is directly responsible for their deaths. Full stop.

But McCarthy doesn’t want to talk about any of that. He’s focusing on why the family AR-15’s safety was switched off when Baby started playing with it, not why it was in Baby’s crib to begin with. 

Watch the second video here.

Kevin McCarthy won't acknowledge that Trump bears any responsibility whatsoever for the January 6 insurrection pic.twitter.com/wF7Cl5JDZ5

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 1, 2021

Deflection transcript!

REPORTER: “Do you believe that … former President Trump is accountable in some way for the events leading up to Jan. 6?”

MCCARTHY: “What I looked … have you read the Senate report? Did you read the Senate report? Did you have questions about the prep that we had for this Capitol? Were you concerned about, when they found IEDs in the morning, did we not call the FBI? Were you concerned about the idea that the sergeant of arms had intel provided by the FBI but it wasn’t passed forward? Were you concerned if we had that information, why didn’t we have a different presence built here? If you were concerned about riots, why would you put the riot gear in a bus that was locked down the way? In the time the riot took place, why was there not communication that had direction from leadership, because leadership wasn’t talking? There’s so many failures along that way that happened the days before that allowed individuals to get into the building. That’s what we want to make sure never happens again.”

REPORTER: “Former President Trump was the president at the time. Does he have no responsibility?”

MCCARTHY: [Goes to another reporter.]

Let’s apply McCarthy’s fault-dodgin’ “logic” to, say, an intentional (and fully hypothetical) plane crash. 

REPORTER: “Leader McCarthy, do you think the pilot of the downed airliner bears responsibility for the lives lost when he deliberately crashed his 757 into Lake Huron?”

MCCARTHY: “Did you read the FAA report? Why were people confused about where their floatation cushions were? Didn’t they listen to the safety instructions? Why were their tray tables not stowed away? Why were their seats not in the upright and locked position? Why didn’t they bring snorkels and flippers with them in their carryons? There are just so many failures along the way.”

Good questions all, Rep. McCarthy!

Of course, the current stance differs greatly from what McCarthy said on Jan. 13, one week after Trump’s failed bumblefuck putsch.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump — accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure president-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term. The President’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent.”

That seems pretty unequivocal. So what the fuck happened?

Oh, yeah. This:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy visits former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago for "cordial" meeting https://t.co/797U12qHyA pic.twitter.com/SXRgVvZrHK

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 28, 2021

Someone should dust McCarthy’s short-and-curlies for tiny man-baby fingerprints and spray tan residue.

Of course, it’s never a good sign when your party’s fortunes hinge on the dyspeptic whims of an insurrectionist, but that’s exactly what this photo demonstrates.

Oh, and I’m sure you remember this golden oldie.

The Hill:

But recounting from other members of Congress relayed a much more desperate plea from McCarthy as the Capitol — and even his own office — came under attack.

McCarthy “said to the President, ‘You’ve got to hold them. You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.’ And he said, the President said, ‘Kevin, they’re not my people,’” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), one of the 10 in her party to vote to impeach Trump, told a local paper, The Daily News.

She later wrote in a statement that became evidence in Trump’s impeachment trial: “That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

Why are so many people seemingly in thrall to a rubbish human who tried to get them killed? Mike Pence. Kevin McCarthy. The city of Tulsa. His Secret Service detail. Pretty much every American, come to think of it. It’s like miraculously surviving Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid and then returning for seconds.

Of course, if this flourish of off-the-charts obsequiousness were limited to just McCarthy, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, even though he is House minority leader. But the pod people have taken over the GOP. And, frankly, it’s unlikely the Republican Party can ever go back to being merely evil after this. The delusional icing is just too thick on this cake.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

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."