This week, news has been focused on the former president’s possible indictment for paying $130,000 in hush money to adult film performer Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their 2006 affair before the 2016 election. The information currently being thrown about has been shaped by Trump himself and is obviously suspect (among other things, he has apparently raised $1.5 million since he claimed he would be arrested on Tuesday).
Although Republican lawmakers have no more idea than any of the rest of us do what the Manhattan grand jury might have seen, or what charges might be brought against Trump, they have tried to gloss over the scandal by claiming it is about a non-disclosure agreement or that it happened seven years ago or that its investigation is “a political witch hunt perpetrated by one of the far left radical socialist district attorneys,” as Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said. But as journalist Aaron Rupar and Noah Berlatsky explained today in Public Notice, the payment was a big deal in the larger scheme of American democracy.
Trump bought Daniels’s silence because he was willing to break laws in order to get elected. Then–Trump fixer Michael Cohen paid Daniels for her story in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. Cohen testified that he paid her through a shell company to keep Trump’s connection to the payment hidden. Then Trump reimbursed Cohen for “legal fees.”
That’s a problem with regard to business filings and tax fraud. It is also a problem for the campaign finance laws intended to protect clean elections. Cohen’s payment was a contribution to the Trump campaign because it was made “in order to influence the 2016 presidential election.” The payment was intended to make sure voters didn’t hear another sex scandal in October 2016, just after the Access Hollywood tape came out in which Trump talked vulgarly about sexually assaulting women, when it might have hurt his chances at election. The $130,000 contribution was far above the individual limit of $2,700, and the Trump campaign did not disclose it.
This is not small potatoes. When the issue came to light, Cohen pleaded guilty for his role in the payments, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen testified that he made the payments at Trump’s direction.
This is also not an isolated incident. Trump has proved himself more than willing to cheat to win elections. In the 2020 presidential election season, before he tried to overthrow the election altogether, he tried to strong-arm Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing an investigation into the son of the Democratic candidate about whom he was most worried: Joe Biden. Trump knew that the media would run with an announcement of an investigation, wounding Biden’s candidacy by keeping the story in the news even without any real investigation behind it.
The Trump campaign had done much the same thing in 2016. According to the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, which investigated the ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Trump’s people were willing at the very least to work alongside Russian operatives to weaken Trump’s Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign also boosted Trump’s standing in the 2016 election season with the recurring refrain of the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails, convincing voters—falsely—that she had committed crimes.
The pending issue of the hush-money payment is not just about 2016, and it is not just about Trump. That today’s Republican leaders have not condemned any of his attempts to cheat speaks volumes about the party. As Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) pointed out today, when “Cohen was arrested, indicted, convicted, and went to prison for participating in an illegal hush money payment scheme to Stormy Daniels, not a single Republican leader complaining now said a thing about what happened to Michael Cohen.” So why the rush to defend Trump in the same case?
It appears Republicans have gotten to the point that they don’t believe they can win a free and fair election, and in their conviction that Democrats will destroy the country, they believe cheating to win is justified. They cannot condemn Trump because he delivered what they wanted: a victory.
In a democracy, the way parties are supposed to win elections is by making a better case for being in power than their opponents do. Losing elections is supposed to make leaders think deeply about how better to appeal to voters. That system keeps all parties constantly honing their policies, thinking through problems, benefiting their constituents.
Our election laws are designed to try to hold the playing field level, and a party should want to keep the system fair in order to keep itself healthy. But if a party is willing to cheat to win, it no longer has to work on policies that appeal to voters; it can simply game the system to dismantle the competition on which democracy depends and instead create a one-party state.
There are many legal problems in Trump’s front yard these days. Some, like his theft of documents with markings bearing the highest level of classification and his attempt to overturn the Georgia results for the 2020 presidential election, are heating up fast, and their significance is clear.
But for all that the case we are currently hearing so much about seems less serious on its face than the other things charged to Trump's account, a hush-money payment to silence someone whose story might have affected the 2016 election is no laughing matter.
That's a very patronising way to put down Snood's highly pertinent point about cultural misappropriation, which up until now you seem to have ignored or not even recognised.
While the latest machinations from Trump are taking up oxygen, the debt ceiling crisis hasn’t gone away. Indeed, just as it is becoming more and more urgent, Republican far-right extremists are becoming more committed to using the opportunity to blow up the economy as a way to get their wishes.
The uncertainty that followed the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank illustrated just how quick and how dangerous even a relatively minor banking crisis could be, but far-right Republicans are not backing off on their threat to refuse to raise the debt ceiling without concessions from Democrats. Two months ago, in response to a question about “whether you think this debt ceiling is going to be used as a bargaining chip in some way that could turn dangerous?” the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), said, “I believe it will and I believe it has to.”
Now, in the wake of the banking crisis, Arrington says the uncertainty after the banking instability means that “[t]his is the best time to do it.” Republicans are arguing that the inflation of the past year is the result of pandemic-era spending and that by threatening the debt ceiling, they can bring that spending under control.
But let’s be very clear on this: the debt ceiling is not about future spending. It is about the amount of money Congress authorizes the Treasury to borrow in order to pay obligations that already exist. It is not associated with any individual bill, and it is not an appropriation for any specific program. It enables the government to borrow money to pay for programs in bills already passed. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling when necessary, the government will default on its debts, sparking a financial catastrophe.
Future spending is in the government’s annual budget. The budget process starts when the president submits a detailed budget request to Congress for the fiscal year that starts on October 1, usually by the first Monday in February, though sometimes that is delayed (as it was this year). The president’s budget shows what the administration thinks is important to fund and how much that will cost.
Congress is then supposed to consider the president’s budget, hold hearings to ask administration officials why they need certain items or have gotten rid of others, and then develop its own plan. This budget resolution, as it is called, sets amounts that Congress thinks are appropriate for different parts of the budget. Congress is supposed to pass that budget resolution by April 15 (even though it rarely does). Appropriations bills then fund the items in the budget.
President Biden introduced his detailed budget on March 9, deliberately using it as a way to signal his determination to use the government to help ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy and corporations. He is operating under the belief that the economy grows fastest and does better for most people when the government invests in jobs, education, and social services rather than when it tries to free up as much capital as possible for wealthy investors. This is the Republican plan, which is based on the idea that the wealthy will invest in the economy and create jobs. Biden called for funding programs—while also cutting the deficit—by rolling back the Republicans' 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, by imposing a 25% tax on billionaires, and by raising the tax on stock buybacks.
Republicans have attacked Biden’s budget, but they have not produced one of their own. They likely can’t produce one, because the only way for House Republicans to deliver the cost savings they have promised is to cut Social Security and Medicare, cuts they have advocated for years. But at his State of the Union address, when prominent Republicans yelled that he was a liar for suggesting they wanted to cut those popular programs, Biden backed them into vowing not to cut them.
Then, earlier this month, in response to a request from Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Congressional Budget Office wrote that if the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations stay in place as Republicans wish and defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ programs are all protected—as Republicans now say they want to do—even zeroing out all other discretionary spending in the budget will not balance it by 2033.
Arrington and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) say they will release the Republican budget after April 15, blaming Biden’s own late budget for their delay. But because they have not launched an official plan, they have left an opening for the far-right House Freedom Caucus of around three dozen lawmakers to step into the gap.
On March 10, Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was in front as members of the Freedom Caucus issued a statement laying out the demands they want met before they will consider raising the debt ceiling. They want laws that cut current spending by stopping student loan relief, clawing back all unspent Covid-19 funds, and repealing the $80 billion in appropriations for the Internal Revenue Service and all the monies appropriated by the Inflation Reduction Act for addressing climate change. They want to cap future spending at 2022 levels, claiming a cap will cut “the wasteful, woke, and weaponized federal bureaucracy.” They demand further business deregulation and more work requirements on programs like Medicaid.
If all that gets written into law, Freedom Caucus members “will consider voting to raise the debt ceiling.” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), whose 11-point plan to “rescue America” was the one Biden pointed to most frequently as a Republican plan to cut Social Security and Medicare because it called for every law to end in five years and have to be repassed, said he was “very optimistic” about the Freedom Caucus’s plan. Just this week, McCarthy added the idea of tying changes to the permitting process for oil and mining development to the debt ceiling.
But, in fact, the things the Republicans call for are not popular in the country, and the administration has been laying out piece by piece how the devastating cuts in the proposal would impact families, consumers, the elderly, and working Americans, all to increase tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
In any case, while it claims to be eager to negotiate over the budget, the Biden White House maintains it will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, especially as the current financial woes are attributable in large part to the explosion of the deficit and debt under Trump. Republicans seem hell-bent on doing so, expecting that the Democrats will ultimately back down rather than permit the Republicans to destroy the economy. In the past, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has managed to bring Republicans around, but now he is out of commission from his fall.
It is against this backdrop that Republicans have rushed to defend Trump, who is pretty clearly trying to whip up his supporters to violence. His antics have gotten so extreme that he posted an image today of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg beside an image of himself brandishing a baseball bat. Today, citing Trump’s apparent calls for violence, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered that the jurors in the case of E. Jean Carroll’s rape accusations against Trump be kept anonymous for their own safety. The case goes to trial next month.
Republicans seem to be working with Trump to keep him in the news, perhaps aware that he is drowning out both the debt ceiling crisis and their inability to produce a budget.
Three days ago, Jim Jordan (R-OH), James Comer (R-KY), and Bryan Steil (R-WI) demanded that Bragg deliver to them all information related to his investigation into Trump. Today the Manhattan DA’s general counsel Leslie B. Dubeck correctly called their demand an “unprecedented” federal intrusion into an independent local investigation that unlawfully undermined New York’s sovereignty. She added: “The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry.” She noted that Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, had written a letter to Jordan encouraging Congress to investigate Bragg.
Now a different case is suddenly imperiling Trump. Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must turn over records to Special Counsel Jack Smith and testify before the grand jury in the investigation into Trump’s theft of classified documents. Judge Beryl Howell said last week that Trump could not use attorney-client privilege to block Corcoran’s participation because prosecutors in Smith’s office had shown sufficient evidence to support the claim that Trump had committed a crime, triggering the “crime-fraud” exception to attorney-client privilege. Trump’s lawyers appealed, and the appeals court agreed with Howell.
A Trump spokesperson told ABC News: "There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump."
Corcoran is testifying tomorrow.
Quote:That's a very patronising way to put down Snood's highly pertinent point about cultural misappropriation, which up until now you seem to have ignored or not even recognised.
It would be unfortunate if what I wrote came across that way. Definitely not my intention. I have no sense of being in any way smarter than Snood. I've written here and elsewhere for years about appropriation of black musical culture For example, I've written about George Gershwin's first performance of Rhapsody in Blue in New York City in 1924 which was performed along with Paul Whiteman's band (please ignore his name) which specialized in the jazz music pioneered by black musicians. All members of his band were white because at that time no black musicians would have
been allowed in such a venue. But it wasn't as if either Gershwin or Whiteman kept it a secret that they were borrowing or alluding to this form of black music. They played it because they loved it. And indeed, their performances helped lead to a much greater spread of this music into the consciousness of white folks. About a decade later, Louis Armstrong and his band played NYC and he was so well received that the young white high society lads suddenly took on the slang and patter of those artists in order to seem as cool as Louis.
But as I said earlier, Snood and I seem to be speaking about two different aspects of language use. Both are important.
It reminds me of discussions I have about the European colonization of so much of the populated world. I call it what it was - brutal subjugation of entire populations by deception, rape, genocide, enslavement and land theft. Inevitably, some white person always steps up to remind me that this was simply the way of all people - and I can’t help but notice they much prefer the term “conquerors” to “colonizers”. I presume that’s to keep alive the mythology that their ancestors were heroic, warrior/pioneers and not greedy, bloodthirsty reivers.
I think it’s generosity to say that those people insist on framing history a certain way because of a blind spot.
I don’t really see their motivations as that benign.
We are not talking about two different things.
We are talking about one very specific occurrence: the intentional warping of a term’s meaning.
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never never never
Will be slaves
It seems to me that study/discussion of how this has come about is not merely reasonable but profoundly important as well. How has this usage spread so rapidly? What factors give this term such utility as a multi-purpose derogation?
Insurrectionist Who Barged Into Pelosi’s Office Gets Three Years
The sentencing hearing came complete with a Judge Amy Berman Jackson classic takedown of a dumb defense (the defendant’s lawyers argued their 24-year-old client was too young and small to be responsible for her own insurrection-ing).
“I’m sorry, Riley June Williams was old enough and tall enough on January 6. And to the extent that she comes off as fragile or weak, that all goes away when she opens her mouth.”
Look man. I've acknowledged every point you've made - except one; that your take on this subject is the only valid take. I'm not going any further with you on this.
It’s unfortunate, but your insistence that there’s just so much more to conservatives’ hijacking of the term “woke” than what meets the eye says something about you. And it ain’t good.
Beshear vetoes controversial ‘anti-trans’ bill
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a controversial bill dealing with transgender and human sexuality issues in schools.
It prevents school personnel or pupils from having to use pronouns that do not conform to a student’s biological sex. The state school board cannot keep student info confidential from parents.
And it was combined with parts of another bill that say healthcare providers cannot perform surgeries to change a minor’s sex. It would also outlaw the use of puberty blockers and hormones.
The veto by Gov. Beshear comes as he seeks reelection to a second term this year in Republican-trending Kentucky, and his veto could reverberate through the November election.
After the bill passed the legislature, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky warned that it “stands ready” to challenge the measure in court if it becomes law.
“I’m sorry, Riley June Williams was old enough and tall enough on January 6. And to the extent that she comes off as fragile or weak, that all goes away when she opens her mouth.”