Get Ready for Another Debt Ceiling Showdown

Get Ready for Another Debt Ceiling Showdown

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress on Friday that the nation will hit the debt ceiling on Thursday, January 19. If lawmakers don’t suspend or raise the debt ceiling, Yellen wrote, there will be “irreparable harm” to the U.S. economy as well as global financial stability.

A breach of the debt ceiling could interrupt federal spending on things like Social Security, Medicare, or even just salaries of federal employees. It would also tank America’s credit rating.

Yellen said the Treasury will go to “extraordinary measures” to avoid default, giving lawmakers until early June to come up with a deal. These measures include redeeming existing and suspending new investments of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, and suspending reinvestment of in separate retirement savings funds for federal workers.

Now, Republicans and Democrats have a limited time to negotiate on what happens next in order to prevent a global crisis. Unfortunately, the situation primarily offers no-win scenarios.

Kevin McCarthy promised to leverage the debt ceiling to cut spending in exchange for gaining the House speaker’s gavel. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has said there are no plans for such cuts, or negotiation at all, on something that should be a bipartisan move to avoid crisis.

White House @PressSec on debt limit:

“We believe, when it comes to the debt limit, it has been done in a bipartisan way over the years and decades. And it should be done in a bipartisan way. And it should be done without conditions. That is important here.”

*without conditions*

— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) January 13, 2023

All the worse, right-wing media is ratcheting up pressure on Republicans to leverage the debt ceiling for political demands; something that surely could push spineless Republicans to follow suit (even while it would harm their own base).

Democrats, tasked with advocating for good governance, are then stuck between holding the line and forcing Republicans’ hands to cooperate (risking potential national economic crisis if Republicans dig their heels in), or negotiating with them in order to avoid such disaster by potentially agreeing to cut essential social spending.

“What we’re creating is a showdown where Democrats are trying to show that the Republicans are being irresponsible, but the cost of proving that irresponsibility is an economic worldwide catastrophe,” Laura Blessing, senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told The New Republic the last time this all happened.

Kevin McCarthy made countless concessions to become speaker of the House, but one of those deals could pose a major risk to security in the Capitol.

Matt Gaetz, who staunchly opposed the California Republican’s bid for the speakership, revealed Thursday evening to CNN that McCarthy had agreed to release all the security camera footage from the Capitol on the day of the January 6 insurrection. McCarthy also indicated Thursday he was open to releasing the video footage.

The Capitol Police Board says the final decision isn’t even up to McCarthy. The board, which is made up of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, opposes making the footage public because doing so could inadvertently help the people who overran the Capitol two years ago—as well as people who might want to do it again.

Capitol Police cannot like this. It will be easy to determine the location of security cameras, safe room locations, etc. They reportedly didn’t want to even share the footage with the J6 committee because of fears it would all be released

— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) January 13, 2023

Releasing the footage could reveal strategic locations in the Capitol, such as safe rooms and security cameras. It could also help give people a better sense of the building’s layout, thus jeopardizing Capitol security.

The Justice Department and Capitol Police have previously pushed back on releasing the more than 14,000 hours of footage from January 6. USCP Chief Sean Gallagher said in a court affidavit from July that his department “continues to consider any interior footage of the U.S. Capitol to be highly sensitive information, and that access to it should be strictly limited.”

The Justice Department also argued that releasing the footage could reveal sensitive information pertaining to the cases of people arrested in connection to the insurrection. The FBI has arrested about 900 people connected to the insurrection and has the identities of hundreds more. A total of about 3,000 people could be charged over storming the Capitol, when all is said and done.

It’s not clear what Republicans think they will gain by releasing the footage. Many GOP lawmakers, including Gaetz, Andy Biggs, and Louie Gohmert have previously called for the videos to be made public in an effort to exonerate people connected to the riot. House Republicans have also formed a House Judiciary subcommittee dedicated to investigating ongoing criminal investigations, such as the ones into January 6.

There is also a chance, which Republicans do not seem to have considered, that releasing the footage will backfire spectacularly. The videos could reveal even more damaging information about the Republicans already under scrutiny for their actions before and during the attack.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul barely held onto her seat in the last election, and now she’s alienating her own party by nominating Hector LaSalle as chief judge for the state Court of Appeals.

LaSalle, an appellate court judge, is set to have a hearing next Wednesday before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, which will then vote either to advance or tank his nomination. A majority of the committee has expressed skepticism thus far. Hochul for her part has said she will do “everything” to get LaSalle through the committee, arguing the whole Senate should be the one to vote.

LaSalle has built a reputation as a generally experienced, knowledgeable judge. Proponents cite things like the New York State Bar Association deeming him “well qualified.” They also point to the history to be made upon his appointment: LaSalle would be the court’s first Latino chief judge, if confirmed.

Meanwhile, opponents—progressives, moderates, and, yes, Latinos, among others—find parts of his record contrary to the kinds of liberal ideals Hochul would presumably stand for. LaSalle’s record on issues including abortion, criminal justice, and labor would have massive implications on the already-conservative court. And Democrats are still reeling from the impacts of an antagonistic court. During the midterms, the party suffered in part due to unfavorable district maps drawn by the state’s highest court, whose conservative majority was constructed by Andrew Cuomo. So scrutiny on any appointment is warranted, especially one whose record is like LaSalle’s.

Over a decade ago, the New York state attorney general launched an investigation into potential fraudulent practices being carried out by an organization that ran so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which pose as real health clinics but are actually run by anti-abortion activists. LaSalle voted to intervene, hindering the probe by preventing investigators from reviewing even promotional materials from the centers.

In 2014, LaSalle joined an opinion holding that a criminal defendant could not appeal his conviction of a weapons possession charge because he knowingly waived the right to appeal when he entered a guilty plea. However, when the defendant entered the guilty plea, he was told by the trial judge that he could still appeal “certain constitutional issues.” And he was indeed seeking to appeal his conviction on the basis of a constitutional issue: He claimed he was subject to an illegal police search. Nevertheless, LaSalle signed onto the majority opinion that denied the appeal.

In 2015, LaSalle voted alongside a majority opinion allowing cable television company Cablevision to sue union officials who were criticizing the company—contrary to legal precedent that protected organizing workers from such corporate lawsuits. In other words, LaSalle upended state legal precedent in favor of a company, and against workers.

The Court of Appeals—which LaSalle is now nominated to—overturned the latter two decisions that LaSalle joined.

These are just some of the troubling opinions LaSalle has joined. Others include preventing a victim of vicious domestic abuse from filing suit against the police for repeatedly ignoring her pleas for help, and that a 15-year-old who could only read at a fourth-grade level needed no special protection during interrogation.

That Hochul had many other options and still chose LaSalle shows either a lack of conviction in her purported beliefs or severe political ineptitude. At least 14 of the 42 Democrats in the state Senate have come out against LaSalle, with even more expressing uncertainty. That leaves Hochul with maybe 28 Democrats and 21 Republicans to work with; she’ll likely need Republican support to help push the nomination through. Meanwhile, a massive array of unions, reproductive rights and immigrant advocacy organizations, local and state elected officials, and political organizing groups have all similarly come out against LaSalle.

And yet Hochul has held fast—to an impressive extent.

Just this week, Ironworkers Vice President James Mahoney criticized Hochul’s nomination at a press conference, saying the nomination felt like being put “on the menu,” especially after he and other labor organizers worked so hard to elect Hochul in the first place. Afterward, Hochul allegedly revoked Mahoney’s invite to her State of the State speech the following day (a speech with prepared remarks that did not mention LaSalle or even utter the word “union”).

Hochul’s decision to nominate LaSalle at all is questionable. Her resolve in sticking by it is remarkable. As seems evident, again and again, a certain ineptitude or simple lack of conviction is almost a sufficient condition for powerful New York Democrats.

Laura Ingraham tried to use the discovery of classified documents in Joe Biden’s home as proof the president is corrupt, but she ended up calling out someone else entirely.

The Fox News host argued that Biden was more focused on his family’s “corrupt business interests” than being president.

Ingraham: If only we had a president who cared more about what was good for the country and less about how to protect his family’s corrupt business interests.

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 13, 2023

Her Thursday night comments demonstrate both a staggering lack of self-awareness and excellent ironic timing, as they came the day before the Trump organization was sentenced for a 15-year tax fraud scheme.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly showed more interest in protecting his business interests than actually leading the country. An analysis of his tax returns by the Joint Committee on Taxation appears to indicate that Trump used his office to steer federal business to his own companies. He and other government officials would stay at his hotels while traveling abroad. Foreign officials spent more than $750,000 at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to curry favor with the president. And at one point, Kellyanne Conway said on television people should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”

Trump’s tax returns also show that he paid little to no income tax in the past few years and may have withheld details about certain payments and sales to avoid paying tax on those funds.

When it comes to caring for the country, as Ingraham said, the record is equally clear: Trump was impeached the first time for trying to pressure Ukraine into secretly investigating Biden and his family. The January 6 investigative committee unanimously recommended criminal charges against Trump for his role in the insurrection, and he is under investigation by the FBI for taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago.

Biden, on the other hand, has sought to pass major legislation that would massively benefit the United States, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. When his lawyers discovered the classified documents at his former office and private residence, they immediately returned them to the National Archives and have been cooperating with the investigation. Biden is not perfect, but at least he actually seems invested in his job.

The Trump Organization was fined $1.6 million Friday morning for tax fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes as part of a 15-year scheme that compensated top executives off the books.

Two subsidiaries of the organization, Trump Payroll Corp. and Trump Corp., were hit with the highest possible fines under New York State law at the Manhattan criminal hearing.

The two companies were found guilty last month—just weeks after Donald Trump announced his third consecutive run for president—on 17 criminal counts, including scheming to defraud, conspiracy, tax fraud, and falsifying business records.

The sentence will not dissolve the company, nor send anyone to jail. But Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail for his role in leading the scheme to defraud state and federal tax authorities for over 15 years. Weisselberg himself had been accused of receiving some $1.7 million in secret compensation throughout the scheme.

“Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg used his high-level position to secure lavish work perks such as a rent-free luxury Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz automobiles and private school tuition for his grandchildren—all without paying required taxes,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a statement.

Weisselberg was able to net a lighter sentence after agreeing to testify on the scheme.

Trump, denying any wrongdoing even while not being a defendant in the first place, called the case “a continuation of the Greatest Political Witch Hunt in the History of our Country.”

Numerous documents have implicated Trump to some degree. Jeff McConney, the senior vice president at Trump Corp., even implicated Trump in the scheme at first but then walked back that testimony. McConney’s legal fees are paid for by the Trump Organization.

Trump still faces numerous other investigations—on the state and federal level—for his seizure of classified documents after he left the White House, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial records and valuations.

The New York attorney general is also pursuing a $250 million civil lawsuit into whether Trump’s asset valuation statements were indicative of fraud. Last week, a judge denied Trump’s appeal to dismiss the case, calling his legal team’s arguments “frivolous.” Among financial penalties, Trump and his family could be barred from leading business operations in New York ever again.

Among George Santos’s many lies and embellishments and cover-ups is how, exactly, he came into so much money so quickly.

Just a few years ago, Santos claimed no major assets and a $55,000 salary. Two years later, his net worth skyrocketed and he apparently boasted a nearly seven-figure salary and millions in dividends. He even loaned some $700,000 to his campaign. Santos has thus far refused to answer where this inordinate amount of money actually came from, especially so quickly. And on Thursday, while speaking on friendly territory, he still avoided the question.

On Steve Bannon’s War Room program, guest host and Santos’s colleague Representative Matt Gaetz asked Santos about the $700,000.

“I’ll tell you where it didn’t come from. It didn’t come from China, Ukraine, or Burisma,” Santos quipped with a grin. “How about that?”

George Santos says he has “lived an honest life” in the same breath as a refusal to answer questions about where the money he used to give himself more than 700k in campaign loans came from.

— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) January 12, 2023

Santos has claimed a net worth as high as $11.5 million—all from the newly formed Devolder Organization from which Santos claimed to receive a $750,000 salary and between $1 and $5 million in dividends. Gaetz followed up on Santos’s quip, giving him an easy out to offer any simple explanation for where the money came from. Instead, Santos remained cryptic and even more dishonest.

“Look, I’ve worked my entire life. I’ve lived an honest life. I’ve never been accused—sued—of any bad doings,” Santos said, contributing yet another lie to his already massive pile. “You know, it’s the equity of my hardworking self that I’ve been invested inside of me,” he continued, nonsensically.

“Like I said, it didn’t come from Burisma, it didn’t come from Ukraine, Russia, China—unlike some folks that we all know that get money from those sources,” Santos concluded, relieved to somehow have stumbled his way to the end of his vacuous sentence.

Gaetz marched forward with the conversation, perhaps with second-hand embarrassment after watching Santos fumble even the most generous layup opportunity.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday he has appointed a special counsel to investigate the classified documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and former private office.

Biden’s personal attorneys found about a dozen documents in total at the two locations. It is unclear what the documents contain or how sensitive they are. The White House immediately alerted the National Archives, returned the documents the following day, and has been cooperating with the investigation into how the papers got there.

After the initial department investigation, “I concluded that under the special counsel regulations, it was in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland told a press conference.

He said he had picked Robert Hur, who was nominated to be U.S. attorney in Maryland by former President Donald Trump, to lead the investigation. Before serving as U.S. attorney, Hur worked with the Department of Justice in the early 2000s, focusing on counterterrorism and corporate fraud.

While serving as the U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland, Hur supervised cases dealing with national security and public corruption, including a high-profile case in 2020 in which a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant was charged with domestic terrorism.

U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, who was in court for sentencing today, says Christopher Hasson “crossed the line into racist and violent action.”

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) February 1, 2020

Since the documents were discovered, Republicans have slammed what they consider a double standard in treatment for Biden and Trump. Senator Lindsey Graham called for a special counsel to be appointed to lead an investigation into Biden.

It’s worth noting that Trump’s and Biden’s situations are nowhere near similar. Trump took hundreds of classified documents, insisted he had done nothing wrong, and resisted all federal efforts to retrieve the papers. Ultimately, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence to find the documents. As for Biden, as late-night host Seth Meyers noted, “The FBI doesn’t raid someone who’s already cooperating.”

Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel has produced a mixed reaction. Elie Mistal, the justice correspondent for The Nation, criticized the attorney general’s relative speed in appointing Hur, compared to the nearly two years it took him to appoint Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate Trump.

For those playing along at home, Merrick Garland knew Trump stole classified documents as early as January 2021 and… took almost 2 years to appoint a special counsel.

With Biden, it took Garland 2 months.

I keep trying to tell you guys that Merrick is a pathetically weak man.

— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 12, 2023

But national security reporter Marcy Wheeler, who goes by the Twitter handle @emptywheel, argued that doing so would essentially throw Republicans a bone, giving Smith more breathing room for his investigation.

I think this is right.

A Special Counsel, if one is appointed, shuts down GOP interference in this, lets Smith continue what he’s doing.

— emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 12, 2023

People are getting incredibly hot under the collar over a gas stove ban that isn’t even happening.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in mid-December that it was considering health regulations on gas stoves for the first time ever, following a report that gas ranges were responsible for almost 13 percent of childhood asthma cases. But the debate really boiled over this week after Richard Trumka, a CPSC commissioner, told Bloomberg the agency was considering banning gas stoves.

Trumka has since clarified that the agency will not forcibly take anyone’s  gas stove, but will instead seek to decrease the associated health hazards, including by implementing regulations on new products. President Joe Biden has also said that he does not support a ban on gas stoves.

Still, the reactions have been heated, to say the least, and utterly out of proportion.

Don’t tread on Florida, and don’t mess with gas stoves!

— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 12, 2023

Representative Ronny Jackson, an actual physician who opposed masking to protect against Covid-19 and said former President Donald Trump could live to be 200, tweeted that the CPSC can pry his gas stove “from my cold dead hands.” He also shared a petition to “Save the Stoves.”

187 MILLION Americans have gas stoves in their homes, and it will cost a FORTUNE to replace them. There’s no “science” behind this. It’s just another excuse Biden is trying to use to put MORE GOVERNMENT in your lives. HANDS OFF OUR STOVES!!

— Ronny Jackson (@RonnyJacksonTX) January 11, 2023

Representative Mark Alford tweeted a photo of a gas stove top captioned, “COME AND TAKE IT.”

— Mark Alford 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@markalfordkc) January 11, 2023

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the Biden administration is considering banning gas stoves, which is completely untrue.

Even Democratic Senator Joe Manchin got in on the debate. Manchin represents a state that is the second-largest coal producer in the nation, and he chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, so he has a definite interest in protecting the fossil fuel industry.

This is a recipe for disaster. The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner. I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on.

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 10, 2023

Looks like people need to simmer down a bit.

There may be clowns in Congress, but George Santos is every day building the case that he’s the whole circus.

A growing number of Republicans are calling for the New York representative to resign, as his pile of lies (and potential crimes) continues to rise. Seven Republican members of Congress have called for Santos’s resignation so far.

The congressman, for his part, has said he’ll only resign if 142,000 people tell him to do so, referring to the number of votes he received in the election. Though Santos may claim he was rightfully elected by the people, voters actually elected someone now proven to be entirely fictitious.

While Santos weathers the barrage of Democrats who have already called for his resignation, here is every Republican who has joined those calls so far:

  • Nassau County Republican Party
  • Suffolk County Republican Party
  • Representative Anthony D’Esposito (New York)
  • Representative Nick LaLota (New York)

  • Representative Nick Langworthy (New York)

  • Representative Mike Lawler (New York)

  • Representative Brandon Williams (New York)
  • Representative Max Miller (Ohio)

  • Representative Nancy Mace (South Carolina)

Meanwhile, Representative Marcus Molinaro, also a Republican from New York, expressed he doesn’t believe Santos can serve his district effectively anymore.

This post has been updated.

Isolating during the pandemic, especially earlier on when we knew so little, led many of us to share vulnerable, open conversations with others. Looking for comfort and inspiration, text messages became a haven for some. Such is the case for a pair of the most influential far-right conspiracy theorists: Infowars’ Alex Jones and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson.

Text messages between the pair, reported by HuffPost, show the duo swapping Covid-19 conspiracy theories, at least one of which later showed up on Carlson’s show. It also reveals that the most watched cable news network in America is taking at least some editorial direction from Jones.

On March 16, 2020, Jones texted Carlson a link to a now-deleted Infowars article. It detailed how Carlson drove to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort to urge the then president to take Covid seriously. “Fox News Host saves America,” the article’s subhead proclaimed.

“I tried man,” Carlson humbly responded.

After the victory lap, the demonic duo quickly shifted gears by the following month. As their beloved leader chose not to take the pandemic seriously, Jones and Carlson began an ongoing exchange of Covid conspiracy theories.

On April 27, as Trump was lauding the debunked idea of killing Covid by shining a “very powerful light” inside people’s bodies, Jones and Carlson were discussing YouTube removing a viral video promoting the same weird claim.

“They’re clamping down. We’ll be China soon,” Carlson said.

On April 28, Jones sent Carlson a link to a viral video of two California doctors downplaying the virus, falsely claiming it was no worse than influenza and that death rates were low enough to reopen businesses. About 2,000 people in America were dying daily at that point.

The video had been taken down for being what the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and the American College of Emergency Physicians called “reckless and untested musings.”

“This is our lede tonight,” Carlson texted Jones after receiving the video. That evening, the host told his massive audience that the video’s removal was just another example of “Big Tech” censorship.

The pattern would continue, though with Jones appearing to text Carlson more enthusiastically than vice versa. In earlier texts, Jones complains that The Daily Caller, a right-wing publication founded by Carlson, wasn’t allowing Infowars to feature its content on the Infowars website.

“Fucking crazy. I’m really sorry,” Carlson responded simply.

The text messages come after Jones’s legal team accidentally sent an entire copy of his cell phone and every text message he sent over the course of two years.

Read more at HuffPost.

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