Matt Gaetz: ‘We will have a government shutdown’ — or he’ll attempt to oust Kevin McCarthy

WASHINGTON — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) isn’t getting his way, so he’s now promising a government shutdown — or else he’s vowing to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy as the GOP leader in the House.

A day after Raw Story found two paper copies of Gaetz’s motion to vacate in one of the Capitol’s public restrooms, the Trump ally is now promising to officially challenge McCarthy’s power unless the speaker agrees to shut down the government.

RELATED ARTICLE: Matt Gaetz motion to remove Kevin McCarthy found discarded in House restroom

“I want compliance. Whether or not Kevin McCarthy is speaker remains in his hands,” Gaetz told reporters outside the Capitol earlier today.

While Gaetz and some other members of the far-right Freedom Caucus oppose a short term measure to keep the government running – known as a continuing resolution or CR – they also oppose McCarthy reaching across the aisle.

Gaetz doesn’t just want spending cuts or, say, more border security — as other Republicans have demanded — the Trump ally wants votes on his pet projects, like term limits and a balanced budget amendment.

Gaetz says McCarthy has a choice: Bend to Gaetz’ will or fund the government relying on the support of Democrats.

RELATED ARTICLE: Raw Story scoop raises eyebrows on The View: 'Motion to dump McCarthy found in bathroom?'

“If Speaker McCarthy relies on Democrats to pass a continuing resolution, I would call the Capitol moving truck to his office pretty soon, because my expectation would be he'd be out of the speaker's office quite promptly,” Gaetz predicted.

Gaetz says a shutdown is now inevitable.

“We will have a government shutdown,” Gaetz said. “And it is absolutely Speaker McCarthy's fault. We cannot blame Joe Biden for not having moved our individual spending bills. We cannot blame House Democrats. We can't even blame Chuck Schumer in the Senate. We were entirely in control of whether or not to be on schedule with single subject spending bills, and we didn't.”

McCarthy hasn’t thrown in the towel yet — though he knows the clock is quickly winding down on the government funding deadline.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (AFP)

“It’s not September 30 — the game is not over,” McCarthy told the congressional press corps earlier today.

Back in January, Gaetz was a part of the once fringe right gang of Republicans who forced the House to vote 15 times on speaker before stepping out of the way and allowing McCarthy to take the helm. Gaetz says he’s now demanding McCarthy deliver on everything he promised at the raucous start of this increasingly raucous Congress.

“While spending is the real thrust of the January agreement, it is not the only element, I also am demanding an up or down vote on congressional term limits. I am demanding an up or down vote on a balanced budget amendment, and Speaker McCarthy has not been compliant with that,” Gaetz said. “He has not signaled a willingness to be compliant, even though those exact things are on a written agreement that Kevin McCarthy, essentially acquiesced to.”

“How much of this is personal?” Raw Story asked.

Gaetz refused to answer.

Upon learning Gaetz circulated his motion to vacate, more senior, conservative, if not alt-right, Republicans were aghast.

“Oh my God,” Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) told Raw Story upon learning two copies of Gaetz’s resolution were left in a public restroom.

Democrats say they saw this one coming from day one of this 118th Congress.

“Well, they laid the foundation, and they've been successful in following it. It couldn't happen any other way. It was destined,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) told Raw Story.

In the House, Democrats are in the minority and have no real tools to force McCarthy to work with them. So they’re left standing on the sidelines as the GOP fights itself while driving the government bus off the proverbial cliff in real-time.

“It's going off the cliff. If they don't get their way, they're gonna shut the government down,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) told Raw Story. “It's really pretty remarkable that they don't want to govern and they don't know how to govern.”

While Gaetz and company now prepare for a government shutdown of their own making, Democrats aren’t smiling.

“What we're looking at right now is a collapse of government,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told Raw Story. “This is not about shutdowns. I think this is historic. I really do. I don't think there's any example of your governing party — so-called – has lost the capacity to do anything. I don't know how this is gonna end up.”

While in one breath Gaetz blamed McCarthy, in another breath he admitted his role — if accidentally.

“I think that it would be a shutdown that we could endure,” Gaetz said. “We would have to own it.”

Matt Gaetz motion to remove Kevin McCarthy found discarded in House restroom

WASHINGTON — Raw Story's Matt Laslo discovered a House resolution regarding the future of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy discarded in the men's restroom under the House floor on Tuesday.

Posting a photo of it to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Laslo explained that it was resting on the baby changing area in the restroom.

"House Resolution: Declaring the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be vacant," it reads.

The upper left corner shows the source of the document is G:M\18\GAETZ\GAETZ_194.XML.

It shows a date in the lower left, September 15, 2023 (11:22 a.m.), as Laslo observed.

“No comment,” is the response Gaetz office has given reporters who called to verify the motion-to-vacate copies Laslo found.

Gaetz often exits House votes out of the Capitol’s east front steps where a throng of network camera crews await. But after today’s lone House vote series — where his fellow House Republicans peppered him with questions about the motion to vacate stamped with his name — Gaetz took the underground tunnel back to his office.

The congressman could not personally be reached for comment.

Gaetz has become one of the key players in the ongoing drama over funding the government, which is set to run out of money — and shut down at least in part — when it does at the end of September.

Gaetz has openly battled with McCarthy this year. Last week, speaking from the House floor, Gaetz accused McCarthy of going back on agreement struck with far-right Republicans who, earlier this year, blocked his path to the speakership for days. Among the points of that agreement: to aggressively pursue the impeachment of President Joe Biden.

Gaetz argued that McCarthy had only taken "baby steps" and "move much faster."

"Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair and let me alert the country," Gaetz warned. "And if Democrats bail out McCarthy, as they may do, then I will lead the resistance to this uniparty and the Biden-McCarthy-Jeffries government that they are attempting to build."

See the image below or at the link here.

Who runs Washington? U.S. senators sit quietly at feet of Silicon Valley billionaires in AI forum

WASHINGTON – Who runs Washington, elected officials or the wealthy donor class?

It seems up for debate after Silicon Valley billionaires were given the dais, mics and taxpayer-funded security details, even as upwards of 60 U.S. senators were forbidden from speaking as they sat like pupils in the audience, scribbling notes during the Senate’s first ever Artificial Intelligence [AI] Innovation Forum.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gushed over the “historic” gathering of upwards of 20 tech CEOs, consumer advocates and ethicists, the bipartisan frustration from some of his Senate colleagues was palpable.

“I’m a U.S. senator and I don't get to ask questions,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) complained to Raw Story upon leaving the closed-door forums. “The people of Massachusetts did not send me here not to ask questions.”

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It sets a “terrible precedent,” Warren contended. While they’re usually worlds apart, some Republicans agree with the progressive on that.

“The whole idea that we'd have like this big show and invite all these folks and close it to press and throw all these limits around it, I just think it's ridiculous,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told Raw Story outside the forum he boycotted. “It also suggests that their opinion is somehow privileged, and we ought to really all be learning from them. What's really going on is they're talking about how to have us help them make money.”

The privilege was unmistakable.

While, say, AFL-CIO labor federation President Liz Shuler was only flanked by a couple staffers, Capitol Police officers shut down three-stories of public hallways in the Russell Senate Office Building – a public building – when Tesla CEO Elon Musk exited.

Senators walk through Senate Office Buildings alone or with a staffer or two. Musk was escorted through the highly secure building flanked by four Capitol Police officers – on top of his three, black suit and tie-donning private security detail – and then upward of 10 stood guard outside as he paused to talk to reporters before taking a Tesla to a meeting he said he had at the FAA.

Raw Story asked Schumer about Musk’s taxpayer-funded escort.

“Did you know Capitol Police were shutting down public hallways for these CEOs?”

“I did not,” Schumer said.

“And is it a good use of taxpayer dollars to have 10 Capitol Police officers escort Elon Musk out?”

“I leave safety issues up to Capitol Police,” Schumer replied.

Schumer quickly moved on to other questions, and requests for comment from the Capitol Police were not returned. But when Raw Story described the scene to Schumer’s fellow New Yorker, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), there was no hesitation.

“America is also an oligarchy. We talk about oligarchy from the perspective of Russia — America has an oligarchy,” Bowman told Raw Story. “What you just described is a clear example of that. Citizens United is a clear example of that. And that's why our H.R. 1, getting big money out of politics and dark money out of politics, is such a priority for us.”

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Other senators were surprised to learn they wouldn’t be able to question the assembled witnesses – including the likes of Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, OpenAI founder Sam Altman, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates – but once informed, they just assumed Schumer gave deference to all the big-name speakers he assembled.

“Oh, well, that might have been a nod to some of the people who are here, so that they would not get challenged,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) told Raw Story.

Still, Lummis was pleasantly surprised by how informative the closed-door AI meeting was, including Musk’s warning to the Senate of the “civilization risk” AI poses.

“Which I was a term that I hadn't heard before,” Lummis said as she flipped through her notebook brimming with her studiously scribbled notes of the private forum. “He said, ‘AI is a double-edged sword and that we have to make sure we nurture the good side of that sword and find ways to address the bad side of that double-edged sword.’”

Lummis, like others, reported being introduced to many new concepts in the forum, like the need for AI audits (“I would have thought, as long as it’s open-source AI, that there's almost a natural audit function”) or that algorithms can reinforce discrimination (“how could an algorithm do that?”).

After missing all three all-Senate AI briefings that Schumer hosted over the summer, Lummis was “really glad” she went.

“I was worried about that, that it wasn’t gonna be worth the time because, you know, there's so many big names and so maybe it was going to be much ado about nothing because people wouldn't say things that were helpful to policymakers. They did,” Lummis said. “It was surprisingly, at least from my perspective, it was surprisingly helpful.”

Many Democratic attendees praised the private forum as well.

“It was pretty cordial. I thought there'd be a lot of sniping, and it really wasn't,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) told Raw Story as he left the the forum after listening to more than two hours of three-minute opening speeches from all those assembled on the dais.

While Schumer hosted the event, one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top lieutenants, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), was also pleased with how it went.

“I think rather than what’s said, I think the fact that that meeting’s occurred at all is probably the most significant,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Raw Story. “Just because those people don't sit down and talk to each other. They're competitors, and so knowing of the interest of policymakers that, I think, will cause some additional conversations and that hopefully will be helpful.”

Even so, Cornyn – who’s seen as a top contender to replace McConnell as GOP leader one day – knows the tough road ahead.

“But the problem is Congress is slow as a glacier at actually passing legislation,” Cornyn said. “And I don't think the technology is going to wait.”

AI surely won’t wait, and Senate critics say today they lost precious time in assessing where they agree and disagree with their own colleagues – an essential information gathering tool if a compromise is ever to be forged in these hyper-partisan times.

“There's no feeling in the room. Everything just passed by. There’s no interaction. No bumping against each other on any of these issues,” Warren of Massachusetts complained.

The other thing is, senators – some unwittingly – surrendered one of their biggest powers at the feet of these titans of Silicon Valley, because not a single tech CEO can commit perjury if they’re never sworn in.

“I'd prefer them all being under oath and testifying. That’s how you do it. We have a mechanism to gather information in Congress, we have hearings,” Sen. Hawley of Missouri lamented. “But if we're not going to do that, at least it should be open to the public.”

GOP lawmaker admits fear that Biden impeachment efforts will backfire

WASHINGTON — At least one Republican lawmaker admitted to reporters that she's worried impeachment efforts against President Joe Biden will backfire against her party.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said:

"I was a little hesitant at first. My understanding is that it gives more subpoena power, or something ... It's a way to get the bank records and you know it shouldn't just be about Hunter [Biden] and James [Biden], it should be about Joe, too, and bank statements and credit card statements. All of the things that could show what was really going on."

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She claimed the wire transfers for Hunter Biden, the president's son, and James Biden, the president's brother, could come "from Communist China."

"It's worthy of an investigation. I think he'll go down as one of the most corrupt people in American history," she said of the president.

She went on to say she wishes that she had more to show the press to prove her claim, "which is why I think the inquiry is important. So, we can get those bank records."

She then said that if Biden did nothing wrong she could show them all of his bank records and credit card statements. Thus far the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees haven't been able to gather any evidence that ties the president to anything illegal. Each time they come up short. The last one was the secure wire transfers that Mace mentioned. Republicans fought for the information from the Treasury Department declaring that it would prove corruption.

It didn't tie anything to the president, however.

When asked if she was worried that the impeachment could backfire, Mace acknowledged, "Always, and I've talked about that. There are risks, particularly to Republicans who won Biden districts or people in purple districts. Um, but this is not an impeachment vote. This is an inquiry, which gives us expanded, investigative power. Like expanded subpoena power."

Official impeachment inquiries require a vote of Congress, which some Democrats have argued Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) doesn't have. Legal analysts are curious how it will play out in court if the House attempts to obtain documents without an actual impeachment that has been voted on by Congress. It could ultimately pressure the GOP to hold a vote before they can obtain the documents they want.

Mace confessed that she doesn't believe the House is at a point where there is enough evidence to pass an impeachment.

"I've tried to be a sane voice, but if we don't show all the evidence to the American people how can they trust us?" she asked.

'Proudly admitting they have no grounds': Senators of both parties voice skepticism of Biden impeachment

WASHINGTON — Senators are mixed on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's launching of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

As Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) explained on Tuesday morning, it isn't actually an impeachment until McCarthy holds a vote on the House floor – and he told the press that won't be happening. Instead, he instructed the House Oversight committee to investigate.

And some in the U.S. Senate admitted that seemed like a waste of time.

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"I'm just wondering if the — threshold or the bar for impeachment seems to get lower and lower every year. It's just something we deal with," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told Raw Story.

When asked about McCarthy not holding a vote, she confessed, "Oh, I hadn't heard that."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) thinks it's a calculated effort to get access to more information than the House Oversight Committee – which has already spent months trying to find evidence of Biden impropriety – has previously been able to garner.

"When are you going to start asking Democrats whether they support using the 14th Amendment to remove Trump or anyone off the ballot for office like they did in New Mexico," Rubio complained, referencing efforts in some states to remove Trump from the ballot, using a constitutional disqualification of those involved in insurrection.

"Maybe we can get some of those questions asked."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said that at least they're doing the work first before they do the impeachment. Republicans have been having hearings on Biden in the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees since the start of the year.

"I think they're gonna do an investigation," Scott said when asked whether there'd be an official impeachment.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told Raw Story that, "Impeachment is such an unfortunate and unfounded distraction. I think there's no evidence that would justify it whatsoever, and it will end quickly."

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"These guys are fundamentally unserious," lambasted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "They're opening an inquiry while openly and proudly admitting they have no grounds. This is what banana dictatorships do, arrest political opponents without any evidence just to harass and intimidate them. So, they're opening an impeachment inquiry even though they admit they have no reason to open an impeachment inquiry. I mean, they're — these are just fundamentally unserious people. As an American, it's pretty sad to watch."

"I spent, you know, much of Trump's first year in office telling my friends why impeachment was not warranted," Murphy explained. "It wasn't until the president used foreign aid to try to advance his political campaign that we had to move forward with impeachment. We had, you know, we had a solid ground, we had a smoking gun transcript. These guys admit that they have no grounds for impeachment. But they've run out of other ideas."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) doesn't believe the impeachment passes the sniff test either. Speaking with Raw Story Tuesday, he explained that the mandate for "high crimes and misdemeanors" hasn't been met. He does, however, support ongoing hearings like the ones that have been happening in the House.

"Questions are legitimately raised and apparently Speaker McCarthy wants to look into it," Romney said.

Raw Story asked Romney about a claim made by House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer's claim that the MAGA base was angry and that they were only doing the impeachment to placate them.

"I certainly don't think you do quid pro quo investigations, but I think that Hunter Biden's misadventures shaking down foreign entities is ugly at best and that the involvement of the president is a legitimate question," Romney dodged. "This is an inquiry, not an impeachment, and an impeachment would be a very different thing. And at this stage, there's no evidence that has been presented to justify an actual impeachment. But an inquiry? That's the first step."

When asked whether politics on Capitol Hill has become "impeachment crazy," Romney said, "Trump brought his impeachments on himself. And in this case, the president and the misadventures of his son have brought them on him."

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) didn't have any positive words for Republicans in the House either.

"I think they need to lead by example and not make the same mistakes the Democrats did," Tillis told reporters. However, he went on to say that the impeachment is for the purpose of finding something to charge the president with. Reporters challenged him on it, asking if looking for dirt would create nothing but impeachments from now on.

"It's becoming more of a vote of no confidence," said Tillis. "The only way you'd get sufficient votes in the Senate to remove the president is to do the homework and assume that you could get 20 Democratic Senate members to agree."

Raw Story pressed him on McCarthy not holding a vote to open an official impeachment inquiry.

"Well, that's, you know, we'll have to decide. It's a potential repeat of what I think were two political impeachments," he said.

"I hope they prove me wrong. I hope they are very thoughtful people that want to get to the data. I hope they spend time to get to it and not take shortcuts."

Bipartisan support for Mitch McConnell staying in the Senate until death

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has evolved — or devolved, critics contend — into an elder care facility.

Just don’t tell (most) senators.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent health episodes, coupled with the rapid decline of 90-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — she’s now wheeled about the Senate and told by aides how to vote — has reignited the age-old debate over, well, age in today’s increasingly elderly Senate.

While senators’ health ailments are dominating cable shows and social media, the debate has barely penetrated the marble walls of one of the nation’s oldest Senates ever.

That’s by design.

“It is an institution that honors old age. Seniority is everything,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told Raw Story after voting at the Capitol on Wednesday. “The Senate is also a place where one person on the first day can do some really big things, mostly based on their ability to obstruct, but that's the way it's built. It does reward longevity, and, consequently, you end up with a lot of older members.”

Indeed, the position of Senate president pro tempore — third in line to the presidency — is traditionally reserved for the majority party senator who’s served the longest, continuously. Committee chairpersons are often, if not exclusively, given to a majority party senator with the longest service on a given committee.

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You also end up with a lot of secrets in an already secretive body. There’s a seemingly impenetrable veil of silence at the Capitol when it comes to lawmakers with failing health.

Seemingly, one of the most enduring bipartisan principles in the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” seems to be that you let your political friends and foes alike die as they please — even if you find them diminishing right next to you as you consider some of the nation’s most critical decisions and cast consequential votes.

When Senate insiders do talk — staffers, in particular — it’s generally in whispers about the lengths some must go to prop up their aged bosses. And it’s not pretty.

‘Out of respect for colleagues’

Six years ago — or one term, according to Senate time — in her piece, “An old-school pharmacy hand-delivers drugs to Congress,”Erin Mershon of STAT News reported that Capitol Hill pharmacist Mike Kim fills Alzheimer’s prescriptions for at least one member of Congress.

That terrifyingly tantalizing admission is news to freshmen senators — “That's pretty wild. I'm gonna look that up and read it,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) told Raw Story — but it’s simply the ways of Washington to senior senators who seem in on the not-so-secret-secret.

“I actually don't want to comment on that out of respect for colleagues,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told Raw Story after exiting a Senate elevator.

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Others shrug off reports of their congressional colleagues being afflicted with debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“We're a representative body reflective of the country. There's probably a lot of people in the workforce that are engaged in all kinds of different medications, whether they're for Alzheimer's, mental health, whatever. That doesn't surprise me,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) told Raw Story on Wednesday while walking next to the underground Senate tram.

Capito serves as a part of McConnell’s leadership team. She was in his office Tuesday night for their regular start of the week meeting.

“He was sharp as ever,” Capito said.

How the ravages of age affect the human body is a congressional drama that’s as old as Congress.

In 1846, former President John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Voters didn’t care. The former U.S. senator from Massachusetts overcame its debilitating effects and was then sent back to Washington, only this time as a member of the House.

That’s where, in 1848, Adams collapsed as he rose in his seat on the House floor only to later die in the Speaker’s Room of the Capitol.

More recently, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) remained in office until his 100th birthday.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) died in office in 2009 at 77.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) died in office in 2010 at 92.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) died in office in 2018 at 81.

Such situations can leave millions of constituents without the active representation of a key, duly elected federal lawmaker — or, in the case of those who die in office, no elected representation at all. Governors work to quickly fill their seat, but they don’t consult voters and often tap one of their political allies, some of whom never seem to leave the seat.

‘Medicine shouldn't be politicized’

These days, the nation’s aged politicians are protected by their aides and most of their colleagues whoplay senatorially-supportive roles.

But every now and again, a lawmaker breaks Congress’ unofficially-official code of silence.

We saw that rarity this spring when Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) had enough ofthe congressional veil of silence after his state’s senior stateswoman, Feinstein, told Raw Story, “I’m not announcing anything” — hours after her office had literally announced she wasn’t seeking re-election in 2024.

As Khanna took to social media to call for Feinstein’s resignation, he showed the public what’s common knowledge in Washington: Feinstein stopped making some of her own decisions long ago.

“It’s time for@SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties,” Khanna wrote. “Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.”

Of course, it would be unethical, immoral and idiotic for a doctor to divulge their patient’s diagnosis without consent. Consent, however, is not the problem when Washington physicians go out of their way to politically protect politicians.

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Glowing physical examinations can transform a physician into a politician. Just ask Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX). He catapulted himself into the U.S. House Representatives after garnering headlines while serving as former President Donald Trump’s White House physician. Politicized medicine is a disease all its own, at least according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The Duke-trained ophthalmologist is one of four physicians currently serving in the Senate. He’s openly questioning Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of U.S. Congress, for reporting McConnell’s showing no signs of a seizure or stroke.

“Medicine shouldn't be politicized, and if you're giving advice on, you know, what someone's potential diagnosis is, really, it ought to be based on the facts. And what I can tell you is that having vacant spells of 30 seconds or more where you’re unresponsive, is not a sign or a symptom of a concussion,” Paul told reporters Wednesday.

Bolstered by the Capitol physician’s report, the 81-year-old Senate minority leader brushed aside health questions Wednesday.

“I’m going to finish my term as leader and I’m going to finish my Senate term,” McConnell told the congressional press corps.

Everything’s … fine?

To many members of the Senate, everything’s fine, even if many read more into McConnell’s health episodes than the congressional physician reported.

“I think people need to actually read his book to understand the guy had polio and polio’s coming back and he's having some serious pain issues,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) told Raw Story just off the Senate floor. “The first time it happened, he was on the floor at 10 o’clock that night having conversations with us. Sharp as a tack.”

At the start of this Congress, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) challenged McConnell’s leadership position, but, like most all others, he’s backing McConnell now.

Support McConnell continuing as leader?

“Absolutely,” Scott told reporters at the Capitol. “Mine was all about how you manage the Congress.”

As for Feinstein?

“Every time I’ve talked to her she’s been really nice to me,” Scott told Raw Story.

In your five years serving next to Feinstein, ever had a good policy conversation with her?

“No,” Scott said.

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In a building built on seniority, members of both parties have already gamed out what the eventual exits of Feinstein and McConnell — and their combined 70 years in Washington — mean for their respective party’s rank and file.

But those whispers are kept far away from the cameras, secure within the bipartisan veil of silence.

While Feinstein checked out long ago, McConnell, who isn’t up for re-election until 2026, seems bent on staying put for at least the next three-plus years.

His colleagues seem fine with that, because, most argue, Kentuckians decided to give him a seventh six-year term back in 2020 — even if voters nationally overwhelmingly support congressional term limits and age limits. Many frustrated voters even support cognitive tests for older lawmakers — something Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has vocally pushed for lawmakers over the age of 75.

In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Haley even suggested 80-year-old President Joe Biden, if elected for a second term, would die before his term was up in 2029.

"There's no way Joe Biden is going to be 86. We all see it. This is about the fact that — you think it it's bad now? This could get so much more worse," Haley said.

Meanwhile, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump would become the oldest person elected president — 78 in November 2024 — were he to win the White House next year.

As for McConnell, many lawmakers just wish he'd get his eyes checked. Because, even as most senators reject proposals like term limits or mental fitness tests, they say Washington’s broken. They just wish those at the top of Washington’s power pyramid could see the ruins they’ve left in their storied wakes.

“It barely functions at all, as far as I can tell,” Cramer of North Dakota told Raw Story. “I think we should get back to some better guardrails.”

‘Massive disinformation and distraction': Dem lawmaker warns of Trump indictment dark arts

WASHINGTON — A quick tick-tock:

Last night at 10:54 p.m. EST, former President Donald Trump was indicted for a fourth time, in a fourth jurisdiction.

Seventeen minutes after the 13 new felony charges were released, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) took to social media and declared it a “WITCH HUNT.”

And before the clock struck 11:30 p.m., House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) declared the two-plus-year investigation a “sham,” even as a sworn grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., unanimously disagreed with the speaker’s assessment.

A senior member of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), says we ain’t seen nothing yet.

“We're going to be subjected to a massive disinformation and distraction campaign by the Republicans. Distort, distract, deflect and dissemble. Those are the tools of the trade,” Connolly told Raw Story. “But I think it's going to be very hard to overcome the facts as they're being laid out in these various indictments.”

While the conservative media machine is following the lead of Trump and his Republican allies in Congress, Connolly says their distortions-to-lies get harder to defend with each new case — not to mention the 91 felony charges now hanging over the former president.

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“They’re all engaged in defending the indefensible. You know, they can rail all they want about a laptop that was owned by the son of the president of the United States, but we've got four criminal indictments in four different locations of the former president and his acolytes,” Connolly says. “And that's pretty compelling.”

Still, even before the indictment dropped Monday evening, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) urged Republicans to defund special counsel Jack Smith, which is something Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), for two, have been pushing in Congress.

Connolly wonders if some Republicans are getting nervous.

“Now, members of Congress, you know, I think many of them crossed the line. Some of them came perilously close to that line, and we'll see what happens with them,” Connolly says.

Of the four Republicans the House Jan. 6 select committee formally referred to the House Ethics Committee — McCarthy, Jordan, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) — the new indictment only mentions Perry.

After all 16 alleged fake electors in Michigan were charged last month, Raw Story exclusively reported Perry — along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) — denied being worried.

“I don’t have any concerns,” Perry told Raw Story.

This latest indictment has the other three lawmakers named by the Jan. 6 select committee — McCarthy, Biggs and Jordan — publicly parroting Trump, even as Connolly says they’re likely singing a different tune in private.

“In some ways, this is the most sweeping of all of the indictments, because it's all-encompassing. It finally points the finger at what, in fact, all of us saw, and wraps a very coherent narrative around it as a massive conspiracy involving lots of people,” Connolly said. “I mean, that's massive. I think it's a big deal. You can't overstate the criticality of this indictment.”

Connolly says they’re mimicking Trump in more ways than one.

“That’s all part and parcel of the attempt to try to dismantle and degrade and demean and dismiss the legal system in America,” Connolly says. “When you can't win your case in front of a jury, then maybe you try to debunk the entire legal system?”

But that’s why Connolly and other Democrats are glad the Fulton County, Ga., trial is slated to be televised — in likely contrast to federal court proceedings, where there are no plans for television coverage.

“It’s necessary for the country to see this, to hear it, to go through this process,” Connolly says. “The public needs to hear the evidence. It's compelling. You know, it's one thing to read a headline and decide you can dismiss it. It's another to be riveted in front of the television and watch the evidence unfold in the courtroom where political rhetoric isn't going to cut it. It's now in a court of law, and you're being held to legal standards. And you're accused of violating them criminally, along with 18 co-conspirators.”

Trump indicted in Georgia over plot to overturn the 2020 election

Former President Donald Trump — the favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — has again been criminally indicted, CNN reported, this time after an investigation into his attempts to interfere with the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

The 10 indictments came on Monday evening with the names of those indicted and the charges, but the indictment itself will not be read aloud.

"Defendant Donald John Trump lost the United States presidential election held on November 3, 2020. One of the states he lost was Georgia," the indictment reads. "Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome ofthe election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts ofracketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states."

The charges, which have been expected for some time, were handed down by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who compelled 75 witnesses — ranging from Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — to testify before the grand jury she convened between last May and December.

“The work is accomplished,” Willis told local Atlanta news outlets at the end of July. “We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years. We’re ready to go.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Prison playbook: How Trump could run his campaign – and the nation – from behind bars

The Georgia indictment is the fourth criminal case brought against the former president — all since March — with two now surrounding the outcome of the 2020 election.

Trump's team allegedly worked intensely to try to overturn the election result in Georgia, which narrowly backed Biden by just over 11,000 votes in 2020. He called Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding that he "find" enough extra votes to reverse the election result.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump is heard saying on the call.

Georgia was also one of several states where a group of Republican operatives, including former Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer, stood as fake electors as part of a plot to have former Vice President Mike Pence throw out the election results during the congressional certification.

Pence did not go along with this scheme after being advised by conservative legal scholar Michael Luttig that it wasn't constitutional.

Portions of the Georgia grand jury report were released this February, including findings that “one or more witnesses” committed perjury. In March, Trump’s legal team moved to have the case thrown out, but just last month the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Trump.

Besides Trump, the investigation also targeted the state’s 16 fake electors who secretly met in the State Capitol in December 2020 to allegedly fraudulently sign official paperwork certifying the election for Trump even though now President Joe Biden won the state.

Beyond Georgia, Trump's other felony charges include those of business fraud in Manhattan brought by prosecutor Alvin Bragg, and a pair of federal indictments brought by special counsel Jack Smith: Espionage Act and obstruction charges for a stash of highly classified defense information kept at Mar-a-Lago, and conspiracy charges related to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In June, Trump pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he mishandled classified documents since leaving the White House. That trial date has been set for May 20, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Then there’s the hush money case centered on payments Trump made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels allegedly to buy her silence in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

In May, a Manhattan grand juryindicted Trump on 34 felony counts tied to falsifying business records, which he pleaded not guilty to. That trial is slated to begin on March 25, 2024.

Even before this new round of charges, Trump was the only former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges, creating a legally uncharted situation in the U.S. justice system.

Republicans on Capitol Hill fiddle while Americans broil or burn

WASHINGTON — It may be so hot out West that President Joe Biden recently forgot whether he had actually declared a national climate emergency (he hasn’t, officially).

But this summer’s record-breaking heat wave has nevertheless had Republicans at the Capitol deflecting and dodging all things climate change related.

Globally, July was the hottest month ever recorded. While El Niño is surely impacting this summer’s heat wave, scientists with research collaborative World Weather Attribution recently released a report that found humans and the fossil fuels we burn share the blame, too.

ALSO READ: ‘They blew up my life’: Fox News, a hidden camera and threats to an Indiana school administrator

“The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason the heatwaves are so severe," the report reads.

At the Capitol, most Republicans don’t even seem to have seen the report.

As for whether humans play a role?

“I don’t know,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Raw Story at the Capitol in July. “I don’t think anybody knows.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

The concern over the record-breaking heat wave is more an East Coast problem, according to at least one U.S. senator whose state generates significant amounts of fossil fuels.

“I think people, especially in the Rocky Mountain West, are used to the rhythms of nature, and people back here seem to dismiss the natural rhythms of nature and blame it on mankind and greenhouse gasses,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) told Raw Story before lawmakers left Washington for their August recess.

For others in the GOP, mention climate change and they go straight to one of the GOP’s new causes: protecting home appliances that emit unhealthy emissions, such as natural gas-burning stoves.

ALSO READ: Fresh off Trump performance, silenced children’s choir to sing at U.S. Capitol

“You can get rid of all the kitchen appliances in America – you can get rid of America and you still wouldn’t be affecting the outcome,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told reporters at the Capitol in July.

In July, the nation’s capital was drippingly hot, which Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) surely noticed.

“It's hot. Hell can’t be a lot worse, but I’m told it’s not humid in hell, but it sure is hot,” Romney told Raw Story at the end of July.

While Romney is one of only a handful of Republicans who supports global efforts to curb carbon emissions, in particular, he still won’t go so far as to say human fossil fuel use is impacting today’s record breaking temperatures.

“I don't know whether what we're experiencing relates to global warming, but we are having global warming and climate change, and I'd be very much in favor of actions that would make a difference in the emissions that are produced globally,” Romney said.

For their part, Democrats such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who chairs the Budget Committee, are using their gavels to hammer home humanity’s impact on the climate.

“It’s the choke chain of the fossil fuel industry, which still is their primary financial support and we’d know even more if the fossil fuel industry wasn't hiding behind dark money,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) tells Raw Story.

As Biden has been touting on his jaunt out West last week, when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Democrats boasted that the nation took dramatic strides toward reducing U.S. emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030 through investing in areas such as clean energy manufacturing and tax credits for clean (or cleaner) cars.

RELATED ARTICLE: Many Maui fire survivors are struggling to find aid even as it pours in

While few Democrats expect Republicans to suddenly see the scientific light (or “consensus,” according to NASA) on climate change, they’ve been disturbed seeing deadly, record heat waves — as well as severe wildfires and potential “above normal” hurricane activity — met with GOP crickets.

At the end of July, while complaining to Raw Story about how House Republicans are focused on election 2024 and not bringing serious measures to the House floor, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said the juxtaposition couldn’t be more stark.

On the one hand, there’s the climate. Then there’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), say, holding up nudes of Hunter Biden and her calling Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) “a little bitch” while dismissing climate change as a “scam,” promoting fossil fuels are “amazing” and declaring carbon emissions to be no big deal.

“There would be certain entertainment value to it, if it were not 112 degrees, 20 days in a row in Phoenix, Arizona, if there were not nine inches of rain in Vermont, and if there were not record drought, and weather calamities piling up, all over the country, the world,” Raskin told Raw Story last month. “These are serious times and they're lurching from antic to antic.”

Watch: Jamie Raskin turns tables on GOP by reading Trump's statements gushing over China Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That said, neither Republicans or Democrats in Congress have this year mustered the political will to advocate for truly dramatic climate-related action.

For example, even the largely symbolic House resolution entitled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” and introduced in April by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has attracted less than half of Democratic member of the House and no Republicans.

The resolution has sat, languishing, in the House Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology ever since.

‘It all came flooding back’: Trump indictment hard on lawmakers left in House Gallery on January 6

WASHINGTON – This week’s indictment and arraignment of former President Donald Trump was something some lawmakers trapped in the U.S. House Gallery on Jan. 6, 2021 didn’t expect to see, but there were no celebrations when the moments arrived. A part of them still mourns.

The first thought to flash through many minds wasn’t of Trump arrested, it was flashbacks of themselves and others facing likely injury and potential death — “hang Mike Pence” still rings in many ears.

January 6 and being trapped in the Gallery with my colleagues, worrying about my staff and all of the staff inside the Capitol and around the campus. It truly, it all came flooding back to me,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) told Raw Story the night the indictment was announced.

Escobar attended most of the House Jan. 6 select committee’s 10 hearings last year, along with a rotating cast of close to three-dozen other lawmakers who were also trapped alongside her Jan. 6, 2021, in the balcony overlooking the House floor.

That includes Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). She says this week’s Trump indictment sent a wave of thoughts and emotions through her that have ebbed and flowed throughout the week.

“For me, it was stunning and shocking. Staggering … Sad for our country,” Dean told Raw Story. “Crazy yet not surprising.”

Congress is in recess for the month of August. While many of the members left stranded in the House gallery — the “Gallery Group,” to some — on Jan. 6 have remained quiet this week, a handful have shared their reactions to Raw Story and on social media.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO)

“I remember consoling my friend and colleague who had just spoken to her family. I remember telling my fellow members to take off their pins so we couldn’t be identified. My Ranger training kicked in and I remember gripping my pen to use as a weapon if necessary.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

“I was in the House Gallery on January 6 as insurrectionists attempted to take over our nation’s capital. Trump urged these actions and then simply sat there as they unfolded, refusing to even immediately tell his supporters to go home. Our democracy survived, but barely.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); chairman of Jan. 6 select committee

“January 6th was a test of American democracy, but the fair trials of those responsible will further demonstrate this Nation’s commitment to the rule of law and hold accountable those who attempted to undermine it.”

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), then a member of the House

“January 6th will be remembered as one of the darkest days in American history. I was in the House chamber when rioters breached the Capitol, and I saw firsthand the devastation of the insurrection. Make no mistake: the tragic events of that day — and the lies and conspiracies pushed by former President Donald Trump and his followers — did tremendous damage to our democracy.”

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH)

“We have an independent judicial system for a reason — to ensure no one is treated with a separate standard of justice. No one is above the law.”

'Watch the trial'

Rep. Escobar of Texas and the others say they’re eagerly awaiting the trial.

“The indictments and a trial are so important. We cannot forget what happened January 6. We cannot ignore it. We cannot give anyone a pass,” Escobar said. “And frankly, the American public needs to read those indictments and they need to watch the trial.”

Still, Escobar fears Trump, who as a 2024 presidential candidate is leading all others for the Republican nomination, damaged American democracy for years to come.

“The fact that there are millions of Americans who are so deeply radicalized by Fox News and by extremist Republicans and by the MAGA movement, that they are willing to look past everything that Donald Trump has done, and that they actually see him as a victim,” Escobar said. “It is shocking to me. It is terrifying to me. Far more than what Donald Trump is doing, what is terrifying to me, is the millions of Americans who cannot see the truth through all the lies that they've been told.”

Inside the Trump arraignment circus outside the D.C. courthouse

WASHINGTON — The Trump circus is back to witness the former president, Donald Trump, make history again: One insurrection, two impeachments and now three separate arraignments on felony charges.

The former president himself is nowhere to be seen, having entered the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse through its parking garage.

But his divisive presence is everywhere. And for some, it’s a celebration — even as they don’t dare give reporter’s their last names out of fear of what they see as a standing threat from the MAGA mob.

“Why am I so happy? Because the motherf—-- deserves to go to jail,” Nimesha, who’s holding a “Donald is the nastiest skank b—- I’ve ever met,” tells Raw Story.

Shauna and Nimesha, two people who were demonstrating outside Donald Trump's federal arraignment on Aug. 3, 2023. Matt Laslo / Raw Story

Nimesha called out of work and trekked two hours from Pennsylvania just to wave signs outside the arraignment with her bestie Shauna, whose sign reads “Donald, you are going from the Gold Throne to the Stainless Steel COMMODE!”

The two started doubting Trump, who pleaded not guilty to charges today, would ever face charges for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“They’re finally doing something after 2 ½ years,” Shauna says. “It’s taken this long and it's going to continue to take a really long time for all of us, but we are getting there.”

They’re also not fans of President Joe Biden, calling him “senile.” They just don’t like Trump that much.

“It really scares me, because no other president has been like this where they’re, like, untouchable,” Nimesha says. “And it’s very much cult-y, so to see that Trump isn’t God, is huge.”

Police barricades are everywhere. So are security forces, including Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, Park Police, Homeland Security, D.C. Metropolitan Police, Capitol Police and others. So are journalists, photographers and video cameras, as there seems to be more reporters than law enforcement officials.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

An older couple walks up, standing out because the woman is carrying a black umbrella – emblazoned, “Lock him up!” – on a hot summer day.

Why the umbrella?

“I don't want anyone to mistake me for a Trump supporter, you know what I mean?” Paula, a retired nurse, tells Raw Story.

Paula and her husband, Mark, were scheduled to be in D.C. for sightseeing, but things changed.

“We decided to come here and see a little history,” Mark says.

Because they’re from Georgia they say the black umbrella was essential.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

“We fit the criteria of the MAGA people. It’s disgusting to me,” Paula says.

No Trump circus would be complete without an awkwardly unfunny, yet loud, Trump impersonator rocking an orange jumpsuit.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

There’s also a massive inflatable rat. And at least one D.C. street rat, which scurried past the inflatable one to the shrieks of unsuspecting onlookers.

Because, if anything, Washington is still predictable, even after four years of the Trump show – a show that special counsel Jack Smith wants to end with a conviction of a former U.S. president who, at present, is the hands-down leader for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Trump impeachment manager on indictment: 'Damning, damning, damning'

WASHINGTON – While some lawmakers on Capitol Hill thought former president Donald Trump would never face the justice system over the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) tells Raw Story she never doubted the day would come.

She’s also struck by the historical importance.

“This is so not normal. We talk about it as if, ‘OK, here’s another indictment.’ This is so not normal,” she said.

The lawyer and law professor by trade served as an impeachment manager in Trump’s second Senate trial in 2021, and she attended most every public session of the House January 6 select committee. She knows the evidence against the former president, but she said she’s wowed by how well special counsel Jack Smith expertly crafted his legal argument in the45-page indictment.

ALSO READ: It’s already 2024 at the Capitol, and lawmakers are busy doing nothing

“It’s clearly so damning and clear and unconfusing but very conclusive,” Dean says. “Damning, damning, damning, great indictment.”

Dean says this latest indictment is — stylistically — different fromthe Mar-a-Lago classified document indictment, which she describes as “much more narrative. It reads like a screenplay, but this one is slightly denser but it’s literary, lyrical, using those verbs, saying things like ‘known and unknown’ to the grand jury,” Dean says. “But then to say was such concreteness ‘to defraud the United States using dishonesty, fraud, deceit’ — the incredible string of verbs. It’s very inclusive to use all of these different verbs.”

The legal document also has personal meaning to Dean, who was one of the members left trapped in the House gallery for hours on Jan. 6, 2021.

“And then to say that the defendant enlisted co-conspirators. That's what we saw. We knew that's what was going on, and he enlisted the last clown car of six co-conspirators and others ‘known and unknown’ to the grand jury to just defraud the United States,” Dean says.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) listens during a House Judiciary Committee mark up hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on June 2, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The news of the indictment was “stunning, shocking and staggering,” Dean says, adding, it’s “sad.”

But she says she’s also is filled with optimism seeing the judicial system work and some Republicans put the Constitution above their loyalty to the former president.

“It's just a crazy paradox. As sad as I am that we were at this depth, I'm heartened that there are Republicans out there in very high places who get that this was crimes against the Constitution, crimes against America,” Dean says. “I’m actually buoyed up slightly, because look at who's talking in this indictment? It's Republicans who only wanted the best for Donald Trump. They wanted him reelected. They worked for his reelection.”

You wouldn’t know that from talking to some GOP presidential contenders or congressional Republicans, though.

In the House, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) are pushing two resolutions to expunge Trump’s two separate impeachments. Dean says no one can rewrite the history of that terrible day, and she dismisses their expungement resolutions for attempting to do just that.

“That's insane. ‘As if it had never passed the House,’ so please tell me, what does that mean forMr. and Mrs. Sicknick? Does it mean this grotesque violence and death and injury never happened?” Dean says, referring to a U.S. Capitol police officer who sustained injuries during the January 6 attack and died the next day from a stroke. “Are you kidding me?”

The violence was real, as Dean and all who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, know all too well.

Dean’s mind always drifts back to the attack on the Capitol itself, “I constantly remember the custodians who came in after and cleaned up the glass and the blood.”

It’s already 2024 at the Capitol, and lawmakers are busy doing nothing

WASHINGTON — Your wall calendar may read “2023”.

But in the nation’s capital, 2024 is already raging. Election season firmly on lawmakers’ minds. Making laws? Not so much.

So far this year, Congress has only passed 12 public laws, including approving a 250th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps commemorative coin and renaming the Veterans Affairs clinic in Indian River, Mich., the "Pfc. Justin T. Paton Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic."

Congress also averted a crisis of its own making when at the last minute they reached a deal to pay the nation’s debt obligations.

In the Senate, three-day work weeks have become the norm, while the House has now devolved into a perpetual digital dunk contest where the most cringe-worthy memes and statements win. Most of what passes for business this year on Capitol Hill are proposals that have little or no chance of ever becoming law — but what’s a law when you can rile up your base?

“Not very productive so far and there’s not a sense among the majority of members that productivity is what they’re after. What they’re after is messaging to their, unfortunately, most hardline base,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — the former majority leader — told Raw Story while walking into the Capitol last week.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump fake elector prosecutions could soon ensnare members of Congress

Lawmakers are now on their month-long summer break. When they return to Washington, D.C. after Labor Day, House Republicans and Senate Democrats will need to come together and hammer out their competing federal funding measures or risk a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The clock is ticking.

Not everyone — particularly far-right Republicans — says the 118th Congress is hopelessly gridlocked and unproductive.

“No, we’ve done a whole lot,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told Raw Story last week when asked about the 118th Congress’ record.

Norman, like others, pointed to the 10-year balanced budget House Republicans crafted. But this budget proposal will never pass the Senate, which you wouldn’t know from talking to Republicans, especially members of the Freedom Caucus, who have fought for deeper and deeper spending cuts than Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden agreed on in their debt-ceiling deal earlier this year.

“Things are going well. We’re having a really robust discussion, but at the end of the day, it's math,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) told reporters in July as the Freedom Caucus was demanding further budget cuts than party leaders wanted. “This isn't a policy discussion. This is a math discussion.”

While a government shutdown looms in September, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) spent much of July pushing for votes on their respective measures clearing former President Donald Trump of his two impeachments.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Flickr/Gage Skidmore

“We’re still working on that,” Greene told Raw Story outside the Capitol in July. “Expungement is important. It’s writing the wrongs that were done here, impeaching President Trump twice, politically. Weaponizing the government against him just to smear his name and affect presidential elections.”

To be clear, the second impeachment involved charges Trump incited an insurrection after the 2020 election, on Jan. 6, 2021.

And Trump, for his part, is scheduled to be arraigned today in Washington, D.C., on his latest set of felony charges — these pertaining to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“I believe we're witnessing the collapse of what used to be one of America's great political parties,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told Raw Story. “I mean, there's an utter [Republican] descent into conspiracy theory, paranoia, pornography and extremist antics. I mean, it's just like a bag of desperate tricks and there's no program for the country.” Raskin calls the far-right turn of the House “dangerous.”

“Their lurching from antic to antic masks the collapse of their party into right wing authoritarianism,” Raskin said.

To others, the GOP under McCarthy is turning the House into “kind of a laughingstock.”

“Under McCarthy, we just see the House, as an institution, continue to decline,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters at the Capitol recently. “One thing that has really shocked me over the last several years is, I thought so many of my Republican colleagues stood for something. That they cared about the institutions, took their political office seriously, but time after time, they really debase themselves in the service of Donald Trump.”

While Trump and his presidential campaign feel ever-present in the House, over in the Senate, lawmakers’ own 2024 reelection bids seem to be setting the tempo And the tempo, with its aggressive fundraising schedules and plenty of travel, has resulted in many three-day Washington work weeks.

ALSO READ: Censuring Rep. MTG is mostly hopeless. Here's why this freshman Democrat will try doing it anyway.

“It's a little schizophrenic,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) told Raw Story just off the Senate floor last week. “Members of both parties are not delighted. So, I know I'm circumspect about how I choose my words, but, yeah, it would be nice if things were predictable, and I don't know why they’re not.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) brushed aside criticisms of his new three-day Senate.

“We're working all the time,” Schumer (D-NY) told reporters last week. “Look at how much we're getting done. In the last month and a half a [National Defense Authorization Act] bill. Huge, with ramifications in many areas. Twelve appropriations bills and avoiding default, I'd say in a month and a half. That's a damn good record.”

Those appropriations bills may have made it out of committee, but they have yet to hit the Senate floor and the pressure campaigns that often accompany measures that are taken up by the full Senate.

The Senate floor schedule is also affected. As of July 27, the 118th Senate has held 212 roll call votes, compared to the 280 votes taken by the 117th Senate at the same point.

Fewer Washington work days has meant less time for Senate investigations, or hearings — along with more double-booked senators forced to choose one hearing over another — and less time for voting on measures touching just about every aspect of Americans lives, including stalled technology, climate and health care measures.

A light schedule while in Washington isn’t how the Senate ran when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) first arrived — in 1981.

“When I started the United States Senate, we started at 10 a.m. on Monday and finished at 4 p.m. on Friday, and nobody complained about it,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) complained to Raw Story. “And it's hard to get all the work of the country done when you only work two and a half days.”

Chuck Grassley jumps ship: Joe Biden should have access to classified briefings Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP

While Schumer denies the 2024 elections are top of his mind, Republicans say it’s obvious the leader’s running the Senate to help his long list of vulnerable incumbents next year — and to save the Democrats’ narrow Senate majority.

“I think Democrats recognize that they had a real challenging map for ’24, so they wanted to give their folks more time back in their home states,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told Raw Story last week. “Once the House was Republican, they figured they weren't going to get much done in terms of a Democrat agenda. So why spend the time here when they could be home trying to regain the Senate?”

The Senate worked two back-to-back three-day weeks in its lead up to recess. Those short weeks meant a couple late nights wrapping up work on the sprawling, must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, which frustrated senators — especially those who had to change out of their shorts and into a suit so they could preside over an empty chamber past midnight.

“It's just surreal. I'm going to have to get dressed in my suit at like 11 p.m.,” Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) told Raw Story last Wednesday, predicting an audience size of “two people watching C-SPAN.”

ALSO READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign taken for a ride by Lyft-hailing fraudster: documents

With end-of-summer politics eating up the Senate’s time, Fetterman’s heart was far from last week’s overheated Washington.

“I just want to go home and be hanging out with my kids and wife,” Fetterman said. “I promise, as a senator, I will never put out an amendment that is guaranteed to go down, because then that's performance art. That's kind of the thing that's frustrating.”

At the end of July, Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) reintroduced their Transparency in Congress Resolution requiring members of Congress to publish their official schedules online, which the two senators already do, in contrast to most of their colleagues.

It’s not aimed at the Senate’s three-day work week, specifically. But, especially with his own much-watched 2024 race hovering over all he does, Tester thinks a little transparency will go a long way, especially when opponents can point to the Senate voting three days a week for much of the 118th Congress.

“Well, we work more than that. But you're right, voting [days],” Tester told Raw Story while heading to cast a vote on the floor last week. “I think you got to look at getting things done. If we're gonna get things done, that isn't an issue. If we're not able to get things done, like the appropriations bills, then that becomes an issue.”

Trump fake elector prosecutions could soon ensnare members of Congress

WASHINGTON – The justice system is closing in on former President Donald Trump, and soon, some expect that dragnet will ensnare elected members of Congress.

Before lawmakers left town for a month-long recess, Raw Story caught up with two Republicans the U.S. House January 6 select committee named as central to the scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to certify slates of fake electors after Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

The two lawmakers were dismissive and said no prosecutors, either local or federal, had contacted them in their quest to hold fake electors and their enablers accountable.

“Not me. I've gotten nothing,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) –who allegedly tried to pass Wisconsin fake electors to Pence — told Raw Story at the Capitol. “There’s nothing to come after me for.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Johnson also dismissed the fake elector case in Michigan as “absurd.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) – chairman of the House Freedom Caucus – also brushed aside concerns and said he hasn’t been contacted.

“No,” Perry – whothe January 6 select committee flagged to the House Ethics Committee for refusing to sit for an interview – told Raw Story while walking to the Capitol. “I don’t have any concerns.”

Others aren’t so sure. During the Jan. 6 select committee proceedings, former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) accused Perry of asking Trump for a pardon after the failed insurrection.

ALSO READ: Mark Meadows ‘flipped hard’ on Trump: ex-January 6 committee adviser

“Look at the congressmen and their text messages, they obviously were in some coordinating function. The issue is, does it rise to the level of indictment?” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) – who served as an adviser to the Jan. 6 committee –told Raw Story this week. “But as this testimony comes out, I think they're going to get on one of those things called aPucker Factor 10. I think they're going to be biting buttonholes in their underwear when the actual evidence comes out.”

Perry and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exchanged at least 62 text messages between the 2020 election and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. In one exchange, Perry informed Meadows they’d begun the “cyber portion” of their efforts to overturn the election results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona.

Hot pursuit of fake electors

In July, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel dropped felony charges on 16 Republicans she alleges were at the center of her state’s fake elector scheme. Last week, the Associated Press reported the FBI and Justice Department questioned Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe earlier this year.

The scheming around fake electors is also central to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump. He dubs the “criminal scheme” to send slates of fake electors to Congress the “Wisconsin Memo.”

“The plan began in early December,” the indictment reads, “and ultimately, the conspirators and the Defendant’s Campaign took the Wisconsin Memo and expanded it to any state that the Defendant claimed was “contested” — even New Mexico which the Defendant had lost by more than ten percent of the popular vote.”

The indictment then quotes a Dec. 6 email from former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that accompanied the Wisconsin Memo.

“We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states,” Meadows is quoted on page 23 of the indictment as sending campaign staff.

Then, on Dec. 27 – just over a week away from the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. – the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, told Trump, according to the indictment, “that the Justice Department could not and would not change the outcome of the election.”

“Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump is quoted as replying.

The evidence speaks for itself, Riggleman tells Raw Story.

“To quote Hunter Thompson: facts are a million-pound s— hammer. And fact-based insights based on data is a 2-million-pound s— hammer,” Riggleman said.

All eyes are now watching to see if other state attorneys general follow Michigan’s lead and seek prosecutions for those involved in the fake elector plot, including Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“I give credit to the attorney general because people are not above the law, and they broke the law,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) recently told Raw Story. “These are people that lied about the most important thing, which is our democracy.”

Mark Meadows ‘flipped hard’ on Trump: ex-January 6 committee adviser

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House January 6 select committee had a lot of power.

But it never could access White House call records, which the Department of Justice now seems to rely on in itslatest federal indictment against former President Donald Trump over his alleged involvement in Jan. 6, 2021, and quest to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“First reaction? They got the other end of the call records,” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) – a senior adviser to the January 6 committee – exclusively told Raw Story on Tuesday evening.

Riggleman’s second reaction?

“Somebody flipped hard,” Riggleman says.

In hisNew York Times bestseller, “The Breach,” Riggleman calls former White House Chief of Staff Meadows’2,319 text messages in the weeks before January 6 the “crown jewels”.

“Think about the Mark Meadows text messages. I never got his call detail records, but I'm pretty damn sure the DOJ did and that is a huge, huge thing,” Riggleman says. “And when you're looking at the indictment for the co-conspirators, I did not see a description for Mark Meadows in there.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump's co-conspirators are almost certainly being told to flip or face charges: ex-president's former lawyer

Riggleman, who was a military intelligence officer before coming to Congress, says the calls are damning.

“I think they got more data on the other end of the White House calls with the interaction between Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and White House staff and rally planners, alternate electors,” Riggleman told Raw Story. “I think they put together sort of a map of everybody who was involved. They had the metadata on the other side of the calls, and I think people flipped that they could validate that they weren't lying based on the data.”

Without warrants or law enforcement authority, Riggleman and the committee couldn’t get geolocation data and other information he viewed as vital.

“We couldn’t get the White House numbers which were part of the call records, which I thought were the smoking gun. When you have Oath Keepers texting Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudy Giuliani, in November/December of 2020, that’s a pretty big indicator,” Riggleman said. “They seem very confident, when you look at a 45-page indictment, my guess is they did get the other end of communications.”

While in office, Riggleman served as a Republican, but he no longer calls the party home. He’s hoping some of his former GOP colleagues look in the mirror and stop peddling dangerous conspiracy theories.

“As this evidence comes out, I think you're gonna have people getting angry or angrier because they know that they were part of this ridiculousness,” Riggleman tells Raw Story. “That type of dangerous rhetoric and pushing fantasy to their base, this is what happens, and that just means that you have some incredibly irresponsible legislators.”