Paul Krugman: GOP 'family values' rhetoric is as 'intellectually bankrupt' now as it was in 1992

"Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance, who is seeking the GOP nomination in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, was cynically playing the family values card when he railed against the "childless left" during a speech on Friday night, July 23 — and he even mentioned some Democrats by name. Liberal economist Paul Krugman has responded to Vance's speech in his July 26 column for the New York Times, stressing that Republican "family values" rhetoric is as empty and vacuous in 2021 as it was when the GOP made "family values" the theme of the 1992 Republican National Convention.

Vance was speaking at an event hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Democrats he singled out as examples of the "childless" trend in the U.S. included Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City. And Vance praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — a far-right authoritarian — for encouraging more procreation in his country. Booker and AOC, reporter Martin Pengelly noted in The Guardian, don't have any children. Harris has two stepchildren with her husband, Doug Emhoff.

Vance's speech, Krugman writes, brought back memories of the GOP's "family values" rhetoric of 1992.

"For a few weeks in 1992," Krugman writes, "U.S. politics were all about 'family values.' President George H.W. Bush was in electoral trouble because of a weak economy and rising inequality. So, his vice president, Dan Quayle, tried to change the subject by attacking Murphy Brown, a character in a TV sitcom (and) an unmarried woman who chose to have a child."

Krugman continues, "I was reminded of that incident when I read about recent remarks by J.D. Vance, the author of 'Hillbilly Elegy,' who is now a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio. Vance noted that some prominent Democrats don't have children, and he lashed out at the 'childless left.' He also praised the policies of Viktor Orbán, the leader of Hungary, whose government is subsidizing couples who have children, and asked, 'Why can't we do that here?'"

The Washington Post's Dave Weigel, covering Vance's speech, noted that he failed to mention President Joe Biden's child tax credit — which, Krugman points out, "will make an enormous difference to many poorer families with children."

"It was also interesting that (Vance) praised Hungary rather than other European nations with strong pronatalist policies," Krugman observes. "France, in particular, offers large financial incentives to families with children and has one of the highest fertility rates in the advanced world. So why did Vance single out for praise a repressive, autocratic government with a strong white nationalist bent? That was a rhetorical question."

Krugman goes on to say that "family values" rhetoric coming from Vance and other Republicans is meaningless without economic policies that actually help parents.

"The whole focus on 'family values' — as opposed to concrete policies that help families — turns out to have been an epic intellectual misfire," Krugman stresses. "Dan Quayle, of course, was no intellectual. But his sitcom offensive took place amid a sustained argument by conservative thinkers like Gertrude Himmelfarb that the decline of traditional values, especially traditional family structure, presaged widespread social collapse. The demise of Victorian virtues, it was widely argued, would lead to a future of spiraling crime and chaos. Society, however, declined to collapse."

Krugman cites some specific economic policies that are helpful to families, and they aren't Republican policies.

The economist writes, "When politicians rant about values, or attack other people's personal choices, it's usually a sign that they're unable or unwilling to propose policies that would actually improve American lives…. Doing more to help families with children — with financial aid, better health care and access to day care — is at or near the top of the list. The point, by the way, isn't to encourage people to have more kids — that's up to them — but to improve the lives of the children themselves, so that they grow up to become healthier, more productive adults."

Krugman adds, "On the other hand, yelling at members of the elite over their personal life decisions isn't on the list at all. And when that's all a politician does, it's a sign of intellectual and perhaps moral bankruptcy."

Trump should be very worried about the signals the Justice Department just sent in a new filing: legal expert

In a civil lawsuit filed earlier this year, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California sued former President Donald Trump, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other MAGA Republicans for lying about the 2020 presidential election, inciting the mob that violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 and causing pain and distress to those who were victimized by the violence during the insurrection. Legal expert Ryan Goodman — in a Twitter thread posted on July 27 — lays out some reasons why a U.S. Department of Justice memo issued that day is a hopeful sign for Swalwell's lawsuit and others.

Goodman, in addition to serving as co-editor of Just Security, is a New York University law professor and an ex-DOJ special counsel. In his July 27 thread, Goodman describes the DOJ memo as a "clear-as-day signal that Trump" will "not be shielded from these lawsuits brought by @RepSwalwell, Capitol Police officers, and others for allegedly inciting" the "#Jan6 attack." The "golden words" in the DOJ memo, according to Goodman, are "or any federal employee."

The memo reads, "Inspiring or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the United States Congress is not within the scope of employment of a Representative — or any federal employee — and thus is not the sort of conduct for which the United States is properly substituted as a defendant under the Westfall Act."

The Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988, a.k.a. the Westfall Act of 1988, protects federal government employees from common law lawsuits while they are performing their duties. But it also allows civilians to seek damages in lawsuits.

The DOJ memo, according to Goodman, offers some "other signals" that Trump is "not shielded" by the Westfall Act "from these lawsuits." The memo, Goodman notes, points out that Trump's January 6 rally "was a campaign event." The memo reads, "Candidate Trump, who spoke later that day, put it bluntly on January 6: the rally was about whether 'we win the election.'"





Hoping to get Swalwell's lawsuit dismissed, Brooks argued that speaking at Trump's January 6 rally was "official" government business. But DOJ said that "Brooks' logic goes too far."

According to the DOJ's July 27 memo, "Under his view, it is not clear what limit there would be to his legislative functions; so long as he could point to some desire on some part of his constituency, any purely electioneering or campaign activity would fall within the scope of his office or employment and require the United States to bear responsibility for any alleged tortious conduct."

Reporting on the memo in Politico, reporters Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein explained, "Trump's lawyers have moved to dismiss Swalwell's case against him but have not filed any motions seeking to have the U.S. government take over his defense. His attorneys have declined to explain their rationale."

Lauren Boebert’s casual Nazi reference used 'millions of murdered souls' to score 'cheap political points': conservative

Like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — another far-right QAnon supporter serving in the U.S. House of Representatives — has foolishly compared anti-COVID-19 measures to the horrors of the Holocaust. Never Trump conservative Benjamin Parker, in an article published by The Bulwark on July 27, stresses that these casual references to Nazis show how badly the political discourse has deteriorated in the United States.

The things Greene and Boebert are upset about, mask requirements and COVID-19 vaccines, are designed to save lives — which is the polar opposite of Adolf Hitler's regime. But on July 8, Boebert tweeted, "Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis to Mesa County. The people of my district are more than smart enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don't need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?"

Parker explains, "Another freshman member of Congress, Lauren Boebert, dropped a Nazi reference to mock the Biden Administration's vaccination-education efforts: Once again, (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy is delinquent in policing his conference. He has yet to publicly address Rep. Boebert's tweet."

Parker, a senior editor at The Bulwark, goes on to explain why casual Nazi references were, for many years, "off limits in political discourse" in the U.S. — where politicians had a "rule" that "the first person to compare their interlocutor to Hitler loses the argument."

"If Rep. Boebert were to visit Auschwitz," Parker argues, "perhaps she would feel compelled to apologize, just as Rep. Greene did. If she saw where Josef Mengele, the Nazi 'Angel of Death,' conducted his inhumane experiments on prisoners, perhaps she would understand how grotesque it is to refer to Americans participating in vaccination-education efforts aimed at saving lives as 'Needle Nazis.' Perhaps she would know in her heart that she had used millions of murdered souls for cheap political points."

Parker points out that one of the most famous Republicans of the 20th Century, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, wanted to make sure that fellow Americans realized just how horrific the Holocaust was.

The Never Trumper notes, "It's been 76 years since the end of the Holocaust…. Among the first to anticipate the moral meaning of this moment was Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who in April 1945, ordered the documentation and publication of the horrors of the camps. He wanted to witness the atrocities firsthand so that, 'if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda,' he could rebut the claim."

Parker wraps up his article by stressing that casual Nazi references to score "cheap political points" are an insult those who were slaughtered by the Nazis during the 1930s and World War II.

Parker writes, "The Holocaust used to be out of bounds in political discourse because its enormity shocked the world — at least the free world… When the Holocaust is fair game, everything is Auschwitz, so nothing about Auschwitz is exceptional and worth holding apart. At that point, the memory of millions of murdered innocents is desecrated. But worse, never again becomes: eventually."

Jim Jordan 'may well be a material witness' for the Jan 6. House committee

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was clearly pandering to the Republican Party's lowest common denominator when he picked Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as one of the five Republicans he wanted to serve on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January insurrection — a pick that Pelosi flatly rejected, inspiring McCarthy to angrily respond that if Pelosi wouldn't accept all of his picks, she couldn't have any of them. But Pelosi made a wise decision, given how aggressively Jordan promoted the Big Lie and former President Donald Trump's bogus elect fraud claims. And author Sidney Blumenthal, in an op-ed published by The Guardian on July 27, lists some things that Jordan might be asked if he testifies before Pelosi's committee.

Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

One right-wing Republican who Pelosi herself picked for the committee is Rep. Liz Cheney, who wholeheartedly agrees with Pelosi's decision to keep Jordan off her January 6 committee. Cheney has said that Jordan should be kept off the committee because he "may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6."

On October 20, Jordan tweeted, "Democrats are trying to steal the election, before the election." In light of that tweet, Blumenthal writes, the committee could ask: "What does Jordan know about the creation of the 'stop the steal' myth? Were his statements about a fraudulent election and attacking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its role in 'stealing the election' made in coordination with anyone at the White House or known to them in advance? If he got marching orders, where did he get them from?"

A few days after the 2020 presidential election, Jordan promoted the Big Lie at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that was organized by Scott Presler, a former field director for the Virginia Republican Party. And Pelosi's committee, according to Blumenthal, could ask: "Who funded the Harrisburg rally? What is Jordan's relationship to Scott Presler? What are the communications between Jordan, his staff and Presler?"

On January 11, the day the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement to insurrection, Trump gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Pelosi's committee, Blumenthal writes, should ask: "What conversations did Jordan have at the ceremony with Trump or others about overturning the election and how to defend Trump?"

On December 4, Jordan tweeted, "Over 50 million Americans think this election was stolen." And in light of how much Jordan promoted the Big Lie that month, Blumenthal writes, Pelosi's committee should ask: "Did Jordan coordinate his statements with Trump, the White House staff, other Republican House members, or Trump's legal team led by Rudy Giuliani?"

On December 21, according to Politico, Jordan privately met with Trump and other Republicans in the hope of finding ways "to overturn the election results." And according to Blumenthal, Pelosi's committee should ask: "What was said at that meeting? What were those plans? Was the rally discussed? Was the idea discussed of sending Trump supporters to intimidate and interrupt members of Congress in the certification process? Was Jordan's role on the House floor on 6 January against certification raised at that meeting? What did Jordan say?"

The committee, Blumenthal writes, should also ask: "Did Jordan broadcast falsehoods in order to encourage Trump supporters to come to Washington on 6 January?"

In a January 12 hearing, Jordan claimed, "I never once said that this thing was stolen." And the committee, according to Blumenthal, should ask: "Why, then, did he tweet that the election was being stolen before it had occurred, appear at a 'Stop the Steal' rally and claim that 'crazy things' had changed the vote in swing states in addition to many other statements?"

'Sellout' Ron DeSantis faces backlash from some of his supporters after changing his tune on vaccinations

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a devout Trump supporter, and many pundits have described him as the Republican who would be the most likely to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if former President Donald Trump doesn't run. But DeSantis is now coming under fire from anti-vax extremists on the far right for urging Floridians to get vaccinated from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Politico reporter Matt Dixon explains, "Florida's COVID crisis has wedged Gov. Ron DeSantis between two competing forces: public health experts who urge him to do more and anti-vaxxers who want him to do less. The Republican governor has come under attack from the medical community and Democrats as the Delta strain of COVID-19 sweeps through Florida, turning it into a national coronavirus hotspot."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five new COVID-19 infections in the United States is in Florida. But that isn't preventing the anti-vaxxers in Trumpworld from saying that DeSantis has betrayed the MAGA cause by encouraging vaccination for COVID-19.

DeSantis, according to Dixon, is now "facing a backlash from the anti-vaccination wing of his political base." Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for example, criticized DeSantis during an appearance on the talk show "The Right Side with Doug Billings" — saying, "Don't let political correctness get in the way of health choices." And right-wing radio host Stew Peters called DeSantis a "sellout."

But at the same time, some Florida-based health experts believe that with the Delta variant raging in the Sunshine State, the last thing DeSantis should be doing is criticizing expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci in order to score cheap political points in MAGA World.

CBSMiami.com quotes Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist and leader of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care, as saying, "While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism.' If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."

Mona Mangat, an immunologist in St. Petersburg, Florida, has criticisms of DeSantis as well. CBSMiami.com quotes Mangat as saying, "At the same time as DeSantis says the vaccines are effective — which they are — he's also banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. He has taken away private companies' ability to protect their employees and customers by requiring the safe and readily available vaccine."

Merrick Garland gets warned against making 'a gross error' that would invite 'future insurrections'

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who spoke at former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, is named in a civil lawsuit alleging that he incited the violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol Building that day. Brooks is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the case, insisting that he did nothing wrong on January 6. And Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, this week in her column, argues that Attorney General Merrick Garland should not side with Brooks.

The civil lawsuit that Brooks is facing was filed by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell and also names former President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

At the "Stop the Steal" rally, Brooks urged supporters of then-President Donald Trump to start "kicking ass" in response to Trump's election fraud claims — which had been repeatedly debunked. Swalwell's civil lawsuit alleges that Brooks was inciting the January 6 riot with such rhetoric. But Brooks contends his actions were legally protected.

"On Tuesday," Rubin explains, "the Justice Department and the House of Representatives will file briefs explaining to a federal court whether each believes that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly incited the violent attack on the Capitol and sought to subvert the peaceful transfer of power on January 6. This sounds absurd, but in effect, Brooks is asking the Justice Department to certify that he was acting in the scope of his duties when he tried to overthrow the government."

Rubin continues, "If he succeeds, he would be immune from suit, and the Justice Department would step in on behalf of the government in civil suits arising from the violent insurrection. It would be a gross error and invitation for future insurrections if either the House or Justice Department agreed that Brooks is protected. How can encouraging a mob to disrupt the Electoral College tabulation possibly be within Brooks' duties? That would be akin to saying Gen. Robert E. Lee was acting within the scope of his duties in the U.S. Army when he attacked Union troops. Sedition is not within the scope of any official's duties."

Rubin goes on to make her point by quoting an op-ed by attorney Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law, that was published in the Boston Globe on July 19.

Tribe wrote, "If the attorney general decides to treat such action as merely one way of discharging official duties, then self-government will become a mirage — and those who are guilty of trashing it will have been placed beyond the reach of legal accountability to those they injure…. That would mean that popular sovereignty is dead, and the twin principles that no one is above the law and that every legal wrong deserves a remedy might as well be tossed into history's dust heap."

Ethics expert Walter Shaub, who isn't quoted in Rubin's column, has also been weighing in on Swalwell's lawsuit and the arguments Brooks is making to the DOJ.

In a recent newsletter, Shaub noted, "Here's how this lawsuit could spark serious long-term consequences when it comes to holding political leaders accountable for wildly incendiary speech: Brooks has asked Attorney General Garland to certify that he was acting within the scope of his official duties as a member of Congress when he spoke to the crowd…. If Garland grants this request and persuades the court to agree, the certification would effectively immunize Brooks by dismissing him from the lawsuit and substituting the government as a defendant."

Shaub argues that "if Garland certifies that Brooks was acting within the scope of a congressional representative's duties, he will be legitimizing the incitement of a mob" and sending a "message to elected officials" that "they can act with impunity, even when their actions are inconsistent with the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution."

Rubin concludes her op-ed by warning that if Garland agrees with Brooks, he will be sending out a message that Trump and his allies are above the law.

"We need an attorney general to aggressively pursue facts and bring actions against Trump and his supporters where warranted," Rubin writes. "If not, Garland would have inadvertently affirmed Trump's argument that he was above the law."

'The White House is treated as a black box': Journalist details the curious role of Trump in a new indictment

Tom Barrack is the latest associate of former President Donald Trump to face federal criminal charges. Barrack, who was a senior adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign and chaired his inaugural committee, is accused of working as an unregistered agent for the United Arab Emirates. Journalist Marcy Wheeler discusses the case in her Empty Wheel blog this week, laying out some reasons why she believes federal prosecutors have a strong case against the 74-year-old Trump ally.

Barrack is also accused of lying to the FBI about his communications with UAE officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi.

Wheeler explains, "Barrack was charged under 18 USC 951, which is about working for a foreign government directly. The statute is sometimes referred to as espionage lite, and in this case, the government might believe at least some of the people involved — perhaps Al Malik, who fled the country days after the FBI interviewed him in April 2018 — are spies. By charging 951, though, the government only has to show that the team was ultimately working on orders from government officials without registering, not that someone was secretly reporting to another country's spying agencies. And this is pretty clearly about a relationship directly with UAE."

Federal prosecutors, Wheeler points out, need to show "that Barrack was being directed directly by the UAE government and, starting in October 2016, directly by MBZ."

Wheeler also describes the ways in which Barrack is being accused of lying to the FBI.

The journalist observes, "In a June 20, 2019 interview with the FBI, the indictment alleges (that)…. Barrack lied about whether: (1) Al Malik asked Barrack to do things for UAE, (2) Barrack downloaded an encrypted app to use to communicate with MBZ and other Emirati officials, (3) Barrack set up a meeting between MBZ and Trump and, generally, whether he had a role in facilitating communications between them, (4) He had a role in prepping MBZ for a September 2017 meeting with Trump."

According to Wheeler, "One thing the indictment may have tried to do is insulate the indictment from any executive privilege concerns. Its narrative stops at the White House door."

She continued: "In other words, even though two of the charged lies pertain to Barrack's role in shaping US policy in events that directly involved Trump, and even though comments suggest Barrack successfully interceded, the White House is treated as a black box; no discussions within the White House or between Barrack and Trump appear in the indictment, but they are implied in many places."

And she noted:

It's equally interesting where this might go, which is part of the reason I find the different treatment of Candidate Trump from President Trump in the indictment really notable. This is an investigation that Billy Barr didn't kill and that survived any pardon attempt, which suggests that Barr and Trump didn't entirely kill all investigations implicating Trump (though the Rudy Giuliani investigation already showed that). But there are a number of things — most notably, the Inauguration — that might be implicated here but really isn't part of the indictment.
Merrick Garland's DOJ is not shying away from crimes that directly implicate Donald Trump. But the way they treated the White House as a black box in this indictment suggests significant deference to things Trump did while President.

During Donald Trump's presidency, some of his closest associates faced federal criminal charges — including Paul Manafort (his former 2016 campaign manager), veteran GOP operative Roger Stone, Michael Flynn (former national security adviser in Trump's administration) and Michael Cohen (who was Trump's former personal attorney and "fixer" but is now a blistering critic of the ex-president). Trump granted presidential pardons to Manafort, Stone and Flynn.

Barrack himself may have been pardoned if he had been indicted prior to Joe Biden's inauguration. And Barrack may be vulnerable to future charges — and perhaps interested in cooperating with federal officials — in the reported investigation of Trump's 2017 inaugural, in which he was deeply involved as the chair of the committee.

A 'fake tip line': Democrats are enraged over new details about the FBI's Brett Kavanaugh investigation

It was three years ago, in July 2018, that then-President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the seat that the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy had held since 1988. Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings turned out to be incredibly tumultuous when psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged that he had tried to sexually assault her in 1982 — an accusation that Kavanaugh vehemently denied. Three years later, according to the New York Times, the FBI is disclosing details about the way it handled its probe of Kavanaugh in 1988 — and some Democratic senators are expressing great dissatisfaction.

Times reporter Kate Kelly explains, "In a letter dated June 30 to two Democratic senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, an FBI assistant director, Jill C. Tyson, said that the most 'relevant' of the 4,500 tips the agency received during an investigation into Mr. Kavanaugh's past were referred to White House lawyers in the Trump administration, whose handling of them remains unclear. The letter left uncertain whether the FBI itself followed up on the most compelling leads. The agency was conducting a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that 'the authorities, policies and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply,' the letter said."

Tyson's letter to Whitehouse and Coons was in response to a letter they had sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2019, when the Democratic senators were seeking details about the way in which the FBI had handled its probe of Kavanaugh in 2018.

This week, in response to that June 30 letter, Whitehouse and six other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — including Coons, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Dick Durban of Illinois — requested additional details about that probe.

The report explained:

In an interview, Mr. Whitehouse said the F.B.I.'s response showed that the F.B.I.'s handling of the accusations into misconduct by Mr. Kavanaugh was a sham. Ms. Tyson's letter, Mr. Whitehouse said, suggested that the F.B.I. ran a "fake tip line that never got properly reviewed, that was presumably not even conducted in good faith."

In 2018, many Democrats were highly critical of the vetting of Kavanaugh, arguing that it was rushed and saying that Trump's nominee should have been more thoroughly vetted — especially in light of Ford's accusations and the fact that he was nominated for a lifetime appointment.

When the U.S. Senate voted on Kavanaugh's nomination, the vote came down along largely partisan lines. Most Democrats voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation, but Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was an exception. And conservative Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was slammed as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by MAGA Republicans for voting not to confirm Kavanaugh.

The Democratic senators, in their letter to the FBI this week, wrote, "The admissions in your letter corroborate and explain numerous credible accounts by individuals and firms that they had contacted the FBI with information 'highly relevant to…. allegations' of sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh, only to be ignored. If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all."

Whitehouse tweeted:



GOP's claims of widespread voter fraud thoroughly discredited in new report

In states all over the country, former President Donald Trump and Republican officials, leaders, and lawmakers raised concerns about claims of voter fraud. To make matters worse, multiple attorneys general and prosecutors in various states also echoed the same baseless claims despite not having substantial evidence of voter fraud.

While there were isolated reports of voter fraud, many of those cases actually involved Republican voters casting illegal votes for Trump. Now, a new report reveals how sparse claims of voter fraud have been, undercutting the conservative outcry alleging election rigging.

According to Bloomberg Government:

Prosecutors across the country found evidence of voter fraud compelling enough to take to court about 200 times since the November 2018 elections, according to a 50-state Bloomberg canvass of state officials.
Republican and Democratic election and law enforcement officials contacted in 23 of the states were unable to point to any criminal voting fraud prosecutions since the November 2018 midterm elections.
Despite the escalating claims from former President Donald Trump of rampant misdeeds, nearly all of the instances found by state officials were insignificant infractions during a timeframe when hundreds of millions of people participated in thousands of elections around the country. Yet, misinformation about the topic has become a driving force of political debate.

The publication warns that falsehoods about voter fraud make members of the losing political party more emboldened to resort to extreme measures.

For example, one incident of voter fraud in Seminole County, Fla., led police to one voter fraud victim's own father. At the time, a criminal complaint indicated that the man "allegedly told the police he requested and sent in the ballot in his son's name."

"It was stupid. I was pissed off the way things are going in the country," the man said, according to the complaint. "I voted but it didn't make a difference."

Nelson Bunn, Jr., the executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, noted how expensive litigation can be for voter fraud cases.

"The investigation of claims of voter fraud are extremely time-intensive and expensive to conduct with most not resulting in any case to be brought forward," Bunn Jr., said in an email. "While an important issue, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have very limited resources in good times and the impact of COVID and the resulting case backlogs are now straining these offices and broader criminal justice system even further."

Despite an alarming number of Republicans who have questioned the outcome of the presidential election, there are a select few who have opted to remain on the right side of the law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) was one of them. He resisted Trump's pressure to cast doubt on or overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election in his state.

During a previous interview, he explained how Georgia investigates fraud as he offered a true definition of election integrity.

"We looked into all possible areas of fraud. I was the first Georgia Secretary of State to even look at double-voting. We set up an absentee ballot task force made up of prosecutors to further look into absentee ballot fraud," Raffensperger said in an interview. "People may not like the results. I understand that—I'm a Republican, I was disappointed, too. But at the end of the day those were the results.

"Look at your precinct workers—people that you go to church with, that you see at Kiwanis or Rotary or some service organization. They're the salt of the earth folks that are doing their job," he said. "And you can trust those folks because they have the most important thing in elections: that's integrity."

Kyrsten Sinema is in big trouble in Arizona

Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has recently drawn a great deal of criticism from more progressive Democrats for her opposition to ending the filibuster, and a new poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress finds that two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in her state would favor a primary challenge to Sinema in 2024 if she maintains that position. But the poll raises some questions: how do centrists, conservatives and independents feel about Sinema in Arizona? And how would a more progressive Democrat fare against a Republican candidate in Arizona's 2024 U.S. Senate race?

Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has been adamant in her opposition to ending the filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes for most bills to pass — including voting rights bills such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Democrats have a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, but they don't have 60 votes. Sinema, who was elected to the U.S. Senate when she defeated Republican Martha McSally in 2018, has argued that Democrats will be glad to have the filibuster if Republicans regain the Senate and the White House in the future. And some Democrats have responded that if Sinema and Manchin are opposed to ending the filibuster altogether, they should at least support creating an exception to the filibuster when it comes to voting rights — which Republicans in state legislatures have been attacking with voter suppression bills all over the United States.

On July 20, Brian Burton and Gustavo Sánchez of Data for Progressive cited Sinema's support of the filibuster as the reason why she is, according to Data's poll, vulnerable to a possible Democratic primary challenge in 2024. The poll was conducted from June 28 to July 6.

According to Burton and Sánchez, "These potential primary voters are already revealing the policy priorities and deal-breakers that may decide their vote. Particularly salient among them is the voters' desire to eliminate the filibuster. Among likely Democratic primary voters, 66% have said that they would vote for another candidate who will champion filibuster reform compared to only 22% who would reelect Sen. Sinema should she continue to preserve it. As previously noted, her voting record up to this point would already place her in a relatively weakened position in a hypothetical primary challenge. If she remains steadfast in her resolve to protect the filibuster, regardless of reason, it seems quite likely that she will further push her base towards another candidate entirely."

But if a staunch progressive — someone along the lines of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State or Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — were to defeat Sinema in a Democratic primary in 2024, could that person defeat an Arizona Republican in the general election? Other polling has indicated that while progressive Democrats are critical of Sinema, she fares better among centrists, independents and conservatives.

In 2024, Sinema will not be running a House race in a liberal, overwhelmingly Democratic district in New York City, Seattle or Philadelphia — she will be running a statewide race in Arizona, which was deeply Republican for many years but has evolved into a swing state.

For decades, Arizona was synonymous with the right-wing conservatism of Sen. Barry Goldwater and his successor, Sen. John McCain — a self-described "Goldwater conservative." But Democrats have enjoyed three major statewide victories in Arizona in recent years — first Sinema's victory over McSally in 2018, followed by Sen. Mark Kelly's victory over McSally in 2020 and President Joe Biden's Arizona victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020. Arizona now has two Democratic U.S. senators, which is downright shocking to older Arizona residents who remember how Republican the state was for so long. And when Sinema praises McCain as her political idol, that goes over well with centrists, independents and Never Trump conservatives in her state.

Although the Data for Progress poll indicates that Sinema is vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2024, she fares better in polls that are less progressive. A recent Bendixen/Amandi International poll found that among registered voters in Arizona, those who have a "favorable" view of her include 52% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans.

That poll asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the manner in which Kyrsten Sinema is handling her job as United States senator?" Those who "approve" included 54% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 46% of independents. But when the subject of the filibuster comes up, one finds quite a disparity. Bendixen/Amandi asked, "Do you support or oppose Sen. Sinema's decision to maintain the filibuster in the U.S. Senate?" Only 21% of Democrats supported Sinema on the filibuster compared to 75% of Republicans and 51% of independents."

These are the challenges that Sinema faces in 2024, when she may have to worry about a possible primary challenge from the left as well as how to defeat a Republican if she makes it to the general election.

WATCH: Marjorie Taylor Greene bursts out laughing when asked about COVID-19 deaths

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia recently downplayed the severity of COVID-19's impact on Georgia residents who are young and aren't obese. But Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Tia Mitchell, this week, reminded the far-right Republican congresswoman that not everyone who is getting really sick with COVID-19 is older or overweight.

In Northwest Georgia, a five-year-old child named Wyatt Gary Gibson became infected with COVID-19 before dying in a Chattanooga, Tennessee hospital on July 16, though these kinds of cases are rare. Miller asked Greene if she feels "any responsibility" for spreading false information about COVID-19, noting that "there are children" and "skinny people" who "have died of the coronavirus." And Greene, dismissive of the question, started laughing and told Mitchell, "Gee, you crack me up. You know what, I think people's responsibility is their own."


There are 4 major takeaways from Capitol rioter Paul Allard Hodgkins' 8-month prison sentence

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss sentenced Capitol insurrectionist Paul Allard Hodgkins to eight months in prison for his role in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. The sentence was more lenient than the 18 months that the prosecution recommended, but Moss rejected Hodgkins' plea that the judge not give him any prison time at all. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, a Never Trumper who identified as conservative in the past but believes that the Trumpifed GOP has tarnished the conservative movement, offers four takeaways this week in her Washington Post column.

Moss was quite clear about why he believed that some prison time was in order, telling Hodgkins, "Democracy requires the cooperation of the governed. When a mob is prepared to attack the Capitol, to prevent our elected officials from both parties from performing their constitutional and statutory duty, democracy is in trouble…. People have to know that assaulting the United States Capitol and impeding the democratic process, even if you don't come bearing arms, will have consequences.

Here are Rubin's four takeaways from Hodgkins' prison sentence.

1. The January 6 insurrectionists were not 'normal tourists'

Absurdly, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia has equated the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol Building with a "normal tourist visit." But Moss, Rubin points out, obviously doesn't see it that way.

"This and subsequent sentences for insurrectionists should drive a stake through the notion that the marauders were nothing more than tourists, as Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) falsely declared," Rubin writes. "The disgraced former president's suggestion that these were 'very special' people who posed 'zero threat' is another lie among many. It bears repeating in news coverage that Republicans have continued to spread misinformation about the conduct of these cult members."

2. The Capitol rioters were not Antifa members or leftists

Far-right conspiracy theorists have been claiming that Antifa members attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 in the hope of making supporters of former President Donald Trump look bad. Another ludicrous far-right conspiracy theory claims that Black Lives Matter was behind the insurrection and hired White leftists to attack the Capitol Building. But Hodgkins' eight-month prison sentence, according to Rubin, underscores the fact that the January 6 attack was MAGA all the way. Hodgkins, in fact, was carrying a Trump flag when he stormed the Capitol.

"Moss' sentencing further dispels the MAGA suggestion that the insurrectionists were left-wing protesters — but carrying Trump and Confederate flags?!," Rubin writes. "As defendants own up to their intent to 'overthrow the government,' the attempt to restyle them as heroes or conceal their true identity as White supremacists should come to an end."

3. 'MAGA politicians' who defend the insurrectionists must be called out

Rubin writes, "If the judge can flat-out declare the insurrectionists' malign intent and mark them as threats to democracy, the media should be able to do the same. Reporters should also not hesitate to call out MAGA politicians who continue to revere them. This should include Republicans appointed to the select committee to investigate the events of that day who attempt lie about what happened."

4. The DOJ should investigate GOP lawmakers who aid and abet violent insurrection

In Rubin's view, it's unfair for only the Capitol rioters to face criminal prosecution; the Post columnist believes that Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate MAGA politicians for possibly helping the insurrectionists in some way.

"This is a moment of reckoning for the Justice Department, which to date, has shown no serious interest in investigating lawmakers who may have assisted the rioters or considering prosecution of the speakers at the 'Stop the Steal!' rally, including the former president," Rubin writes. "It would be perverse to investigate, convict and sentence only the minions who did the bidding of the MAGA elite but allow the people who pulled the strings to escape culpability."

'This is different': New report warns of a 'toxic' anti-Biden backlash

Almost six months have passed since Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, and in red states, the GOP is are showing little or no desire to meet him halfway. Journalist Ed Pilkington, in an article published by The Guardian this week, emphasizes that Republicans in state legislatures have been responding to Biden's presidency by moving even more to the right — from voter suppression bills to anti-gay and anti-abortion bills.

"Republican-dominated legislatures have invested in hot-button social issues, aggressively targeting minority communities and other groups for attack," Pilkington explains. "At least 15 states have between them enacted 90 measures to restrict access to abortions — a record number. Thirty-three states have pumped out 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, and five have allowed firearms to be carried without a license in a major loosening of gun laws."

Pilkington adds, "The backlash so far this year has also involved virulent right-wing efforts to suppress the vote of Democratic-leaning demographics, especially people of color. In the first six months of the year, about 17 states have enacted 28 new laws that will restrict access to the ballot box, according to the Brennan Center, and more are certain to follow. The welter of voter suppression measures is not only striking in its own right, it is indicative of one of the great driving forces of this year's seismic eruption of toxic right-wing legislation."

Biden, Pilkington notes, isn't the first Democratic president to face a "backlash" from the right. The red wave of 1994 gave us former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Contract With America during Bill Clinton's presidency; the 2010 red wave during President Barack Obama's first term found the Tea Party gaining considerable ground in Congress. But Pilkington argues that "the accent in 2021 on tampering with and tamping down the vote is a sharp departure from past form, both in its ferocity and in its extremism."

"The new trend is evident not just in attempts by states like Texas to erect additional hurdles to voting that especially affect African American and Latino communities," Pilkington observes. "Most sinisterly, bills have been introduced that would grant state lawmakers the power to overturn the legitimate will of the people in a contested presidential election. They would empower themselves to supplant their own winner — the electoral equivalent of a coup."

Jacob Hacker, a political science professor at Yale University in Connecticut, argues that the anti-Biden backlash on the far right goes way beyond pushing traditional conservative ideas.

Hacker told The Guardian, "This is different. Republicans at state level have moved from pursuing conservative economic policies to pushing measures designed to cripple the opposition and undermine democracy. The Republican Party used to be anti-Democratic; now, it's anti-democratic."

In their upcoming book "Radical American Partisanship," Lilliana Mason (a political science expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore) and Nathan Kalmoe found that 30% of Republican voters in the U.S. believe that physical violence will be justified if Democrats perform well in the 2024 election.

"Just after Biden became president-elect," Pilkington notes, "Mason held another survey of voters and was chastened by what she learned. Republicans who subscribed to the calumny that the election was stolen were far more likely to endorse violence to advance their political goals. If that's the view of a significant chunk of the American people, Biden has a job on his hands."

Trump rages at his former Republican allies in an off-the-rails interview

No matter how much a Republican has done for Donald Trump, the former president can easily turn against them if he feels they have let him down in some way — and that includes former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They all were his targets for an interview featured in Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's new book, "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year."

On March 31, Washington Post reporters Leonnig and Rucker interviewed Trump in person for their book at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. "I Alone Can Fix It" is being released half a year into Joe Biden's presidency; it was six months ago, on January 20, that Trump vacated the White House and Biden was sworn into office. Highlights of that interview can be found in a book excerpt published by Vanity Fair.

During the interview, Trump promoted the false and debunked conspiracy theory that he won the 2020 election — which, in fact, he lost by more than 7 million votes. And Trump believes that Pence let him down by not preventing Congress from affirming Biden's Electoral College victory on January 6, the day a violent mob of Trump's supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building.

The ex-president told Leonnig and Rucker, "The greatest fraud ever perpetrated in this country was this last election. It was rigged, and it was stolen. It was both. It was a combination, and Bill Barr didn't do anything about it."

In December 2020, Trump was furious when Barr told the Associated Press that there was no evidence proving the type of widespread voter fraud that Trump was alleging. As much of a Trump loyalist as Barr had been, he acknowledged that Biden was the United States' legitimate president-elect.

Trump told Leonnig and Rucker, "Barr disliked me at the end, in my opinion, and that's why he made the statement about the election, because he did not know. And I like Bill Barr, just so you know. I think he started off as a great patriot, but I don't believe he finished that way."

Similarly, Trump believes that Pence let him down as well. Pence, in early January, stressed that as vice president, he didn't have the authority to reverse the Electoral College results. But as Trump saw it, he wasn't trying hard enough.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump told Leonnig and Rucker, "Had Mike Pence had the courage to send it back to the legislatures, you would have had a different outcome, in my opinion. I think that the vice president of the United States must protect the Constitution of the United States. I don't believe he's just supposed to be a statue who gets these votes from the states and immediately hands them over. If you see fraud, then I believe you have an obligation to do one of a number of things."

On Capitol Hill, Democrats view Sen. Mitch McConnell as a fierce and unyielding partisan who fights them every step of the way. But Trump doesn't agree.

Thanks in part to McConnell, all three of Trump's Supreme Court nominees are now on the High Court: Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Yet Trump believes that McConnell didn't do enough for him. And ironically, Trump holds a grudge against the Senate minority leader for not wanting to abolish the filibuster. Democrats, during the Biden era, have been complaining that the filibuster is preventing them from getting important legislation passed in the Senate — from a voting rights bill to a commission to study the January 6 insurrection.

Trump said of McConnell, "He's a stupid person. I don't think he's smart enough. I tried to convince Mitch McConnell to get rid of the filibuster, to terminate it, so that we would get everything — and he was a knucklehead, and he didn't do it."

Other Republicans Trump ranted against during the March 31 interview ranged from former House Speaker Paul Ryan to Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The former president told Leonnig and Rucker, "Chris has been very disloyal, but that's OK. I helped Chris Christie a lot. He knows that more than anybody, but I helped him a lot. But he's been disloyal."

How Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 campaign became the blueprint for Trumpism: conservative

When Donald Trump defeated all of the other Republican candidates in the 2016 GOP presidential primary and went on to defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the general election — even though he lost the popular vote — one of the people who was celebrating was paleoconservative Patrick Buchanan, who realized that Trumpism was Buchananism. This week in an in-depth essay for The Bulwark, Never Trump conservative Brian Stewart examines Buchanan's influence on Trumpism, which has replaced Reaganism as the dominant philosophy of the Republican Party. And Stewart argues that Trump has, in essence, turned the party of Ronald Reagan into the party of Patrick Buchanan.

The New York City-based Stewart writes, "Picture this: In a clash and clang of antagonism toward the Republican establishment, a sizable portion of the base of the party congeals around a vociferous, divisive figure…. This rambunctious tribune repudiates both the substance and style of the Republican Party — for decades the vessel for the conservative program — including its vigorous support for free trade and a decent international order…. His speeches infuriate both the Democrats and the GOP establishment, which only cements his bond with the base. Not Donald Trump in 2016, but Pat Buchanan in 1992."

When President George H. W. Bush was seeking reelection 29 years ago, he faced an aggressive Republican primary challenge from Buchanan. Bush won the primary, but Buchanan saw that there was an audience on the right for his "America first" or paleoconservative philosophy — an angry, pseudo-populist mixture of isolationism, social conservatism, protectionism and hyper-nationalism.

Bush 41 had high approval ratings in early 1991 following the Persian Gulf War, and at that point, some Democratic strategists were despairing that they were likely to lose four presidential elections in a row. But Bush's approval ratings plummeted when the U.S. went into a tough recession, and Buchanan tapped into that discontent. So did conservative third-party candidate Ross Perot and Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, who won the general election.

Stewart explains, "Former White House aide to two Republican presidents, Buchanan had grown alienated from the party of Lincoln on account of its core philosophical premises and policy commitments. A quarter of a century before Trump declared his candidacy for the nation's highest office on a platform of 'America First,' Pat Buchanan beat the New York real estate mogul to the punch: 'We will put America first,' Buchanan said in 1991."

Some GOP strategists were furious with Buchanan in 1992, blaming his primary challenge for Bush's loss to Clinton and arguing that Buchanan weakened Bush's campaign. And neocons detested Buchanan's isolationist foreign policy views. But Buchananism still had its followers on the right, and according to Stewart, one of the most famous was Trump.

Stewart notes that a 1990 essay by Buchanan, which was published by the National Interest and headlined "America First — and Second, and Third," seems very Trumpian in retrospect.

Stewart points out that Buchanan used the term "cultural war" during his speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, adding that his rhetoric also included the Trump-like terms "forgotten Americans" and "conservatives of the heart." In 1992, according to Stewart, Buchanan wielded a "pitchfork" that was "fashioned for future use" — and in 2016, that user was Donald Trump, who remade the GOP in his image.

The fact that Trump turned the party of Reagan into the party of Buchanan is not something that Stewart and other conservatives who write for The Bulwark are happy about. Although The Bulwark is a right-wing website, it is vehemently anti-Trump — and many of its writers, from Bill Kristol, Tim Miller and Amanda Carpenter to Charlie Sykes and Mona Charen — cheered for now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Stewart concludes his essay by lamenting that Trumpism/Buchananism is now fully in control of the GOP, and he doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

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