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Latest Featured Reports | Wednesday, December 7, 2022
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Guest: Congressional historian, political scientist Norm Ornstein; Also: Leahy's Iraq War spy story...
By Brad Friedman on 10/19/2022 5:41pm PT  

We've spent quite a bit of time of late on The BradCast discussing what could happen if Democrats are able to hold their majority in the U.S. House this year and pick up two more seats in the Senate. Codifying privacy rights and reproductive freedoms into federal law; passage of the much-needed Freedom to Vote Act; expansion of the corrupted U.S. Supreme Court to un-corrupt it. That all become possible in such an event, just to cite a few of the most pressing issues. But what happens if they don't? [Audio link to today's full show follows this summary.]

We've noted that it remains an uphill battle for Democrats to hold their majorities in either chamber of Congress this year, much less expand one of them. So, what happens if Republicans win a majority in one or both?

In short, it would be very very bad for a host of reasons, including for democracy itself. But TPM's Kate Riga detailed just some of the political nightmares that are likely to occur, as Republicans have revealed in their own words. From endless Congressional investigations of nonsense (think "Benghazi on steroids") to pointless culture war legislation that would be vetoed by President Biden even if it somehow overcame a Senate filibuster, to impotent efforts to impeach the President and various members of his Cabinet...for something or other.

But, even without majorities in both chambers, Republicans can wreak extraordinary damage to both the U.S. and global economies simply by re-upping their 2011 "Tea Party" scheme to hold the nation (and world) hostage to any number of demands in exchange for raising the dumb debt ceiling next year. ("Dumb", because it's absurd that the U.S. even has such a statute requiring Congressional permission to borrow money to pay for stuff that has already been purchased with Congressional and Presidential authority. Also "dumb" because Republicans only use it as a dangerous bargaining chip when a Democrat is in the White House. Despite blowing up the deficit by trillions during the Trump Administration, the debt limit was raised three times by Congress with nary a peep.)

As Riga and others have reported this week, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP's presumptive House Speaker if they take back a majority, has signaled that his party intends to hold cuts to Medicare and Social Security among hostages in exchange for agreeing to lift the debt ceiling. That, in the words of our guest today, would be "catastrophic" on several levels.

We're joined today by Congressional historian, political scientist and author NORM ORNSTEIN, who has been covering Congress for nearly 50 years via the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he is a Senior Fellow Emeritus and now as contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic.

Last week at The Atlantic, Ornstein warned that it's not just "democracy at stake this fall", as he asked "how far would a Republican majority go?" in undermining the U.S. economy in advance of the 2024 Presidential election. He recounts the first real use of the debt ceiling as a blunt political instrument to wreak havoc on U.S. policy and the economy along with it by the "Tea Party" back in 2011. While a last minute compromise at the time avoided a first-ever default of the U.S. government and the inability to pay its debts, the brinkmanship and hostage-taking cost the economy billions. Our credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever and the Dow plunged some 2,000 points.

But Ornstein is now more worried about what may happen next year if the GOP wins a House majority. As he explains today, "back in 2011, there were grownups in the room who kept it from getting out of control." Today, however "we're in a different world."

"In the past," he tells me, citing Donald Trump as an "accelerant" for GOP "dysfunction," "we still had what we could think of as a political party, even as it began to go downhill. But now it's a full-blown cult. The willingness of new members coming in, joining with a lot of radical members who will be returning to blow the whole thing up, the lack of interest in fundamental institutions or in the need to be responsible at governance is astonishing."

"I have never, in fifty-plus years of being immersed in the institution, seen a weaker or more pathetic leader than Kevin McCarthy," he says. "The idea that he would stop them from mayhem is, at this point, not believable."

"Other than that the fact that these are radicals dominating the party, they can't pass legislation on their own. They can't impeach and convict and remove from office the officials they would want to, including the President and the Attorney General and Sec. of Homeland Security, among many others."

But, as Ornstein adds, they will have "the power for the purse" with which they can cause extraordinary damage both here and around the world. He details both the chaos and what Democrats can do to try and preempt it during the Lame Duck period after the November midterms in the event that Republicans win back a majority in one or both chambers.

"The best thing to do is to do as every other country does and eliminate this ridiculous device [the debt ceiling]," but, since Dems can't do that on their own via reconciliation, they could invoke "the ironically named McConnell Rule" through reconciliation to stave off the threat of GOP debt ceiling brinkmanship that could result in a first-ever financial default by the nation. Tune in for an explanation of that ironically named rule and much more on all of this today.

Or, of course, Americans could simply reelect Democrats to majorities in both chambers and avoid the guaranteed nightmares that lie ahead with GOP control of either, now that they have wasted away into little more than a radical, extremist, "full-blown cult."

Finally, we close today with a fascinating spy story, of sorts, regarding retiring, eight-term Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the U.S. intel agencies during the lead-up to the Iraq War (which he voted against), based on false evidence of WMDs hyped by the Bush/Cheney Administration...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel; Also: Cheney loses in WY; Murkowski advances in AK, as Palin awaits Ranked Choice Vote count in U.S. House Special Election...
[UPDATED with link to full transcript of interview with Wheeler.]
By Brad Friedman on 8/17/2022 6:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast: What you need to know about the stolen national security documents retrieved by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago and the trouble Trump is in. And, about the known results of the strange-world-we-now-live-in primaries and special elections yesterday. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, those elections, as based on incomplete and/or unverified results in both states.

The biggest story of last night, of course, was conservative Republican Rep. Liz Cheney's loss to a Trump-backed GOP primary challenger in Wyoming for the state's single, at-large House seat. As expected, Cheney lost bigly to former Never Trumper turned MAGA 2020 election denier Harriet Hageman. What does it all mean going forward for Republicans who wrongly hate Cheney and Democrats who wrongly love her and for the Republican Party itself? Cheney offered some hints, as we discuss, in her graceful concession speech on Tuesday night, promising once again that she "will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office."

Then, incomplete results from Alaska, where it has always taken a long time to tally them and will take even longer following election reform adopted by state voters in 2020. They now have an open primary system, where the top four vote-getters go on to general elections which become Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) contests among those candidates.

Like Wyoming, Alaska has just one at-large U.S. House district. But there were two elections for it on Tuesday following the death, earlier this year, of Republican Rep. Don Young. He held the seat for 49 years. One was a Special Election to fill the remainder of Young's term through the end of the year, the other was an open primary for a full term beginning in January.

On the Special, Democratic candidate Mary Peltola currently leads Republicans Sarah Palin (yes, that Sarah Palin) and Nick Begich with about 70% of votes tallied as of airtime. However, because it's an RCV election --- in which none of the candidates received more than 50% of first choice votes --- once the first round of counting is complete, the candidate in last place will be removed and their voters' second place choices will be redistributed to the other two candidates. The entire race is then tallied again. We are unlikely to know the final winner until the end of August, but if Peltola wins, she'd be the first Alaskan native to be elected to Congress.

In the open primary for the full House term beginning next year --- featuring nearly 30 candidates --- it appears that all three of the candidates in the Special will also advance to November's general election. The fourth candidate in that contest has yet to be determined as counting continues. In the state's U.S. Senate race, Republican Lisa Murkowski --- who, like Liz Cheney, voted against Trump in his second impeachment --- will advance to the November general, where she will face Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka and two other candidates still to be determined, with just over 70% tallied.

Then, longtime, really smart, independent national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel returns to the show for the first time since the FBI's seizure of highly sensitive and classified national security documents at Mar-a-Lago last week, as stolen from the White House by Donald Trump upon leaving office last year.

As usual, we have a lot to cover with Wheeler, who was busy explaining on Twitter last week before anyone else that we know of --- before the unsealing of the FBI's search warrant detailing "probable cause" of three federal statutes violated by Trump --- that the Dept. of Justice was almost certainly investigating the former President for violations of the Espionage Act. As usual, after the warrant was unsealed, she was proven correct.

Also as usual when Marcy's on, you'll need to tune in for the full story. There is simply no way I can detail all of the critical insight and helpful information she has to offer here. But, among the points she helps clarify and explain along with key context from her years of covering similar cases dealing with the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and the theft of government documents...

  • What each of the three U.S. Criminal Code statutes cited in the warrant means, and the evidence that Trump appears to have blatantly violated each of them.
  • Were there, or were there not, documents including nuclear records found and/or sought in the search, as reported by Washington Post before the warrant and inventory list of retrieved items was unsealed.
  • Are documents sought by the National Archives and DoJ still missing after the search? And/or have they been mutilated or destroyed in violation of federal statutes?
  • Despite a signed declaration by one of Trump's attorneys that all of the highly classified documents and other material stolen from the White House had been returned to the government as of June, in fact, that was proven untrue. Who is the insider that tipped off the DoJ?

Wheeler argues that Trump is likely far more concerned about obstruction charges than even violations of the Espionage Act. Why? "We know that some of the documents that were responsive to subpoenas regarded January 6," she tells me, before suggesting reason to believe that some of the documents Trump was trying to withhold might be related to other crimes of his from farther in the past, such as: obstruction of justice in the Robert Mueller/Russia investigation; his attempt to bribe the Ukrainian President ("We know that the White House counsel didn't provide Congress the fullest version of the 'Perfect Transcript' of the Trump call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. So that's an example of concealing a document that should have been released."); or the transcript regarding the classified Israeli intelligence that Trump gave to the Russian ambassador during an Oval Office meeting ("the documents got altered and disappeared.")

She has much more, including this fresh tidbit regarding obstruction: "There was a leak by one of the rightwing journalists [covering this story] that said, 'People close to Donald say he doesn't have to give [certain documents] over because the Archives will just give it to the January 6 Committee.' I'm like, 'That's a confession of obstruction! He just literally confessed to the elements of the offense for obstruction!' And honestly, Brad, this is something that virtually everyone is missing --- this is the one that Trump is terrified of."

There are many details we still don't not know and more disturbing revelations to come. As Wheeler notes several times, this all likely to get much much worse for Trump. But, she emphasizes, just based on what we already know it's already really really bad for him.

"Every half hour or so," she says, "this flash goes through my brain, and I go, 'Oh my God, Donnie has really, really screwed himself .' There are ways that I can imagine this snowballing that people aren't even grasping at this point. And that is all separate from the question of whether he's taken the nuclear codes and given it to [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman. You don't really need to get ahead of the game here to figure out things are pretty bad."

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

Update 8/21/2022: Once again, our friend "Spocko" thought our interview with Marcy's was so important that he created a full text transcript of my interview with her. AI was used to do it, so it may have some inaccuracies in it. Nonetheless, I suspect it may be useful for easier access to the record.

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Critical lessons (and warnings) from primary results in AZ, KS, MI, MO, WA, OH; Also: IN Rep. Walorski killed in crash; A farewell to Vin Scully...
By Brad Friedman on 8/3/2022 6:07pm PT  

Look at the faces in that photo. Those are the faces of people grappling to understand a profound truth that they simply had no idea about prior to Tuesday night. Those faces should serve as inspiration for every Democrat and/or progressive on the ballot in every race in all 50 states between today and November 8. And as a warning for every Republican.

On today's BradCast, selective, noteworthy, curated results --- or what is known about them, unofficial, incomplete or otherwise --- from Tuesday's primary elections in six states, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Ohio. (And several problems for voters in Pinal County, AZ.) [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Of course, the biggest news from Tuesday, hands down, was the stunning landslide rejection of a state constitutional amendment in Kansas that would have allowed the state's Republicans to restrict and/or ban abortion rights. (That's what the folks in that photo were just learning about.) It was the first statewide vote on the matter anywhere in the nation since the newly extremist, far-right, radical, activist, corrupt, Republican U.S. Supreme Court majority overturned 50-years of Constitutionally protected rights and freedoms by striking down 1973's Roe v. Wade decision.

Even in the theoretically "conservative" state of KS, voters soundly rejected that proposed Amendment with their "NO" votes by a stunning 18 points over "YES" as of airtime. The "NO" vote did well in large and small, rural and urban, Democratic and Republican counties alike. Turnout, thanks to this measure --- in a midterm primary where Republicans assumed few would notice --- was enormous and at levels normally seen in Presidential primaries or even mid-term general elections in the recent past.

The question now is whether Democrats will finally have the confidence and courage to run on this issue, following the overturning of Roe in June, in every state in the country and for virtually every office on the ballot from Governor to Attorney General to District Attorney to County Sheriff to state Judge to state Supreme Court Justice. And, whether Democrats will be able to capitalize on Josh Marshall's "Roe and Reform" campaign that he's been pushing hard at Talking Points Memo, calling for a very specific promise to voters from Democrats on the federal level: Let us hold our House majority and give us two more seats in the Senate and we vow, come January 2023, to reform the Senate filibuster to codify the protections of Roe into federal law, guaranteeing privacy rights and reproductive freedom in all 50 states.

Nothing short of that very specific "You give us that, we'll give you this" promise will do, as Josh has smartly been explaining for weeks now. We have long argued ourselves that candidates must give voters something very clear and specific to vote for. When they do, as proven on Tuesday in Kansas --- where the stakes were crystal clear, and voters knew exactly what they would get from their one single vote --- they will respond in large numbers.

Of course, all of this also further underscores the argument I've been making for months that Democrats and progressives must ignore the "conventional wisdom" from so-called political professionals about the historical odds of impending doom this November. These are decidedly UNconventional times, proven once again in KS yesterday.

Beyond that very encouraging news on Tuesday, there was still more good news in both the Secretary of State and Attorney General races in KS; Somewhat disappointing news in the MO race to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt; Potentially concerning news out of MI's Republican gubernatorial contest, where a well funded, Trump-backed loon will run against the state's popular Democratic Governor; And wildly troubling news out of AZ on the Republican side in the contests for the Gubernatorial and Sec. of State nominations, in what could turn out to be two of the most critical races in the nation this November.

All of that and many other races covered and explained, with context, on today's busy show.

Finally, we close with some tragic news on the death this afternoon of Indiana's 58-year old Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and two of her young staffers in an automobile accident. And, some pleasant thoughts following the passing on Tuesday night of Hall of Fame broadcasting legend Vin Scully at age 94. He served as the inimitable and nationally recognized voice of Dodger baseball --- in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles --- for 67 incomparable years...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: John Nichols of The Nation; Also: State Dept. has no records of gifts to Trump; Don Jr. plotted to steal 2020 two days after the election...
By Brad Friedman on 4/11/2022 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The corruption never ends and will only get far worse until someone finally faces accountability. Whether it's Donald Trump for his unspeakable corruption and attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election or Justice Clarence Thomas, whose corruption has been well-documented for decades now, as he appears to have joined the effort to help Trump steal that election --- or, at the very least, avoid accountability for trying. Thomas needs to be impeached, argues our guest today, or we might as well put our Constitution "through the shredder." [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

As to Trump's unspeakable corruption, yes, we are still learning about much more of it. As TPM reported over the weekend, apparently the State Department is now reporting they have no records of gifts given to Trump (or Vice President Mike Pence and other Administration members) by foreign leaders during Trump's final year in office. Worse, according to the State Dept.'s report, the Office of the Chief of Protocol's Gift Unit reports no records of any gifts at all from January 20, 2017 (the day Trump took office) until the end of his first failed term in January of 2020. No record of what the President of the United States received from Foreign Leaders?! Um, that's not good.

We've come to expect this kind of grotesque corruption from Trump and his family members. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn over the weekend, as we did via CNN, that Don Jr. was texting then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just two days after Election Day in November of 2020 --- before the race had even been called or all of its votes tallied --- to detail one way after another that the election could and should be stolen for his father. "We control them all," Don Jr. told Meadows, while describing the way that state legislatures or Congress, or even the judiciary could help steal the election before Team Trump even knew for certain they had lost. "We have operational control Total leverage....POTUS must start 2nd term now," Trump Sr.'s corrupt son instructed the White House Chief of Staff on November 5th, 2020, according to messages obtained by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.

It's troubling enough that the man and his party who are planning to steal the 2024 election, if necessary, have yet to be held to account. It is no less troubling that at least one member of the U.S. Supreme Court is corrupt enough to help them. Outrage over Ginni Thomas, the far-right activist wife of far-right activist Justice Clarence Thomas, having texted Meadows dozens of times after the election, encouraging the Administration to steal the election for Trump, faded quickly after it was initially reported just over two weeks ago by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Sure, there is a war in Europe and Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, but a corrupt sitting Supreme Court Justice --- willing to be the lone dissenting vote to potentially keep his own wife's text messages out of the hands of House J6 Committee is impeachment-worthy, according to my guest today, JOHN NICHOLS, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation.

The news about corruption of Clarence and Ginni is just the latest apparent law-breaking by the couple. We've been reporting on it for more than a decade. So has Nichols, who tells me he reported on conflicts of interest regarding Ginni's far-right activism 22 years ago. "Ginni Thomas was already working with the Bush-Cheney Administration at the same time that Clarence Thomas joined in that closely divided decision to close down [the 2000 Presidential] recount," he notes today. "So this woman has a quarter century of engagement in politics in a way that should not only have led to recusals by her husband, but ultimately, when he didn't recuse, should have led to his removal from the Supreme Court."

But enough is enough. And it would nice if both the corporate media (which has largely ignored this matter) and elected Democrats (who have tepidly called for Thomas to recuse himself from 2020-related cases) starting doing something about it. "We have reached that point," Nichols argues, when asked if Justice Thomas needs to be held to account for "seri­ous ethical or crim­inal miscon­duct" after the House Select Committee gathered evidence of his wife's texts to the White House Chief of Staff. "Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in what can accurately be referred to only as a coup attempt. And he sought to hold office illegally. That is a coup. When you are investigating something of that consequence, if there is even the slightest possibility that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court used his position to try to undermine or limit that investigation --- because his wife was a co-conspirator, because his political allies were involved in the issue --- that has to be investigated. It is best investigated, in my opinion, in an impeachment inquiry."

"We're having a discussion about recusal at this point for Clarence Thomas? This is absurd!," Nichols insists. "This guy isn't going to recuse. He's made it absolutely clear. This is like saying, 'At the very least, Jesse James should recuse himself from robbing banks.' The crime has already been committed! The notion that we would now say 'Oh, he should recuse himself going forward' doesn't get to the heart of the matter, and it doesn't get to the reality. The only option we have in this case is impeachment."

But, of course, even if Democrats in the House stepped up to do the right thing, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans would never remove Thomas from the High Court, right? "For those who say, 'Oh, we can't do that because Mitch McConnell might not let us,' then you might as well take the Constitution out of the National Archives and put it through the shredder. What's the point of having an impeachment power if you don't use it in a moment like this?"

Good argument. And we've got much more along those lines with Nichols today, including some of his thoughts on the huge hole left behind in the progressive media following last week's tragic loss of longtime media critic Eric Boehlert, and on whether he believes Attorney Merrick Garland and the DoJ are taking the appropriate steps to hold Trump and the rest of his cabal to account for their part in the insurrection (as discussed last Thursday on this show with former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason) and the broader attempt to steal a Presidential election before our very eyes...

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D.C. Guard Commander's Senate testimony underscores need for probe...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/17/2021 10:52am PT  

For more than two months, the FBI has been rounding up and charging hundreds of Trump-incited insurrectionists who, in hopes of preventing the Congressional certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory last November, stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

But a number of key questions remain wholly unanswered following the unprecedented attack on our very system of representative democracy. Central to several of those questions is Donald Trump's own, personal, behind-the-scenes machinations to help instigate the uprising and, perhaps, prevent the deployment of the military to help quell the rebellion he encouraged.

The March 3rd Senate committee testimony of Major General William Walker, Commander of the D.C. National Guard, describing a seemingly inexplicable delay in authorization for his troops to provide relief to the U.S. Capitol under siege, underscores the need to determine whether there is a connection between Trump's post-election November 2020 purge of the top civilian leadership at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the January 6th assault.

The purge at the Pentagon began two days after media outlets called the Presidential Election for Joe Biden, when Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Within days, four senior DoD officials either resigned or were fired and replaced by what CNN characterized as "conspiracy theorists and Trump loyalists." Christopher Miller became the Acting Secretary of Defense. Kash Patel, who had previously worked for the disgraced Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on the House Intelligence Committee, was appointed to serve as Miller's Chief-of-Staff.

While one Pentagon official described the November purge as "scary", "unsettling" and the moves one would expect from a "dictator", CNN noted in its contemporaneous account that "no one at the Pentagon has an understanding as to what the grand plan is."

Walker's testimony before the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees earlier this month, together with other publicly known evidence, points to a distinct likelihood that, once it became clear he couldn't rely upon the U.S. military to carry out a coup, Trump's "grand plan" entailed a stand-down of the D.C. National Guard while his "personal army", an incited mob of white supremacists, stormed the Capitol on January 6...

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Guest: Migration Policy Institute's Sarah Pierce; Also: More 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news on the FBI, Kavanaugh and the Vindman family...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2021 6:28pm PT  

We've got quite a bit of 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news on today's BradCast, particularly at the U.S. southern border. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

But first, a few noteworthy 'Clean up" news items. Rhode Island's Democratic Sen. Sheldon has written a letter to Joe Biden's newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland, requesting an investigation into what he describes as the "fake" investigation the FBI apparently made into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh before his confirmation to a lifetime appointment as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. That confirmation, by the way, happened only thanks to Senate Republicans willingness to do away with the filibuster on Supreme Court Justices. Of course, it wasn't only sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh that deserved a real probe by the FBI. There is still the matter of what happened to the $60,000 to $200,000 worth of credit card debt that Kavanaugh carried the year before his nomination, which magically disappeared by the time he was tapped by Trump to help pack the stolen Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also today, Army Lt. Col Yevgeny Vindman --- twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Donald Trump during his first impeachment --- will now be promoted to Colonel under the Biden Administration. That, despite a revenge campaign leveled against the Vindman family by the former disgraced President, which resulted in some negative job reviews for Yevgeny during his time as deputy legal advisor on Trump's National Security Council. Shortly after the impeachment, Trump fired both men from their NSC posts and Yevgeny filed a whistleblower complaint over the retaliation with the Pentagon's Inspector General. The IG's report has not yet been released.

Then, for the biggest 'Clean up on Aisle 45 ' news of the day, we move down to the U.S. Southern Border, where Republicans have been taking a cue from the former disgraced President to claim a massive "Biden border crisis!" is current under way, not two months into the new President's tenure. Sadly, corporate media have taken that cue as well. As they do.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) traveled to the border this week and, among other apparent lies, claimed that terrorists from Yemen, Iran and Turkey were "rushing" the border "all at once." While that is almost certainly untrue, there has been an increase over the past two months in unaccompanied children, seeking asylum at the border, after making the arduous journey from beleaguered Central American "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Thanks to the influx of unaccompanied kids, a hollowed out asylum system left behind by the previous administration, along with pandemic social distancing requirements, Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities meant to house children before they are handed over to the Dept. of Health and Human Services to find sponsored shelters are running out of space. The influx is also leading to many being held in the CBP facilities beyond the 72-hour legal limit, even as the Biden Administration has, for the time being, left many of Trump's policies in place, expelling families and single adults fleeing from gang violence, climate change and poverty in their troubled nations.

So, what is actually going on at the border right now? Is it really a crisis? And how much is the Biden Administration, not even two full months on the job, to blame? We're joined today by SARAH PIERCE, immigration attorney and Policy Analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute to help us separate fact from breathless, GOP/media-inflated fiction.

"I think there is a significant challenge at the southern border," she explains. "I don't think we can call it a crisis yet. But we could certainly be moving in the direction of a crisis.  We had a really fast acceleration in the number of unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the southern border between January and February. But we still haven't reached record numbers of children arriving at the southern border. We saw records during 2019 and 2014 that we haven't yet broken."

"But our facilities are limited because of the pandemic," she continues, "and so that is making what would already be a challenge even more difficult as the administration scrambles to bring beds back online, and move children out of Border Patrol custody as quickly as they possibly can."

Pierce explains how bad the situation currently is; whether she believes the Biden Administration is taking the appropriate measures to handle it; whether GOP claims about terrorists rushing the border or becoming "super-spreader caravans" are in any way true; and whether the situation can be handled at all without Congressional action (which seems a long shot while the filibuster remains in place, with Republicans seeking distraction from their failure to vote for the COVID relief bill and relying on alarmist rhetoric about the border to try and hold on to their base).

The Biden Administration "inherited a really, really big challenge and a system that was just gutted by the prior administration. So, whether or not they'll be able to do this all, while also dealing with what could very well be a crisis in the near future at the southern border, is a really big question."

She also offers, among other direct answers, a response to my question about the oft-repeated spurious claim that Trump's infamous family separation policy that resulted in those horrific "kids in cages" photographs was was actually begun by the Obama Administration. The answer will probably not shock you.

Next, it's our latest Green News Report with Desi Doyen (and, yes, more 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news there as well). And, finally, I close with a plea for Congress to do the right thing, once and for all, when it comes to...daylight saving time...

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Guest: Constitutional law expert John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People; Also: Fossil fuel failure freezes out TX grid during deadly winter storm...
By Brad Friedman on 2/16/2021 6:47pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Impeachment may be broken, but accountability is still coming. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

But, first up: Record low temperatures continued to batter dozens of states and knock out power to millions of customers in several of them. But it is residents of the great state of Texas who are paying the highest price for their government's utter failure to keep the lights...and the heat...and the water on...throughout this foreseeable and deadly cold snap. No, it's not the renewable energy sources like wind power that has failed --- as Fox "News" is frantically misinforming their viewers today --- it's the fossil fuel industry and the state's disastrously unregulated and privatized power infrastructure that has helped create the mess in Texas. Our own Desi Doyen explains.

Then, in a refreshing bit of encouraging news today, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has filed a civil federal lawsuit against Donald Trump in response to the deadly attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, incited by the disgraced former President. The suit, filed on Thompson's behalf by the NAACP on Tuesday, also names Rudy Giuliani and the rightwing extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as defendants. It seeks both punitive and compensatory damages for the assault on Thompson's place of work that left the 72-year old Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee hiding on the floor of the U.S. House for hours and in dangerously close contact with colleagues, two of whom tested positive for COVID in the days that followed. The complaint is believed likely just the first of a potential wave of similar litigation in response to the unprecedented attack on the Capitol which killed at least five people, and which a bipartisan 57-43 majority of U.S. Senators over the weekend at his Impeachment Trial found Trump guilty of having incited.

But guilty or not, the Impeachment process, for a second time in the Trump Presidency, ultimately fell short of the high Constitutional bar of a two-thirds vote needed for conviction, begging the question as to whether the founders misjudged what might be needed by Congress to hold a scofflaw President to account.

We're joined today once again by Constitutional legal scholar JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of the non-partisan governmental accountability group Free Speech for People, and co-author of the 2018 book The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.

Our wide-ranging conversation on various paths towards accountability for the 45th President includes discussion of Rep. Thompson's lawsuit; Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and how it might be invoked to prevent Trump from running for future office; and as well as criminal statutes which could be invoked against Trump under the leadership of Joe Biden's Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland. On the day after the January 6 insurrection, FSFP joined a coalition of groups calling for Garland to stand up a task force upon his confirmation to pull together all of the disparate investigations into the matter.

Central to any such accountability, however, Bonifaz argues today, is the need for an important reform in the U.S. Senate and accountability for members who serve both there and in the U.S. House. He argues that the failure to convict Trump at his second Impeachment Trial "demonstrates that those who are sworn to take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution in the U.S. Senate are not up to the task --- at least for the 43 members of the Sedition Caucus, who are every bit as guilty as Donald Trump for voting to acquit him despite the overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump incited this insurrection and was guilty as charged."

He faults "those in power who are not abiding by their oaths" who have allowed Presidents to "assume the powers of a king". To begin reform of Congress, Bonifaz explains, we must start with reform of our electoral system as Democrats have proposed in their critical H.R.1. and S1 bills called the "For the People Act". But to see that through Congress --- and so many other necessary reforms --- we will have to do away with the legislative filibuster, he says.

"The filibuster, as we know, requires a 60 percent majority in the U.S. Senate for anything to pass, and that's contrary to any basic principle of small-d democracy," Bonifaz tells me. "That's a first order of business for those in the U.S. Senate and, frankly, those in the White House who are pledging to protect and defend our democracy. We need to eliminate the filibuster, and we need get on to the business of responding to these voter suppression efforts throughout the country that we now see in state legislatures to try to roll us back and disenfranchise millions of voters."

Of course, Democrats could do that without Republicans at all, with their newly-won Senate majority, but for Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who have each pledged to protect the filibuster. Even those obstacles however, as Bonifaz explains, are not insurmountable if pressure is applied by Democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House...and if pressure is applied by we, the people on them to do so.

With the "Jim Crow relic" filibuster out of the way, says Bonifaz, the Senate would also be able to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prevent Trump from being allowed to hold federal office in the future. The post-Civil War Amendment blocks those who have engaged in rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. Government from becoming candidates for public office. "This is a critical next step needed to ensure that this lawless ex-President is disqualified from running for office again," Bonifaz asserts, detailing how the provision would work with a simple resolution adopted by both the Senate and House.

I hope you tune in for this important conversation today as the quest for accountability continues to continue on The BradCast!

Finally, we close somewhere near where we began, with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report focused on the winter storm now battering dozens of U.S. states and the utter failure of Texas lawmakers (and those in other states) to properly harden our critical infrastructure for a 21st century climate changed world...

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Also: Brutal winter storm locks down TX, much of nation; Biden, Dems push ahead with progressive agenda; Callers ring in on Impeachment verdict and what must come next for disgraced former President...
By Brad Friedman on 2/15/2021 6:23pm PT  

Donald Trump was found guilty by a huge, bipartisan 57 to 43 verdict in the U.S. Senate of having incited the deadly, attempted January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. On discuss on today's BradCast, 7 Republican Senators joined all of the Democrats in that majority finding on Saturday, affirming that Trump attempted to overthrow the U.S. Government and the 2020 Presidential election. Nonetheless, due to the U.S. Constitution's requirement that a two-thirds vote of the Senate is needed to secure a conviction under the rules for Impeachment, our disgraced former President was "acquitted" of the charge he was found guilty of during his second Senate Impeachment Trial. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

We discuss what happened on Saturday in detail today, and take a bunch of calls from listeners on the matter. But first up, we cover the catastrophic winter storm --- featuring crippling snow, record cold and power outages for millions, particularly in Texas --- amid the ongoing COVID pandemic and attempt to distribute vaccinations to tens of millions of Americans. Native Texan Desi Doyen, co-host of our Green News Report, joins us to explain what's going on and why scientists tell us that it is happening.

Also, even while still on the Trump Accountability beat (as we've previously noted, this is going to take a while), we cover a bit of Biden Administration news today, including the quiet weekend withdrawal of Trump-era work requirements for Medicaid, as pushed and allowed to some states by the previous Administration, and the re-opening of the Healthcare.gov exchange to accommodate new "ObamaCare" signups during massive unemployment wrought by the pandemic. That, as the very popular American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief and stimulus package, moves toward passage with or without Republican support in the Senate and (thanks to pushback from the House Progressive Caucus) without the potential cuts to the promised $1,400 relief checks which Republicans and some of the more conservative Democrats were previously considering.

Though an occasional kick to the head is required, it does seem like --- at least for now --- Democrats are "getting it" when it comes to the nation's bipartisan desire for big and bold action from lawmakers in D.C. Even conservative Democratic Rep. Richie Neal, Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is now calling for new, monthly cash payments totaling $3,600 per year for every child under age 6, and $3,000 for children from 6 to 17. We hope Dems continue to offer the progressive policy the country yearns for, and we're glad to see progressives pushing Democrats when they need to.

Of course, Democrats have yet to learn all of the lessons they need to, as revealed by the Saturday snafu when House Impeachment Managers easily won a bipartisan vote to call witnesses at Trump's second Senate Impeachment Trial, only to cave shortly thereafter. There were arguably legitimate reasons to not call witnesses --- even if we would have preferred to see that happen. But to get everyone's hopes up, only to dash them --- without figuring out the concerns in advance --- was an inexcusable self own.

Nonetheless, Democrats won an historic 57-43 majority in the conviction votes, with an unheard of seven Senators from the opposing party joining all of the Democrats and independents in finding Trump guilty. Even the snake Mitch McConnell was forced to admit that, yes, Trump incited the violence at the Capitol. Though he still voted "not guilty", falsely and ridiculously claiming that it was unconstitutional to hold a trial after the impeached Executive Branch official was already out of office. His claims were even more grotesquely absurd given that he was the one that prevented the trial from happening while Trump was still in office.

So, what happens next? Will Trump ever face real accountability for his many crimes, including an attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government itself? If so, how, when and by whom? (Our own Ernie Canning has a few ideas today.) We discuss and open up the phone lines today to listeners to discuss that and other related matters on today's lively BradCast. Enjoy!

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Special Coverage of Day 4 with Salon's Heather Digby Parton...
By Brad Friedman on 2/12/2021 6:40pm PT  

On today's BradCast special coverage: For Trump's attorneys, at least, it was an open and shut case, as they both opened and closed their argument in about 3 hours of their allotted 16 on Friday, on behalf of the former President in his second Impeachment Trial. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

We might have known it wasn't going to go well when the charge that a President of the United States incited a murderous insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th was characterized by his attorneys as little more than a case of "Constitutional Cancel Culture". A perfect fit for the Fox "News" chyron! And, naturally, a defense perfectly fit for Donald Trump since it was filled to the brim with unapologetic lies right out of the gate.

The first such lie (that we noticed anyway) came in the very first few minutes, when new Trump attorney and Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer, Michael T. Van Der Veen, falsely claimed that in 2016, "the Clinton Campaign brought multiple post-election court cases" and "demanded recounts".  Of course, as long time readers and listeners know, they did no such thing, even if we wished they had. Despite cybersecurity and voting systems experts at the time begging the Campaign to do so, they refused. Instead, Green Party candidate Jill Stein sought those counts instead, as she announced at the time on this program.

Trump's liars...er lawyers, also falsely claimed House Democrats waited until Trump was out of office to deliver the Article of Impeachment to the U.S. Senate (that was because then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate), and that the Democratic House Impeachment Managers withheld the chilling, "never before seen video" used in their presentation this week, from the defense team in an outrageous "rushed trial without due process".  (In fact, the Managers have since noted, all audio and video evidence and materials used in their presentation was given to the defense team before the trial began, as per Senate Impeachment Trial rules.)

Team Trump also charged that the Dems falsely manipulated Trump's tweets and manufactured evidence to make their case and that they failed to connect the violence at the Capitol to "the 45th President." The charge of manipulated, cherry-picked video evidence came just before the defense played several really long, fully out-of-context video montages of Democrats using the word "fight" in various settings, underscored by manipulative dramatic music. The Trump attorneys claimed that "the 45th President" never incited any violence and "was immediate in his calls for calm" after the assault was under way. That's a lot of lies (and that wasn't all of them) in such a short presentation. But we suspect they did their client proud.

Their central arguments were that Trump was merely exercising his First Amendment free speech rights when lying to his supporters for months that the election was rigged and imploring them to "fight like hell" or they "wouldn't have a country anymore". That, they argued, was only a plea for election reform and to primary Republicans who didn't fight hard enough for him. But there is no First Amendment right to incite imminent violence, and there are all matter of activities that would be protected by the First Amendment (wearing a Nazi armband, suggesting certain people should be killed) that are certainly impeachable activities for a President nonetheless.

Even more conspicuous were the matters that Trump's attorneys did not address, such as why Trump never attempted to send help to protect the Capitol or tell his supporters to stop their attack, even as he knew his own Vice President and others were being targeted for assassination by the MAGA Mob.

We're joined today to try and make sense of all of this, as well as the rest of the Impeachment Trial week and where it goes from here, by the the wise, award-winning opinion and analysis journalist, HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Hullabaloo.

She describes the defense case as little more than an effort "to create sound bites for Fox New, OAN and Newsmax. That's it. They know that they had intimidated the jurors. They have 50 Republicans. Of those Republicans, I would say 90 percent of them of them have been intimidated by Donald Trump or they are true believers in MAGA." Parton charges that the events of January 6th were "a grotesque assault on democracy" and a "domestic act of terrorism, which the President of the United States incited."

"He did incite it. This is not in any way disputable. And there's nobody, if they're honest with themselves, that believes he didn't," she argues. "They actually targeted the day when every single one of our national representatives were present, and it was to stop the certification of the Presidential election. This was huge. It's historic. We all watched it."

Moreover, she notes, no matter how the vote for conviction comes out, "it was imperative that they did this. They had to put it on the record. And now Donald Trump is the only President in history to be impeached twice."

We also discuss not only how Republicans are expected to vote, but why they might vote against conviction and disqualification from future office even though, as I opined yesterday, removing Trump's only remaining superpower --- his viability as a 2024 Presidential candidate --- would actually help the Republican Party itself and most of those Senators.

Would Parton like to see witnesses brought? If so, who? And what will --- or should --- happen after Trump is acquitted which, at least for now, is believed the most likely outcome. As usually, it's a very lively conversation with our friend "Digby", though it ended just before the breaking news from CNN that Trump had a heated conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the insurrection, which devolved into a "shouting match" in which the Republican lawmaker is said to have "begged" the then-President to call of his goons and send help to protect the Capitol. Trump, reportedly refused, according to the several House Republicans who McCarthy briefed on the call and who are now, apparently, willing to go on record to say as much, according to CNN's late breaking report.

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, as President Biden places climate action at the center of both national security and foreign policy and as the U.S. wind energy industry just had its best year ever, among other important, non-impeachment related environmental news stories...

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Special Coverage Day 3 of Trump's second Impeachment Trial as House Managers wrap up their damning case to Republicans who may fail to realize they could now take away his last remaining 'superpower'; Also: Disenchanted GOPers consider forming new national party...
By Brad Friedman on 2/11/2021 6:33pm PT  

Our BradCast special coverage continues today, as House Impeachment Managers completed their opening argument in Donald Trump's second Senate Impeachment trial, closing out a damning case for the charge of "Incitement of Insurrection" and pre-butting the arguments expected from the former President's defense team. [Audio link for today's full show is posted below the summary.]

But first up today, in not-at-all-unrelated news, Reuters is reporting a nascent effort by unhappy Republicans --- many of whom served in the Administrations of Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr. and even Trump --- to begin building a third national party to help break away from the Trump-captured GOP. They claim the new party would reflect "principled conservatism" and could be called the "Integrity Party" or "Center Right Party". Or the effort, discussed on a Zoom call late last week by some 120 Republicans disenchanted by their party's hard-right, nativist turn, could fizzle all together. We discuss.

Then, following Wednesday's emotionally gripping first day of opening arguments in the Impeachment Trial, in which Democratic House Managers presented a tightly-knit, point-by-point, media-rich case detailing Trump's incitement of the murderous January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, Republican Senators were reportedly moved by some of the harrowing, never-before-seen-or-heard audio and video shared during the presentation. Nonetheless, even after seeing hard, persuasive evidence of Trump's long-planned attempt to steal the election after all of his non-violent schemes had fizzled, Washington Post reports that most of the GOP Senate jurists were still likely to vote against conviction. That, even as some of the Senators were visibly shaken by the dramatic presentation of the MAGA mob's violent ransacking of the Capitol with Trump's encouragement and their hopes of assassinating Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or any of the other lawmakers who came frighteningly close to being overrun by the insurrectionists.

Foolishly, it seems, the cowardly Republican Senators who are still in thrall to Trump and in fear of his supporters don't seem to understand that this Impeachment Trial is affording them an opportunity to neutralize the only real superpower that Trump now has left: his control over them and the Party itself, thanks to his ability to run again in 2024 --- where he is currently the easy front-runner for the GOP nomination. End the possibility of him ever becoming President again and his one remaining superpower will almost certainly dissipate in surprisingly short order, as I explain today.

Nonetheless, the Impeachment case picked up on Thursday, with House Managers underscoring Trump's personal role in inciting the violence and his complete failure to take any action at all to stop it after it had begun, leaving lawmakers "for dead", as compellingly detailed yesterday. Even now, the Managers noted, Trump has failed to take any personal responsibility for the riot or even concede that he lost the 2020 election. That "Big Lie", as the Managers explained, continues to threaten national security; has cost the federal government nearly half a billion dollars for protection of the Capitol; has resulted in adversaries in China, Russia and Iran dismissing America's promise of Constitutional democracy; and has made a joke of Republican claims to support either the rule of law or law enforcement itself. (One Capitol Police officer was killed in the January 6 assault, two more killed themselves in the days that followed, and hundreds were seen being attacked by MAGA mobsters on video, describing them as "traitors" before more than 100 were seriously injured that day.)

Today we share excerpts from presentations made by Impeachment Managers Jamie Raskin (MD); Diana DeGette (CO); Ted Lieu (CA); Joaquin Castro (TX); and Joe Neguse (CO).

Each warned in different ways that if the Senate fails to convict and then bar Trump from holding future office, the chances are very good that he --- or a future President --- will repeat his deadly, authoritarian tactics. The most chilling moment of the day, however, may have belonged to Lieu, who noted that the disgraced former President "will undoubtedly cause future harm if allowed, because he still refuses to account for his high, grave crime against our government."

"I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years," Lieu warned. "I'm afraid he's gonna run again and lose...because he can do this again."

Their case concluded, essentially, with the reminder that if an insurrection directed by the President of the United States against the U.S. Government itself is not impeachable, then nothing is. The Managers also pre-butted the expected arguments from Trump's attorneys, noting that the First Amendment free speech clause does not protect incitement of violence. And, since Trump declined their invitation to answer himself under oath, the Managers asked his lawyers to explain why Trump took no action at all as Commander-in-Chief to stop the murderous attack once it began and if they even agree that a President inciting an insurrection against the U.S. Government amounts to an impeachable offense.

Trump's attorneys will present their own case beginning on Friday...

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Special Coverage Day 2 with former Deputy Asst. AG Lisa Graves on the point-by-point case against Trump and how he might respond; Also: GA prosecutor opens criminal probe of Trump's attempted election theft...
By Brad Friedman on 2/10/2021 6:38pm PT  

On today's BradCast: On the same day that news broke that Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia's newly elected prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into Donald Trump's apparent attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election in her state, the U.S. House Impeachment Managers began their not-unrelated and rather damning opening argument against the disgraced former President in his historic second U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial. And though it was not necessarily surprising, it was still stunning to see that Fox "News" didn't even bother to carry some of the most disturbing and chilling testimony and video presented on Wednesday. [Audio link to show follows below summary.]

Our special, seat-of-our-pants coverage continues today, as Democrats from the House laid out what certainly came across as a compelling, seemingly air-tight, point-by-point case against Trump. They detailed, through his own repeated tweets and media statements, all the way back to last Summer, how he cultivated and prepared his supporters for his false claim that, if he lost the election, it could only be due to massive election fraud.

While the Article of Impeachment itself, for "Incitement of Insurrection" at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, focuses largely on that day's deadly attack by his MAGA Mob, Trump had laid the groundwork for the assault for months. The House Managers offered a meticulous presentation of tweets and media statements from the then-President, detailing how he used his various platforms to gin up false outrage about a "stolen election", both before and after the election itself. That, despite a lack of evidence to support his claims and his carefully orchestrated attack on the last day possible to prevent the final certification of Joe Biden's decisive Electoral College victory.

Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin (MD), describing Trump as "the Inciter-in-Chief," charged that his scheme was "the greatest betrayal of the Presidential Oath in the history of the United States." The entire team of Managers spelled out exactly how Trump "praised, supported and cultivated" the eventual violence that resulted in five deaths that day, including a Capitol Police officer, two officer suicides in the days that followed, and well over 100 serious injuries to police attempting to protect the Capitol and the hundreds of lawmakers inside.

"For months," Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA) explained during his presentation, "Trump assembled the logs and the kindling" to convince his supporters that the election would be rigged, "so if he lost, his supporters would be ready to light the match."  And they were --- especially after Trump "doused the flames with kerosene" once he lost the election and eventually ran out of non-violent option to overturn it.

Unfolding, appropriately enough, like a violent crime prosecution, the Managers detailed how Trump ignored more than 60 court challenges he lost (several of which were at the hands of federal judges he himself had appointed); pressured and threatened election officials in several states to change results in his favor; attacked Senators and members of the House for failing to take action on his behalf; pressured the Dept. of Justice to bring fraudulent fraud cases; and even used his platforms to repeatedly attack his own Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to try and steal the election for him.

By the time his supporters were primed to storm the Capitol on January 6, as previously unseen video and federal charging documents reveal, many in Trump's mob were focused on the assassinations of Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others. Chilling surveillance footage of fleeing lawmakers and courageous, quick-thinking law enforcement officials also reveals how close the insurrectionist mob actually came to being able to do so. It's miraculous that there weren't even more deaths.

Underscoring the entire case, however, is the fact that none of it --- none of the violence, none of the death --- would have occurred, had not Trump incited it and then failed to stop it. All of it. On purpose. Unapologetically, even now.

We're joined today for insight on today's historic proceedings and how Trump's defense team can possibly respond to it, by LISA GRAVES of True North Research. With her experience as a former Deputy Asst. Attorney General at the U.S. Justice Dept., a former Chief Counsel in the U.S. Senate, and a former Deputy Chief for the U.S. Court system, she brings a broad and helpful perspective to all of this.

Among the points discussed today, in addition to her general opinion of the case to date by the House Managers: How this Impeachment Trial differs both from Trump's first one and Bill Clinton's; Whether she would like to see witnesses called during this trial and, if so, who?; How much of this matter should be seen as "Kabuki Theater" given the general belief (true or not) that there are unlikely to be 17 Republican Senators willing to vote for conviction, as needed; Whether this Impeachment Trial helps or hurts the odds of criminal charges being brought against Trump in the future for this matter; And what she might expect from Trump's defense attorneys in response.

"I think it's vital that, under our Constitution, these proceedings take place even if there are members of that body who do not have the courage -- the moral courage --- or the devotion to our Constitution to do the right thing, based on the evidence that's been presented so far, to convict Donald Trump," Graves tells me. "I think there should be accountability for members based on how they vote in this trial. And people should be held to account for whether they are willing to speak up against this unprecedented assault on our democracy, on our legislative branch of government, on the rule of law, and on the very notion of how you determine elections are valid, which is the certification process that every single state engaged in."

"So, I think it's an important thing historically," she argues. "It's important for our Constitution. It's important for the people, regardless of the outcome."

Finally, we get to our latest Green News Report, with some troubling news across the planet, but also some fun, funny and even encouraging news to end a somewhat disturbing and chilling day in D.C....

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Special Coverage of Day One; Also: U.S. Election Assistance Commission leaders quietly override cybersecurity experts to allow modems in new voting system standards...
By Brad Friedman on 2/9/2021 7:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast Special Coverage: There have only been three Presidents during the 243-year history of the United States who have been Impeached, for a total of four Presidential impeachments. Donald Trump has been impeached twice. He alone makes up a full half of all of the Presidential Impeachments in the history of our nation. That will be a scar and mark of shame that will never be removed from his pathetic legacy, no matter what happens in his historic second Impeachment Trial in the US Senate, which began in earnest today....sort of. [Audio link to show follows below summary.]

Democratic House Impeachment Managers on Tuesday were forced to make the case for the Constitutionality of holding an Impeachment Trial for a President who is already out of office. Frankly, it's a ridiculous case to have to make, as we discussed on yesterday's show and again today. Of course an impeached, former official can be tried by the U.S. Senate after leaving office. It's been done several times in our nation's history, and legal scholars from both the Right and Left have argued as much in recent days in response to the disingenuous case made against it by Trump's defense attorneys and his sycophantic Republican supporters in the Senate.

Nonetheless, lead Impeachment Manager Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD) opened the argument on this point on Tuesday, with a compelling narrative that there is no "January Exception" to the Constitution's impeachment clause. If there was, he argued, Presidents leaving office would have impunity to cause any amount of mayhem during their final weeks in office. Raskin's presentation began with a stunning, riveting and chilling video juxtaposing Trump's January 6th rally comments to his supporters at the White House, instructing them to "fight like hell" before directing them to the U.S. Capitol, along with previously unseen video clips of his supporters subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The montage showed Congress being interrupted by the violent insurrectionists, with lawmakers sent scurrying for their lives during the Joint Session to certify the 2020 Electoral College results from last November's Presidential Election victory by Joe Biden...

Raskin's presentation was followed with ones from Managers Joe Neguse (CO) and David Cicilline (RI) who offered historical, Constitutional and legal background in support of their case, before Raskin returned to close the argument with a heartbreaking personal tale of his --- and his family's --- experience during the January 6th attack at the Capitol. We share extended excerpts from his presentation and video.

Next, Trump's team of defense attorneys offered their own case, beginning with a rambling, disjointed, confusing, often political case by lead defense attorney Bruce Castor (famous for having refused to charge Bill Cosby while a prosecutor in Pennsylvania), before an angry, confusing, and even-more-political and partisan case was made by attorney David Schoen (who had previously represented convicted felon and Trump pal Roger Stone, and was set to defend convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein before he committed suicide in prison.)

Castor made no case at all about the Constitutionality of the proceedings, and even appeared to threaten at least one Republican Senator before arguing that a trial to determine if Trump should be allowed to hold future office was not necessary, since "smart" voters had already done a very good job of voting Trump out of office by themselves. (Begging the question of whether Castor will be allowed by Trump to return tomorrow!) Schoen eventually seemed to make a case against the Constitutionality of the trial, but his argument was so quickly read, and included so many arcane Constitutional and historical references, it was virtually impossible to follow or make sense of.

No worries, however. His case --- any case at all, apparently --- was good enough to win the votes of 44 Republicans Senators when the resolution to dismiss the trial was ultimately defeated at the end of the day by a 56-44 vote. All Democrats and six Republicans (Collins, Cassidy, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Toomey) voted to allow the trial to proceed. Opening arguments for the actual substance of the article of impeachment for "Incitement of Insurrection" begin on Wednesday.

Finally, in our closing few minutes today, we switch gears (mostly) for a quick report on two disturbing, and somewhat related developments. The first story regards an apparent hacker or intruder who was able to use remote access software several days ago, to dangerously increase sodium hydroxide (sometimes known as lye) levels at a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, near Tampa. Luckily the incident was noticed --- live, as it was happening --- by an alert operator at the plant who saw the manipulation on his monitor before drinking water was actually poisoned.

And, in somewhat related news, we learned over the weekend that top officials at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) --- the federal agency responsible for certifying computer voting and tabulation systems --- quietly changed a provision in new security standards for voting systems to allow wireless modems and chips in such systems. The change comes after years of work on the new draft standards by cybersecurity and voting systems experts who strongly urged against allowing remote access hardware, which can be used to hack election results, in such systems.

Whether they are used to manipulate results or not obviously makes no difference to those who are concerned that results might have been changed by hackers, as today's Impeachment Trial should, once again, underscore.

We hope to have more information in the future on this, but the newly modified standards --- known as the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) --- are now much more friendly to private voting system vendors (and hackers) and are set to be approved by the Commission tomorrow (Wednesday). The EAC has long been captured by private voting system vendors, and appears to be doing their bidding once again.

The Election Integrity advocates at Free Speech for People have set up a petition that they are asking voters to sign in hopes of encouraging EAC leadership to return to the safer, modem-free standards before they are officially adopted and used by many states across the country...

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Guest: Attorney Ernest A. Canning on the critical H.R.1, 'For the People Act'; Also: GOP Rep. dies with COVID; Another GOP Senator to retire; GA SoS opens probe of Trump's attempted election theft...
By Brad Friedman on 2/8/2021 6:40pm PT  

Among the many stories on today's busy BradCast: How Lou Dobbs' once formidable Election Integrity reporting at CNN turned into his own demise 15 years later at Fox "News"; Donald Trump's second Impeachment Trial begins this week with his attorneys making legally and Constitutionally indefensible claims; And Democrats offer a massive, much-needed measure to shore up our faltering system of democracy --- but it needs an important fix. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up...following Smartmatic's $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit [PDF] filed against Fox "News" and three of its anchors --- Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro --- last Thursday, the rightwing propaganda network suddenly and unceremoniously cancelled Dobbs' show the very next day.

Ironically, when Dobbs' was at CNN more than a decade ago, his show was largely the only mainstream broadcast media outlet to offer real, investigative coverage of serious concerns about computerized voting and tabulation systems, and the private corporations who had taken over so much of our public elections. His show delved into legit concerns about Smartmatic's relationship to Venezuela, among other things, resulting in a Treasury Dept. investigation at the time. It ultimately helped lead to the sale of a company named Sequoia, which Smartmatic once owned.

Some of the material his CNN show intelligently covered in the mid-aughts informed some of my own exclusive investigative reporting at The BRAD BLOG from 2008 to 2010 detailing, among other things, Dominion Voting Systems purchase of Sequoia some years later. That deep-dive reporting from 2010, ten years on, was subsequently re-imagined and bastardized by Team Trump to become the basis for their irresponsible, inaccurate and evidence-free claims regarding Dominion and Smartmatic and Venezuela (and the late Hugo Chavez) having stolen the election from Trump. In turn, those false claims have now resulted in Dobbs' own demise at Fox, even though he's the one guy at the Republican misinformation outlet who should have known better. Perhaps he did, but as a dyed-in-the-wool Trump sycophant, he didn't care. We cover the irony (and stupidity).

Speaking of stupidity, Donald Trump's Impeachment Trial defense attorneys filed their final pre-trial brief [PDF] on Monday, falsely claiming, once again, that the Trial itself is in violation of the Constitution (which it isn't, even according to well known conservative Republican Constitutional law experts) and that the former President was merely exercising his First Amendment free speech when instructing his MAGA Mob supporters to "fight like hell" the day they took him up on it and attacked the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths. We discuss how the Trump argument fails in advance of his second Impeachment Trial beginning on Tuesday, and the Democratic House Managers response [PDF] to it.

In not-unrelated news, Reuters is reporting that the Georgia Secretary of State's office has opened an official investigation into Trump's attempts to steal the election in the Peach State.

Then, in the wake of Trump's failed attempt to steal the Presidential election with unfounded claims of mass voter fraud, Republicans in state legislatures across the country are attempting to institute hundreds of new restrictions on voters and voting. But Democrats at the federal level have an antidote to that predictable new wave of attempted suppression by GOPers.

We're joined today by BRAD BLOG legal analyst, attorney ERNEST A. CANNING to discuss his recent, deep-dive analysis of the Democrats' H.R.1. bill, known as the "For the People Act". The massive, 800-page bill, provides a lot of long-overdue reforms for voting and fair elections; ending dominance of big money and dark money in politics; and re-enforcing disclosure and ethics reform for members of Congress. On the voting front, it improves access to the voting booth by creating automatic voter registration across the country; restores voting rights for former felons; expands early voting; simplifies voting by mail; restores the Voting Rights Act gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013; blocks mass voter roll purges like those seen in recent years in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere; bars partisan gerrymandering by instituting independent Redistricting Commissions to draw Congressional District maps, instead of the partisan gerrymandered State Legislatures who currently draw them; and includes a call to enfranchise some 700,000 currently unrepresented residents who live in our nation's Capitol by making Washington D.C. the 51st state.

The critical measure also mandates --- sort of --- something that we have called for for a very long time: The option for all voters to vote on verifiable hand-marked paper ballots. Unfortunately, as Canning explains, this one point where the current text of the bill fails. While it mandates that voters must have the option to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, it does not require that option be made available to voters at the polling place! That means that Election Officials can easily follow the letter of the bill's mandate by saying: "Sure! We offer the option for voters to use a hand-marked paper ballot, instead of 100% unverifiable touchscreens. Voters who wish to do that can simply vote by mail if that's what they prefer!"

That is decidedly not good enough, as we discuss, leaving a gaping loophole to help assure we have unverifiable elections in this country for decades. But is it that a serious enough flaw for Election Integrity advocates to oppose the entire measure, in lieu of amended language to that portion of the bill? And, either way, is it even possible for a bill like this to ever be adopted in a 50/50 U.S. Senate without ending the anti-democratic legislative filibuster once and for all?

Finally, on a sad note, another Republican Congressman, Ron Wright of Texas, has died "from health complications following his COVID-19 diagnosis two weeks ago. The passing of the second-term Congressman follows the death of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, who died from COVID just days before the start of the new Congress. And another long-time Republican member of the U.S. Senate, 86-year old Richard Shelby of Alabama, has announced his intention to retire when his term ends in 2022. He is the fourth incumbent Republican in the upper chamber to bow out rather than run for re-election in the next mid-terms...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler with author Craig Unger, the latest news, and stories from the Capitol Insurrection...
By Nicole Sandler on 2/5/2021 5:15pm PT  

It's a busy BradCast, today! I'm NICOLE SANDLER, guest hosting for Brad and Desi, with a full plate today.

Because this was such a busy news cycle, we begin with the news about the vote that ousted freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA) from the two committees Kevin McCarthy put her on. While that was happening in the House, the Senate began a "vote-a-rama" that went on all night. It finally ended at 5:35am, with VP Kamala Harris in her role as Senate President casting the tie-breaking vote to pass a shell of a bill that will eventually contain the $1.9 trillion COVID relief legislation that will require only 50 (+1) votes to pass using the process known as reconciliation.

Because there was so much news breaking on Thursday, something that should have gotten a lot of attention was overlooked by the media. Following the vote in the House to rid the committee of Marjorie Taylor Greene, there was a "special order" hour on the House floor, organized by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Many of us watched her compelling and frightening account of her experience during the Capitol insurrection on January 6, streamed on Instagram Live. It kept me awake most of the night Monday night, as I couldn't shake the feeling of terror she conveyed over the course of the 90-minute live stream. I'm guessing the response she received was overwhelming, as she put together this "special order" event on the House floor to allow other members to tell their stories of what happened to them that awful day. In the second segment of today's show, I share some of those stories, each of which should be included in next week's Impeachment Trial.

Our guest today is author and investigative journalist CRAIG UNGER, whose new book American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery who tells us that Trump was absolutely a Russian asset, cultivated decades ago. Fascinating...

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Guest: Terrorism expert Colin P. Clarke of the Soufan Center; Also: Trump declines to testify at second Impeachment Trial; Smartmatic files $2.7 BILLION defamation suit against Fox 'News' for election theft lies...
By Brad Friedman on 2/4/2021 7:26pm PT  

We keep trying to move on from Trump on The BradCast. But his crimes, his criminal supporters, the growing terrorist menace they pose, not to mention the billion dollar lawsuits that keep coming in against the suckers who fell for and/or promoted his phony, sore loser "stolen election" conspiracy theories, are not making any of it easy. This is gonna take a while.

First up today, in advance of Trump's second Impeachment Trial next week, the Democratic House Impeachment Managers today invited the disgraced former President to give testimony under oath. The man who has never turned down the chance to be the center of the attention, turned down the offer. His lawyers call the invite "a political stunt". But, of course, since Trump can't help but lie, it's probably very wise that he has decided to not get himself into even more legal trouble than he is already facing.

At the same time on Thursday, Smartmatic, a small voting machine company that Team Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed to be interchangeable with their competitor Dominion Voting Systems, and somehow behind theft of the 2020 Presidential election, pushed back hard. The company which, in the U.S., does business in only one county (Los Angeles, where they received a contract to build it's new voting systems used for the first time last year), sued Fox "News", three of its hosts (Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro) for $2.7 billion. The suit also names Giuliani and Powell as defendants. They were each, separately, similarly sued for $1.3 billion each by Dominion recently.

Smartmatic's voting systems played no role in any of the battleground states where Team Trump has baselessly claimed the election was stolen from him. Their 285-page lawsuit [PDF] filed today, however, like those filed to date by Dominion (more are likely to be coming soon) against Giuliani and Powell, charge defamation and ensuing loss of business, after Fox, its hosts and Trump's attorneys all repeatedly made false claims based on their re-imagined reporting by The BRAD BLOG. My 2010 investigative exclusive regarding Dominion and a company they purchased which was once owned by Smartmatic, was accurate. Team Trump and the MAGA Mob Media's bastardization of that reporting was used to spin their own phony, evidence-free story of a massive, worldwide election theft conspiracy --- as we explain yet again today.

Next, in the wake of the January 6 MAGA Mob assault at the U.S. Capitol --- the incitement for which is the basis of Trump's second impeachment --- almost two hundreds perps have been rounded up so far and charged in the deadly attack. Members of a number of far-right extremist and/or racist organizations like The Oath Keepers and Proud Boys have been arrested and indicted on conspiracy charges, and Dept. of Justice officials are said to be mulling the use of RICO statues to cast an even wider net with conspiracy laws initially enacted to help bring mafia kingpins to justice.

The violent insurrection in January, however, was completely predictable. In early December on this program, we were joined by a longtime researcher of terrorism, insurgency and political violence who warned that Trump was setting the stage for coming insurgencies not unlike like the one we all witnessed at the Capitol on January 6. He warned at the time that Trump was "encouraging his supporters to engage in insurgency-like tactics and behaviors," that there are "real-world consequences to this," and that those listening to Trump and his media organs like Fox "News" and even farther rightwing media outlets were "living in an alternate universe", and "going to act on it."

We're joined once again today by that expert, COLIN P. CLARKE, a Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center and author of a number of books on international terrorism, to discuss his recent New York Times op-ed warning that, while "the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a rabid mob of Donald Trump supporters resulted in a failed insurrection...for far-right extremists, including anti-government militias, white supremacists and violent conspiracy theorists, nothing about the insurrection was a failure."

"Not only was it not a failure, at least viewed on the part of the insurrectionists," he tells me today, "but it was entirely predictable. Everything Trump was doing, including his violent rhetoric, was laying the groundwork for this type of political violence."

"It was obvious to any extremism researcher that knows what they're talking about that this was the logical conclusion of where things were headed. The President was stoking the flames. His enablers in the GOP were providing that passive support necessary. And he unleashed a mob, essentially, against his own government," Clarke explains.

But the even more unsettling part is that Clarke, who has studied insurgencies across the globe going back decades, believes that attack has now set the stage for the recruitment of even farther Right extremists and for still more violent events in the near future.

We discuss how both law enforcement officials and lawmakers need to grapple with the emerging threats posed by "a new era" of domestic terrorism; if our current laws are adequate to safeguard against further attacks; and the justifiable concerns that Americans should have regarding the possibility that new measures enacted to combat domestic terrorism, along with those enacted after 9/11 to guard against foreign terrorism, might inappropriately be used against perceived political adversaries of those in power.

"We need to be on guard over the mistakes that we've made in the past. We need to be transparent about what the strategy is going forward....At the same time, some of the lessons we've learned from  the last twenty years fighting jihadists just don't pertain," Clarke says. "For the better part of the past two decades, we've been focused on fighting groups and organizations overseas. Now we're concerned with individuals and movements on US soil. Quite a bit of difference there. Americans have different rights under the law --- including First and Second Amendment --- than we would be talking about if we were analyzing an ISIS network operating in Syria. So there's a lot of care to take as we figure out what to do next."

On an encouraging note, however, he explains that he has "been heartened [by] seeing that the Biden Administration understands the sense of urgency. It's tapped some of the most capable people in this country to lead the charge." He says he expects their work to be "empirically driven" based "on the data", which is "something we didn't see under the last administration, when we had President Trump talking about 'I'm going to designate Antifa as a terrorist group.'"

Finally, for some (believe it not) brighter news, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest 'Green News Report', as Dems take control of the U.S. Senate and vow to act on climate; as automakers drop their attempt to challenge California's vehicle emissions standards; and as coal is predicted to be entirely out of the U.S. power grid in just a few short years...

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