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A Cringeworthy Week in Congress
And the most under-covered story of the week
“Is it me,” asked General Mark Hertling yesterday, “or is this one of the bigger sh*t shows that Comer is orchestrating?”
No, General, it’s not just you. It is indeed a sh*tshow for the ages, but it was hardly an isolated event this week. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Congress.
ICYMI: The Bulwark’s Joe Perticone cornered House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer the other day and asked him about his star “BIDEN CRIME FAMILY” whistleblower, Gal Luft —the guy who’s now been indicted as a Chinese spy.
Comer told me he has not spoken to Luft at all, nor to his lawyer. But he was not sure whether Oversight Committee staff members had. Comer emphasized to me that Luft is “not our star witness.”
“All these guys got problems,” Comer said. “That’s what happens when you work with the Bidens.” Informed that Luft did not work with the Bidens and isn’t claiming to have worked with them, Comer said that he just wanted to get an understanding of what Hunter Biden was doing with CEFC during the previous administration, and that Luft, who did business with the same company, may or may not have helpful information….
Comer has used his cable television appearances to suggest these indictments, along with those of former President Donald Trump, are part of a concerted effort to undermine his investigations by seizing the news cycle from him and taking the wind out of his sails.
“It’s almost like the Biden re-election campaign continues to cry wolf here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t indict Donald Trump right before I hit the gavel for this committee hearing today,” Comer told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo Wednesday morning. “Every time we break big news with respect to the Biden criminal investigation, here comes somebody to indict Donald Trump to steal the headlines.” He made a similar insinuation, also on Fox, when Luft’s indictment was unsealed.
Comer’s ad hoc strategy has clearly been about headlines and political impact, and the revelations Wednesday put that on full display.
And then there was the RFK Jr. Festival of Batsh*ttery. The GOP decided to feature Kennedy just days after he was caught on tape suggesting that COVID-19 “attacks certain races disproportionately” and may have been “ethnically targeted” to white and Black people rather than Ashkenazi Jews and the Chinese.
Even Fox News’s veteran turd-polishers found themselves cringing: “Byron York: House Republicans 'Outsmarted Themselves' With RFK Jr..”
“What we will have is Democrats attacking the witness who has a long history of pretty much crackpot statements about vaccines and other things. He’s a big conspiracy theorist.’
Well, yes. And it went about as badly as you’d expect.
Even by Mr. Kennedy’s standards for stoking controversy, his recent comments about Covid-19 were shocking. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, who is Jewish, tried unsuccessfully on Thursday to force the panel into executive session; she insisted that Mr. Kennedy had violated House rules by making “despicable antisemitic and anti-Asian comments.”
This came a day after MTG brandished pornographic pictures of Hunter Biden during another house hearing.
The Georgia Republican held up a series of posters with images of Hunter Biden naked and photos of him engaging in sexual acts at the Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene is literally showing dick pics at our Oversight Hearing,” California congressman Robert Garcia tweeted.
Meanwhile, Politico reported that the self-gelded Speaker of the House, in one of his periodic grovels, had promised Trump that would expunge his two impeachments.
That vow — made reflexively to save his own skin — may have bought McCarthy some time, staving off a public war with the man who almost single-handedly rehabilitated his entire career and ensured he won the gavel in January. But it has also put McCarthy in a bind — and Trump world plans to hold him to his promise.
Several moderate House Republicans are loath to revisit Trump’s impeachments — especially the charges stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. (In fact, though only 10 of their GOP colleagues voted with Democrats to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack, several more wanted to but were too worried about threats to their offices and families to take the plunge.)
But should McCarthy follow through, those members won’t have a choice. Given the speaker’s tenuous position with Trump allies in the House and the threat of his ouster looming over every move, McCarthy has no real option but to bow to the former president’s whims — even if it means putting vulnerable frontliners in a precarious political position.
And we haven’t even gotten to the under-covered story of the week: “Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll.”
“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’ ” Kaplan wrote.
He added: “Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”
We are, admittedly old-fashioned, and quite clearly badly out-of-touch with the GOP base. But this seems … relevant?
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ICYMI: The new episode of our “Trump Trials” podcast with Lawfare’s Ben Wittes and Anna Bower previews Jack’s Smith’s imminent indictment.
Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting that Trump is facing racketeering charges in Georgia.
The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia has developed sufficient evidence to charge a sprawling racketeering indictment next month, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The racketeering statute in Georgia requires prosecutors to show the existence of an “enterprise” – and a pattern of racketeering activity that is predicated on at least two “qualifying” crimes.
In the Trump investigation, the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, has amassed enough evidence to pursue a racketeering indictment predicated on statutes related to influencing witnesses and computer trespass, the people said.
About that Monmouth poll
Here’s the head-to-head matchup: Despite his anemic approval rating, Biden leads Trump by a margin of 47% to 40%.
In a Biden-Trump rematch, just under half of registered voters say they will either definitely (36%) or probably (11%) vote for the Democratic incumbent and 4 in 10 will definitely (26%) or probably (14%) support the Republican. Majorities, though, say they will not vote for either Biden (46% definitely not and 6% probably not) or Trump (50% definitely not and 8% probably not). These results are statistically similar to poll results from two months ago.
But what about a three-way contest?
What if voters thought the 3rd party was a spoiler?
In the case where voting for a third party could lead to the election of Trump, 43% would vote for Biden, 33% would vote for Trump, and 20% would vote for the third-party ticket.
“The expectation that a third-party run could tip the scales toward Biden might produce a tighter contest than when the spoiler effect is seen to help Trump. Again, these are hypotheticals. It’s impossible to predict the impact of a third-party challenge until an actual campaign is underway, when the media’s framing of it will play an important role,” said Murray.
Former President Donald Trump's net favorability now stands at negative 27 points in one major poll as the Republican continues his campaign for re-election to the White House.
A Monmouth University poll published on Thursday found that 36 percent of U.S. adults had a favorable opinion of the former president and 63 percent held an unfavorable view.
It appears that Trump's unpopularity has hit its highest level in the history of Monmouth polling the question, based on previous figures also published on Thursday.
Exit take: Maybe some stuff does matter, after all?
Your daily dose of dystopia
This actually happened: “Trump Shares Ominous Clip Of Him Threatening Revenge.”
In the video, Trump says over an image of his face and eventually his campaign logo, “If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before.”
Apparently, the audio comes from 2020 when Trump was talking about Iran. But the context of the new message was unmistakable.
A DeSantis reboot?
Expect fewer big speeches and more handshaking in diners and churches.
There will be more of a national focus than constant Florida references.
And the mainstream media may start to get more access.
In short, DeSantis will be running as an insurgent candidate rather than as an incumbent governor.
The campaign’s morale? Not good.
“Downright low” is how a source who was present when the staffers were fired described morale these days.
“The entire campaign is on the brink,” the person said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
1. Tucker and Candace Are the GOP's Future
Tim Miller’s latest ‘Not My Party”: Individual rights and personal responsibility are out; reflexive contrarianism is in.
2. ‘Oppenheimer’ Review
For a movie that’s three hours long, occasionally in black and white, and features almost nothing but dudes chatting about science stuff, Oppenheimer absolutely zips along, moving us through his college years and early professional life with ease before we get to the heart of the matter: the development of Los Alamos and the creation of the atomic bomb. It helps that Nolan has assembled one of the greatest supporting casts of all time to deliver all of this intercutting dialogue; Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. both deserve awards-season consideration, but every single role is stocked with top-tier talent. A special kudos to Macon Blair, who perfectly portrays confused frustration as Oppenheimer’s put-upon lawyer, Lloyd Garrison, in Oppie’s Kafkaesque security hearing.
3. ‘Orwellian’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means
ALRIGHT, WE CAN’T KNOW FOR SURE that Orwell would hate the term “Orwellian.” Generally speaking, it’s foolish to guess at what long-dead figures would make of modern trends. As these things go, however, this one’s open and shut. It’s all right there in “Politics and the English Language.”
The debasement of words opens the way, Orwell believed, to the debasement of politics. Those who use “stale images,” “exhausted idioms,” “worn-out metaphors,” and “prefabricated phrases” aren’t interested in what they’re saying. Careless language leads to careless thought, careless thought to careless policy. One of Orwell’s examples: “People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.”
“If one jeers loudly enough,” Orwell concluded, one can from time to time “send some worn-out and useless phrase . . . into the dustbin where it belongs.” Writing in 1946, Orwell was already consigning “fascism” (an epithet that “has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’”) to the scrapheap. Today, it is safe to assume, he’d dump the likes of “woke,” “deep state,” and “fake news.” And perhaps “misinformation” as well. “Orwellian” could hardly fail to go.