It was another impossible news day to cover on today's BradCast, but we did our best with two historic hearings happening in D.C. at the very same time and a few special elections around the country just to keep us on busy. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]
One hearing was on Capitol Hill and the other was at the U.S. Supreme Court --- or, at least, on the live-streamed telephone conference call that has now replaced traditional in-person oral argument at the actual Court, thanks to the still worsening coronavirus pandemic.
We begin today with the SCOTUS hearing. Two of them, in fact. Both on the attempts by federal and state officials to obtain Donald Trump's financial records stretching back 10 years from before he became President. One case concerns subpoenas from three different U.S. House Committees to Mazars USA, the President's longtime accounting firm, as well as to Deutsche Bank and Capitol One, with whom Trump has done business. The other case is over a subpoena by by the Manhattan District Attorney for many of the same documents and tax records from the same financial institutions. That document demand is part of a state grand jury investigation related to unlawful hush money payoffs Trump gave to two women in advance of the 2016 election, and his convicted lawyer Michael Cohen's allegation that Trump and his companies fraudulently inflated and deflated his net worth when applying for loans or filing taxes.
Trump is not actually a party to the subpoenas, but is suing the financial institutions to prevent them from responding to the lawful subpoenas. To date, he has lost every hearing in the cases in lower Courts, where his lawyers actually argued that a sitting U.S. President could shoot people on 5th Avenue and could not be stopped, arrested or investigated for doing so. While the Justices didn't seem to entertain that argument, several of them, particular the Republican-appointees, seemed to be trying to find a way to help Trump out of this jam. We discuss what seems likely to result in either a split on the two different cases --- with the Court blocking the Congressional subpoenas while allowing the ones in the state criminal investigation in NY --- and/or one or both cases being remanded back to lower courts for a more narrow reconsideration that would likely prevent Trump's tax returns and other financial records from being released in advance of the 2020 election.
As those arguments were playing out today, the heads of Trump's CDC, FDA and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. They did so remotely from their homes, where they are each self-quarantining after recently coming into contact with infected individuals at the White House. One of those individuals was Vice President Mike Pence's Press Secretary who tested positive on Friday, just before Pence appeared at a meeting with food producers in Iowa. As the company CEOs waited for the round-table discussion with Pence to begin, they were asked by an aide to the Vice President to remove their masks! That, despite advice from health officials (including the White House's own), and even though two of the executives run meatpacking plants where thousands of workers have contracted COVID-19. One represents Tyson Foods where more than 1,000 workers --- a third of its workforce --- at a meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa have now tested positive. At least three workers at the plant have died.
Rural counties, especially in the heartland --- many with meatpacking plants and prisons --- are seeing a spike in cases of late, along with metropolitan areas where mostly Republican Governors have begun to prematurely lift stay-at-home orders to try and help the economy recover. An unreleased White House document prepared by the CDC and Department of Homeland Security, obtained by NBC News on Sunday, details hotspots all over the country, with many "red" states and counties seeing huge increases in cases over the past week. For example, last Friday, Arizona saw its largest single-day increase in cases, just about a week after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey began reopening the state.
A separate analysis of infections by the Associated Press today finds increasing cases in many of the same hotspots cited by the unreleased White House document, while noting that thousands of people are now getting sick from COVID-19 at their workplaces, including in recently reopened sectors such as construction workers in Austin, TX. At the same time, health workers continue to be hit especially hard, with more than 28,000 now having tested positive with more than 230 deaths in the industry. That, as well over 81,000 Americans have now been killed by the virus over the past two months.
No doubt, all of this is why Fauci warned Senators today of "really serious" consequences, including "suffering and death that could be avoided", if businesses reopen too soon. "There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control," he cautioned. "Which, in fact, paradoxically would set you back. Not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery because it would almost turn the clock back, rather than going forward."
But Donald Trump has an election to win this November, and it appears no number of dead Americans will get in his way of winning a second term. On that note, it's Election Day in several states today. And Trump was offering a preview of this November by lying over the weekend about today's Special Election for the U.S. House in California's 25th Congressional District. On Saturday, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) issued a memo to House Republicans with an "urgent call to arms", telling them to "raise hell" because Democrats in California were "doing all they can do to steal the election". Naturally, Trump took the lie and ran with it, tweeting about the addition of an extra in-person polling place for early voting over the weekend in a diverse part of the District, opened at the request of the city's REPUBLICAN Mayor!
Trump falsely claimed the polling place was added by the state's Republican Governor Gavin Newsom. (It wasn't, it was added by L.A. County --- at the request OF THE REPUBLICAN MAYOR who, while supporting the Republican in the race, was furious there was no polling place within his city's boundaries.) Trump falsely declared a "Rigged Election!" and lied to his Twitter followers that the election "was supposed to be mail in ballots only". That is also untrue. For the record, last Friday, Newsom did announce that every registered voter in the state would be sent a postage-paid absentee ballot for the November Presidential election. The move is said to be for safety reasons due to the pandemic --- the pandemic which Trump originally ignored, made much worse, and is now pretending to be over.
Finally today, Desi Doyen brings us the latest Green News Report, as the Administration reopens national parks despite the growing risks of coronavirus; as tax-payers are forced to pay for cleaning up old wells of bankrupted oil companies; and as France offers an airline bailout in exchange for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Now there's an idea...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)