Huzzay! Debt Ceiling Raised, Catastrophe Averted, Republicans And Joe Manchin :(

The Senate passed the debt limit bill last night, raising the ceiling on how much the government can borrow to pay for spending it’s already done, and thereby avoiding a default on the federal debt and the attendant economic disaster that would follow. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who will sign it today and is scheduled to address the nation this evening at 7 p.m. Eastern. We expect the speech will say something along the lines of, “Now look, for cryin’ out loud, we need to pay our bills, I mean it! None of this was necessary, and that’s why I’m invoking the 14th Amendment, I’m not joking, to make the Supreme Court rule on whether the debt limit law is even constitutional. What a load of malarkey, goodnight.”

Following the Senate vote last night, Biden actually said in a statement, “No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: This bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people,” which was far nicer.

The bill passed in the Senate on a 63 to 36 vote, enough to avoid a filibuster. Five members of the Democratic caucus — John Fetterman (Pennsylvania), Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) voted nay. (They presumably would have voted for it if necessary.) The majority of Republicans, 31 of ’em, also voted against the bill albeit for very different reasons. Only 17 Republican senators voted for the bill. I’ll note that it was a rare thing for me to see both of Idaho’s senators, Mike Crapo and the other one, voting with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Before the vote, the Senate debated and rejected 11 amendments to the bill, including Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine’s amendment to yeet Joe Manchin’s pet methane pipeline project out of the bill (which Manchin had somehow sneaked into the House version) and into the sun. That was the only amendment offered by a Democrat; the others were Republican attempts to demand deeper cuts to domestic spending programs than in the House bill, to increase military spending even more than the House bill did, to Git Tougher on the border, and the like.

During floor debate, several Republicans fretted that without unlimited Pentagon spending, the Russians, Chinese, or Martians might try something sneaky, or that the US would be unable to support Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion (as far as we can tell, no Republicans rose to shout, “That’s the point!”). Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said that the defense hawks needn’t worry, and that the debt ceiling bill

does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia and our other adversaries, and respond to ongoing and growing national security threats, including Russia’s evil ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.

Schumer added that the bill wouldn’t limit Congress’s ability to pass emergency funding for disaster relief or other needs, either, although he failed to note that Republicans would certainly whine about such expenditures unless their own states were affected.

All told, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the spending caps in the bill would reduce federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Reuters rather cheekily adds, “That is below the $3 trillion in deficit reduction, mainly through new taxes, that Biden proposed,” and we say good on you, Reuters.

Also, in a coda that gives us at least a satisfied smirk, Fox News reports that in an interview, Joe Manchin (D?-Methane) complained that Republicans were getting too much credit for his personal boondoggle in the bill, the fast-tracking of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The debt limit agreement forces an end to all regulatory and court challenges to Manchin’s pet project, which he has pushed since it was proposed in 2014, and by golly, Joe Manchin isn’t about to have any Republicans take the focus away from him and the ginormous favor he’s doing for the fossil-fuel industries (of which he’s not only the president, he’s also a client).

What’s the problem here? They’re afraid of who gets credit for it?” Manchin told Fox News Digital. “You know, what we said before — success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Well, I guarantee you, I was an orphan there for a long time because I was the only one on the front taking all the spears and everything, taking point on this.”

“But I’m happy to — everyone is happy — to share the success. I think everybody knows how this happened,” the West Virginia senator added. “I mean, my God, for the whole year I’ve had the living crap beat out of me, back and forth and everything.”

Now there’s a man who loves sharing the spotlight, as long as nobody else is right in the center. Manchin also whined that it really pissed him off something fierce that Republicans might get any credit (which he’s happy to share, but not) since it was his hard work and stubborn assholishness that won over or exhausted the White House in negotiations, and where were Republicans the other times he tried to ram through a bunch of fossil fuel projects, huh?

“It’s bulls— because they knew there was not going to be a problem on the Democratic Senate side or the Democrat president and his staff because they were the ones who supported it and got us 40 votes in the Senate when we voted,” Manchin said.

“It was the Republicans that killed us when we voted last time — only got seven votes. And the Republicans have always supported permitting. The only reason they wouldn’t support that is because of the Republicans being upset about the [Inflation Reduction Act]. That’s it. So it got caught in the politics.”

Still, you have to be impressed by the bipartisan outreach, calling Joe Biden a “Democrat president” just like the Fox News analyst he’s destined to become following his Senate career.

[CNBC / The Hill / Reuters / Fox News]

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Louisiana Wingnut Rep. Clay Higgins Bulldozes Protester. WHAR ASSAULT CHARGES?

Rightwing Republican congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana — known around these parts as the ‘WHAR BOXES?’ guy, or simply WHAR BOXES — took it upon himself to play bouncer Wednesday when a young protester got a little too mouthy during a press conference being held by prominent House Wingnut Caucus members including Higgins, Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), Paul Gosar DDS (R-Arizona) and others. (Higgins later tweeted that the presser was about the very real threat to US sovereignty posed by the World Health Organization, which is part of the UN One-World Communist Plot, which seems like indispensable context.)

The protester, law student and organizer/troublemaker Jake Burdett, 25, told the Daily Beast he’d actually been in DC for a Medicare for All rally led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), but when that was over, he saw the Freedom Caulkers setting up and decided to be a free speech pest, which is his right as an American citizen.

Spotting Gosar and Boebert, he decided to stick around. “I figured I’d ask them some tough questions,” he said. “Bird-dog them, whatever you want to call it.”

And indeed, as Burdett’s videos show, he was definitely heckling the rightwing dipshits, which may happen when politicians hold a “press conference” in public.

In the first video, Burdett shouts questions while Gosar is speaking, asking about his appearance at a confab held by neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes, and about that embarrassing campaign ad made by Gosar’s own siblings, urging people not to vote for him. As Freedom Cockups try to tell Burdett to leave, Higgins steps in to promise he’ll answer all Burdett’s questions later (about Gosar, sure!) if the young man will just stop recording and be quiet. Higgins does get right up in Burdett’s face to deliver that offer of help.

In the first video, Higgins fairly calmly introduces himself and says, “All I’m asking you to do is just peacefully stand by with your camera and I promise you — look at me — I’ll come talk to you straight up and answer all your questions. Fair enough?”

And yes, Burdett wanted to know how on earth Higgins would be in a position to know anything about Gosar’s very public embarrassment.

But Burdett hadda go and persist. While Boebert spoke, he asked her about her divorce, and asked her whether it was at all related to that time in 2017 when her restaurant customers got diarrhea from tainted pork sliders. Sure, it was a rude, nonsensical, pesky question. And goddamn it, it was also perfectly legal because this is America and we can ask rude stupid questions of our elected leaders in public, Crom bless our First Amendment!

And because we are indeed a nation of laws, our elected leaders are not allowed to assault us just for being annoying, although that’s what Higgins did. Here’s video from another angle, showing Higgins grabbing Burdett to eject him (nearly knocking over another person in the audience) and manhandling Burdett away from the speakers all the way to the sidewalk.

Burdett wasn’t harmed or arrested; he told the Daily Beast that he was questioned for about a half hour by Capitol Police and told he could go. But he was certainly none too happy that the Capitol Cops didn’t seem very interested in hearing him tell them he’d been assaulted by a member of Congress.

“It’s one thing for anybody to do that,” he said of Higgins’ behavior. “But for a sitting U.S. congressperson to think that that’s OK—it just shows an extra level of entitlement, that they feel they’re untouchable and the law doesn’t apply to them.”

For his part, Higgins, a former sheriff who loves to act the Tough Guy, later took to Twitter to lie about the encounter, claiming that Burdett was “a 103M” (police code for “disturbance by a mental person,” never mind the bad English usage) and insisting in an attached video that Burdett (an “agitator activist”) was “very disruptive and threatening, in violation of the law.”

Higgins gives himself credit in the video for having “successfully de-escalated the situation,” a phrase with which we’re certain the Inigo Montoya meme would take issue. He also claims that Burdett “aggressively disrupted” Boebert and “approached her in a threatening manner,” which just isn’t the case. He was rude and shouty, not threatening.

Say, is this a good place to mention that in 2007, Higgins, then in law enforcement, was accused of beating up an innocent bystander to an arrest, and then lying to Internal affairs to cover it up? The former cop also busted for helping with that alleged cover-up is now a congressional aide to Higgins. Higgins resigned before he could be punished for that incident.

Burdett told the Daily Beast that he’s now “evaluating my options” and that “if it looks like there is a strong case for assault and [there is] an attorney willing to take on the case, I am absolutely prepared to press charges.” On Twitter, when Burdett asked for any attorneys to tell him if they thought he had a case, civil rights attorney Andrew C. Laufer replied, “Yes, assault, battery, and a potential civil rights violation.”

Former US Attorney and current MSNBC legal commentator Joyce Vance was succinct: “Looks like an assault to me?”

[Daily Beast / Lafayette Daily Advertiser / Salon /]

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Biden’s reelection pitch that he can govern well faces daunting challenges with debt, border, more

A showdown with Congress that has the nation’s creditworthiness at stake; a frenzied scene at the border as pandemic restrictions ease; a pivotal foreign trip meant to sustain support for Ukraine and contain a more assertive China in the Indo-Pacific.

Three weeks since launching his re-election campaign, President Joe Biden is confronting a sweeping set of problems in his day job that defy easy solutions and are not entirely within his control.

If, as his advisers believe, the single best thing Biden can do for his reelection prospects is to govern well, then the coming weeks can pose a near-existential test of his path to a second term.

Economists warn that the country faces a debilitating recession — and worse — if Biden and lawmakers can’t agree on a path to raising the debt limit. Mr. Biden wants Congress to raise it without precondition, equating Republicans’ demands for spending cuts with ransom for the country’s full faith and credit.

The expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency meant the end of special pandemic restrictions on migrant procedures on an already taxed U.S.-Mexico border.

His administration has responded with new policies to crack down on illegal crossings while opening legal pathways encouraging would-be migrants to stay put and apply online to come to the U.S.

But Mr. Biden himself has predicted a “chaotic” situation as the new procedures take effect.

These tests comes as Biden prepares to depart Washington on Wednesday for an eight-day trip to Japan, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Biden will try to marshal unity among Group of Seven leading democratic economies to maintain support for Ukraine as it prepares to launch a counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion, and to invigorate alliances in the face of China’s forceful regional moves.

Mr. Biden put his ability to solve problems at the core of his pitch to voters in 2020 and it is central to his argument for why, at 80, he’s best prepared for four more years in the White House.

“I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office,” Mr. Biden told MSNBC this month. “And I think I’ve proven myself to be honourable as well as also effective.” Yet the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 undercut Mr. Biden’s image as an effective manager, sending his approval ratings sharply down and he’s still working to recover.

An April poll by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research found Biden’s job approval rating at 42 per cent, a slight improvement from 38 per cent in March.

The March poll came after a pair of bank failures rattled an already shaky confidence in the nation’s financial systems, and Mr. Biden’s approval rating then was near the lowest point of his presidency.

It also found that 26 per cent of Americans overall want to see Biden run again — a slight recovery from the 22 per cent who said that in January.

Forty-seven percent of Democrats say they want him to run, also up slightly from only 37 per cent who said that in January.

Aides note that Mr. Biden entered the White House when the country faced an array of even greater trials: the COVID-19 pandemic, an associated economic crisis and strained international alliances after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“President Biden continues to leverage his experience and judgment to fight for middle-class families and mainstream values, including by standing against congressional Republicans’ extreme MAGA threat to trigger a downturn” unless they get sweeping spending cuts, said White House spokesman Andrew Bates.

Mr. Biden said on Saturday it’s “hard to tell” how staff-level talks to avert a crisis on the debt limit will shake out. He plans to reconvene with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders before he heads overseas, but the White House has been firm that while Biden is open to considering spending cuts as part of the budget process, he won’t agree to them as a condition for raising the debt limit.

“There’s no deal to be had on the debt ceiling,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday. “There’s no negotiation to be had on the debt ceiling. This is something that Congress needs to do.”

U.S. officials are warning that the impasse threatens national security. Pentagon brass has already warned that it could hurt pay and benefits for troops and U.S. standing around the globe, said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

“It sends a horrible message to nations like Russia and China, who would love nothing more than to be able to point at this and say, See, the United States is not a reliable partner. The United States is not a stable leader of peace and security around the world,’” he said.

Mr. Biden also faces a key test at the southern border, where the transition away from Title 42 has been anything but simple. Migrants along the border were still wading into the Rio Grande to take their chances getting into the country, defying officials shouting for them to turn back.

Lawsuits have threatened measures to release migrants into the U.S. to avoid overcrowding in border patrol facilities as well as efforts to crack down on asylum seekers entering the country.

But the problem can’t be solved by the U.S. on its own.

“It is true that the Americas is, at the moment, going through an unprecedented displacement crisis,” said Olga Sarrado, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency.

The U.S. has increasingly seen migrants arrive at its Southern border who are from China, Ukraine, Haiti, Russia and other nations far from Latin America, and who are increasingly family groups and children travelling alone.

Thirty years ago, by contrast, illegal crossings were almost always single adults from Mexico who were easily returned back over the border.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents are encountering more nearly 8,000 migrants per day, and the human toll of the challenge was driven home in recent days by the death of a 17-year-old boy in U.S. custody. An investigation continues.

“A decision from one single country is not going to fix the challenges,” Ms. Sarrado said. “And we cannot forget that these are human beings — many of them in need of international protection— and that we need to put them at the centre of any decision that is made.”

With just under 18 months to go until Election Day, it’s not a given that these issues will shape voters’ decisions, said Chapman University presidential historian Luke Nichter.

“There is a long time between now and November 2024,” he said. “I don’t think today’s issues matter a great deal since they won’t likely be the issues on the minds of voters more than a year from now.”

Jonathan Young, a Democratic donor who came to hear Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday in Atlanta, said Mr. Biden must navigate the current gauntlet with something to show the middle of the electorate, especially if Republicans nominate someone other than Trump.

“A rematch might go the same way, because Biden still isn’t Trump,” Young said, arguing that the former president makes any contest turn on personality more than policy.

But Young noted that Mr. Biden’s answer to Mr. Trump’s “big personality” in 2020 was to be almost deliberately boring and stubbornly competent. However Mr. Biden navigates the debt ceiling and immigration, Young said, he has to maintain an ability to credibly sell that image again as an incumbent.

“I think he’s great on the policy, and I think he’s usually great on the politics,” Young said of Biden. “He’s proven he can read the mood of the country really well.”

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Explained | What is the stalemate over the U.S. debt ceiling and what happens if the government defaults?

The story so far: United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress last week that the country could default on its debt as early as June 1, if the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and President Joe Biden’s White House did not reach a consensus to raise or suspend the debt ceiling. A default on its debt, something that has never happened before, could send shockwaves in global financial markets, increase borrowing costs for the U.S. and impact the dollar’s reputation as a reserve currency.

What is the U.S. debt ceiling?

When the federal government spends more than it brings in, in terms of taxes and other revenue, it runs up a budget deficit. Since 2001, this deficit has averaged $1 trillion annually. It then has to borrow money to meet its financial obligations, accruing debt. The government borrows tby creating and selling debt securities like bonds to U.S. investors and companies, banks, pension funds, foreign investors and countries. The largest part of these are owned by the U.S. federal government itself, which keeps the money for social security schemes, medicare, federal pensions and so on.

While the administration and Congress decide on taxation and spending, the collection of taxes and the borrowing of funds is done by U.S. Treasury Department. In 1917, Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act, to allow then-President Woodrow Wilson to take out funds for the First World War without waiting for the approvals of absent Congress lawmakers. However, curtailing the President’s spending capacity,the Congress created a limit on borrowing ($11.5 billion at the time), thus creating a debt ceiling that could only be raised by approval of the Congress (House and Senate).

The debt ceiling started to take its present-day form in 1939, when separate borrowing caps for bonds were consolidated into one debt ceiling, then set at $45 billion. The U.S. government has hit or come close to hitting the debt ceiling multiple times.According to Treasury Department figures, Congress has acted 78 separate times since 1960 either to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit – 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic Presidents. The last such change was in 2021.

While the government continues to receive taxation revenue after hitting the debt ceiling, it cannot borrow any more to pay its existing bills. The U.S. hit its current debt limit of $31.4 trillion on January 19 this year, but the Treasury activated the “extraordinary measures” mechanism to allow the government to meetits obligations. These extraordinary measures are accounting adjustments within several government accounts that temporarily reduce the amount of U.S. Treasury securities issued to them. These actions include suspending new investments or redeeming existing investments early.

However, if the debt ceiling is not raised once the government exhausts extraordinary measures and runs out of cash, the U.S. would be unable to pay its debt-holders, resulting in a default.

Why have debt ceiling standoffs become a recurring issue?

For starters, the debt ceiling is not a “forward-looking” budgeting instrument, i.e. it does not reveal what potentially ideal levels of spending look like. First, Congress approves programmes for which it does not have the entire funding, and then there’s a limit on how much the Treasury can borrow to pay for these already approved programmes. Which is why economists have called it a “strange” instrument. Take this analogy, for instance: first Congress approves $100 of spending, $70 comes in from taxes but the cap on what the government can borrow to pay for the rest is fixed at a mere $15.

Only one other country apart from the U.S. has a set ceiling on borrowing— Denmark. However, Denmark’s debt ceiling is set several times higher than the country spends; in 2021, the debt of Denmark’s central government was just 14% of its ceiling, notes the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Another reason why disagreements overthe debt limit happen often, almost annually since 2011, is that it has become a political bargaining chip, as any raise or suspension has to be approved by Congress. As American politics becomes increasingly polarised, the Opposition has often used the debt limit as a way of getting budgetary and other legislative concessions. Sometimes, debt rate hikes have also been tied to the passing of certain bipartisan legislations. Reuters points out that Congress has often imposed conditions on these debt-ceiling hikes, or paired them with other tax and spending activity.

In 1957, Congress delayed a debt-ceiling hike to pressure the Pentagon to operate more efficiently, and in the early 70s, linked increases to expanded Social Security benefits. In 2018 and 2019, debt-ceiling was tied with broader bipartisan spending packages. However, debt ceiling decisions have not always been smooth, with the U.S. coming dangerously close to defaulting on its debt in 2011 when the Republicans and the Barack Obama administration could not reach an agreement t till the last minute. This was the first and the last time that rating firm S&P downgraded America’s prized ‘AAA’ credit ratings. The political gridlock led to a government shutdown, sent financial markets reeling, and caused a huge stock sell-off.

Observers have called the current impasse between House Republicans and the Biden administration even messier than in 2011. The Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy-led House passed a Bill that pairs a $4.8 trillion in spending cuts with an increase in the debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion. However, Mr. Biden said that he wants a clean debt-ceiling height and won’t negotiate any kind of spending cuts, resulting in the current deadlock.

Treasury Secretary Ms. Yellen and other economists suggest doing away with the debt ceiling, which once served a purpose but does not contribute to fiscal discipline anymore and leads to frequent political grandstanding, often at the risk of national and global financial stability.

What will happen if the U.S. defaults?

Analysts say there is no set post-default scenario since the U.S. has never actually defaulted on its debt before. They have warned, however, of a “catastrophic” situation for American and global financial markets. The New York Times notes that after the extraordinary measures get exhausted and cash with the treasury runs out, the government would be unable to pay its bills including military salaries, benefits to retirees, and interest and other payments it owes to bondholders. If the government cannot make interest payments to domestic and foreign investors who own its debt securities, it could plunge the globe into a financial crisis, say Wall Street experts.

The CFR points out that the “unthinkable” event of a U.S. default could lead to another downgrade of U.S. creditworthiness by agencies, large-scale job losses, weakening of the dollar, stock sell-offs, and a rise in the cost of borrowing for the U.S. government. It would also increase the national debt, in turn causing widespread interest rate hikes for business owners, mortgages, and other sectors. A drop in U.S. consumer confidence would translate to shocks in the financial market, tipping the economy into recession.

The creditworthiness or the confidence in the repayment ability of U.S. treasury securities has long strengthened demand for U.S. dollars and made it the world’s reserve currency, with more than half of the world’s foreign currency reserves held in U.S. dollars. A loss of confidence in the U.S. economy, resulting from default or even the uncertainty around it, could force investors to sell U.S. Treasury bonds, thus weakening the dollar. A sudden decrease in the currency’s value could domino across treasury markets as the value of these reserves drops.

What are the Republicans demanding in their package in exchange for a debt ceiling hike?

The legislation passed by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives would suspend the U.S. debt limit till March 31, 2024, or until it increases by another $1.5 trillion, whichever comes first. The Bill would cut a wide range of government spending back to last year’s levels, amounting to a decrease of $4.8 trillion or about 9%. As per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the plan could save roughly $3.2 trillion over the coming years and reduce the U.S. government’s borrowing costs by $547 billion over a period of 10 years. However, Mr. Biden is not willing to negotiate spending cuts affecting his plans to cancel student debt, or those reducing healthcare for the poor, tax revenue, or green initiatives, among other things.

While it is not certain how this would impact government operations, the Department of Transportation said that it would shut down 375 air-traffic control towers (affecting jobs) and the Department of Agriculture indicated that it could make it tougher for almost a million Americans to access federal food aid.

The legislation plans to cancel healthcare, infrastructure, rental aid and other funds remaining unspent from the $5.2 trillion approved by Congress in the last three years for COVID-19 relief. It would reverse President Biden’s effort to cancel up to $10,000 of student debt for some borrowers and hamper another plan to peg debt repayment to borrower income levels. It also aims to reverse legislation increasing the budget for the Internal Revenue Service, which was to be used for hiring more employees and technological advancements to augment tax revenue.

The Republican Bill would also tighten work requirements for participants in some government poverty alleviation programmes. For example, adults up to age 56 not having children receive health insurance through the Medicaid program covering low-income individuals. They would have to work at least 80 hours a month to take part in job training or community service.

While Mr. Biden has not met with Republican leaders including Mr. McCarthy since February, with the Treasury Secretary’s June 1 warning, the White House has called a meeting with top Congress leaders of both parties on May 9, to discuss the debt-ceiling issue.


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Biden’s rebuke of a bold, reform-minded crime law makes all Americans less safe

President Joe Biden’s support for a Republican-led effort to nullify the Washington D.C. City Council’s revision of its criminal code, signed into law on Monday, plays into the fear narrative that is being increasingly advanced across the U.S.

Biden could have used his platform and clout to clarify the actual substance of the carefully crafted District of Columbia proposal — and adhere to his campaign commitment to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans.

Instead, the president ignored the glaring problems in D.C.’s existing criminal code, which the 275-page long package of revisions was designed to address. This included reforming the draconian and inflexible sentencing requirements that have swelled the District’s incarceration rate and wasted countless resources imprisoning individuals who pose no danger to public safety. By rejecting this decade-plus effort, the president decided that D.C. residents have no right to determine for themselves how to fix these problems.

There are communities across the U.S. that see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Biden’s decision is the latest backlash to U.S. justice reform coming from both sides of the political aisle.

Instead of doubling down on failed tough-on-crime tactics, Americans need to come together to articulate and invest in a new vision of public safety. We already know what that looks like because there are communities across the country which see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Safe communities are places where people (even those facing economic distress) are housed, where schools have the resources to teach all children, where the water and air are clean, where families have access to good-paying jobs and comprehensive healthcare, and where those who are struggling are given a hand, not a handcuff.

This is the kind of community every American deserves to live in, but that future is only possible if we shift resources from carceral responses to communities and shift our mindset from punishment to prevention.

Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety. 

In the wake of particularly traumatic years, as well as growing divisiveness that has politicized criminal justice reform, it is not surprising that many people believe their communities are less safe. While public perceptions of crime have long been disconnected from actual crime rates and can be heavily influenced by media coverage, the data tells a mixed story. Homicide rates did increase in both urban and rural areas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and record levels of gun sales.

While early available data suggests these numbers are trending down, it’s too soon to tell, especially given the nation’s poor crime data infrastructure. What is clear is that there is no evidence that criminal justice reform is to blame for rising crime, despite well-funded attempts by those resistant to change and who are intent on driving a political agenda to make such a claim stick.

Yet fear often obscures facts; people are scared for their safety and want reassurance. Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety.

We need leaders who can govern with both empathy and integrity – who can provide genuine compassion to those who feel scared while also following the data about how to create safer communities. And all the data points to the need for reform.

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually.

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually, when you factor in not only the cost of confinement but also the crushing toll placed on incarcerated people and their families, children, and communities. Despite this staggering figure, there’s no real evidence that incarceration works, and in fact some evidence to suggest it actually makes people more likely to commit future crimes. Yet we keep pouring more and more taxpayer dollars into this short-sighted solution that, instead of preventing harm, only delays and compounds it.

We have to stop pretending that reform is the real threat to public safety and recognize how our over-reliance on incarceration actually makes us less safe.

Reform and public safety go hand in hand. Commonsense changes including reforming cash bail, revisiting extreme sentences and diverting people from the criminal legal system have all been shown to have positive effects on individuals and communities.

At a time of record-low clearance rates nationwide and staffing challenges in police departments and prosecutor’s offices, arresting and prosecuting people for low-level offenses that do not impact public safety can actually make us less safe by directing resources away from solving serious crimes and creating collateral consequences for people that make it harder to escape cycles of poverty and crime.

Yet, tough-on-crime proponents repeatedly misrepresent justice reform by claiming that reformers are simply letting people who commit crimes off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reform does not mean a lack of accountability, but rather a more effective version of accountability for everyone involved.

Our traditional criminal legal system has failed victims time and again. In a 2022 survey of crime survivors, just 8% said that the justice system was very helpful in navigating the legal process and being connected to services. Many said they didn’t even report the crime because of distrust of the system.

When asked what they want, many crime survivors express a fundamental desire to ensure that the person who caused them harm doesn’t hurt them or anyone else ever again. But status quo approaches aren’t providing that. The best available data shows that 7 in 10 people released from prison in 2012 were rearrested within five years. Perhaps that’s why crime victims support alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration by large margins.

For example, in New York City, Common Justice offered the first alternative-to-incarceration program in the country focused on violent felonies in adult courts. When given the option, 90% of eligible victims chose to participate in a restorative justice program through Common Justice over incarcerating the person who harmed them. Just 7% of participants have been terminated from the program for committing a new crime.

A restorative justice program launched by former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón for youth facing serious felony charges was shown to reduce participants’ likelihood of rearrest by 44 percent within six months compared to youth who went through the traditional juvenile justice system, and the effects were still notable even four years after the initial offer to participate.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt launched a groundbreaking program last year to allow people convicted of violent offenses to avoid prison time if they commit to behavioral health treatment. As of January, just one of 60 participants had been rearrested for a misdemeanor.

While too many politicians give lip service to reform, those who really care about justice are doing the work, regardless of electoral consequences. We need more bold, innovative leaders willing to rethink how we achieve safety and accountability, not those who go where the wind blows and spread misinformation for political gain.

Fear should not cause us to repeat the mistakes of the past. When politicians finally decide to care more about protecting people than protecting their own power, only then will we finally achieve the safety that all communities deserve.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky is the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a former federal prosecutor, and the author of Change from Within: Reimagining the 21st-Century Prosecutor. Alyssa Kress is the communications director of Fair and Just Prosecution.  

More: Wrongful convictions cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Wrongdoing prosecutors must be held accountable.

Plus: Senate votes to block D.C. crime laws, with Biden’s support

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House Dems Pin Jim Jordan In ‘Amateur Hour’ House ‘Weaponization’ Subcommittee

We always knew things were going to get stupid fast when Republicans took back the House, particularly in the Judiciary Committee where Rep. Jim Jordan is now wielding the gavel. But the speed with which things have descended into utter clownfuckery is a wonder to behold. On the plus side, House Democrats seem to have worked out that they don’t need to wait for Republicans to sucker punch them to … develop a plan to … convene a subcommittee to … debate the wisdom of … maybe possibly punching the GOP in the freakin’ face already.

This time they’ve come out swinging with a prebuttal to the first round of “whistleblowers” interviewed by the Weaponization of Government subcommittee, which is also chaired by Rasslin’ Jim.

First off, as detailed in the 316-page reportGOP Witnesses: What Their Disclosures Indicate About the State of the Republican Investigations, these first three witnesses aren’t “whistleblowers” in any kind of legal or even colloquial sense. There is a statutory definition of the word, and it involves actually blowing the whistle to your superiors about misconduct, government waste, or violations of the law which you’ve seen with your own eyes. A public letter to FBI Director Chris Wray ranting about Ray Epps and demanding to know “Why didn’t the FBI open a civil rights violation investigation concerning the killing of Ashli Babbit?” doesn’t cut it. Nor does shit you heard at the bar after work.

But more to the point, while Jordan claims to have “dozens and dozens of whistleblowers […] coming to us, talking about what is going on, the political nature at the Justice Department,” the first three he interviewed are just rightwing bloviators who are being subsidized by Trump and his allies in an obvious effort to undermine the Justice Department as it investigates Trump himself and his MAGA minions for their attempted coup on January 6, 2021.

In fact, we’ve met one of these characters before when the Senate’s dumbest Republican Ron Johnson and Peepaw Corntweet Chuck Grassley were touting him as the next Frank Serpico. Former FBI Special Agent Stephen Friend has been kicking around the wingnutosphere since August 24, 2021, when he claimed to be a conscientious objector and refused an order to take part in the arrest of a January 6 defendant. It was Friend’s opinion that “it was inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses and opined that the subject would likely face extended detainment and biased jury pools in Washington, D.C.”

As NBC’s Ryan Reilly notes, the defendant in question would appear to be a member of the Three Percenters militia who might have responded to a gentle subpoena by destroying the evidentiary footage he took with the GoPro camera he was wearing on the day in question.

Friend received $5,000 from Kash Patel, who graduated from being Devin Nunes’s lackey to being Trump’s lackey. Patel even got Friend a job at the Center for Renewing America with Russ Vought, who buried the Ukraine blackmail at the Office of Management and Budget under Trump and has gone on to coordinate messaging for the House Republicans. Vought’s outfit is heavily funded by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is run by Mark Meadows. Please try to imagine the Republican outrage cycle if Democrats showed up with a purported whistleblower who was, say, a DNC staffer. The whole thing is just ridiculous.

And of course the committee is leaking like a sieve, even before the Democrats came out with their report. Here’s coverage from Rolling Stone of testimony by witness George Hill:

In the interview, the witness, former FBI supervisory intelligence analyst George Hill, had admitted he had little or no firsthand knowledge of alleged “deep state” scandals. Instead, he brought baggage of his own: a history of inflammatory commentary on social media. Democratic staff had found a tweet in which Hill claimed former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had “blood on her hands.” In a since-deleted tweet found by Rolling Stone, Hill wrote “Cancer! GO FASTER!” in response to a tweet from Rep. Lauren Boebert claiming that President Biden had been diagnosed with cancer.

According to portions of transcripts reviewed by Rolling Stone and sources familiar with the exchange, Hill repeatedly declined to respond to the questions and cited his First Amendment rights. (He’d later go on a conservative talk show to accuse Democrats of trying to paint him as a “right-wing nut job” because they couldn’t handle his message.) As the exchange went on, Hill’s attorney, Jason Foster, begged the Democratic counsel to stop asking about his client’s tweets.

Hill’s smoking gun is that “a large financial institution may have provided evidence to the FBI in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol.” Yep, that’s right, banks helped the DOJ catch criminals. Film at 11!

As for the third witness, Garret O’Boyle “claimed that he had made protected disclosures to Committee Republicans but, in his interview, declined to state for the record [in interviews with Democrats] what those disclosures might be.” But if you’re looking for motivation for those mysterious disclosures, Democrats can hazard a guess:

But Patel’s assistance has not just been financial. He arranged for attorney Jesse Binnall, who served as Donald Trump’s “top election-fraud lawyer” when Trump falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen, to serve as counsel for Garret O’Boyle. When Committee Democrats asked O’Boyle about this financial connection, Binnall appeared to surprise his client with an announcement that he was now representing O’Boyle pro bono. Committee Democrats infer that Binnall hoped to distance his connection to Patel and others.

Republicans who haven’t been snorting pure, uncut Newsmax for eleven hours a day seem to grasp that this turd is going to require quite a bit of polishing.

“Clearly there is room to grow and improve before [more] public hearings,” a Republican source told Rolling Stone, conceding that Jim Jordan’s work so far has been “very much amateur hour,” and “would make us look like morons” if they went live with it today. Which is probably why they haven’t publicized the testimony or scheduled any more hearings.

So, this is all off to a rip-roaring start. Can’t wait to see what those crazy GOP kids come up with next!

[Rolling Stone]

Catch Liz Dye on Opening Arguments podcast.

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Supreme Court ‘Skeptical’ Of Student Debt Relief, If You Can Believe That!

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in two cases challenging President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan, and dear readers, we hope you are sitting down for this: The Court’s rightwing majority didn’t sound very open to the idea that the administration has the authority to forgive student loans, even under the 2003 law that the administration says is designed to allow exactly that. We won’t know for sure until the Court rules in the case, probably in June.

If there’s any chance for the policy to escape being overturned, it probably hinges on whether the Court decides that the plaintiffs in the two cases have standing to sue at all. If the Court decides they don’t, then it won’t address the legality of the program either way.

Of course, this being the Alito Court, it’s also possible the Supremes will just make shit up and decide that even if the plaintiffs lack standing, some obscure principle pulled from Brett Kavanaugh’s beer cooler — if you know what we mean and we’re not sure we do — makes it OK to address the merits of the case anyway.

Under the Biden plan, borrowers could have up to $10,000 of federal student debt forgiven; borrowers who received Pell Grants for low income families qualified for up to $20,000 in debt cancelled. The vast majority of debt relief was targeted at middle and lower-income borrowers.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued that the 2003 HEROES Act gives the Education Department all the authority it needs to make changes to student loan programs in a time of national emergency, since the law says the Education secretary has power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” to keep borrowers from being wiped out financially during “a war or other military operation or national emergency.” And here we are, in a public health emergency so severe that most federal student loan payments have already been put on hold for almost three years.

Justice Elena Kagan agreed, saying that “Congress could not have made this much more clear,” and saying that compared to a lot of other cases, this was a slam dunk: “We deal with congressional statutes every day that are really confusing. This one is not.”

But of course nothing is clear if you don’t want it to be, so Chief Justice John Roberts kept insisting that whatever the plain text of the HEROES Act says, the total estimated cost of the debt relief program — about $400 billion over the next decade — was so big that it would need a specific extra double supersecret authorization from Congress, because of the “major questions doctrine” the Court pulled out of its ass in earlier cases under Roberts. To help make his point, Roberts repeatedly rounded that cost up by another hundred billion dollars, calling it a “half trillion dollar” program again and again.

Prelogar pointed out that the Education secretaries under both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have already used their authority under the HEROES Act to put federal student loans in forbearance, with no interest accruing, since March of 2020. Pausing loan payments, she said, means the federal government has lost roughly $100 billion a year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“That has been an economically significant program,” Ms. Prelogar said of the pause. “It’s currently costing the federal government more per year than this loan forgiveness plan would cost the government annually.

What’s more, Prelogar said, ending that pause without also relieving debt would mean that scads of borrowers would default on their loans altogether, which could result in a shock to the economy at large. She didn’t even get into the fact that if hundreds of thousands of people default, that’s going to cost the federal government a lot, plus the knock-on effects of those people being ruined financially.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor echoed that argument, pointing out that the stakes for low-income borrowers could be pretty darn catastrophic:

There’s 50 million students who are – who will benefit from this. Who today will struggle. Many of them don’t have assets sufficient to bail them out after the pandemic. They don’t have friends or families or others who can help them make these payments. […]

And what you’re saying is now we’re going to give judges the right to decide how much aid to give them instead of the person with the expertise and the experience, the secretary of Education who’s been dealing with educational issues and the problems surrounding student loans.

We thought it was a pretty good argument, but then we’re liberal simps who think the government is there to help people, so we don’t count.

The question of whether the challengers to the policy have standing may be the best hope for the loan forgiveness program, since some of the rightwing justices seemed more skeptical of their claims that they’ll be harmed by student debt relief. We’ll just go with the CNN summary here:

In Biden v. Nebraska, a group of Republican-led states argued the administration exceeded its authority by using the pandemic as a pretext to mask the true goal of fulfilling a campaign promise to erase student loan debt.

The second case is Department of Education v. Brown, which was initially brought by two individuals who did not qualify for the full benefits of the forgiveness program and argue the government failed to follow the proper rulemaking process when putting it in place.

In the case involving the states, much of the argument involved how many angels can dance on the head of Missouri’s nonprofit agency what processes student loans, the “Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority,” aka MOHELA. It was set up to insulate the state itself from having to process loans, but the state is arguing that, for the purpose of standing, it may as well be the state.

But as Justice Kagan pointed out, MOHELA is a legally separate entity, and it didn’t choose to sue:

“Usually we don’t allow one person to step into another’s shoes and say, ‘I think that that person suffered a harm,’ even if the harm is very great,” she said.

If Missouri really controlled the loan authority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked James A. Campbell, Nebraska’s solicitor general, who represented the states, “why didn’t the state just make MOHELA come then?”

Campbell explained that was “a question of state politics,” which sounds to us like some bullshit, although we are not a lawyer.

Prelogar hammered on that point, saying that MOHELA would definitely have standing if it had sued, but it hadn’t, now had it? Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chimed in too, saying that MOHELA’s

financial interests are totally disentangled from the state, it stands alone, it’s incorporated separately, the state is not liable for anything that happens to MOHELA. […] I don’t know how that could possibly be a reason to say that an injury to MOHELA should count as an injury to the state.

In the other case, the plaintiffs argued that the program isn’t fair, because their own loans don’t qualify for forgiveness. One plaintiff, Myra Brown, has private student loans that aren’t held by the government, and the other, Alexander Taylor, only qualifies for $10,000 in loan relief because he didn’t get a Pell grant in college, so his case claims he was cheated out of $10K in debt relief.

No, it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense that they think the solution to their woes is to eliminate all debt relief for 40 million other people. But there we go, thinking like a blogger instead of a Supreme Court justice. The New York Times notes that

Justices across the ideological spectrum seemed unpersuaded by the borrowers’ position.

“Talk about ways in which courts can interfere with the processes of government through two individuals in one state who don’t like the program can seek and obtain a universal relief barring it for anybody anywhere,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

Even so, some justices were really excited about the supposed “unfairness” of targeting debt relief to people who had the most to lose, and not to everyone who might conceivably get help. Roberts even wondered why it would be fair to relieve debt for student loans during the pandemic but not for, say a loan taken out by a hypothetical owner of a lawn care business.

Sotomayor had a pretty quick reply to that, pointing out that “everybody suffered in the pandemic, but different people got different benefits because they qualified under different programs.” Hello, PPP loans, for freaking instance (this is us cheerleading, not Sotomayor). (Also, your Wonkette got a PPP loan, and it was forgiven, which is the first time we’ve ever been part of the “so rich the government gives you money” crew.)

Justice Kagan reminded Roberts that the case is actually about student loans, not anything else, mister strict constructionist:

Congress passed a statute that dealt with loan repayment for colleges, and it didn’t pass a statute that dealt with loan repayment for lawn businesses… [Us, butting in again: PPP loans! We already said PPP loans, Elena.] And so Congress made a choice, and that may have been the right choice or it may have been the wrong choice, but that’s Congress’s choice.

The Court will rule in June, and even if the debt forgiveness program is thrown out, many borrowers should at least be able to get some relief under the Biden administrations’ revamped income-based repayment program, which everyone with federal student loans should at least look into.


Did Joe Biden Just Fix Student Loan Debt Going Forward? Mayyyyybe!

I Got My Student Loans Ready For Joe Biden’s Big Income-Based Forgive-A-Thon And You Should Too

Until of course conservative states and the SCOTUS fuck that over too, the end.

[NYT / CNN / AP]

Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations except for that time we got that PPP loan. if you can, please give $5 or $10 monthly to help us keep you in the know, for all the good “knowing stuff” does.

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Oh No Serial Murderer Maxine Waters Has Serial Murdered Again!

Republicans are a deeply serious political party, committed to good governance and carrying out the people’s business.

JK, LOL forever. They are a bunch of fucking goons who are about to spend two years shouting about Marxist groomers and fapping to stolen photos of Hunter Biden’s monster peen. And there is no better example of this than the House Rules Committee, which this week took up the urgent priority of a nonbinding resolution condemning socialism, which is VERY DANGEROUS! Don’t you kids start thinking it would be cool to, like, see a doctor when you’re sick. Or retire before you’re 85. Or make rich people pay enough taxes that we could ensure quality public and higher education for everyone.

You shut your filthy whore mouth!

The GOP is here to tell you that you are bad and you should feel bad. And also, please look at Pol Pot and not at Republicans’ abortion bans or opposition to raising the minimum wage. But Democrats don’t have to play along with this shit, as third-term Rep. Guy Reschenthaler discovered earlier this week when he tried to corner Rep. Maxine Waters, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, by shouting MAO ZEDUNG and VENEZUELA at her. Hat tip to HuffPo’s Jennifer Bendery who flagged the spectacle on Twitter.

The hearing started off basically normal, with Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole, a gray-faced white dude from Oklahoma, somberly mumbling that “This concurrent resolution denounces socialism in all its forms and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States.”

He then tossed to Ranking Member Jim McGovern, who wondered, “What the hell are we doing here?”

And then, after a few grumbles from Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry that the American far-Left’s actions “more closely resemble the Chinese Communist Party’s actions than the proven free-market solutions that make America the envy of the world,” and some sniping by Ranking Member Maxine Waters about the debt ceiling and the rise of authoritarians, it was ON! That pipsqueak Guy Reschenthaler from Pennsylvania was all warmed up to make Maxine Waters admit that she’s a dirty Marxist socialist. It was his big moment, gonna be so rad!

Woulda worked out great, except MAXINE WATERS DID NOT COME TO BE TRIFLED WITH BY AN AMATEUR LIKE YOU. Skip to 32:50 if you want to see a murder!

Rules Committee Hearing on H. Con. Res.

RESCHENTHALER: In your opening remarks, you were talking about Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi. You know what they all have in common, right?

WATERS: Trump.

RESCHENTHALER: Trump? North Korea, China, and Russia?

WATERS: He loves Kim Jong Un.

RESCHENTHALER: That’s quite the intellectual leap. I would say communism. Would you like to denounce any communist leaders?

WATERS [sweetly]: Well, I don’t know what you’re asking, but, let me just — The leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, has made often glowing — described authoritarians like Kim Jong Un, who is described in the resolution — regarding leaders like Kim Jong Un, Trump said Kim “wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters, and we fell in love.” You sure you want to hear the rest of this?

RESCHENTHALER [uncomfortable]: Yeah, I can go through some atrocities, and you can say do you agree with them or not. You can choose to denounce them, if you’d like to go down that path, we can. What would you like to do?

WATERS: Well, I would like to condemn this resolution and ask that we all give attention to the very short time that we have to do the people’s work. And pull it back, and not even go any further with it. Why don’t you just withdraw it?

It was then Reschenthaler realized he might have gotten a teensy bit out over his skis. Perhaps it occurred to him that his own Dear Leader loved the North Korean dictator so much that he actually stole the oversized mash note from the White House and took it home to fondle in the privacy of his South Florida trash palace.

And yet, he persisted!

RESCHENTHALER: Alright, so Mao Zedong is responsible for between 15 million and 55 million people starving to death, with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Do you denounce that, yes or no?

WATERS: But Trump loves him. That’s your leader.

RESCHENTHALER: But do you denounce it?

WATERS: Trump’s your leader. He speaks for you. He says he loves him, you gotta deal with that.

RESCHENTHALER: So you’re refusing to denounce the starvation of 15 to 55 million people in Communist China? You’re refusing to do that.

WATERS: Sir, I’m a capitalist, okay? I don’t support anything but serving the people of this country.

Now a smarter person might have realized that Rep. Waters was conflating current Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Trump bragged that he’d charmed with a beautiful piece of chocolate cake on the lanai at Mar-a-Lago, and former President Mao Zedong, who left office in 1976. But a smarter person would have quit while he was behind, instead of letting Maxine Waters ritually pants him in the hearing room.

RESCHENTHALER: Stalin! Tens of millions died in the Bolshevik revolution. Do you want to denounce that?

WATERS: I’m sorry, I don’t deal with yes or no questions.

RESCHENTHALER: Okay, well, why don’t you explain your support of Stalin.

WATERS: No, why don’t you explain it?

RESCHENTHALER: No, I’m not … you want to denounce that, or not?

WATERS: I told you, at the beginning of this resolution when we discussed what we ought to be doing.

RESCHENTHALER: So you’re refusing to denounce Joseph Stalin?

WATERS: But when you tell me like we’re in a kindergarten class “yes or no,” I don’t do that.

Reschenthaler tried weakly to regain control of the hearing, professing that he was giving the congresswoman “the opportunity” to denounce Pol Pot, only to have Waters remind him that “Your Republican leader Donald Trump is friends with, supports, Putin. Kim Jong Un, he loves him,” and then wonder why not a single member of the Republican Party could manage to denounce Trump’s incitement of the January 6 insurrection.

“Are you afraid of Trump? Do you agree with Trump? Ask him the questions, don’t ask me,” she hammered. “Don’t ask me silly questions. I’m a capitalist. I’m not like Donald Trump. I’m not like Republicans who claim to support this democracy, but at the same time refuses to condemn those who attempted to destroy this democracy. You need to talk with your leader Donald Trump about what he’s doing. Why he loves Putin so much. Why he loves Kim Jong Un so much. You ask him the questions!”

Reschenthaler took one last run at Waters, simpering his supposed gotcha about Venezuelans eating dogs. Did the congresswoman want to denounce that?

Spoiler Alert: SHE DID NOT.

WATERS: I want you to denounce Donald Trump. I want you denounce the Proud Boys. I want you to denounce QAnon. I want you to denounce the KKK. When you do all of that, then we can talk.

RESCHENTHALER: Okay, so, for the record, you’ve refused to denounce Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hugo Chavez. That’s amazing.

WATERS: For the record, you’ve refused to denounce Donald Trump. You refuse to denounce the insurrection that tried to destroy our democracy. You refuse to denounce the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnon, the KKK. You refuse all of that.

At which point, Rescenthaler knew he was beat, dejectedly pivoting back to McHenry to “explain how free market capitalism has done more to raise people out of poverty than any other form.” Before limping off to ice his balls, presumably.

And, yeah, it’s the same dingus who slagged FDR for making common cause with Stalin.

Golly, was there anything going on in the mid-1940s that would have made that alliance better than the alternative? Anything at all?

Well, the next two years are going to suck mightily. But if we get to watch Rep. Waters dropkick dipshits like Reschenthaler, there will at least be a few bright spots.

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Hey Jim Jordan, We Got Your Weaponized FBI Right Here, His Name Is Bill Barr

The crazy caucus squeezed Kevin McCarthy’s balls pretty hard during the hostage negotiation over the House speaker’s gavel. (Hey, man, whatever you’re into!) And one of the things that popped out during their 15 rounds of light bondage was a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

By which they do not mean the routine brutalization of Black Americans by law enforcement officers.

What they mean is every fool theory about the Deep State vomited out on Telegram and amplified by Tucker Carlson for the MAGA masses. They want to rehash the stupid shit Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss have been sock puppeting out with Elon Musk’s hands up their asses. They want to pretend it was scandalous for the Justice Department to treat threats to teachers and schools by anti-vaxx terrorists as actual terrorism. They want to lie that the Capitol Riot was instigated by FBI plants, and that the insurrectionists in jail for trying to overthrow the government are actually brave patriots, or tourists, or First Amendment political prisoners. In short, they want to pretend that white Christian conservatives are being victimized by a government which has done nothing but privilege their interests for 250 years, and they just extorted McCarthy to secure staff, funding, and subpoena power on par with the January 6 Select Committee to do it.

Which is ironic, because we just spent four years watching Trump and his cronies weaponize the FBI to target his enemies and help his friends, and the GOP doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about it.

We saw Attorney General Bill Barr sic riot police on racial justice protestors based on blatant lies about Antifa supersoldiers flying around the country in uniform to wreak havoc. We saw him break longstanding DOJ protocol and authorize investigations of non-existent election fraud before the 2020 results had been certified — after spending months pretending that mail-in ballots were rife with fraud. We saw him lie about the Mueller Report. We saw him attempt to ratfuck the Roger Stone prosecution, successfully ratfuck the Mike Flynn prosecution, and do his damnedest to blow up the Michael Cohen plea deal. We saw him go to the mat to try to prosecute former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe for the crime of being mean to Donald Trump. We saw him try to Saturday Night Massacre the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York to protect Trump and his pals. FFS, this asshole only closed the Clinton email investigation in October of 2019, more than six years after Hillary Clinton left the State Department.

And that was before last week’s New York Times story about all the ways Bill Barr and Special Counsel John Durham tried to frame the FBI, Hillary Clinton, and — when everything else failed — George Soros for the supposed crime of investigating Donald Trump’s ties to a Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Jim Jordan wants to talk about weaponization of the Justice Department? Here it is, asshole.

Barr announced publicly that there was something untoward about the origins of the Russia investigation before he even opened the Special Counsel inquiry. When the Justice Department Inspector General found the opposite, Barr and Durham leaned on him to change his conclusions, then put out statements undercutting his report.

When Barr and Durham failed to find any evidence of their public accusations, they shifted to the rightwing conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton somehow tricked the FBI into investigating Trump. This required them to pretend that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe, which was opened in July of 2016 after coffee boy dipshit George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russian state actors were going to start releasing hacked information to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was actually based on DNC lawyer Michael Sussmann’s September report to the FBI about the mysterious pings between Trump Tower and a sanctioned Russian bank. But denying linear time is no problem for this dynamic duo!

Durham was able to secure a guilty plea from one low level line attorney for falsifying an email, but his vaunted prosecutions of Sussmann and Russia analyst Igor Danchenko went down in flames. But in the meantime, Durham relied on an extremely dubious Russian memo which cited supposedly hacked communications between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an employee at the Open Society Foundation (which is funded by Soros) regarding a supposed promise by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch promising that the investigation of Clinton’s emails wouldn’t get out of hand. When Durham couldn’t get a warrant because his evidence was so shaky, he just used a grand jury subpoena to extort the communications — which showed that he was once again going down a blind alley because none of that shit ever happened.

Let us all take a moment to appreciate the irony of Durham and Barr trying to pretend that the FBI was too nice to Clinton about her emails (or literally anything else), at a time when it was also investigating the Trump campaign and managed not to hold press conferences about it every other week. And while we’re conjuring Alanis, note that Durham and Barr accidentally kicked loose some dirt on Trump when they were traveling around England and Italy, shouting at our allies to confess to trying to screw the Trump campaign. Of course, they failed to disclose that one, too.

In short, the Justice Department has indeed been weaponized against the president’s political enemies, but we’re pretty sure that Jim Jordan won’t be looking into any of that, although, as the Post‘s Greg Sargent points out, the Senate Judiciary Committee might do it. But over in the House, Ol’ Rasslin’ Jim is going to pretend to work himself into a lather about nonsense. Of course, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries isn’t going to cede the field to Republicans, so we’ll be on the spot to factcheck in real time. Because unlike Kevin McCarthy, the Democratic leader is not a weak-kneed idiot. So, there’s that, anyway.

[WaPo / NYT]

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