Thursday, September 28, 2023

Last Call For An Unimpeachable Attack

The first impeachment hearing against President Biden by James Comer's crew went as badly as you'd expect from a House GOP clown show that will almost certainly shut down the government this weekend with their own incompetence.
On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held its first hearing of their official impeachment inquiry investigation of as-yet-unproven allegations of “abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption,” by President Biden.

The GOP invited three witnesses to testify before the committee: Justice Department official Eileen O’Connor, law professor Jonathan Turley, and forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky.

If Republicans were looking for a bombshell first hearing, they didn’t get it. All three witnesses agreed that they would not be presenting “any first-hand witness account of crimes committed by the president of the United States.”

Turley, who is also a legal analyst for Fox News, went so far as to say that despite generally supporting the inquiry, he does “not believe the current evidence would support articles of impeachment,” against the president.

Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley, one of the GOP's impeachment witnesses, says: "I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment… But I also do believe that the House has passed the threshold for an impeachment inquiry."— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) September 28, 2023

Dubinsky emphasized that he was not present at the hearing “to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing,” adding that in his opinion“more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.”

O’Connor, stated that she feels the inquiry is justified, but affirmed when asked that she was not a material witness and had no evidence to provide to the committee.

Democrats on the committee ripped the GOP in response.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the spectacle an “embarrassment,” and pointed to the fact that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had circumvented a floor vote authorizing the inquiry, a vote that has typically been taken in past impeachment proceedings before moving forward with public hearings.

Ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) shared her sentiment. “They don’t have the votes because dozens of Republicans recognize what a futile and absurd process this is,” he said.

“They present us no basis [for impeachment] at all today, even after eight months of investigation. They invited three witnesses to testify today, not one of them an eyewitness to a presidential crime of any kind. Not one of them is a direct fact witness about any of the events related to Ukraine and Burisma. If the Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol they would be presenting it today. But they’ve got nothing on Joe Biden.” 
I'm beginning to think House Republicans might actually not be able to impeach Biden on an all GOP vote because they won't have the numbers.

Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) sparred with Chairman Comer when he declared that “these witnesses are not giving any basis [for this hearing].” Comer disagreed, cutting Frost off, but the Democrat persisted. “These witnesses are not giving any answers,” he exclaimed. “They’re just asking more questions.”

Despite how Comer may see it, Republicans on and off the Hill are already recognizing how badly the hearing flopped. According to CNN, one GOP insider called the display an “unmitigated disaster.”

“You want witnesses that make your case. Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans’ arguments for impeachment is mind-blowing,” the anonymous source said.

What a surprise. Not even Jon Turley wants to risk a lying to Congress charge by making up a false flag here.
Raw Story caught up with a few other members outside the hearing room to ask how they felt things were going.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said when the hearing was announced, "My colleagues and I have spent nine months gathering information, vetting allegations, and establishing the concerning fact pattern upon which this inquiry is based."

Even in the hearing, his questions focused on the timeline of the shutdown and the impeachment hearings. He then pivoted to talk about whistleblowers and information on the investigations.

"I think it's — clearly, the Democrats are trying to lead us away from the purpose of this hearing and that purpose was gaining other peoples' perspective about the use of the inquiry," he said, explaining that the goal wasn't to provide evidence but have a holistic conversation about whether an impeachment was warranted.

"Today, there is not that direct link," Sessions said about the evidence gathered over the past several years. "The purpose of that inquiry is to determine if there is that link."

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) made similar comments, confessing that they don't have any evidence. He explained that the purpose of the first hearing "is to establish the predicate for going to get additional information that the committee needs to finish its investigation."

"Prof. [Jonathan] Turley said in a sense he needs to see more than what's been laid out, but that's the purpose of the inquiry," Donalds continued. "If we felt we had everything necessary for articles of impeachment, we would have dropped articles of impeachment. That's why we're in the inquiry phase, to get that information to get a final determination if an impeachment is warranted or not."

For all of the 2023 session, both the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees have been investigating Hunter Biden and by extension his father. Comer hasn't explained how this inquiry is different from the previous inquiries.
They've got nothing.
Besides, the Clown Show is going to have a lot bigger problem in about 72 hours.

Throwing The Book At Them

Yet another big school district in Florida is pulling books from school libraries in order to comply with Commissar Ron's order banning LGBTQ+ folks from existing. From Judd Legum's Substack, Public Information:
Librarians in public schools in Charlotte County, Florida, were instructed by the school district superintendent to remove all books with LGBTQ characters or themes from school and classroom libraries.

Charlotte County school librarians sought guidance from the school district about how to apply an expansion of the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the "Don't Say Gay" law, to all grades. "Are we removing books from any school or media center, Prek-12 if a character has, for example, two mothers or because there is a gay best friend or a main character is gay?" the librarians asked. Charlotte County Superintendent Mark Vianello answered, "Yes."

The guidance by Vianello and the school board's attorney, Michael McKinley, was obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project (FFTRP) through a public records request and shared with Popular Information. FFTRP requested "electronic records of district and school decisions regarding classroom and library materials." In response, FFTRP received a document memorializing a July 24 conversation between Vianello and district librarians, known in Florida as media specialists.

The guidance made clear that all books with LGBTQ characters are to be removed even if the book contained no sexually explicit content. The librarians asked if they could retain books in school and classroom libraries with LGBTQ characters "as long as they do not have explicit sex scenes or sexual descriptions and are not approaching 'how to' manuals for how to be an LGBTQ+ person." Vianello responded, "No. Books with LBGTQ+ characters are not to be included in classroom libraries or school library media centers."

Vianello also says teachers must ensure that books with LGBTQ characters and themes do not enter the classroom, even if they are self-selected by students for silent reading. According to Vianello, books with "[t]hese characters and themes cannot exist."

The librarians were seeking guidance on how to interpret a revised version of The Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida. The revised rules, issued by the Florida Department of Education earlier this year, expanded the restrictions imposed by the"Don't Say Gay" law. According to revised Rule 6A-10.081, educators in Florida "[s]hall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in prekindergarten through grade 8 on sexual orientation or gender identity." (A similar provision was included in a law Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed in May.) The revised rule also extends that prohibition through grade 12, except where explicitly required by state standards or as part of "a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend."

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has insisted that allegations that his policies, including the "Don't Say Gay" law, are being used to ban a wide range of books is a "hoax." DeSantis claimed that the only books being removed from Florida libraries are "pornographic and inappropriate materials that have been snuck into our classrooms and libraries to sexualize our students violate our state education standards." But in Charlotte County, DeSantis' policies are being used to justify purging all books with LGBTQ characters, even if there is no sexual content.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Charlotte County Schools told Popular Information that books with LGBTQ characters were removed from libraries because “there are elementary schools that utilize their school library media center as classrooms… [for] elective courses that our students are officially scheduled into and attend on a regular basis.” Therefore, the library “is considered a classroom setting.” As a result, “our school board attorney advises that we do not make books with these themes available in media centers that serve as classrooms since this would be considered ‘classroom instruction’ and such instruction and/or availability of these themes may not occur in PreK- grade 8.” The spokesperson acknowledged that “high school media centers are not designated as classrooms,” but books with LGBTQ characters were excluded anyway because “if a teacher were to bring a class of students to the media center and provide instruction, books with these themes cannot be included in that instructional time unless supported by the academic standards of that course of study.”

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit quickly acted Monday to issue another administrative stay, allowing the state of Texas to enforce its new law establishing a book-ban regime in the state’s schools.

The law, passed earlier this year, had not been allowed to go into effect due to significant constitutional concerns from the lower court, meaning that Monday’s stay — though presented as “administrative” — altered the status of state law in Texas, putting a new law in effect for the first time with no reasoning and in a one-sentence order.

The extraordinary move — from Judges Jennifer Elrod (George W. Bush), Catharina Haynes (George W. Bush), and Dana Douglas (Biden) — came after U.S. District Judge Alan Albright, a Trump appointee, had temporarily prevented enforcement of the law just before its effective date of Sept. 1 and then, just one week ago, issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement, finding the law likely unconstitutional on several grounds.

Texas is appealing the Sept. 18 order from Albright. The state also, on Sept. 20, asked the appeals court for a stay pending appeal or, in the alternative, an administrative stay. The court granted an administrative stay on Monday, five days later (including a weekend).

Among other requirements, the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, H.B. 900, requires private companies to create and produce lists of every book they wish to sell to public schools, determining which books are to be banned as “sexually explicit” and restricted as “sexually relevant.” The law then allows a state board to change those lists, with no appeal apparently available to the booksellers. The timeline for when the lists need to be submitted goes into next year, but, as the plaintiffs and district court explained, harms will accrue immediately. First, it’s not clear what school districts are supposed to do between the law going into effect and the lists being posted. And companies are certainly going to have difficulty selling books that could even possibly be covered by the new law to those schools in the meantime — particularly given that the law also requires booksellers to “recall” books previously sold that are later deemed to be banned.

Additionally, and as Albright explained in his decision last week, the state lacked answers to many basic questions about the law and its enforcement.

Nonetheless, on Monday, the appeals court said the state could go ahead and begin implementing the new law for now. Again, with no reasoning, and posed as an “administrative” action.

Remember, Donald Trump not being able to threaten witnesses and taint a jury pool with tirades against judges, prosecutors, and court officers violates the First Amendment, but a law forcing schools to pull books for the crime of existing LGBTQ+ characters or whatever bowdlerization Texas wants, with no appeal mind you, is fine, if not necessary.

Funny old world, huh.

Hunting The Hunter, Con't

With a House Republican-caused government shutdown now less than 72 hours away, those self-same House Republicans are concentrating on the real issues: Hunter Biden's tax records.
Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee released more than 700 pages of IRS whistleblower documents Wednesday, providing ample fodder for the newly launched House GOP impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden that will center on his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.

Democrats were quick to push back, asserting that GOP lawmakers cherry-picked information that gives a distorted view of the allegations against the Bidens.

Following the committee’s 24-17 party-line vote to release of the documents to the public, Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) asserted that the new materials — which include an assortment of business tax returns, interview transcripts and emails between investigators and prosecutors — show that Hunter Biden used his father’s lofty political standing as part of a global family influence-peddling scheme.

“This evidence makes clear Hunter Biden’s business was selling the Biden ‘brand’ and that access to the White House was his family’s most valuable asset,” Smith said.

Democrats panned committee Republicans for focusing on the impeachment effort as a government shutdown looms on Sunday that could put millions of federal employees out of work. Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in his opening statement at the closed-door session that the whistleblower testimony consisted of uncorroborated allegations and heavily redacted documents cherry-picked by the IRS whistleblowers.

“Why waste precious time that could be put toward keeping the government open? Other than to distract from reality,” Neal said in the statement he provided reporters, noting that there’s pressure on Republican tax writers to release the material before House Oversight Committee James Comer’s (R-Ky.) first impeachment hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning.
Except of course, the documents don't actually show he was selling access to the WHite House. They showed he was in business with foreign nationals, which is okay when fraudster Donald Trump does it, I guess. 

Again, you'd think Jason Smith would look at the tax info from Jared (the Gallaria of Crime) Kushner and Ivanka Trump, which actually does show massive pay-for-play White House influence peddling to the House of Saud to the tune of $2 billion, but nobody on the R side seems to care about that.

Alas, today's impeachment hearings are more important. I guess when Grandma and Grandpa stop getting government checks, somebody might notice.
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