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Kamala Harris has a big role in Biden's administration — and a new report may explain why

A new report from Politico this week tried to shed light on a phenomenon many observers have noticed in the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris seems to have a more central and emphasized role in the new administration than is typically afforded to her position — more significant than even Joe Biden's role in the early days of President Barack Obama's first term.

According to Politico, this is completely deliberate on President Biden's part — because he wants to treat Harris better than Obama treated him:

Some aides from his time as vice president say Biden is also trying to avoid early missteps that he believes BARACK OBAMA made in their relationship.
"It's all about how he was or wished he was treated during the Obama years, especially in the beginning," said an aide to Biden from when he was vice president. "To the extent there was rockiness in the relationship it was mostly in the beginning."

It even recounted an early event from Obama and Biden's relationship that painted the picture of a tense relationship:

When Biden said during the campaign that U.S. adversaries would likely test Obama's mettle in the opening months of the presidency, Obama called Biden and told him he didn't need such public tutoring. "I don't need you acting like you're my Henry Higgins," Obama snapped, Biden would tell his aides later, according to former adviser JEFF CONNAUGHTON. (Higgins being the character in the musical "My Fair Lady" who teaches Eliza Doolitte about polite society—yes, we're huge MFL fans.)
Biden's private reaction, he told people, was, "Whoa. Where did this come from? This is clearly a guy who could restrict my role to attending state funerals or just put me in a closet for four years." According to Connaughton's book "The Payoff," Biden concluded: "I'm going to have to earn his trust, but I'm not going to grovel to this guy. My manhood is not negotiable."

It's not clear how accurate this account of Biden's motivations is, or if the version of his relationship with Obama is overly one-sided. But it is clear that the current administration is going out of its way to emphasize that vice president's role — something that happened even before their election. As Politico reported, administration officials frequently refer to the "Biden-Harris administration," even though it's more typical to refer to the administration using only the president's name. The report even notes that officials largely refer to the predecessor administration as the "Trump administration" — and generally, the term "Trump-Pence administration" was much less common.

Harris is frequently seen alongside the president in the Oval Office during public meetings and events, and her views are frequently highlighted by the White House.

One amusing part of the report noted:

PETE BUTTIGIEG's Transportation Department, however, hasn't been as consistently on-message. After Buttigieg's swearing in, the department initially referred to it as the "Biden administration." On Feb. 25, a department press release quoted Buttigieg hailing "the Biden-Harris" administration's commitment to clean transportation, but elsewhere the release referred simply to the "Biden administration." Buttigieg's office declined to comment.

Though the observation may seem trivial, it hints at the real stakes here. Buttigieg wants to be president. As does Harris. And by highlighting Harris's role prominently, Biden may be quite intentionally molding her in the public's eye as his natural successor. This was my interpretation when it became clear the Biden administration would be consistently highlighting Harris's role.

The choice makes sense. Vice presidents often run for president, and they often become president. That is, of course, how Biden — who had previously been unsuccessful in his bids for the White House — came to occupy the Oval Office. So it's reasonable to assume Harris has a decent chance at becoming president someday, and Biden may intend to give her the best shot at reaching the goal. Presumably, he only picked her as his running mate because he thought she'd be good at the job. Making her already seem presidential could indeed be a big help in her efforts, especially since Harris will have to fight against misogynistic and racist prejudice in order to win.

Hanging over all of this, of course, is the undeniable fact that Biden is not a young man. Because of his age, it can't be assumed he'll run again in 2024, or even that he'll be healthy enough to make it through a full first term. Harris may have to take over for him sooner than expected, making it all the more important to ensure there will be a smooth transition if it happens. That's certainly easier if Harris is deeply involved in the everyday work of the president — not shunted to the sidelines like the fictional Vice President Selina Meyer, portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus in HBO's "Veep."

There may indeed be truth to Politico's reporting that Biden is actively trying to be a better president to Harris than Obama was to him. Despite the fact that Biden and Obama were perceived as and often played up the image of being close friends, some reporting has cast doubt on their bond, including a recent story in The Hill that suggested the former president was not enthused about his vice president's 2020 campaign.

But there's a key difference in the Biden-Harris relationship that may make it more congenial than the Obama-Biden partnership. Obama came into office with a huge wave of enthusiasm, but he also faced deep wells of skepticism because of his youth and race. He had picked Biden as his running mate to balance out some of these concerns from the public and commentariat, and perhaps because he falsely thought Biden's own age meant he would have abandoned his own presidential ambitions.

It's not hard to see, though, how this would make Obama guarded around Biden and eager to put him in his place. Obama likely felt that he needed to prove that he deserved to be where he was, and that meant he didn't want to be seen as relying on Biden.

Biden, whatever his faults, likely lacks any similar insecurity. On the first day of his presidency, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden "felt like he was coming home." After eight years as vice president and decades in the Senate, he thinks being president is exactly where he belongs. Without the self-doubt, it's easy for him to make a prominent place for his vice president.

The most revealing thing Joe Manchin said about his power in the Senate

A lot of people aren't happy with Sen. Joe Manchin.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. As soon as it became clear that President Joe Biden's party would have the slimmest of majorities in a 50-50 Senate, the West Virginian Democrat was transformed into the most influential member of Congress. As the furthest right senator in the caucus from the reddest state of any Democrat, he is the most likely candidate to defect from any of the party's priorities.

Now, he's making trouble for all sides. His decision to come out against Neera Tanden, Biden's Office of Management and Budget nominee, over past mean tweets has threatened to sink her, and many argue it displayed a sexist and perhaps racist double standard on his part. Tanden doesn't have many friends on the left wing of the party, but Manchin has wasted no time in alienating that faction, too, by opposing raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Depending on how negotiations with the Senate parliamentarian fall out, that position could put him on a collision course with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in a stand-off over the COVID relief bill.

Manchin even seemed hesitant to support Deb Haaland as Biden's Interior secretary nominee, a favorite among progressives and a historic choice as the first Native American Cabinet pick, though he has since come around and offered his endorsement.

With all this drama over a single senator, some Democratic critics wonder whether Manchin is even any better for their party than a Republican like Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

But a revealing quote from Huffpost article a few weeks back, when it was less clear whether Manchin would be willing to support Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, should provide an answer to any Democratic allies.

While he wouldn't say whether he supported using budget reconciliation to pass the bill, he repeatedly told reporters: "We're going to make Joe Biden successful."

It's likely the most important and informative thing he's said since Biden's election.

Because it's not always obvious what Manchin's motivation is. He has cast himself as a fierce defender of the filibuster, which usually requires 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate, but his comments fail to make clear how much he really understands about its history or its effects. And while he's cast as a staunch partisan West Virginia, it's an open question how much these considerations drive his day-to-day choices. Do his home state voters really care about Neera Tanden's mean tweets? Why pick that hill to make a stand on over a Biden nominee?

It's not even clear if Manchin, at 73, will run for re-election 2024, when he'll be 77.

Some argue that Manchin just likes being the center of attention, and being the pivotal senator in the Democratic caucus certainly accomplishes that aim. Or maybe he's just genuinely trying to do what he thinks is right from his perspective.

But we should probably take him at his word when he says that he wants to make Biden a successful president. That doesn't mean he won't give his party a lot of heartburn, and that doesn't mean he won't stand in the way of valuable goals Democrats would like to accomplish. He almost certainly will. But if he wanted to undermine Biden, the easiest way for him to do that would be to switch parties and make Mitch McConnell the Senate majority leader again. There's no sign that's happening, though. Love him or hate him, he's a Democrat, and that does mean something to him.

It should mean something to his critics, too. Manchin's most important vote for the Democrats is making Chuck Schumer majority leader, giving the party unified control of Congress. When Democrats are tempted to think Manchin isn't worth it, and he might as well join the GOP, they should imagine what it would be like if McConnell controlled which nominations and which bills got a vote on the Senate floor.

And they should also remember that when it comes to West Virginia, Democrats don't have a prayer for any senator better than Joe Manchin. The state voted for Trump over Biden by nearly 40 points in 2020. Manchin has only survived as a Democrat in the state at a time of increasing polarization because he's a skilled politician who knows his electorate and has built a durable and independent brand. It's quite likely that there's not a single Democrat alive other than Manchin himself who could win his seat.

And without that seat, Democrats would be in the minority. If they're frustrated that Manchin is the pivotal vote in the Senate, there's not really much use in getting mad at him. That would be like getting angry at the sea. Manchin doesn't care, and it won't change the way he votes. He's a West Virginian force of nature. The only hope Democrats have of ending their reliance on Manchin's approval is to elect more Democrats to the Senate in seats currently held by Republicans.

If Manchin makes them mad, that's where they should put their energy.

Legal expert warns the Supreme Court has left a 'ticking time bomb' under American democracy

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to proceed with legal challenges to the 2020 election in Pennsylvania that loomed over the end of the presidential campaign. The state's supreme court had extended the deadline for receiving mail-in votes by a few days, a move opposed by Republicans who correctly feared these ballots would favor Joe Biden over Donald Trump. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, and the question became moot after Nov. 3 when it became clear Biden would win the state whether the late-arriving ballots were counted or not.

But Rick Hasen, a top election law expert, noted that the theory that motivated the challenge to the late-arriving ballots remains a live threat at the highest court in the land, describing it as a "ticking time bomb" in a recent blog post.

The theory in question is called the "independent state legislature doctrine", which relies on a severely constrained reading of the Constitution to conclude only state legislatures themselves have the authority to determine how elections work in their states.

"[T]he court's conservative majority could soon embrace a strong version of the independent state legislature doctrine. This could take state courts out of their essential role in protecting voting rights," Hasen explained in a New York Times op-ed. "It could potentially eliminate the ability of voters to use ballot measures to enact nonpartisan redistricting reform and other measures that apply to federal elections. It could give conservative courts looking for an excuse a reason to scuttle voter-protective rules enacted by state election boards."

Many feared that, had the 2020 presidential election come down to a small margin in Pennsylvania — a result that, in retrospect, was quite plausible — the Supreme Court's embrace of the doctrine could have thrown American democracy into chaos. We hardly avoided that, anyway, and it could have been even worse.

Hasen pointed out in his blog that three of the conservative members of the court — Justices Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — dissented from the decision not to proceed with the Pennsylvania challenges this week. He explained:

None of the dissenting Justices believed that these cases could somehow retroactively affect the outcome of the 2020 election. Indeed, they say it would not, but that the cases, while moot, should still have been heard because they present issues that will return to the federal courts. The main issue is the extent to which state courts, relying on state constitutions, may change rules for federal elections put in place by state legislatures. In the run-up to the 2020 elections, these three Justices, along with Justice Kavanaugh (who did not note a dissent in any of these cases today) expressed the view that the Constitution constrains the actions of state courts in such circumstances (viewing the legislature's power as very broad).

It's not clear yet how committed Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts are to the independent state legislature doctrine, though Roberts has previously signaled support for it. But they decided not to hear the cases at this point in time, likely because they view the issue as moot.

But what will it mean if they adopt the doctrine in future cases? Even more power to state legislatures.

State legislatures in several key swing states are heavily gerrymandered and biased in favor of Republicans. If the Supreme Court establishes a strong version of the independent state legislature doctrine as the law of the land, the GOP will have even fewer constraints to manipulate election laws in their favor.

"So the bottom line is that the independent state legislature doctrine hangs out there, as a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off in a future case," Hasen concluded.


Republicans are making a risky bet — what are they thinking?

Democrats are unified behind a push for a new round of COVID relief spending even as Republicans coalesce in complete opposition.

The polling has consistently shown that a large majority of Americans, including many Republican voters, support the $1.9 trillion package that President Joe Biden has pushed for. Democrats feel they have the wind at their backs, as the budget reconciliation process will allow them to pass the bill on a party-line vote, and they recently won two Senate seats in Georgia by running explicitly on more relief funding.

So why aren't the Republicans more afraid of a backlash if they oppose it?

That's the big mystery hanging over Capitol Hill.

As the New York Times reported, Republicans are trying to message against the bill, calling it the "Payoff to Progressives Act." They're nitpicking at certain parts of the bill that they think they can make unpopular. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal skewering the proposed $350 billion for local and state governments, arguing that they don't need this level of funding and that it will be spent wastefully.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise attacked the minimum wage part of the bill, Politico reported:

"As more people find out what's in this bill — and what's not in this bill — they get more furious," said Scalise, referring to things like a $15 hourly minimum wage, billions of dollars for pension funds and money for public transit and art. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant for liberal policies."

Others agreed:

"What's in it is not going to be popular," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "It's bad politics for them. Because the narrative is that they're liberal, they just spend money like there's no tomorrow, that every time there's a crisis they load it up with spending."

On this front, the parties just seem to completely disagree about the facts. Politico described Democrats as being "agog that Republicans don't see the downside in opposing a bill that polls better than most politicians do."

Democrats have a lot of reasons to think they're right. First, as stated, the bill already polls well. Republicans might hope they can turn that around with a focused campaign, but public opinion is often not so easily malleable. And up until now, prior COVID relief spending has been bipartisan and popular. The public understands that the virus is still a major problem, so it will make sense to most people that the Biden administration is offering more support. And since the bill includes direct spending checks to most families, and it's less likely that Americans can be persuaded that it's a wholly wasteful boondoggle — after all, many of them will be getting benefits personally.

Raising the minimum wage, despite Scalise's warning, is itself quite popular. It may not even end up in the final bill, but if it does, voters will likely connect it to the legislation's broader goal of creating a better economy. And it's not clear why the public will oppose funding for pensions, art, and public transit when it's clear money is going out to support people broadly.

Republicans are also complaining that Democrats are using budget reconciliation to pass the bill, which means they only need 51 votes, not 60, to get it through the Senate. But Republicans used this process twice to push through partisan legislation in 2017, so the complaints are disingenuous. And there's little indication that voters will care about these process arguments, especially if they like the final result.

And yet, the GOP is committed to obstinance. "What you need to focus on is how unified we are today in opposition to what the Biden administration is trying to do," Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, according to Politico.

Since their stated reasons aren't compelling in the face of public polling, is there a better explanation for the Republican Party's opposition? Should Democrats be nervous that Republicans know something they don't, and that the relief bill will backfire?

It seems unlikely. Recent history undermines that GOP's case. With hindsight, McConnell seems to have significantly miscalculated in September 2020. At that time, he has the opportunity to present the Senate with a new relief bill that would've featured more direct spending to American families and other forms of support. The checks would have gone out right before election, and they probably could have helped Trump win re-election. They might have even helped McConnell and the Republicans keep control of the Senate.

But McConnell seems to resistant to learning this lesson. He refused to bring a bill to the floor that would've sent $2,000 stimulus checks out ahead of Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoffs, and the Democrats in the state ran winning campaigns promising to deliver those payments. McConnell now blames Trump for the loss, rather than himself.

Those episodes suggest that McConnell's own ideological leanings may prevent him from seeing the electoral implications of the policy clearly.

And it's also worth remembering that in 2017, the Republican Party focused their energies on two highly unpopular ideas: massive tax cuts for corporations, and dismantling Obamacare, which failed. They suffered mightily for these efforts in the 2018 midterms, when Democrats ran a campaign focused on health care and made massive gains in the House of Representatives, winning control of the chamber.

So perhaps Democrats shouldn't be so worried that Republicans have their fingers on the pulse of the nation and are sensing some burgeoning opposition to big spending bills. Republicans may just not be that good at delivering for a majority of voters, especially since their structural advantages mean they can often win elections even while being less popular than the Democrats generally.

McConnell and the Republicans' strategy of opposition seems to be picking up where it left off 12 years ago, at the beginning of President Barack Obama's term. In a remarkably similar set of circumstances, Obama took over and rushed to pass a large spending bill to help save the economy from freefall.

In that case, no House Republicans voted for the plan. Only three Senate Republicans joined on. By the 2010 midterms, Republicans had delivered their own walloping victory over the Democrats. And indeed, most presidents suffer big losses for their parties during the midterms after their election. So McConnell may feel confident there's little downside to the Republican Party opposing Biden's popular policy. He also may think Biden would get more of a benefit from passing bipartisan bills than if it just passed with Democratic votes.

Perhaps this is true. But refusing to give Biden any Republican support may also clarify the stakes of elections from voters, and could give the Democrats a powerful issue to campaign on in 2022.

Biden may also face more favorable conditions in the next two years than Obama did in 2009 and 2010. First, the economy does not appear to be in as dire straits as many feared. Coronavirus infections are plummeting sharply and the vaccine rollout is making significant progress. Some optimistic projections suggest we could be heading for real suppression of the virus by April; even in the less optimistic scenarios, much of the country should be vaccinated by the end of the summer. If the virus really is brought under control, the economy could snap back to life pretty rapidly, especially with the boost from the coming relief bill. It appears unlikely to suffer the same fate as Obama's stimulus bill, which many economists predicted at the time was too small for the task. Biden's relief bill also delivers support more directly to families, making it more likely to be spent and more likely to be recognized by voters as a result of government policy.

Democrats also paid a price in 2010 for another major policy item on their agenda: Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act, as it is also known, sparked confusion, fear and backlash, which the Republicans weaponized electorally, along with the sluggish economy. The benefits of Obamacare took far too long to make an impact in people's lives for the Democrats to benefit from it electorally in the midterms.

Biden's second priority after the COVID bill, on the other hand, has the potential to be much less contentious. He wants to spend trillions more on infrastructure across the country — another hugely popular idea. While there may be downsides to his plan, and Republicans will try to rally against it, infrastructure lacks the fraught tradeoffs that are implicated in any major health care overhaul. Biden may be able to avoid the second-year backlash Obama wrestled with.

Even despite all that, Biden might lose his Congressional majorities in the 2022 midterms. Presidents usually do. But with some fortunate outcomes with the virus and the economy, and the right mixture of popular policies that voters can quickly benefit from, Biden might find the key to defying history. And McConnell might come to regret his big bet on opposition.

This is the most horrifying graph of the COVID-19 crisis

For several weeks in a row, COVID-19 in the United States has taken a dramatic retreat, with reports of new infections, new hospitalizations, and new deaths from the virus all dropping significantly from previous record highs.

The COVID Tracking Project recently summed up the encouraging trends:

Nationally, all signs point to continued rapid easing of the pandemic's deadly winter surge. Cases are down 23 percent from the previous week and down 57 percent from the country's all-time peak in early January when the US recorded 1.7 million new cases in a single week. Hospitalization numbers confirm this rapid decline: There are about 77,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US as of February 10, down 42 percent from the country's January 6 record of about 132,000 people. Reported deaths dropped for the second week in a row, with 19,266 deaths reported this week—almost 10 percent fewer than were reported in the previous week.

Still, the numbers are still horrifically high, with thousands reportedly killed every day, even if the trends are going in the right direction.

Some of the recent turnaround in the trends may be due to the fact that people around the country have responded to the reports of the winter surge by increasing mask-wearing and social distancing. Winter holiday gatherings likely contributed to the spike in cases in January, but personal behavior seems to have become more cautious in the subsequent weeks, giving the virus fewer opportunities to spread. Immunity from both vaccines and previous infection may also be playing a role in the decline of outbreaks.

Nevertheless, it's not clear how much the seriousness of the latest wave of the pandemic has sunk in across the country. While the first spike in the spring of 2020 evoked national horror, especially as New York City found itself overwhelmed and struggling to cope with its wave of infection and death, denialism and dismissiveness about the impact of the disease has since pervaded much of the country. This is particularly true on the right wing, led by former President Donald Trump's downplaying of the pandemic. But even among more neutral or left-wing observers, the sense of urgency that was initially so gripping seemed to weaken in the winter, even as the pandemic became more severe than ever. This may not be anyone's fault — one can only maintain shock and horror for so long until the horrors become the status quo — but it may give us a distorted sense of reality.

That's why a recent horrifying graph from ABC News is so illuminating. While we've become accustomed to looking at daily or weekly rates of death — an important measure when assessing the impact of policies and the direction outbreaks are taking — this graph shows the acceleration in cumulative deaths, emphasizing the toll the virus has taken on the country:



The graph clearly illustrates the sharp acceleration of the death toll in the recent winter months, beginning in December. According to Worldometer, more than 500,000 people have now been reported dead because of COVID-19, more than double the White House's worst-case prediction for the death toll of 240,000 in March of 2020.

What's particularly notable about the graph is that throughout the recent acceleration, Trump spent little time focused on fighting the pandemic. After the Nov. 3 election, he turned his attention to contesting Joe Biden's victory in increasingly desperate and dangerous ways (culminating in a historic insurrection that was, among many other things, a superspreader event). All the reporting and his public actions suggest he had little interest in combatting the virus, which he had long seemed bored of anyway. The new administration has blasted its predecessor for leaving behind no substantive national plan for vaccine distribution, leaving the responsibility to the states. As outbreaks accelerated worse than ever before, he was asleep at the wheel.

Denialists about COVID criticized the ABC News graph, claiming that these reported deaths are merely attributed to the virus but likely would have happened anyway. But this is not so. While it will take a long time before the data is complete, initial studies found that there was a significant spike in mortality in the U.S. in 2020 — exactly what we should expect if the coronavirus was as deadly as the experts say. The CDC has similarly estimated that there were a total of about 500,000 excess deaths from February 2020 to the end of January 2021.

USA Today reported last month:

Final figures aren't yet in, but preliminary numbers show 2020 is on track to become the deadliest year in U.S. history, with more than 3.2 million totaldeaths – about 400,000 more than 2019 – a sharp increase that public health experts attribute to COVID-19 and aligns with reported deaths from the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,835,533 U.S. deaths in 2019. Before the pandemic, models projected a slightly higher number, about 2.9 million deaths, for 2020, said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
It's not a coincidence, he said, that the 400,000 excess deaths closely resemble the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S., which reached 401,796 as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data.

There is finally much reason for optimism. As I reported at the beginning, the virus is in retreat. Vaccinations are accelerating around the country, and the initial studies suggest they should be highly effective at blocking the virus, mitigating disease, and reducing the spread. Still, serious dangers remain. Mutant versions of the coronavirus abound, which may spread more easily or partially evade our vaccines. Many Americans are skeptical of the vaccine and may refuse to take it even when it's available, undermining our ability to stop the virus and prevent more mutant strains from arising.

But even if the optimists are vindicated and the virus's days as a major public health threat are numbered, there's no undoing the damage that's been done. It's a national tragedy that must be reckoned with as such.

Family members' wild letter accuses a Republican who voted against Trump of joining the 'devil's army'

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger made many enemies within his own party by standing up to former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, a break that included voting in favor of impeachment pushed by the Democrats. And on Monday, a new profile of Kinzinger revealed that some of his harshest critics come from within his own family.

The Times obtained a letter signed by 11 of Kinzinger's relatives and sent to his father, as well as other Republican officials in the state. It was written by his cousin, Karen Otto, the Times reported.

In style, the letter was clearly influenced by Trump's own writing — though it included far more religious references than the former president typically employs, unless he is intentionally addressing a religious audience.

"Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!" Otto wrote.

She continued:

We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principles and join the "devil's army" (Democrats and the fake news media). How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the "devil's army" believing in abortion! We thought you were "smart" enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many "so called good people including yourself and many other GOP members. You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so, sad!
President Trump is not perfect, but neither are you or any of us for that matter! It is not for us to judge or be judged! But he is a Christian. (If God can forgive and use King David in the Bible, He can do the same with President Trump.) Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, to just to name a few, of many Pastors who mentor President Trump, know that he is a believer! Obviously, you did not hear President Trump's "Christmas Message" to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be "Born Again"! (To believe in John 3:16) When was the last time you proclaimed your faith Adam? (Oh, we forgot you now belong to the "devil's army.") You won't convince us otherwise with your horrible, rude accusations of President Trump! (To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.) We should list even more grievances against you, but decided you are not worth more our time to list them. We have said enough!
You should be very proud that you have lost the respect of Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Greg Kelly, most importantly in our book, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and us!
It is now most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!
We are not judging you. This letter is our opinion of you!
Oh, by the way, good luck in your fund raising endeavor. We are sure we know there are many other good GOP and Christians supporters that feel the same way we do. Also very disappointed with the many other GOP that have sided with the Democrats. (We should demand our money back!)

View an image of the letter below:

"I wanted Adam to be shunned," Otto told the Times.

The message was a stark demonstration of the force of negative polarization. Because Kinzinger's family hates the Democrats so much, they see Kinzinger's turning against Trump and most of the Republican Party as an ultimate betrayal. What's binding the right-wing together isn't so much shared values as much as the shared belief that the Democratic Party is the ultimate threat. Parallel trends are affecting the political left in the United States, though it's unclear if the forces are as extreme.

"We just fear," Kinzinger said in an interview with the Times. "Fear the Democrats. Fear the future. Fear everything. And it works for an election cycle or two. The problem is it does real damage to this democracy."

Andrew Cuomo lashes out at investigation threat as he comes under fire over nursing home deaths

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire from his political allies after one of his aides admitted that his administration intentionally held back data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths to keep it from the federal government. In a news conference on Monday, Cuomo admitted that there had been a "delay" in the data, though he brushed off the idea that his administration might have engaged in wrongdoing.

"There's nothing to investigate," Cuomo claimed, following threats of a subpoena. He suggested that state lawmakers were inappropriately using such threats to gain political advantage in other matters. "You can't use a subpoena or the threat of an investigation to leverage a person. That's a crime. It's called abuse of process, it's called extortion."

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently came forward to reveal that the governor's administration had been drastically underreporting the number of COVID deaths in nursing homes, which house the most vulnerable populations in the pandemic. Recent data said that close to 13,000 people in nursing homes have died from the virus in New York, according to the New York Times. James found that several thousand deaths had been left out of the initial count. Many people who lived in nursing homes but had become hospitalized for COVID before dying were not reported as nursing home deaths.

James' revelations were troubling enough, but they were compounded when an aide to Cuomo admitted that the administration held back the data because it was fearful of federal oversight.

Now, both Democratic and Republican state legislators are speaking out against Cuomo.

While acknowledging some role in fueling the scandal, Cuomo seemed to suggest that the problem was one of communication, rather than a substantive failing. He said the delay in providing the full information spurred "skepticism, cynicism, and conspiracy theories which furthered confusion."

Cuomo has long faced criticism for his handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in the early spring of 2020. Under his guidance, nursing homes accepted COVID-positive patients into their facilities, which likely allowed the virus to spread further among this vulnerable group, though it's a matter of debate how significant this factor was.


Mitch McConnell condemned Trump for the Capitol attack — but he’s just as guilty

After voting to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did something few were expecting.

He took to the Senate floor and explained why Trump was guilty.

"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," Mcconnell said. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."

It was a forceful, clear, and powerful speech, one that would have fit well among the many widely praised performances by the House impeachment managers. But rather than mitigating McConnell's vote to acquit, it only aggravated the wrong he had done by covering, once again, for Trump. In attempting to strike a balance between voting in Trump's favor and verbally condemning him, McConnell only made it crystal clear that he's just as guilty as the former president.

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. That was true. But on Feb. 13, McConnell — along with many but not all of his Senate Republican colleagues, 43 of whom voted to acquit — were derelict in their own duties to hold Trump accountable.

McConnell's dereliction and betrayal of his office, however, was unique. The excuse he gave for voting to acquit Trump was based on a technicality that he personally engineered.

He claimed the former president is "constitutionally not eligible for conviction," citing the argument made by Trump's lawyers that because the Senate trial occurred after Trump left office, it was improperly held. And he blamed the House of Representatives for this fact: "Donald Trump was the President when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking after McConnell's remarks, eagerly rebutted this claim: "When this distinguished group of House managers were gathered on Jan. 15 to deliver the articles of impeachment, we're told it could not be received because Mitch McConnell had shut down the Senate. And was going to keep it shut down until the inauguration."

She added: "It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the article of impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump."

McConnell even admitted as much in another part of his speech when he said: "The Senate was right not to entertain some light-speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction."

So he essentially acknowledged that it was his choice to force a situation in which he now claims that Trump can no longer be held accountable by Congress. His suggestion that it would've been a "light-speed sham process" to conduct a snap trial after the House passed the article of impeachment doesn't hold up. The House was able to vote quickly to approve the article on a bipartisan basis. McConnell himself said there is "no question" that Trump did what the House accused him of. In another portion of the speech, McConnell called the impeachment power an "intra-governmental safety valve" — an apt phrase. But the point is to use it, and it provides little safety if it can't be used swiftly in an emergency.

An impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding, so it doesn't need to have the traditional level of due process usually afforded by the courts. Congress can adapt its procedures based on the seriousness of the violation in question and the persuasiveness of the available evidence. And McConnell's remarks make clear: he thinks the evidence was decisive. Trump's behavior was "unconscionable," he said, and it threatened to "either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out."

So why not hold the trial immediately? McConnell just didn't want to convict, so he delayed instead. He then used the delay as an excuse to acquit.

The constitutional argument on its own is dubious, even if McConnell weren't the source of the technicality that enabled its use as a fig leaf. Most constitutional scholars reject it, including originalists and conservative thinkers McConnell supposedly adores. And though he argued vehemently in favor of his interpretation, McConnell even admitted the Constitution is "legitimately ambiguous" on the question of trying former officials. Given this admission, McConnell should have, by all rights, let the matter remain settled by the Senate's vote on the question, 56-44, finding that it did have jurisdiction to hold Trump's trial. Instead, despite having lost this vote, McConnell used this separate issue as his excuse for voting on another matter entirely: regardless of jurisdiction, was Trump guilty of the charges laid out in the article of impeachment?

McConnell's speech made quite clear he thinks Trump was guilty. But instead — against his own judgment, and arguably in violation of his own oaths — he declared Trump "not guilty" when the roll was called.

Were McConnell really so opposed to the trial that he thought he couldn't in good faith vote to convict, he could have chosen to abstain from the final vote. He could have even boycotted the proceedings, which would have made it easier for the managers to obtain a conviction — a conviction only requires two-thirds of the senators who are present. Instead of choosing these alternatives, McConnell took a dishonest vote.

These choices on McConnell's part show how hollow his devotion to the Constitution and his cries of outrage about the president's conduct really are. But it wasn't just the games he played around impeachment that should draw scrutiny. His actions prior to Jan. 6 showed he's just as derelict in his duty as the president was.

Even though McConnell on Saturday denounced the "growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth" for inspiring the violent Capitol mob, the Kentucky senator himself had already personally enabled it.

On Nov. 10, 2020, after media outlets correctly projected Joe Biden as the winner of the election, Trump had already declared victory and was launching a wave of frivolous lawsuits attempting to overturn the result. The then-sitting president's refusal to concede despite the clear evidence of his loss disturbed many of his critics, and some of us correctly saw even then that he was plotting a coup. We warned of potential violence.

But McConnell defended Trump's array of legal challenges, despite their clear lack of merit and their role in stoking conspiracy theories and distrust in the election result.

"Until the electoral college votes, anyone who's running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction," McConnell said on Nov. 10. "That's not unusual. That should not be alarming."

He added: "At some point here we'll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states. And the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20. No reason for alarm."

There was reason for alarm, and many of us were correctly alarmed. Not only did McConnell dismiss those legitimate fears, he was defending what he has since called on Saturday the "increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup."

McConnell did recognize Biden as the president-elect after the Electoral College voted in mid-December. But by then the damage was done. McConnell had enabled Trump to spin his election lies for more than a month, and the train was already on a course for disaster. Had McConnell, as the then-leader of the Senate, joined with Speaker Pelosi in congratulating Biden and assuring the country that his victory was settled as soon as the election result had become clear, Trump's doomed effort to stay in power might never have gotten off the ground.

Just as Trump's riling up of the mob on Jan. 6 foreseeably resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol, McConnell's decision to humor the president in November foreseeably gave rise to an insurrectionist movement.

And indeed, McConnell's dereliction of duty goes back even further. He led the Senate through Trump's first impeachment trial at the beginning of 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took over our lives. And he was upfront from the start that there was no way he and the Republican caucus he led were going to let Trump be convicted.

During that trial, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff made a passionate plea that Trump's attempt to induce Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was a gross abuse of power and an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election. And Schiff warned that if Trump wasn't convicted and removed, he would continue to put democracy at risk

"You can't trust this president to do the right thing," Schiff told the Senate. "Not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can't. He will not change and you know it."

But McConnell, along with nearly the rest of his caucus, refused to listen. Even as Democrats said over and over that Trump's crime needed to be punished by impeachment because it was a threat to democracy, McConnell said their objections could be solved at the ballot box.

"If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the President's re-election, they should go out and make it. Let them try to do what they failed to do three years ago and sell the American people on their vision for the country," McConnell said during the first impeachment trial.

It was a disingenuous response, and he knew better. There was a plain warning that Trump was dangerous and didn't care about democracy, but McConnell couldn't be moved. He helped keep Trump in office, only to let Trump attack democracy in a more overt, gruesome, and vicious way. The Capitol was stormed. More than a hundred officers were injured. Five people died during the attack, including one Capitol police officer. Two other cops who responded to the assault died by suicide in the following days.

McConnell correctly said that Trump is "practically and morally responsible" for the events of that day. That's true. But McConnell shares in the blame as well.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: "The Senate's decision does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day. It simply shows that Senators did what the former President failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first."

But this isn't correct. Like the former president, McConnell abandoned his duty to protect the Constitution and fulfill his oath of office. By letting Trump off the hook, once again, McConnell's just as negligent and derelict.

McConnell tried to deflect such accusations by saying others can hold Trump responsible: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

But he also said: "By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement."

That claim is up for debate, and many legal scholars disagree. But if McConnell is right, Trump isn't subject to be held accountable for the acts he spent the speech condemning. If it is true that Trump's acts, reprehensible as they were in McConnell's view, didn't technically violate the criminal law, it would only emphasize why it's so important that the Constitution provides a specific remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. Officials can abuse their power and authority in unique and dangerous ways, and that's why impeachment exists. Through McConnell's actions, the remedy has been vacated. And if Trump does end up criminally charged for his Jan. 6 conduct, his party and supporters would have been better prepared for that eventuality if the Senate had properly fulfilled its duty and delivered a resounding bipartisan vote for conviction.

Instead, Republicans want someone else to take responsibility for Trump.

And regardless of the criminal question, the gravity of Trump's violation demands a constitutional response. It would prevent Trump from even credibly threatening to run for office again and help the country move on. And it would close that dark and dangerous chapter, and potentially allow the Republican Party to move in a healthier direction.

But McConnell, like most of the GOP, is refusing to defend American democracy from a would-be tyrant. He let Trump run wild and tramble over American institutions, cheering him on at certain moments, averting his gaze at others, and eventually throwing up his hands in a feigned inability to use his power to respond as needed. And for that, the minority leader shares in the former president's guilt.

'Smoking gun': House Republican admits Trump made an explosive comment during the Capitol attack

Shortly after day's proceedings in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump wrapped up on Friday, CNN published a new report revealing explosive details that go to the heart of the trial.

Citing multiple Republican House members as sources, including one on the record, CNN reported on a conversation between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that the former president is accused of inciting. During the trial, Trump's lawyers argued that he had no role in the attack, despite his speech urging the mob to "fight" beforehand and the rioters' own comments claiming they were acting on behalf, in addition to other evidence of his intent.

But CNN's report brought forward what might be the most explicit evidence yet of Trump's intent to incite the rioters as he hoped to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes making Joe Biden the next president. It also indicates he was trying to leverage the attack in his efforts to overturn the election.

"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Trump said on Jan.6 in the phone call, CNN reported. It cited "lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy."

McCarthy, in response, reportedly said: "Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?"

At the very same moment, the report said, "rioters were breaking into his office through the windows."

"You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at," Washington Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler told CNN, confirming the account of the call on the record. "That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn't care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry."

CNN continued:

As senators prepare to determine Trump's fate, multiple Republicans thought the details of the call were important to the proceedings because they believe it paints a damning portrait of Trump's lack of action during the attack. At least one of the sources who spoke to CNN took detailed notes of McCarthy's recounting of the call.

This adds to the evidence, which was already substantial, that Trump was using the Capitol attack to pressure Congress into overturning the 2020 presidential election.

"So we have yet another smoking gun," said Norm Onstein, of the American Enterprise Insititue. "Two points. Shows McCarthy's cowardice on impeachment. Shows Trump reveled in the violence."

McCarthy had previously discussed his call with Trump, but not in as much detail.

"I called the president," McCarthy had said. "I begged him to go talk to the nation."

According to a previous report by Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News, the pair "got into a screaming match ... as an enraged mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, according to a source familiar with the episode. McCarthy, one of the president's closest allies in Congress, demanded that Trump release a statement denouncing the mob. Initially, Trump would not agree to do it."

'Smoking gun': House Republican admits Trump made an explosive comment during the Capitol attack

Shortly after day's proceedings in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump wrapped up on Friday, CNN published a new report revealing explosive details that go to the heart of the trial.

Citing multiple Republican House members as sources, including one on the record, CNN reported on a conversation between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that the former president is accused of inciting. During the trial, Trump's lawyers argued that he had no role in the attack, despite his speech urging the mob to "fight" beforehand and the rioters' own comments claiming they were acting on his behalf.

But CNN's report brought forward what might be the most explicit evidence yet of Trump's intent to incite the rioters as he hoped to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes making Joe Biden the next president. It also indicates he was trying to leverage the attack in his efforts to overturn the election.

"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Trump said on Jan.6 in the phone call, CNN reported. It cited "lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy."

McCarthy, in response, reportedly said: "Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?"

At the very same moment, the report said, "rioters were breaking into his office through the windows."

"You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at," Washington Republican Rep. Herrera Beutler told CNN, confirming the account of the call on the record. "That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn't care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry."

CNN continued:

As senators prepare to determine Trump's fate, multiple Republicans thought the details of the call were important to the proceedings because they believe it paints a damning portrait of Trump's lack of action during the attack. At least one of the sources who spoke to CNN took detailed notes of McCarthy's recounting of the call.

This adds to the evidence, which was already substantial, that Trump was using the Capitol attack to pressure Congress into overturning the 2020 presidential election.

"So we have yet another smoking gun," said Norm Onstein, of the American Enterprise Institute. "Two points. Shows McCarthy's cowardice on impeachment. Shows Trump reveled in the violence."

McCarthy had previously discussed his call with Trump, but not in as much detail.

"I called the president," McCarthy had said. "I begged him to go talk to the nation."

According to a previous report by Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News, the pair "got into a screaming match ... as an enraged mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, according to a source familiar with the episode. McCarthy, one of the president's closest allies in Congress, demanded that Trump release a statement denouncing the mob. Initially, Trump would not agree to do it."

This powerful line from a Democrat's speech in Trump's trial actually made Republicans take notice

Much of the argument made by the House impeachment managers in Donald Trump's Senate trial focused on the evidence of his own conduct and that of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But one line from Democratic Rep Ted Lieu of California on Thursday stood out, not because it was about what happened in the past but as a warning about the future.

"I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years," Lieu said. "I'm afraid he'll run again and lose because he can do this again."

He also said Trump "will undoubtedly cause future harm if allowed."

According to NBC News' Sahil Kapur, one Republican said he and his colleagues took particular note of that moment.

"Several of us wrote that down," South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds said. "I think that was a strong statement on his part."

It echoed California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff's warning one year ago, when he led the House managers in Trump's first impeachment, that the then-president would abuse his power again if he wasn't convicted.

Lieu's remarks also stood as a repudiation to one of the arguments made by Trump's lawyer David Schoen.

"Many Americans see this process for exactly what it is: a chance by a group of partisan politicians seeking to eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene and seeking to disenfranchise 74 million-plus American voters," Schoen said on Tuesday, suggesting Democrats fear Trump as a political opponent. Lieu's counterpoint was that he's not afraid of losing to Trump, but that Trump has already demonstrated that he's willing to foment violence when he loses. That's a strong reason to bar him from running for office again.

Watch below:

There's a key flaw in Republicans' complaint about the Trump impeachment case

When the House impeachment managers delivered their argument against former President Donald Trump in Wednesday's session of the Senate trial, it hit with an emotional punch. Viewers at home and many of the senators in the chamber felt the impact of the video, images, and written evidence documenting the vicious attack on the U.S. Capitol and Trump's role in it.

Despite the forceful nature of the arguments, though, few expect enough Republicans will vote against the former president to convict him. So the question wasn't so much "Will the Republicans change their votes?" — though a small handful may be up for grabs — but "How will the Republicans justify voting to acquit Trump given all this evidence?"

Reporters speaking to the lawmakers throughout the day offered a glimpse into their thinking. Though some seemed to stick by the argument, already resolved by a vote of 56-44 on the first day, about the constitutionality of trying a former president, a new line of defense seemed to be increasingly popular.

While Republicans wanted to denounce the actions that happened at the Capitol, they argued that the rioters themselves were responsible for that conduct, not Trump.

BuzzFeed News reporter Paul McLeod reported on Sen. Mike Braun's impression:Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told McLeod of Trump's culpability: "He's had 100 rallies and we have never seen that before. So that's the tough one to be able to link together."


CNN
reported: "Sen. Ron Johnson said he was shaken, but added that he blames the rioters, not Trump."



Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida made similar remarks to McLeod, saying: '"I watched what he said. He never said that somebody should break in. He actually said that people should do this peacefully. Look, this is a complete waste of time."

As the Democratic impeachment managers noted, Trump did at one point use the word "peacefully" in his speech before the Capitol riot. But that word was largely a throwaway gesture. He used the word "fight" around 20 times. This included a demand to "fight like hell." This came after Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, called for "trial by combat." Trump also urged that his supporters "stop the steal" and they can't let Joe Biden become president. He even said: "When you catch somebody in a fraud, you're allowed to go by very different rules."

So it was clear Trump was urging violence — at the very least, it was clear to the insurrectionists themselves, who said, as the impeachment managers pointed out multiple times, that they were acting at Trump's behest.

But the biggest flaw in this attempt to separate Trump from the rioters is Trump's own words after the attack. After 4 p.m., long after the Capitol was breached, Trump released a video on Twitter. Even though it wasn't addressed explicitly to anyone, everyone knew who he was addressing: the rioters who had just stormed the Capitol. And he acknowledged himself that he knew why they did what they did — because they believed the lies about the supposedly "stolen election" that he told.

"I know your pain, I know your hurt," Trump said in the video. "We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side."

The Republican senators know it wasn't a landslide victory that was stolen by Biden. The vast majority of them voted to uphold the election results, and even those who voted against the counting of the votes on Jan. 6, like Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, never bought into the claim that Trump won in a "landslide." So in that video, Trump himself drew a connection to the lie he told — a lie that the Republican senators know is a lie — to the motivation of the attack on the Capitol, exactly what Republicans now want to deny.

In case that wasn't enough, Trump sent another tweet later in the evening about the attack: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"

Again, he acknowledged that the attack happened precisely because of the lies he told. His plea to "Remember this day forever!" suggests he was happy with the result. And not only that, he says clearly that the attack on the Capitol is among "the things and events that happen" when people believe his lies about the election, which means it was predictable. This clearly suggests his incitement of the riot was premeditated and intentional.

All of this is perfectly clear in the public record. But Republicans feel the need to deny the obvious, because their votes to acquit are already guaranteed.

Here's the big problem in Marjorie Taylor Greene's attempt to sweep her dangerous history under the rug

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene faced a vote Thursday that could strip her of her committee assignments in the U.S. House of Representatives. It would be a sharp denunciation of a newly elected lawmaker who had embraced a wide range of dangerous and bigoted conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against politicians, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ahead of the vote, Greene delivered a speech trying to defend herself. But there was a key problem with it. Even as she sought to distance herself from some of the conspiracy theories she has spread in the past, she refused to take responsibility for spreading them and tried to downplay her participation in pushing these reckless fictions. It showed she hasn't grown at all as a person since she first dove into the dark world of right-wing lies disinformation.

She tried to claim the attacks on her statements were about "words of the past" that do not represent her. But she notably did not apologize for, for example, promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, pushing for Pelosi's execution, attacking Muslim members of Congress as unfit to serve because of their religion, or harassing David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school schooting.

Instead, she just tried to turn the page on everything she's done while refusing to be held accountable. And she pretended that her past remarks and affiliations, which were widely known while she was running for Congress, had no influence on her campaign, even though she didn't denounce them at the time.

"School shootings are absolutely real," Greene said, referring to her previous efforts to cast doubts on such attacks. "I also want to tell you 9/11 absolutely happened."

She lashed out at what she called the "Russian collusion" conspiracy theory, trying to draw an equivalence between the pernicious and ridiculous QAnon cult and the investigation into former President Donald Trump and some of his associates. But the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee's own investigation, led by a Republican, found ample evidence to support the concerns that prompted the Russia probe, including the fact that Trump's own campaign chair has undisclosed meetings about polling data with a Russian spy during the 2016 campaign.

This undermined her claim that she had justification to distrust the media and go searching for other sources of information. And the false attacks on the Russia investigation itself are, indeed, a close cousin of the QAnon delusions themselves, as they play into the narrative that there was a deep state effort working to defeat Trump.

Her recent reactions to criticism of her history was also telling. When damning remarks and posts of hers were recently unearthed by CNN, Media Matters, and other outlets, she refused to apologize and instead lashed out. She wouldn't even confirm they were true and own up to her actions, even when reporters had video of her and screenshots of her posts. This is not the behavior of someone who has reformed but someone who is trying to benefit off her own perceived victimhood and further discredit accurate sources of information.

"Will we allow the media, that is just as guilty as QAnon, of presenting truth and lies to divide us?" she said on the House floor.

She even called QAnon a "mix of truth and a mix of lies" — leaving it up to the audience to wonder what part she thinks is true. Even here, it wasn't clear how much she was disavowing QAnon, or just saying that it has been mixed up with some falsehoods, which many believers could readily acknowledge.

This was all part of her refusal to accept responsibility for her own involvement and perpetuation of QAnon, which has ruined countless lives and fueled an insurrection. In a line that attracted a lot of ire, she seemed to place the blame for her role on others, saying: "I was allowed to believe things that weren't true. And I would ask questions about them, and I would talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret."

She continued: "Because If it weren't for the Facebook posts or comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn't be standing here today, and you couldn't point a finger and accuse me of anything wrong."

Not only did she not take responsibility for the harms her embrace of QAnon contributed, too, she indicated that her only regret is that her words can now be used against her.

"Later in 2018, when I started finding misinformation, lies, things that were not true in these QAnon posts were not true, I stopped believing it," she said. "So I walked away from those things."

Business Insider's Grace Panetta pointed out that this was misleading:

Again, covering up the true extent of her involvement in QAnon is not genuinely the actions of someone who shows remorse. And there's good reason to believe that, despite her present efforts to distance herself from QAnon, that she's still a close adherent.

Will Somner pointed out that as recently as December, she was writing favorably about QAnon on Twitter:

And on Jan. 4, the day she was sworn in as a member of Congress, two days before the Capitol attack, she wore a mask that said "Trump won." In fact, he hadn't won, though he was still promoting bogus claims about election fraud and trying to overturn the 2020 election. While many Republican supporters joined Trump in this effort to a disturbing extent, Greene's endorsement went even further than many of those who contested the election. Others tried to play both sides of the fence, raising vague or technical "concerns" about the election, but Greene's message was unambiguous: Trump had won. This delusional belief, promoted by the president himself, was also widely believed by the QAnon crowd and played into the deadly attack on Congress. So despite Greene's claim that she's being targeted for things she did before joining the House, her actions and comments are part of a dangerous pattern that continue to the present day.

Watch her comments below:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Complete Floor Remarks www.youtube.com

Pro-Trump faction in the House GOP suffers humiliating blow in a secret ballot

On Wednesday night, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney survived a secret ballot vote in the House GOP caucus, allowing her to keep her position as third highest-ranking member of its leadership. Only 61 Republican members voted to remove her from her leadership role, with 141 voting in favor of her staying in place, a significant blow for the pro-Trump faction of the party that sought to punish her for voting to impeach the former president.

Among the most vocal of Cheney's critics was Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who had recently traveled to Wyoming to campaign against her. He had confidently boasted about having enough votes to oust her from leadership, suggesting the plan would only fail if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blocked the effort.

"My concern is that though today, we have the votes to remove Liz Cheney, somehow the establishment's going to find a way to kick the question, avoid a vote," he had said.

After the vote, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also voted in favor of impeaching Trump, mocked Gaetz's comments: "No we voted. You were just wrong by like, a huuuuuge margin."

Notably, the vote in the House caucus was close to the mirror image of the vote to reject President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. In total, 147 House Republicans had voted in favor of objections to Congress's counting of some of Biden's votes on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, even after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the process.

Because the vote on Cheney was a secret ballot, one might infer that the genuinely and aggressively pro-Trump faction of the House GOP is smaller than it appeared. When members were voting on whether to overturn the 2020 election, they knew the public and their voters could be paying attention, so most sided with Trump. But when they knew their individual vote would not be recorded, and thus they could feel freer to just vote the way they preferred, they voted to keep a member of their leadership that had voted to impeach the former president. It raises an interesting, if unknowable, question: How many more Republicans would have voted to impeach Trump if that vote had been conducted via a secret ballot? (Only ten Republicans, including Cheney and Kinzinger, joined the Democrats to impeach Trump.)

CNN had reported that Trump himself, who recently met with McCarthy in an effort to reaffirm their alliance, hoped to see Cheney go down. He will likely be disappointed by the result of the vote on Wednesday, indicating his grip on the party is weaker than he thought. He could interpret the vote as an intraparty referendum on his own standing, and the outcome was not favorable.

On the other hand, it's not clear how much of a problem it actually poses for him. Most politicians' actions are done in public, not by secret ballot. And if a majority of GOP lawmakers continue to support Trump and endorse his having a major role in the party going forward only to please their own voters, that's probably good enough for him.

But a clear repudiation of Cheney would've been a big boost to his ego and a public demonstration of his sway over the party. Getting denied that is certainly a loss for the ex-president and his allies, if only for now.

'The enemy is within': Democrats are increasingly alarmed at the threat posed by GOP lawmakers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave chilling remarks on Thursday during her briefing with the press.

"The enemy is within the House of Representatives," she said.

She indicated that Congress will likely need to fund more security services for its members, given the threat posed.

"It shouldn't be that not only is the president of the United States inciting and insurrection but keeps fanning the flames, endangering the security of members of Congress, to the point where they're even concerned about members of Congress being a danger to them," she said.

When asked to further explain what she meant, she said: "We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress."

She didn't specify who she was talking about, but she may have been referring to Republican Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. CNN recently reported that Greene "repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress."

Among those she targeted was Pelosi herself. Greene once "liked" a Facebook post saying Pelosi should get a "bullet in the head" and accused the speaker of "treason," which she emphasized was punishable by execution. She also reportedly said in 2019 that Pelosi will "suffer death or she'll be in prison." CNN noted that Greene seemed to consistently omit any reference to a trial.

Instead of apologizing for these comments, Greene lashed out at "Fake News CNN" and called the article a "hit piece on me focused on my time before running for political office." Media Matters also recently reported that in 2018, Greene posted a bizarre conspiracy theory suggesting that a space laser was the cause of California wildfires, events she linked to Rothschild & Co, a frequent subject of anti-Semitic fictions.

Others have criticized GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who stoked the flames ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, declaring that it was "1776," a common citation for the insurrectionists. During the attack itself, Boebert tweeted out the fact that Pelosi had been removed from the chamber, which many argued could have endangered the speaker. Boebert has also insisted that she wants to carry her gun on Capitol Hill.

Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California is pushing to have Greene removed from Congress, a longshot gambit, citing the her threatening language. He appeared on MSNBC Thursday night with Chris Hayes, arguing that the threat posed by Greene and others on Congress is real, and that Democrats are taking concrete steps to protect themselves.

"This is a serious moment," he said. "Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy theorist, believes in all sorts of crazy things. But the worst thing is that she's incited crowds in the past to storm the Capitol, to go after Nancy Pelosi. They were chanting 'hang Mike Pence.' And now she's still a member of Congress. So I believe she is a clear and present danger to the members of the House of Representatives just simply for the fact that she's also able to bring a gun to the House office buildings, and she has walked around the metal detectors going to the House floor. There's a strong sense that something worse than Jan. 6 could happen if she continues in office."

Pressed on how serious he was about his fears, Gomez said: "When members are buying bulletproof vests, and getting fitted, across the Democratic Congress, when people are looking at new security measures for their homes, including myself, yes, this is serious. People are deeply concerned. If she said, 'OK, I'm not going to bring my gun to the floor or to the House,' yeah, people would feel better. But that doesn't mean that she can't incite someone."

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York similarly expressed outrage and concern for her own safety in tweets to Texas Republican Ted Cruz on Thursday. She called him out for his role in stoking the bogus stolen election claims that preceded the Capitol attack.

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