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Flooding the Zone
Plus: Trump gets the coveted Putin endorsement
Let’s review, shall we? As we head into yet another shambolic autumn, prominent Congressional Republicans are either advocating or considering:
Ousting (and humiliating) their own Speaker.
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Impeachment first. Evidence (maybe) later.
The NYT headline captures the moment: “McCarthy, Facing an Ouster and a Shutdown, Orders an Impeachment Inquiry.”
Brave Sir Kevin, having gelded himself into his hollow speakership, once again must appease the crazies.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday opened an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, working to appease far-right lawmakers who have threatened to oust him if he fails to accede to their demands for deep spending cuts that would force a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Mr. McCarthy’s decision to unilaterally announce an impeachment investigation with no formal House vote entwined the Republican investigations into Mr. Biden with the funding fight that is rattling the Capitol. It appeared to be a bid to quell a brewing rebellion among ultraconservative critics who have accused the speaker of not taking a hard enough line on spending, by complying with their demands to more aggressively pursue the president.
McCarthy’s unliteral decree marked a stark about-face from the position he took (checks notes) just 11 days ago, when he solemnly promised, “if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
In the past, My Kevin has described this kind of “unilateral decree of the Speaker” as “[undermining] the voting privileges afforded to each Member and the constituents they represent.” But that was back in the distant mists of time — in 2019 — when McCarthy and Trump were insisting that the House lacked the authority to “compel the production of documents and testimony” without a full House vote.
That was then. This is now. and, most important of all, this is what his master’s voice is demanding. Politico is reporting that Trump “has been weighing in behind the scenes in support of the House GOP push to impeach President Joe Biden, including talking with a member of leadership in the lead up to Tuesday’s
vote authorizing a formal impeachment inquiry.”
The lack of a vote is sort of a tell, no?
It turns out that without any solid evidence to justify the inquiry, McCarthy simply did not have the 218 votes to authorize the impeachment that Trump and his acolytes are demanding.
How do we know? Because Republicans told us so.
The Ken Buck standard.
“The time for impeachment is the time when there’s evidence linking President Biden — if there’s evidence linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn’t exist right now,” said Colorado conservative representative Ken Buck. “And it is really something that we can say, well, in February, we’re going to do this. It’s based on the facts. You go where the facts take you.”
One moderate GOP lawmaker said they believe there are as many as 30 Republicans who don’t believe there’s enough evidence yet for impeachment, based on informal conversations with colleagues.
Johnson, who chairs the centrist-leaning Main Street Caucus, is one of them.
“There is a constitutional and legal test that you have to meet with evidence,” Johnson told CNN. “I have not seen that evidence, but I guess I’m not suggesting it doesn’t exist. I do think the fact that the committees continue to ask for additional documents suggests that they don’t think their evidentiary record is complete yet.”
“As of now I don't support [an impeachment inquiry],” Bacon said. “I think an inquiry should be based on evidence of a crime that points directly to President Biden, or if the President doesn't cooperate by not providing documents.”
When asked about Greene’s recent comments regarding an impeachment inquiry, Joyce tells Forbes he is “not seeing facts or evidence at this point” that would lead to an impeachment inquiry, and he says those calls are “premature.”
There is neither mystery nor subtlety here. For Trump, impeachment is an existential necessity.
Trump not only needs the impeachment as a weapon of mass distraction, but also as an instrument of moral flattening. If everyone is a crook, no one is a crook. If everyone is impeached, then impeachment is no longer a badge of shame.
His own legal nightmare? Four indictments? Ninety-one felony charges? Whatabout Hunter’s laptop?
In 1974, a Nixon impeachment inquiry was preceded by a special counsel and other probes.
In 1998, the Starr report was already out.
In 2019, there was a whistleblower and independent reporting.
[In 2021, there has been an attack on the capitol and an attempt to overturn the election.]
In 2023, there is … less.
But don’t assume that facts or evidence will matter in the end. Via Punchbowl News:
“Look, if they have the goods, all well and good. But they clearly don’t…. This was craven. This was cynical. It is pandering. But you understand why they are doing it. I mean, we’re now finding out that Donald Trump talked with, met quietly with House leaders and told them he wanted them to do this because, to speak pure Steve Bannon, the goal here is to flood the zone with shit, to devalue impeachment by making sure that everybody is impeached.”
Sykes noted that McCarthy was under intense pressure from the more right-wing members of his caucus.
“Kevin McCarthy, who engaged in that rather dramatic act of self-gelding, made this promise and now he has to follow through, even if it means… reversing the position he held 10 days ago when he said that he would have a vote of Congress to begin this inquiry,” he continued. “We’re about to go into a very, very messy month. This is going to be Kevin McCarthy’s month from Hell. Unfortunately, he appears willing to drag the rest of the country with him.”
Pro-tip of the day: Try Googling “Jared Kushner and Saudi Sovereign wealth Fund.”
The coveted Putin endorsement
Like the GOP’s decision to impeach Biden, this also feel inevitable, doesn’t it?
Vladimir Putin could barely contain his excitement Tuesday while discussing Donald Trump, telling a forum in Vladivostok that the criminal cases against the former president are “good” for Russia and that the Kremlin took delight in Trump’s claim he’d swiftly force an end to Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
“As for the persecution of Trump… for us, what is happening in these conditions, in my opinion, is good, because it shows the whole rottenness of the American political system, which cannot claim to teach others about democracy,” Putin said, echoing the former American president’s own oft-repeated claim that “what’s happening with Trump is a persecution of a political rival for political motives.”
Liz Cheney commented:
Update on the Axis of Assholes: “Kim Jong-un pledges to support Russia ‘in fight against imperialism.’”
1. Wisconsin Republicans’ Naked Exercise in Authoritarian Power
Since Republican leaders proposed impeaching Protasiewicz, they have faced a national backlash and an aggressive Democratic state outreach campaign. Historically, this has not stymied their willingness to break norms, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said on Friday that his colleagues might proceed with the threatened impeachment process, at least if Protasiewicz does not “recuse herself on cases where she has prejudged.”
But Vos may now be looking for another way out. On Tuesday, he announced an “Iowa-style nonpartisan redistricting” approach that the Assembly might vote on this week. Vos and fellow Republicans have opposed this idea for years. Why the change of heart, and the speed? Vos apparently hopes that quickly passing the bill would remove the gerrymandering case from the courts in the first place. And the Iowa model allows the state legislature to reject the maps created by the nonpartisan commission and substitute its own. And so, the gerrymandered legislature is looking to remain the master of its own gerrymandered domain, having found a new way to cut a now-unfriendly court out of the process. Advocates for fairer maps, including Gov. Evers, swiftly rejected the Vos proposal, which indicates both how little trust there is and that the showdown over the maps will not be over anytime soon.
2. A Time for Consequences
In today’s Bulwark, Bill Lueders writes: Trump and his supporters fought the law and the law, it seems, is winning.
Can’t you just feel it? Amid all the justified concern about the erosion of the rule of law, the folks who broke the law as part of Trump’s scheme to steal an election are evidently being held to account. Soon, the rule of law may even catch up with Trump himself.
As of last Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice’s weekly tally, 623 federal defendants have been convicted of and sentenced for crimes related to January 6th; 378 of these have included periods of incarceration. In all, the government says, 1,146 people have been arrested and charged for their actions that day.
These metrics are growing all the time.
3. New Mexico Gov’s Gun Order Attacked Even by Fellow Dems
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of Capitol Hill’s most ardent supporters of stricter gun laws, told me he’s skeptical of the legality of Lujan Grisham’s order.
I don’t know that it’s gonna pass constitutional muster but her order doesn’t exist in a vacuum. She has all these sheriffs running around New Mexico refusing to enforce state laws. I’m still trying to figure out the legality of her order, but I’ve had smart people tell me that it may not ultimately measure up constitutionally. But she’s in a really awful position because she’s got the majority of counties in New Mexico that are refusing to enforce laws. So New Mexico’s just a bit of a mess when it comes to gun laws.
Even some prominent activists who support stricter gun laws have condemned Lujan Grisham’s order as unconstitutional. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)postedon X (formerly Twitter):