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"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech," said Benjamin Franklin. Everyone has an opinion and the right to speak that opinion our forefathers granted us that right it is called the First Amendment. Read it then discuss it in the Forums.

Welcome to GOP Watch page 1 keeping an eye on Republicans for you

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Republicans claim to be patriots but they are not. Real patriots put country first not party; Republicans put party first not country, Republicans are not real patriots. The Republican Party is doing some very unpatriotic things and is willing to destroy our democracy using lies, hate, fear, alterative facts, whataboutism and Russian talking points to stay in power and protect a comprised and corrupt Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party and Putin.

Republicans will tell you anything depending on the day of the week or the way the wind blows. Republicans use lies and alternative facts (more lies) to support there fabricated stories. Many of same Republicans who wanted to impeach Clinton are now protecting Trump from obstruction charges and are not protecting Americans from Trump or Russian election interference. There was a time (before Trump) Republicans did not support or trust Russia now that Trump is in office Republicans love Russian talking points and Putin more than they do America. Once again, Republicans put party above country. We need to keep an eye on them before they destroy America, as we know it. Welcome to GOP Watch keeping an eye on Republicans for you. The Republican Party is using lies, hate, fear, alterative facts and whataboutism to stay in power and protect a comprised and corrupt Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party and Putin. The GOP is a danger to America and Americans.

Republicans vs Republicans what Republicans said vs what Republicans said.

The Russians have infiltrated the Republican Party, the NRA, white evangelicals and white nationalist in attempt to sow division in America.

How republicans use voter suppression to steal you vote and gerrymandering to stay in power. In the old days, bad people used threats, sticks, knives and guns to prevent people from voting. Now Republicans remove you from the voter rolls or use voter ID laws to make it harder for some to vote so they can steal the elections and stay in power.

Is a threat to free press, free speech, free trade, the rule of law, human rights, human decency, our democracy and the American way of life. Find out more about the real Donald J. Trump (Don The Con).

Dedicated to Donald J. Trump's (aka Don the Con) time in the White House. We are dedicated to exposing the real Donald J. Trump and shining a light on the threat he is to Democracy and America.

Donald J. Trump drained the swap and filled it with toxic septic tank water. Washington in worse off now than it was before Trump became president. Donald J. Trump and the Trump administration will go down as the worse, most corrupt, comprised and dishonest administration in American history. This page is dedicated to tracking that corruption.

Many other republicans are making asses of themselves and their party to protect and appease Donald J. Trump. Donald J. Trump has made a mockery of Republican Party. Donald J. Trump has made the Republican Party his flunkies, minions and some his bitches. When he says do something they do it even when they know it is wrong or illegal. They do not care that the oath of office is to America and the constitution not to Donald J. Trump. Republicans put Donald J. Trump before America, the constitution and their oath of office. They are willing to violate their oath of office to protect Donald J. Trump.

Tracking the Mueller Investigation into how the Russians infiltrated the Trump campaign and the Republican Party to help get Donald J. Trump elected president of the United States of America.

Jerry Falwell Jr. is pushing greed, racism, sexism and homophobia instead of the word of the god. God warns us of false prophets.

From a hard nose prosecutor, to America’s mayor, to a right wing conspiracy nut and now a criminal suspect the rise and fall of Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani along with Trump are using Russian talking points to promote Russia’s version of interference in the 2016 election. You have to question were their allegiance are to America or to Russia, more and more it looks like their allegiance is to Russia and not to America.

Mitch McConnell (aka Moscow Mitch) is a Trump enabler who has done more to protect and enable Trump and help Russia than he has done to help America and protect the constitution.

Fox News (Fake News) is the Republican Party's propaganda wing. Fake News (Fox News) uses fake news, lies, propaganda, alternative facts and conspiracy theories to protect Republicans, attack Democrats. Fox News (fake news) is the place where the Republicans runs to for cover story and protection when they get caught doing wrong. Fake News (Fox News), Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party are destroying our country with lies, alternative facts and conspiracy theories. Fake News (Fox News) does not talk about the fact the Russia attacked America in an unprovoked and unprecedented cyber-attack during the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump get elected, instead they distract us with lies, alternative facts and conspiracy theories to protect Trump. Russia is still attacking our democracy but you would not know that if you only watch Fake News (Fox News). Americans deserve better than third world tactics of fake news, lies, propaganda, alternative facts and conspiracy theories.

By Jeff Zeleny, Senior Washington Correspondent

(CNN) Just eight US governors have decided against issuing statewide directives urging their residents to stay at home as the outbreak of the coronavirus escalates and spreads across the country, the last holdouts in the nation. The governors, all of whom are Republican, have offered a variety of explanations for why they have not followed the lead of their colleagues from coast-to-coast -- along with countries across the world -- by ordering people to restrict their movement in hopes of slowing the pandemic. In doing so, they've collectively ignored the stay-at-home pleas of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who said in a CNN interview: "If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that." Absent a nationwide order, which President Donald Trump once again on Friday declined to give, a patchwork of rules has emerged in all corners of the country that offer conflicting guidance for how citizens should protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. "I leave it up to the governors. The governors know what they are doing," Trump said at his daily White House briefing. "States that we are talking about are not in jeopardy." But as the week wore on, with the death toll rising, confirmed cases mounting and an absence of national leadership, several once-reluctant governors ultimately heeded the call and issued statewide orders of their own. It wasn't until late Friday that Alabama took action, with Gov. Kay Ivey reversing course and imposing a statewide mandate beginning Saturday. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson followed suit, one day after saying his state didn't easily lend itself to "a blanket order." He signed just that, but said it wouldn't take effect until Monday. The remaining exceptions are eight red states, all of which Trump carried four years ago and is hoping to do so again in the fall. They stretch from the South to the Midwest and the West, spanning the alphabet from Arkansas to Wyoming.

By STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS | South Dakota legislators decided Thursday to investigate allegations that Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer was drunk during a meeting earlier this week that involved legislation related to the coronavirus outbreak. Both Langer, a Dell Rapids Republican, and Senate Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, will be under investigation for their conduct during a marathon session that stretched from Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak. As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee. Jensen declined to tell The Associated Press who had told him about Langer's behavior, but said he noticed on a video broadcast of the meeting room that both Langer and Greenfield's speech was slurred. He did not make an accusation regarding Greenfield on Tuesday morning. Greenfield told his colleagues on the phone that he had not seen Langer drinking. The Senate decided that Jensen could not move to immediately establish the committee due to a technicality, but Senators suggested he could bring it up to the Executive Board, a committee of senior legislators from the House and Senate that decides on legislative proceedings.

Conservatives, business groups and politicians urge president to get economy going as outbreak continues
By Victoria Bekiempis

As Donald Trump has pushed his shock policy reversal to try to soon get many Americans to go back to work, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he has been supported by a wide array of rightwing figures, business groups and conservative politicians. Some of those conservatives have taken the president’s concerns over the dire health of the US economy a step further – suggesting that the inevitable deaths of many people to the virus might be an acceptable cost of doing business in the face of a shocking economic collapse that saw more than 3 million new people register for unemployment. “My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor, said last week on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. “Don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick continued. Patrick even suggested many older Americans would happily risk their lives for the sake of the economy. “No one reached out to me and said: ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” Patrick also said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that, I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.” The extreme rightwing media figure Glenn Beck shared the sentiment. “I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working, even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country. ’Cause it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country,” Beck said on an episode of his program on Blaze TV. The Republican Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson also questioned whether the economic impact of physical distancing was worth it, appearing to rate the coronavirus threat as less than fatal car accidents. “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.” Johnson also said “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4% of our population, [and] I think probably far less”.

At least four states have banned most abortions or passed anti-trans legislation.
By Katelyn Burns

A group of anti-abortion activists wants Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to have abortion care providers cease operations during the novel coronavirus pandemic. In a Tuesday letter, signed by the heads of 52 anti-abortion advocacy groups including Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life, and the Family Research Council, the groups called for restrictions on medication and surgical abortion providers in order to “free up much needed medical equipment” and ease an alleged strain on emergency rooms stemming from patients with complications from abortion care. (Complications from abortion care are rare, according to medical research.) But the letter illustrates a broader trend: While many people are seemingly coming together to try to survive the virus — the Senate, for example, unanimously passed a $2 trillion relief package Wednesday — the pandemic hasn’t erased politics entirely. House Democrats, for example, proposed environmental reforms for industries receiving a coronavirus bailout. (The House’s bill has been dropped, however; the chamber plans to vote on the Senate’s version Friday). Meanwhile, social conservatives have taken advantage of the pandemic to further many politically divisive policies, like state-level bans on “elective” abortions, under the guise of protecting the interests of public health. But a closer look at the policy demands being made by anti-abortion conservatives shows that this is just politics as usual. The letter contains five specific demands for HHS during the pandemic: ensuring that emergency response funds are not given to abortion providers, urging abortion providers to cease operations in order to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for treating Covid-19 patients, not expanding telemedicine for medication abortion access, continuing actions to stop mail-order abortion prescriptions, and promoting “medically accurate” information to abortion care patients.

Senate Democrats ripped a GOP proposal to give the Trump administration $500 billion in funds for companies with little oversight.
By JOHN BRESNAHAN and MARIANNE LEVINE

As Senate Democrats went to the floor Sunday night to vote — the first time they’d been there in days — they had one thing on their minds: a secret “slush fund” for Corporate America. That’s what Democrats are calling a $500 billion “Exchange Stabilization Fund” included in the massive Senate GOP proposal to rescue the U.S. economy from the coronavirus crisis. The fund, which would come under the control of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is designed to aid distressed industries. It includes $58 billion for U.S. airline and air cargo companies, a source of significant controversy during the last three days of closed-door talks between senators of both parties and the White House. But the language drafted by Senate Republicans also allows Mnuchin to withhold the names of the companies that receive federal money and how much they get for up to six months if he so decides. That was way too much for Democrats, many of whom lived through the political furor surrounding the 2008 financial-services industry bailout. They remember facing the populist backlash and being pounded by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. They aren't going to do it again. “We’re gonna give $500 billion in basically a slush fund to help industries controlled by Mnuchin with very little transparency? Is that what we ought to be doing?” asked Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.). “We're not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” railed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who made corporate accountability a big part of her White House campaign. “We're here to help workers, we're here to help hospitals. And right now, what the Republicans proposed does neither of those. “ Even moderate West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin lashed out at the Republicans over the lack of controls on the Exchange Stabilization Fund. “It’s throwing caution to the wind for the average person working on Main Street, it’s balls to the walls for the people working on Wall Street,” Manchin declared. “It’s the same ol’ story from Mitch McConnell.”

After weeks of minimizing coronavirus, now conservatives are trying to blame Democrats for the pandemic
By Amanda Marcotte

For weeks, Donald Trump clearly believed he could lie the coronavirus away. As David Leonhardt of the New York Times carefully chronicled, starting on Jan. 22, Trump began a campaign of falsehoods geared towards tricking Americans — and especially the stock market — into thinking everything was going to be fine, this epidemic was "very well under control," that "like a miracle" the virus "will disappear" and that anyone who suggested otherwise was participating in a "hoax." Fox News and other right-wing media, in the endless infinity symbol of conservative lies, both led and followed Trump on this, blanketing red-state America with a steady drumbeat of assertions that the "liberal media" was exaggerating the crisis to hurt Trump. Furthermore, all this happened in the face of substantial evidence that Republican voters and Fox News viewers, who tend to be older and live in rural areas with poorer access to medical care, are more likely to die from coronavirus. Life, as the Twitter dorks say, comes at you fast. Coronavirus has been reported in 49 states now, and cities are going on lockdown to prevent the spread. After multiple failed stunts geared toward trying to trick investors, Trump finally held a serious press conference on the crisis Monday. All those right-wing pundits on Fox News and talk radio, being utterly shameless, have switched seamlessly from denying that we have a coronavirus problem to claiming that Trump has been showing mighty leadership — and oh yeah, trying to blame Democrats for the problem. The shift from outright denialism to North Korea-style fawning and deflecting the blame was, of course, entirely predictable. The entire right-wing noise machine, now shaped completely around the bottomless ego-flattering needs of a failed businessman who demagogued his way into the White House, has always disdained facts in favor of keeping up a relentless drumbeat of tribalist messaging to convince their audiences that they are always in the right, no matter what. Any disagreement from liberals, in this worldview, reflects their secret anti-American agenda. Still, it never stops being remarkable how shameless conservative punditry can be about insisting they were always at war with Eastasia and that we're crazy to suggest that, just yesterday, they told us we were at war with Eurasia. For instance, for weeks — and as recently as last week — Fox News host Sean Hannity continued to use the word "hoax" to describe the coronavirus crisis and suggested that public health experts were "scaring people unnecessarily." Now Hannity is singing a different tune, admitting that we "need to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

If you're starting to get that special "George W. Bush feeling," you're not alone. Will America learn its lesson?
by Bob Cesca

If the slow-on-the-uptake response to COVID-19 by the White House seems a little familiar to you, you're definitely not imagining it. As if we're caught in some sort of "Groundhog Day" loop in the time-space continuum, we've absolutely been here before. Cue "I Got You Babe" on the alarm clock. I realize too many Americans have gnat-like attention spans and even shorter memories, so I'll be specific. Beyond several details, the Trump presidency is looking an awful lot like the second term of the George W. Bush presidency. To his credit, Mike Pence hasn't shot anyone in the face, but we're seeing a traffic jam of similar events: a crisis with a growing death toll, a painfully tone-deaf, slow and inept government response, a financial meltdown and an out-of-control budget deficit. (Trump promised to eliminate the deficit.) Only now, it's all happening at the same time. The Republican-led geyser of insanity that landed in our laps between 2005 and 2009 is back for an encore, and it's horrifying. Trump's latest Hurricane Katrina-type blunder comes in the form of his reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, of course, which has been exacerbated by the president's lackadaisical whatevs attitude for the first several months. (The first case emerged in November.) By the way, I would argue his flaccid reaction to the 2018 California wildfires and 2017's Hurricane Maria easily qualify as his other Katrina events. Trump's version of the Great Recession also lurks around the corner — in fact, Trump agreed this week that a recession will likely happen soon. Likewise, the Dow collapsed another 3,000 points on Monday, closing at 20,188, a wafer-thin margin above the 19,827 average on inauguration day 2017, erasing all of the Trump gains. For the sake of comparison, Barack Obama presided over a 65.1 percent increase in the Dow during his first three years, while Trump has presided over a 1.6 percent gain and falling — my hunch is that Trump's record on the Dow will be in the negative territory before the end of the week. Hell, Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic adviser, even repeated on Monday, "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." John McCain said the exact same words in August 2008, just before the crash. Around and around we go. Trump and the Republican Senate are also responsible for a $1 trillion budget deficit, adding nearly half a trillion to the deficit in a little more than three years after the Obama administration cut the deficit by nearly a trillion dollars, from $1.4 trillion to $439 billion. The aforementioned $1.4 trillion deficit was courtesy of George W. Bush. So much for "fiscal conservatism." We can expect Trump's deficits to skyrocket even further now that the government and the Federal Reserve are bailing out businesses and extending liquidity to the banks. Another TARP could be in the works before this is all over.

Do we see a pattern here yet?
We'd have to be blind not to. For reasons that will forever confound historians, 62 million Americans, many of whom were still tangled in the nets of the previous Republican catastrophes, decided it'd be a great idea to "own the libs" by giving the Republican Party another chance at running the federal government, not to mention Congress. This time, however, they landed on a candidate with zero experience, zero aptitude for government work, zero regard for anything other than his own popularity and, as a bonus, a history of personal financial disasters including bankrupted casinos, a fraudulent university and an even more fraudulent charitable foundation.

Several lawmakers stalled an emergency coronavirus relief bill even though Trump has backed the legislation
By Igor Derysh

Several Republican lawmakers stalled an emergency coronavirus relief bill even though President Donald Trump has backed the legislation. Republicans delayed the bill, which would provide free COVID-19 testing and paid sick leave among other items, last week over concerns about the paid leave provision and a demand that anti-abortion language be added to the bill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ultimately agreed to only include about 20% of workers in the bill, which does not require corporations like Amazon or McDonald's to provide any paid sick leave for their workers. The changes prompted a show of public support from Trump on Twitter, but the measure was once again stalled. The House of Representatives must first approve technical fixes to the bill's paid sick leave provision, but the process is being blocked by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. Gohmert insists that the bill be read on the floor, which would require the House to return from recess and vote again. As long as Gohmert blocks the bill from being approved by unanimous consent, the Senate cannot vote on it. House Republican leaders said they were trying to figure out a way forward with Gohmert and other members who oppose the bill. "If they want to object, that's their right," but "we're trying to walk them off the rope," a member of the House Republican leadership team told Fox News. A House aide also told Fox that it would be a "major health issue" to force lawmakers to fly back to Washington from recess. "Hell, the Senate shouldn't be here now either," the aide said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., canceled this week's scheduled recess to focus on the coronavirus relief package, but the bill's fate remains unclear even if the House is able to send the bill to the upper chamber. - Republicans do not have a problem bailing out business and the rich but do not like to help the poor and the middle class, which kind of dumb since they are the consumers that keep the business open if they don’t have money then business cannot sell their products.

Heard on Fresh Air
By Terry Gross

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We're going to talk about how President Trump and some members of his administration have mismanaged the coronavirus outbreak, helping fuel the crisis. My guest Dan Diamond is a reporter for Politico who investigates health care policy and politics, including the Trump administration's coronavirus response. He's written about dysfunction and infighting within the administration and how that's slowed the response to the spread of the virus and led to some counterproductive decisions. The virus has spread to the point where, yesterday, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, which is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease.

Dan Diamond, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Tell us your main takeaways from the president's speech last night.

DAN DIAMOND: Well, Terry, I guess we can start with the good, such as it was. On Wednesday night, nearly two months after the first U.S. case of novel coronavirus was detected, President Trump finally treated this outbreak with the seriousness it deserves. He's given press conferences where he said the cases would effectively go away. He has posted tweets, even on Monday where he compared this to the flu. This is not the flu. The flu does not lead the National Basketball Association, the NBA, to suspend its season. I think it's a positive that the president seems to finally realize the severity of the problem. Unfortunately, his short remarks contained a lot of mistakes and misinformation. The president said that travel from Europe would be suspended for 30 days. That wasn't completely correct. The White House had to immediately walk that back. U.S. citizens and their families and legal permanent residents can still come back. The president said that cargo would be banned from Europe. That would have been a huge blow to the economy, especially given that some crucial medical supplies come from the EU. But it turned out that Trump misspoke again; cargo will still be allowed.

By Margaret Sullivan

The insidious feedback loop between President Trump and Fox News is no secret. When Trump says “jump,” the network leaps into action. And what the president hears on Fox News often dictates his own pronouncements and policies — which, in turn, are glowingly represented in Fox News’s coverage and commentary. That’s never been anything short of dangerous, since the effect has been to create a de facto state-run media monster more devoted to maintaining power than shedding light on the truth. But now the mind-meld of Fox News and Trump is potentially lethal as Trump plays down the seriousness of the coronavirus and, hearing nothing but applause from his favorite information source for doing so, sees little reason to change. There’s one person who could transform all that in an instant: Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul who, at 89, still exerts his influence on the leading cable network — and thus on the president himself. Chris Wallace, the independent and tough-minded Fox News interviewer who serves as the network’s chief reality officer, has revealed that the executive chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of Fox Corporation likes to give feedback on what he sees on the network. “He cares tremendously about the news,” Wallace said, according to the Guardian. “When I have contact with him, he never is asking about ideology, just: ‘What’s going on? What’s happening? Tell me.’ ” That’s a little hard to believe, given the network’s long history of Clinton-bashing and birtherism lies about Barack Obama, and its peddling of conspiracy theories. But Murdoch’s ultimate power at the network is not in question.

SPEAKER ON THE PHONE
Twelve years after she put together the TARP, the Speaker negotiated a major legislative response to the coronavirus.
By Sam Brodey

For the second time in her career, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was tasked with bailing out a Republican president in a moment of national crisis and, with a tanking stock market in the background, came through with a bill. Twelve years ago, Pelosi worked with President George W. Bush and his lieutenants to craft the 2008 emergency bank bailout. Late Friday night, she’d nailed down a deal with the Trump administration on legislation to respond to the spiraling coronavirus outbreak. But unlike the first time—when the speaker and the man in the White House had a relatively decent working relationship—Pelosi this time was collaborating with a president who’d spent weeks trashing her as, among other things, “incompetent.” The name-calling, ultimately, proved to be a minor hurdle, if one at all; as Trump was largely sidelined during negotiations. Over the course of Thursday and Friday, Pelosi spoke instead with Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, nearly 30 separate times as they hammered out a deal. Through it all, the speaker did not speak with the president once. Asked at a late-night Friday press conference if they had talked, Pelosi looked almost shocked that anyone might think so. “There was no need for that,” she said. Bush was a participant in TARP discussions, though he strategically kept some distance as he and his aides felt that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson would be more palatable a negotiating partner for lawmakers on the Hill. It was Paulson who famously leaned so heavily on Pelosi to help get the bank bailout through the House that he even got down on one knee to beg her to push the bill through her chamber. The parallels between then and now aren’t perfect. But they aren’t far apart either. For lawmakers who were there during the autumn of 2008 the most important difference is the most obvious: Trump. “The crisis atmosphere seems similar. The inability of the president to provide any real leadership is different,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) shortly after a midnight vote on Saturday to approve the coronavirus legislation. “I disagreed vigorously with the Bush administration, but at least the president led and worked with his team on this. We're here at this hour, in large measure, because Donald Trump's provided no leadership, just obstruction.”

By Nina dos Santos, CNN

London (CNN) When Republican lawmakers this week abruptly canceled a plan to subpoena a former Ukrainian official in their investigations into the energy firm that hired former Vice President Joe Biden's son, they said it was to allow more time for senators to receive additional briefings. But a Ukrainian magazine editor has told CNN that the target of the subpoena, Andrii Telizhenko, once offered him money to lobby US senators on behalf of pro-Russian media outlets. A former Ukrainian diplomat, Telizhenko is an ally of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and has been an enthusiastic proponent of the debunked theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US elections. Telizhenko has also backed Republican claims that Trump's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, shut down an investigation into the Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his son, Hunter, served on its board. Biden has consistently denied any wrongdoing. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee called off a vote to subpoena Telizhenko earlier this week, amid accusations from Democrats that the investigation was calculated to damage Biden's presidential bid. Questions also swirled about Telizhenko's reliability as a witness -- the New York Times reported that the FBI had briefed the committee leadership with concerns that he could be spreading Russian disinformation. Telizhenko says he's the victim of a smear campaign and flatly denied to CNN he was a "Russian agent." In a development that could raise more questions about Telizhenko's reliability, Vladislav Davidzon, who runs a magazine called the Odessa Review, has told CNN that Telizhenko offered him $5,000 in 2018 to approach prominent Republicans to speak out against efforts by Kiev to curb the influence of two TV stations. CNN has reviewed a series of messages between the two men that came against the backdrop of an attempt by Ukrainian lawmakers to censure two channels, 112 and News One, for allegedly broadcasting Russian propaganda in the years following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014. In October 2018, the same month that lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution to sanction the two stations, Telizhenko wrote to Davidzon, asking: "Have a question do you or your father have contacts with US Senators? I really need a favour for witch (sic) I can pay up to 5k." Davidzon, 35, is the son of influential US-based Russian language media owner Gregory Davidzon -- once dubbed "The Kingmaker of Little Russia" in a 2012 profile by The New York Times. After expressing concerns about how the new Ukrainian proposals could shut the broadcasters down, Telizhenko then says: "My question is is it possible to get an official comment on a Senators (Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham for example) website next week about this situation of censorship in Ukraine? Really important for me and need fast." Davidzon replies: "Ok. I have a bit of time. But not sure what I can do." Davidzon told CNN that he considered the offer of money to target senators like Graham was "improper" and never reached out to any US lawmakers as a result.

The US needs to brace for coronavirus. But Fox News is framing efforts to prepare as a partisan fight.
By Nicole Narea

Conservative commentators on Fox News are downplaying the potential risk of the novel coronavirus spreading throughout the US — describing the panic over the pandemic as a partisan tool that has been used to attack President Donald Trump. On his evening show Thursday night, host Sean Hannity spent the bulk of his opening monologue accusing detractors of Trump’s response to Covid-19 of sowing partisanship and hysteria — a message that has resonated with the president, who is an avid viewer and tweeted about it after the show. “Since the beginning, all they’ve done is use the virus, politicize the virus to bludgeon President Trump,” Hannity said, referring to Democrats. “All the same people who have done the same thing for three straight years. ... Russia, Russia. Ukraine, Ukraine. And impeach, impeach. Now, corona, corona.” Friday morning, Fox & Friends suggested that it’s safe to travel. “It’s actually the safest time to fly,” host Ainsley Earhardt said. And Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the evangelical Liberty University, spread unfounded conspiracy theories about how Democrats are playing up the virus to attack Trump and how it could potentially be a bioweapon. Fox News is communicating that panic over the virus is the problem. But at this point, the American public needs to take the threat of the virus seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 1,200 cases nationwide as of March 12, but due to insufficient testing, there are likely many more cases that have gone unidentified. Congress’s in-house doctor told staffers on Wednesday that 70 million to 150 million people in the US could eventually be infected. Experts recommend that people practice social distancing, but if they fail to do so, the virus could spread too quickly, overwhelming medical resources and leading to unnecessary deaths. What Fox News has been publicly telling viewers is very different from how the network has been responding to the virus internally: Network executives have taken a number of significant precautions, the Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani reported. They told employees in a memo that they would implement work-from-home policies, decrease the number of in-studio guest bookings, and deep-clean their offices, and urged staff to keep in mind that they are “providing an important public service to our audience by functioning as a resource for all Americans.” But at least some Fox shows haven’t heeded that advice. On Friday morning as a guest on Fox & Friends, Falwell claimed that the public was overreacting to the threat of virus, incorrectly likening it to the flu. He suggested that Democrats’ attempts to raise alarm over coronavirus is just their latest ploy against Trump following their failed effort to impeach him. He even proposed, without any evidence, that North Korea could be behind the virus.

‘SAFEST TIME TO FLY’
Fox News brass may be taking COVID-19 seriously by banning non-essential employee travel, but several hosts are actively encouraging viewers to get out there and fly.
By Maxwell Tani, Justin Baragona

Fox News brass has prohibited its employees from all non-essential business travel amid the coronavirus outbreak. But some of the network’s hosts are sending viewers the opposite message: There’s never been a better time to travel! In a memo to staff on Thursday, Fox News executives Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace warned employees of COVID-19’s dangers and announced an internal policy “prohibiting all non-essential business travel since last Monday,” advising staff to work from home, and reducing in-studio guest bookings. The company also shared with employees a CDC advisory page cautioning against traveling to Europe and abroad. The advisory noted that while the agency does not generally issue travel restrictions in the U.S., “cases of COVID-19 have been reported in many states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with COVID-19.” Despite these official warnings, and the internal Fox News policy, some of the network’s hosts have decided to encourage their viewers to pick up and travel. During Friday’s broadcast of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that sparsely booked flights and near-empty airports mean “It’s actually the safest time to fly.” She added: “Everyone that I know that’s flying right now, terminals are pretty much dead. Ghost towns.” Besides claiming it’s the “safest” time to fly—during a pandemic—Earhardt also gushed over the comfort and extra space passengers will enjoy on these emptier flights. “Remember back in the day when you had a seat next to you possibly empty?” Earhardt excitedly noted. “You could stretch out a little more. It’s like that on every flight now.”

By Philip Ewing and Claudia Grisales - NPR

Sen. Mitt Romney has cleared the path for his Republican colleagues to intensify their investigation next week into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter. The Utah Republican said Friday that he'll go along with his fellow members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and authorize a subpoena as part of an investigation into what Republicans call potential conflicts of interest from Biden's tenure in office. Romney had wavered about joining the other Republicans on the panel, who control the majority but would have needed him to break a tie if all the Democrats present opposed a subpoena. On Friday, a spokeswoman said that Romney and Sen. Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the committee, reached an accord that made Romney comfortable with going along. "Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle," said spokeswoman Liz Johnson. "He will therefore vote to let the chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered." Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have been seeking interviews with witnesses and documents about Hunter Biden for several months. They've contacted the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and a political consultancy, Blue Star Strategies — among others — with requests for responses. Johnson and Grassley, who is not on the homeland security committee, have said they haven't gotten satisfactory responses to their formal requests, which is why Johnson's committee is expected to begin issuing subpoenas now that Romney is on board.

‘Confidential’
After being given a secret document by officials in Moscow, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sought to alter sanctions legislation and tried to set up a virtual show trial on Capitol Hill.
By Nico Hines

Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill. The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened and agreed to allow a hearing on Russia at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness, according to multiple congressional aides. An email reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that before that June 14 hearing, Rohrabacher’s staff received pro-Kremlin briefings against Browder, once Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and his tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky from a lawyer who was working with Veselnitskaya. Although House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) had prohibited Rohrabacher from showing the Russian propaganda film in Congress, Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office still actively promoted a screening of the movie that was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2016. Veselnitskaya was one of those handling the movie’s worldwide promotion. Invitations to attend the movie screening were sent from the subcommittee office by Catharine O’Neill, a Republican intern on Rohrabacher’s committee. Her email promised that the movie would convince viewers that Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison cell, was no hero. The invite, reviewed by The Daily Beast, claimed that the film “explodes the common view that Mr. Magnitsky was a whistleblower” and lavishes praise on the “rebel director” Andrei Nekrasov. “That invitation was not from our office. O’Neill was an unpaid intern on the committee staff. Paul denies asking her to send the invitations,” said Ken Grubbs, Rohrabacher’s press secretary, referring to the congressman’s staff director, Paul Behrends. O’Neill went on to secure a job on the Trump transition team and then in the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. She did not return a call for comment. Rohrabacher’s office was given the film by the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, which is run by Yuri Chaika, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin who is accused of widespread corruption, and Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who has been sanctioned by the United States as part of the Magnitsky Act. That same Prosecutor General’s office also was listed as being behind the “very high level and sensitive information” that was offered to Donald Trump Jr. in an email prior to his now infamous meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower on June 9—just days before the congressional hearing. Veselnitskaya attended that meeting with Trump Jr. She also happens to have worked as a prosecutor in the Moscow region and is a close personal friend of Chaika. The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of a document that was passed to Rohrabacher in Moscow in April 2016. The document, marked “confidential,” was given to Rohrabacher and Behrends. It lays out an alternate reality in which the U.S.—and the rest of the world—has been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.

BECAUSE THEY DON’T CARE?
Fox’s own research team accused Giuliani and John Solomon of trafficking in “disinformation,” The Daily Beast revealed. And yet the news channel keeps booking them.
By Justin Baragona Contributing Editor

Even though internal Fox News documents caution that frequent guests Rudy Giuliani and John Solomon traffic in “disinformation,” the network can’t seem to quit booking them. Since The Daily Beast first reported on the 162-page document, produced by the network’s research division known as the “Brain Room,” Giuliani—who, according to the briefing, has a “high susceptibility to disinformation”—has made at least four separate appearances on Fox. And Solomon, whom the documents accused of playing an “indispensable role” in Team Trump’s Ukraine “disinformation campaign,” has popped up twice on the Fox Business Network. The internal briefing, titled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” accused the former New York City mayor Giuliani of amplifying disinformation pushed by bad-faith Ukrainian actors like former Ukrainain prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko and indicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash. The document also noted Giuliani’s ties to indicted associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who Murphy writes had “strong reported financial links to Firtash.” “Reading the timeline in its entirety—not a small task—makes clear the extensive role played by Rudy Giuliani and his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in spreading disinformation,” the briefing added. Despite the network’s own research team preaching caution over Trump’s personal hatchet man peddling conspiracies and agitprop through the media, shows on Fox News and Fox Business Network have continued to host Giuliani for freewheeling interviews in which he has repeatedly (and baselessly) claimed he is in possession of “smoking gun” evidence that proves former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was involved in criminal activity in Ukraine.

"Again, Joni Ernst has shown that she is willing to push our families into poverty with a smile."
By Jake Johnson

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa told donors at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. last March that federal spending on non-discretionary programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is "out of control" and will require "changes" in the future. That's according to a 55-second audio clip published Wednesday by Iowa Starting Line. In the recording, Ernst is asked by an attendee whether she is on board with Sen. David Perdue's (R-Ga.) call for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. "I think we all are because we understand that our non-discretionary spending is growing like this," replied Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020. "Everyone focuses on discretionary spending because that is what we can control in Congress. The rest is on autopilot and is out of control. We have to figure out ways to honor the commitments that have been made, but make changes for the future. How we do that, I don't know." Progressive advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted that "changes" is "code for massive cuts." Kimberly Graham, one of five Democrats vying to unseat Ernst in November, tweeted Thursday that "we barely invest in the health and well-being of our people as it is, and Joni Ernst thinks even that is too much." "Joni doesn't work for Iowans," added Graham. "Joni works for the wealthy donors that fill her campaign coffers." The audio clip comes months after the Democratic super PAC American Bridge posted a video of Ernst telling a town hall audience in August that members of Congress should negotiate changes to Social Security "behind closed doors" to avoid scrutiny from advocacy groups and the press.

The impeachment and subsequent acquittal of President Trump have revealed deep flaws in the constitutional system.
By Michael Gerhardt

The Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is over, ending with all but one Republican voting to acquit. But the effort to make sense of its constitutional ramifications is only beginning. Almost a half century ago, President Richard Nixon’s resignation was thought to have proved that the constitutional system worked, with the House, the Senate, and a special prosecutor each having conducted long, painstaking investigations into his misconduct; the Supreme Court having directed President Nixon to comply with a judicial subpoena to turn over taped conversations; and the House Judiciary Committee having approved three articles of impeachment shortly before Nixon resigned. Margaret Taylor: The Founders set an extremely high bar for impeachment In sharp contrast, few think that the acquittal of President Trump is a triumph for the Constitution. Instead, it reveals a different, disturbing lesson, about how the American political system—and the Constitution itself—might be fundamentally flawed. Since the writing of the Constitution, three developments have substantially altered the effectiveness of impeachment as a check on presidential misconduct. The first is the rise of extreme partisanship, under which each party’s goal is frequently to vanquish the other and control as much of the federal government as possible. This aim is fundamentally incompatible with the system that James Madison designed, premised as it was on negotiation, compromise, and a variety of checking mechanisms to ensure that no branch or faction was beyond the reach of the Constitution or the law. In 2018, this extreme partisanship and its detrimental effects were on full display at the Senate confirmation hearing for the then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senators, by nearly the same vote as they acquitted Trump, expedited Kavanaugh’s confirmation and thwarted an investigation into his possible misconduct that would have delayed or derailed it. Similarly, in 2016, a slim majority of Republican senators held no hearings on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, preserving the vacancy for President Trump to fill. In both of these events, Republican partisans sought only to prevail, and would not allow for an independent Senate review and investigation of the sort that Madison would have hoped for. Furthermore, the rabid partisanship of the Senate, which Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, denounced in her statement explaining her vote to acquit Trump, is all the more disturbing because the thin majority of the Senate that stalled Garland, confirmed Kavanaugh, and voted to hear no witnesses and not to seek further document production in the Trump trial represents less than half of the American electorate.

By Greg Sargent

It’s becoming inescapably obvious that Senate Republicans are perfectly willing to allow President Trump to continue consolidating his power in increasingly dangerous ways, while offering nothing but the most transparently absurd excuses for doing so. Senate Republicans are about to face another big test in this regard. Will they allow one of Trump’s leading allies to get away with a bad-faith maneuver that would gut efforts to constrain Trump’s warmaking authority, at a time when he is adamantly demanding that they leave it unchecked? Trump has been raging at GOP senators, to frighten them away from taking new steps to rein in his authority to make war. This comes after the House passed a measure to compel Trump to seek congressional authorization for new hostilities against Iran, after Trump ordered the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani on the thinnest of pretexts. The Senate is now set to vote on this measure. And believe it or not, a small group of GOP senators actually does support it, which could very well enable it to pass the Senate. We know this, because on Wednesday, eight GOP senators joined with Democrats to support proceeding to debate on the measure. But now one of Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate — Tom Cotton of Arkansas — is set to offer an amendment that would in effect render it a dead letter, according to Senate Democratic aides. Will those GOP senators go along? Here’s why this matters: This is yet another area in which Trump is not just asserting unconstrained authority; he’s also openly and explicitly declaring that he feels zero obligation to offer any meaningful legal or substantive justification for acting on that authority.

Trump has contempt for institutional constraints

In the Soleimani killing, Trump rapidly discarded even the pretense of offering any such justification. After floating numerous rationales that quickly fell apart — such as the claim that an attack was imminent — Trump then blithely asserted that “it doesn’t really matter” whether he had any such justification, because of Soleimani’s “horrible past.” Indeed, the rationales for the assassination were so laughably flimsy that a Republican senator — Mike Lee of Utah, who now supports limiting Trump’s war powers — erupted in a rage over an intelligence briefing to lawmakers that was supposed to justify it. On top of all this, Trump delighted a rally crowd by mocking the very notion that he should seek congressional authorization for military actions — demonstrating seething contempt for the very idea that he should be subject to any institutional constraints at all while wielding the awesome power of the U.S. military. All these things, of course, effectively demonstrate precisely why further constraints are urgently necessary.

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) House Intelligence Committee Republicans boycotted a public hearing on Wednesday in what they say is a protest of the committee's focus on "publicity events" rather than intelligence community oversight. The intelligence panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, and the other GOP members on the committee sent a letter to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff saying they would not take part in a public subcommittee hearing Wednesday on emerging technologies and national security, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN. The Republican protest is a sign that the anger stemming from the impeachment fight has yet to subside, even after the Senate trial brought impeachment to a close last week. It's the latest in a string of partisan fight for the Intelligence Committee, which was traditionally one of the most bipartisan in Congress. It's a long-running feud that began over the 2017 committee investigation into Russian election interference and was only exacerbated by the House's impeachment investigation, which was led by Schiff. Last year, the Republicans on the panel called on Schiff to step down after the special counsel investigation ended, and both parties have accused the other of inappropriately dragging committee staff into the impeachment fight. No Republicans or their staff were present when the hearing gaveled in at 10 a.m. ET, leaving half the room empty. The Republican letter charged that the committee has not addressed the December Justice Department inspector general report on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, which identified major problems with the warrant and its renewals.

By Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Jeremy Herb and Clare Foran, CNN

(CNN) Congressional Republicans downplayed the involvement of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in the sentencing of Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone, saying they see no reason for the investigations that Democrats are demanding. The mostly muted reaction from Republicans to the Justice Department's move undercutting career prosecutors' recommended sentence for Stone of up to nine years -- which prompted all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case Tuesday -- fueled concerns from the President's critics that he's been emboldened in the aftermath of impeachment. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the President, brushed off the calls for his committee to hold hearings on the Stone sentencing, saying he didn't know why the four prosecutors had even stepped down. "I'm not losing any sleep over them stepping down. If they're pushing for seven-to-nine-a year sentence, in this case. I think that's ridiculous," Graham said, pointing to a letter from a witness in the Stone case, Randy Credico, saying he didn't feel like Stone intimidated him. Graham said he did not see any actions from the Justice Department that he needed to look into, though he added that the President "shouldn't be tweeting about an ongoing case. I've told him that." "If I thought he'd done something that'd change the outcome inappropriately, I'd be the first to say," he said. Trump's involvement in the Stone case is one of multiple actions he's taken decried by his critics since he was acquitted in the Senate's impeachment trial last week, including the firing of two witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry and the withdrawal of the nomination of a Treasury nominee who led the US Attorney's office in Washington when it prosecuted Stone. "He's gotten so much worse since impeachment," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. "This retribution tour where he attacks, and attacks, and attacks -- I heard all kinds of Republican senators say, 'Well, he's going to get better.' Well, no sign of that at all and there won't be." House Democrats are vowing to look into the Stone sentencing, but they have routinely faced resistance in their efforts to investigate the Justice Department since taking control of the House last year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have called for the Justice Department inspector general to probe the matter, too, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called on Barr to step down.

Senate minority leader warns president would turn US into ‘banana republic’ after justice department’s interference
By David Smith in Washington

Donald Trump has triggered “a crisis in the rule of law in America” and would turn the country into a “banana republic” if left unchallenged, senior Democrats warned on Wednesday as they demanded an investigation into political interference at the justice department. Washington is reeling from aftershocks of the department’s highly unusual decision to overrule career prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for political operative Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the US president. The entire prosecution team resigned in protest on Tuesday. While Trump brazenly praised his attorney general, William Barr, for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought”, Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, sounded the alarm about an unprecedented threat to the independence of the legal system. “We are witnessing a crisis in the rule of law in America – unlike one we have ever seen before,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It is a crisis of President Trump’s making. But it was enabled and emboldened by every Senate Republican who was too afraid to stand up to him and say the simple word ‘no’, when the vast majority of them knew that that was the right thing to do.” Trump was acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate in his impeachment trial last week and immediately began a purge of officials who testified against him – fuelling Democrats’ fears that he would feel further emboldened, unleashed and able to act with impunity.

By Brian Naylor

President Trump hailed Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday after the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in Roger Stone's sentencing recommendation. Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case. "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump said on Twitter. "Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!"

Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020

Former special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation are longtime targets of Trump's. Mueller's team documented extensive Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and some contacts with Trump's campaign, but said there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges. The wrongdoing prosecutors said they did find included Stone, who sought to serve as an intermediary between Trump's team and WikiLeaks, which was fencing material stolen by Russian hackers, released to embarrass political targets in the United States. Stone lied to Congress about his role in the matter and obstructed its fact-finding, prosecutors charged; he was found guilty in November on all seven counts in his trial and is awaiting sentencing.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet. But Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests. Blackburn accused Democrats of trying to move the bills knowing that GOP lawmakers would block them and giving them fodder for fundraising efforts. “They are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it? They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats,” she said. Election security has become a point of contention during the Trump era. House Democrats have passed several election-related bills, including a sweeping ethics and election reform measure, but they've hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

By Jonathan Chait

Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Face the Nation and blurted out an apparent confession of what, if true, would be a scandal of Nixonian proportions. Graham reported he had spoken with Attorney General William Barr that morning. “The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy,” he reported, explaining that Barr “told me that they’ve created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.” Graham explained why, in his opinion, this state of affairs is appropriate: “Rudy Giuliani is a well-known man. He’s a crime fighter. He’s loyal to the president. He’s a good lawyer.” On the contrary, he is describing an arrangement that is not only the appearance of a conflict of interest but a massive abuse on its face. First, Giuliani is not a government official. He is representing Donald Trump as an individual, a fact he has made perfectly clear. He boasted to the New York Times last May that he was seeking to uncover “information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.” The distinction between “will” and “may” was Rudy’s open acknowledgement that he was looking out for Trump, not the U.S. government, and that the interests of the two might not be the same. He was even more clear in a letter to Ukrainian President Zelensky, which his former partner, Lev Parnas, produced. The letter stated Giuliani was representing Trump “as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”: The second problem here is that Giuliani is not only representing a presidential candidate as his personal client. He is working in close contact with foreign partners who have a combination of personal interests and foreign-policy goals that do not line up with U.S. interests. He has not disclosed who is paying him for his work, but he was paid half a million dollars by Parnas, who was in turn paid by Dymtro Firtash, a Russian oligarch whose work tends to advance Russian foreign-policy interests. This raises the strong possibility that Giuliani is effectively a paid backchannel for Russian propaganda, and he now has a special line into the Department of Justice. Third, Giuliani himself is the reported subject of a criminal investigation. Two of his partners have already been arrested, and the Department of Justice is reportedly pursuing the possibility of charges against Giuliani as well. (He allegedly pursued his own profit-making scheme in Ukraine, and seems to have committed campaign finance violations, by funneling foreign donations to Republican allies.) Normally, people who are being investigated by the DOJ don’t have a special back channel that lets them feed allegations of their own to the attorney general. I am pretty sure that, if the DOJ opened up an investigation of me, and arrested two of my partners as they tried to leave the country with one-way tickets, I couldn’t just open up my own back channel to their boss.

Republicans have given Trump his crown. Sooner or later, they'll regret it — but this crime can't be undone
By Chauncey DeVega

Donald Trump's show-trial impeachment and "acquittal" was much better in the original Russian or German. Last Wednesday of last week all 53 Republicans in the United States Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on the charge of obstruction of Congress. Despite overwhelming evidence — including Trump and his own minions' public admissions — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to partly respect the Constitution and rule of law by voting to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, voted unanimously to convict Donald Trump on both counts. In short, the Republican Party is more loyal to power than to the Constitution. Republicans all know that Trump was guilty as charged, and chose to acquit him anyway. Writing at Mother Jones, David Corn describes the alternate reality of TrumpWorld and the Republican Party's surrender to seductive lies:

By Jordain Carney

A pledge to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine once the impeachment trial wraps is sparking divisions among Senate Republicans. President Trump and top allies have homed in on former Vice President Joe Biden’s push to oust a top Ukrainian prosecutor and Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, as they’ve sought to counterprogram on the sidelines of the months-long impeachment drama. Now, with the trial in the rearview mirror, that chatter is set to move to center stage as Republicans strategize over their next steps. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal ally of Trump’s, is pledging “oversight.” Other GOP senators are warning that it’s time for the Senate to move on after a weeks-long divisive fight that left scars on the chamber’s normally clubby atmosphere. “I know there’s been some discussion about the Judiciary Committee taking a look at that. I think what I would like to see happen around here is a return to normalcy,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, in response to a question from The Hill about talk within the caucus about investigating the Bidens.

By Jordain Carney

The Treasury Department has handed over documents to a pair of GOP Senate chairmen as part of a months-long probe into Burisma Holdings, Ukraine and Hunter Biden, according to the top Democrat on one of the panels. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — the chairmen of the Finance and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, respectively — sent a letter to the Treasury Department in November saying they were investigating "potentially improper actions" during the Obama administration. The Treasury Department is complying with their request, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, who noted that Democratic requests for information have been stonewalled. "For its part, the Trump administration refused to comply with all Democratic requests for documents and witnesses associated with impeachment. Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests—no subpoenas necessary—and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin," Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said in a statement. The development was first reported by Yahoo News, with a source telling the publication that the Treasury Department began complying with the Grassley-Johnson request in less than two months. A spokesman for the Treasury Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. In the November letter — which was not publicly released by either of the committees but obtained by Reuters — Grassley and Johnson say that they are "conducting an investigation into potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings ... and Ukraine."

Justice Department releases “almost entirely redacted” FBI memo on Kushner. Is it hiding something?
A memo tied to Bannon revealed the claim that Kushner “attempted to back channel for communications with Russia"
By Igor Derysh

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a summary of an FBI interview with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner from November 2017, though it redacted nearly the entire memo. The significantly redacted release came after the DOJ refused to comply with a court order to release the memo on Kushner's interview along with dozens of others from the Russia investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller. A judge ordered the FBI to turn over the memos to BuzzFeed News and CNN by last month after the outlets filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The DOJ argued that "a member of the intelligence community" must review the memos and add "appropriate reductions." The DOJ finally released the Kushner memo on Monday, but BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold quickly found that it was "almost entirely redacted." In fact, only three lines of the document were left intact:

A 2006 controversy resurfaced in 2020 after the conservative radio host was diagnosed with lung cancer.
By Dan Evon

Radio host Rush Limbaugh once claimed that actor Michael J. Fox was "exaggerating" his Parkinson's disease symptoms in a political ad. In February 2020, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. While U.S. President Donald Trump honored the controversial commentator with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some social media users noted that Limbaugh had a history of making demeaning comments on his program. For instance, one widely shared video clip supposedly showed Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox and claiming that he was “exaggerating” symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease.

   Just A Quick Reminder Of The Time Rush Limbaugh Mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's By Pretending To Shake Uncontrollably. pic.twitter.com/dX3L0jtnUv

   — Austin (@austin63867) February 3, 2020

This is a genuine clip of Limbaugh describing Fox on his program. Media Matters archived the full audio of this segment, which originally aired during an Oct. 23, 2006, episode of Limbaugh’s radio show.

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”
By Sherrod Brown

Not guilty. Not guilty. In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business. Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism. Senator Patty Murray, a thoughtful Democrat from Washington State, still remembers “the fear that dominated the Senate leading up to the Iraq war.” “You could feel it then,” she told me, “and you can feel that fear now” — chiefly among Senate Republicans. For those of us who, from the start, questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war, our sense of isolation surely wasn’t much different from the loneliness felt in the 1950s by Senator Herbert Lehman of New York, who confronted Joe McCarthy’s demagogy only to be abandoned by so many of his colleagues. Nor was it so different from what Senator George McGovern must have felt when he announced his early opposition to the Vietnam War and was then labeled a traitor by many inside and outside of Congress.

By Mike Ongstad, opinion contributor

House managers spent the last several days detailing a corrupt disinformation scheme in which President Donald Trump sought to leverage vital aid to Ukraine to force its leader to make a public declaration of a debunked conspiracy about Trump’s chief political opponent. Of course, that scheme came crashing down around the president’s head when a whistleblower alerted Congress to his machinations and he hurriedly released the aid he’d held without justification. But when life gives Trump investigations, he turns them into campaign ads. Far from being chastened at the exposure of his corruption, Trump pushes on, undaunted and as avaricious as before. So, of course his team of lawyers went to the Senate not so much to defend him, but to continue his campaign of falsehood against his leading challenger. The very same fake dirt which Trump abused his power to leverage Ukraine into spreading became the central exhibit presented as his defense. And how does it exonerate him? It doesn’t. Any fair reading of the facts leads to the conclusion that while Hunter Biden’s hiring by Burisma does seem unscrupulous of him, it was not illegal. Nor was there any evidence of any official act by the former Vice President to enrich himself or his son, or to illegally benefit the company he worked for. In place of such evidence, the president’s defenders insinuate nefarious influence in the firing of a prosecutor whose reputation for corruption was so renowned that Republicans, Democrats, allies and international organizations all wanted him fired. But the hushed tones and carefully curated timelines omitting key facts are enough to accomplish the real goal: hurting the reputation and campaign of Joe Biden.

By Justin Wise

President Trump reportedly dismissed Republican Sen. Susan Collins's (Maine) suggestion that he had learned a lesson from impeachment just a day before his expected acquittal. Asked about Collins's comment during a private lunch with news anchors ahead of the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump said that he'd done nothing wrong, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the meeting. “It was a perfect call," Trump added, an apparent reference to his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pushed the leader to announce investigations into his political opponents. Trump and his allies have repeatedly argued that his conversations with Zelensky were "perfect." The House in December voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after an inquiry into his alleged dealings with Ukraine. Trump is alleged to have withheld nearly $400 million in military aid in an effort to push for probes of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and an unfounded conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election. The Senate trial, which began last month, is expected to end in an acquittal on Wednesday. The end to the trial comes after Republicans blocked a motion to allow new witnesses and documents.

By Editorial Board

REPUBLICAN SENATORS who voted Friday to suppress known but unexamined evidence of President Trump’s wrongdoing at his Senate trial must have calculated that the wrath of a vindictive president is more dangerous than the sensible judgment of the American people, who, polls showed, overwhelmingly favored the summoning of witnesses. That’s almost the only way to understand how the Republicans could have chosen to deny themselves and the public the firsthand account of former national security adviser John Bolton, and perhaps others, on how Mr. Trump sought to extort political favors from Ukraine. The public explanations the senators offered were so weak and contradictory as to reveal themselves as pretexts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she weighed supporting “additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings” of the House’s impeachment process, but decided against doing so. Apparently she preferred a bad trial to a better one — but she did assure us that she felt “sad” that “the Congress has failed.”

The newspaper said Americans “can take some comfort in the prospect that most or all of the evidence the White House is hiding will eventually come out.”
By Lee Moran

The Washington Post editorial board has called out “the cringing shamefulness” of Republican senators’ decision on Friday to block witnesses from testifying in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. The board wrote in an editorial ― titled “The cringing abdication of Senate Republicans” ― that GOP lawmakers who voted “to suppress known but unexamined evidence” of Trump’s Ukraine misconduct must have calculated “the wrath of a vindictive president is more dangerous than the sensible judgment of the American people” who polls showed wanted to hear testimony.

The famed Watergate journalist accused the GOP Senate majority leader of setting a dangerous precedent.
By Lee Moran

Carl Bernstein on Friday lamented “the violence done to the Constitution” by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after Republican senators voted to block witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, all but ensuring his acquittal over the Ukraine scandal. McConnell and “his craven Republicans” established a precedent “in which the president of the United States can do almost anything without being held accountable,” the famed Watergate journalist told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) When President Bill Clinton was acquitted by the Senate following an impeachment trial in 1999, he apologized to the American public for his conduct. When President Donald Trump is almost assuredly acquitted on Wednesday in his own impeachment trial, he will take a victory lap. As CNN's Jeremy Diamond has reported, Trump is expected to claim the lack of votes in the Senate for his removal as a vindication of what he has been saying all along: That the entire Ukraine story is an attempt by partisan Democrats to overturn the 2016 election and unduly influence this November's race as well. "I don't see the President making a big statement one way or another that would indicate anything different than what he's been saying for many months," one Republican close to Trump told Diamond. Peter Baker made a similar point in The New York Times, writing: "Now Mr. Trump, who has said that the Constitution 'allows me to do whatever I want' and pushed so many boundaries that curtailed past presidents, has little reason to fear the legislative branch nor any inclination to reach out in conciliation." As did Axios' Jonathan Swan: "Everything we've heard from Trump's aides over the last month suggests he will give less and less credence to voices urging caution....Per a senior White House official, Trump feels every major gamble he's taken has succeeded despite advisers who were Chicken Littles." In short: If you thought the first three years of Trump's presidency was as far as he was willing to stretch norms of what a leader can say or do, well, buckle up. While the average person might see the last few months -- in which a series of revelations have come to light that make clear that Trump acted inappropriately in asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter -- as a moment in which the President might reflect on how he behaved and, if not apologize, then consider changing his conduct, Trump sees none of that. He has long viewed himself as a victim of an unfair system, biased against him for, well, whatever reason makes the most sense to him at the moment. Usually his ire fell on snobs and "elites."

By Jonathan Chait

Toward the end, the impeachment trial’s strategic purpose narrowed into an obsessive quest to produce evidence. Democrats have defined victory not as removal, but as winning a procedural vote to allow more testimony, especially by John Bolton. The House managers have designed their arguments not to reinforce Trump’s guilt but to underscore the need for more testimony. They seem to have given little attention to the question of whether such a victory would actually serve their larger strategic purposes at all. Republicans may have succeeded in blocking all new evidence and driving toward the rapid conclusion they seek, bu the tactical victory may well become a strategic defeat. If the several days that have passed since the Bolton revelation have proved anything, it is just how uninterested Republicans are in holding Trump to account for his misconduct. Initially, even Trump’s staunchest supporters conceded that pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals would be, if true, unacceptable. (Lindsey Graham: “very disturbing”; Steve Doocy: “off-the-rails-wrong.”) As evidence of guilt accumulated, their denial that this unacceptable conduct took place narrowed to a tiny, highly specific claim: No witness testified that Trump personally ordered them to carry out a quid pro quo. Bolton is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

The Kentucky Republican's comment on the Senate floor was met with shrugs by most Senate Republicans.
By KYLE CHENEY and BURGESS EVERETT

After being denied by Chief Justice John Roberts last week, Paul used a period reserved for senators’ impeachment speeches to read aloud the name of an intelligence community official alleged to be the whistleblower. Sen. Rand Paul read aloud the name of the alleged whistleblower who first raised alarms about President Donald Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. And most Republicans didn’t seem to care. After being denied by Chief Justice John Roberts last week, Paul used a period reserved for senators’ impeachment speeches to read aloud the name of an intelligence community official alleged to be the whistleblower. "They made a big mistake not allowing my question. My question did not talk about anybody who is a whistleblower, my question did not accuse anybody of being whistleblower, it did not make a statement believing that someone was a whistleblower. I simply named two people's names because I think it's very important to know what happened," Paul said on the floor. It’s the type of move that might have prompted a backlash from within his own party not too long ago, and several senators said they would not have done it. But after three weeks of the impeachment trial and with Trump’s firm grip over the party, there was little blowback from his colleagues on Tuesday. “I was glad we didn’t put the chief justice in a bad situation,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership. “I have some sympathy for [Paul’s] view on this. The whistleblower law should protect the whistleblower’s job and future opportunity and not necessarily hide who the whistleblower is.” “It’s fine,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “Had there been a vote on it, I probably would have voted to override the chief justice.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has long touted his reputation protecting whistleblowers, said simply: “If it’s the same name everybody else used, then it’s kind of out there.”

By Daniel Politi

Republicans are getting ready to flip the tables and launch their own investigations after the Senate acquits President Donald Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that the Senate Intelligence Committee will call the whistleblower whose complaint ended up launching the impeachment inquiry against Trump while the Foreign Relations Committee will investigate Joe Biden. “The Senate Intel committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “Why is it important? I want to know how all this crap started.” Graham went on to say that he wants to know what ties the whistleblower who first raised a red flag regarding Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has with Democrats. “If the whistleblower is a former employee of, associate of, Joe Biden, I think that would be important. If the whistleblower was working with people on Schiff’s staff that wanted to take Trump down a year and a half ago, I think that would be important. If the Schiff staff people helped write the complaint, that would be important. We’re going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again,” Graham said. - Republicans are the party of hypocrites, Republicans are ready to impeach Biden but refused to impeach Trump even while saying Trump did it and that the Democrats proved their case against Donald J. Trump.

Republicans are already hinting they'll impeach Biden — as a way to justify their shameless Trump cover-up
By Sophia Tesfaye

There's a decent chance that former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, cementing his status as Democratic frontrunner. The Republican-controlled Senate will then vote to acquit Donald Trump, probably two days later, after blocking witnesses and direct evidence at his impeachment trial. Instead of paying attention to the case outlining Trump's public corruption, however, several Republican senators have spent the last two weeks slagging Biden in an effort to tarnish the potential Democratic nominee — using almost exactly the same playbook used to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Demonstrating exactly why it's bad to have foreign governments smear a political opponent on your behalf, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who faces a tough re-election battle this fall, appeared before reporters after a day of impeachment hearings last week and casually suggested that the airing of Trump's misdeeds might actually result in Biden's defeat. "Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?" the first-term Republican asked. The question came just before the GOP Senate voted to cover up Trump's crimes by refusing to hear witnesses. For months, Republicans argued that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden because he was earnestly trying to root out corruption. In a classic case of projection, Republicans still vaguely deny that Trump's actions were politically motivated but now insist that Biden, not Trump, is the one who deserves impeachment. - Republicans are the party of hypocrites Republicans will not impeach Trump for what he did; but will impeach Biden for what Trump did.

By Aris Folley

A Republican state representative from Montana is coming under fire from his own party after he reportedly claimed earlier this weekend that the Constitution calls for socialists to be jailed or shot. According to the Billings Gazette, state Rep. Rodney Garcia (R-Mont.) first made the remark after expressing concerns about socialists he said were “entering our government” and their presence in his district at an event on Friday. He reportedly reiterated his remarks when pressed about his previous comments in an interview with a reporter for the local publication on Saturday. “So actually in the Constitution of the United States (if) they are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot,” the Montana Republican said. Though he was reportedly unable to show what portion of the Constitution he was citing to back his claim, he continued to double down on his comments in the interview, saying, “They’re enemies of the free state.”

by Caitlin Yilek
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said Republicans may not waste any time trying to impeach Joe Biden if he wins the White House. “I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened,” Ernst told Bloomberg News on Sunday. “Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him.’” Ernst, 49, said the grounds for potentially impeaching Biden, 77, would be “for being assigned to take on Ukrainian corruption yet turning a blind eye to Burisma because his son was on the board making over a million dollars a year.” - Republicans are the party of hypocrites Republicans will not impeach Trump for what he did; but will impeach Biden for what Trump did.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Department of Justice revealed in a court filing late Friday that it has two dozen emails related to the President Donald Trump's involvement in the withholding of millions in security assistance to Ukraine -- a disclosure that came just hours after the Senate voted against subpoenaing additional documents and witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, paving the way for his acquittal. The filing, released near midnight Friday, marks the first official acknowledgment from the Trump administration that emails about the President's thinking related to the aid exist, and that he was directly involved in asking about and deciding on the aid as early as June. The administration is still blocking those emails from the public and has successfully kept them from Congress. A lawyer with the Office of Management and Budget wrote to the court that 24 emails between June and September 2019 -- including an internal discussion among DOD officials called "POTUS follow-up" on June 24 -- should stay confidential because the emails describe "communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine." Trump's decision to withhold nearly $400 million in US military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival, are at the center of the President's impeachment trial. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine. The Senate on Friday defeated an attempt to subpoena documents and witnesses, which could have revealed more about the actions of Trump and the officials closest to him related to Ukraine. Senate leadership on Wednesday plans to hold the final vote to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

By Brendan Cole

CNN host Chris Cuomo used a famous line from an Oscar-winning film from the 1970s to rail against the Senate vote which decided that witnesses would not be called in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Only two Republicans, Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah), backed the Democrat motion on Friday calling for evidence and witnesses The 51-49 defeat is likely to hasten the acquittal of Trump. Cuomo appeared to be angry and started his monologue on Friday night with an appeal to his viewers. "You should be mad as hell and you need to show these people you will not take it any more," he started, using a line from the 1976 film Network, in which a TV news anchor calls on people to fight against the political system. Cuomo said he could see there may have been a case for an acquittal for Trump, but that the American people had been denied a fair trial now that it would be the first in history where the public would not hear from witnesses. He criticized the Republican senators Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who voted along party lines despite indicating they had misgivings about Trump and the charges that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

By Jeremy Stahl

As Donald Trump’s impeachment trial drew towards a close on Friday with a 51-49 vote against the Senate hearing from witnesses or seeking documents, Republican Senators were coming out of the woodwork to explain why they’d refused to try to obtain any new evidence. Ultimately, only Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney broke party lines to vote with the 47 members of the Democratic caucus in favor of calling witnesses. This will be the first Senate impeachment trial in American history without witnesses called, and opinion polls show broad public support for witnesses, so the Republican decision to cut the proceedings short would seem to be hard to defend. Still, these Senators tried their best! Here are the five most pathetic excuses Republican senators have offered to avoid calling witnesses according to cravenness.

5. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado
Gardner, who is up for re-election in Colorado this Fall, came out against witnesses already on Wednesday. His statement to Colorado Politics was: I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness. I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses. While this statement doesn’t appear too craven, you have to recall that Gardner represents a state with the greatest opposition to Trump of almost any represented by a Republican in the Senate and that his coming out early against witnesses helped Majority Leader Mitch McConnell close ranks on the subject. Framing the question as whether to go from 17 witnesses to 18—rather than whether to go from zero to one—neatly captures the Senate’s majority’s decision to pretend it was the House’s job to gather all the facts, and that they were helpless to try to learn anything more on their own.

4. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
Rubio, who was dubbed “Lil’ Marco” by the president the Florida senator now seeks to exonerate, released a video and issued a lengthy blog post on Friday explaining his decision. That statement read:  [N]ew witnesses that would testify to the truth of the allegations are not needed for my threshold analysis, which already assumed that all the allegations made are true. And from the video: Removing the president would in my opinion inflict extraordinary trauma on our nation, which is already deeply divided and polarized. Half the country would view his removal as nothing less than a coup d’etat and I ask you what scheme could Vladimir Putin come up with that would divide us more than that removal would. So I’m not going to vote in favor of tearing this country apart any further, or fueling a raging fire that already threatens our country.

By Richard Wolffe

How can Republicans pretend to the world that their vision of America – where a president can happily use military aid to coerce a foreign government to smear his political rival in an election – is the model for democracy? Jared Kushner is a genius. It’s all too easy to overlook the sheer brilliance of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, not least when he rolls out a Middle East peace plan that destroys the concepts of both the Israeli and Palestinian states. But for his rapier-like ability to capture the zeitgeist, there’s no one quite like the young slumlord to tell it like it really is. Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Kushner talked dramatically about this week as a time for leaders to step up. Think fake news isn't a real problem? Look at Senator John Kennedy “What we’ve done is create an opportunity for their leadership to either seize or not,” he explained. “If they screw up this opportunity – which again, they have a perfect track record of missing opportunities – if they screw this up, I think they will have a very hard time looking the international community in the face, saying they are the victims, saying they have rights.” Kushner thought he was talking about the Palestinians, in a gloriously brazen blend of racism and gold-leafed ignorance.

Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress have long been considered criminal and merit impeachment.
By Nikolas Bowie

Watching CNN last week, I learned that I’m partly responsible for President Trump’s legal defense. On the screen was one of the president’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, explaining his new position that impeachment requires “criminal-like behavior.” When the legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin interjected that “every single law professor” disagreed with him, Mr. Dershowitz rejoined that one professor — me! — was “completely” on his side. Mr. Dershowitz encouraged Mr. Toobin to read a law review article I wrote on the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in which a former Supreme Court justice, Benjamin Curtis, successfully argued that no one should ever be punished for doing something that wasn’t a crime. Mr. Dershowitz apparently thought my article supported his view that even if Mr. Trump did everything the House has accused him of doing, the president shouldn’t be convicted because he hasn’t been accused of criminal behavior. As an academic, my first reaction was to be grateful that someone had actually read one of my articles.

By Amy Sherman

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., isn’t running for anything in 2020, yet he’s paying for a television ad in Iowa that calls the impeachment case against President Donald Trump a "charade" while targeting Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. The ad contains the same misleading allegations about Biden that have been supplied by Trump’s most ardent defenders. "The real story here is the corruption Joe Biden got away with," says Scott, looking into a camera."Vice President Biden threatened a foreign country and forced them to fire a prosecutor who was investigating a company paying his son $83,000 a month. Biden got away with it, and his son got paid."

The facts:

Biden did pressure Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, but there is no evidence it was in connection with his son’s role as a board member with the Ukranian gas company Burisma. Biden’s position wanting the prosecutor removed was the same as official U.S. foreign policy, and mimicked the positions by governments and anti-corruption organizations throughout Europe. The prosecutor Scott portrays as a corruption fighter was, in fact, believed to be ineffective and failing to pursue corruption cases.

By Philip Ewing

President Trump's legal position welcoming information from foreigners threatens to open Pandora's box in coming elections and nullify one of the key lessons from 2016, critics warned. "This is setting precedent that is unheard of in our country," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "It's dangerous, dangerous, dangerous." She and other members of Congress said they were aghast after Trump attorney Patrick Philbin responded to a question in the president's impeachment trial late Wednesday by saying it would be proper for Trump or another politician to take a tip from a foreigner about a political opponent. "If there is credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office, it's not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light," Philbin said. Congress has limited the ways foreigners can take part in elections — by forbidding them from voting and restricting their contributions — but the idea that simply because "information" originates overseas is a "non sequitur," Philbin said. Intel vice chair: It's outrageous. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was "flabbergasted" by Philbin's explanation and worried it might mean open season for election interference by foreign governments already known to be working to influence this year's race. "The president's counsel ... gave a green light for that kind of behavior to continue," Warner said. "I hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail, but I think there was a dramatic step backwards in terms of protecting the integrity of our election.

By Greg Sargent Opinion writer

As President Trump’s trial hurtles toward a vote on new witnesses, his lawyers have based his defense in part on the notion that Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate the Bidens was legitimate. A core claim from Trump’s team has been that Trump had at least some reason to suspect there was something untoward about Joe Biden’s efforts as vice president to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor. They’ve cited two facts — that Biden threatened to withhold loan guarantees from Ukraine to leverage that ouster and that Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of Ukrainian company Burisma — which they claim presented a potential conflict of interest. That made Trump’s suspicions reasonable, they say. But Republican senators themselves know this argument is nonsense. And here’s how we can be certain they know this. At a Senate hearing in 2016, a number of GOP senators who are still in office today sat in attendance during discussions of the Obama administration’s approach to Ukraine. At those hearings, officials and outside experts repeatedly discussed the need to remove the prosecutor in question — Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor general — describing this imperative as central to official U.S. policy. What’s more, Joe Biden’s own role in prompting this ouster came up repeatedly, and it was openly and explicitly discussed that the loan guarantees were being used as leverage to bring it about — as U.S. policy. None of this was treated as remotely controversial at the time.

Why else did the framers create the power to impeach?
By Noah Feldman

As Republicans scramble to argue that they don’t need to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, one argument seems to be gaining traction: that witnesses are irrelevant, because even if Trump did everything he’s accused of doing, abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. This argument isn’t merely wrong. It is the single most dangerous argument that any of Trump’s defenders have made during the entire impeachment process. If abuse of power isn’t impeachable, what is? The strongest version of this argument has been made by Alan Dershowitz, who has insisted that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” include only crimes found in the statute books, not abuse of power. That’s obviously wrong. In 1725, in a case the framers knew, Thomas, Earl of Macclesfield, was impeached by the British House of Commons specifically for “Abuse of his Power” and “great Abuse of his Authority.” The House of Lords convicted him for it. At the constitutional convention, on July 20, 1787, Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia who had introduced the Virginia plan, stated specifically that “the propriety of impeachments was a favorite principle with him” because “the Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.” In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Dershowitz’s view is so absurd that I don’t know of even one legal scholar who studies the Constitution who agrees with him. That includes Dershowitz himself, who in 1998 said (correctly) that impeachment doesn’t have to be for a crime.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) Impeachment was meant to punish Donald Trump's unrestrained use of his authority, but the grounds on which Republican senators plan to acquit him may instead give him a green light to use his power however he wants to win reelection. Trump's GOP defenders looking to end his Senate trial in the next few days are increasingly arguing that it's time to shut things down because even if Trump is guilty of coercing Ukraine for political favors, such conduct would not be impeachable. They are seizing on stunning arguments envisioning almost unchallenged presidential power and highly limited criteria for defining the abuse of power and impeachment laid out by a maverick member of Trump's legal team, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Republican leaders are meanwhile increasingly confident they will have the votes to block Democratic demands for the testimony of new trial witnesses, including John Bolton, who reportedly has information implicating Trump in pressuring Ukraine for political favors. The quickening bid to squelch any further fact-finding in the trial is also taking place as the White House seeks to delay publication of the former national security adviser's forthcoming book, which The New York Times has reported to be deeply critical of Trump's behavior towards the Kiev government and elsewhere. The Senate impeachment trial resumed on Wednesday for the first of two days of questioning from senators to the Democratic House impeachment managers and the President's lawyers.

Because racism.
By Mark Joseph Stern

The national conversation around voting rights is deeply skewed. Republican lawmakers and operatives openly endorse disenfranchisement; they brag when their attacks on suffrage succeed; and they work feverishly to rig redistricting in favor of white people. But all too often, judges refuse to acknowledge the racism of voter suppression laws, dancing around the purpose of these measures. Only rarely will a court admit what every reasonable observer should already know: The disproportionate impact of these laws on minority voters is no coincidence; it is exactly what legislators intended. It is refreshing, then, that on Monday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not tiptoe around the bald facts: Arizona Republicans’ recent crackdown on voting rights was motivated by racism. The court invalidated a law that was plainly designed to stop Native American, Hispanic, and black voters from casting a ballot—not just because it happened to burden minorities more than whites, but because it is flat-out racist. Arizona’s “long history of race-based voting discrimination,” combined with legislators’ “false, race-based” claims of voter fraud “unmistakably reveal” an intent to discriminate on the basis of race, the 9th Circuit announced. The Supreme Court’s conservative justices may well reverse the ruling. But the 9th Circuit will at least force SCOTUS to confront the reality that white supremacy remains a driving force in Republicans’ assault on the franchise, despite Chief Justice John Roberts’ declaration that racism is a historical relic.

CNN Digital Expansion DC Manu Raju
By Manu Raju, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

(CNN) A growing number of GOP senators are now acknowledging that President Donald Trump may have leveraged US military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of investigations that could help him politically -- but they contend that even that conduct does not warrant removal from office or hearing from additional witnesses. Republicans are arguing that the latest reports -- that former national security adviser John Bolton's book manuscript says that Trump told him in August that he was withholding $391 million in aid until Ukraine announced a probe into the Bidens -- are likely true but simply confirm what is already known. And they are saying that new allegation, first revealed by The New York Times, is consistent with the details laid out by House Democratic managers in their case that Trump used official acts to urge a foreign power to undercut a leading political rival in the 2020 presidential campaign.

But they say that nothing in there is impeachable -- nor does it warrant the hearing from new witnesses since it confirms what is already known, they say. Yet it still remains to be seen if four Republicans break ranks to support witnesses, giving Democrats enough support that would dramatically change the course of Trump's trial. "I don't think anything he says changes the facts," South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the majority whip, told CNN. "I think people kind of know what the fact pattern is. ... There's already that evidence on the record." - Remember when Republicans said if Trump did do that it was impeachable now that it has been proven trump did it, Republicans say it is not impeachable.

By Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) Republican Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler targeted her colleague GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah on Monday over the issue of witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial. In a tweet, Loeffler leveled an accusation at Romney, saying, "After 2 weeks, it's clear that Democrats have no case for impeachment. Sadly, my colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It's time to move on!" Loeffler, a political novice and businesswoman, was sworn in as Georgia's newest senator earlier this month, taking over the seat previously held by then-Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican who retired at the end of last year over health concerns. Her comments about Romney come as a debate over whether there should be witnesses called during the trial has intensified in the wake of a New York Times report that former national security adviser John Bolton's draft manuscript says President Donald Trump told him US security assistance to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

SPICY!
“That’s not true, that’s not true,” Wallace interrupted Pavlich at one point.
By Justin Baragona - Contributor

Sparks flew Monday on the Fox News set between Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and conservative contributor Katie Pavlich, with Wallace demanding his colleague get her “facts straight” after Pavlich insisted that certain witnesses had not been called in the impeachment trial. “The Senate is not the House, the House did not come with a complete case, and every impeachment beforehand, the witnesses that were called had been called in the House before being brought to the Senate,” she insisted. “So there are questions here about the process.” “That’s not true, that’s not true," Wallace interrupted. “They hadn’t all been called in the House, and in the Clinton impeachment, they’d been called by the general independent counsel. They had not been called by the House.” As anchor Bret Baier attempted to have Wallace give his “final thoughts,” the Fox News Sunday host—who has a history of tangling with the network’s opinion personalities—continued to highlight that what Pavlich said “just isn’t true.”

“The fact of the matter was is that the whistleblower information was given to the inspector general, who gave it to the Justice Department,” Wallace declared, clearly perturbed. “The Justice Department decided not to investigate, and that is why it went to the House.” “So to say that in the Clinton investigation these people were interviewed by the House, one, they weren’t,” he continued. “And to say it wasn’t done by the Justice Department, because the Justice Department refused to carry out the investigation. Get your facts straight!”

Analysis by John Harwood, CNN

Washington (CNN) Once again, President Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue test for fellow Republicans has grown a little harder. The term refers to Trump's 2016 boast that he could "shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue" without losing support from his political base. For the last five months, revelations about his conduct of Ukraine policy have presented a rolling real-world trial of that proposition. By the end of last week, Trump stood on the verge of securing his votes of absolution by Senate Republicans who didn't even want to hear new witness testimony. Now, a New York Times report that Trump specified his "quid pro quo" directly to then-national security adviser John Bolton has added a jolt of uncertainty into prospects for a summary acquittal.

Three years of GOP deference to the President suggest Trump will pass eventually whether or not the Senate seeks Bolton's testimony and other new evidence. Nine-in-10 Republican voters approve of his job performance and oppose his removal from office, even as most other Americans do not, according to a recent CNN poll. And this hardly represents a unique test of GOP acquiescence. Throughout the Ukraine furor, Republican lawmakers have deployed the political equivalent of a bend-but-don't-break defense in football. Republicans wobbled initially when an intelligence community whistleblower complained Trump had warped US foreign policy at the expense of a vulnerable ally for personal political gain. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina allowed that evidence of an aid-for-investigations "quid pro quo" would be "very disturbing."

Opinion by Dean Obeidallah

(CNN) "But her emails" became a shorthand way after the 2016 election to explain -- often in jest and as memes -- why Hillary Clinton, who was favored to win, lost to Donald Trump. However, all jokes aside, post-election studies confirmed that Clinton's emails were the most-covered topic during the campaign between May 2015 and November 2016. That was in part because of the "drip, drip" drip" nature of the scandal over her use of a private email server while secretary of state. New developments -- from investigations being opened and closed to the release of previously unreported emails -- resulted in ever more media coverage. Well, it's looking like Trump may be facing a similar "drip, drip, drip" type scandal that could result in "but her emails" being replaced after the 2020 election with "but his tapes."

The tapes in question are audio recordings secretly made of Trump by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was indicted last year for alleged campaign finance violations to which he has pleaded not guilty. And from what we've seen in past few days, the unexpected release of these tapes has the power to grab headlines, disrupting the media narrative Trump wants to be pushing in this election year and even forcing him or his GOP congressional allies to answer questions about the tape's contents.

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