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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Not Created Equally:
'BradCast' 12/5/22
Guest: Voice of America's former WH House Bureau Chief, Steve Herman; Also: New flu, COVID surge; Russia's latest offensive; Trump calls for 'termination' of U.S. Constitution...
Sunday 'Abandon All Hope' Toons
Give it up for PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best political toons...
AZ Election Super-Geniuses: 'BradCast' 12/2/22
Cochise County ordered to certify results; Lake, Finchem attorneys sanctioned; Also: Warnock campaigner shot in GA; Boebert recount begins in CO; Dems avert rail strike, but about those paid sick days...
Seditious Conspiracy Verdicts and 'Mob Boss' Obstruction: 'BradCast' 12/1/22
Guest: Emptywheel's Marcy Wheeler; Also: Out of work loser, Dr. Oz; Hilarious sentence for GOP vote suppressors; Breaking: 11th Circuit nixes Special Master in Trump docs case...
'Green News Report' 12/1/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
DoJ sues to clean up water supply in Jackson, MS; Mauna Loa shuts global CO2 monitor; New methane rules for drilling; PLUS: Int. Dept to help tribal communities escape rising seas...
Recent GNRs: 11/29/22 - 11/17/22 - Archives...
Good News and Bad News in GA Early Runoff Voting: 'BradCast' 11/30/22
Guest: GA election expert, observer Jeanne Dufort; Also: Dems unite behind new House leadership; Bills passed to help avert rail strike; Meadows ordered to testify in GA...
Fun Times in MAGA Land!: Sedition! Collusion! Denial!: 'BradCast' 11/29/22
Oath Keepers chief 'guilty'; GOP money launderer 'guilty'; AZ Dem SoS/Guv-elect fights to keep Repubs from disenfranchising selves...
'Green News Report' 11/29/22
Breakthrough at U.N. climate conference; Americans at risk of power blackouts; Buffalo, NY buried by blizzard; PLUS: Houston, TX under boil water notice...
We're Back! But Election and Accountability Season Never Left: 'BradCast' 11/28/22
Pillow Guy is running!; Special Counsel wasting no time; Trumpers failed in AK too; Lake still pretending in AZ; Callers have a few thoughts...
Sunday 'Once More Unto the Breach' Toons
And here we go again...into PDiddie's latest post-Turkey toon collection...
Turkey Toons
Gobble gobble! Our thanks to the one and only Pdiddie for a special holiday collection of toons to help you burn off a few calories!...
Debating the Merits of Garland's New Special Counsel: 'BradCast' 11/21/22
Guests: Former DoJ prosecutor Randall D. Eliason of GWU, Const'l law expert John Bonifaz of FSFP; Also: Does the Const. disqualify Trump from 2024?...
Sunday 'Ready or Not' Toons
PDiddie's latest collection of the past week's most gut-busting political toons...
'Green News Report' 11/17/22
Crunch time for COP27 climate agreement; NASA says sea levels to rise a foot by 2050; Trump's 2024 announce-ment climate lies; PLUS: Climate disinfo surging again...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
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GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


Guest: Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel on that and several of the ongoing criminal cases elsewhere against the disgraced former President...
By Brad Friedman on 9/21/2022 5:31pm PT  

The first of many hammers to come on Donald Trump's years of lying, grifting and defrauding the American people and the world came down today in New York, as detailed on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

According to New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday, the former President falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars over many years in wildly fraudulent financial statements that allowed him to unlawfully obtain bank loans as well as tax and insurance benefits he had not earned.

"Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to 'The Art of the Deal.' It's the art of the steal," alleged James near the end of her announcement this afternoon, detailing "astounding" financial falsehoods which Trump employed over decades. "There cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state, and former Presidents are no different. And so, today, we're making good on that promise, on our commitment, because no one --- no one --- is above the law," she said.

After a three-year probe, James filed a 222-page lawsuit [PDF] in New York state court against Trump and the Trump Organization, as well as his three oldest children, Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka. The company's longtime Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg and its Controller Jeffrey McConney were also named as defendants.

The A.G. detailed dozens of flagrant incidents of "staggering" fraud in her civil suit. It seeks to "permanently bar Mr. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state" and "bar Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years." The suit also seeks to disgorge some $250 million, the estimated "financial benefits obtained through the persistent fraudulent practices."

Moreover, James said that many of the violations of law detailed in her case are not only civil, but also criminal She has now referred those charges to both state and federal authorities at the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the IRS, and the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York.

Among the many fraudulent practices employed by Trump to inflate his self-worth, as detailed by James at her presser today, was his claim that his 11,000 square foot penthouse apartment at Trump Tower was actually 30,000 square feet. By falsely more than tripling the size of the apartment, he was able to value it at $327 million, far more, according to James, than any apartment has ever sold for in New York City. It was an overstatement, as Weisselberg conceded during his deposition, of "give or take" $200 million.

As James' office noted in their announcement of the suit today, Trump also lied about dozens of other properties, including Mar-a-Lago, which he valued in financial statements "as high as $739 million" when, in fact it "should have been valued at closer to $75 million."

But there is more. Much. All of which allowed the disgraced former President and TV star to inflate his net worth by billions of dollars in recent decades. We share the bulk of James' statement on today's show, in case you missed it. It was, at times, breathtaking.

We're joined today by accountability and national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel to discuss Jame's long-awaited civil suit in the Empire State and several of the many other ongoing criminal investigations bearing down on Trump elsewhere.

"It's important for people to remember that with this [case in New York], as with all of Trump's legal exposure, this stuff takes time," Wheeler cautions, explaining that Trump is going to do everything possible to stall the A.G.'s lawsuit, as he does with everything else. "So, it's not like tomorrow he's going to be put in cuffs by the IRS. This is his empire, and he is going to fight for his empire, he's going to fight for his brand."

Until James announced her lawsuit today, we had originally planned to discuss, with Wheeler, the DoJ's case against Trump at Mar-a-Lago, as a federal judge appointed by Trump has been running absurd and corrupt interference for him following the FBI's search at his Florida club, finding that he stole more than a thousand pages of highly classified national security documents upon leaving office.

"He probably still has classified documents lying around his properties," Wheeler argues, charging "the thing about Trump is he's never going to stop cheating." At least until someone stops him.

Right now, in addition to James' civil action on Wednesday, there are at least three other major criminal probes that Trump is being forced to contend with. Today was likely only the first shoe to drop in that regard. Stay tuned...

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Guest: Stephanie Foggett of The Soufan Center...
By Brad Friedman on 8/16/2022 6:53pm PT  

We really do have (at least) two Americas at this point. One America, led by President Joe Biden and his Democratic party in Congress, who have now triumphantly signed into law the largest climate bill in U.S. history, which also includes landmark measures to make healthcare cheaper for tens of millions of Americans. And another America, which is calling for violence, mayhem and murder of American law enforcement officials, and they are led there by the disgraced former President of the United States. We discuss both Americas on today's BradCast. Apologies in advance for the whiplash. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

On Tuesday, Joe Biden signed the historic, if somewhat misleadingly named, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a trimmed down version of his Build Back Better Act which was blocked by all 50 Senate Republicans and two Democrat last year. The IRA, however, includes some $400 billion to finally begin tackling climate change and moving the nation from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy; institutes a $2,000 annual cap on prescription drug costs for seniors; allows Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prices with drug companies for the first time ever; and increases taxes on hugely profitable corporations that currently pay no taxes at all. It also helps pays down the deficit and a bunch of other things.

It was passed in both chambers of Congress, where Democrats hold the thinnest of majorities in each, without one single Republican vote, as the President took pains to note during his White House signing ceremony today.

"Let’s be clear," Biden said, "In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests in this vote — every single one. In fact, big drug companies spent nearly $100 million to defeat this bill. A hundred million dollars. And remember: Every single Republican in Congress voted against this bill."

"We’re delivering results for the American people," the President boasted. "We didn’t tear down; we built up. We didn’t look back; we looked forward. And today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real and just beginning."

"I know there are those here today who hold a dark and despairing view of this country," Biden said. "I’m not one of them. I believe in the promise of America. I believe in the future of this country. I believe in the very soul of this nation. And most of all, I believe in you, the American people."

As to those who do "hold a dark and despairing view of this country," many of them have been showing their true, dark colors over the past week since the FBI obtained a lawful warrant to search Donald Trump's Florida compound for highly classified and sensitive national security documents that he stole from the White House upon leaving office last year.

After Trump revealed the search publicly last week, using rhetoric seemingly chosen to incite violence --- falsely citing "prosecutorial misconduct," "weaponization of the Justice System," describing the U.S. as a "broken, Third-World Country" --- there has been what the DHS and FBI described in a bulletin last week as an "unprecedented" number of "violent threats" against federal law enforcement, courts and government personnel and facilities.

"These threats are occurring primarily online and across multiple platforms, including social media sites, web forums, video sharing platforms, and image boards," the bulletin warns. It was published the day after a Donald Trump supporter was killed following his attempt to attack an FBI field office in Ohio with a nail gun and an AR-15, and as another Trump supporter was taken into custody and charged for issuing graphic calls to "slaughter" federal officers on several different social media cites.

And while threats on far-right, neo-Nazi Internet sites reportedly spiked following Trump's announcement of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, it has also spiked on "mainstream" Rightwing media outlets like Fox "News", where the rhetoric --- from many of its prime time hosts and elected Republican officials alike --- has become hauntingly similar to that found on the darkest, far-right cesspools of the Internet.

We're joined today by STEPHANIE FOGGETT, a Research Fellow at The Soufan Center and Director of Global Communications at The Soufan Group, where her areas of expertise include terrorism, online extremism and the rise of white supremacy. She has a great deal of perspective to offer on this issue.

"This rhetoric is alarming, but it is not surprising, especially given the online spaces and activity that I watch every day," she tells me. "I monitor the darkest and most violent corners of this information ecosystem, and I really think, above all, it's important to know that these threats and attacks on law enforcement, they're not coming out of a vacuum."

Indeed, as Matt Gertz at Media Matters observed last week "Fox and other right-wing outlets describe the search as 'the worst attack on this republic in modern history,' part of a 'preemptive coup' to prevent Trump’s reelection, and a sign the country is now a 'tyranny.' They say the FBI is acting like 'the East German Stasi in the Cold War' and the Nazi 'Gestapo,' and call its agents part of a 'lawless criminal organization' that 'planted evidence,' bugged Trump’s bedroom, and may be planning his 'assassination.'"

"And they are quick to tell their viewers that they should fear their own persecution in the wake of the search," Gertz writes. "According to right-wing outlets, 'the real target of this investigation is you'." Just last night, Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the nation's most popular cable "news" outlet, told viewers that President Biden is now "declar[ing] war on his own population."

"It's rinsing and repeating narratives and concerns that we saw with the Stop the Steal campaign and things like that," Foggett explains. "It's really tapping into this narrative on the far-right that if they can go after a President they will be able to come after you one day."

She worries even more "about what comes next," while offering both historical context for this current moment --- in which "every agency in America, from intelligence agencies to law enforcement agencies [have] come to the assessment that the far-right and domestic extremism is the greatest threat that America is facing today" --- and ways in which responsible Americans can respond in hopes of decreasing the threat.

"It is tricky, and there is no silver bullet. There's no one single thing that can be done to address this," Foggett asserts, before describing how individuals can be mindful of what they share online --- stuff that is meant to go viral with misleading messages --- and how "it's really about individuals in positions of power to be much more careful about the things that they say, and how they interact with the violence that this movement promises."

In short, solving this problem won't be easy, and things may get much worse before they get better. But there are ways to educate Americans about these now main-streamed extremists and ways to "isolate them by rejecting them, by ignoring them, and by denouncing them."

Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more on the Democrats' historic climate bill and several alarming new reports underscoring how the measure has finally become law not a moment too soon...

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Guest: Climate and energy journalist David Roberts of Volts...
By Brad Friedman on 8/12/2022 5:21pm PT  

On some days, there is more huge news than others. This is about 10 of those days. With not one, but two absolute blockbuster stories jammed into today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show posted below this summary.]

On Friday, a federal judge unsealed the warrant obtained by the FBI and DOJ to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound for classified documents earlier this week. We have now learned that law enforcement officials collected some 11 sets of classified documents from the former President's Florida residence on Monday. Several of them were marked "TOP SECRET/SCI" (Sensitive Compartmented Information), the highest level of security classification. That's an even higher level of secrecy than merely "Top Secret". In all, agents collected four sets of "top secret" docs, three sets of "secret" docs and three marked "confidential", the lowest classification. (The latter, akin to the classification level of a handful of emails sent to Hillary Clinton's private email server when she served as Sec. of State.)

It is currently unknown if any of the sensitive and highly classified documents regarded nuclear secrets or not, as Washington Post reported exclusively on Thursday night.

But the arguably larger blockbuster part of this news is the specific crimes detailed in the warrant, for which DOJ officials sought it in the first place and for which they were required to show "probable cause" to the federal judge. Specially, the warrant reveals that Trump was being investigated for at least three different violations of the United States criminal code. As the Times' Charlie Savage summarizes: "Section 793, better known as the Espionage Act, which covers the unlawful retention of defense-related information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; Section 1519, which covers destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations or administrative proceedings; and Section 2071, which covers the unlawful removal of government records."

"Notably," Savage adds, "none of those laws turn on whether information was deemed to be unclassified." That is important, of course, because the Trumpers have been claiming over the last day or so that the disgraced former President declassified all the materials before he stole them from the White House. In fact, whether he did or didn't (and that is likely to be of MUCH dispute), it may not matter when prosecuting the Espionage Act, as well as Obstruction, and the Unlawful Removal of Government Documents.

For the record, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death in 1953 for violations of the Espionage Act.

While all of that is blockbuster enough for one show, receiving much less coverage today is a another of arguably even greater consequence: Democrats (and ONLY Democrats) in the U.S. House on Friday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, including a landmark $370 billion investment to battle climate change. It is the largest such single investment in history by any nation. Moreover the Act includes a ton of other longtime progressive priorities, such as the ability to negotiate Medicare drug prices with Big Pharma, price caps on prescriptions for the elderly, the expansion of Obamacare premium subsidies, new taxes on hugely profitable corporations currently paying zero in taxes and much more. It even puts hundreds of billions toward deficit reduction.

The historic measure, the central pillar of Joe Biden and the Democrats' economic agenda, was passed last weekend in the Senate, also with zero Republican votes, and now heads to the President for his signature.

We are joined today by the great DAVID ROBERTS, who has spent too many years writing about the confluence of politics, climate and energy for many different publications. He now publishes the Volts newsletter and podcast after having joined us at various times over the past 15 years or so to discuss climate matters and what, until now, had been a bevy of failed federal climate and energy policies. Today, however, for the first time, we've got something very real to celebrate which, he suggests, is likely to be a game changer in the fight to mitigate climate change.

"The shortest way to put it," he tells me, in response to my request for his top-line reaction to this bill, "If you recall Obama's stimulus bill, it contained about $90 billion for clean energy. That bill is responsible for kicking off an absolute firestorm of growth in both those markets [solar and wind], basically helping to bring their costs down below fossil fuels and revolutionizing the US energy landscape. That was $90 billion mostly on wind and solar. Now we're talking about $370 BILLION on wind, solar, hydrogen, batteries, go on down the list. So just the math of it, this is going to spur another revolution in US energy."

We discuss the various mechanisms by which this sprawling new law will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 which he sees as likely a minimum of cuts in the deadly pollution driving our worsening climate crisis. All of which, he describes as "miraculous," given the surprising way it all came about just days ago.

"As you know, about a week ago we were staring in the face of a big goose egg from Congress, a big nothing," Roberts recalls. But that changed when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck a deal after secret negotiations with, of all people, Sen. Joe Manchin from the coal state of West Virginia. "So this really is the difference between almost total failure on climate and something very close to the level of success that I would have hoped for and dreamed for."

Roberts walks through several of the key points in the bill that he believes will make the greatest difference in our efforts to cut emissions at the federal as well as state and local level.

"One of the most important aspects of this bill is the transformative effects it's going to have on our political economy. It's going to change politics," he argues. "I like to draw the analogy with the defense industry in the US. They are horrific and evil, but they are very savvy in one way, which is that they spread their investments across all 50 states. So then you have 50 states defending defense spending --- which is obnoxious, but it's a good strategy." It's one that he believes will now be echoed in the renewable energy industry, making it much harder to kill in the future, even in --- and, perhaps especially in --- "red" states.

Roberts also concurs with the explanation climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann offered on this show earlier this week, when explained how the bill's incentives work, largely by turning "carrots" (financial incentives) to encourage renewable energy production into "sticks" that will ultimately take down the deadly fossil fuel industry now that they will face real, cleaner and cheaper competition.

"It's a giant bag of carrots," Roberts quips. "The idea, the theory of change, is that these carrots will accelerate the development of renewable energy even further, even faster, and it's going to undercut the economics of fossil fuels even further, even faster. And so fossil fuels are just going to lose on the market." He goes on to add this key point: "One of the things the models find is this bill is going to cause a net reduction in US demand for oil and gasoline for the first time ever. Ever!"

Of course, there are some progressives who have been critical of the bill's giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, included in the 755-page measure in order to win the needed 50th vote in the Senate of Joe Manchin. Those measures "suck," Roberts concurs, even as many on the left have been (purposely?) misinformed about some of those provisions.

"In the grand scheme of things, in the big picture, they are relatively marginal compared to the massive, massive boost that this is going to give clean energy, and the massive amount of emissions it's going to reduce. There is no credible argument otherwise. This is absolutely a net win."

So, yeah. An absolutely historic day --- on at least two remarkable stories...

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Guest: Penn State climate scientist, author, Dr. Michael E. Mann on long-overdue passage of $370 billion to combat global warming...
By Brad Friedman on 8/8/2022 5:55pm PT  

We've been joined countless times over the years on The BradCast by renowned Penn State climate scientist DR. MICHAEL E. MANN. Given the circumstances, he is always remarkably optimistic. Today, there was really something for him to be optimistic about. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

The U.S. Senate held its first hearings on climate change 36 years ago --- led by a Republican Senator from Rhode Island at the time --- and attended by a then new Senator from Tennessee by the name of Al Gore. They were warned, as Washington Post's front page reported at the time, that pollution from the burning of fossil fuels would result in a "greenhouse effect" that would cause the globe to warm "to a level which has not existed on Earth in the past 100,000 years."

Two years later, in 1988, they were warned again by NASA scientist, Dr. James Hansen, that evidence was found that the warming had already begun. "The global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe, with a high degree of confidence, a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect."

"There is no longer any significant difference of opinion within the scientific community about the fact that the greenhouse effect is real and already occurring," Gore made clear at the time, following a conference held in 1985 in Austria which concluded that "as a result of the increasing greenhouse gases it is now believed that in the first half of the next century (21st century) a rise of global mean temperature could occur which is greater than in any man’s history."

Long story short, pretty much everything the scientists warned about has come to pass, much of it even sooner than predicted. And yet, over the ensuing decades the fossil fuel industry has fully captured the Republican Party to the extent that not a single one of them voted over the weekend for the most substantive climate bill ever adopted by the U.S. Senate. The only such bill ever adopted by the Senate, in fact. It only took 36 years, and a tie-breaking vote from the Democratic Vice President, but they did it.

On Sunday, after 16-hours of overnight debate and attempted amendments, the Senate passed the dubiously-named Inflation Reduction Act, so named largely to win the vote of coal state Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. The spending bill will do a lot, including allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices; put a $,2000 annual cap on prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare; put a $35/month cap on insulin costs for those on government insurance who have diabetes (Republicans forced Dems to kill that provision for those with private insurance); add a new 15% minimum tax on corporations whose annual profits are more than one billion dollars; tax major corporations for buying back their own stock instead of investing in their companies; and it will also pay down the deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next ten years.

But, most importantly, the Act will invest at least $370 billion to combat climate change with incentives for individuals, states and business alike. It will, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin --- and several independent analyses --- cut the greenhouse gas emissions we were warned about decades ago, by about 40% by 2030.

"It is a good day, let's not make any bones about that," says Mann today on the show. "This is, by far, the most aggressive climate legislation --- in fact, the only meaningful climate legislation that has ever passed the U.S. Senate."

"Let's be clear: this isn't the solution. It's not like we've solved the climate crisis. There's a whole lot more work that's left to be done," the author of more than160 peer-reviewed and edited scientific publications and author of more than half a dozen books on the climate crisis tells us. "We need at least 50% reductions by [2030] if we are to stay on course to keeping warming below a really catastrophic 3 degrees Fahrenheit. So there's a lot more work to be done, and there are some things in the bill that some of us wish weren't there. There are some incentives for fossil fuel interests when it comes to drilling leases and pipeline construction, a few bones that were thrown in to get the support of a coal-state Democratic Senator in Joe Manchin." Nonetheless, the bill --- which still must pass the Democrat-controlled House on Friday --- "represents significant progress."

"If you want more progress, if you want more aggressive legislation --- and I certainly do and I think we should expect it --- then we need a larger majority in the U.S. Senate that can pass more aggressive climate legislation," Mann explains. In fact, not one single Republican voted for the measure. It was passed with the barest of majorities. All 50 Senators who caucus with the Democrats (and who, shockingly, stayed unified), plus the vote of the Vice President Kamala Harris.

Mann discusses both the upsides and downside of the bill, including the measures that could expand the use of fossil fuels in order to win the vote of Manchin. But, he asserts, the "carrots" to get off of fossil fuels, as included in the bill, are likely to become "sticks". "If the carrot works, it becomes a stick. Which is to say, if we incentivize renewable energy enough, then fossil fuel energy is no longer competitive."

Of course, he's got much more insight on the measure and what needs to be done moving forward. But it's a start that is "real" and "tangible." he argues. And it only took 36 years to get here --- not a moment too soon.

We open up the phones to some thoughts from callers on all of this today and, of course, our own Desi Doyen has a few as well. A "good day" indeed. We'll take it.

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Can Dems finally pass the critical Schumer/Manchin compromise bill to save the climate (and maybe themselves)?; Also: Biden's 'rebound'; KY's death toll; Tuesday's primaries; And callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 8/1/2022 6:16pm PT  

In our opinion, on today's BradCast, the scaled back, surprise "Build Back Better" spending bill compromise (now renamed the "Inflation Reduction Act" to help win over West Virginia's rightwing Democratic Senator) comes not a moment too soon. And, even "scaled back", it's still chocked full of so much stuff that if each of its provisions were passed in separate bills over the past 18 months, we'd likely be discussing Joe Biden as having one of the most successful first two years of any President in history. That said, the bill has not yet been passed, and it could still be a very bumpy ride in the coming days to see it through to the President's signature. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Before we get to that today --- and some callers on same --- a few other headlines covered on today's show...

  • Minutes before airtime, news broke that the U.S. killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan over the weekend in a successful drone strike, in which no civilians are said to have been killed. President Biden was to give remarks about what happened on Monday evening.
  • Speaking of Biden, he tested positive for COVID again over the weekend, in what White House officials are describing as a "rare rebound" case after finishing his 5-day course of the anti-viral drug called Paxlovid. Well, it can't be ALL that rare, because last week, when the White House announced Biden had tested negative and was cleared to leave isolation, we warned about the possibility of such a rebound, as many Paxlovid users have experienced same. The Pfizer drug has very good results at preventing serious cases and hospitalization, but many patients have experienced a second --- non-fatal --- COVID infection shortly after using it. That is, apparently, the case with Biden. His White House doctor says he has few if any symptoms and will likely be fine, despite needing to isolate again.
  • Deadly flash flooding continues in parts of Kentucky today, and warnings for more of the same have been issued for the next several days from Tennessee to Kentucky to West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina. 37 have so far been confirmed to have died from the horrific flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Governor Andy Beshear believes that toll will continue to rise, as hundreds are still unaccounted for in a number of Appalachian mountain towns after recent, and ongoing, deluges. That, as our climate emergency continues with record heat predicted again this week from the Dakotas to the East Coast.
  • On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls in six states: Ohio, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state for primary elections. And there are a lot of 2020 election deniers (and worse) on the GOP ballots. We quickly preview just a few of those insane races today and will have noteworthy reported results, of course, on Wednesday's program.

Then, it's on to the so-called Inflation Reduction Act --- a scaled down version of the Build Back Better Act that Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema killed last year. If successfully adopted this time, it would increase federal revenue by some $750 billion over the next ten years, allowing for some $450 billion in spending on a bunch of several long-overdue programs. Most of them have been progressive priorities for years.

Only Democrats in the U.S. Senate will be needed to pass it under Senate reconciliation rules, but all 50 will have to be there (not out with COVID) and vote yes. Sinema has yet to comment on the measure, even as Manchin has been taking to media over the weekend to try and sell her on it.

If passed, the 725-page measure [PDF] will: Allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices; Cap out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for seniors at $2,000 per year; Expand federal subsidies for premiums for individuals who purchase health insurance on the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchanges; Set a minimum 15% tax for corporations who make more than $1 billion in profits per year; Increase policing of tax cheats; and, perhaps most critically, invest some $369 billion in climate and energy projects to cut deadly greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 through investments that hasten the nation's move from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

What the bill won't do is raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, as Biden has long promised. That, despite blatant lies from Republicans such as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) who, when announcing he tested positive for COVID today, lied about the bill, declaring on Twitter that he will "continue to fight Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin's massive tax increase on working families." That is a lie. There is no "massive tax increase on working families" in the bill. Republicans hope you are dumb enough to be duped to the contrary.

In order to win over Manchin, whose family and campaign have long been propped up by fossil fuel interests, the bill does mandate oil and gas lease sales on federal lands be auctioned off in exchange for the approval of on- and off-shore wind and solar projects. Even there, however, oil and gas companies will be required to pay higher royalties on whatever they extract, and will be fined for failing to prevent methane leaks that exacerbate global warming. So, yeah. Art of the compromise. But, according to most climate experts we've read, heard from or spoken with, it's a compromise well worth taking..and comes not a moment too soon, as our climate emergency worsens by the day.

We've got much more on all of the above on today's show, and we open up the phone lines to callers to get some of their thoughts on the "Inflation Reduction Act" as the world melts down, and the 2022 primary general election is now less than 100 days away...

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Even more amazing: Schumer outfoxed McConnell to do it! Also: Deadly flash flooding in KY; More signs of UNconventional November elections...
By Brad Friedman on 7/28/2022 5:50pm PT  

When Democrats outfox Republicans you know the world has gone bonkers. But, welcome to another BradCast from Bonkers World! [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

With weeks of unprecedented global heat records around the world and here in the U.S., and more deadly flash flooding --- today it was Kentucky's turn, sadly --- a major deal to finally take on climate change among Democrats comes not a moment too soon.

Surprising apparently everyone in D.C., corrupt coal-state Senator Joe Manchin and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal on Wednesday night to raise taxes on huge corporations and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in order to help pay for pharmaceutical subsidies for the elderly, expansion of subsidies for individuals who purchased health care on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchanges and...wait for it...to make the federal government's largest-ever investment to fight climate change and decrease carbon emissions that cause it by 40% by 2030.

It's not saying much, of course, to say "largest-ever investment" to fight climate change, given how little the U.S. government has ever spent on it, thanks to fossil fuel-funded Congressional denial and obstruction. And whether this measure can actually curb that much of the deadly emissions causing our climate emergency remains to be seen. But the agreement struck, in apparent complete secret by Manchin and Schumer for what is now called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (nee: Build Back Better Act), is set to raise $739 billion in revenues and spend some $433 billion on long-overdue investments (including at least $369 billion for climate) over the next decade. It will also decrease the deficit by hundreds of billions and will keep Joe Biden's long promise to not raise taxes on individuals or companies making less than $400,000 a year. (Shumer/Manchin's one-page summary is here. Full 725-page bill is here. Both PDFs.)

Yes, the new proposal is smaller than Biden and the Democrats had originally hoped, and leaves out some critical stuff for another day. It also includes some pretty outrageous fossil fuel-friendly provisions to win over Manchin. But, all told, this bill is nothing to sneeze at.

The question, of course, is whether all Dems in the Senate (including Manchin, who has a habit of changing his mind, if you haven't heard) and enough Dems in the House can agree to pass the bill. No Republican votes will be needed to pass the spending measure under the Senate's special reconciliation rule.

Schumer says the bill will be put up for a vote next week. That, after he outfoxed Mitch McConnell to broker the deal in the first place. McConnell is so hopping mad about it all that he's now, foolishly, actually taking it out on combat veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. We explain how all of this happened on today's show, along with details on what is actually in the bill --- both good and bad --- and what is not.

If it's passed successfully --- still a big "if" --- it could prove to be a breakthrough for Dems in advance of the November elections which, as we've discussed, may not play out with a Dem shellacking as pundits citing "Conventional Wisdom" have long told you. We've been arguing in recent weeks and months that these are decidedly UNconventional times and --- along with the potential...hopeful...maybe passage of this major new bill and its revival of a Joe Biden/Democratic Party agenda --- there are additional reasons this week to remain skeptical of the "Conventional Wisdom" from TV pundits and op-ed geniuses about this year's midterm elections.

Desi Doyen is along for the ride as usual today, with keen insight and smart explanation of the climate portions of the new Dem deal and our latest Green News Report...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 6/23/2022 9:21am PT  

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: President Biden calls on Congress to suspend federal gas tax to lower prices at the pump; Parts of the Arctic warming five times faster than the rest of the planet; Native American tribes to co-manage Bears Ears National Monument; Offshore wind project pipeline doubles in one year; PLUS: IEA warns Europe Russia could shut down gas exports this winter... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

GNR's now celebrating 13 YEARS of independent green news, politics, analysis, snarky comment and connecting climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO HELP US CELEBRATE WITH A DONATION!

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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): America's incoherent approach to fighting high gas prices; Climate change, extreme weather disasters damage victims' long term finances; Germany pushes back against EU 2035 fossil fuel car ban; Hot today? This interactive map can tell you how much the climate crisis is to blame; Innovative companies working on cleaning up solar industry's supply chain; Solar bees: solar panel fields help increase honey production in beehives; Costly Vogtle Nuclear Plant forcing investors to hard choices; How fast fashion became faster , and worse for the Earth... PLUS: Why Spain's renewable energy boom is so controversial... and much, MUCH more! ...

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Guest: Omar Ocampo of Inequality.org: Also: NE, WV primary results and who cares what they mean for Trump?; Senate abortion vote; Federal court ruling on semi-automatic weapons sales to children in CA...
By Brad Friedman on 5/11/2022 6:35pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: Sure, the supply chain was, and occasionally still is, a problem. So is Russia's war on Ukraine, obviously. But it's the greed of billionaires and the cowardice (or corruption) of public officials to do anything about that greed in this country that must be turned around in order to save the U.S. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first, speaking of corruption...New numbers out today from the Labor Department suggest that inflation may have peaked before April. As the Times alerted today, "Inflation moderated slightly in April, though the 8.3% annual gain in U.S. consumer prices remained uncomfortably high." As AP trumpeted in its breaking news iPhone alert: "U.S. inflation slowed slightly last month, a tentative sign that prices may be peaking while still imposing a financial strain on American households." Reuters: "U.S. consumer price growth slowed sharply to 0.3% in April, suggesting that inflation may have peaked." They were all similar....Well, except for Fox "News": "Inflation higher than expected in April, holding near 40-year high."

And you wonder why Rightwingers are so angry? It's still the Fox "News", stupid.

And speaking of stupid...Midterm primaries were held in Nebraska and West Virginia on Tuesday. (Happily, unlike in Ohio last week, we saw no reports of voting problems or voting system breakdowns, so far.) As you may have noticed, pretty much every news report about Tuesday's results focused on what they mean for Donald Trump and his party and the candidates he endorsed. The incumbent U.S. House member that Trump endorsed in WV who ran for the GOP nomination against another incumbent U.S. House member who voted for Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill won on Tuesday. Kingmaker Trump's power over the party is still strong! But the 8-time accused sexual harasser that Trump endorsed and stumped for in NE's GOP Gubernatorial primary lost. Trump's influence may be faltering!

As we discuss today, that framing by the corporate media --- reporting on these critical elections through the lens of Trump --- is wildly unhelpful and ill-serves the public at a time when democracy itself is on the line this November (and in 2024). It's not about Trump. He's already captured and broken the party. And that is true if he drops dead tomorrow and Ron DeSantis --- or anyone else --- takes his place. The damage is done. So, how can we fix it? Much more on that on today's show.

And speaking of failures all around... as the nation's death toll from COVID hits a staggering 1 million... The nation's corporations and rich people are doing just fine, thanks.

Big Oil continues to raise prices at the pump for consumers by pretending that its caused by post-pandemic supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine, even as they continue to rake in record profits (not revenue, but profits) in recent months. The profiteering --- under the guise of supply chain-induced "inflation" --- is also seen in other industries, of course, including the food industry, as well as the apparel business. In their latest reports on the industry profiteering, Accountable.us President Kyle Herrig appropriately derides "the industries most unapologetic about charging their customers more during a fragile economic recovery, apparently just because they can." And they can, because we let them develop monopolies and near-monopolies so there is little or no price competition left in the "free market".

And then there are the the nation's 727 billionaires whose growth in net worth over the two-plus years of the pandemic --- while you were struggling to stay employed, housed and fed --- is up $1.71 trillion from March 2020 to May 2022. That's a gain of more than the entire annual GDP of Canada for just those 727 U.S. billionaires. The biggest winner seems to have been Elon Musk, whose personal wealth was valued at just under $25 billion in March of 2020. Now, after two years of a pandemic economy, his wealth is said to be $255 billion as of the beginning of this month.

How did that happen? Why did that happen? What can and should be done about it? And does anyone in D.C. --- any one, from any party --- have the courage and ability to lead the nation to do anything about it?

All of those questions and more are answered today by our guest, OMAR OCAMPO of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality and the Common Good, who asks today, "What about the rest of us? The median income, comparing 2020 to 2021, for your average U.S. worker has actually decreased by $2,000. And our median household wealth, comparing 2019 to 2001, has actually decreased. So yes, when you look at it by income or wealth percentile, it has been the top 10%, but especially the top 1%, that have seen impressive gains."

Ocampo helps explain how it happened, and what steps can and must be made to reverse this obscene continuing trend. Among the policy ideas discussed --- several of which have long been pushed by members of the progressive caucus in Congress --- a wealth tax on the assets of the richest Americans; partial student loan forgiveness; establishing a federal Commission on Profiteering, empowered with the ability to claw back some of what has been robbed from American consumers; strengthening organized labor and democracy itself.

And, yes, he explains, that will mean voting for more Democrats in Congress and at all levels of government. Hopefully good ones. Or this is going to continue to get much, much worse.

"The Republicans, from an ideological perspective, they are not interested in having some type of government intervention in order to solve societal problems," Ocampo charges. "They normally pivot towards philanthropy. But now is not the time to pivot to philanthropy, mainly because philanthropy does not scale, and it also denies public accountability for social problems or things that have to deal with the public good. So issues that affect the public should involve public input, and it should be carried out by democratic institutions."

"Economic inequality translates into political inequality. And the greater your material resources, the greater your access to participate in the state," he tells me. "This is very detrimental to democracy, because it makes the democratic institutions unresponsive to what the majority wants. The majority wants increased taxes on the wealthy, but it never seems to happen. That's probably because of their influence they have on both political parties."

"Elections matter, and to alleviate, especially in the short term, it would be best to elect Democrats. Because there is a section of the Democratic Party, specifically those that self-identify as progressives, who care about wealth inequality and know that it has distorting effects across our whole society."

Finally today, speaking of things getting much worse... Democrats held a show vote in the U.S. Senate to codify abortion rights (the Constitutional freedoms about to be taken away by the stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court) after the Women's Health Protect Act was already passed by Democrats in the House. As expected, all Republicans and Joe Manchin voted against it, so the measure failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to do almost anything in the undemocratic Senate.

And, also breaking during today's program, an insane, corrupted federal appeals court in California decided that the state's law restricting the purchase of semi-automatic firearms to those 21 or older is a violation of the Constitution's 2nd Amendment. So, yup, apparently 12-year olds in CA can now buy semi-automatic weapons! Have fun, kids!

Did I mention we need more democracy and fewer corrupted federal judges? Yeah, that also comes with voting. Please get busy. Thanks...

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Guest: FSFP Legal Director Ron Fein; Also: Jan 6 Comm. homes in on members of Congress; House COVID Comm. faces off with Trump official; Trump judge rejects Trump tax case against Congress...
By Brad Friedman on 12/14/2021 6:46pm PT  

A whole lotta Trump Accountability News going on all at once again on today's BradCast. Too slowly, to be sure, but going on nonetheless. Even if not (yet) at the DoJ. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

On Monday night, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol voted unanimously to refer criminal contempt charges to the Dept. of Justice for Donald Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. During their hearing, Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) read a number of texts from Fox "News" personalities and from Don Jr., sent to Meadows during the hours the Capitol was under attack after Trump incited the riot in his last gasp effort to steal the 2020 election. The messages were pleas to get Meadows to convince Trump to call it off. Those same Fox personalities would soon go on the air and pretend that "antifa" was behind the deadly assault. The texts prove they knew otherwise and, according to Cheney, serve as more "evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes" when he failed to act while the U.S. Capitol was under assault by domestic terrorists.

Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) shared several damning text messages from unidentified members of Congress that were sent to Meadows as well, noting that, due to the ongoing investigation, the lawmakers were not being named "at this time." Separately, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said those names would eventually be made public, as the Contempt referral for Meadows also referenced several "members of Congress" who participated in phone calls and White House meetings to help strategize before the eventual bloody insurrection.

Meanwhile, another House Select Committee investigating the coronavirus crisis may be heading toward separate contempt charges against former Trump official and prominent COVID denier, Peter Navarro. He says he cannot cooperate with that Committee's probe because Trump gave him a "direct order" not to, claiming Executive Privilege (which former Presidents do not have), and that because of it, "this matter is out of my hands."

"Trump's supreme dereliction of duty" in 2020 is unspeakable in many cases, but it's only part of his unspeakable legacy and a seemingly unending list of criminal culpability.

But never mind 2020. Some good government groups are still seeking accountability for the 2016 campaign that put the disgraced former President into the White House in the first place. Last week, Free Speech for People (FSFP) and the Campaign for Accountability filed suit [PDF] in D.C. federal court against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for failing to take action on a complaint they filed in December of 2016. That complaint alleged unlawful "coordination" between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Federation.

"Even today, despite multiple investigations, critical information about the money spent in the 2016 election is still unknown," said RON FEIN, Legal Director of FSFP, in a statement announcing the new lawsuit. "How much did the Russian Federation spend? When and for which efforts did it make the payments? How much (and which) of that spending was ‘coordinated’ with the Trump campaign? Answering these questions is the FEC’s job, and they’ve sat on it for almost five years."

Now, says Fein, who joins us on today's program, the groups have no choice but to take the FEC to court to force the government's long-dysfunctional federal campaign regulator to investigate the complaint. Fein explains how "coordination" has a very different meaning in campaign finance law than it does in the matters that Special Counsel Robert Mueller looked at in his two-year probe. "Congress passed a law specifying that coordination 'shall not require agreement or formal collaboration,'" he says. "It could be a wink and a nod. Put that into the context of things like Trump saying, 'Russia, if you're listening, I hope you find those emails'," after which Russia attempted to hack the Clinton campaign, and the question of unlawful coordination under campaign finance law becomes plain to see.

"I don't mean this as a personal attack on Mueller or anyone who worked on that team," Fein clarifies, "because they're not campaign finance experts, but they missed an important area of the law that the Federal Election Commission has the authority to investigate, and the obligation to at least make a decision on our administrative complaint that alleged this."

FSFP's "2016 administrative complaint alleged that the Russian government paid for computer hacks, social media posts, and paid political advertisements to influence the 2016 election, and that the Trump campaign engaged in 'coordination' with the Russian government," the group notes in their statement announcing the new suit.

"There were many aspects of what happened in the 2016 election that were extremely troubling, from a legal as well as from a broader, democracy-preservation standpoint," Fein tells me today. "For example, even illegal political spending is required to be disclosed. That's what both the Russian government and the Trump Campaign failed to do. And that's the information that we would have if they disclosed it."

The six member FEC, with three Commissioners appointed by each major party, is notorious for tie votes that end up killing action against campaign finance violations that even the FEC's own staff argues should be pursued. In this case, Fein says, the FEC didn't even hold a vote on their complaint over the past five years. Their lawsuit is meant to force the Commission to hold that vote. If the court orders them to do so and the complaint then fails to receive the necessary four votes to proceed with a full investigation, FSFP can sue the Commission again. It's potentially a long road, but one that could actually be short-cutted.

"Because it takes four votes to do anything in the FEC, if there is not a four-vote majority to appear in court --- this has happened several times recently --- the FEC has simply defaulted," explains Fein. "And then the statute provides --- and this was rarely, if ever, used until just the past year or so --- the statute provides that if there's a default judgement, then the plaintiff can just go ahead and sue the parties that they filed the administrative complaint against directly. In other words, if that plays out that way, then we'd be in a position to sue the Trump Campaign and the Russian government and cut the FEC out of the picture entirely."

Still a long road, but a much shorter one that doesn't rely on the corrupted FEC.

In the meantime, FSFP --- as we discussed with its co-founder and President John Bonifaz early last month --- is continuing its campaign calling for the resignation of Attorney General Merrick Garland for failing to meet the moment in taking action on the endless list of criminal allegations against Trump and his minions before, during and after his Presidency. When I inquire with Fein as to whether the recent criminal Contempt indictments against former Trump lackey Steve Bannon has changed the group's outlook, he notes that, if anything, "the call for Garland to resign is even stronger right now."

You'll need to tune in to find out why.

And then, one more bit of breaking Trump Accountability that came in during today's show, as a Trump appointed federal judge rejected the former President's lawsuit seeking to block House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richie Neal (D-MA) from obtaining Trump's tax records. The ruling is the latest in a roller-coaster legal battle that begin in April of 2019. Trump's Treasury Department refused to turn over the documents to Congress, as required by law. Biden's has agreed to. Trump sued to stop them. Trump now has 14 days to decide if he will appeal.

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and today's grim Green News Report following the deadly, climate change-fueled tornado swarm that slammed Kentucky and several other states over the weekend. Though she also has some slightly brighter news at the same time, as the Biden Administration reveals its new, electric vehicle charging strategy, made possible by the recent passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill...

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Guests: Dr. Virginia Martin, former Columbia County, NY Election Commissioner and Allegra Dengler of Citizens for Voting Integrity NY; Also: Taxing U.S. billionaire pandemic profiteers...
By Brad Friedman on 10/27/2021 6:13pm PT  

It's Election Day in America once again next Tuesday, whether you've noticed or not. In New York, democracy itself is on the ballot, even as longtime election and democracy champions (real ones, not the phony, post-2020 MAGA Mob fakers) differ on how to vote next week on three different democracy- and elections-related Constitutional amendments. On today's BradCast, we discuss all three proposed measures which will have far-reaching consequences for voters both in New York and across the nation. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

But, very quickly at the top of today's show...As Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) continue to obstruct and, actually, shred the bulk of the far-reaching, long-overdue progressive social safety net and climate change agenda of Joe Biden and pretty much the entirety of the Democratic Congressional caucus, we offer a friendly reminder.

Dems insist on making their Build Back Better package fully paid for (unlike the deficit spending in the separate bipartisan roads and bridges infrastructure deal supported by Manchin, Sinema and a bunch of Republicans). But Sinema has nixed her own party's plan for a tiny tax increase on corporations and the wealthy, even though, in 2017, she voted against the $2 trillion Trump/GOP tax cuts for those same people.  One alternate "pay-for" mechanism now being proposed by Dems is a wealth tax on those worth more than a billion dollars or who made $100 million for three consecutive years in a row. On Wednesday, however, Manchin was suggesting such a tax might be too divisive for his tastes, by "targeting" certain people.

So, here's the reminder, courtesy of Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality: There were 614 U.S. billionaires before the pandemic and 745 of them now. Billionaires have seen their wealth grow 70%(!) since the start of the pandemic, to more than $5 trillion. The money they made during the pandemic alone --- from March of 2020 through last month --- would fully cover the cost of Biden's entire 10-year spending plan in the Build Back Better Act, to offer a transformative expansion of healthcare, education, child care and take on climate change for every person in the nation, more than 330 million of us. Meanwhile, a White House analysis last month found that the wealthiest 400 families in the country paid an average federal income tax of 8.2%. (How much did you pay last year?)

Anyway, that's just a reminder as this madness continues. We'll likely discuss all of that more in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, voters --- at least some of them --- are heading to the polls for off-year elections on Tuesday. The neck-and-neck race for Governor in Virginia is receiving much of the attention, but we have our eyes elsewhere today --- on the great state of New York, one of the nation's, theoretically, most "liberal" states which has some of its most restrictive voting policies.

There are several important state constitutional measures on the ballot this year, with three of them having a direct effect on elections in the Empire State and even democracy across the nation.

  • Prop 1 would make it easier for the majority party in Albany (currently Democrats) to approve new legislative and Congressional maps for redistricting following the 2020 Census. That, as Republicans pretend to be furious about the notion that it might allow partisan gerrymandering in the state (which we no longer oppose, for reasons explained again today --- at least until federal legislation bars it in all 50 states.)
  • NY's Prop 3 would abolish the 10-day Constitutional deadline for voter registration before elections, paving the way for eventual election-day registration at the polls.
  • And Prop 4 will remove restrictions on absentee voting in the state, where voters are currently required to attest to being out of town on Election Day or being too ill to go to the polls in order to vote by mail. The hope for proponents is that this will allow for no-excuse absentee voting in the future, as currently available in the majority of states.

While I suspect many believe that folks on the left side of the political aisle might favor all three propositions, that's not actually true, as discussed today with two of New York's longtime champions of election integrity. We walk through all three propositions with them to explain what each may or may not mean for voters and election integrity.

We're joined by DR. VIRGINA MARTIN, who served for 11 years, until 2020, as the Democratic Election Commissioner of the Columbia County, NY Board of Elections and ALLEGRA DENGLER, a longtime election security advocate with Citizens for Voting Integrity NY.

You may be shocked to learn that all three of us do not actually agree on how voters should vote on each of these measures. They each offer their own well-informed and nuanced opinions on the issues at stake in each ballot proposition. We hope this is helpful not only for NY voters, but for others around the nation, where similar issues are being addressed and debated at both the state and local levels, not to mention in proposed federal legislation.

Given Martin's decade-long personal experience as an election official, we also take a few minutes to discuss her thoughts on the ongoing nationwide assault and threats against election officials and poll workers in the wake of sore loser Donald Trump's evidence-free false claims of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election and the very real concerns (as opposed to the MAGA Mob's) when it comes to computerized voting and tabulation systems. Martin made a name for herself amongst election integrity advocates when, in 2010, she joined with her Republican counterpart on Columbia County's Board of Elections to carry out full, transparent hand-counts of hand-marked paper ballots in the county. That, after --- and despite of --- the state's mandate for optical-scan computerized tabulation systems in all of New York's 57 counties...

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Guest: Author, analyst, researcher Brynn Tannehill; Also: Trump pushed his DoJ to falsely claim 2020 election was 'corrupt'; Biden's DoJ confirms law requires IRS to turn Trump tax docs over to Congress...
By Brad Friedman on 7/30/2021 6:03pm PT  

Today's BradCast should serve as yet another wake up call for those of us who may need one. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

First up, Washington Post revealed on Friday that Donald Trump, late last year, attempted to order his acting Attorney General to declare that the 2020 election was "corrupt". To his credit, the acting AG refused to, since there was no evidence of systemic fraud that might have reversed Trump's painful loss to Joe Biden. And, to the credit of the acting AG's staff, all of this was documented in real time with contemporaneous hand-written notes --- from that call and similar ones that reportedly took place on a near daily basis --- with the desperate loser President calling with fraudulent information from the Internet about "fraud". Those notes from the DoJ have now helpfully been handed over to Congress, so there will likely be more to come.

Of note, however, was Trump's response when he was told there was no evidence that would "change the outcome of the election." According to the hand-written notes of senior DoJ staff, Trump replied: "Just say the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen."

It was enough, for Trump's dishonest purposes, for the DoJ to simply say the election was "corrupt", even though there was no such evidence to support such a claim. It was similar to how, as we learned during his first impeachment, he wanted the President of Ukraine to say they were investigating Joe Biden and his family for corruption, even though they actually weren't. This is how a liar and a con-man and, yes, how a wannabe autocrat works.

But where Trump's pathetic attempt to stay in power failed last time, that may not be the case in the near future, as many respected voices are now warning. Fox "News" may say the Left is a bunch of autocrats and fascists, but that's only because they hope you won't notice that the Republican Right actually is, and becoming more so by the day. Many respected scholars and pundits from both the Left and the not-insane Right, such as David Frum and Steve Schmidt, are trying to warn about exactly that in advance of the 2022 mid-terms. Schmidt, John McCain's former Campaign Manager, asserted in a Twitter thread this past week, for example, that Trump will be the GOP nominee in 2024, adding that "the Pro-Democracy coalition is sleep walking into the ‘22 election and the stakes couldn’t be higher."

U.S. Naval Academy and Air Force Institute of Technology graduate BRYNN TANNEHILL, who served as a longtime naval aviator, with deployments to the Adriatic, Middle East and North Atlantic, says today that she shares a number of Schmidt's concerns. Her recently published book, hoping to call attention to the unprecedented perils the nation is now facing, is called American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy. She joins us on today's show for a chilling, if insightful conversation.

As an investigator of shoot-downs in the military, she explains that she decided to approach this topic not unlike the NTSB might investigate a crash scene, examining every single potential factor that could have played a role in the disaster. "My book traces back some of the roots of the modern Republican Party all the way back to slavery and the Civil War," she explains, "to kind of give an historical sense of where this came from. [It] looks holistically at a lot of the different factors, including the media, loss of faith in science, how white evangelicals are different, how the system has been manipulated, the role of wealth inequality," examining "like an NTSB investigation, as many of the driving factors behind where we are today as possible."

But her clarion warning of where we now are is as chilling as her comparison of the Trump-incited failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th with Hitler and the Nazi's failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. "What Republicans can take away from [Jan. 6] is that even when there is a naked attempt at a coup, it costs them nothing. If they attempt to steal democracy by simply overturning an election, there's going to be even less consequences. That's our lesson."

Her book documents (and explains) what she describes as the rise of "competitive autocracy" in the U.S. or "managed democracy" as Russian President Vladimir Putin refers to it. "It's a type of government that has emerged since the end of the Cold War. Essentially, you have a democracy, or something close to a democracy, and then one party wins an election and then changes the rules, such that the incumbent party can essentially never be removed from power.  There are still elections. They are still very often 'free' in the sense that anybody can vote, and there's not just one person on the ballot. But the election through various means has been rigged such that the playing field has been so tilted that you can't remove the incumbent party from power."

We are seeing exactly that, as GOP-controlled states are changing the rules of elections right now, not only to make it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to vote next year and in 2024, but to allow them to replace election officials with partisans who can reverse election results no matter how the electorate actually votes. (See, for example, my conversation last week with now-former Morgan County, Georgia Board of Elections member and longtime voting rights champion Helen Butler who was just removed from her seat on the Board by the partisan County Board of Supervisors after 10 years, following the approval of the state's Republican Governor Brian Kemp.)

Citing similar democracies-turned-autocracies, she points to Russia, Hungary, Poland and others countries, noting that once a nation has headed down the path we are now on, historically, none of have been able to reverse course. "Hungary is absolutely a fascist movement," Tannehill points out, following the 2010 election of Victor Orbán, "and they have absolutely ended democracy there. That's a real danger, in the sense that we have a party that regards democracy as a hindrance to their goals, and their goals of establishing a particular kind of country is more important than the democracy itself."

So does the U.S. stand a chance of turning the tide? "The problem is the system is broken," she argues. "it is so easy to thwart solutions, via Congress, the Presidency, the courts, that it's really unlikely that a lot of the necessary solutions could ever happen.  For example, Senators representing only 19% of the American population can block virtually any legislation that they want to in the Senate."

"To an extent," Tannehill tells me today, the Founders, who thought their system of democracy would prevent a wholly unqualified person from being able to become President, "never dreamed that their vision for a country would be so corrupted that you would have legislators who would overturn elections based off of lies. They also never dreamed that the parties would become so powerful that they would pick the electors for the Electoral College.  The Electoral College was meant to prevent people like Trump."

There is much more to today's conversation, including a bit of hope. No, all is not necessarily lost, as grim as all of this sounds. But unless folks begin to appreciate the dangers of this moment in history, things could get very much worse --- and soon --- before they get better...if they ever do.

Finally, following that dark (if enlightening) conversation, some slightly more encouraging news. After Trump's DoJ spent years ignoring the plain text of the rule of law --- as authoritarian administrations do --- in refusing to enforce the federal statute requiring the IRS to share Trump's tax returns with Congress, Biden's DoJ has reversed course. In a memo issued today by the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the Department has declared that, in fact, the Treasury Dept. must turn over those long-sought documents to the House Ways and Means Committee after their lawful requests beginning in 2019. Better late than never anyway. And it's nice to see an Administration with some apparent actual respect for law and order once again.

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Guest: Election security expert Susan Greenhalgh of plaintiff Free Speech for People; Also: Senate Dems announce deal for 'transformative' $3.5 trillion health care, climate, infrastructure package...
By Brad Friedman on 7/14/2021 6:28pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Senate Dems strike a very big deal and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission gets sued again, this time for rolling back voting system standards after secret, unlawful meetings with the manufacturers they are supposed to be regulating. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

First up, in what is being reported as potentially "transformative" legislation for the country, Senate Democrats on Tuesday night announced they had come to an agreement on a deal that would invest $3.5 trillion into the expansion of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, child care and a host of other "human infrastructure" priorities, while also addressing climate change with a broad array of clean energy incentives. The blueprint for the agreement still lacks specific legislative language, but was struck after weeks of work in the Senate Budget Committee chaired by Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Democratic Committee members, such as centrist Mark Warner of Virginia, are also said to be on board with the package, which would be paid for by increased taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year and on large corporations. If all Senate Dems agree to the final bill and no more than 4 Democrats defect in the House, the measure could be adopted under Senate Reconciliation rules with a simple majority vote without the need for any Republicans.

Passage of that package, along with adoption of the smaller bipartisan nearly $600 billion proposal recently hashed out among moderate Senators on more traditional infrastructure spending, such as for roads and bridges, would amount to a massive victory for Democrats (presuming Republicans do not renege on their part of the agreement) and, more importantly, for jobs, families the climate and the American people as a whole. It would be the largest such spending package since the New Deal. We walk through some of the reported details of the new reconciliation package and what it may mean for Americans before the 2022 mid-term elections.

And, speaking of elections, earlier this year we reported on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s secret and unlawful meetings last year with voting system vendors, as discovered by SUSAN GREENHALGH, longtime election integrity advocate and Senior Advisor on Election Security at the non-partisan government watchdog group, Free Speech for People (FSFP). As she revealed at the time, the EAC's meetings, even with vendors, are all supposed to be public, according to the federal Help American Vote Act (HAVA). Her group was forced to sue to make the EAC cough up emails and other records detailing the secret vendor meetings. Most disturbingly, the EAC's Commissioners made alarming changes to newly drafted voting system certification guidelines just after those meetings.

The EAC is the federal agency responsible for creating certification guidelines for the nation's voting and tabulation systems. After a painstaking 5-year process in public consultation with technical advisors and other experts, the final draft of the much-needed and long-awaited Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 was released last year. It included, among other important elements, a ban on wireless modems in voting and tabulation systems. Cybersecurity experts applauded the provision, after long warning of the dangers of such devices in systems that register, record and tabulate the nation's votes.

After the EAC's secret meetings with voting system vendors last year, however, the agency weakened the new guidelines --- removing, for instance, the ban against wireless modems --- and revealed an amended, watered-down version just days before Commissioners voted for final approval of the new standards. Experts were stunned. Now Greenhalgh's FSFP is suing the EAC again, along with co-plaintiff Philip Stark, an elections expert from UC-Berkeley and a member of the EAC's own Board of Advisors (as well as a recent guest on this program). The complaint [PDF] calls for the EAC to roll back the last minute changes made to the guidelines after they secretly met with the voting system manufacturers.

Greenhalgh joins us to explain all of this latest madness, what it could mean for election security, why the EAC made these changes and continue to roll over for the vendors they are supposed to be regulating, and to discuss the perils of the woeful EAC's under-handed changes at a time when cyberattacks are on the rise and confidence in election results (justifiably or not) is plummeting.

"Rather than being an independent source of information regarding voting systems, the EAC is going to the vendors to ask them the questions and understand how the systems work. And, of course, the vendors aren't going to say, 'Yeah, this is highly insecure, we shouldn't be doing this,'" Greenhalgh explains.

"It's mind blowing to me," Greenhalgh tells me, when I ask if the EAC Commissioners fully understand the security risks involved in allowing the modems that vendors want in their systems (for reasons she also explains.) "You would think they'd want to err on the side of caution, they would want to err on the side of security. And if there was a good reason to allow this, then why not have this process out in the open where they can make the case to the public as to why 'we think this is a secure way to go.'? Instead they did the whole thing behind closed doors, in a super shady manner. Doesn't engender a lot of confidence." 

Finally today, in addition to the Dems' massive new infrastructure proposal announced on Tuesday night, Senate Democrats also unveiled a long-overdue, landmark proposal to finally legalize cannabis at the federal level. That bill, however, will require some Republicans to come aboard for passage, so we'll see how it goes...

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Guest: Former Asst. U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eliason on NY indictments of Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg, and what's next; Also: Trump files 'asinine' lawsuit against social media companies, stiffs Giuliani...
By Brad Friedman on 7/7/2021 5:54pm PT  

Last week, New York prosecutors filed multiple criminal indictments against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg in response to an alleged "sweeping and audacious" 15-year tax fraud scheme. Today, Donald Trump himself filed a lawsuit against social media companies for banning him after he used his accounts to incite an attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Today on The BradCast, we discuss both issues and more, including our conversation with a former Asst. U.S. Attorney who is dubious about the legal expert consensus that NY prosecutors plan to file additional charges against other "senior executives" at the Trump Organization. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up, Trump's new lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were announced on Wednesday, with the disgraced former President claiming that his First Amendment rights are being violated by the private companies who no longer allow him to use their platforms to lie about last year's election and to incite violence. The First Amendment, however, does not apply to private companies. It applies to the Government. In fact, as one legal expert notes today, "Trump has the First Amendment argument exactly wrong. In fact, Facebook and Twitter themselves have a First Amendment free speech right to determine what speech their platforms project and amplify --- and that right includes excluding speakers who incite violence."

It was next to impossible to find coverage of the lawsuit today which quoted any legal expert unrelated to the suit or the disgraced former President, who supported Trump's legal theory. Even Fox "News" quoted a libertarian lawyer describing the complaint as "asinine".

While it's unclear who is footing the legal bill for Trump's latest legal folly, seemingly meant to further hoax his gullible "conservative" supporters into believing they are all "victims" of political censorship by "radical left" giant social media companies, we're almost certain that Rudy Giuliani will no longer be lending his efforts. A new book by Michael Wolff documents Trump's rage over losing to Joe Biden last year, and claims that he is now unwilling to pay Giuliani for his legal work in criss-crossing the country to claim, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. That, as Rudy has now had his law license suspended in New York for his false legal claims about the election; is facing a federal investigation for his foreign lobbying work on behalf of Trump; and is named in billion dollar lawsuits by the Dominion Voting System [PDF] company for myriad lies about their products.

But Trump, of course, is facing his own legal problems as well, including the 10 criminal indictments filed against his company last week, along with 15 counts against his longtime Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg. The indictments, which include charges such as Scheme to Defraud; Conspiracy; Grand Larceny; Criminal Tax Fraud; and Falsifying of Business Records, stem from what prosecutors describe as a tax fraud scheme that includes more than a million dollars in off-the-books compensation for apartments, cars, and school tuition for Weisselberg and others, "orchestrated by the most senior executives” at the Trump Organization from 2005 until this year.

In the wake of last week's charges, many legal experts have argued the indictments suggest more charges will be coming, as part of the ongoing two year investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and NY Attorney General Letitia James --- perhaps even for "senior executives" named Trump. Our guest today, however, former Asst. U.S. Attorney RANDALL D. ELIASON of George Washington University Law School, disagrees. At least, he is dubious.

In the days both before and after last week's indictments, Eliason suggested on Twitter that if NY ended up charging Trump's company along with Weisselberg, that would be a signal that there is not, in fact, more charges to come, as many have speculated.

Eliason, an expert in White Collar Criminal Law and a frequent contributor to Washington Post and his own Sidebars Blog, describes the charges against Weisselberg --- who allegedly received more than $1.7 million in untaxed, off-the-books compensation and stiffed city, state and federal governments for at least $900,000 --- as a very "serious case" indeed. He explains why nobody should be fooled by "Attorneys for Weisselberg and the Trump Organization [who] have tried to downplay these as just a 'fringe benefits' case, to make it sound as though it's about the company maybe just failing to report something."

He notes, in particular, prosecutors claims that the company was "keeping two sets of books" to hide their "tax fraud scheme". Eliason says this suggests a "very deliberate" effort to defraud that "makes it pretty hard to claim that it was just a mistake or a misunderstanding about the complicated tax code," as Trump implied during a rally in Sarasota, Florida over the weekend. (That, by way of stark contrast with his boast at a 2016 rally when he declared: "I know more about taxes than human being that God ever created!")

Eliason offers a great deal of insight into what these charges mean and how serious they are. Still, he goes on to argue that, in his opinion, unless prosecutors manage to flip Weisselberg --- which he believes would have already happened if Weisselberg was flippable --- that it is unlikely there will be further charges against others in the case.

"Failing cooperation by Weisselberg," he tells me, "the fact that they included the company [in the indictments] makes me think, if he doesn't flip, that's all we're going to have. Because otherwise you hold off on the company, you isolate Weisselberg, and if you bring cases against other individuals, with or without Weisselberg, that just makes the case against the company stronger. Because the company is only liable vicariously through the actions of its agents. So you don't charge the company now if you think there's more to come."

I challenge Eliason on a number of these points today, in which each of us concede we are reading tea leaves. Of course, he's the expert attorney and I am anything but. Please tune in for this interesting discussion!

Finally, we close with what is best described as some "good-ish news" regarding Elsa, the first Atlantic storm to come ashore this year, in what is already a record setting storm season...

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Guest: 'Jackpot' author Michael Mechanic; Also: Trump's politicized DoJ spied on Dems in unprecedented violation of Separation of Powers...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2021 6:30pm PT  

The volume of incoming huge news stories these days is getting to be as overwhelming as it was during the Trump years. But it's also a reminder to anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking that the Trump Era is over, it is anything but. We were planning on covering ProPublica's blockbuster bombshell exclusive this week on today's BradCast --- and we still do --- though it has been somewhat eclipsed by last night's New York Times blockbuster bombshell exclusive. We do our best to cover both today. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First, the remarkable news broken by the Times late on Thursday is that Donald Trump's wildly corrupt Dept. of Justice was a whole lot more corrupt than we have all yet fully appreciated. As it turns out, in an unprecedented move, his DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message data of Democratic members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee. But it wasn't just members that Trump saw as political enemies, including top Judiciary Dem Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell. It was also their staff and even their children, one of whom was a minor, according to the Times' blockbuster.

All of that, even as the Trump Administration spent years blocking Congress from lawful subpoenas for testimony and documents from the White House itself and virtually every Executive branch agency, under the false premise that it would violate the Constitution's Separation of Powers, granting co-equal powers to both the Legislative and Executive branches. All the while, the Trump Administration was actually --- literally --- spying on members of the Legislative branch, while claiming (disingenuously) that Congress was overstepping its bounds by issuing lawful, public subpoenas for testimony to members of the Executive branch.

The stunning news comes after a week in which we previously learned that the Trump DoJ also secretly obtained phone, email and text records of journalists at the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN. Democrats claim to be outraged by it all, and vow to investigate. But without real legal consequences, accompanied by sweeping reforms by both Congress and, most immediately, Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice, the appalling and outrageous and unlawful acts carried out during four years of the Trump Administration will absolutely be carried out again --- and even worse next time --- in the very near future.

Speaking of much-needed, long-overdue action from Congress, the ProPublica bombshell this week revealed that --- based on a "vast cache of IRS information" somehow obtained by the non-profit media outlet on the nation's wealthiest men --- American billionaires have been allowed to avoid almost all federal income taxes for years on their accumulated and still-surging wealth. As the media outlet reports in their jaw-dropping, nearly 6,000 word exclusive this week, "billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing."

Their months-long analysis of the data "demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can --- perfectly legally --- pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year."

The raw IRS data show that billionaires like Bezos (the world's wealthiest man), Musk, Buffett and the others often pay zero in federal income taxes. Overall, the nation's top 25 wealthiest --- whose fortunes increased collectively by $401 billion between 2014 and 2018 --- paid a tax rate on that accumulated wealth of just 3.4% on average. That, compared to a median tax rate of 14% paid by regular, middle-class Americans, as the U.S. tax code rewards wealth over labor.

The New York Times explains in its own coverage of ProPublica's scoop, that even as Congress and President Biden bicker over tweaks to marginal tax rates, the ultra-wealthy avoid such trivialities all together. "The ProPublica revelations got to a widely understood issue: that the superrich earn virtually all their wealth from the constantly rising value of their assets, particularly in the stock market, and that the sales of those assets are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income from a paycheck...But the analysis also revealed a less recognized strategy employed by the superrich: taking huge loans, using their assets as collateral. It allows them to avoid selling their assets and facing taxation, and even to write off some lending costs. In that way, Mr. Bezos and Mr. Buffett were able to show yearly income losses even as their wealth grew by billions of dollars."

Mother Jones' Senior Editor MICHAEL MECHANIC joins us today with a great deal of context and perspective on this long running, if legal, scam, after spending a couple of years hanging out with the ultra rich while researching his newly published book, Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live --- and How Their Wealth Harms Us All.

Mechanic underscores the scam revealed by ProPublica: "As we've seen from the way the tax code works, wealth begets wealth, and we reward capital over wages. If you make a fortune on a stock, you pay a maximum of 20% when you sell that stock. In the meantime, when you hold it, you don't pay any taxes at all --- it's called 'unrealized gains.' What these billionaires have done is they just borrow against that. They never have to sell, so they never even pay the capital gains tax.  Meanwhile, you and I are getting a paycheck. If we made as much as they did, we'd be charged 37%.  So it's 37% versus 20% for assets, but they're not even paying the 20% because they're not selling the assets. They're taking out low-interest loans, paying a few percent, living on that money." And, yes, even as the cost of the interest would be less than they'd have to pay in taxes if they sold assets to live on their own money instead, they actually get to deduct the cost of those loans from their income taxes!

We discuss, among other things, how all of this actually hurts average Americans; how, because of it, trillions of dollars are not available to the government to spend on healthcare, schools, climate change, infrastructure and other public services; what, if anything, can or will be done about it by Congress --- where Republicans (and too many Democrats) seems to be just fine with a system that rewards wealth over work; whether proposals like Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax of .02 cents on every dollar of wealth by those worth more than $50 million could ever be adopted in Congress or is even Constitutional; and how all of this wealth doesn't even get taxed upon death when it's passed from generation to generation, as Mechanic reports at MoJo today.

"There's always been this argument, from the very beginning, that if you tax investors and business people, those people then won't invest, won't create jobs," Mechanic observes. "It's a spurious argument. If you have $100 million and somebody raises the capital gains rate, does that mean you're not going to start a company? You're not going to put it into the stock market? No, of course not. What else are you going to do with your money, put it under your mattress?!"

And, yes, we also discuss his new book (highly lauded by the legendary Bill Moyers!), which Mechanic describes as "not a polemical book. It's a funny, entertaining, and enraging character-driven narrative, in which I basically hang out with super-wealthy people and their minions. I interview researchers, I talk to a woman who trains billionaires' nannies in physical combat, [and] a guy who builds luxury safe rooms. It's a journey of the American wealth fantasy and how it's gone off the rails."

So, hey, if you're not already enraged enough by today's program, please buy Mike's book! It's out just in time to enrage Dad for Father's Day!

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Guest: Adam Green of Progressive Change Campaign Committee; Also: Gaetz' ex-girlfriend flipping on him, Trump's finance chief may flip on Trump, Trump may flip on everyone, including his own family...
By Brad Friedman on 5/21/2021 7:17pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Everyone in Trump World is now either flipping on everyone else in Trump World, or appears on their way to doing so. Including Trump himself Fun! Less fun: Democrats in Congress wasting their time in negotiations on Biden's bold Build Back Better agenda with Republicans who are decidedly not negotiating in good faith, as they made clear to everyone once again this week. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

But first, the flippin' fun part of the show! Just before airtime, CNN reported that Rep. Matt Gaetz' ex-girlfriend is now said to be cooperating with federal investigators believed to be looking into the Republican Congressman from Florida's many alleged payments for sex and illicit sex trafficking of a minor.

And while Gaetz, Donald Trump's number one fan in Congress, is facing a world of trouble (and years in prison), so, of course, is Trump, as it appears to be getting hotter by the hour inside the Trump Organization. This week, we learned that the New York state Attorney General, Letitia James, who had been looking at civil violations of bank and tax fraud laws by Trump and his company, joined the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's criminal investigation of many of the same matters.

The next day, we learned that Allen Weisselberg, the long time Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization --- beginning all the way back to when Trump's dad Fred was in charge --- is now facing his own criminal tax-related probe by the NY AG's office as well. That, as our guest earlier in the week, former Asst. U.S. Attorney Randall Eliason explained at the time, is a likely precursor to getting him to flip on his boss, the disgraced former President.

And the next day after that, Weisselberg's former daughter-in-law Jennifer --- who has announced that she's been cooperating with prosecutors for some time, after explaining that her former husband Barry (also a Trump employee) was often paid with free rent in expensive luxury apartments and some $500,000 worth of private school tuition for their kids --- believes that her former father-in-law, Allen, will absolutely flip on Trump to save himself.

That revelation came as Trump's own former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen --- who flipped on Trump long ago, as he earned federal prison time by pleading guilty to participating in a campaign finance hush-money conspiracy "directed" by Trump --- believes that Trump will eventually flip on everyone, including Allen Weisselberg, and even his own kids(!) if necessary, to save himself! "I think Donald Trump is going to flip on all of them, including his children," Cohen told MSNBC, adding: "I really believe that Donald Trump cares for only himself and he realizes that his goose is cooked."

It's all flippin' hilarious, in truth. We'll see if things continue to come crashing down on the former Criminal-in-Chief --- as they sure seem set to do, at this point --- in the coming days and weeks. Fun!

Less fun, unfortunately, is the continuing obstruction campaign being waged by Congressional Republicans, who laid bare their bad faith yet again this week, after spending months negotiating with Democrats on an evenly balanced January 6th Commission, only for GOP leadership in both chambers to then whip their members against it after the bipartisan deal was finally struck in the House Homeland Security Committee.

A similar pageant of bad faith negotiations have been underway for several weeks now with Republicans pretending they are interested in working with Democrats on Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, to support "human infrastructure", such as child care, paid family leave and free daycare and community college.

We've seen this bad movie before. Just look back at the months that Dems spent "negotiating" with Republicans in 2009 and 2010 over the Affordable Care Act, when the GOP failed to offer a single vote in favor of the landmark healthcare law, even after winning all kinds of concessions from Dems to water down the plan.

Now, Democrats are finally saying enough is enough. At least some of them, who, Politico reports, are speaking up and calling for the Jobs Plan and Families Plan to be combined into a megabill and passed in one fell swoop under the Senate's Budget Reconciliation rules allowing passage of almost all of it with a simple majority vote. The only problem: Not all Dems are ready to do so, especially West Virginia's Joe Manchin, who is also not yet onboard with the Dems' sweeping proposal for election and campaign finance reform --- the For the People Act (or H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate) --- and the filibuster reform that would be required to pass it with just 50 Democratic votes.

Joining us to today to explain how Dems and progressives can possibly move forward through all of these obstacles is ADAM GREEN, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who told Politico this week that: "The only two scenarios for Democrats are to go big or get nothing."

Green expands on those comments today, arguing that the process of negotiation going on right now is, by and large, meant to convince Manchin, and maybe a few other conservative Democrats, that there is only one real path forward to carry out Biden's truly ambitious progressive agenda.

"I think that there are two genres in working with Republicans," he tells me. "One, that hearkens back to the Obama era, where they really thought that Republicans were potentially willing to deal with them, and wasted a year and quarter negotiating with them before passing Obamacare. It wasted a lot of time that led to a lack of results by the 2010 election. And the lack of results meant low motivation for voters to turnout and vote, or vote Democrat."

"In this case, " Green continues, "I think we have a little bit of a different scenario, where most people understand the game. The game here is there are one or two Senate Democrats with that old mindset --- they genuinely believe Republicans will deal in good faith.  Everybody else is ready to get this done but has to play ball for a couple of months to make abundantly clear that these Republicans don't come in good faith."

Green also cites this week's last minute u-turn on the January 6th Commission as a perfect example, where the GOP had "pretty much of all of their demands met," only to see "Republican leaders coming out against it." That, he says, leads him to feel "hopeful that we're nearing the time when  even the Joe Manchins of the world realize that they did their best, but too bad, it's time to go it alone with Democratic votes and score big for the American people."

But even if Manchin is ultimately willing to agree to pass the infrastructure plans with a simple majority under Senate Reconciliation rules, is there ANY path that would allow for passage of other top Dem priorities like the For the People Act? That bill would almost certainly fail to meet Senate Parliamentarian muster to be passed under the same rules, so would somehow have to overcome a GOP filibuster to be adopted. An optimistic Green believes there is a VERY narrow path to make that happen as well, and he details how progressives in not just West Virginia, but every state, can help push Dems --- and Manchin --- through that narrow path. It includes, among other things, a new "Democracy exception" to Senate filibuster rules. Such an exception, he notes, could also allow D.C. to finally become a state in the bargain. As I said, optimistic!

Finally, we're always happy to end another mad week in these "United" States with another gem from the great Randy Rainbow, this one dedicated to all of the swell, not-at-all horrible Republican lawmakers in Congress. Enjoy!...

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