On today's BradCast: Donald Trump's days in the White House are ending, but his response to that reality (and the reality of the most devastating hack of the U.S. government ever) is becoming more manic and desperate by the day. But at least, after nine months, Republicans have seen fit to allow some much-needed, long-overdue financial relief for sick, dying and desperate Americans as both Trump and the GOP's failed response to the pandemic has killed more than 316,000 Americans and may finally be catching up to them politically.
There was reportedly shouting and chaos --- even more than usual --- at the White House over the weekend, as Trump and his clown car friends and attorneys met to propose last gasp efforts to somehow steal and/or undermine the 2020 election. Trump's disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn --- recently pardoned by Trump for lying to the FBI --- is said to have called on the President to declare martial law to allow the military to re-run the Presidential election in swing-states that Trump lost; Team Trump attorney and professional conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell sought to be appointed as a Special Counsel to investigate 2020 "fraud"; and Team Trump's other corrupt, nut-ball attorney, Rudy Giuliani, reportedly wanted DHS to impound voting machines from battleground states for some reason. Trump's very Trumpy White House staff reportedly pushed back on all of those ideas, incredibly enough, and his outgoing Attorney General, Bill Barr, whose last day at DoJ is Wednesday, said in his final presser as AG on Monday that he saw no reason to appoint a special counsel and no legal grounds for the federal government to seize voting machines.
As that played out, over in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who had refused to even negotiate with Democrats on a new COVID relief bill for the past nine months following the passage of the initial $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, finally relented to allow another round of relief --- albeit much smaller --- to be adopted by Congress. That, following more than 16 million infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths and an economy in tatters. The $900 billion package he finally agreed to includes one time $600 payments for many Americans and extends unemployment insurance which runs out entirely by the end of the year, as tens of millions of Americans are now out of work due to the Administration's wildly mishandled pandemic. The package also includes nutrition assistance for the hungry, another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, money for hospitals and vaccine distribution, and even rent assistance, for the first time, among other things.
It's not nearly enough, says our guest today. But it's something, and it includes "nothing objectionable," at least for the most part. We're joined today by The American Prospect's Executive Editor, investigative financial journalist and author DAVID DAYEN, for details on the measure which he has been covering in-depth for months in his daily, indispensable "UNSANITIZED" report. Dayen explains what's in the bill and what is not, and why that is, along with why it is that McConnell even allowed the measure to come up for a vote at all after months of refusing to do so.
He argues that It's all about the January 5th U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will determine control of Congress' upper chamber for the next two years. "Mitch McConnell's Senate majority was on the line if he didn't get something done," says Dayen. "If McConnell manages to win at least one of those races in Georgia, he's going to be in control again. Joe Biden will be President, and every dollar that Mitch McConnell agrees to put into the economy is a dollar that helps Joe Biden."
"The question of how 'Not Enough' this bill is entirely is predicated on how fast we can vaccinate people," Dayen explains. "If we can vaccinate everyone by April, then we're probably going to get a rickety but sufficient bridge." But, he adds, if Biden's incoming Surgeon General is right when he noted over the weekend that "we won't get widespread availability of the vaccine until early Fall, then we're in big, big trouble. Because there's no more must-pass bills. The government is now funded through September of next year." That, Dayen notes, means that there is little if any leverage for Democrats to force Republicans to act on behalf of the American people.
"Democrats had to take out grants for state and local government relief," to get this bill passed, he tells me. "So when we get into next year, cities and states that have had these tremendous budget shortfalls, they are the ones who have to figure out how to fill that shortfall when they have no help from the federal government coming. It's likely going to result in cuts to public safety, teachers, firefighters, and public employees and not filling your potholes --- all sort of things at the local level that are going to have to be foregone because there is no money available. Mitch McConnell knows this, [and] that it could have the effect of offsetting any kind of recovery efforts at the federal level. We saw that in 2009. That stunted the overall recovery of the economy, and we're walking into it again." And with McConnell's eyes on 2022, he's likely just fine with that.
All of this underscores the importance of those two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, and that Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff ought to be reminding voters every day that if they want any real relief from the federal government for the economic disasters that are almost certain to worsen due to all of this, they must elect both of them to give Senate control to the Democrats under a Biden Administration.
Finally, we've been reporting over the past week on two voting machines companies who have been threatening defamation lawsuits against Rightwing media outlets and the Team Trump attorneys who have been offering false claims that the companies were somehow involved in stealing the election for Joe Biden by flipping votes cast for Donald Trump. Last week, Smartmatic, which has no voting systems in any of the swing-states where Trump is trying to reverse his losses to Biden, threatened rightwing propaganda channels Fox "News", Newsmax and One American News Network (OANN) with defamation suits. They were sent a letter to instruct them that they would be sued if they did not retract false claims about the company, including allegations (apparently bastardized from our original, accurate investigative reporting from 10 years ago) that Smartmatic was somehow working with Venezuela's dead President Hugo Chavez and George Soros, along with the company's competitor Dominion Voting Systems in an international conspiracy to steal the election for Biden.
A day or two after Smartmatic's letter, Dominion sent a similar defamation threat letter to Team Trump attorney Powell seeking a retraction for her outlandish, evidence-free claims about the company.
On Friday then, in a bizarre segment on Fox' Lou Dobbs Tonight' --- which looked and sounded a lot like a deposition led by a disembodied off-camera voice --- Eddie Perez of the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) institute (he most recently appeared on The BradCast just a few weeks ago) answered a whole bunch of questions basically disabusing the evidence-free claims about Smartmatic that have been forwarded for weeks on Dobbs' show and many others. Reportedly Jeanine Pirro's and Maria Bartiromo's Fox shows ran the exact same segment with Perez, using almost identical introductions. The segments then led straight to commercial without comment from the hosts.
Fox is clearly terrified, and should be. As the New York Times' Ben Smith reported over the weekend, Smartmatic has retained attorney "J. Erik Connolly, who not coincidentally won the largest settlement in the history of American media defamation in 2017, for at least $177 million."
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)