It's another one of those days on The BradCast when we've got more news than we can adequately handle. On the upside, much of it is actually encouraging news for a happy change! At least for those of us who have yet to give up on the idea of accountability for corrupt, very very bad people. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
Among the news covered on today's program...
- The FBI served a warrant on Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) Wednesday night, seizing his cell phone as part of an investigation into a huge number of stocks he unloaded on a single day before the stock market crashed on bad coronavirus news which he received early as the Chair of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Committee overseeing health care issues. On Thursday, amid what appears to be a very serious scandal, Burr "temporarily" stepped down as head of the bipartisan Intel Committee. But there may be much more behind this otherwise seemingly good news of a Republican Senator actually being held accountable for something. We discuss;
- The federal judge overseeing the case against Donald Trump's first National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is not taking the DoJ's unprecedented recent motion to dismiss all charges against him at face value. Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about his contacts with Russians before Trump's inauguration and about secretly serving as a Turkish agent even while serving as National Security Advisor in the White House may not yet be off the hook. That, even after Trump's corrupt AG/fixer Bill Barr is attempting to toss two years of DoJ prosecution, without the approval of the actual DoJ career prosecutors, in hopes of keeping Trump's pal out of jail. The federal judge on the case has appointed a bulldog former prosecutor and federal judge to argue against the DoJ's new position after Barr merged it with that of Flynn's Defense team. Judge Emmet Sullivan has also asked the newly retained Judge John Gleeson to investigate whether Flynn committed perjury by lying to the court when he twice admitted lying to federal officials;
- Still more encouraging accountability news came out of a federal appeals court in Virginia today, with the Fourth Circuit reversing a ruling from a three-judge panel (of Republican-appointed judges) last year. The full en banc panel held, in a 9 to 6 ruling, that the smaller group of judges had wrongly dismissed a Constitutional Emoluments Clause lawsuit filed against Trump. The complaint was brought by the Attorneys General of Maryland and D.C., arguing that Trump's hotel in the nation's capital --- now a favorite spot of world diplomats and others seeking favor from the Administration --- violates the Constitutional prohibition against President's receiving "any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state" or any state in the U.S. Naturally, the DoJ is now vowing to appeal to the Republicans' stolen U.S. Supreme Court;
From all of that (potentially) encouraging accountability news, we move on to....the economy and DAVID DAYEN of The American Prospect. First, new jobless numbers from the Labor Department once again highlight the crushing toll that the COVID-19 crisis is taking on the nation's economy, with nearly 3 million having filed for unemployment last week. We have now seen two straight months of unprecedented new weekly jobless claims from 3 to 6.5 million each and every week. The previous weekly record, before this crisis, was less than one million. The official unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression, after more than 20 million jobs --- a decade's worth or job growth --- simply vanished over the past two months. Economist believe the actual unemployment rate, including those not currently looking for work or who are still unable to access overburdened state facilities to apply for unemployment --- is closer to 24%. At the same time, a new Kaiser Family Foundation report estimates that 27 million Americans have lost their employer-based health insurance due to the crisis, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell is calling for much more money to be appropriated by Congress to "avoid long-term economic damage". That, even after Congress already appropriated a record $2 trillion in stimulus and relief packages and the Fed itself has committed nearly $4 trillion to shore up companies and, in theory, the economy.
Dayen, an author and investigative financial journalist, has been documenting the stumbling Congressional responses to the crisis in his daily "Unsanitized" column and newsletter, and explains how the massive unemployment numbers we are now seeing was largely by Congressional design. He also details the state of play today for the next Congressional relief package, including a mini uprising from progressives on Nancy Pelosi's Democratic side in the House and the complete inaction on the Republican side from Mitch McConnell in the Senate and Trump in the White House. Dayen details the "laundry list of ideas" included in Pelosi's $3 trilion Heroes Act, which may come up for a vote on Friday in the House, though is unlikely to get much further as is, and a disturbing provision in the measure that would actually serve as a bailout for lobbyists and dark money groups. We debate whether that would be a good or bad idea and exactly why. (David calls it "insane", I'm not quite as certain...)
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)