SEATTLE — There’s a well-known Japanese saying, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”Meaning, don’t rock the boat or make waves, or you will pay a price. But last week, my family joined hundreds of Japanese Americans and others to stand up and stick out at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a jail for immigrants.On a wet, blustery Sunday, Feb. 23, national organization Tsuru for Solidarity organized a “Day of Remembrance, Day of Action” at the detention center to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the presidential order to incarcerate 120,000 people of Japanese descent. Speake...
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Trump officials removed '2.7 million' PPP fraud flags from 'the largest corporations' during his lame duck period
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was part of the CARES Act of 2020, was launched under former President Donald Trump in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and continued into the Joe Biden era. Some PPP loans were investigated by federal officials and flagged for potential fraud. But according to a Project on Government Oversight (POGO) report released on Thursday, October 6, the Trump Administration eliminated an abundance of flags during its final weeks in office.
Truthout’s Sharon Zhang reports that according to POGO’s report, Small Business Administration (SBA) officials “eliminated 2.7 million flags between December 2020 and January 2021, as the Administration was in its lame duck period.”
In an article published on October 6, Zhang notes, “Special preference was given to the largest loans, which often also went to the largest corporations. On January 16, 2021, four days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump’s SBA wiped 99 percent of special review flags — which were given out to every loan above $2 million for separate investigatory purposes.”
Zhang notes that according to POGO, the Trump Administration “appeared to have favored the very largest loan recipients.”
“Trump continually gave huge financial favors to large corporations during his time in office — and though most large corporations were exempt from receiving PPP loans, some large corporations managed to skirt the rules and receive loans anyway,” Zhang observes. “Out of the $800 billion given out in the program, flagged loans accounted for at least $189 billion. Because the vast majority of PPP loans — 95 percent — have been forgiven, it’s likely that many of these loans that had previously been flagged have been forgiven entirely.”
“The rest — about 66 to 77 percent — went to business owners and people like shareholders,” Zhang reports. “Many loans went directly to the rich. Several billionaires or companies owned by billionaires received loans, like Republican fundraiser Joe Farrell or Kanye West’s apparel company, valued at $3 billion. One loan, POGO found, went to a hotel owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who is the richest man in the state and a former billionaire.”
Zhang adds, “The loan was worth $8.9 million and appeared to have been flagged eight times by the SBA. Another loan with nine flags, worth over $5 million, appears to belong to a Kentucky hospitality corporation whose annual revenue of $850 million would likely make it too large to receive a PPP loan.”
Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers threatened to bog down his second trial after the U.S. Senate agreed to call witnesses.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) succeeded in getting the Senate to vote, 55-45, to call witnesses for testimony about Donald Trump's actions around Jan. 6, but some Democratic senators, including Delaware's Chris Coons, were concerned about the impeachment trial overshadowing the early days of Joe Biden's presidency -- and Trump's lawyers threatened to do just that, according to excerpts from a new book published by Politico.
"In fact, Trump’s defense lawyers, furious and blindsided by Raskin’s witness move, had vowed just before the vote that if Raskin called even one witness, they would seek to depose at least one hundred of their own, including Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris," reported authors Rachel Bade and Karoun Demirjian. "That meant possibly hours of floor debate about which witnesses were relevant — and possibly days or weeks of testimony that could overshadow Biden’s presidency until late February or March."
Raskin wanted to hear testimony from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) about a conversation she had with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had told her that Trump complained that the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 was "more upset about the election than you are."
Coons, however, did not believe witness testimony would change any GOP senators' minds, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed, although he allowed the vote, and Coons proposed a compromise that would allow Herrera Beutler to submit a written affidavit and then have the defense get a statement from McCarthy.
“I’m not taking that deal,” Raskin said, according to the new book "Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump." “No way are we allowing McCarthy to deny Herrera Beutler’s story without cross-examining him.”
Coons was adamant, saying they would lose Republican votes because senators already had flights lined up for Valentine's Day recess -- which outraged the House managers -- but Raskin was eventually forced to cave because no witnesses had come forward after the Senate vote, although Herrera Beutler was, unbeknownst to them, seriously considering it.
"He had no idea that Herrera Beutler’s staffers, at that exact moment, were frantically reaching out to lawyers, hoping to consult one before she agreed to testify," the authors wrote. "She had even sought assistance from Pelosi’s House counsel Doug Letter, though Letter said he could not help her because he was working with the managers. He never conveyed her interest to Raskin."
Raskin had hoped the seriousness of the insurrection would compel some Republicans to testify against Trump, but he finally agreed to hold the vote without hearing from any witnesses.
"Not 10 minutes after Coons left, Raskin caved," the authors wrote. “'Let’s take the deal,' he said."
Democrats have improved their Senate odds — but here's how Republicans could still pull off a victory
On Friday, writing for The New York Times, Lauren Leatherby and Jonathan Weisman outlined the current state of play for control of the U.S. Senate in the November midterm elections. The upshot is that Democrats are in a better position than they were several months ago, but that there are still clear paths to Republicans getting the 51 seats they need to taking over Senate control — something that would require them to gain only one net seat.
"Earlier this year, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in Georgia, had been considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats as he took on Herschel Walker, a scandal-prone Republican backed by former President Donald J. Trump," they wrote — only for the race to be upended by Walker's abortion scandal. Meanwhile, "A Democratic seat in Arizona may have at one point been vulnerable. But the enduring popularity of the incumbent, Mark Kelly, and the faltering campaign of his challenger, Blake Masters, may put it out of Republican reach." In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is maintaining his lead, if somewhat diminished, against celebrity TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz — and polls also indicate a potential "sleeper" race in North Carolina between Democratic former state justice Cheri Beasley and GOP Rep. Ted Budd.
One place Democrats have not been able to put away their opponent is Nevada, where former GOP attorney general Adam Laxalt has posted margin-of-error polling leads against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — but, they note, he "has yet to open a clear lead" and polls in Nevada have underestimated Democratic strength before. Also an issue for Democrats is Wisconsin, where notorious conspiracy theorist GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is "hanging tough against Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, who comes from the Democrats’ liberal wing and has proven vulnerable to attack, especially on crime."
All this means that Republicans still have a couple of ways they can defeat Democrats for the majority — if a few things go their way.
"Republicans still have plenty of ways to win Senate control," they wrote. "They could beat Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and push Senator Raphael Warnock to a runoff in Georgia. They could overwhelm the Georgia race with cash to rescue Mr. Warnock's opponent, Herschel Walker. They could also pull off a come-from-behind win in Pennsylvania."
"But Democrats have options as well," they concluded. "If they can seal a victory in Pennsylvania and defeat Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see a way for Republicans to take three Democratic seats to compensate."