Monday, June 12, 2023

Last Call For The GOP Circus Of The Damned

As Greg Sargent points out at the Washington Post, there's a lot of damage that House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio can attempt to inflict on the espionage Act case against Donald Trump.
First, he can harass the prosecution by casting a wide net for documents. On Friday, he sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding internal communications about the FBI decision to search Mar-a-Lago, apparently untroubled by the indictment’s striking allegation that Trump hid reams of documents from his own lawyer before the search.

The Justice Department will most likely respond that divulging sensitive information related to ongoing investigations and prosecutions is against department policy, as it did to a similar GOP demand earlier this year. Whereupon Jordan’s committee will probably issue a subpoena, which the department will most likely fight.

Then what? Presumably the House will come under pressure to hold Garland in contempt. But would that pass? Does House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) really want Republicans representing districts that President Biden carried in 2020 to vote for such a naked effort to derail an apparently damning prosecution? Moderate Senate Republicans have been muted, a possible tell about where their House counterparts will land.

If the case against Trump keeps marching forward and Jordan’s antics produce little, it’s plausible that MAGA Republicans could demand the threat of a government shutdown to defund or otherwise hobble the prosecution.

Republicans could theoretically try to add an amendment to that effect to one of this fall’s spending bills, says Brookings Institution scholar Sarah A. Binder. But it would probably lack the votes to pass the House. “I’m highly skeptical such a move would succeed,” Binder told me.

Of course, Republicans can employ all these moves merely to spin up a miasma of generalized corruption around the prosecution.

“They’re going to want to sabotage the credibility of the case in the minds of the jurors,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told me. Swalwell suggested that the goal is a “cloud over the case” and a jury “tainted in favor of Donald Trump.”

In this, Jordan can count on the right-wing media, which will treat any and all bits of information he generates about the prosecution as damning proof of its irredeemable corruption. These sources are already smearing the indictment with deranged conspiracy theories.

To be clear, congressional oversight of law enforcement is an essential component of the rule of law. Republicans could theoretically conduct this in good faith and possibly produce genuine evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

But Jordan’s track record is awful. He has relied on FBI “whistleblowers” who peddle conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. He has issued subpoenas designed to persuade conservative parents to feel like FBI targets when they aren’t. He has harassed academics who study disinformation to pretend that conservatives are being silenced.

Above all, Jordan’s committee seems devoted to creating the impression that he is striking great blows against the Biden administration on behalf of MAGA nation and its persecuted masses, and especially on behalf of Trump himself.
But if the prosecution of Trump advances, MAGA Republicans might demand not performative strikes but real results. If so, the GOP split will deepen between those who want to go through the motions of defending Trump without aligning themselves too firmly against the rule of law, and those who want the House to treat the fantasy of Trump’s persecution as a genuine MAGA emergency, and act accordingly.
Between Jordan and Judge Aileen Cannon, the case is going to take a brutal battering before it even can be tried. As it is, the MAGA response for the events of the last few days is to file impeachment articles (again!) against both President Biden and VP Harris.

This has a long way to go, but the GOP is going to be trying to wreck this every chance they can.

Highway To Hell, Con't

President Biden's infrastructure bill set aside billions for highway and bridge repair, but those repairs are going to take years, and some highways need the money, you know, yesterday.
Repairs on Interstate 95 are expected to take "months" after an elevated section collapsed in Philadelphia on Sunday morning when a tanker truck carrying flammable cargo caught fire beneath the overpass, officials said.

"With regards to the complete rebuild of I-95 roadway, we expect it to take some number of months," Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro told a press conference on Sunday evening, adding that he plans to issue a disaster declaration to "expedite this process" and "immediately draw down federal funds."

Shapiro said he had spoken directly to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg who assured him there would be "absolutely no delay" in getting federal funds to safely and swiftly rebuild the "critical roadway."

In the meantime, officials are looking at "interim solutions to connect both sides of I-95 to get traffic through the area," according to Shapiro. All lanes between the exits for Philadelphia's Woodhaven Road and Aramingo Avenue are closed in both directions indefinitely, local ABC station WPVI reported.

The northbound side of the affected segment "completely collapsed," while the southbound lanes are "not structurally sound to carry any traffic," Shapiro said. One vehicle remains trapped beneath the collapsed roadway, according to the governor.

"We are still working to identify any individual or individuals who may have been caught in the fire and the collapse," he said, before later clarifying that no one on I-95 at the time was injured or killed in the incident.

Inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determined that the southbound portion cannot be reopened and will also need to be replaced, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report reviewed by ABC News on Monday.
Taxpayers sure hate gas taxes and highway repairs, right up until said highway collapses and screws up traffic for three months at a time. Ask your friends in Cincy about the Brent Spence Bridge sometime.


Bunga Bunga No More

Silvio Berlusconi, the boastful billionaire media mogul who was Italy’s longest-serving premier despite scandals over his sex-fueled parties and allegations of corruption, died Monday. He was 86.

Supporters applauded as his body arrived at his villa outside Milan from the city’s San Raffaele Hospital, where he had been treated for chronic leukemia. A state funeral will be held Wednesday in the city’s Duomo cathedral, according to the Milan Archdiocese.

A onetime cruise ship crooner, Berlusconi used his television networks and immense wealth to launch his long political career, inspiring both loyalty and loathing.

To admirers, the three-time premier was a capable and charismatic statesman who sought to elevate Italy on the world stage. To critics, he was a populist who threatened to undermine democracy by wielding political power as a tool to enrich himself and his businesses.

His Forza Italia political party was a coalition partner with current Premier Giorgia Meloni, a far-right leader who came to power last year, although he held no position in the government.

His friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin put him at odds with Meloni, a staunch supporter of Ukraine. On his 86th birthday, while the war raged, Putin sent Berlusconi best wishes and vodka, and the Italian boasted he returned the favor by sending back Italian wine.

When former U.S. President Donald Trump launched his political career, many drew comparisons to Berlusconi, noting they both had long business careers, sought to upend the existing political order, and grabbed attention for their over-the-top personalities and lavish lifestyles.

Meloni remembered Berlusconi as “above all as a fighter.”

“He was a man who had never been afraid to defend his beliefs. And it was exactly that courage and determination that made him one of the most influential men in the history of Italy,” Meloni said on Italian TV.
Screamingly corrupt, just like Trump.  And now he's gone.

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