Susan Collins just revealed her duplicitous, vengeful, true self

The Equality Act is being voted on in the House this week, a landmark bill that would add LGBTQ people to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and bring protections to millions who live in the majority of states without protections in housing, employment, public accommodations and other spheres of life. It's more vital than ever because Republicans in state legislatures around the country are pushing dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills as Trumpism and its devotion to religious extremists further grips the GOP.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Senator Susan Collins was the only Republican co-sponsor of the Equality Act when it passed in the House in 2019, but she suddenly said this week that she will not co-sponsor the current bill.

What has changed between now and then?

One important thing that changed is that the bill actually has a shot of being passed, as it will certainly get a vote in the Senate after passing the House, and there's a president who will sign it. And the other is that the largest LGBTQ rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, a long-time supporter of Collins, had supported her opponent in the 2020 election, citing her embrace of Trump as he pursued an anti-LGBTQ agenda. That angered Collins, who called it "partisan politics" (and then accepted the endorsement of an anti-LGBTQ group).

Of course, a true believer in equality of the millions of LGBTQ people across the country wouldn't let something like an endorsement by one group affect her judgement, right? And surely, since the bill will certainly get a vote in the Senate, with Democrats in control of the chamber but in definite need of Republican votes to break a filibuster, you'd think a supporter of civil rights would be ready to sign aboard immediately, right?

But Collins' refusal to sign on reveals the fraud that she is. She never cared about passing the Equality Act, and only cared about posing as a moderate to win re-election — a tried and true strategy of hers, which the media continually enables and promotes. She'd been further exposed as a hard-right zealot committed to Mitch McConnell 's agenda after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and her vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court, and needed some cover.

Supporting the Equality Act was an easy position for Collins to take in 2019 since the Equality Act had no chance of actually passing and thwarting Trump's and the GOP's agenda. McConnell let it go to his graveyard of bills, refusing to give it a vote. And Trump had said he'd never sign it, bowing to religious conservatives. Collins was in the fight of her life battling for her Senate seat against Democrat Susan Gideon and progressives determined to take her down for her complicity in Trump's agenda.

So there she was, not only co-sponsoring the bill but engaging in political theater, telling McConnell with a wink and a nudge to pass a bill — "Congress should also pass the Equality Act & amend the Civil Rights Act," Collins tweeted after the Supreme Court handed down a victory for employment protections in June of 2020. But she knew she'd never have to vote on the bill, thus using LGBTQ people as political pawns.

Now that Joe Biden has promised to get it passed in his first 100 days and McConnell is hellbent on stopping Biden from achieving his agenda, Collins is suddenly vaguely talking about revisions she was promised to the bill that are keeping her from signing on.

But it's the same bill it was in 2019, which she co-sponsored, supported profusely and didn't express any reservations about. In a comment to the Washington Blade this week she hinted at her anger with the Human Rights Campaign:

The Maine Republican said changes she had sought, but didn't immediately specify, weren't made to the Equality Act when she was the lone Republican to co-sponsor the legislation in the previous Congress.
"There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision," Collins said.
Throwing some veiled criticism at the Human Rights Campaign, which declined to endorse her in 2020 as it had done in previous elections, Collins added, "Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year."

Collins thought she could play the same game in 2020 with the Equality Act to get that endorsement again, but it didn't work. She'd spent the Trump years harming LGBTQ people, and it was too much to overlook.Collins has posed as a supporter of LGBTQ rights for many years, using the lives of queer people to make her seem moderate. She supported federal bills like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when they had no chance of passing. She refused to come out in favor of marriage equality and support an initiative in her state that legalized it in Maine in 2012 — staying "neutral" on the initiative while bigots spewed hate — but then came out in support of marriage equality in 2014, long after many other politicians and long after she was needed, to gain the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign for her Senate race that year, which she got.

Collins voted for dozens of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice federal judges nominated by Trump. That includes Kyle Duncan, confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote the amicus brief for Louisiana and 14 other states to uphold same-sex marriage bans and fought to uphold transgender bathroom restrictions. It includes backing Steve Grasz for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, who received a unanimous "unqualified" rating from the American Bar Association. He'd called Roe v. Wade "moral bankruptcy" and sat on the board of a group that promotes "conversion therapy" for LGBTQ minors.

Even going back to 2010, when Collins was one of the few Republicans who co-sponsored repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," she was really banking on a vote on repeal never happening and thus not messing with the GOP agenda — which is her first priority. When activists shifted the playing field and got President Obama to seriously get behind DADT repeal bill and follow through on his promise to end DADT, Collins revealed a glimpse of that, joining a filibuster blocking repealing of DADT, saying that the way Democrats were going about it was "unfair" even as she had championed repeal:

"It's the right thing to do. I think it's only fair" to repeal don't ask, don't tell, said Senator Collins in a floor speech Tuesday. "But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that's going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments. That, too, is not fair.

Collins and the GOP were eventually outmaneuvered in the back and forth in the Senate, however; the curtain was pulled back and Collins had no choice but to vote for repeal or look completely fraudulent.

Which is how she looks right now. But with Mitt Romney, a long-time foe of LGBTQ rights and marriage equality who recently expressed transphobic beliefs, announcing he is opposed to the Equality Act, and Collins not on board, it makes the path to victory much clearer: The filibuster must be ended or reformed if we're to make this landmark civil rights bill into law.

And that brings us back to Democrats in the Senate, who, with 51 votes, can get the Equality Act passed, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, one of only two LGBTQ members of the Senate, and someone who has said she is opposed to ending the filibuster.

I wrote about that last week, and the terrible legacy Sinema would have, standing up for the filibuster, a relic of the Jim Crow era, while blocking civil rights for her own people. Sinema — and any other Democrat expressing reservations about the filibuster — has the chance to be a hero of equality.

Otherwise, her legacy will be similar to that of Susan Collins, a duplicitous conniver who posed as a civil rights supporter, but who only fulfilled the agenda of McConnell, Trump and the anti-democratic, bigoted GOP.

The GOP is still trying to blame Democrats for the insurrection -- and for further right-wing violence

Ever since the storming of the Capitol on January 6th — incited by the then-president Donald Trump and taken up by extremist groups he emboldened on the right — we've seen the GOP and its enablers try to blame Democrats and the much-mythologized "radical left" for what happened. They've also continually attempted to blame Democrats for right-wing violence that may occur in the future.

It began with the lame, debunked and unsuccessful attempt by GOP Trump loyalists like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to blame "Antifa" for the attack on the Capitol, even while it was unfolding. Others, particularly at Fox News, at the same time were incongruously pushing the idea that America had it coming for Democrats supposedly mistreating Trump.

Then it moved into House Republicans saying Trump shouldn't be impeached because it will only further anger his supporters and cause more violence when we now needed "unity" and "healing." (Of course, implicit in this claim was that the Trump base can't control itself from being violent, but the GOP House members papered over that.)

Now comes a truly demented insinuation that, because the Capitol wasn't adequately protected and law enforcement was unprepared, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi somehow may have known what was going to happen and allowed it go on. It makes little sense but Ron Johnson, the delusional conspiracy-mongering Wisconsin Republican senator, questioned what Pelosi "knew" beforehand about the attack while being interviewed by Fox News propagandist Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.

Johnson's comments came in the context of a discussion with Bartiomo about a letter CNN obtained that the former chief of the Capitol Police, Stephen Sund, wrote to Pelosi and the ranking members of both parties in the House and Senate. The letter was sent on February 1, focusing on the the government's failure in stopping the violent mob, and clearly lays the blame with federal and other agencies — which at that time were mostly run by the Trump administration.

Sund's account alleges a failure of the FBI, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and the DC Metropolitan Police Department to anticipate violence on that day, and said it was reasonable to rely on that intelligence since earlier pro-Trump rallies had been similarly assessed and were not violent.
"The entire intelligence community seems to have missed this," he wrote.

Sund also is scathing in the letter toward the Defense Department:

"I still cannot fathom why in the midst of an armed insurrection, which was broadcast worldwide on television, it took the Department of Defense over three hours to approve an urgent request for National Guard support," Sund wrote.

How Ron Johnson deduces that any of this means Pelosi "knew" anything is completely indecipherable — because it simply can't be deduced.

He appears to be using the fact that Pelosi was sent the letter about Trump administration failures — on February 1, along with other Congressional leaders — to try to imply Pelosi had some kind of prior knowledge, hoping he can blur the timeline as it's reported out in the media. It's wacky, and it's a spectacular lie, but appears to be a recitation of new GOP talking points.

As Bartiromo shifts from the letter to the impeachment trial, Johnson attempts to connect the two:

"What's this impeachment all about? We now know that 45 Republican Senators believe it's unconstitutional. Is this another diversion operation? Is this meant to deflect potentially away from what the Speaker knew and when she knew it? I don't know, but I'm suspicious."

Again, there is nothing in Sund's letter even remotely implying Pelosi knew anything about the impending attack. It's a letter addressed to Pelosi and other Congressional leaders almost a month after the attack, explaining how federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and U.S. military leaders under the Trump administration failed. The letter is damning not to Pelosi or Democrats, but to Trump.

Aaron Rupar @atruparRon Johnson absurdly floats that Nancy Pelosi is somehow responsible for a MAGA mob descending on the Capitol for a deadly insurrection

February 7th 2021

2,703 Retweets9,590 Likes

Evidence that these are bizarro talking points the GOP is circulating ahead of Trump's impeachment trial this week came a few minutes later on the same program, when Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, pushed the same insane line.

Meadows said when it came to protecting the Capitol there were bad decisions that were made and they didn't come from the White House but from the "other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."

Like Johnson, Meadows offers no specifics, just a vague accusation that Congress is responsible for the attack by not reinforcing security. It's an outrageous insinuation because the House and the Senate — which was actually controlled by the GOP on January 6th — are not in charge of the operation of the Capitol Police, nor any other law enforcement agency. Meadows is floating false claims that go back several weeks which were made by Facebook users and other on social media and which the Associated Press had fact-checked and debunked, exposing how right-wing trolls were planting disinformation.

Acyn Torabi @AcynMeadows shifts the blame

February 7th 2021

273 Retweets934 Likes

All of this seems to be an attempt to demonize Democrats as the impeachment trial gets underway, claiming Democrats are trying to deflect from their own supposed wrong-doing. Increasingly unhinged Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky even said — on Fox News of course — that if we're going to impeach and convict Trump for his "speech" then we should be impeaching Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his "violent rhetoric" about right-wing Supreme Court justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh during their confirmation hearings.

Again, idiotic diversions not based in logic. The argument by conservatives that Trump was just expressing his "free speech" by falsely claiming there was massive election fraud and ginning up anger among his supporters completely ignores the fact that this is not a trial in a court of law, nor is Trump a private citizen. This is an impeachment trial of a man who was president, for whom high crimes and misdemeanors are determined by Congress. And the House, in a bipartisan vote, determined that inciting an insurrection against the government falls within that category.

Comparing Trump's actions to a senator criticizing a Supreme Court nominee, even harshly, is ridiculous, and Paul and the rest of them know it. But the GOP is devoid of a defense for its actions — for sticking with a one-term, twice impeached loser, because they're afraid of him or just plain agree with his anti-democratic, authoritarian impulses — so is is moving to increasingly desperate arguments.

Senate Republicans are also restating the arguments of House Trump defenders, claiming that moving forward with the trial will only hamper "unity" and bring further violence, setting up Democrats for blame when future attacks happen.

But trying to blame the insurrection and the attack on the Capitol on Pelosi and Democrats — and laying the groundwork to blame them for future attack by right-wing, white supremacist and QAnon extremists — is an insult to all who were attacked in the Capitol siege, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed. And it is an affront to the American people.

We can't let them get away with that.

Inside a 3-tiered plan to investigate the Trumps after they vacate the White House

Last week I interviewed James Fallows, who'd spoken with many people over a period of a few months who'd been involved in or studied previous investigations of presidents, for a piece he wrote on how Joe Biden should investigate Donald Trump.

As he noted to me, "there's never been anything quite like this," even as many presidents have previously been investigated for wrong-doing. Trump is in a league of his own. And it will take a lot of work to investigate him.

Fallows explained that, "when a new president takes office there is just this enormous onrush of all the normal stuff a president has to do." And with the Biden administration, it's going to be even more intense as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their team deal with challenges greater than most presidents, including "economic catastrophe, the pandemic, international relations."

Fallows laid out several tiers to investigating Trump.

1) Tier one is "straight out corruption," which would include the violations regarding Donald Trump and his family and their businesses, and Fallows said many experts concluded "the judgement on these corruption issues is [that] most of them you leave to the states."

Those that do involve federal law, like the postal service, "you make sure you have a good, eminent attorney general who makes sure you have have good inspectors' general" at the various government agencies.

Tier 1 is: "let the process work at the state level and within the departments."

2) Tier 2 is what Fallows identifies as "corrosion issues." These are issues in which "the government has been eroded." He notes that, "we've seen this in public health, the State Department, the [National] Weather Service" and many other areas. "This is something the president can deal with," he said, because, of the 4000 political appointees the president will make, "about 3000 will not get Senate confirmation." These are people a president can bring in who may have more expansive ideas and can move quickly and don't need a Senate confirmation which might block them from being appointed because of their backgrounds or perceived intentions in doing their jobs.

3) Tier 3 includes "three big areas where you want to have national commissions."

Commissions have often been viewed skeptically, particularly because they've been used by some administrations to just kick something down the road. But when used with good intentions, Fallows noted, "commissions have been effective tools."

In 1968, he pointed out, the Kerner Commission was important in taking on racial injustice. The Space Shuttle Commission, he noted, is another effective example. And he viewed the 9/11 Commission as having done a "surprisingly impressive job."

Commissions that are run not by the federal government but rather through universities and other institutions have had major impact, he said. The three commissions would look at, respectively, the coronavirus pandemic, the human rights abuses at the border, and "attacks on democracy itself.'

"These warrant special treatment," he said. "There's leverage in each of them." Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, for example, "there's what happened, and the certainty that new viruses from new parts of the world will emerge. What have we learned and how can this not happen again?"

For the border and the abuses of immigrants, Fallows noted that John Allen, the retired four star general who is now president of the Brookings Institution, told him the rest of the world views us a state-sponsor of child abuse, so it's also about America's standing in the world. That commission needs to look at what went wrong. What brought this country to violate human rights in a such a horrific way and allowed for separating children from their parents and putting them in cages?

And the commission on attacks on democracy would look at "the structure of democracy" and what led to white supremacist violence and domestic terrorism.

I liked the way Fallows laid this all out, and I had questions particularly about how we make sure abuse like this never happens again.

Regarding what to do about preventing any president from doing the things Trump did, we discussed how much of what Trump did violated norms that presidents in the past knew to follow and not cross, and whether we need new laws limiting the president's power. Fallows interestingly noted that he asked historians and others, and "[they] generally concluded that norms can't be codified."

"You need to demonstrate them," he said. "The exemplifying of standards. But in this third commission there are a number of people with ideas in mind of how you would reduce gerrymandering, have fixed terms for the Supreme Court justices, things you would practically do to restore norms." Personally, I think there are laws that need to be passed to limit the president's power after Trump, because we don't know what the GOP will do next. What other authoritarian might they get behind and help elect president, and what if they nominate Trump again in 2024 and he gets elected?

We also discussed how President Obama, even after making promises during the 2008 campaign, didn't investigate George W. Bush's actions in the Iraq War nor investigate big banks after the mortgage crisis and economic collapse in 2008. Fallows believes that was a mistake, and on that we certainly agree.

He believes Biden and his team will be different, pointing out that Biden saw it all under Obama and, and for that reason, will be inclined to make sure he doesn't let it happen again. He also pointed to how Biden has nominated people to his Cabinet who seem like they will take on the challenge of investigating Trump. (You can of course listen to the full interview here.)

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