Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos of New York will recuse himself from serving on House committees, he told his GOP colleagues in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, amid ongoing scrutiny about his background and questions about his future in Congress.
Santos was assigned to the House Small Business Committee and Science, Space and Technology Committee earlier this month by House Republican leaders. In a statement, the New York Republican said "ongoing attention" surrounding investigations into his personal and campaign finances prompted his request to be temporarily recused from the panels.
"This was a decision that I take very seriously. The business of the 118th Congress must continue without media fanfare," Santos said. "It is important that I primarily focus on serving the constituents of New York's Third Congressional District and providing federal level representation without distraction."
Santos told CBS News that he was "confident" he would be cleared in the investigation because he has "nothing to hide."
His decision to forgo his seats on the two panels comes a day after Santos met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Capitol Hill, during which Santos asked the speaker if he could recuse himself from committees, according to McCarthy.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Last Call For Fantasma Santos, Con't
Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
Districts across the state -- including Duval County Public Schools -- are performing a mass review of all classroom libraries and media centers after the Florida Department of Education handed down directives intended to comply with state law.
“The Florida Department of Education has trained all Florida schools districts to ‘err on the side of caution’ in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use,” DCPS said in a blog post about the decision.
The law says that all books, specifically in elementary school libraries, must be looked over by a certified media specialist who has undergone state training on the new policy.
Parents, however, have been surprised to find their schools’ bookshelves empty during the review process.
“It actually blew my mind that we were living in a world where we were removing books from classrooms,” parent Brian Covey said.
Some parents say the review came as a shock to them and their children, and they what to know when the books will be returned or replaced.
“How do we live in a world where books are being banned from the classroom,” said Covey, whose children attend Greenland Pines Elementary School. “They said that before school, all the teachers had to pack up their stuff, the librarian apparently tearfully announced that she no longer had a resource class to do. And she had to review all the books in the school. They also took all of the library books that had been checked out, and kids were in the middle of reading and said that they can’t continue to read those books until they’ve been reviewed.”
This week, a teacher in Manatee County covered up the books in his classroom and put up a sign that reads: “Closed by order of the governor.”
Documenting The Atrocities, Con't
An equal number of Americans — 67% — say they are as concerned about classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s residence and former office as they are about those found at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, despite clear differences in how the two men responded to these controversies.
In addition, half of Americans disapprove of the job President Biden is doing and give him low marks on uniting the country, as well as on having the necessary mental and physical health to be president — even after a string of recent political and legislative victories.
And majorities believe the new Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will be too inflexible in dealing with Biden and will spend too much time investigating the president instead of focusing on other priorities.
These are the major findings of a brand-new national NBC News poll conducted at the beginning of the new 118th Congress, ahead of Biden’s upcoming State of the Union address next month and after news of classified documents that were found at Biden’s and Trump’s private homes.
The survey also underscores just how little has changed since last November’s midterm elections, and just how dissatisfied the public remains as the 2024 presidential election begins to take shape.
“The calendar may read 2023, but you’d excuse someone if they continue to see 2022 in the country’s outlook and in our politics,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
“Elections are supposed to act as a chance to refresh and reset, and that did not happen,” McInturff adds.
The poll finds an American public that’s equally concerned about the discovery of classified documents found at Biden’s and Trump’s homes, even though the current president and ex-president handled their situations in different ways.
(Biden and his lawyers have argued that they turned over these classified documents — from his time as Barack Obama’s vice president — as soon as they were discovered and have cooperated with investigators, while Trump failed turn over all requested documents and has lashed out at investigators.)
Monday, January 30, 2023
Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't
The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.
On Monday, one of the witnesses was seen with his lawyer entering the building in Lower Manhattan where the grand jury is sitting. The witness, David Pecker, is the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with the porn star, Stormy Daniels.
As prosecutors prepare to reconstruct the events surrounding the payment for grand jurors, they have sought to interview several witnesses, including the tabloid’s former editor, Dylan Howard, and two employees at Mr. Trump’s company, the people said. Mr. Howard and the Trump Organization employees, Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, have not yet testified before the grand jury.
The prosecutors have also begun contacting officials from Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, one of the people said. And in a sign that they want to corroborate these witness accounts, the prosecutors recently subpoenaed phone records and other documents that might shed light on the episode.
A conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.
Still, the developments compound Mr. Trump’s mounting legal woes as he faces an array of law enforcement investigations: A district attorney in Georgia could seek to indict him for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, and he faces a special counsel investigation into his removal of sensitive documents from the White House.
Mr. Bragg’s decision to impanel a grand jury focused on the hush money — supercharging the longest-running criminal investigation into Mr. Trump — represents a dramatic escalation in an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end.
Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been put on notice by a prosecutor, but the warning didn’t come from anyone at the Justice Department.
It was from a Georgia prosecutor who indicated she was likely to seek criminal charges soon in a two-year election subversion probe. In trying to block the release of a special grand jury’s report, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in court last week that decisions in the case were “imminent” and that the report’s publication could jeopardize the rights of “future defendants.”
Though Willis, a Democrat, didn’t mention Trump by name, her comments marked the first time a prosecutor in any of several current investigations tied to the Republican former president has hinted that charges could be forthcoming. The remarks ratcheted anticipation that an investigation focused, in part, on Trump’s call with Georgia’s secretary of state could conclude before ongoing federal probes.
“I expect to see indictments in Fulton County before I see any federal indictments,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.
Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't
Earlier this month, while the rest of the country was celebrating the achievements of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., parents and children in the “Dissident Homeschool” network opened a lesson plan and were greeted with the words: “As Adolf Hitler wrote…”
The contents of the MLK lesson plan would be shocking for almost anyone, but for members of the 2,400-member “Dissident Homeschool” Telegram channel, this was a regular Monday at school.
“It is up to us to ensure our children know him for the deceitful, dishonest, riot-inciting negro he actually was,” the administrator of the network’s Telegram channel wrote, alongside a downloadable lesson plan for elementary school children. ”He is the face of a movement which ethnically cleansed whites out of urban areas and precipitated the anti-white regime that we are now fighting to free ourselves from.”
Since the group began in October 2021 it has openly embraced Nazi ideology and promoted white supremacy, while proudly discouraging parents from letting their white children play with or have any contact with people of any other race. Admins and members use racist, homophobic, and antisemitic slurs without shame, and quote Hitler and other Nazi leaders daily in a channel open to the public.
VICE News joined the group simply by clicking on a link, though the list of members was not publicly visible.
What’s even more disturbing, however, is that the couple who run the channel are not only teaching parents how to indoctrinate their children into this fascist ideology, they’re also encouraging them to meet up in real life and join even more radical groups, which could further reinforce their beliefs and potentially push them toward violent action.
The “Dissident Homeschool” network is run by a husband and wife team who use the aliases “Mr. and Mrs. Saxon.” This week the antifascist research group Anonymous Comrades Collective published a detailed report that unmasked the Saxons as Logan and Katja Lawrence, who live in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, with their four young children.
The researchers were able to identify the Lawrences through biographical details they shared in the Telegram channel’s group chat and on podcast appearances. One of the key clues to identifying them came when they revealed that they owned a German Shepherd called Blondi—the same name as Hitler’s dog.
The researchers found photos that Katja posted on Facebook with her German Shepherd, and were also able to confirm Katja Lawrence’s ownership of this dog through the Wyandot County dog licensing website dog search feature.
The Lawrences did not respond to multiple emails, text messages, social media messages, and phone calls from VICE News to discuss the contents of the report and their neo-Nazi homeschooling group.
Katja Lawrence, who is in her mid-30s, launched the channel in October 2021, because she “was having a rough time finding Nazi-approved school material for [her] homeschool children,” as she told the neo-Nazi podcast “Achtung! Amerikaner” last year.
Later in the same podcast episode, Lawrence expanded on her view on why she wanted to educate her children at home. “We have our children’s best interest at heart and nobody can do a better job than we can because it’s our child. We are so deeply invested into making sure that that child becomes a wonderful Nazi,” she said.
So yeah, Ohio Homeschooling Nazis, wanting to recruit people to join domestic terrorist militia groups. Yeah, I'd say there's probably a lot more networks like this that haven't been exposed yet. And remember, one of our political parties is doing everything they can to run cover for these actual, literal Nazis.
Countdown Shutdown, Armageddon Edition, Con't
House GOP Circus Of The Damned Ringmaster Kevin McCarthy is predicting that President Biden will fold and give the GOP Clown Car the trillions in cuts to infrastructure, health care, and social programs Biden championed over the last two years, because the GOP is more than happy to crush the economy and throw us into a UK-style decade-long depression.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he thinks President Joe Biden will come to an agreement with him regarding the debt ceiling, despite the Biden administration’s previous assertions that they wouldn’t negotiate with House Republicans on the issue.
“His staff tries to say something different, but I think the president will be willing to make an agreement together,” McCarthy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” The pair are scheduled to meet Wednesday, McCarthy said.
Biden previously confirmed he planned to meet with the House speaker to talk about raising the nation’s borrowing limit, in order to pay back money that’s already been spent.
McCarthy has taken the opportunity to attempt to force government spending cuts; the U.S. needs to both lift the nation’s debt ceiling and “take control of this runaway spending,” McCarthy told host Margaret Brennan on Sunday.
The Biden administration has argued Congress has the responsibility to pass a debt limit increase without conditions attached, noting that Congress did exactly that three times during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
Asked about White House concerns that some Republicans are seeking cuts to Social Security and Medicare, McCarthy said, “Let’s take those off the table.”
Cuts to defense spending, however, are still in play, McCarthy suggested.
“I want to look at every dollar no matter where it’s being spent,” he said, when asked specifically about defense. “I want to eliminate waste wherever it is.”
In 2011, after faltering debt limit negotiations with House Republicans brought the U.S. to the brink of economic calamity, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sat by the fireplace in the Oval Office, with their top aides on the couch. While relieved at having narrowly averted disaster, they were stunned by what had transpired.
Obama and Biden made a vow: Never again.
They agreed that going forward, “Nobody can use the threat of default or not increasing the debt limit as a negotiating tool,” said a former Obama official involved in the fiscal discussions, who recounted the Oval Office meeting and the “lesson of 2011” they all discussed. “It made you hold your stomach. You couldn’t believe you were at this situation," the official said.
The U.S. had just suffered its first credit downgrade. Markets were rattled. Consumer and business confidence was shaken. Stocks took a hit. And the recovery from the Great Recession was in question. Democrats averted the cliff — by acceding to $2 trillion in spending cuts the GOP had demanded after negotiations on a “grand bargain” broke down — but Obama and Biden agreed that the mere threat of default had taken a serious toll.
“They said: This is the sad lesson we’ve learned,” the Obama official said, describing the mood in the room. “It was an unimaginable self-inflicted wound in 2011.”
Twelve years later, Biden is executing on that lesson as he faces down a new Republican-controlled House that is similarly demanding spending cuts as a concession for extending the debt ceiling. He says there won’t be any negotiations, and Congress must allow the government to pay its bills. “I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip,” Biden said Thursday in Virginia.
Sunday, January 29, 2023
That's The Sound Of The Police, Con't
Once again, Democrats want a "national conversation" on police brutality, violence, and murder of civilians and especially Black folk, but America is not and never will be in my lifetime ready for a serious conversation on anything involving race.
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin said Sunday that the brutal footage of Memphis police beating Tyre Nichols demonstrated the need for “a national conversation” on law enforcement.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” the Illinois Democrat said, “We need a national conversation about policing in a responsible, constitutional and humane way. These men and women with badges put them on each day and risk their lives for us. I know that, but we also see from these videos horrible conduct by these same officers in unacceptable situations.”
Durbin told host Martha Raddatz “that law enforcement, by and large, is a state and local responsibility,” but added that Congress can insert itself into the conversation, noting a package of police reforms that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had been working on after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020.
That legislation stalled. One factor was a debate over the question of whether to retain “qualified immunity” for police officers.
“I think,” Durbin said of Booker, “he and Senator Scott should sit down again quickly to see if we can revive that effort.”
Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after being beaten repeatedly after a police stop by five Memphis officers, who have since been fired and charged in his death.
As for his own reaction to the footage of the beating of Nichols, Durbin said he was aghast.
“It was horrible. Inhumane. My heart goes out to the Tyre Nichols family to think that their son went through this,” he said, adding later: “What we saw on the streets of Memphis was just inhumane and horrible.”
First-term Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) said she found Nichols’ death horrifying but not surprising, saying it was not the first time the nation has seen an African American mother grieve in response to her child’s death.
“There are so many Black cities across the country that have re-lived this,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But it’s painful every single time and never gets any easier.”
The conversation on police and race is "Actual effective police reforms, oversight, and consequences of police violence against Americans they are supposed to be protecting will never happen, because it would deprive the national white supremacist party of one of its most effective tools in enforcing white supremacy."
You can dance around it all you want to, but the millions of law enforcement officers in America are there to chiefly oppress the descendants of slaves for the last 160 years. The "conversation" has been going since long before I was born, all of my life, and will be going long after I'm dead and gone as even a digital memory.
Democrats at least acknowledged the problem exists at the systemic level. They don't know what to do, and can't do much at all without Republicans blocking, destroying, and reversing it, but at least they know we're dying out here.
The other guys, well, they're actively assisting the killing.
Sunday Long Read: Fit As A Fiddle
It’s a few minutes past 10 in the morning, and John Becker stands just inside the door to his company’s office in the Fine Arts Building downtown. He wears a black workman’s apron, which he fits to his body by wrapping the ties around his torso twice. With his shoulders slightly hunched, he quietly observes the almost surreal scene unfolding before him.
A few feet away, Joshua Bell and James Ehnes, two of the most prominent solo violinists on the planet, hover over an Arts and Crafts–style wood table. Normally, Bell, a former child prodigy known for his virtuosic, animated playing, and Ehnes, a musician’s musician celebrated for his technical prowess, would be the superstars in the room. Both have won multiple Grammy Awards, and between the two of them, they have performed in nearly every major concert hall and with all the best orchestras in the world. But here, in Becker’s studio inside his office, another icon takes center stage.
“I’m really nervous and excited,” says Bell, his hands stuffed in his pockets. “It’s like meeting my wife again after two months. I’m a little overwhelmed.”
“Oh yeah, I understand the feeling,” Ehnes chimes in, his tone nearly giddy. His eyes are set on an object perched on a gray cloth that covers the tabletop. “I’ve never seen this violin before. It’s incredible. It’s so beautiful.” He pauses as though to take in every contour. The spruce wood — a swirl of orange and red hues — glows under the morning light. “It’s stunning.”
The violin in question belongs to Bell. The 310-year-old instrument, which Bell has said is worth as much as $15 million, is among the roughly 650 made by the renowned 18th-century Italian craftsman Antonio Stradivari that survive today. Bell left it with Becker for repairs, and over the past two months, the master luthier applied protective polish to preserve the original varnish, removed the top to make internal repairs, and handcrafted several cleats to reinforce tiny cracks in the wood. Bell has flown in from New York to retrieve the violin, which has been his concert instrument since 2001, before he departs on a tour of South America and Italy.
Ehnes plans to leave his own Strad with Becker for more minor repairs — a bridge adjustment, a varnish touchup, a new sound post — which will take only a day. The Canadian has made this essential stop before heading to concerts in South Korea and Japan.
Becker turns to Bell and asks if he wants to give the violin a try. It may look beautiful thanks to the fresh polish, but after 213 hours of painstaking work, the true test is how it feels and sounds.
“Yes, I do,” Bell responds, eagerly picking up the instrument.
Becker doesn’t play violin, but his ears are more attuned to the famed sound of Stradivarius instruments than perhaps anyone else’s in the world. He steps back as Bell raises his bow.
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Last Call For Hammer Heads
In the immediate wake of a man breaking into Nancy Pelosi’s San Fransisco home and viciously attacking her husband, the right-wing media, Republicans, and their conservative followers got into formation to do what they do best: spread baseless rumors about the assault and mock the victim.
Tucker Carlson fueled conspiracy theories that Paul Pelosi and his attacker, David DePape, were lovers. Elon Musk, who’d become the owner of Twitter just three days prior, shared a story with his 112 million followers from a website known to traffic in false information, that the man was a prostitute with whom Pelosi had gotten into a dispute. (He later deleted the tweet but not before writing, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”) Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a “Paul Pelosi” Halloween costume made up of simply underwear and hammer, writing: “The internet remains undefeated.” Representative Claudia Tenney commented “LOL” on a photo of a group of men holding hammers beside a gay pride flag, before deleting the tweet. Charlie Kirk, the conservative YouTube host, said on his podcast he hoped an “amazing patriot” would go bail out DePape, “ask him some questions,” and become a “midterm hero.”
On Thursday, Fox News host Sean Hannity had a guest on his show who speculated that set-to-be-released footage of the attack would “not help the prosecution” and raise “more questions than it answers.”
On Friday, footage of the attack was released. In addition to being deeply difficult to watch—viewers can see the moment when DePape beats the 82-year-old Pelosi with a hammer—it also makes the gang at Fox News and beyond not only look very stupid but like the depraved ghouls they are. Will they see it that way and apologize to the victim and his family? We’re going to go out on a limb and assume the answer starts with an “h” and ends with a “—ell f--king no.” Are you familiar at all with how these people operate? They’re about to double down, if they haven’t already.
Black Lives Still Matter, Con't
Video released by authorities in Memphis Friday shows police officers beating Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop that ended with his hospitalization and death.
The four videos released by the Memphis Police Department include video from surveillance and body worn cameras.
The city’s top police official, Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, has previously described the conduct captured in the disturbing and graphic video as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”
Nichols, 29, was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days after Memphis police officers stopped him Jan. 7. Details about what occurred between Nichols and the officers have been sparse; police initially said Nichols ran during the reckless driving stop and that a "confrontation" occurred in an effort to detain him.
However, Davis told MSNBC Friday that an investigation and review of available camera footage could not "substantiate" the reckless driving claim.
Nichols' family was offered a private viewing of the video Monday. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, made it only through the first minute, family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said.
While she hasn’t seen all the footage, Wells said “what I’ve heard is very horrific.”
“Any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it,” she added during a news conference Friday.
Ronna Rolls On
Ronna Romney McDaniel is rewarded again for her terrible RNC performance, because the party of losers rewards losing races abut getting money.
The Republican National Committee on Friday voted to reelect Ronna McDaniel to a fourth two-year term as party chair, opting not to punish her for the GOP’s recent string of electoral defeats.
McDaniel fended off a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California lawyer who has represented former president Donald Trump and the unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, seizing on grass-roots furor demanding new leadership. McDaniel positioned herself as a steady hand and honest broker who can hold together the party’s factions and continue building out the RNC’s financial and field resources. She prevailed on the first ballot, 111-51.
McDaniel argued that the RNC did its job in the midterms by providing the infrastructure for turning out voters. She acknowledged that the party struggled with its nominees — a problem that many Republicans have attributed to influence of Trump, though McDaniel didn’t address the former president in her remarks on Friday morning.
“The RNC, we don’t get to pick the candidates, the voters do,” McDaniel said. “We don’t get to call the plays, we don’t get to say what the campaigns run on. But we do provide resoureces and we build a critical infrastructure to help candidates win.” McDaniel said Republicans won the popular vote by 4 million, equivalent to 297 Electoral College votes, and made inroads with minority voters.
Interviews with RNC members gathered at a luxury resort here suggested that Dhillon’s appearances on conservative media and her alliance with right-wing influencers failed to sway, and in some cases even backfired with, many of the 168 committee members whose votes will decide the outcome. Still, a nod of support Thursday morning from potential presidential candidate Ron DeSantis underscored the competitiveness of the challenge, with a person close to Dhillon’s campaign saying she picked up 11 votes after the Florida governor’s endorsement.
“Only 168 people can vote,” said Benjamin Proto, a committee member from Connecticut who is supporting McDaniel. “I don’t care what Tucker Carlson thinks the next chairman should do, or what Charlie Kirk does,” he said, referring to the Fox News host and Turning Point USA founder respectively. “So I think that was a mistake on Harmeet’s part, it was just a strategic error.”
Friday, January 27, 2023
Last Call For In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions, Con't
Can Anything Be Done to Assuage Rural Rage?
Rural resentment has become a central fact of American politics — in particular, a pillar of support for the rise of right-wing extremism. As the Republican Party has moved ever further into MAGAland, it has lost votes among educated suburban voters; but this has been offset by a drastic rightward shift in rural areas, which in some places has gone so far that the Democrats who remain face intimidation and are afraid to reveal their party affiliation.
But is this shift permanent? Can anything be done to assuage rural rage?
Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday outlined a sweeping criminal justice proposal that came packed with changes that have long been politically popular with conservatives, setting up a fight with outmatched Democrats during the 2023 legislative session.
DeSantis addressed the Florida Sheriffs Association on Monday and rolled out his criminal justice package at the Miami offices of the Miami Police Benevolent Association.
At both events, DeSantis stressed he wanted the GOP-led Legislature to change Florida law to allow juries to administer the death penalty by a supermajority rather than requiring unanimity, which has been state law since 2017. DeSantis has tied this proposal to the case of the Parkland school shooter, who shot and killed 17 people but was spared the death penalty because one of the jurors was against the death penalty.
“One juror should not be able to veto that,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I don’t think justice was served.”
DeSantis also wants lawmakers to crack down on colorful fentanyl pills that look like candy and are commonly referred to as “rainbow fentanyl.” His proposal would make it a first degree felony to possess, sell, or manufacture fentanyl that resembles candy. It would also make it a $1 million penalty for trafficking those pills to children. It’s the second year in the row DeSantis focused on fentanyl. Last year, he championed increased mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl trafficking.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing mounting backlash regarding his administration’s decision to prohibit an Advanced Placement high school course on African American studies, with Black leaders rallying in the capital, a prominent civil rights lawyer threatening to sue and state lawmakers urging him to reverse the decision.
Attorney Ben Crump accused DeSantis of violating the federal and state constitutions Wednesday by refusing to permit the course. His legal team noted that a federal judge found a 2010 law in Arizona that banned a Mexican American studies program from Tucson schools unconstitutional and officials “motivated by racial animus.”
The state Department of Education contends that the class is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law.” A new education law championed by DeSantis requires lessons on race be taught in “an objective manner” and “not used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” Some education advocates and teachers say the law is so broadly framed that it is having a chilling effect on the teaching of Black history.
“If he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American Studies to be taught in classrooms across the state of Florida, these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit,” Crump said before he introduced the students.
Crump has been involved in several high-profile civil rights cases involving Black Americans and vowed that DeSantis “cannot exterminate our culture.”
The latest controversy in Florida education policies began this month, when the DeSantis administration said a pilot Advanced Placement course on Black history would not be approved by the state Department of Education because it violated state law and “lacks educational value.”
The Durham Debacle Debate
It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.
Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.
But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.
Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.
Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.
Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)
Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
Last Call For Recession, Receding
The U.S. economy finished 2022 in solid shape even as questions persist over whether growth will turn negative in the year ahead.
Fourth-quarter gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced for the October-to-December period, rose at a 2.9% annualized pace, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected a reading of 2.8%.
The growth rate was slightly slower than the 3.2% pace in the third quarter.
Stocks turned mixed following the report while Treasury yields were mostly higher.
Consumer spending, which accounts for about 68% of GDP, increased 2.1% for the period, down slightly from 2.3% in the previous period but still positive.
Inflation readings moved considerably lower to end the year after hitting 41-year highs in the summer. The personal consumption expenditures price index increased 3.2%, in line with expectations but down sharply from 4.8% in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy, the chain-weighted index rose 3.9%, down from 4.7%.
While the inflation numbers indicated price increases are receding, they remain well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.
Along with the boost from consumers, increases in private inventory investment, government spending and nonresidential fixed investment helped lift the GDP number.
A 26.7% plunge in residential fixed investment, reflecting a sharp slide in housing, served as a drag on the growth number, as did a 1.3% decline in exports. The housing drop subtracted about 1.3 percentage points from the headline GDP number.
Federal government spending rose 6.2%, due largely to an 11.2% surge on nondefense outlays, while state and local expenditures were up 2.3%. Government spending in total added 0.64 percentage points to GDP.
Inventory increases also played a significant role, adding nearly 1.5 percentage points.
“The mix of growth was discouraging, and the monthly data suggest the economy lost momentum as the fourth quarter went on,” wrote Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics. “We still expect the lagged impact of the surge in interest rates to push the economy into a mild recession in the first half of this year.”
Orange You Glad He's Back, Con't
Social media is rooted in the belief that open debate and the free flow of ideas are important values, especially at a time when they are under threat in many places around the world. As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms — especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States. The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act.
Two years ago, we took action in what were extreme and highly unusual circumstances. We indefinitely suspended then-US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. We then referred that decision to the Oversight Board — an expert body established to be an independent check and balance on our decision-making. The Board upheld the decision but criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension and the lack of clear criteria for when and whether suspended accounts will be restored, directing us to review the matter to determine a more proportionate response.
In response to the Board, we imposed a time-bound suspension of two years from the date of the original suspension on January 7, 2021 — an unprecedented length of time for such a suspension. We also clarified the circumstances in which accounts of public figures could be restricted during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence, and introduced a new Crisis Policy Protocol to guide our assessment of on and off-platform risks of imminent harm so we can respond with specific policy and product actions. In our response to the Oversight Board, we also said that before making any decision on whether or not to lift Mr. Trump’s suspension, we would assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.
The suspension was an extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances. The normal state of affairs is that the public should be able to hear from a former President of the United States, and a declared candidate for that office again, on our platforms. Now that the time period of the suspension has elapsed, the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, but whether there remain such extraordinary circumstances that extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period is justified.
To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment. Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out. As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.
Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our Community Standards. In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses — penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol. In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.
I give it until St. Patrick's Day before Trump gets banned again for one of his tirades. Only this time when he's punished, the House GOP will be ready to go with subpoenas and hearings, and plenty of fundraising off the circus mess.
The notion that the Trump threat has "subsided" is laughable, but I guess we're going to have to watch him call for another insurrection or worse until someone decides to put him in jail.
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Last Call For The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't
Under pressure to address the nation’s soaring housing costs, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced significant new actions to protect tenants and make renting more affordable.
The announcement involves multiple federal agencies that will gather information on unfair housing practices. It also includes a “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” that, while not binding, sets clear guidelines to help renters stay in affordable housing. The White House is also launching a call to action, dubbed the “Resident-Centered Housing Challenge,” that aims to get housing providers as well as state and local governments to strengthen policies in their own markets.
After months of deliberation, the moves come as the housing market continues to pose a serious problem for people who don’t own their homes — and for the economy overall. While inflation has fallen for the past six months, average rental prices have continued to increase rapidly, disproportionately hurting vulnerable households that spend the bulk of their budgets on rent. Meanwhile, the country is stuck in a massive housing shortfall, complicating efforts to lower costs or simply find enough places for the 44 million American renter households to go.
“This is something the president identified as being necessary on the campaign trail, and is not necessarily purely a product of the current surge in rents, because this is much more expansive than thinking about this in the context of rent growth,” said Erika Poethig, special assistant to the president for housing and urban policy at the Domestic Policy Council, in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s about thinking about many other aspects of what contributes to a fair market.”
For over a year, tenant leaders, housing experts and legal organizations have pushed the Biden administration to do everything in its power to tackle soaring rent costs, arguing that America’s housing issues are an economic crisis. In recent months, advocates say they were frustrated that the proposals weren’t coming faster or with more force, arguing that the White House was hesitant to test the limits of its executive authority or issue direct requirements to local governments and federal agencies. Tenants and community organizers also met with White House officials and agency heads, and held a congressional briefing sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in November to push for a sweeping set of new regulations.
Organizers with People’s Action and the Homes Guarantee said the announcement included some wins, like getting the Federal Housing Finance Agency to work on identifying ways to adopt and enforce tenant protections, including policies that limit high rent increases at properties with FHFA-backed mortgages.
But in an analysis of the proposals, they said the policies weren’t enough to change “tenants’ lives materially today.” The announcement includes no conditions on federal financing, for example, but instead gets closest with a carrot approach, like providing incentives to landlords who accept vouchers.
The Circus Of The Damned, Con't
Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday unilaterally exiled Representatives Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee, making good on a longstanding threat to expel the California Democrats in his first major act of partisan retribution since taking the majority.
The move was a much-anticipated tit-for-tat after Democrats, then in the majority, voted in 2021 to eject two Republicans, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, from congressional committees for internet posts that advocated violence against their political enemies. It was also payback for the decision by Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker, to bar Republicans who had helped former President Donald J. Trump spread the election lies that fueled the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol from sitting on the special committee investigating the riot.
Now that he is in control, Mr. McCarthy sought to punish Mr. Schiff and Mr. Swalwell, two favorite foils of Republicans who had played key roles in the two impeachments of Mr. Trump, though he denied that his decision was retaliatory. Instead, he argued that both men had displayed behavior unbecoming of the committee tasked with overseeing the nation’s intelligence services.
In a letter outlining his decision to Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader, Mr. McCarthy decried what he described as “the misuse” of the intelligence panel during the last four years, arguing that it had “severely undermined its primary national security and oversight missions — ultimately leaving our nation less safe.” He called the dismissals of Mr. Schiff and Mr. Swalwell necessary “to maintain a standard worthy of this committee’s responsibilities.”
Mr. McCarthy has said that Mr. Schiff “openly lied to the American people” when he chaired the intelligence panel during Mr. Trump’s presidency. In September 2019, Mr. Schiff was excoriated by Republicans for dramatically paraphrasing the contents of a telephone call in which Mr. Trump had pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, and for implying, falsely, that his committee had had no contact with a whistle-blower raising concerns about their conversation.
Earlier, in March 2019, Republicans on the committee had demanded that Mr. Schiff step aside for having said that he had seen “more than circumstantial evidence” of collusion between Mr. Trump and the Russians in 2017. That claim had been called into question by the findings of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who had looked into the matter, which Attorney General William P. Barr had summarized in a letter to certain members of Congress. Republicans accused Mr. Schiff of having compromised the integrity of the panel by knowingly promoting false information.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday night, Mr. Schiff countered that Mr. McCarthy was “trying to remove me from the intel committee for holding his boss at Mar-a-Lago accountable.”
“It’s just another body blow to the institution of Congress that he’s behaving this way, but it just shows how weak he is as a speaker,” he added.
Republicans have railed against Mr. Swalwell, who served as a manager in Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, citing an Axios report that reported that Mr. Swalwell was targeted by a suspected Chinese spy as part of an influence campaign in 2014, before he served on the intelligence panel. The report said that around 2015, federal investigators alerted Mr. Swalwell to their concerns and he “cut off all ties.”
“This is all about political vengeance,” Mr. Swalwell said of Mr. McCarthy’s action.
Because the intelligence panel is a “select” committee, the speaker has the authority to dictate who can serve, just as Ms. Pelosi was able to block Republicans appointed by Mr. McCarthy from the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. However, Mr. Schiff and Mr. Swalwell are not expected to lose their other committee assignments.
Mr. McCarthy has also threatened to remove Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, from congressional committees for criticism of Israel that Republicans and some Democrats have condemned as anti-Semitic. Ms. Omar apologized in 2019 for saying that support for Israel in Washington was “all about the Benjamins baby,” a comment that members of both parties denounced as a reference to an anti-Semitic trope. She was criticized again in 2021 when she made statements that appeared to compare human rights abuses by Israel with acts committed by Hamas and the Taliban, and later said she had not meant to equate them.
It was not clear whether Mr. McCarthy, who holds a razor-thin majority, had the votes to oust Ms. Omar. At least two Republicans have publicly expressed qualms about doing so.
And the Minnesota Democrat on Tuesday night told reporters at the Capitol that some Republicans had told her privately they believed such a move would be “uncalled for.”
“They are trying to do whatever it is that they can within their conference to make sure there is no vote to remove me from the Foreign Affairs Committee,” she added.
Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, Con't
The Justice Department and a group of states sued Google on Tuesday, accusing it of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology that powers online advertising, in the agency’s first antitrust lawsuit against a tech giant under President Biden and an escalation in legal pressure on one of the world’s biggest internet companies.
The lawsuit said Google had “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers and brokers, to facilitate digital advertising.” The lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to force Google to sell its suite of ad technology products and stop the company from engaging in allegedly anticompetitive practices.
It was the fifth antitrust lawsuit filed by U.S. officials against Google since 2020, as lawmakers and regulators around the world try to rein in the power that big tech companies exert over information and commerce online. In Europe, Amazon, Google, Apple and others have faced antitrust investigations and charges, while regulators have passed new laws to limit social media’s harms and some practices such as data collection.
In the United States, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was sued in 2020 over claims that it illegally crushed nascent rivals. Google has faced particular scrutiny. In 2020, a group of states led by Texas filed an antitrust lawsuit against it involving advertising technology, while the Justice Department and another group of states separately sued Google over claims that it abused its dominance over online search. In 2021, some states also sued over Google’s app store practices.
The Justice Department and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Biden administration is trying to use uncommon legal theories to clip the wings of some of America’s largest businesses. The Federal Trade Commission has asked a judge to block Meta from buying a virtual-reality start-up, a rare case that argues a deal could harm potential competition in a nascent market. The agency has also challenged Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of the video game publisher Activision Blizzard, a notable action because the two companies are not primarily seen as direct competitors.
The administration’s efforts are expected to meet fierce resistance in federal courts. Judges have for decades subscribed to a view that antitrust violations should mostly be determined by whether they increase prices for consumers. But Jonathan Kanter, the chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and Lina Khan, the F.T.C. chair, have said they are willing to lose cases that allow them to stretch the boundaries of the law and that put corporate America on notice.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Last Call For Documenting The Atrocities
A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he has turned those classified records over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up in Pence’s house in Indiana.
The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by a lawyer for Pence in the wake of the revelations about classified material discovered in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence, the sources said. The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said he did not have any classified documents in his possession.
It is not yet clear what the documents are related to or their level of sensitivity or classification.
Pence’s team notified congressional leaders and relevant committees of the discovery on Tuesday.
Pence asked his lawyer with experience handling classified material to conduct the search of his home out of an abundance of caution. Sources said that the attorney, Matt Morgan, began going through four boxes stored at Pence’s house last week, finding a small number of documents with classified markings.
Pence’s lawyer immediately alerted the National Archives, the sources said. In turn, the Archives informed the Justice Department.
A lawyer for Pence told CNN that the FBI requested to pick up the documents with classified markings that evening, and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis picked up the documents from Pence’s home, the lawyer said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team drove the boxes back to Washington, DC, and handed them over to the Archives to review the rest of the material for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
In a letter to the National Archives obtained by CNN, Pence’s representative to the Archives Greg Jacob wrote that a “small number of documents bearing classified markings” were inadvertently boxed and transported to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence,” Jacob wrote. “Vice President Pence understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and stands ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry.”
The Manchin On The Hill, Con't
If Joe Manchin thought for a moment that blocking Democratic initiatives would earn him points with Republicans, his good colleague Rick Scott is openly running NRSC ads in West Virginia calling for Manchin to announce his retirement now so that the GOP can take his seat.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is portraying Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) as a Davos-trekking elitist in a direct mail and digital ad campaign directed at West Virginia voters.
Why it matters: The NRSC's early anti-Manchin messaging is part of a pressure campaign designed to dissuade him from seeking a third term. Manchin is the only Democrat who can realistically hold a Senate seat in one of the most conservative states in the country.
"I haven't made a decision what I'm going to do in 2024. I've got two years ahead of me now to do the best I can for the state and for my country," Manchin said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Details: The NRSC mailer hits Manchin for traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. "Instead of working in West Virginia, Joe Manchin is hanging out in Switzerland," the back of the mailer reads.
The digital ad tags Manchin as "Maserati Manchin," attacking him for living a luxurious lifestyle — owning a fancy car, luxury yacht and racking up big bills at gourmet restaurants.
The bottom line: Manchin's decision to travel to a conference of international jet-setters — along with his public teasing of a possible 2024 presidential campaign — aren't consistent with the actions of a senator trying to lock down his seat in West Virginia.
Russian To Judgment, Con't
So yeah, infamous Putinista oligarch and US-sanctioned crook Oleg Deripaska managed to buy himself a former FBI SAC to investigate a rival, and, well, gosh that's illegal, champ.
A former top FBI official in New York has been arrested over his ties to a Russian oligarch, law enforcement sources told ABC News Monday.
Charles McGonigal, who was the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York Field Office, is under arrest over his ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who has been sanctioned by the United States and criminally charged last year with violating those sanctions.
McGonigal retired from the FBI in 2018. He was arrested Saturday afternoon after he arrived at JFK Airport following travel in Sri Lanka, the sources said.
He was charged along with a court interpreter, Sergey Shestakov, who also worked with Deripaska.
McGonigal, 54, is charged with violating U.S. sanctions by trying to get Deripaska off the sanctions list. McGonigal is one of the highest ranking former FBI officials ever charged with a crime.
McGonigal and Shestakov, who worked for the FBI investigating oligarchs, allegedly agreed in 2021 to investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska, according to the Justice Department. McGonigal and Shestakov are accused of receiving payments through shell companies and forging signatures in order to keep it a secret that Deripaska was paying them.
Both face money laundering charges in addition to charges for violating sanctions. Each of four counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Monday, January 23, 2023
Last Call For Welcome To Gunmerica, Con't
Authorities have identified the man responsible for a deadly shooting inside a Monterey Park dance studio as 72-year-old Hemet resident Huu Can Tran.
Tran died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a strip mall parking lot, law enforcement sources said.
“We still are not clear on the motive,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said. “The investigation continues … we want to know how something this awful can happen.”
The manhunt began after the shooter opened fire inside Star Dance Studio on West Garvey Avenue around 10:20 p.m. Saturday, killing 10 people and injuring 10 others. It was Lunar New Year’s Eve.
About 20 minutes after the shooting in Monterey Park, Tran walked into Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in nearby Alhambra, officials said. “The suspect walked in there, probably with the intent to kill two more people,” Luna said. “But two community members disarmed him, took possession of his weapon, and the suspect ran away.”
At 10:20 a.m. Sunday, police located the white cargo van that was seen leaving the scene of the shooting near Sepulveda and Hawthorne boulevards in Torrance, Luna said. When officers left their patrol vehicle to make contact with the van occupant, they heard one gunshot come from the van.
At 1 p.m., a SWAT team determined that the suspect had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities determined the man inside the van was Tran, the mass shooting suspect.
During the search, several pieces of evidence were found inside the van linking the suspect to both locations.
“I can confirm that there are no outstanding suspects,” Luna said.
The weapon taken by community members in Alhambra was a magazine-fed semiautomatic assault pistol, with an extended magazine attached, according to authorities. This particular firearm with an extended magazine is illegal to possess in California.
An advisory from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department identified the suspect as an adult Asian man, about 5 feet 10 inches and weighing 150 pounds. An image showed the man in a black leather jacket, beanie and glasses.
“I still have questions in my mind, which is, what was the motive for this shooter? Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns, and was it through legal means? Well, those questions will have to be answered in the future,” said U.S. Rep. Judy Chu during a Sunday night news conference.
Those Florida Blues
More than two months after enduring humbling midterm losses, Democrats in Florida are in a state of disorder, with no clear leader, infrastructure, or consensus for rebuilding, according to interviews with more than a dozen organizers, former lawmakers, donors and other leaders.
These factors have compounded their worries about Democrats outside Florida all but writing off the nation’s third most populous state, which was once seen as a marquee battleground. Democrats have struggled there in recent elections, hitting a new low last fall when Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won a second term by nearly 20 points and carried majority-Hispanic Miami-Dade County, which a GOP gubernatorial nominee hadn’t done in 20 years. Republicans also secured a supermajority in the state legislature.
Now, as Democrats look to 2024, there are few early signs that Florida will be a top priority for President Biden, who has said he intends to run for reelection. A Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe strategy, said decisions about whether a reelection campaign would invest in Florida would be based in part on the Republican nominee. Some Democrats see little hope of contesting Florida’s 30 electoral votes — only Texas and California are allotted more — in 2024 if DeSantis is the nominee, while there’s a greater opportunity if former president Donald Trump wins the GOP nod.
“The thing about Florida Democrats is we keep learning with every passing year that just when you thought you had hit bottom, you discover that there are new abysses to fall deeper and deeper into,” said Fernand Amandi, a veteran Democratic operative in the state. “There is no plan. There’s nothing. It’s just a state of suspended animation and chaos — and, more than anything, it’s the mournful regret and acceptance that Florida has been cast aside for the long, foreseeable future.”
It is unclear to many Florida Democrats whether they will be able to field a competitive U.S. Senate nominee next year for the seat currently held by Sen. Rick Scott (R); the last time they won a Senate race in the state was 2012. There are currently no Democratic statewide officeholders — a first since Reconstruction.
More immediately, they face the question of who will helm the state party after the recent resignation of Manny Diaz, the embattled chairman who faced mounting calls for him to step down. There is no immediate front-runner for the position, Democrats said, and the Democratic National Committee has no preference for next chair yet, according to a person familiar with the deliberations, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private considerations.
Republicans have made notable inroads among Hispanic voters in recent election cycles. Now, a conservative media network is looking to cement and further those gains by trying to become the Fox News of Spanish-speaking America.
Americano Media, which launched in March, is embarking on an aggressive expansion plan to shape center-right Hispanic opinion during the upcoming election cycle. The network has hired more than 80 Latino journalists and producers, are expanding their radio presence to television, and by the end of the year will have studios in Miami, Las Vegas and D.C. with reporters covering the White House, Congress and embedding in 2024 presidential campaigns. This month, Americano is launching a $20 million marketing campaign to draw in new viewers.
It’s the latest development in an arms race to reach and win over the nation’s second-largest demographic group, one playing an increasingly critical role in election outcomes.
“We don’t have a Fox News in Spanish, and that’s what Americano intends to be,” said the network’s CEO and founder Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo. He said he has listened to Hispanic Republican leaders lament for 25 years about the need for something like it, but no one ever took serious action.
Garcia-Hidalgo, who worked as a Hispanic surrogate for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign after a career in telecommunications with Tyco, AT&T and Sprint, said he wants to “blow up” the traditional ways in which conservative Hispanics interact with the media, which he said consisted of going on liberal-leaning networks to “apologize for being Republican, bow your head and take a beating for an hour.”
Americano started with a suite of radio shows out of Miami, where it remains headquartered, but plans to have a presence on television and radio in battleground states across America in the next year, in addition to driving Spanish-speaking audiences to its online and streaming platforms.
To date, Americano Media has raised $18 million from its first three investors, and is set to complete its first and only round of equity investment this spring to generate another $30 to $50 million, Garcia-Hidalgo said. Thomas Woolston, a northern Virginia patent attorney, and Doug Hayden, a San Jose, Calif.-based investor, were the first to provide capital; Americano declined to disclose the third investor.