Oct. 2023 News

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and October 2023 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for headlines and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

Oct. 2

Top Stories

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

 

Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Plot Claims

donald trump money palmer report Custom

 

 U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

Biden Impeachment, Hunter Biden Claims, Counterclaims

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

leonard leo ap carolyn kaster

 Ultra-right Republican dark money legal powerbroker Leonard Leo is shown above.

supreme court 2022 o

 

U.S. National Politics

dianne feinstein report cspan

 

High Tech v. Government Clashes

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

 

Global Tensions, Human Rights

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Strikes, Crypto Currency

 

U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

More On U.S. Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Arts, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaetz Says He Will Move to Oust McCarthy for Working With Democrats, Karoun Demirjian, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). A day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sought help to pass a spending bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida promised to try to remove him.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, the far-right Republican from Florida, said on Sunday that he would move this week to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership post, promising to follow through on weeks of threats to oust him for working with Democrats to keep the government funded.

kevin mccarthyMr. Gaetz’s announcement came the day after Mr. McCarthy, left, in a stunning reversal, steered around Republican opposition to a stopgap spending plan and turned to Democrats to help him push legislation through the House to avert a shutdown. The California Republican said he knew he was putting his speakership at risk by doing so, and dared his detractors to try ousting him.

In an interview that aired on CNN on Sunday, Mr. Gaetz, Mr. McCarthy’s main tormentor, said he would do just that. By bringing up a measure called a “motion to vacate,” he can call a snap vote on whether to keep Mr. McCarthy in his post.

“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”

Mr. Gaetz had long threatened to oust Mr. McCarthy if he failed to bend to Republican hard-liners’ demands for spending cuts. In the interview, he accused Mr. McCarthy of lying to his G.O.P. members during negotiations, and making a “secret deal” with Democrats concerning future funding for Ukraine, which he and dozens of other conservative Republicans have opposed.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Congress managed to avert the shutdown — for now, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor and Tobi Raji, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Congress averted a government shutdown on Saturday night with hours to spare, after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abandoned the partisan strategy for funding the government that he’s pursued for months and passed legislation with mostly Democratic votes. He also ditched most of Republicans’ stated priorities of deep spending cuts and additional border security provisions.

djt maga hatThe reversal was in the works for days and resulted in a stunning turn of events that few on Capitol Hill expected McCarthy to adopt as he governs under the threat of losing his speakership from a group of far-right Republicans. The following timeline is pieced together from nearly a dozen aides and lawmakers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive or private conversations.

 

mitch mcconnel grim faced

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McCarthy, McConnell suffer setbacks over control of their caucuses, Paul Kane, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The House speaker and Senate minority leader faced rejection on different fronts: McCarthy forced into leaning on Democrats to keep the government open and McConnell, shown above in a file photo, defied by GOP senators on Ukraine.

In the span of three hours, rank-and-file Republicans bucked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaving both GOP leaders weakened Sunday heading into a critical legislative period.

First, after days of internal rebellion, McCarthy (R-Calif.) threw in the towel at a Saturday morning meeting. His leadership team had run the numbers, and at least six Republicans would oppose any plan to keep the government open by the midnight deadline.

With just four votes to spare on a GOP-only plan, McCarthy gave up and turned to Democrats to help pass a “clean” resolution to keep the government open at current levels into mid-November.

The only olive branch to staunch conservatives? No funding for Ukraine’s defense in the war against Russia.

Across the Capitol, McConnell had spent the month of September delivering floor speeches dedicated to the defense of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited the Capitol nine days earlier to rally support behind President Biden’s request for $24 billion in military and diplomatic support. He worked with Biden administration officials to pare back that request to $6 billion and ask for more funding later this year.

So when the Senate GOP gathered at lunchtime Saturday for a roughly 90-minute meeting, McConnell delivered a pitch to rally support for the original plan — a funding plan that included $6 billion for Ukraine.

His caucus overruled him. They preferred McCarthy’s plan to keep the government open by ditching the debate over Ukraine money until later this year.

 

Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Plot Claims

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Politico, Trump goes to trial in New York before a judge who just ruled he’s a fraud, Erica Orden, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The $250 million civil trial starts Monday — and Trump may be there in person.

politico CustomDonald Trump is set to go to trial Monday in New York’s civil lawsuit accusing him of extensive business fraud — and while his formal courtroom adversary is the state attorney general’s office, he’ll also be facing off against the judge.

In some ways, the trial is the culmination of months of antagonism between the former president and Justice Arthur Engoron, right, a Democrat arthur engoran judgewho was elected to his current post as a Manhattan trial judge in 2015. The outcome of the nonjury trial will be entirely up to Engoron, who will make his decision on the heels of a series of fierce disputes with Trump.

And in a surprise, Trump may attend the trial in person — a plan revealed by lawyers late last week. If Trump follows through and appears in court, he’ll be sitting just a few feet away from a man he has publicly derided as “deranged.”

Last week, Engoron delivered a ruling that may obliterate Trump’s family business. Engoron found Trump liable for widespread fraud and revoked the licenses for some of his flagship properties, including Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel. The ruling paves the way for much of the trial to focus on the punishments Trump will now face. They could be severe: Attorney General Tish James is asking for $250 million and a ban on Trump running businesses in the state.

Trump and his lawyers — and even the attorney general’s office — were caught off guard by the sweep of Engoron’s pretrial ruling, and they have scrambled in recent days to determine what, exactly, it means for the future of Trump’s business.

In turn, Trump called the judge “unhinged” and a “political hack” who “must be stopped.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Reassert Need for Gag Order on Trump in Elections Case, Alan Feuer, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors argued that the former president has continued to make threatening statements after their initial request to limit his public discussion of the case.

Federal prosecutors on Friday reasserted the need to impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

They said that even after they first asked a judge three weeks ago to limit his remarks, Mr. Trump has continued to wage “a sustained campaign of prejudicial public statements” against witnesses, prosecutors and others.

The prosecutors cited several threatening statements that Mr. Trump made since they initially asked Judge Tanya S. tanya chutkan newerChutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in Federal District Court in Washington, to impose the gag order. Their request was first filed under seal on Sept. 5 and a public version was released 10 days later. Judge Chutkan has yet to rule on the matter.

Since their request, prosecutors said in their filing on Friday night, Mr. Trump has continued to attack potential witnesses in the case like former Vice President Mike Pence — who, Mr. Trump wrote online, had lied about him and had gone to the “Dark Side.”

The filing noted that Mr. Trump had lashed out at another witness in the case, “the former attorney general” — an apparent reference to William P. Barr — saying he had not done his job after the election “because he was afraid of being impeached.”

djt mug fulton countyMoreover, prosecutors cited a menacing message that Mr. Trump posted on his social media site last week about Gen. Mark A. Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs. After General Milley gave several interviews that were critical of Mr. Trump, the former president suggested that he had committed treason and that in the past he might have faced execution.

“No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors, wrote. “This defendant should not be, either.”

Justice Department log circularAs the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated — he is facing three other criminal indictments beyond the case in Washington — so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats have prompted protective measures, including increased security for many people involved in the cases against him.

In their filing, the prosecutors, who work for the special counsel, Jack Smith, pressed another issue, saying Mr. Trump may have violated the terms of his release in the election interference case by suggesting that he might have purchased a firearm on Monday during a campaign stop at a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

That day, prosecutors noted, Mr. Trump’s spokesman posted a video online of the former president handling a Glock pistol at the store. The spokesman said in the post that Mr. Trump had purchased it, but aides quickly denied that he had actually done so.

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

 

christopher john worrell

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: MISSING Trump Co-Conspirator GETS CAUGHT and His Life is OVER, Michael Popok, Oct. 1, 2023. A Proud Boy who has been a fugitive from justice for over a month has been arrested by the FBI and will now be brought before a federal judge to be sentenced at least 14 years for his role in pepper spraying and attacking Capitol Police as they valiantly attempted to hold the line to protect democracy.

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the manhunt leading to the arrest this week of “Florida Man” Chris Worrell who will now face additional charges for running.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On 2024 Presidential Race

 

 Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: One Reason the Trump Fever Won’t Break, David French, right, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The more I consider the challenge david french croppedposed by Christian nationalism, the more I think most observers and critics are paying too much attention to the wrong group of Christian nationalists.

We mainly think of Christian nationalism as a theology or at least as a philosophy. In reality, the Christian nationalist movement that actually matters is rooted in emotion and ostensibly divine revelation, and it’s that emotional and spiritual movement that so stubbornly clings to Donald Trump.

Three related stories illustrate the challenge.

First, Katherine Stewart wrote a disturbing report for The New Republic about the latest iteration of the ReAwaken America Tour, a radical right-wing road show sponsored by Charisma News, a Pentecostal Christian publication. The tour has attracted national attention, including in The Times, and features a collection of the far right’s most notorious conspiracy theorists and Christian populists.

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged. There, as Stewart reported, you’ll hear a pastor named Mark Burns declare, “This is a God nation, this is a Jesus nation, and you will never take my God and my gun out of this nation.” You’ll also hear him say, “I have come ready to declare war on Satan and every race-baiting Democrat that tries to destroy our way of life here in the United States of America.” You’ll hear the right-wing radio host Stew Peters call for “Nuremberg Trials 2.0” and death for Anthony Fauci and Hunter Biden. The same speaker taunted the Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor Fani Willis by shouting: “Big Fani. Big fat Fani. Big fat Black Fani Willis.”

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged.

 

rfk jr reuters farewell

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How the right’s elevation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could now backfire, Aaron Blake, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The American right’s efforts to elevate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (shown above in a file photo via Reuters) were as transparent as they were cynical. The idea, as advanced by Stephen K. Bannon and the like, was clearly to try to embarrass President Biden in the Democratic primary. So they used Kennedy’s inflated early poll standing as an excuse to treat the primary challenge from a fringe figure as something real and threatening.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFox News picked up the ball and ran with it, publishing many dozens of stories and featuring him regularly on-air. House Republicans even invited him to testify on Capitol Hill.

It hasn’t worked. And now, it’s looking as if the whole thing could backfire.

The latest indications are that Kennedy will end his Democratic primary challenge against Biden and instead run in the general election. Mediaite reported Friday that he will declare an independent bid on Oct. 9, and Kennedy is now teasing a major announcement on that date, while saying and doing the kinds of things that suggest Mediaite’s report is accurate.

(Asked to comment on whether the report was true, Kennedy’s campaign merely responded with a link to a video previewing his Oct. 9 announcement.)

And while Kennedy is a lifelong Democrat from the country’s preeminent Democratic family, there is plenty of reason to believe that a third-party bid could hurt Donald Trump more than Biden.

There is no good polling that tests a Kennedy third-party bid. What we do know is that Republicans like Kennedy a heck of a lot more than Democrats do. That was true pretty shortly after he launched his campaign in April, and the gap has now grown into a chasm.

The latest polling from Quinnipiac University shows that Republicans like Kennedy by a 30-point margin, 48 percent favorable to 18 percent unfavorable.

Democrats, meanwhile, have developed an overwhelming distaste. The Quinnipiac poll shows just 14 percent have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 57 percent who have an unfavorable one.

Democrats never particularly liked Kennedy, despite what you might have been led to believe. But he’s gone from 14 points underwater (more unfavorable than favorable) with them in mid-June, to 23 points underwater in late June, to 26 points in July, to 31 points in August, and now to 43 points underwater.

As for Republicans, they like Kennedy better than they like many of the top GOP presidential candidates. They even like him better than entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former vice president Mike Pence and about as much as former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). (Only Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are clearly more popular.)

He’s about as polarizing (with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed) as Ramaswamy. And he’s less popular among Democrats than Haley and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nikki Haley Won the Debate Stage. Now, She’s Trying to Win Over Iowa, Michael Gold, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The former governor of South Carolina, who was ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump, now needs to appeal to early state voters.

About 15 minutes after Nikki Haley, right, took the stage at a town hall in a Des Moines suburb on Saturday, the former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, was heckled — twice — by men demanding to know her views on Taylor Swift.

nikki haley oMembers of the crowd booed, and both questioners were escorted out. Ms. Haley — who often tells audiences in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that she is no stranger to dealing with hostile actors — took a beat.

Then, she smiled.

“Remember how blessed we are that we have freedom of this speech in this country,” she said, scanning the crowd. Then, after a smattering of applause, Ms. Haley went back to her message about slashing federal spending.

Ms. Haley’s mastery of moments like these, in front of crowds and in the first two Republican debates — during which she successfully fended off interruptions and delivered pithy, memorable one-liners — has delivered buzz, attention and money.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Megadonor Network to Hear Pitches From DeSantis and Haley Camps, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The American Opportunity Alliance will meet in Dallas, as its biggest donors weigh whether investing in any non-Trump candidate remains worthwhile.

A network of megadonors whose biggest members have stayed on the sidelines in the Republican presidential primary will meet next month in Dallas as advisers to two of the candidates hoping to defeat Donald J. Trump will make one of their last pitches for support, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The multiday event will feature advisers to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, according to the two people. It will be hosted by Harlan Crow, the wealthy real-estate developer who backs Republicans and who has recently drawn attention for his friendship with and financial ties to Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Crow is hosting a separate fund-raiser for Ms. Haley next week, according to Bloomberg News.

paul singerThe donor network, known as the American Opportunity Alliance, was founded a decade ago by a group of billionaires, including the hedge fund executive Paul Singer, left; Kenneth Griffin, another prominent investor; and members of the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs.

Some of its members have been known to be seeking options other than Mr. Trump. Mr. Griffin, in particular, has been vocal about how he is still assessing the field, despite his past support for Mr. DeSantis in his re-election effort as governor. Mr. Griffin, who has said he wants the G.O.P. to move on from Mr. Trump, bluntly told CNBC recently about Mr. DeSantis, “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s G.O.P. Rivals Must Unite or Die. (They’ll Probably Still Die.), Ross Douthat, right, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  I’m not ross douthat newersure that an assembly of presidential candidates have ever given off stronger loser vibes, if I may use a word favored by the 45th president of the United States, than the Republicans who debated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this week.

A snap 538/Washington Post/Ipsos poll and a CNN focus group both showed Ron DeSantis as the night’s winner, and that seems right: After months of campaigning and two debates, DeSantis is still the only candidate not named Donald Trump who has a clear argument for why he should be president and a record that fits his party’s trajectory and mood.

On the stage with his putative rivals, that makes him the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Against Trump himself, that’s probably going to be good for an extremely distant second place.

The path that I (and others) once saw for the Florida governor, where he would run on his political success and voters would drift his way out of weariness with Trump’s destructive impact on Republican fortunes, has been closed off — by DeSantis’s own struggles, the rallying effect of Trump’s indictments, and now by Trump’s solid general-election poll numbers against Joe Biden. The path other pundits claimed to see for non-Trump candidates, where they were supposed to run directly against Trump and call him out as a threat to the Republic, was never a realistic one for anything but a protest candidate, as Chris Christie is currently demonstrating.

So what remains for Trump’s rivals besides loserdom? Only this: They can refuse to simply replay 2016, refuse the pathetic distinction of claiming “momentum” from finishing third in early primaries, and figure out a way to join their powers against Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin to woo national GOP megadonors at retreat, Laura Vozzella, Sept. 30, 2023. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, right, is about to treat dozens of GOP megadonors to some posh Southern hospitality, putting them up for two days at Virginia glenn youngkin headshotBeach’s grande dame historic hotel on his political action committee’s dime.

He did the same a year ago, gifting billionaires with two-day stays at a Charlottesville-area resort boasting mountain views, fine dining — and facetime with the political newcomer teasing a presidential bid.

The mid-October timing for Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” is a little awkward, with Nov. 7 General Assembly races just three weeks away and the window for launching a credible 2024 White House bid rapidly closing.

Youngkin has insisted that he is focused entirely on Virginia in the run-up to elections that will decide if he can enact his conservative agenda, including a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions. With the House and Senate closely divided and all 140 seats on the ballot, both chambers are up for grabs. No one doubts that Youngkin wants those wins, even if his eye is really on the White House, since losses in his own state would make it tough to pitch himself to the nation.

The Oct. 17-18 gathering at the Historic Cavalier Hotel could serve both purposes, even if it costs the PAC six figures up front in lodging and catering as was the case for last year’s retreat at Keswick Hall, since the well-wooed donors might more than make up for that later with big-dollar donations.

Va. Dems outraise GOP, but Youngkin’s White House buzz helps close gap

But the optics are tricky since Youngkin will spend precious time in the state election’s homestretch hobnobbing with out-of-state donors, some with no clear interest in Virginia. News of the event broke this week in a report claiming that some attendees planned to use the second annual Red Vest Retreat — named for the governor’s signature zip-up campaign attire — to as an opportunity to “draft” Youngkin for president.

“Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Glenn Youngkin,” read the headline on an opinion piece that Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, wrote for The Washington Post. Republican donors unhappy with former president Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field, Costa wrote, plan to use the retreat as a chance to “push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.”

Officials with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC did not respond to requests for comment. The only public response was a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from PAC chief Dave Rexrode: “As we’ve said many times before, @GlennYoungkin is solely focused on our Virginia legislative elections … which are already underway.”

The post linked to Costa’s piece, allowing Rexrode to spread word of the alleged “draft” effort even as he swatted it down.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, reacted sharply on X.

“Time for another RINO stooge in a vest to represent the billionaire donor class now that they realize that after 5 or 6 “reboots” DeSantis clearly doesn’t have it,” he tweeted, referring to Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who until recent campaign struggles was considered Trump’s most formidable challenger.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

djt looking up

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

 

leonard leo ap carolyn kaster

 Ultra-right Republican dark money legal powerbroker Leonard Leo is shown above.

supreme court 2022 o

washington post logoWashington Post, For Supreme Court, ethics have become the elephant in the courtroom, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Some of the issues and political stalemates that haunt the Supreme Court are returning for the term that begins Monday, accompanied by another concern: how to convince the public that the justices take seriously their ethical obligations.

Reports about some justices hobnobbing with billionaire friends on lavish trips and maintaining ties to those who have business before the court have become the elephant in the courtroom.

In recent weeks, two justices have spoken out to say the court should take steps to implement a pledge that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made in May: to make “certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct.”

 

sam bankman fried newshubweek

washington post logoWashington Post, As trial looms, Sam Bankman-Fried’s own words may pose his biggest risk, Lisa Bonos, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The founder of FTX, shown above in a file photo, is accused of bilking customers and investors out of billions of dollars in the 2022 collapse of his cryptocurrency empire. Throughout every stage of Sam Bankman-Fried’s swift descent from cryptocurrency darling to criminal defendant, there’s been one constant: He can’t stop talking.

ftx logoThe FTX founder sat for multiple interviews with journalists and crypto influencers, and started a Substack newsletter after being extradited from the Bahamas in December. “I didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away,” he wrote in January. He was so loquacious that the judge overseeing his upcoming fraud trial revoked bail, forcing him from his parents’ home in Stanford, Calif., and into a federal detention center in Brooklyn. Bankman-Fried had shared the personal diaries of his former romantic and business partner, Caroline Ellison, with the New York Times — a move prosecutors characterized as an attempt at witness intimidation.

Lawyers generally advise their clients to stay quiet before a trial. Elizabeth Holmes and Bernie Madoff, for example, were not doing press tours ahead of their equally high-profile prosecutions — and they were still found guilty. Bankman-Fried’s approach, legal experts say, would be risky if it extends into the courtroom.

“The way he’s comporting himself is nothing short of scandalous and shocking,” said Yesha Yadav, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who closely follows cryptocurrency and financial markets. “What you need in a criminal trial,” she added, “is extreme discipline.”

 

wael hana

ny times logoNew York Times, Menendez Co-Defendant’s Curious Path From Bad Deals to a Meat Monopoly, Nicole Hong, Tracey Tully and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.).  After emigrating to New Jersey from Egypt, Wael Hana, shown above in a file photo, faced a string of business and legal problems. Then his friend dated Senator Robert Menendez.

Just five years ago, Wael Hana was reeling from a string of bad business deals in New Jersey, having tried to launch a truck stop, an Italian restaurant, a limousine service and other companies without ever hitting it big.

Then, his friend started dating Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the most powerful Democrats in the United States Senate. Soon, Mr. Hana introduced Mr. Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to a growing circle of Egyptian officials, and Mr. Hana’s fortunes took a remarkable turn: He won sole control over certifying all halal food being imported into Egypt, earning enough money to bribe Mr. Menendez with gold bars and wads of cash, prosecutors said.

Mr. Hana, Mr. Menendez and others are now facing charges in what prosecutors have described as a wide-ranging corruption scheme — one that threatens to put an end to the senator’s five decades in politics. But the allegations, if true, also raise a pressing question about Mr. Hana: Was he an agent of the Egyptian government all along, or just a lucky opportunist who stumbled into a position of international influence?

FBI logoThe F.B.I. is investigating this very question. But a New York Times examination of hundreds of pages of court filings, business records and interviews with nearly a dozen people who knew or dealt with Mr. Hana offered insights into the path he traveled during his bumpy start — and meteoric rise.

 

james gordon meek abc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist gets 6-year sentence in child pornography case, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A former national security journalist who worked for ABC News until his apartment was searched last year in a child pornography investigation was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

James Gordon Meek pleaded guilty in July to possessing explicit images and videos of minors, and sharing them with two other users on a smartphone messaging app called Kik in 2020. The FBI seized several devices during a search of Meek’s apartment in Arlington County, Va., last year, and Meek admitted they contained “dozens of images and at least eight videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to court filings.

At his sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Meek asked his victims and his family for forgiveness and said he should have used his reporting skills to help victims of online sexual abuse instead of contributing to their exploitation.

“I was a journalist. I wrote countless stories about the misconduct of others,” he told Judge Claude M. Hilton. “I broke federal law, I violated God’s law, and I undermined my own personal ethos of always helping others. … I need you to hold me accountable.”

The investigation into Meek, an Emmy-winning producer who covered wars, terrorism and major crimes, began with a tip from the file storage company Dropbox about digital materials on an account he had registered, according to court records.

Authorities alleged that Meek also communicated online with minors, persuading at least one girl to send photographs showing nudity, although his guilty plea was based strictly on possessing and sharing child sexual abuse materials. Defense attorney Eugene Gorokhov noted throughout the case that Meek was not accused of physically meeting or abusing minors.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia requested a prison sentence of 12½ to nearly 16 years, arguing that Meek shared “images and videos of prepubescent children, including infants, being forcibly raped and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults on the internet.”

One of Meek’s victims described what it felt like to be repeatedly victimized: “The first time was being abused and the second time is the ongoing anxiety due to the images of my abuse forever accessible,” according to a statement quoted by prosecutors.

“Not only were they traumatized by the initial sexual abuse that was captured on film, but they are also further victimized through the ongoing distribution and consumption of depictions of their abuse,” federal prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote in a court filing.

Gorokhov, who asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of five years, said Meek began to struggle with his mental health as he covered the horrors of war and terrorism, ultimately developing “this disease, this illness, this curse” as a coping mechanism.

“There’s going to be a breaking point,” Gorokhov said, noting that Meek also had files on his electronic devices showing “torture, executions, beheadings, human-rights atrocities” because of the kind of reporting he practiced.

Before joining ABC, Meek worked for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee [beginning in the new Republican-controlled House in 2011] , “where he advised top congressional leaders and held a top-secret clearance,” according to his attorney.

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U.S. National Politics

 

dianne feinstein report cspan

ny times logoNew York Times, Trailblazer, Role Model, Mentor: Feinstein’s Impact on Women in Office, Shawn Hubler, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). When Dianne Feinstein of California, above, was elected in 1992, only two women were in the U.S. Senate. There were 25 on the day she died.

Dianne Feinstein had several lifetimes’ worth of accomplishments by the time she died on Thursday at 90. She was pivotal in crafting a decade-long bipartisan assault weapons ban. She helped lead the congressional response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and questioned the Central Intelligence Agency for its use of torture. As mayor of San Francisco, she led her hometown through years of tumult.

But for generations of women in California and beyond, her most lasting legacy was that she had accomplished it all in a world long dominated by men.

“She inspired women like me to leadership,” said Eleni Kounalakis, 57, the lieutenant governor of California who is among the leading contenders for the state’s top job in 2026. “Dianne broke marble ceilings for the rest of us.”

Outwardly formal in her public life and inwardly armed with a fierce work ethic, Ms. Feinstein showed that it was acceptable not only for a woman to wield political power, but also to want it, and to keep working to win it, even after repeated setbacks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas AG Paxton facing new trial in whistleblowers’ lawsuit, Eva Ruth Moravec, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Texas Attorney ken paxton mugGeneral Ken Paxton, right, is suddenly facing another trial over his termination of top aides turned whistleblowers, and this time he will be forced to answer questions under oath or publicly plead the Fifth Amendment.

The state Supreme Court on Friday denied Paxton’s request to review the former staffers’ lawsuit and effectively dissolved the $3.3 million settlement agreement he had reached with them, a deal that got blocked when the Texas House refused to let taxpayers pick up the cost.

The accusations at the heart of the settlement were also the foundation for this month’s historic impeachment trial in the Texas Senate. The defendant, who attended only its opening and closing hours, was acquitted of 16 charges in a proceeding that ended with bitter sniping among Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature.

texas mapPaxton is a staunchly conservative Republican serving his third term as attorney general. His new trial will take place in Travis County District Court, potentially before a jury assembled in the deep-blue county seat of Austin.

“We are looking forward to obtaining a trial setting and to preparing the case for trial as soon as possible,” read a statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Paxton, who did not respond to emails seeking comment, has 15 days to ask for a rehearing, but legal experts say the court is unlikely to grant one. While the two sides could resume negotiations, a new agreement also seems unlikely.

“After seven months and after the positions taken at the impeachment trial, there is no reason to believe a final settlement agreement is achievable at this point,” the plaintiffs wrote in their request to the court.

The parties had agreed to settle in February, but when the attorney general asked House lawmakers for the money, they refused and opened an investigation that led to his impeachment. He was charged with bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of office in connection with favors his former staffers said he did for a wealthy Austin real estate developer and donor.

Paxton’s subsequent trial badly divided Republicans throughout the state, but particularly those in the legislature. His upcoming case will cover some of the same ground but will proceed much differently. For one, he won’t be excused from testifying.

“He will have to be deposed,” said Charles W. “Rocky” Rhodes, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, “and he can be called to trial. He’s going to have to, under oath, either answer the questions or invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.”

In the two weeks since his acquittal, Paxton has celebrated in interviews with conservative media outlets, blasted the “months of wasteful and destructive political theater” that were the probe into his actions and touted how his office has “redoubled our focus on countless issues facing the state.”

 

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 photo by Matt McClain of the Washington Post.

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 photo by Matt McClain of the Washington Post. 

washington post logoWashington Post, As Jimmy Carter turns 99, he’s still full of surprises, Mary Jordan, Photos by Michael S. Williamson, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Seven months after entering hospice, the former president defied expectations with his 99th birthday on Sunday. The crowds gathered in Jimmy Carter’s tiny hometown last weekend knew the former president hadn’t been seen in public this year. After seven months in hospice, on the eve of his 99th birthday, they knew he could no longer climb the steps to a balcony overlooking the annual Plains Peanut Festival.

So when a black Chevy Suburban driven by a Secret Service agent slowly turned onto Main Street last Saturday morning, there were gasps, and then cheers.

There in the back seat was Carter, holding hands with Rosalynn, his wife of 77 years. The waves of applause only stopped when a “Happy Birthday” serenade began.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Esther Rechenmacher, 93, who said she would cherish what she expects will be her last glimpse of Carter.

The drive through downtown Plains was just the latest surprise from Carter, who has already lived longer than any other former president, surpassing George H.W. Bush, who passed away at 94. He has witnessed the election of seven successors and outlived two: Bush and Ronald Reagan.

he went into hospice care seven months ago. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Jimmy Carter holds hands with his wife of 77 years Rosalynn Carter. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

On Sunday, Carter plans to have a low-key birthday with Rosalynn at the Plains home they built in 1961 and where they spend most days sitting together. But publicity around his milestone is expected to draw more visitors to this tiny town and its National Park Service sites that include Carter’s boyhood home that had no running water or electricity when he was a child, and the train depot that served as Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign headquarters.

Aimee Burgamy, an Atlanta schoolteacher, sees Carter as a living link to a bygone era in America. “The politics around here are not Jimmy Carter’s politics anymore,” she said. “But everyone came out for him. We love him.”

Carter is a Democrat, while many in Plains are Republican, including the longtime mayor, L. E. “Boze” Godwin III.

Godwin, 80, calls Carter “an honest man, a very intelligent man.” He said their differing political views never meant they couldn’t work together to improve the town. He has known Carter nearly all his life; the former president was his Boy Scout troop leader. After Carter served in the U.S. Navy, he came home in 1953 and Godwin remembers seeing him sell peanuts out of the back of his truck.

 

djt handwave file

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: MAGA faction sinks into abyss of collective insanity, with party extinction fast approaching! webster tarpley 2007Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Sept. 30, 2023 (148:38 mins.). Trump horrifies nation with call to execute Gen. Milley for disloyalty to him; First session of Comer’s impeachment probe dissolves amid guffaws;

Biden speech at McCain Library is clarion call for the defense of constitutional democracy, with direct attacks on MAGA boss: ”Trump says the Constitution gave him the right to do whatever he wants as president”;

President sets new aggressive tone for coming year of campaigning; Biden now joins FDR as the two most pro-labor presidents in US history; At Milley’s retirement, Biden slams Tuberville’s ”outrageous” sabotage of military promotions; In farewell to arms, Milley joins in stressing Constitution as touchstone of American life, noting that American soldiers swear oath neither to a dictator nor to a ”wannabe dictator”;

Looming expropriation of fraudulent oligarch could have ramifications in many directions; Voters should brace for further tantrums;
As shutdown looms, 21 crazed House sectarians torpedo McCarthy’s short-term spending bill with 30% spending cuts, demanding even more killer austerity; Trump wants shutdown to promote chaos, paralyze courts, and smash the state;

MAGA on the wrong side of history: violent reactionary anarchists seek to roll back modern state into dark ages oligarchy, aborting process that began in Italy in 1300s; UAW President Fain starts long-overdue discussion of class as auto workers fight for labor rights;

Breaking: WaPo reports anti-McCarthy putsch plot by MAGA extremists to install Majority Whip Tom Emmer, seen as more likely to deliver killer cuts

bob menendez cnn 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, For Biden, Menendez’s Troubles May Clear Foreign Policy Roadblocks, Michael Crowley and Karoun Demirjian, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (shown in a CNN screenshot this week) bucked colleagues, and President Biden, on matters like Cuba and Iran.

joe biden resized oWhen the Biden administration relaxed some travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba in May of last year, Senator Robert Menendez was having none of it.

“I am dismayed,” Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement. Anyone who believed the measure might help bring democracy to Cuba was “simply in a state of denial,” he fumed.

A day later, Mr. Menendez erupted again, this time over reports that the Biden administration was easing oil sanctions against Venezuela’s authoritarian government — “a strategy destined to fail,” he declared.

democratic donkey logoFor Biden officials, the friendly fire from a fellow Democrat was exasperating if not exactly surprising. Before stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his indictment on federal corruption charges last week, Mr. Menendez routinely opposed and even criticized President Biden — and the previous Democrat in the White House, Barack Obama — on foreign policy issues.

From Latin America to the Middle East, Mr. Menendez has long been among the most hawkish Democrats on Capitol Hill, and never afraid to oppose or criticize members of his own party on issues he holds dear. His replacement as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, has been vague about his plans but is closer personally to Mr. Biden and likely to be more accommodating of his agenda.

Flexibility has not been Mr. Menendez’s calling card. When Mr. Obama made negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran one of his top second-term foreign policy goals, Mr. Menendez pressed for new sanctions on Tehran that some Obama officials saw as intended to spoil the talks. Once the nuclear deal was completed, in 2015, Mr. Menendez vocally criticized and voted against it. And when Mr. Biden sought in 2021 and last year to return the United States to the agreement after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal, Mr. Menendez argued that Mr. Biden was making a dangerous mistake.

Most recently, Mr. Menendez has complicated Mr. Biden’s plans to win Sweden’s admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in what would be a strategic blow to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Mr. Menendez, who has maintained his innocence, said he would continue to speak out on a range of issues even though he has temporarily stepped down as his committee’s chairman.

 

steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Commentator: Confronting lies about Trump and Jan. 6th: My PBD podcast appearance, Steve Schmidt, Sept. 30, 2023. I appeared on the PBD podcast where we discussed how Donald Trump came to power, the con that he is not part of the establishment, & I confront lies and conspiracy theories on the January 6th insurrection. 

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal court halts grant program for Black female entrepreneurs, Julian Mark, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In issuing an injunction, the appellate panel sided with a conservative group that alleges the Fearless Fund’s program amounts to reverse discrimination.

A panel of federal appellate judges on Saturday stopped an Atlanta-based venture fund from awarding $20,000 grants to Black female entrepreneurs for now.

The injunction issued by a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit prevents the Fearless Fund from closing its application window. The fund was sued this summer by a conservative group alleging reverse discrimination.
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Saturday’s decision temporarily reverses a Tuesday order by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, who denied the a request by the plaintiff, American Alliance for Equal Rights, to halt the grant awards process.

In August, the alliance, led by conservative activist Edward Blum, sued the Fearless Fund, alleging that its program granting money solely to Black female business owners illegally discriminates on the basis of race. That lawsuit was filed a month after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively banned race-conscious college admissions, through rulings on cases Blum initiated against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

“The members of the American Alliance for Equal Rights are gratified that the 11th Circuit has recognized the likelihood that the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest is illegal,” Blum said in a statement Saturday. “We look forward to the final resolution of this lawsuit.”

A separate 11th Circuit panel will now decide whether the Fearless Fund will be blocked from awarding money under its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest while the case is litigated in district court. The panel’s Saturday decision merely halt’s the grant process while that separate panel decides. It’s unclear when that determination will be made.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision, appreciate the important points made by the dissent, and look forward to further appellate review,” said Jason Schwartz, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is representing the Fearless Fund. “We remain committed to defending our clients’ meaningful work.”

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 diane feinstein older

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut Government

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A shutdown was averted, but Americans are now used to government dysfunction, Peter Baker, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). As the nation’s capital seemed to be barreling toward another debilitating federal government shutdown this weekend, America, well, did not exactly seem to be on the edge of its collective seat.

Judging by Google search trends, at least, Americans in the days leading up to the shutdown-that-wasn’t were more curious about who shot Tupac Shakur, who might win “The Golden Bachelor” and who would claim the giant Powerball jackpot. Even National Coffee Day 2023 generated more searches at one point than the possible government shutdown.

Those are probably not signs of public confidence that the nation’s leaders would somehow avoid plummeting off the cliff at the last minute, even though, surprisingly, they did. Instead, they may indicate that America at this point assumes that Washington actually will go over the cliff, because that is what Washington does these days. After all, the 11th-hour congressional deal that kept the government open lasts only until mid-November.

America, it seems, has come to expect crisis. In an era of disruption and polarization and insurrection, with a former president facing 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments and a sitting president facing an impeachment inquiry and a House speaker facing a possible move to oust him, the country has grown accustomed to chaos in the capital. Dysfunction is the new normal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time to end McCarthy’s reign of error, Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Who is this man and what dana milbank newesthas he done with Kevin McCarthy?

In an epiphany Saturday morning, the House speaker realized there was no way to placate the holdouts in his caucus — and cut a deal with Democrats.

For eight months, there were no adults working in the House Republican day-care center.

Day after day, the toddlers of the far right threw tantrum after tantrum. But instead of giving the brats in his caucus a timeout, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tried to quiet them with all the lollipops, ice cream and sugary drinks they could consume.

Finally on Saturday, with just 12 hours to go before the federal government would shut down, McCarthy declared himself a grown-up.

“We’re going to be adults in the room, and we’re going to keep government open while we solve this problem,” he told reporters as he rushed to the floor in a last-ditch attempt to fund the government at current levels for another 45 days.

And if Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and the other children try to evict him from the speakership with their threatened motion to vacate the chair?

“You know what? If somebody wants to remove [me] because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy dared them. “But I think this country’s too important.”

Politico, Shutdown averted: Senate clears stopgap bill with hours to spare, Ursula Perano, Sept. 30, 2023. The legislation, which effectively punts the deadline for Congress’ various spending fights to Nov. 17, now heads to the president’s desk.

politico CustomThe Senate cleared a stopgap funding bill Saturday night, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk just in time to avert a government shutdown.

The legislation effectively punts the deadline for Congress’ various spending fights to Nov. 17. It passed the upper chamber by a wide margin, 88-9.

“It’s been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said shortly after passage.

The package is a departure from Senate leaders’ original ambitions to include Ukraine aid in the short-term funding bill. The final version of the bill — which overwhelmingly passed the House with bipartisan support Saturday afternoon — only includes disaster relief alongside regular government funding. Senate Democrats now say they’ll be seeking a supplemental bill to continue assisting Ukraine in its war against Russia.

“Most Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Passage was slightly delayed Saturday night, when Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) temporarily objected to moving the bill forward, pushing for commitments on Ukraine aid. Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Co.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) both discussed the matter with Bennet Saturday evening, according to two sources. Bennet’s hesitation seemed to be resolved by about 8 p.m., when the Senate unanimously agreed to take up the package

Palmer Report, Analysis: Senate Democrats move to keep Ukraine funding intact after budget agreement, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 30, 2023. After a bill palmermonth of insisting they’d shut down the government, House Republicans caved – with a 45 day continuing resolution that funds everything but Ukraine. It was a cheap attempt at forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate to choose whether to keep the government open or keep a key U.S. ally intact against Putin. But it turns out Democrats are savvier than that.

bill palmer report logo headerSenate Democrats are already preparing a supplemental funding measure for Ukraine as early as next week, according to Bloomberg News. There appear to be enough votes in both the Senate and House to pass it.

senate democrats logoSo this anti-Ukraine stunt by House Republicans really does appear to be nothing beyond hot air. They just wanted to be able to tell their idiot base that they stuck it to Ukraine, and then next week it appears they’ll quietly vote to fund ukraine flagUkraine once the smoke has cleared.

House Republicans really are extraordinarily weak right now. But that’s what happens when you’re a house divided against itself, you have a narrow majority, and your “leader” has all the leadership skills of a rotting pumpkin.
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Relevant Recent Headlines

  • Washington Post, Alarm grows in Kyiv, Washington as GOP House blocks Ukraine aid, Oct. 1, 2023.

 

gop house chairs 2023 New York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Biden Impeachment, Hunter Biden Claims, Counterclaims

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: On Fox News, GOP impeachment leaders spread false claims with impunity, Philip Bump, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Host Sean Hannity assiduously shielded his audience from the facts.

The Republican push to impeach President Biden formally began on Thursday with a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill. By most objective accounts, it was not a huge success for the GOP, featuring witnesses who by their own admission couldn’t provide any evidence incriminating Biden and who were loath to state that such evidence existed.
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But in the creaky machine that is modern American politics, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how the impeachment inquiry is perceived, and in that critical battle, the actual machinations in the hearing room are unimportant. What’s important are the snippets excerpted from the hearing and the extent to which flaws in either side’s case are smoothed over for mass consumption.

By that measure, the hearing was just dandy. Anyone tuning in to Sean Hannity’s prime time Fox News program, for example, learned that Republicans executed a precision strike on the sitting president, offering up evidence that only a buffoon or a hack could deny. This presentation was made easier by Hannity’s playing host to the three Republicans leading the impeachment push — each of whom offered false, baseless or debunked claims to which the Fox News host offered absolutely no pushback.

The assiduously policed right-wing narrative about the president was left unharmed.

Hannity’s show began the way all serious news programs do, with members in the live studio audience chanting “U-S-A!” as the host welcomed them. Hannity then launched into his monologue, his usual articulation of Republican genius and Democratic stupidity with elements of the hearing slotted into the appropriate places.

Someone inclined to be skeptical of Hannity’s daily presentations would very quickly wonder how his audience could continuously suspend disbelief. On Thursday, for example, Hannity alleged illegalities and unethical behavior by Biden that would make a New Jersey senator blush, arguing that the evidence of these actions was unassailable. Yet, he suggested, Democrats are so blinkered or craven that they simply ignore all of this, for days and months on end. And that’s the answer: Democrats would have to be utterly soulless and desperate for power to let this purported proof go unaddressed, so that’s the assumption about Democrats that carries the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans are holding their first hearing Thursday as part of an inquiry into whether to impeach President Biden, which House james comerOversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has said will lay out the basis for a probe that has so far shown no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Comer, right, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), have called four witnesses to testify, three of whom were invited by Republicans.

The House is exploring impeaching President Biden. What comes next?

Comer has repeatedly touted evidence that has fallen short of substantiating his claims that President Biden has engaged in corruption and abuse of public office. But Comer is expected to try again Thursday, promising “emails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates,” according to his opening statement.

The Post has previously reported that Hunter Biden accepted money from Chinese nationals and that he sought to sell the Biden family “brand” and the illusion of access to and influence over his father. But there is no evidence that President Biden himself used his official perch to enrich his family, and a key witness testified last month that Hunter Biden was unable to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions — and that during their frequent communications, “nothing of material” was ever discussed.
Comer, Raskin set tone for contentious hearing

In his opening statement, Comer alleged Biden has for years “lied to the American people about his knowledge of and participation in his family’s corrupt business schemes.” Comer accused Biden of having developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets.

“These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family,” he said. “It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hit back in his opening statement by quoting other Republicans’ criticism of their own party in the last week.

“ ‘Clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,’” Raskin said. “These are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear: This isn’t partisan warfare America is seeing today. It is chaotic infighting between Republicans and Republicans.”

Raskin concluded his fiery remarks by saying that the inquiry all boils down to a “thoroughly demolished lie” that Rudy Giuliani and Trump launched years ago regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Raskin went on to cite various witnesses — including a former Giuliani associate — who have all disputed the GOP’s allegations that Viktor Shokin, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, was fired because he was investigating Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden served.

jonathan turley The committee is hearing live testimony from conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, right, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky and a former Justice Department tax attorney, Eileen O’Connor. They are expected to try to bolster the case that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing but will not be able to speak to how Hunter Biden conducted his business or whether his father assisted him.

Turley has become a mainstay expert witness at impeachment hearings. He first appeared before Congress in 2019 as an expert on impeachment, arguing against impeaching President Donald Trump over a July 2019 phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Dubinsky has previously provided analysis for Fox News on bank records associated with members of the Biden family that Comer released this year. In an August 2023 interview, Dubinsky insinuated that the Biden family may be utilizing shell companies for “nefarious” reasons — “to either launder money or hide a transaction.”

O’Connor, who served during President George W. Bush’s administration, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, recommending that a judge reject a proposed plea agreement in the Hunter Biden case related to tax and gun charges.”

Democrats, who are allowed to summon one witness, will feature testimony from Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment expert and law school professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt first testified in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and then again during the first impeachment of Trump.

  • Brian Tyler Cohen, Commentary: MEGAVIRAL: Star Democrat gives SPEECH OF THE YEAR against Republicans, Brian Tyler Cohen, Sept. 28, 2023.
  • MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Cooked and done:’ AOC shreds GOP for ‘embarrassing’ hearing on impeachment, Chris Hayes, Sept. 28, 2023. “The Republican Party knew that this was cooked and done from the beginning,” says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Their star witnesses that they called in today said in their opening statements that there is not evidence to support articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.”

 hunter biden beard

Emptywheel, Analysis: DOJ’s Theory of Trump’s Mob, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right), Sept. 30, 2023. In the government’s reply motion on its marcy wheelerrequest for a gag, DOJ neatly lays out how Trump’s attacks on Pence were a key tool he used to direct the mob.

Justice Department log circularDOJ’s reply on its bid for a gag on Donald Trump has a number of the things you’d expect. It has a list of the seven people Trump has threatened since the last filing on this, including Trump’s vicious attack on Mark Milley.

With each filing, DOJ just keeps adding to the list of people Trump either incited or targeted. The government also notes that Trump may have broken the law — or claimed he did, for political benefit — when he claimed to have purchased a Glock.

But I’m most interested DOJ’s rebuttal to Trump’s claim that Jack Smith improperly connected Trump to January 6 in his press conference announcing the indictment when he said Trump had, “fueled . . . an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

Emptywheel, Analysis: The Timeline of the Hunter Biden Investigation Doesn’t Support Attacks on Lesley Wolf, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 30, 2023. A timeline of the Hunter Biden investigation — even as presented in documents provided by Gary Shapley and Joe Ziegler — undermines many of their claims about the investigation generally and AUSA Lesley Wolf specifically.

irs logoSelf-imagined IRS whistleblowers, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, continue to engage in an information campaign that not only hasn’t provided real evidence for impeachment, but also must be creating real difficulties for David david weissWeiss, left, as he attempts to charge the tax case against Hunter Biden.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a slew of documents provided by the IRS Agents the other day in advance of Thursday’s Impeachment Clown Show. Below, I’ve laid out just the documents pertaining to the investigation (that is, the purported topic of their whistleblower complaint), along with explanations of what the documents show. There are a bunch of other investigative documents (Shapley appears to have let Ziegler assume most of the legal risk of releasing the bulk of the new IRS and grand jury documents), some of which reflect a real sloppiness about parts of the investigation, which would pose still more problems charging this case.

 

More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to State Laws on Social Media, Adam Liptak, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, saying large platforms had removed posts expressing conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. In particular, they objected to the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, had challenged the laws, saying the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

The court’s decision to hear the cases was unsurprising. In each case, both sides had urged the justices to do so, citing a clear conflict between two federal appeals courts. One ruled against the Florida law, the other in favor of the one in Texas.

elon musk sideview

Politico, Musk ousts X team curbing election disinformation, Clothilde Goujard, Sept. 29, 2023. The announcement comes after EU digital chief Vera Jourová criticized the social media company over rampant falsehoods on its platform.

politico CustomElon Musk, above, the owner of X (formerly Twitter) said overnight that a global team working on curbing disinformation during elections had been dismissed — a mere two days after being singled out by the EU’s digital chief as the online platform with the most falsehoods.

twitter bird CustomResponding to reports about cuts, the tech mogul said on X, “Oh you mean the ‘Election Integrity’ Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone.”

Several Ireland-based staff working on a threat-disruption team — including senior manager Aaron Rodericks — were x logo twitterallegedly fired this week, according to tech media outlet The Information. Rodericks has, however, secured a court order halting disciplinary action over allegedly liking tweets critical of the company, according to Irish media.

european union logo rectangleVice President Vera Jourová this week warned that EU-supported research showed that X had become the platform with the largest ratio of posts containing misinformation or disinformation. The company under Musk left the European Commission’s anti-disinformation charter in late May after failing its first test.

Jourová also urged tech companies to prepare for numerous national and European elections in the coming months, especially given the “particularly serious” risk that Russia will seek to meddle in them. Slovakia will hold its parliamentary election on Saturday. Poland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will also head to the polls in the coming weeks.

X must comply with the EU’s content rules, the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large tech platforms with over 45 million EU users to mitigate the risks of disinformation campaigns. Failure to follow the rulebook could lead to sweeping fines of up to 6 percent of companies’ global annual revenue.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan vs. Jeff Bezos: This Is Big Tech’s Real Cage Match, David Streitfeld, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The chair of the Federal Trade Commission wants to disrupt Amazon, whose founder built a trillion-dollar firm by disrupting retail.

Jeff Bezos made his fortune with one truly big idea: What if a retailer did everything possible to make customers happy?

His forcefully nurtured creation, Amazon, sold as many items as possible as cheaply as possible and delivered them as quickly as possible. The result is that $40 out of every $100 spent online in the United States goes to Amazon and Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion.

Lina Khan made her reputation with a very different idea: What if pleasing the customer was not enough?

Low prices, she argued in a 95-page examination of Amazon in the Yale Law Journal, can mask behavior that stifles competition and undermines society. Published in 2017 while she was still a law student, it is already one of the most consequential academic papers of modern times.

These two very different philosophies, each pushed by an outsider unafraid of taking risks, at last have their much-anticipated confrontation. The Federal Trade Commission, now run by Ms. Khan after her stunning rise from policy wonk to policy player, on Tuesday filed suit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. The suit accused Amazon of being a monopolist that used unfair and illegal tactics to maintain its power. Amazon said the suit was “wrong on the facts and the law.”

Mr. Bezos, 59, is no longer in charge of Amazon on a day-to-day basis. He surrendered the chief executive reins to Andy Jassy two years ago. But make no mistake: Mr. Bezos is Amazon’s executive chair and owns more of the company than anyone else. It is his innovations, carried out over more than 20 years, that Ms. Khan is challenging. The F.T.C. complaint quotes him repeatedly.

Silicon Valley spent the summer transfixed by the prospect of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg literally fighting each other, despite the odds of this actually happening being near zero. Ms. Khan and Mr. Bezos are, however, the real thing — a courtroom clash that could have implications far beyond Amazon’s 1.5 million employees, 300 million customers and $1.3 trillion valuation.

If Ms. Khan’s arguments hold sway, the competitive landscape for tech companies will look very different going forward. Big antitrust cases tend to have that effect. The government achieved only a muddled victory in its pursuit of Microsoft 25 years ago. Yet that still had enough force to distract and weaken a much-feared software empire, allowing 1,000 start-ups to bloom, including Amazon.

It’s due largely to Ms. Khan, 34, that imposing major changes on the retailer is even thinkable. After spending a few days interviewing her and those around her for a profile in 2018, I thought she understood Mr. Bezos because she was so much like him. Very few people can see possibilities unseen by others and successfully work toward them for years, getting others to join along the way. But these were attributes they both shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Top Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Claims

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump’s claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia’s statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020.

A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., georgia mapbecame the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

scott graham hall weiner 9 29 2023Hall, shown at left in court with his lawyer, at right, agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court. Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Prosecutors TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Trump with SURPRISE MOVE, Michael Popok, Sept. 29, 2023. Big news out of Georgia today, with the Fulton County DA announcing PLEA DEALS being offered to Trump lawyers Sydney Powell and Ken Chesebro, AND the Judge, shown above, announcing the possibility that up to 6 MORE TRUMP CO CONSPIRATORS may be tried on 10/23!

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why this just got bad real fast for Trump under either scenario.

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Hail to the Fraudster in Chief, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). On Tuesday, Justice Arthur F. Engoron paul krugmanruled in New York that Trump did, in fact, persistently commit fraud by overvaluing his assets, possibly by as much as $2.2 billion.

What’s remarkable about Engoron’s finding that Trump committed large-scale fraud (it’s now a ruling, not a mere accusation) is what it says about the man who became president and the voters who supported him.

Back in 2016, some observers warned conventional political analysts that they were underrating Trump’s chances because they didn’t appreciate how many Americans believed that he was a brilliant businessman — a belief based largely on his role on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that the old joke was, in Trump’s case, the simple truth: He wasn’t a real business genius; he just played one on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

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Global Tensions, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Pro-Russian populist party wins Slovakian election, Ladka Bauerova, Loveday Morris and Niha Masih, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The party of pro-Russian populist Robert Fico has won Slovakia’s parliamentary election, nearly complete results showed Sunday.

slovakia map silhouette with flagThe Smer party’s victory came despite early exit polls predicting a slight lead for the progressive party of Michal Simecka.

With almost all the votes counted, Fico’s Smer party led with about 23 percent of the vote, according to an update from the Slovak Statistics Office Sunday morning, followed by Simecka’s Progressive Slovakia with just under 18 percent.

The results suggest the country is headed for a coalition government, with neither of the largest two parties winning enough support to command a parliamentary majority. If Fico’s Smer leads that coalition, it could reverse Slovakia’s support for Ukraine and threaten European unity over the Russian invasion.

A former prime minister who was forced out of power five years ago, Fico, 59, launched a comeback bid with a campaign that was heavy on conspiracy theories and laced with pro-Russian and anti-American discourse.

“These results are bad news for Slovakia, and it will be even worse news if Fico manages to form a government,” Simecka said in a post-election speech. “Our goal is to prevent that. There is still a possibility of a PS-led coalition; all hangs on the position of the Hlas party. Hlas is standing before a civilizational decision. We all understand what [a Smer-led government] would mean for Slovakia, for the rule of law, for its foreign policy direction and for its public finances.”

Simecka, a former journalist, has a drastically different vision than Fico for a pro-European, liberal Slovakia and made last-minute gains in the polls. At 39, he would be the country’s youngest prime minister if his party was able to take power.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Russia-leaning populist party narrowly won in this European Union nation. What does that mean for Ukraine? Andrew Higgins, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In much of Europe, the election was seen as a bellwether of mainstream support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. But voters seemed most concerned with pocketbook issues.

A Russia-friendly populist party finished first in a crowded field on Sunday in Slovakia’s parliamentary elections, a vote that many in Europe have seen as a bellwether of support for the war in Ukraine.

The party led by Robert Fico, a pugnacious former prime minister who has vowed to stop aid to Kyiv, held almost 23 percent of the votes, with nearly all districts tallied, while a liberal party that wants to maintain robust support in the fight against Russia trailed with about 18 percent.

Neither of the top two finishers — Mr. Fico’s populist and nominally left-wing Smer and the liberal Progressive Slovakia — was close to winning a majority, leaving the shape of the next government and its policy toward Ukraine dependent on the performance of smaller parties with widely differing views on Russia and on the ability to form a coalition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Investigate About 100 Suicides Linked to Canadian Man, Vjosa Isai, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Canadian police charged Kenneth Law with aiding 14 suicides, including that of Ashtyn Prosser, and 88 other deaths are being reviewed by Britain’s National Crime Agency.

canadian flagThe authorities in Canada and Britain are investigating at least 100 poisoning deaths as suicides tied to the online businesses of a Canadian man accused of selling a toxic salt.

Kenneth Law, 57, of Mississauga, a city west of Toronto, is accused of operating a group of businesses that shipped about 1,200 packages of a toxic salt to people in 40 countries, fulfilling orders placed on his website.

The Canadian authorities have charged him with helping 14 people die by suicide, a number that may grow as investigations into Mr. Law’s businesses continue in Canada and Britain.

In Canada, where investigators said Mr. Law shipped 160 packages, he has been charged by multiple police agencies in Ontario with counseling or aiding suicide. The victims were between 16 and 36 years old.

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, Why Evergrande’s Problems Are Only Getting Worse, Sept. 30, 2023. The Chinese property developer’s efforts to restructure more than $300 billion in debt are being complicated by criminal investigations.

  • New York Times, Slovakia’s Election Could Echo in Ukraine. Here’s What to Expect, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).
  • New York Times, How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Pushed Toward the Heart of U.K. Health Care, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a frosty meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier in September 2023 (Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via Associated Press).

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Downplays Uncertainty Over U.S. Support After Funding Bill Passes With No Aid, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Kyiv expressed confidence that the U.S. would continue to support its war against Russia, even after Congress passed a stopgap funding bill that did not include money for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Seconds to Impact: On the Front Line With Ukraine’s Snipers, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, Oct. 1, 2023. In a war built around artillery, tanks, drones and missiles, the sniper — unseen and lethal — plays an essential role on the battlefield.

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been defined as a grueling artillery war bolstered by tanks, drones and cruise missiles, then the role of the sniper, unseen and lethal, occupies an often-overlooked part of the battlefield.

Overshadowed by high-tech killing tools and the blunt power of howitzers and mortars, Ukraine’s snipers are part of a more rudimentary force: the infantry. There are comparatively few, but they are no less essential than they were more than a century ago, when a World War I marksman could terrorize a hundred men with a single shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine hits Russia’s Kursk region repeatedly with airstrikes, Mary Ilyushina and David L. Stern, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A Ukrainian drone strike on an electrical substation briefly left 5,000 people without electricity in Russia’s Kursk region, an area where authorities reported strikes and shelling nearly every day during the past week.

ukraine flagThe governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said Friday that a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives on the substation in the village of Belaya, cutting off power to nearby areas, including a hospital that had to operate on a diesel power generator for some time. The power was restored Friday evening, according to Starovoyt.

Russian Flag“Today our region was massively attacked by Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles, our air defense shot down 10 UAVs,” Starovoyt said in a Telegram message. “Thanks to all our military and concerned citizens who reported on incoming drones.”

There was no immediate official reaction from Kyiv. An official with Ukraine’s SBU security service, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told The Washington Post on Friday that the substation was shut down as a result of “a successful attack” near the border.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

More On U.S. Auto Workers Strike

 

GM Ford

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws a tantrum after his plan backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Donald Trump has mostly spent bill palmerthe past two and a half years in hiding, only occasionally surfacing in public (and coming off as senile whenever he has).

bill palmer report logo headerFor the most part Trump has simply sat at home and whined about how horribly things are going for him, even as he’s been indicted and arrested over and over again. He’s finished, and on his more lucid days, he knows it.

But Trump is still pretending he’s a 2024 candidate, and so he has to occasionally surface in order to keep up appearances. To that end, he and his handlers were planning to have him hold an event with autoworkers this week. Trump and his Republican Party are exceedingly anti-union, but this was Trump’s attempt at goading a complicit media into portraying him as caring about the working class.

uaw logoThe thing is, President Joe Biden and his people are far more politically savvy than a senile Trump or his inept advisers. So Biden is now set to join striking autoworkers on the picket line, in a move that will get far more publicity than Trump’s autoworker photo op. To give you an idea of just how badly this is backfiring on Trump, he’s now throwing a complete fit about it.

Trump is now insisting that he only set up his autoworker event to try to get President Biden “off his lazy a..” – as if anyone is going to believe that. Trump then announced to autoworkers that “MAKE YOU RICH.” Well okay then.

What we’re seeing is Donald Trump losing, knowing that he’s losing, and whining about how he’s losing. If he thought he was clever for scheduling a one-off autoworker event, suffice it to say that President Biden has all too easily figured out how to outwit Trump. That’s partly because Trump is senile, and partly because Biden is really good at this.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Will Expand Strikes at Ford and General Motors, Neal E. Boudette, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The United Automobile Workers union said 7,000 more of its members would walk off the job two weeks after it began strikes at the Big Three automakers.

uaw logoThe United Automobile Workers union increased the pressure on Ford Motor and General Motors by extending its strike to two more car assembly plants on Friday, saying the companies had not moved far enough to meet its demands for higher pay and benefits.

The move is the second escalation of strikes that started on Sept. 15 at three plants, one each owned by G.M., Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. The union said it would not expand the strike against Stellantis this week because of progress in negotiations there.

The U.A.W.’s president, Shawn Fain, said workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Mich., would walk off the job on Friday. G.M. makes the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse sport-utility vehicles at the Lansing plant. Ford makes the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

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 White House Chronicle, Opinion: The Folly of Biden on the Picket Line, Llewellyn King, Sept. 30, 2023. The United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, formerly Chrysler, no matter the merits of the workers’ yearnings, shouldn’t have happened. Once it got going, it shouldn’t have lasted. The White House should have spoken.

Already there is damage. Ford has “paused” plans to build a $3.5-billion battery plant in Michigan. If the strike drags on or if the industry bows to the most damaging demand in the union’s wish list (a 32-hour work week), then the production of EVs and battery leadership will be ceded to other countries. U.S. automakers’ dependence on China — the world ’s top battery maker for EVs — will continue.

The U.S. auto industry is starting its EV surge behind others, and it will suffer mightily if the UAW doesn’t return to work.

In this circumstance, with so much at stake, it would be reasonable to expect President Joe Biden to have both sides closeted at Camp David and to be “knocking heads together.”

The president is the ultimate arbitrator, the one we look to for guidance and to tell us what is best. Yet, instead of bringing both sides together in the national interest, Biden has chosen sides, and chosen to walk the picket line.

Even Steven Rattner, the Democrats’ mechanic when it comes to auto issues, has said this is wrong.

Rattner — whom I caroused with when he was reporter at The New York Times, before he became fabulously rich on Wall Street — is through-and-through a Democrat and one of the party’s intellectuals. In 2009, he authored the rescue plan for the auto industry. At that time, it looked like General Motors and Chrysler were headed for permanent closure.

What was Biden thinking? Why did he abandon the high ground of the presidency?

How can Biden now sit down and bring both sides to the table to negotiate in good faith? He has already declared his allegiance to one.

I believe in the value of unions: guarantors of middle-class life for many. I am not just saying that. I have lived it.

I was once the president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. I am very proud of the financial settlement we got on my watch for reporters and editors at The Washington Post. It was a breakthrough: a 67 percent pay raise over three years.

The newspaper industry was very prosperous at the time, whereas reporters and editors were poorly paid. It was long before the internet would crush the industry, reducing it to its present state of poverty and collapse. We were asking for some of the goodies we had created. There was no danger of The Washington Post moving to China.

Sadly, the unions have been slow to adjust to new realities. They are stuck in a mindset of the days when we were a country of industrial robber barons and industrial unions made sense. Now we are a service economy desperately seeking re-industrialize. EVs are important in that effort.

I ran into outdated union thinking head-on at the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Although we were largely autonomous, we were a chapter of the American Newspaper Guild, our head office.

I had a proposal for simplifying work schedules for editorial staff. My proposal was that editorial staff work three days — 10 to 12 hours a day — and have three days off. My colleagues loved it, The Washington Post management saw it as a solution to overtime and weekend staffing problems. I had seen it work well at the BBC in London, where it was standard practice.

The ANG head office went berserk: It was a betrayal of union history and the “model” contract, written by the legendary reporter, columnist and ANG founder, Heywood Broun, in 1935. In ongoing negotiations with The Post, I dropped the proposal to everyone’s regret. That kind of legacy thinking is what has been killing unions and unionism.

There is a backstory to the Hollywood writers’ strike and the auto workers’ stoppage: artificial intelligence. It will change lives and is a threat to the kind of work unions have protected.

Biden might well have chosen the strikes as a chance to bring about settlements, but also to begin a national dialogue on AI.

Instead, Biden walked a picket line, resolving nothing.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS.

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More On Climate, Environment, Transportation

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What the world would look like without fossil fuels, Shannon Osaka, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  What if the entire world stopped extracting fossil fuels? Here’s what it would take to phase out oil, gas and coal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Children Join the Hunt in New Zealand’s War on Invasive Species? Yan Zhuang, Photographs by Tatsiana Chypsanava, Oct. 2, 2023 (print ed.). A contest has exposed tensions over which animals deserve protection, who gets to define humaneness and how children should be taught about conservation.

New Zealand has long waged war against invasive species, a mantle vigorously embraced by the hunting contest, held in the tiny town of Rotherham in June. With no native land mammals, the island nation has tried to eliminate or sharply reduce “pest” species introduced during colonization that harm indigenous birds, bats, frogs, fish, marine mammals and plant life.

While New Zealand has made protecting its unique flora and fauna a job for everyone, the competition exposed a snare of tensions: Which animals deserve protection, and who gets to define cruelty and humaneness? Perhaps most significantly, it stirred up flesh-and-blood questions about how children should be taught the seemingly contradictory concept of killing for conservation — the idea that some species need to die for others to thrive.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Crypto Currency

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Measure Favored by the Fed Cooled in August, Jeanna Smialek, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation on Friday, when a key inflation measure continued to slow, the latest evidence that a return to normal after the pandemic and higher interest rates are combining to wrestle rapid price increases back to a more normal pace.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, which the central bank uses to define its 2 percent inflation goal, rose slightly more quickly last month as higher gas prices gave it a boost. It rose 3.5 percent in August from a year earlier, up from 3.4 percent in July.

But after stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which are volatile, a “core” inflation measure that Fed officials watch closely is beginning to cool notably. That measure picked up 3.9 percent from a year earlier, which was down from 4.3 percent in July. Compared with the previous month, it climbed 0.1 percent, a very muted pace.

It’s the latest encouraging sign for Fed policymakers, who have been raising interest rates since March 2022 in a campaign to slow the economy and cool price increases. While economic momentum has held up better than expected, a less ebullient housing market and a grinding return to normalcy in the car market have helped key prices — like automobile and rents — to fade.

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U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Navy Will Start Testing SEALs for Illicit Drug Use, Dave Philipps, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The SEALs will face random screening for performance-enhancing drugs, believed to be widely abused in the ranks.

For generations, the Navy SEALs have attracted top athletes who compete for slots on elite teams and take on harrowing missions, but never in all those years did the Navy regularly test the force for illicit steroids and other drugs that could boost performance. Now that is about to change.

Naval Special Warfare, which oversees the SEALs, announced on Friday that it would begin force-wide random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, or P.E.D.s, starting in November. It is the first time that any U.S. military special operations group has tried to regularly screen all of its members for doping.

The move comes more than a year after the death of a sailor in the SEALs’ grueling selection course revealed the use of steroids and other banned substances among SEAL candidates. In the aftermath, Naval Special Warfare began for the first time to test all students at the course.

This week, in a surprising and sweeping expansion of that oversight, the SEALs’ leadership said it would start testing not just the sailors in the training pipeline, but the entire Naval Special Warfare force of about 9,000 service members, including all SEALs and the combat boat crews who support them.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Edyra Espriella, Updated Sept. 28, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Mexican abortion-rights activists have seen a rise of American women crossing the border to seek abortions — crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

For decades, abortion was criminalized in Mexico and much of Latin America with few exceptions, while in the United States, the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling established a constitutional right to abortion.

Today, Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalized abortion nationwide, making it legally accessible in federal institutions and eliminating federal penalties for the procedure. Twelve of the country’s 32 states have also decriminalized abortion, and activists say they have renewed momentum to push local officials in the remaining states.

By comparison, more than 20 American states currently ban or restrict the procedure after 18 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, with 14 states completely forbidding the procedure in almost all circumstances.

Mexican activists, anticipating the Supreme Court could overturn Roe when it was still weighing the case, began organizing and have established an underground system, sending thousands of pills north and helping women travel south across the border. They say the longstanding restrictions in Latin America prepared them to now handle the influx of demand.

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The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

 

Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, As Covid Infections Rise, Nursing Homes Are Still Waiting for Vaccines, Jordan Rau and Tony Leys, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Long-term care operators have yet to start administering shots to protect one of the most vulnerable populations.

“Covid is not pretty in a nursing home,” said Deb Wityk, a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who lives in one called Spurgeon Manor, in rural Iowa. She has contracted the disease twice, and is eager to get the newly approved vaccine because she has chronic leukemia, which weakens her immune system.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the latest vaccine on two weeks ago, and the new shots became available to the general public within the last week or so. But many nursing homes will not begin inoculations until well into October or even November, though infections among this vulnerable population are rising, to nearly 1 percent, or 9.7 per 1,000 residents of mid-September from a low of 2.2 per 1,000 residents in mid-June.

“The distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccine is not going well,” said Chad Worz, the chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Older adults in those settings are certainly the most vulnerable and should have been prioritized.”

With the end of the formal public health emergency in May, the federal government stopped purchasing and distributing Covid vaccines. That has added new complications for operators of nursing homes, who have encountered resistance throughout the pandemic in persuading people, especially employees, to receive yet another round of shots.

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U.S. Media, Education, Religion, Sports, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Chief Who Ordered Raid on Kansas Newspaper Is Suspended, Orlando Mayorquin, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Gideon Cody, who orchestrated a widely criticized raid on The Marion County Record, was suspended indefinitely, a city official said on Saturday.

City leaders have faced questions about Chief Cody’s hiring in the aftermath of the raids and after The Kansas City Star reported that the chief had left his

washington post logoWashington Post, MSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez won’t cover senator father’s indictment, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). “I have been watching along with all of you, as a citizen and also as his daughter,” she said on her Saturday night show, announcing intent to avoid the appearance of an ethical conflict.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez addressed the criminal charges filed against her father, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), on her show Saturday evening, telling viewers she will not be covering the case — but saying that it deserves coverage.

The senator and his wife, Nadine, were indicted on federal bribery charges Sept. 22, accused of committing abuses of power in exchange for cash and gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Last week, a grand jury indicted U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez,” Menendez told viewers at the beginning of the show, her first on-air appearance since the indictment. “This past week, dozens of members of his own party have demanded his resignation. I have been watching along with all of you, as a citizen and also as his daughter.”

She continued: “I will not be reporting on the legal case. That said, my colleagues across MSNBC and NBC News, they have aggressively covered this story, and they’ll continue to do so, as they should.”

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Oct. 1

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More On Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

 

Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Plot Claims

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 U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

Biden Impeachment, Hunter Biden Claims, Counterclaims

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

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U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Congress averts shutdown with last-minute scramble, Tyler Pager, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A last-ditch effort on Capitol Hill Saturday staved off a government shutdown with less than three hours to spare, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, in an kevin mccarthyabrupt strategic reversal, offered a plan that won the support of nearly all House Democrats and most Republicans to keep the government open through mid-November.

The legislation, which the Senate then passed with broad bipartisan support, marked a stunning reversal after many in Washington expected the government to close at midnight following several failed attempts by House Republicans to agree on spending legislation over the past week.

Ultimately, House Democrats supported McCarthy’s eleventh-hour proposal for a 45-day “continuing resolution” including disaster relief funds, an extension of a federal flood insurance program and reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. All but one Democrat voted to support the legislation while 90 Republicans voted against it, resulting in a vote of 335-91.

The Senate passed the bill 88-9, with all nine “no” votes coming from the GOP.

It was a major victory for Democrats, who had uniformly opposed previous attempts by Republicans this week to pass measures that would have dramatically cut spending. It came only after McCarthy tried repeatedly to craft legislation that would attract enough House Republicans by slashing spending, falling short despite giving in to many of the demands of his most hard-line conservative members.

“We’re on the path to avoiding an extreme MAGA Republican shutdown,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said after the House passed the short-term extension. “It was a victory for the American people and a complete and total surrender by right-wing extremists who throughout the year have tried to hijack the Congress.”

washington post logoWashington Post, How Congress managed to avert the shutdown — for now, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor and Tobi Raji, Oct. 1, 2023. Congress averted a government shutdown on Saturday night with hours to spare, after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abandoned the partisan strategy for funding the government that he’s pursued for months and passed legislation with mostly Democratic votes. He also ditched most of Republicans’ stated priorities of deep spending cuts and additional border security provisions.

djt maga hatThe reversal was in the works for days and resulted in a stunning turn of events that few on Capitol Hill expected McCarthy to adopt as he governs under the threat of losing his speakership from a group of far-right Republicans. The following timeline is pieced together from nearly a dozen aides and lawmakers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive or private conversations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Here’s which senators voted for the stopgap bill, Hannah Dormido and Adrian Blanco, Oct. 1, 2023. Explore how your senator voted on keeping the government open.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaetz Says He Will Move to Oust McCarthy for Working With Democrats, Karoun Demirjian, Oct. 1, 2023. A day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sought help to pass a spending bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida promised to try to remove him.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, the far-right Republican from Florida, said on Sunday that he would move this week to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership post, promising to follow through on weeks of threats to oust him for working with Democrats to keep the government funded.

kevin mccarthyMr. Gaetz’s announcement came the day after Mr. McCarthy, left, in a stunning reversal, steered around Republican opposition to a stopgap spending plan and turned to Democrats to help him push legislation through the House to avert a shutdown. The California Republican said he knew he was putting his speakership at risk by doing so, and dared his detractors to try ousting him.

In an interview that aired on CNN on Sunday, Mr. Gaetz, Mr. McCarthy’s main tormentor, said he would do just that. By bringing up a measure called a “motion to vacate,” he can call a snap vote on whether to keep Mr. McCarthy in his post.

“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”

Mr. Gaetz had long threatened to oust Mr. McCarthy if he failed to bend to Republican hard-liners’ demands for spending cuts. In the interview, he accused Mr. McCarthy of lying to his G.O.P. members during negotiations, and making a “secret deal” with Democrats concerning future funding for Ukraine, which he and dozens of other conservative Republicans have opposed.

“Nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” he added, predicting that the only way Mr. McCarthy would remain speaker by week’s end is “if Democrats bail him out.”

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McCarthy, McConnell suffer setbacks over control of their caucuses, Paul Kane, Oct. 1, 2023. The House speaker and Senate minority leader faced rejection on different fronts: McCarthy forced into leaning on Democrats to keep the government open and McConnell, shown above in a file photo, defied by GOP senators on Ukraine.

In the span of three hours, rank-and-file Republicans bucked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaving both GOP leaders weakened Sunday heading into a critical legislative period.

First, after days of internal rebellion, McCarthy (R-Calif.) threw in the towel at a Saturday morning meeting. His leadership team had run the numbers, and at least six Republicans would oppose any plan to keep the government open by the midnight deadline.

With just four votes to spare on a GOP-only plan, McCarthy gave up and turned to Democrats to help pass a “clean” resolution to keep the government open at current levels into mid-November.

The only olive branch to staunch conservatives? No funding for Ukraine’s defense in the war against Russia.

Across the Capitol, McConnell had spent the month of September delivering floor speeches dedicated to the defense of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited the Capitol nine days earlier to rally support behind President Biden’s request for $24 billion in military and diplomatic support. He worked with Biden administration officials to pare back that request to $6 billion and ask for more funding later this year.

So when the Senate GOP gathered at lunchtime Saturday for a roughly 90-minute meeting, McConnell delivered a pitch to rally support for the original plan — a funding plan that included $6 billion for Ukraine.

His caucus overruled him. They preferred McCarthy’s plan to keep the government open by ditching the debate over Ukraine money until later this year.

 

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Retiring Milley warns of ‘wannabe dictator’ in apparent jab at Trump, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The outspoken general, who is retiring over than 40 years in the military, makes way for Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

Department of Defense SealGen. Mark A. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman who clashed with President Donald Trump but found new footing under President Biden, reiterated in his retirement speech Friday that the U.S. military is loyal to the Constitution above anything or anyone else.

“We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, to a tyrant or dictator or wannabe dictator,” Milley said in an apparent reference to Trump. He added that troops did not risk their lives to watch “this great experiment in democracy perish.”

Milley stepped aside Friday as his successor, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., was sworn in to the top military post in front of military personnel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on a day filled with ceremonial traditions. That included Milley inspecting the units lined up in a large field at the base, some in Revolutionary War uniforms, a military band playing the national anthem and the presentation of a retirement certificate. Brown will officially take over the post this weekend.

Biden, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Vice President Harris, praised the general for providing advice that was steady and to the point. Biden also commended him for prioritizing American democracy above all. “When it comes to the Constitution, that is and always has been Mark’s North Star,” Biden said.

Milley’s sometimes-tumultuous four-year tenure as chairman capped a career that spanned more than four decades. His was one of the most consequential and polarizing tenures of any military leader in recent memory. Milley was atop the Pentagon during the Trump administration’s chaotic final months, the Biden administration’s frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing effort to aid Ukraine as the Russian invasion draws close to the two-year mark.

To his frustrated critics, Milley often voiced his opinion on hot-button issues, notably defending a policy, implemented after the U.S. Capitol attack in 2021, that mandated military personnel to study domestic extremism. In one viral moment stemming from Republican attacks, he told members of Congress, “I want to understand White rage, and I’m White.”

Supporters lauded Milley for standing up to what they viewed as Trump’s dangerous ambitions. After the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, when Trump called for clearing demonstrators out of Lafayette Square near the White House, Milley initially walked alongside the president and other top administration officials as they marched to a church for a photo opportunity.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed., Details below). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

 

Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Plot Claims

 

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Politico, Trump goes to trial in New York before a judge who just ruled he’s a fraud, Erica Orden, Oct. 1, 2023. The $250 million civil trial starts Monday — and Trump may be there in person.

politico CustomDonald Trump is set to go to trial Monday in New York’s civil lawsuit accusing him of extensive business fraud — and while his formal courtroom adversary is the state attorney general’s office, he’ll also be facing off against the judge.

In some ways, the trial is the culmination of months of antagonism between the former president and Justice Arthur Engoron, right, a Democrat arthur engoran judgewho was elected to his current post as a Manhattan trial judge in 2015. The outcome of the nonjury trial will be entirely up to Engoron, who will make his decision on the heels of a series of fierce disputes with Trump.

And in a surprise, Trump may attend the trial in person — a plan revealed by lawyers late last week. If Trump follows through and appears in court, he’ll be sitting just a few feet away from a man he has publicly derided as “deranged.”

Last week, Engoron delivered a ruling that may obliterate Trump’s family business. Engoron found Trump liable for widespread fraud and revoked the licenses for some of his flagship properties, including Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel. The ruling paves the way for much of the trial to focus on the punishments Trump will now face. They could be severe: Attorney General Tish James is asking for $250 million and a ban on Trump running businesses in the state.

Trump and his lawyers — and even the attorney general’s office — were caught off guard by the sweep of Engoron’s pretrial ruling, and they have scrambled in recent days to determine what, exactly, it means for the future of Trump’s business.

In turn, Trump called the judge “unhinged” and a “political hack” who “must be stopped.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Reassert Need for Gag Order on Trump in Elections Case, Alan Feuer, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors argued that the former president has continued to make threatening statements after their initial request to limit his public discussion of the case.

Federal prosecutors on Friday reasserted the need to impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

They said that even after they first asked a judge three weeks ago to limit his remarks, Mr. Trump has continued to wage “a sustained campaign of prejudicial public statements” against witnesses, prosecutors and others.

The prosecutors cited several threatening statements that Mr. Trump made since they initially asked Judge Tanya S. tanya chutkan newerChutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in Federal District Court in Washington, to impose the gag order. Their request was first filed under seal on Sept. 5 and a public version was released 10 days later. Judge Chutkan has yet to rule on the matter.

Since their request, prosecutors said in their filing on Friday night, Mr. Trump has continued to attack potential witnesses in the case like former Vice President Mike Pence — who, Mr. Trump wrote online, had lied about him and had gone to the “Dark Side.”

The filing noted that Mr. Trump had lashed out at another witness in the case, “the former attorney general” — an apparent reference to William P. Barr — saying he had not done his job after the election “because he was afraid of being impeached.”

djt mug fulton countyMoreover, prosecutors cited a menacing message that Mr. Trump posted on his social media site last week about Gen. Mark A. Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs. After General Milley gave several interviews that were critical of Mr. Trump, the former president suggested that he had committed treason and that in the past he might have faced execution.

“No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors, wrote. “This defendant should not be, either.”

Justice Department log circularAs the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated — he is facing three other criminal indictments beyond the case in Washington — so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats have prompted protective measures, including increased security for many people involved in the cases against him.

In their filing, the prosecutors, who work for the special counsel, Jack Smith, pressed another issue, saying Mr. Trump may have violated the terms of his release in the election interference case by suggesting that he might have purchased a firearm on Monday during a campaign stop at a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

That day, prosecutors noted, Mr. Trump’s spokesman posted a video online of the former president handling a Glock pistol at the store. The spokesman said in the post that Mr. Trump had purchased it, but aides quickly denied that he had actually done so.

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

 

christopher john worrell

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: MISSING Trump Co-Conspirator GETS CAUGHT and His Life is OVER, Michael Popok, Oct. 1, 2023. A Proud Boy who has been a fugitive from justice for over a month has been arrested by the FBI and will now be brought before a federal judge to be sentenced at least 14 years for his role in pepper spraying and attacking Capitol Police as they valiantly attempted to hold the line to protect democracy.

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the manhunt leading to the arrest this week of “Florida Man” Chris Worrell who will now face additional charges for running.

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More On 2024 Presidential Race

 

 Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: One Reason the Trump Fever Won’t Break, David French, right, Oct. 1, 2023. The more I consider the challenge david french croppedposed by Christian nationalism, the more I think most observers and critics are paying too much attention to the wrong group of Christian nationalists.

We mainly think of Christian nationalism as a theology or at least as a philosophy. In reality, the Christian nationalist movement that actually matters is rooted in emotion and ostensibly divine revelation, and it’s that emotional and spiritual movement that so stubbornly clings to Donald Trump.

Three related stories illustrate the challenge.

First, Katherine Stewart wrote a disturbing report for The New Republic about the latest iteration of the ReAwaken America Tour, a radical right-wing road show sponsored by Charisma News, a Pentecostal Christian publication. The tour has attracted national attention, including in The Times, and features a collection of the far right’s most notorious conspiracy theorists and Christian populists.

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged. There, as Stewart reported, you’ll hear a pastor named Mark Burns declare, “This is a God nation, this is a Jesus nation, and you will never take my God and my gun out of this nation.” You’ll also hear him say, “I have come ready to declare war on Satan and every race-baiting Democrat that tries to destroy our way of life here in the United States of America.” You’ll hear the right-wing radio host Stew Peters call for “Nuremberg Trials 2.0” and death for Anthony Fauci and Hunter Biden. The same speaker taunted the Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor Fani Willis by shouting: “Big Fani. Big fat Fani. Big fat Black Fani Willis.”

The rhetoric at these events, which often attract crowds of thousands, is unhinged.

 

rfk jr reuters farewell

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How the right’s elevation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could now backfire, Aaron Blake, Oct. 1, 2023. The American right’s efforts to elevate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (shown above in a file photo via Reuters) were as transparent as they were cynical. The idea, as advanced by Stephen K. Bannon and the like, was clearly to try to embarrass President Biden in the Democratic primary. So they used Kennedy’s inflated early poll standing as an excuse to treat the primary challenge from a fringe figure as something real and threatening.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFox News picked up the ball and ran with it, publishing many dozens of stories and featuring him regularly on-air. House Republicans even invited him to testify on Capitol Hill.

It hasn’t worked. And now, it’s looking as if the whole thing could backfire.

The latest indications are that Kennedy will end his Democratic primary challenge against Biden and instead run in the general election. Mediaite reported Friday that he will declare an independent bid on Oct. 9, and Kennedy is now teasing a major announcement on that date, while saying and doing the kinds of things that suggest Mediaite’s report is accurate.

(Asked to comment on whether the report was true, Kennedy’s campaign merely responded with a link to a video previewing his Oct. 9 announcement.)

And while Kennedy is a lifelong Democrat from the country’s preeminent Democratic family, there is plenty of reason to believe that a third-party bid could hurt Donald Trump more than Biden.

There is no good polling that tests a Kennedy third-party bid. What we do know is that Republicans like Kennedy a heck of a lot more than Democrats do. That was true pretty shortly after he launched his campaign in April, and the gap has now grown into a chasm.

The latest polling from Quinnipiac University shows that Republicans like Kennedy by a 30-point margin, 48 percent favorable to 18 percent unfavorable.

Democrats, meanwhile, have developed an overwhelming distaste. The Quinnipiac poll shows just 14 percent have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 57 percent who have an unfavorable one.

Democrats never particularly liked Kennedy, despite what you might have been led to believe. But he’s gone from 14 points underwater (more unfavorable than favorable) with them in mid-June, to 23 points underwater in late June, to 26 points in July, to 31 points in August, and now to 43 points underwater.

As for Republicans, they like Kennedy better than they like many of the top GOP presidential candidates. They even like him better than entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former vice president Mike Pence and about as much as former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). (Only Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are clearly more popular.)

He’s about as polarizing (with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed) as Ramaswamy. And he’s less popular among Democrats than Haley and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nikki Haley Won the Debate Stage. Now, She’s Trying to Win Over Iowa, Michael Gold, Oct. 1, 2023. The former governor of South Carolina, who was ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump, now needs to appeal to early state voters.

About 15 minutes after Nikki Haley, right, took the stage at a town hall in a Des Moines suburb on Saturday, the former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, was heckled — twice — by men demanding to know her views on Taylor Swift.

nikki haley oMembers of the crowd booed, and both questioners were escorted out. Ms. Haley — who often tells audiences in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that she is no stranger to dealing with hostile actors — took a beat.

Then, she smiled.

“Remember how blessed we are that we have freedom of this speech in this country,” she said, scanning the crowd. Then, after a smattering of applause, Ms. Haley went back to her message about slashing federal spending.

Ms. Haley’s mastery of moments like these, in front of crowds and in the first two Republican debates — during which she successfully fended off interruptions and delivered pithy, memorable one-liners — has delivered buzz, attention and money.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Megadonor Network to Hear Pitches From DeSantis and Haley Camps, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The American Opportunity Alliance will meet in Dallas, as its biggest donors weigh whether investing in any non-Trump candidate remains worthwhile.

A network of megadonors whose biggest members have stayed on the sidelines in the Republican presidential primary will meet next month in Dallas as advisers to two of the candidates hoping to defeat Donald J. Trump will make one of their last pitches for support, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The multiday event will feature advisers to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, according to the two people. It will be hosted by Harlan Crow, the wealthy real-estate developer who backs Republicans and who has recently drawn attention for his friendship with and financial ties to Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Crow is hosting a separate fund-raiser for Ms. Haley next week, according to Bloomberg News.

paul singerThe donor network, known as the American Opportunity Alliance, was founded a decade ago by a group of billionaires, including the hedge fund executive Paul Singer, left; Kenneth Griffin, another prominent investor; and members of the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs.

Some of its members have been known to be seeking options other than Mr. Trump. Mr. Griffin, in particular, has been vocal about how he is still assessing the field, despite his past support for Mr. DeSantis in his re-election effort as governor. Mr. Griffin, who has said he wants the G.O.P. to move on from Mr. Trump, bluntly told CNBC recently about Mr. DeSantis, “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s G.O.P. Rivals Must Unite or Die. (They’ll Probably Still Die.), Ross Douthat, right, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  I’m not ross douthat newersure that an assembly of presidential candidates have ever given off stronger loser vibes, if I may use a word favored by the 45th president of the United States, than the Republicans who debated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this week.

A snap 538/Washington Post/Ipsos poll and a CNN focus group both showed Ron DeSantis as the night’s winner, and that seems right: After months of campaigning and two debates, DeSantis is still the only candidate not named Donald Trump who has a clear argument for why he should be president and a record that fits his party’s trajectory and mood.

On the stage with his putative rivals, that makes him the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Against Trump himself, that’s probably going to be good for an extremely distant second place.

The path that I (and others) once saw for the Florida governor, where he would run on his political success and voters would drift his way out of weariness with Trump’s destructive impact on Republican fortunes, has been closed off — by DeSantis’s own struggles, the rallying effect of Trump’s indictments, and now by Trump’s solid general-election poll numbers against Joe Biden. The path other pundits claimed to see for non-Trump candidates, where they were supposed to run directly against Trump and call him out as a threat to the Republic, was never a realistic one for anything but a protest candidate, as Chris Christie is currently demonstrating.

So what remains for Trump’s rivals besides loserdom? Only this: They can refuse to simply replay 2016, refuse the pathetic distinction of claiming “momentum” from finishing third in early primaries, and figure out a way to join their powers against Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin to woo national GOP megadonors at retreat, Laura Vozzella, Sept. 30, 2023. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, right, is about to treat dozens of GOP megadonors to some posh Southern hospitality, putting them up for two days at Virginia glenn youngkin headshotBeach’s grande dame historic hotel on his political action committee’s dime.

He did the same a year ago, gifting billionaires with two-day stays at a Charlottesville-area resort boasting mountain views, fine dining — and facetime with the political newcomer teasing a presidential bid.

The mid-October timing for Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” is a little awkward, with Nov. 7 General Assembly races just three weeks away and the window for launching a credible 2024 White House bid rapidly closing.

Youngkin has insisted that he is focused entirely on Virginia in the run-up to elections that will decide if he can enact his conservative agenda, including a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions. With the House and Senate closely divided and all 140 seats on the ballot, both chambers are up for grabs. No one doubts that Youngkin wants those wins, even if his eye is really on the White House, since losses in his own state would make it tough to pitch himself to the nation.

The Oct. 17-18 gathering at the Historic Cavalier Hotel could serve both purposes, even if it costs the PAC six figures up front in lodging and catering as was the case for last year’s retreat at Keswick Hall, since the well-wooed donors might more than make up for that later with big-dollar donations.

Va. Dems outraise GOP, but Youngkin’s White House buzz helps close gap

But the optics are tricky since Youngkin will spend precious time in the state election’s homestretch hobnobbing with out-of-state donors, some with no clear interest in Virginia. News of the event broke this week in a report claiming that some attendees planned to use the second annual Red Vest Retreat — named for the governor’s signature zip-up campaign attire — to as an opportunity to “draft” Youngkin for president.

“Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Glenn Youngkin,” read the headline on an opinion piece that Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, wrote for The Washington Post. Republican donors unhappy with former president Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field, Costa wrote, plan to use the retreat as a chance to “push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.”

Officials with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC did not respond to requests for comment. The only public response was a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from PAC chief Dave Rexrode: “As we’ve said many times before, @GlennYoungkin is solely focused on our Virginia legislative elections … which are already underway.”

The post linked to Costa’s piece, allowing Rexrode to spread word of the alleged “draft” effort even as he swatted it down.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, reacted sharply on X.

“Time for another RINO stooge in a vest to represent the billionaire donor class now that they realize that after 5 or 6 “reboots” DeSantis clearly doesn’t have it,” he tweeted, referring to Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who until recent campaign struggles was considered Trump’s most formidable challenger.

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djt looking up

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

 

leonard leo ap carolyn kaster

 Ultra-right Republican dark money legal powerbroker Leonard Leo is shown above.

supreme court 2022 o

washington post logoWashington Post, For Supreme Court, ethics have become the elephant in the courtroom, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 1, 2023. Some of the issues and political stalemates that haunt the Supreme Court are returning for the term that begins Monday, accompanied by another concern: how to convince the public that the justices take seriously their ethical obligations.

Reports about some justices hobnobbing with billionaire friends on lavish trips and maintaining ties to those who have business before the court have become the elephant in the courtroom.

In recent weeks, two justices have spoken out to say the court should take steps to implement a pledge that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made in May: to make “certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct.”

 

sam bankman fried newshubweek

washington post logoWashington Post, As trial looms, Sam Bankman-Fried’s own words may pose his biggest risk, Lisa Bonos, Oct. 1, 2023. The founder of FTX, shown above in a file photo, is accused of bilking customers and investors out of billions of dollars in the 2022 collapse of his cryptocurrency empire. Throughout every stage of Sam Bankman-Fried’s swift descent from cryptocurrency darling to criminal defendant, there’s been one constant: He can’t stop talking.

ftx logoThe FTX founder sat for multiple interviews with journalists and crypto influencers, and started a Substack newsletter after being extradited from the Bahamas in December. “I didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away,” he wrote in January. He was so loquacious that the judge overseeing his upcoming fraud trial revoked bail, forcing him from his parents’ home in Stanford, Calif., and into a federal detention center in Brooklyn. Bankman-Fried had shared the personal diaries of his former romantic and business partner, Caroline Ellison, with the New York Times — a move prosecutors characterized as an attempt at witness intimidation.

Lawyers generally advise their clients to stay quiet before a trial. Elizabeth Holmes and Bernie Madoff, for example, were not doing press tours ahead of their equally high-profile prosecutions — and they were still found guilty. Bankman-Fried’s approach, legal experts say, would be risky if it extends into the courtroom.

“The way he’s comporting himself is nothing short of scandalous and shocking,” said Yesha Yadav, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who closely follows cryptocurrency and financial markets. “What you need in a criminal trial,” she added, “is extreme discipline.”

 

wael hana

ny times logoNew York Times, Menendez Co-Defendant’s Curious Path From Bad Deals to a Meat Monopoly, Nicole Hong, Tracey Tully and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 1, 2023. After emigrating to New Jersey from Egypt, Wael Hana, shown above in a file photo, faced a string of business and legal problems. Then his friend dated Senator Robert Menendez.

Just five years ago, Wael Hana was reeling from a string of bad business deals in New Jersey, having tried to launch a truck stop, an Italian restaurant, a limousine service and other companies without ever hitting it big.

Then, his friend started dating Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the most powerful Democrats in the United States Senate. Soon, Mr. Hana introduced Mr. Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to a growing circle of Egyptian officials, and Mr. Hana’s fortunes took a remarkable turn: He won sole control over certifying all halal food being imported into Egypt, earning enough money to bribe Mr. Menendez with gold bars and wads of cash, prosecutors said.

Mr. Hana, Mr. Menendez and others are now facing charges in what prosecutors have described as a wide-ranging corruption scheme — one that threatens to put an end to the senator’s five decades in politics. But the allegations, if true, also raise a pressing question about Mr. Hana: Was he an agent of the Egyptian government all along, or just a lucky opportunist who stumbled into a position of international influence?

FBI logoThe F.B.I. is investigating this very question. But a New York Times examination of hundreds of pages of court filings, business records and interviews with nearly a dozen people who knew or dealt with Mr. Hana offered insights into the path he traveled during his bumpy start — and meteoric rise.

 

james gordon meek abc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist gets 6-year sentence in child pornography case, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A former national security journalist who worked for ABC News until his apartment was searched last year in a child pornography investigation was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

James Gordon Meek pleaded guilty in July to possessing explicit images and videos of minors, and sharing them with two other users on a smartphone messaging app called Kik in 2020. The FBI seized several devices during a search of Meek’s apartment in Arlington County, Va., last year, and Meek admitted they contained “dozens of images and at least eight videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to court filings.

At his sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Meek asked his victims and his family for forgiveness and said he should have used his reporting skills to help victims of online sexual abuse instead of contributing to their exploitation.

“I was a journalist. I wrote countless stories about the misconduct of others,” he told Judge Claude M. Hilton. “I broke federal law, I violated God’s law, and I undermined my own personal ethos of always helping others. … I need you to hold me accountable.”

The investigation into Meek, an Emmy-winning producer who covered wars, terrorism and major crimes, began with a tip from the file storage company Dropbox about digital materials on an account he had registered, according to court records.

Authorities alleged that Meek also communicated online with minors, persuading at least one girl to send photographs showing nudity, although his guilty plea was based strictly on possessing and sharing child sexual abuse materials. Defense attorney Eugene Gorokhov noted throughout the case that Meek was not accused of physically meeting or abusing minors.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia requested a prison sentence of 12½ to nearly 16 years, arguing that Meek shared “images and videos of prepubescent children, including infants, being forcibly raped and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults on the internet.”

One of Meek’s victims described what it felt like to be repeatedly victimized: “The first time was being abused and the second time is the ongoing anxiety due to the images of my abuse forever accessible,” according to a statement quoted by prosecutors.

“Not only were they traumatized by the initial sexual abuse that was captured on film, but they are also further victimized through the ongoing distribution and consumption of depictions of their abuse,” federal prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote in a court filing.

Gorokhov, who asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of five years, said Meek began to struggle with his mental health as he covered the horrors of war and terrorism, ultimately developing “this disease, this illness, this curse” as a coping mechanism.

“There’s going to be a breaking point,” Gorokhov said, noting that Meek also had files on his electronic devices showing “torture, executions, beheadings, human-rights atrocities” because of the kind of reporting he practiced.

Before joining ABC, Meek worked for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee [beginning in the new Republican-controlled House in 2011] , “where he advised top congressional leaders and held a top-secret clearance,” according to his attorney.

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U.S. National Politics

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trailblazer, Role Model, Mentor: Feinstein’s Impact on Women in Office, Shawn Hubler, Oct. 1, 2023. When Dianne Feinstein of California, above, was elected in 1992, only two women were in the U.S. Senate. There were 25 on the day she died.

Dianne Feinstein had several lifetimes’ worth of accomplishments by the time she died on Thursday at 90. She was pivotal in crafting a decade-long bipartisan assault weapons ban. She helped lead the congressional response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and questioned the Central Intelligence Agency for its use of torture. As mayor of San Francisco, she led her hometown through years of tumult.

But for generations of women in California and beyond, her most lasting legacy was that she had accomplished it all in a world long dominated by men.

“She inspired women like me to leadership,” said Eleni Kounalakis, 57, the lieutenant governor of California who is among the leading contenders for the state’s top job in 2026. “Dianne broke marble ceilings for the rest of us.”

Outwardly formal in her public life and inwardly armed with a fierce work ethic, Ms. Feinstein showed that it was acceptable not only for a woman to wield political power, but also to want it, and to keep working to win it, even after repeated setbacks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas AG Paxton facing new trial in whistleblowers’ lawsuit, Eva Ruth Moravec, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Texas Attorney ken paxton mugGeneral Ken Paxton, right, is suddenly facing another trial over his termination of top aides turned whistleblowers, and this time he will be forced to answer questions under oath or publicly plead the Fifth Amendment.

The state Supreme Court on Friday denied Paxton’s request to review the former staffers’ lawsuit and effectively dissolved the $3.3 million settlement agreement he had reached with them, a deal that got blocked when the Texas House refused to let taxpayers pick up the cost.

The accusations at the heart of the settlement were also the foundation for this month’s historic impeachment trial in the Texas Senate. The defendant, who attended only its opening and closing hours, was acquitted of 16 charges in a proceeding that ended with bitter sniping among Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature.

texas mapPaxton is a staunchly conservative Republican serving his third term as attorney general. His new trial will take place in Travis County District Court, potentially before a jury assembled in the deep-blue county seat of Austin.

“We are looking forward to obtaining a trial setting and to preparing the case for trial as soon as possible,” read a statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Paxton, who did not respond to emails seeking comment, has 15 days to ask for a rehearing, but legal experts say the court is unlikely to grant one. While the two sides could resume negotiations, a new agreement also seems unlikely.

“After seven months and after the positions taken at the impeachment trial, there is no reason to believe a final settlement agreement is achievable at this point,” the plaintiffs wrote in their request to the court.

The parties had agreed to settle in February, but when the attorney general asked House lawmakers for the money, they refused and opened an investigation that led to his impeachment. He was charged with bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of office in connection with favors his former staffers said he did for a wealthy Austin real estate developer and donor.

Paxton’s subsequent trial badly divided Republicans throughout the state, but particularly those in the legislature. His upcoming case will cover some of the same ground but will proceed much differently. For one, he won’t be excused from testifying.

“He will have to be deposed,” said Charles W. “Rocky” Rhodes, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, “and he can be called to trial. He’s going to have to, under oath, either answer the questions or invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.”

In the two weeks since his acquittal, Paxton has celebrated in interviews with conservative media outlets, blasted the “months of wasteful and destructive political theater” that were the probe into his actions and touted how his office has “redoubled our focus on countless issues facing the state.”

 

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 photo by Matt McClain of the Washington Post.

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 photo by Matt McClain of the Washington Post. 

washington post logoWashington Post, As Jimmy Carter turns 99, he’s still full of surprises, Mary Jordan, Photos by Michael S. Williamson, Oct. 1, 2023. Seven months after entering hospice, the former president defied expectations with his 99th birthday on Sunday. The crowds gathered in Jimmy Carter’s tiny hometown last weekend knew the former president hadn’t been seen in public this year. After seven months in hospice, on the eve of his 99th birthday, they knew he could no longer climb the steps to a balcony overlooking the annual Plains Peanut Festival.

So when a black Chevy Suburban driven by a Secret Service agent slowly turned onto Main Street last Saturday morning, there were gasps, and then cheers.

There in the back seat was Carter, holding hands with Rosalynn, his wife of 77 years. The waves of applause only stopped when a “Happy Birthday” serenade began.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Esther Rechenmacher, 93, who said she would cherish what she expects will be her last glimpse of Carter.

The drive through downtown Plains was just the latest surprise from Carter, who has already lived longer than any other former president, surpassing George H.W. Bush, who passed away at 94. He has witnessed the election of seven successors and outlived two: Bush and Ronald Reagan.

he went into hospice care seven months ago. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Jimmy Carter holds hands with his wife of 77 years Rosalynn Carter. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

On Sunday, Carter plans to have a low-key birthday with Rosalynn at the Plains home they built in 1961 and where they spend most days sitting together. But publicity around his milestone is expected to draw more visitors to this tiny town and its National Park Service sites that include Carter’s boyhood home that had no running water or electricity when he was a child, and the train depot that served as Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign headquarters.

Aimee Burgamy, an Atlanta schoolteacher, sees Carter as a living link to a bygone era in America. “The politics around here are not Jimmy Carter’s politics anymore,” she said. “But everyone came out for him. We love him.”

Carter is a Democrat, while many in Plains are Republican, including the longtime mayor, L. E. “Boze” Godwin III.

Godwin, 80, calls Carter “an honest man, a very intelligent man.” He said their differing political views never meant they couldn’t work together to improve the town. He has known Carter nearly all his life; the former president was his Boy Scout troop leader. After Carter served in the U.S. Navy, he came home in 1953 and Godwin remembers seeing him sell peanuts out of the back of his truck.

 

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World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: MAGA faction sinks into abyss of collective insanity, with party extinction fast approaching! webster tarpley 2007Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Sept. 30, 2023 (148:38 mins.). Trump horrifies nation with call to execute Gen. Milley for disloyalty to him; First session of Comer’s impeachment probe dissolves amid guffaws;

Biden speech at McCain Library is clarion call for the defense of constitutional democracy, with direct attacks on MAGA boss: ”Trump says the Constitution gave him the right to do whatever he wants as president”;

President sets new aggressive tone for coming year of campaigning; Biden now joins FDR as the two most pro-labor presidents in US history; At Milley’s retirement, Biden slams Tuberville’s ”outrageous” sabotage of military promotions; In farewell to arms, Milley joins in stressing Constitution as touchstone of American life, noting that American soldiers swear oath neither to a dictator nor to a ”wannabe dictator”;

Looming expropriation of fraudulent oligarch could have ramifications in many directions; Voters should brace for further tantrums;
As shutdown looms, 21 crazed House sectarians torpedo McCarthy’s short-term spending bill with 30% spending cuts, demanding even more killer austerity; Trump wants shutdown to promote chaos, paralyze courts, and smash the state;

MAGA on the wrong side of history: violent reactionary anarchists seek to roll back modern state into dark ages oligarchy, aborting process that began in Italy in 1300s; UAW President Fain starts long-overdue discussion of class as auto workers fight for labor rights;

Breaking: WaPo reports anti-McCarthy putsch plot by MAGA extremists to install Majority Whip Tom Emmer, seen as more likely to deliver killer cuts

bob menendez cnn 2023

ny times logoNew York Times, For Biden, Menendez’s Troubles May Clear Foreign Policy Roadblocks, Michael Crowley and Karoun Demirjian, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (shown in a CNN screenshot this week) bucked colleagues, and President Biden, on matters like Cuba and Iran.

joe biden resized oWhen the Biden administration relaxed some travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba in May of last year, Senator Robert Menendez was having none of it.

“I am dismayed,” Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement. Anyone who believed the measure might help bring democracy to Cuba was “simply in a state of denial,” he fumed.

A day later, Mr. Menendez erupted again, this time over reports that the Biden administration was easing oil sanctions against Venezuela’s authoritarian government — “a strategy destined to fail,” he declared.

democratic donkey logoFor Biden officials, the friendly fire from a fellow Democrat was exasperating if not exactly surprising. Before stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his indictment on federal corruption charges last week, Mr. Menendez routinely opposed and even criticized President Biden — and the previous Democrat in the White House, Barack Obama — on foreign policy issues.

From Latin America to the Middle East, Mr. Menendez has long been among the most hawkish Democrats on Capitol Hill, and never afraid to oppose or criticize members of his own party on issues he holds dear. His replacement as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, has been vague about his plans but is closer personally to Mr. Biden and likely to be more accommodating of his agenda.

Flexibility has not been Mr. Menendez’s calling card. When Mr. Obama made negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran one of his top second-term foreign policy goals, Mr. Menendez pressed for new sanctions on Tehran that some Obama officials saw as intended to spoil the talks. Once the nuclear deal was completed, in 2015, Mr. Menendez vocally criticized and voted against it. And when Mr. Biden sought in 2021 and last year to return the United States to the agreement after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal, Mr. Menendez argued that Mr. Biden was making a dangerous mistake.

Most recently, Mr. Menendez has complicated Mr. Biden’s plans to win Sweden’s admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in what would be a strategic blow to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Mr. Menendez, who has maintained his innocence, said he would continue to speak out on a range of issues even though he has temporarily stepped down as his committee’s chairman.

 

steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Commentator: Confronting lies about Trump and Jan. 6th: My PBD podcast appearance, Steve Schmidt, Sept. 30, 2023. I appeared on the PBD podcast where we discussed how Donald Trump came to power, the con that he is not part of the establishment, & I confront lies and conspiracy theories on the January 6th insurrection. 

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal court halts grant program for Black female entrepreneurs, Julian Mark, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In issuing an injunction, the appellate panel sided with a conservative group that alleges the Fearless Fund’s program amounts to reverse discrimination.

A panel of federal appellate judges on Saturday stopped an Atlanta-based venture fund from awarding $20,000 grants to Black female entrepreneurs for now.

The injunction issued by a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit prevents the Fearless Fund from closing its application window. The fund was sued this summer by a conservative group alleging reverse discrimination.
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Saturday’s decision temporarily reverses a Tuesday order by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, who denied the a request by the plaintiff, American Alliance for Equal Rights, to halt the grant awards process.

In August, the alliance, led by conservative activist Edward Blum, sued the Fearless Fund, alleging that its program granting money solely to Black female business owners illegally discriminates on the basis of race. That lawsuit was filed a month after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively banned race-conscious college admissions, through rulings on cases Blum initiated against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

“The members of the American Alliance for Equal Rights are gratified that the 11th Circuit has recognized the likelihood that the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest is illegal,” Blum said in a statement Saturday. “We look forward to the final resolution of this lawsuit.”

A separate 11th Circuit panel will now decide whether the Fearless Fund will be blocked from awarding money under its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest while the case is litigated in district court. The panel’s Saturday decision merely halt’s the grant process while that separate panel decides. It’s unclear when that determination will be made.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision, appreciate the important points made by the dissent, and look forward to further appellate review,” said Jason Schwartz, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is representing the Fearless Fund. “We remain committed to defending our clients’ meaningful work.”

 diane feinstein older

Politico, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has died at age 90, Burgess Everett, Sept. 29, 2023. The trail-blazing Democratic senator, shown above in a file photo, had faced mounting health problems in recent years. Her replacement will be selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.).

senate democrats logopolitico CustomHer death, confirmed by a person with knowledge of the situation, brings Senate Democrats’ functional majority to 50 votes, with Republicans holding 49 votes. Two other Democratic senators tested positive for Covid this week — and the majority of the caucus is calling on indicted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to resign.

Politico, A look at the life of Dianne Feinstein, David Cohen, Sept. 29, 2023. Before her long stint in the Senate, she led San Francisco through a healing period after horrific political violence.

gavin newsom serious abcPolitico, Pressure is on Newsom to quickly appoint Feinstein’s temporary replacement, Jeremy B. White, Melanie Mason and Christopher Cadelago, Sept. 29, 2023. Feinstein’s death will upend the intensifying race to replace her and force Newsom, above, into a painful political decision.

politico CustomThe death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein places Gov. Gavin Newsom under intense pressure to quickly name a replacement as a bitterly divided Congress votes on a spending plan in the coming hours to avert a government shutdown.

Newsom had hoped to avoid the politically charged decision of selecting a second senator. But he will need to move swiftly as a budget standoff has the government on the verge of shutting down, and Senate Democrats could need every vote.

The timing of Feinstein’s death — four months before a primary but more than a year before the end of her term — complicates this election cycle. Staff at the California secretary of state’s office was huddling early Friday morning to determine the timelines that would govern an appointment or a possible special election.

democratic donkey logoThe governor’s inner circle knows he’s facing a vastly tighter timeline then the five weeks it took him to nominate Alex Padilla to Kamala Harris’ Senate seat after the 2020 presidential election. He’s expected to move quickly on the appointment while respecting the death of a longtime friend and mentor.

Newsom released a statement on Feinstein’s death Friday morning, eulogizing the senator without getting into the timing of appointing a caretaker to her seat.

“Dianne Feinstein was many things – a powerful, trailblazing US Senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader in times of tragedy and chaos,” Newsom said in the statement.

“But to me, she was a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like. She was a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace. She broke down barriers and glass ceilings, but never lost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation.”

“And she was a fighter — for the city, the state and the country she loved. Every race she won, she made history, but her story wasn’t just about being the first woman in a particular political office, it was what she did for California, and for America, with that power once she earned it. That’s what she should be remembered for. There is simply nobody who possessed the strength, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein. Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we will mourn with her family in this difficult time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who will replace Dianne Feinstein in the Senate? Adam Nagourney and Shawn Hubler, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to pick a Black woman to fill the seat, but has also said he would not choose any of the current Democrats running for Senate.

senate democrats logoThe death of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, immediately turns the spotlight to an intense, ongoing three-way battle to replace her, fraught with racial, political and generational tensions over one of the most coveted positions in California and national politics.

It also puts new pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will chose someone to fill her seat. Mr. Newsom, whose profile has risen in national Democratic politics in recent weeks as he has traveled the country on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign, had come under fire for announcing he would not pick any of the declared candidates in filling any vacancy, so as not to elevate them and give them an advantage.

Mr. Newsom had originally promised to pick a Black woman to fill the position if it opened up, and many Democrats thought he would turn to Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive. But Mr. Newsom said he would pick a caretaker senator instead. “I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ms. Lee denounced Mr. Newsom for that decision, calling it insulting.

The other leading Democratic candidates in the race for Ms. Feinstein’s seat are Representative Adam Schiff, a high-profile member of the congressional committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol; Representative Katie Porter, a third-term California member of the House; and Ms. Ms. Lee.

It is unclear whom Mr. Newsom might pick to fill Ms. Feinstein’s seat. The names that have been discussed, since Ms. Feinstein said earlier this year that she would not run again, include Shirley Weber, the California secretary of state; Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles county supervisor; and Angela Glover Blackwell, a civil rights lawyer in Oakland and the founder of PolicyLink, a research and advocacy nonprofit group.

Mr. Newsom had originally made the pledge about a Black woman in response to the fact that there are no Black women serving in the Senate. The last one was Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who left the Senate to become Mr. Biden’s vice president.

At that time, in January 2021, Mr. Newsom picked Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state, to replace her. Mr. Padilla became the first Latino from the state to serve in the Senate; he was elected last year to a full term.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 diane feinstein older

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut Government

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A shutdown was averted, but Americans are now used to government dysfunction, Peter Baker, Oct. 1, 2023. As the nation’s capital seemed to be barreling toward another debilitating federal government shutdown this weekend, America, well, did not exactly seem to be on the edge of its collective seat.

Judging by Google search trends, at least, Americans in the days leading up to the shutdown-that-wasn’t were more curious about who shot Tupac Shakur, who might win “The Golden Bachelor” and who would claim the giant Powerball jackpot. Even National Coffee Day 2023 generated more searches at one point than the possible government shutdown.

Those are probably not signs of public confidence that the nation’s leaders would somehow avoid plummeting off the cliff at the last minute, even though, surprisingly, they did. Instead, they may indicate that America at this point assumes that Washington actually will go over the cliff, because that is what Washington does these days. After all, the 11th-hour congressional deal that kept the government open lasts only until mid-November.

America, it seems, has come to expect crisis. In an era of disruption and polarization and insurrection, with a former president facing 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments and a sitting president facing an impeachment inquiry and a House speaker facing a possible move to oust him, the country has grown accustomed to chaos in the capital. Dysfunction is the new normal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time to end McCarthy’s reign of error, Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Who is this man and what dana milbank newesthas he done with Kevin McCarthy?

In an epiphany Saturday morning, the House speaker realized there was no way to placate the holdouts in his caucus — and cut a deal with Democrats.

For eight months, there were no adults working in the House Republican day-care center.

Day after day, the toddlers of the far right threw tantrum after tantrum. But instead of giving the brats in his caucus a timeout, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tried to quiet them with all the lollipops, ice cream and sugary drinks they could consume.

Finally on Saturday, with just 12 hours to go before the federal government would shut down, McCarthy declared himself a grown-up.

“We’re going to be adults in the room, and we’re going to keep government open while we solve this problem,” he told reporters as he rushed to the floor in a last-ditch attempt to fund the government at current levels for another 45 days.

And if Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and the other children try to evict him from the speakership with their threatened motion to vacate the chair?

“You know what? If somebody wants to remove [me] because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy dared them. “But I think this country’s too important.”

Politico, Shutdown averted: Senate clears stopgap bill with hours to spare, Ursula Perano, Sept. 30, 2023. The legislation, which effectively punts the deadline for Congress’ various spending fights to Nov. 17, now heads to the president’s desk.

politico CustomThe Senate cleared a stopgap funding bill Saturday night, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk just in time to avert a government shutdown.

The legislation effectively punts the deadline for Congress’ various spending fights to Nov. 17. It passed the upper chamber by a wide margin, 88-9.

“It’s been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said shortly after passage.

The package is a departure from Senate leaders’ original ambitions to include Ukraine aid in the short-term funding bill. The final version of the bill — which overwhelmingly passed the House with bipartisan support Saturday afternoon — only includes disaster relief alongside regular government funding. Senate Democrats now say they’ll be seeking a supplemental bill to continue assisting Ukraine in its war against Russia.

“Most Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Passage was slightly delayed Saturday night, when Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) temporarily objected to moving the bill forward, pushing for commitments on Ukraine aid. Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Co.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) both discussed the matter with Bennet Saturday evening, according to two sources. Bennet’s hesitation seemed to be resolved by about 8 p.m., when the Senate unanimously agreed to take up the package

Palmer Report, Analysis: Senate Democrats move to keep Ukraine funding intact after budget agreement, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 30, 2023. After a bill palmermonth of insisting they’d shut down the government, House Republicans caved – with a 45 day continuing resolution that funds everything but Ukraine. It was a cheap attempt at forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate to choose whether to keep the government open or keep a key U.S. ally intact against Putin. But it turns out Democrats are savvier than that.

bill palmer report logo headerSenate Democrats are already preparing a supplemental funding measure for Ukraine as early as next week, according to Bloomberg News. There appear to be enough votes in both the Senate and House to pass it.

senate democrats logoSo this anti-Ukraine stunt by House Republicans really does appear to be nothing beyond hot air. They just wanted to be able to tell their idiot base that they stuck it to Ukraine, and then next week it appears they’ll quietly vote to fund ukraine flagUkraine once the smoke has cleared.

House Republicans really are extraordinarily weak right now. But that’s what happens when you’re a house divided against itself, you have a narrow majority, and your “leader” has all the leadership skills of a rotting pumpkin.
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Relevant Recent Headlines

  • Washington Post, Alarm grows in Kyiv, Washington as GOP House blocks Ukraine aid, Oct. 1, 2023.

 

gop house chairs 2023 New York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Biden Impeachment, Hunter Biden Claims, Counterclaims

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: On Fox News, GOP impeachment leaders spread false claims with impunity, Philip Bump, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Host Sean Hannity assiduously shielded his audience from the facts.

The Republican push to impeach President Biden formally began on Thursday with a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill. By most objective accounts, it was not a huge success for the GOP, featuring witnesses who by their own admission couldn’t provide any evidence incriminating Biden and who were loath to state that such evidence existed.
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But in the creaky machine that is modern American politics, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how the impeachment inquiry is perceived, and in that critical battle, the actual machinations in the hearing room are unimportant. What’s important are the snippets excerpted from the hearing and the extent to which flaws in either side’s case are smoothed over for mass consumption.

By that measure, the hearing was just dandy. Anyone tuning in to Sean Hannity’s prime time Fox News program, for example, learned that Republicans executed a precision strike on the sitting president, offering up evidence that only a buffoon or a hack could deny. This presentation was made easier by Hannity’s playing host to the three Republicans leading the impeachment push — each of whom offered false, baseless or debunked claims to which the Fox News host offered absolutely no pushback.

The assiduously policed right-wing narrative about the president was left unharmed.

Hannity’s show began the way all serious news programs do, with members in the live studio audience chanting “U-S-A!” as the host welcomed them. Hannity then launched into his monologue, his usual articulation of Republican genius and Democratic stupidity with elements of the hearing slotted into the appropriate places.

Someone inclined to be skeptical of Hannity’s daily presentations would very quickly wonder how his audience could continuously suspend disbelief. On Thursday, for example, Hannity alleged illegalities and unethical behavior by Biden that would make a New Jersey senator blush, arguing that the evidence of these actions was unassailable. Yet, he suggested, Democrats are so blinkered or craven that they simply ignore all of this, for days and months on end. And that’s the answer: Democrats would have to be utterly soulless and desperate for power to let this purported proof go unaddressed, so that’s the assumption about Democrats that carries the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans are holding their first hearing Thursday as part of an inquiry into whether to impeach President Biden, which House james comerOversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has said will lay out the basis for a probe that has so far shown no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Comer, right, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), have called four witnesses to testify, three of whom were invited by Republicans.

The House is exploring impeaching President Biden. What comes next?

Comer has repeatedly touted evidence that has fallen short of substantiating his claims that President Biden has engaged in corruption and abuse of public office. But Comer is expected to try again Thursday, promising “emails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates,” according to his opening statement.

The Post has previously reported that Hunter Biden accepted money from Chinese nationals and that he sought to sell the Biden family “brand” and the illusion of access to and influence over his father. But there is no evidence that President Biden himself used his official perch to enrich his family, and a key witness testified last month that Hunter Biden was unable to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions — and that during their frequent communications, “nothing of material” was ever discussed.
Comer, Raskin set tone for contentious hearing

In his opening statement, Comer alleged Biden has for years “lied to the American people about his knowledge of and participation in his family’s corrupt business schemes.” Comer accused Biden of having developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets.

“These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family,” he said. “It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hit back in his opening statement by quoting other Republicans’ criticism of their own party in the last week.

“ ‘Clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,’” Raskin said. “These are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear: This isn’t partisan warfare America is seeing today. It is chaotic infighting between Republicans and Republicans.”

Raskin concluded his fiery remarks by saying that the inquiry all boils down to a “thoroughly demolished lie” that Rudy Giuliani and Trump launched years ago regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Raskin went on to cite various witnesses — including a former Giuliani associate — who have all disputed the GOP’s allegations that Viktor Shokin, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, was fired because he was investigating Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden served.

jonathan turley The committee is hearing live testimony from conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, right, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky and a former Justice Department tax attorney, Eileen O’Connor. They are expected to try to bolster the case that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing but will not be able to speak to how Hunter Biden conducted his business or whether his father assisted him.

Turley has become a mainstay expert witness at impeachment hearings. He first appeared before Congress in 2019 as an expert on impeachment, arguing against impeaching President Donald Trump over a July 2019 phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Dubinsky has previously provided analysis for Fox News on bank records associated with members of the Biden family that Comer released this year. In an August 2023 interview, Dubinsky insinuated that the Biden family may be utilizing shell companies for “nefarious” reasons — “to either launder money or hide a transaction.”

O’Connor, who served during President George W. Bush’s administration, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, recommending that a judge reject a proposed plea agreement in the Hunter Biden case related to tax and gun charges.”

Democrats, who are allowed to summon one witness, will feature testimony from Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment expert and law school professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt first testified in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and then again during the first impeachment of Trump.

  • Brian Tyler Cohen, Commentary: MEGAVIRAL: Star Democrat gives SPEECH OF THE YEAR against Republicans, Brian Tyler Cohen, Sept. 28, 2023.
  • MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Cooked and done:’ AOC shreds GOP for ‘embarrassing’ hearing on impeachment, Chris Hayes, Sept. 28, 2023. “The Republican Party knew that this was cooked and done from the beginning,” says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Their star witnesses that they called in today said in their opening statements that there is not evidence to support articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.”

 hunter biden beard

Emptywheel, Analysis: DOJ’s Theory of Trump’s Mob, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right), Sept. 30, 2023. In the government’s reply motion on its marcy wheelerrequest for a gag, DOJ neatly lays out how Trump’s attacks on Pence were a key tool he used to direct the mob.

Justice Department log circularDOJ’s reply on its bid for a gag on Donald Trump has a number of the things you’d expect. It has a list of the seven people Trump has threatened since the last filing on this, including Trump’s vicious attack on Mark Milley.

With each filing, DOJ just keeps adding to the list of people Trump either incited or targeted. The government also notes that Trump may have broken the law — or claimed he did, for political benefit — when he claimed to have purchased a Glock.

But I’m most interested DOJ’s rebuttal to Trump’s claim that Jack Smith improperly connected Trump to January 6 in his press conference announcing the indictment when he said Trump had, “fueled . . . an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

Emptywheel, Analysis: The Timeline of the Hunter Biden Investigation Doesn’t Support Attacks on Lesley Wolf, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 30, 2023. A timeline of the Hunter Biden investigation — even as presented in documents provided by Gary Shapley and Joe Ziegler — undermines many of their claims about the investigation generally and AUSA Lesley Wolf specifically.

irs logoSelf-imagined IRS whistleblowers, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, continue to engage in an information campaign that not only hasn’t provided real evidence for impeachment, but also must be creating real difficulties for David david weissWeiss, left, as he attempts to charge the tax case against Hunter Biden.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a slew of documents provided by the IRS Agents the other day in advance of Thursday’s Impeachment Clown Show. Below, I’ve laid out just the documents pertaining to the investigation (that is, the purported topic of their whistleblower complaint), along with explanations of what the documents show. There are a bunch of other investigative documents (Shapley appears to have let Ziegler assume most of the legal risk of releasing the bulk of the new IRS and grand jury documents), some of which reflect a real sloppiness about parts of the investigation, which would pose still more problems charging this case.

 

More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to State Laws on Social Media, Adam Liptak, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, saying large platforms had removed posts expressing conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. In particular, they objected to the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, had challenged the laws, saying the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

The court’s decision to hear the cases was unsurprising. In each case, both sides had urged the justices to do so, citing a clear conflict between two federal appeals courts. One ruled against the Florida law, the other in favor of the one in Texas.

elon musk sideview

Politico, Musk ousts X team curbing election disinformation, Clothilde Goujard, Sept. 29, 2023. The announcement comes after EU digital chief Vera Jourová criticized the social media company over rampant falsehoods on its platform.

politico CustomElon Musk, above, the owner of X (formerly Twitter) said overnight that a global team working on curbing disinformation during elections had been dismissed — a mere two days after being singled out by the EU’s digital chief as the online platform with the most falsehoods.

twitter bird CustomResponding to reports about cuts, the tech mogul said on X, “Oh you mean the ‘Election Integrity’ Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone.”

Several Ireland-based staff working on a threat-disruption team — including senior manager Aaron Rodericks — were x logo twitterallegedly fired this week, according to tech media outlet The Information. Rodericks has, however, secured a court order halting disciplinary action over allegedly liking tweets critical of the company, according to Irish media.

european union logo rectangleVice President Vera Jourová this week warned that EU-supported research showed that X had become the platform with the largest ratio of posts containing misinformation or disinformation. The company under Musk left the European Commission’s anti-disinformation charter in late May after failing its first test.

Jourová also urged tech companies to prepare for numerous national and European elections in the coming months, especially given the “particularly serious” risk that Russia will seek to meddle in them. Slovakia will hold its parliamentary election on Saturday. Poland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will also head to the polls in the coming weeks.

X must comply with the EU’s content rules, the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large tech platforms with over 45 million EU users to mitigate the risks of disinformation campaigns. Failure to follow the rulebook could lead to sweeping fines of up to 6 percent of companies’ global annual revenue.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan vs. Jeff Bezos: This Is Big Tech’s Real Cage Match, David Streitfeld, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The chair of the Federal Trade Commission wants to disrupt Amazon, whose founder built a trillion-dollar firm by disrupting retail.

Jeff Bezos made his fortune with one truly big idea: What if a retailer did everything possible to make customers happy?

His forcefully nurtured creation, Amazon, sold as many items as possible as cheaply as possible and delivered them as quickly as possible. The result is that $40 out of every $100 spent online in the United States goes to Amazon and Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion.

Lina Khan made her reputation with a very different idea: What if pleasing the customer was not enough?

Low prices, she argued in a 95-page examination of Amazon in the Yale Law Journal, can mask behavior that stifles competition and undermines society. Published in 2017 while she was still a law student, it is already one of the most consequential academic papers of modern times.

These two very different philosophies, each pushed by an outsider unafraid of taking risks, at last have their much-anticipated confrontation. The Federal Trade Commission, now run by Ms. Khan after her stunning rise from policy wonk to policy player, on Tuesday filed suit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. The suit accused Amazon of being a monopolist that used unfair and illegal tactics to maintain its power. Amazon said the suit was “wrong on the facts and the law.”

Mr. Bezos, 59, is no longer in charge of Amazon on a day-to-day basis. He surrendered the chief executive reins to Andy Jassy two years ago. But make no mistake: Mr. Bezos is Amazon’s executive chair and owns more of the company than anyone else. It is his innovations, carried out over more than 20 years, that Ms. Khan is challenging. The F.T.C. complaint quotes him repeatedly.

Silicon Valley spent the summer transfixed by the prospect of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg literally fighting each other, despite the odds of this actually happening being near zero. Ms. Khan and Mr. Bezos are, however, the real thing — a courtroom clash that could have implications far beyond Amazon’s 1.5 million employees, 300 million customers and $1.3 trillion valuation.

If Ms. Khan’s arguments hold sway, the competitive landscape for tech companies will look very different going forward. Big antitrust cases tend to have that effect. The government achieved only a muddled victory in its pursuit of Microsoft 25 years ago. Yet that still had enough force to distract and weaken a much-feared software empire, allowing 1,000 start-ups to bloom, including Amazon.

It’s due largely to Ms. Khan, 34, that imposing major changes on the retailer is even thinkable. After spending a few days interviewing her and those around her for a profile in 2018, I thought she understood Mr. Bezos because she was so much like him. Very few people can see possibilities unseen by others and successfully work toward them for years, getting others to join along the way. But these were attributes they both shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Top Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Claims

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump’s claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia’s statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020.

A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., georgia mapbecame the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

scott graham hall weiner 9 29 2023Hall, shown at left in court with his lawyer, at right, agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court. Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Prosecutors TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Trump with SURPRISE MOVE, Michael Popok, Sept. 29, 2023. Big news out of Georgia today, with the Fulton County DA announcing PLEA DEALS being offered to Trump lawyers Sydney Powell and Ken Chesebro, AND the Judge, shown above, announcing the possibility that up to 6 MORE TRUMP CO CONSPIRATORS may be tried on 10/23!

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why this just got bad real fast for Trump under either scenario.

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Hail to the Fraudster in Chief, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). On Tuesday, Justice Arthur F. Engoron paul krugmanruled in New York that Trump did, in fact, persistently commit fraud by overvaluing his assets, possibly by as much as $2.2 billion.

What’s remarkable about Engoron’s finding that Trump committed large-scale fraud (it’s now a ruling, not a mere accusation) is what it says about the man who became president and the voters who supported him.

Back in 2016, some observers warned conventional political analysts that they were underrating Trump’s chances because they didn’t appreciate how many Americans believed that he was a brilliant businessman — a belief based largely on his role on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that the old joke was, in Trump’s case, the simple truth: He wasn’t a real business genius; he just played one on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

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Global Tensions, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Pro-Russian populist party wins Slovakian election, Ladka Bauerova, Loveday Morris and Niha Masih, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The party of pro-Russian populist Robert Fico has won Slovakia’s parliamentary election, nearly complete results showed Sunday.

slovakia map silhouette with flagThe Smer party’s victory came despite early exit polls predicting a slight lead for the progressive party of Michal Simecka.

With almost all the votes counted, Fico’s Smer party led with about 23 percent of the vote, according to an update from the Slovak Statistics Office Sunday morning, followed by Simecka’s Progressive Slovakia with just under 18 percent.

The results suggest the country is headed for a coalition government, with neither of the largest two parties winning enough support to command a parliamentary majority. If Fico’s Smer leads that coalition, it could reverse Slovakia’s support for Ukraine and threaten European unity over the Russian invasion.

A former prime minister who was forced out of power five years ago, Fico, 59, launched a comeback bid with a campaign that was heavy on conspiracy theories and laced with pro-Russian and anti-American discourse.

“These results are bad news for Slovakia, and it will be even worse news if Fico manages to form a government,” Simecka said in a post-election speech. “Our goal is to prevent that. There is still a possibility of a PS-led coalition; all hangs on the position of the Hlas party. Hlas is standing before a civilizational decision. We all understand what [a Smer-led government] would mean for Slovakia, for the rule of law, for its foreign policy direction and for its public finances.”

Simecka, a former journalist, has a drastically different vision than Fico for a pro-European, liberal Slovakia and made last-minute gains in the polls. At 39, he would be the country’s youngest prime minister if his party was able to take power.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Russia-leaning populist party narrowly won in this European Union nation. What does that mean for Ukraine? Andrew Higgins, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In much of Europe, the election was seen as a bellwether of mainstream support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. But voters seemed most concerned with pocketbook issues.

A Russia-friendly populist party finished first in a crowded field on Sunday in Slovakia’s parliamentary elections, a vote that many in Europe have seen as a bellwether of support for the war in Ukraine.

The party led by Robert Fico, a pugnacious former prime minister who has vowed to stop aid to Kyiv, held almost 23 percent of the votes, with nearly all districts tallied, while a liberal party that wants to maintain robust support in the fight against Russia trailed with about 18 percent.

Neither of the top two finishers — Mr. Fico’s populist and nominally left-wing Smer and the liberal Progressive Slovakia — was close to winning a majority, leaving the shape of the next government and its policy toward Ukraine dependent on the performance of smaller parties with widely differing views on Russia and on the ability to form a coalition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Investigate About 100 Suicides Linked to Canadian Man, Vjosa Isai, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Canadian police charged Kenneth Law with aiding 14 suicides, including that of Ashtyn Prosser, and 88 other deaths are being reviewed by Britain’s National Crime Agency.

canadian flagThe authorities in Canada and Britain are investigating at least 100 poisoning deaths as suicides tied to the online businesses of a Canadian man accused of selling a toxic salt.

Kenneth Law, 57, of Mississauga, a city west of Toronto, is accused of operating a group of businesses that shipped about 1,200 packages of a toxic salt to people in 40 countries, fulfilling orders placed on his website.

The Canadian authorities have charged him with helping 14 people die by suicide, a number that may grow as investigations into Mr. Law’s businesses continue in Canada and Britain.

In Canada, where investigators said Mr. Law shipped 160 packages, he has been charged by multiple police agencies in Ontario with counseling or aiding suicide. The victims were between 16 and 36 years old.

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, Why Evergrande’s Problems Are Only Getting Worse, Sept. 30, 2023. The Chinese property developer’s efforts to restructure more than $300 billion in debt are being complicated by criminal investigations.

  • New York Times, Slovakia’s Election Could Echo in Ukraine. Here’s What to Expect, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).
  • New York Times, How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Pushed Toward the Heart of U.K. Health Care, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a frosty meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier in September 2023 (Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via Associated Press).

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Downplays Uncertainty Over U.S. Support After Funding Bill Passes With No Aid, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Oct. 1, 2023. Kyiv expressed confidence that the U.S. would continue to support its war against Russia, even after Congress passed a stopgap funding bill that did not include money for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Seconds to Impact: On the Front Line With Ukraine’s Snipers, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, Oct. 1, 2023. In a war built around artillery, tanks, drones and missiles, the sniper — unseen and lethal — plays an essential role on the battlefield.

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been defined as a grueling artillery war bolstered by tanks, drones and cruise missiles, then the role of the sniper, unseen and lethal, occupies an often-overlooked part of the battlefield.

Overshadowed by high-tech killing tools and the blunt power of howitzers and mortars, Ukraine’s snipers are part of a more rudimentary force: the infantry. There are comparatively few, but they are no less essential than they were more than a century ago, when a World War I marksman could terrorize a hundred men with a single shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine hits Russia’s Kursk region repeatedly with airstrikes, Mary Ilyushina and David L. Stern, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A Ukrainian drone strike on an electrical substation briefly left 5,000 people without electricity in Russia’s Kursk region, an area where authorities reported strikes and shelling nearly every day during the past week.

ukraine flagThe governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said Friday that a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives on the substation in the village of Belaya, cutting off power to nearby areas, including a hospital that had to operate on a diesel power generator for some time. The power was restored Friday evening, according to Starovoyt.

Russian Flag“Today our region was massively attacked by Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles, our air defense shot down 10 UAVs,” Starovoyt said in a Telegram message. “Thanks to all our military and concerned citizens who reported on incoming drones.”

There was no immediate official reaction from Kyiv. An official with Ukraine’s SBU security service, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told The Washington Post on Friday that the substation was shut down as a result of “a successful attack” near the border.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

More On U.S. Auto Workers Strike

 

GM Ford

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws a tantrum after his plan backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Donald Trump has mostly spent bill palmerthe past two and a half years in hiding, only occasionally surfacing in public (and coming off as senile whenever he has).

bill palmer report logo headerFor the most part Trump has simply sat at home and whined about how horribly things are going for him, even as he’s been indicted and arrested over and over again. He’s finished, and on his more lucid days, he knows it.

But Trump is still pretending he’s a 2024 candidate, and so he has to occasionally surface in order to keep up appearances. To that end, he and his handlers were planning to have him hold an event with autoworkers this week. Trump and his Republican Party are exceedingly anti-union, but this was Trump’s attempt at goading a complicit media into portraying him as caring about the working class.

uaw logoThe thing is, President Joe Biden and his people are far more politically savvy than a senile Trump or his inept advisers. So Biden is now set to join striking autoworkers on the picket line, in a move that will get far more publicity than Trump’s autoworker photo op. To give you an idea of just how badly this is backfiring on Trump, he’s now throwing a complete fit about it.

Trump is now insisting that he only set up his autoworker event to try to get President Biden “off his lazy a..” – as if anyone is going to believe that. Trump then announced to autoworkers that “MAKE YOU RICH.” Well okay then.

What we’re seeing is Donald Trump losing, knowing that he’s losing, and whining about how he’s losing. If he thought he was clever for scheduling a one-off autoworker event, suffice it to say that President Biden has all too easily figured out how to outwit Trump. That’s partly because Trump is senile, and partly because Biden is really good at this.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Will Expand Strikes at Ford and General Motors, Neal E. Boudette, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The United Automobile Workers union said 7,000 more of its members would walk off the job two weeks after it began strikes at the Big Three automakers.

uaw logoThe United Automobile Workers union increased the pressure on Ford Motor and General Motors by extending its strike to two more car assembly plants on Friday, saying the companies had not moved far enough to meet its demands for higher pay and benefits.

The move is the second escalation of strikes that started on Sept. 15 at three plants, one each owned by G.M., Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. The union said it would not expand the strike against Stellantis this week because of progress in negotiations there.

The U.A.W.’s president, Shawn Fain, said workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Mich., would walk off the job on Friday. G.M. makes the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse sport-utility vehicles at the Lansing plant. Ford makes the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

llewellyn king photo logo

 White House Chronicle, Opinion: The Folly of Biden on the Picket Line, Llewellyn King, Sept. 30, 2023. The United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, formerly Chrysler, no matter the merits of the workers’ yearnings, shouldn’t have happened. Once it got going, it shouldn’t have lasted. The White House should have spoken.

Already there is damage. Ford has “paused” plans to build a $3.5-billion battery plant in Michigan. If the strike drags on or if the industry bows to the most damaging demand in the union’s wish list (a 32-hour work week), then the production of EVs and battery leadership will be ceded to other countries. U.S. automakers’ dependence on China — the world ’s top battery maker for EVs — will continue.

The U.S. auto industry is starting its EV surge behind others, and it will suffer mightily if the UAW doesn’t return to work.

In this circumstance, with so much at stake, it would be reasonable to expect President Joe Biden to have both sides closeted at Camp David and to be “knocking heads together.”

The president is the ultimate arbitrator, the one we look to for guidance and to tell us what is best. Yet, instead of bringing both sides together in the national interest, Biden has chosen sides, and chosen to walk the picket line.

Even Steven Rattner, the Democrats’ mechanic when it comes to auto issues, has said this is wrong.

Rattner — whom I caroused with when he was reporter at The New York Times, before he became fabulously rich on Wall Street — is through-and-through a Democrat and one of the party’s intellectuals. In 2009, he authored the rescue plan for the auto industry. At that time, it looked like General Motors and Chrysler were headed for permanent closure.

What was Biden thinking? Why did he abandon the high ground of the presidency?

How can Biden now sit down and bring both sides to the table to negotiate in good faith? He has already declared his allegiance to one.

I believe in the value of unions: guarantors of middle-class life for many. I am not just saying that. I have lived it.

I was once the president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. I am very proud of the financial settlement we got on my watch for reporters and editors at The Washington Post. It was a breakthrough: a 67 percent pay raise over three years.

The newspaper industry was very prosperous at the time, whereas reporters and editors were poorly paid. It was long before the internet would crush the industry, reducing it to its present state of poverty and collapse. We were asking for some of the goodies we had created. There was no danger of The Washington Post moving to China.

Sadly, the unions have been slow to adjust to new realities. They are stuck in a mindset of the days when we were a country of industrial robber barons and industrial unions made sense. Now we are a service economy desperately seeking re-industrialize. EVs are important in that effort.

I ran into outdated union thinking head-on at the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Although we were largely autonomous, we were a chapter of the American Newspaper Guild, our head office.

I had a proposal for simplifying work schedules for editorial staff. My proposal was that editorial staff work three days — 10 to 12 hours a day — and have three days off. My colleagues loved it, The Washington Post management saw it as a solution to overtime and weekend staffing problems. I had seen it work well at the BBC in London, where it was standard practice.

The ANG head office went berserk: It was a betrayal of union history and the “model” contract, written by the legendary reporter, columnist and ANG founder, Heywood Broun, in 1935. In ongoing negotiations with The Post, I dropped the proposal to everyone’s regret. That kind of legacy thinking is what has been killing unions and unionism.

There is a backstory to the Hollywood writers’ strike and the auto workers’ stoppage: artificial intelligence. It will change lives and is a threat to the kind of work unions have protected.

Biden might well have chosen the strikes as a chance to bring about settlements, but also to begin a national dialogue on AI.

Instead, Biden walked a picket line, resolving nothing.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS.

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More On Climate, Environment, Transportation

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What the world would look like without fossil fuels, Shannon Osaka, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.).  What if the entire world stopped extracting fossil fuels? Here’s what it would take to phase out oil, gas and coal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Children Join the Hunt in New Zealand’s War on Invasive Species? Yan Zhuang, Photographs by Tatsiana Chypsanava, Oct. 1, 2023. A contest has exposed tensions over which animals deserve protection, who gets to define humaneness and how children should be taught about conservation.

New Zealand has long waged war against invasive species, a mantle vigorously embraced by the hunting contest, held in the tiny town of Rotherham in June. With no native land mammals, the island nation has tried to eliminate or sharply reduce “pest” species introduced during colonization that harm indigenous birds, bats, frogs, fish, marine mammals and plant life.

While New Zealand has made protecting its unique flora and fauna a job for everyone, the competition exposed a snare of tensions: Which animals deserve protection, and who gets to define cruelty and humaneness? Perhaps most significantly, it stirred up flesh-and-blood questions about how children should be taught the seemingly contradictory concept of killing for conservation — the idea that some species need to die for others to thrive.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battling a Water Crisis: Bottles, Barges and Maybe a Quarter-Billion-Dollar Pipe, Jacey Fortin, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A wedge of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is moving up the drought-drained Mississippi River, threatening public health in New Orleans and beyond.

People in New Orleans are used to preparing for hurricanes and floods. So when they learned of a new threat — an infusion of salty water creeping slowly up the Mississippi River, threatening municipal drinking water supplies — they did what comes naturally: strip bottled water from grocery store shelves.

But this is a crisis with even more lead time than a storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico: The worst of the saltwater intrusion isn’t expected to reach the city until late October. And the salty water could stick around for much longer, potentially corroding the city’s lead-lined pipes.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Jesse Keenan, a climate adaptation expert at Tulane University.

The crisis is a result of drought conditions in the Midwest, which have sapped water levels in the Mississippi, allowing salty water from the Gulf to creep upstream beneath a freshwater layer.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the “saltwater wedge,” which has already affected communities downstream, could reach water treatment plants near New Orleans in about a month, pushing the salty water into household faucets. About a million people across southeastern Louisiana could be affected.

Bottled water was scarce on store shelves in southeastern Louisiana, including at Fremin’s Food Market in Port Sulphur. It’s unclear how long the saltwater intrusion could last.Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Three jugs of distilled water on otherwise empty store shelves.

Officials are working to slow the influx by strengthening an underwater sill, or levee, at the bottom of the Mississippi, and preparing to ship tens of millions of gallons of fresh water from upstream by barge to affected treatment facilities on a daily basis.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Invasive Mosquito Threatens Catastrophe in Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Tiksa Negeri, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A malaria-carrying species that thrives in urban areas and resists all insecticides is causing outbreaks in places that have rarely faced the disease.

At its center is Anopheles stephensi, a malaria-carrying species of mosquito that arrived in the port city of the tiny East African nation of Djibouti a decade ago and was largely ignored by public health officials. It is resistant to all insecticides and has adapted to thrive in urban environments and survive in dry seasons. It is now breeding in locations across the center of the continent, and entomologists say further spread is inevitable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mosquitoes are a growing threat to public health, reversing years of progress, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Climate change and the rapid evolution of the insect have helped drive up malaria deaths and brought dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses to places that never had to worry about them.

  • New York Times, Insecticides can’t stop these mosquitoes. Now what? Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, With Climate Change, Smaller Storms Are Growing More Fearsome, More Often, Hilary Howard, Sept. 30, 2023. The storm that produced vast flooding in New York City started out as an unremarkable, if unpredictable, weather system.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Crypto Currency

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Measure Favored by the Fed Cooled in August, Jeanna Smialek, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation on Friday, when a key inflation measure continued to slow, the latest evidence that a return to normal after the pandemic and higher interest rates are combining to wrestle rapid price increases back to a more normal pace.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, which the central bank uses to define its 2 percent inflation goal, rose slightly more quickly last month as higher gas prices gave it a boost. It rose 3.5 percent in August from a year earlier, up from 3.4 percent in July.

But after stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which are volatile, a “core” inflation measure that Fed officials watch closely is beginning to cool notably. That measure picked up 3.9 percent from a year earlier, which was down from 4.3 percent in July. Compared with the previous month, it climbed 0.1 percent, a very muted pace.

It’s the latest encouraging sign for Fed policymakers, who have been raising interest rates since March 2022 in a campaign to slow the economy and cool price increases. While economic momentum has held up better than expected, a less ebullient housing market and a grinding return to normalcy in the car market have helped key prices — like automobile and rents — to fade.

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U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Navy Will Start Testing SEALs for Illicit Drug Use, Dave Philipps, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The SEALs will face random screening for performance-enhancing drugs, believed to be widely abused in the ranks.

For generations, the Navy SEALs have attracted top athletes who compete for slots on elite teams and take on harrowing missions, but never in all those years did the Navy regularly test the force for illicit steroids and other drugs that could boost performance. Now that is about to change.

Naval Special Warfare, which oversees the SEALs, announced on Friday that it would begin force-wide random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, or P.E.D.s, starting in November. It is the first time that any U.S. military special operations group has tried to regularly screen all of its members for doping.

The move comes more than a year after the death of a sailor in the SEALs’ grueling selection course revealed the use of steroids and other banned substances among SEAL candidates. In the aftermath, Naval Special Warfare began for the first time to test all students at the course.

This week, in a surprising and sweeping expansion of that oversight, the SEALs’ leadership said it would start testing not just the sailors in the training pipeline, but the entire Naval Special Warfare force of about 9,000 service members, including all SEALs and the combat boat crews who support them.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Edyra Espriella, Updated Sept. 28, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Mexican abortion-rights activists have seen a rise of American women crossing the border to seek abortions — crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

For decades, abortion was criminalized in Mexico and much of Latin America with few exceptions, while in the United States, the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling established a constitutional right to abortion.

Today, Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalized abortion nationwide, making it legally accessible in federal institutions and eliminating federal penalties for the procedure. Twelve of the country’s 32 states have also decriminalized abortion, and activists say they have renewed momentum to push local officials in the remaining states.

By comparison, more than 20 American states currently ban or restrict the procedure after 18 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, with 14 states completely forbidding the procedure in almost all circumstances.

Mexican activists, anticipating the Supreme Court could overturn Roe when it was still weighing the case, began organizing and have established an underground system, sending thousands of pills north and helping women travel south across the border. They say the longstanding restrictions in Latin America prepared them to now handle the influx of demand.

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The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

 

Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, As Covid Infections Rise, Nursing Homes Are Still Waiting for Vaccines, Jordan Rau and Tony Leys, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Long-term care operators have yet to start administering shots to protect one of the most vulnerable populations.

“Covid is not pretty in a nursing home,” said Deb Wityk, a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who lives in one called Spurgeon Manor, in rural Iowa. She has contracted the disease twice, and is eager to get the newly approved vaccine because she has chronic leukemia, which weakens her immune system.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the latest vaccine on two weeks ago, and the new shots became available to the general public within the last week or so. But many nursing homes will not begin inoculations until well into October or even November, though infections among this vulnerable population are rising, to nearly 1 percent, or 9.7 per 1,000 residents of mid-September from a low of 2.2 per 1,000 residents in mid-June.

“The distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccine is not going well,” said Chad Worz, the chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Older adults in those settings are certainly the most vulnerable and should have been prioritized.”

With the end of the formal public health emergency in May, the federal government stopped purchasing and distributing Covid vaccines. That has added new complications for operators of nursing homes, who have encountered resistance throughout the pandemic in persuading people, especially employees, to receive yet another round of shots.

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U.S. Media, Education, Religion, Sports, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Chief Who Ordered Raid on Kansas Newspaper Is Suspended, Orlando Mayorquin, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Gideon Cody, who orchestrated a widely criticized raid on The Marion County Record, was suspended indefinitely, a city official said on Saturday.

City leaders have faced questions about Chief Cody’s hiring in the aftermath of the raids and after The Kansas City Star reported that the chief had left his

washington post logoWashington Post, MSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez won’t cover senator father’s indictment, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 1, 2023 (print ed.). “I have been watching along with all of you, as a citizen and also as his daughter,” she said on her Saturday night show, announcing intent to avoid the appearance of an ethical conflict.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez addressed the criminal charges filed against her father, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), on her show Saturday evening, telling viewers she will not be covering the case — but saying that it deserves coverage.

The senator and his wife, Nadine, were indicted on federal bribery charges Sept. 22, accused of committing abuses of power in exchange for cash and gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Last week, a grand jury indicted U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez,” Menendez told viewers at the beginning of the show, her first on-air appearance since the indictment. “This past week, dozens of members of his own party have demanded his resignation. I have been watching along with all of you, as a citizen and also as his daughter.”

She continued: “I will not be reporting on the legal case. That said, my colleagues across MSNBC and NBC News, they have aggressively covered this story, and they’ll continue to do so, as they should.”

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