The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Here Comes Another Year

I am hopeful for the new year, but I was hopeful about 2020 also. So don’t go by me.

Here’s some stuff to read. I’m sure you remember the gun totin’ lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey. Back in 2021 they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and harassment for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. As part of the plea deal they surrendered an AR-15 rifle and a .380-caliber pistol and paid some fines. Then the governor, Mike “Absolutely Useless” Parson, pardoned them. The McCloskeys sued to get their guns and money back, but this week a circuit judge said nope. They get no guns and no refund.

The best thing I’ve read so far about Trump’s taxes is this bit by David Cay Johnston at Daily Beast. There’s a lot of useful information about why the IRS operates as it does and useful suggestions for reform. So do read the whole thing. And then he closes with this,

Perhaps most glaring in the tax returns is that they include 26 Trump businesses—or imaginary businesses—with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses.

Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud. That Trump did it 26 times as a candidate and as president is powerful evidence that he qualifies for prosecution by the federal government and New York State for criminal tax fraud.

Watch to see if Attorney General Merrick Garland, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pursue what looks to me like a slam-dunk prosecution—or continue to enable Trump’s lawless conduct.

Here’s another one from the Daily Beast, by Matt Lewis. The MAGA Right Would Have Called Winston Churchill a ‘Welfare Queen.’

RIP Barbara Walters and Pope Benedict.

By a bunch of people at the New York Times, no paywall, The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative. This is about how the news media still get sucked into right-wing narratives that are flatly nonsense, and also how the fake right-wing polls predicting a “red wave” caused Democrats to waste campaign dollars on campaigns that were already way ahead.

Paul Krugman, no paywall, How to Destroy a Brand, Musk Style. See also Fidelity slashes Twitter value by 56%.

The Last of Trump’s Taxes Are Released

Trump’s tax returns for the last six years have been set free. Here are top numbers. The numbers show more losses than gains. Also,

In the two years before he became president, Mr. Trump suffered heavy business losses, the records showed. In his first three years as president, he had an adjusted gross income of $15.8 million.

Mr. Trump’s tax bills, after deductions, were based on his income when it was above zero, as well as the alternative minimum tax in four of the six years. The A.M.T. limits deductions that would have otherwise helped to erase his tax burden. He reduced his resulting tax bills with a mix of tax credits that included incentives and givebacks to business owners.

I’m sure a great many news outlets and other organizations have numbers people going through these returns with a fine-tooth comb, and we’ll be hearing from them over the next several days.

The Meltdown of Southwest Airlines

Awhile back I wrote a post about 737 Max plane crashes and the management culture at Boeing that was responsible for them. Well, the Southwest Airline meltdown is looking like about the same story. Although right-wing media and David Sirota are blaming Pete Buttigieg, this is really another installment of how bean counters are destroying America.

A full analysis of why Southwest failed so spectacularly the past few days isn’t out yet, but after reading through a number of articles today it appears to come down to Southwest simply failing to invest in its own company.  Instead it prioritized paying the largest possible dividends to stockholders. People within the industry are blaming Gary Kelly, who became Southwest CEO in 2004 and since 2008 has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors. He’s still chairman, although he stepped down as CEO in January 2022. Kelly’s background is strictly in accounting, with no hands-on experience in airline operations. Long-time Southwest employees today are saying that Kelly put other bean counters in charge of everything. The company for the past several years has been very good at squeezing out profits by cutting corners in technology, infrastructure and staffing. And it caught up to them these past few days, big time.

Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times writes,

“Our internal scheduling software can’t handle massive cancellations,” Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest pilots union, told my colleague Margot Roosevelt in an interview. “The company hasn’t invested the money into scheduling infrastructure to support the network they have developed.”

The outdated system is unequipped to handle rerouting involved in hundreds of cancellations, Santoro said. “So pilots are calling in asking, ‘I’m done with this flight — where do I go next? Am I running another plane? Do I spend the night here?’ And pilots are on hold for hours trying to figure out what to do next.”

When the weather is perfect, the software matches crews to planes. “But when there’s a disruption like this storm, our system can’t handle it,” Michael Massoni, first vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents Southwest flight attendants, told Roosevelt.

“Southwest loses control because we don’t have 21st century technology. So what happens is chaos. Southwest starts to deal with the problem manually, which is incredibly tedious.”

The scheduling infrastructure, which some say hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years, seems to be the primary cause of the recent debacle, although not the only one.

Matt Stieb, New York magazine:

The main reason that their service collapsed and other companies held on was that Southwest runs what is called a “point-to-point” system, offering more direct flights to smaller destinations without returning to a home base between flights. After the pandemic and its huge shock to demand and labor in the aviation industry, many other airlines switched to the hub-and-spoke model: Airlines route the bulk of their traffic through major cities like Houston or Atlanta, then link out to smaller, final destinations. When demand is normal, the weather is good, and airlines are fully staffed, the point-to-point model is competitive because people love direct flights. But when a polar vortex hits the country on one of the biggest travel weeks of the year — amid ongoing staffing shortages — point-to-point becomes a huge mess.

While hub-and-spoke carriers were able to communicate easily with centrally located crews and cancel individual routes in order to control the damage from the storm, Southwest got snowed in. Crews were scattered at airports throughout its map of destinations; these teams use an antiquated phone system to get their flight assignments and could only wait so long for instructions without running into limits on how long they could go without a significant break — a problem that industry unions have been pointing out for years. “The catalyst was the big storm,” Michael Santoro, the vice-president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “But our internal software can’t handle massive cancellations. The company hasn’t invested the money into scheduling infrastructure to support the network they have developed.”

For many Southwest flights, it was not the weather on Monday that caused the sweeping cancellations as much as the fact that the weather the previous week had dispersed its crews all across the country. Planes that may have been ready to go couldn’t find a full team, resulting in canceled flights; because the point-to-point system is dependent on previous flights getting in on time, the canceled flights multiplied until the system reached the brink of collapse.

The fact that other big airlines didn’t make this same mistake suggests this outcome was foreseeable.

It’s also rich that right-wing media (and David Sirota) blame Pete Buttigieg for not doing enough to prevent this disaster, since the Right is usually blaming government regulation for all the sins of the world. Lax oversight of the airline industry is arguably a bipartisan failure, since it has persisted too long to blame entirely on one party. But then came the Trump Administration, which basically told industrial America to “do whatever you want.” Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines dropped by 88 percent between 2017 and 2019, it says here, an article published in 2019. So we’re looking at long-term systemic issues here and an FAA that has long has its hands tied. Maybe someday someone will make a persuasive argument that Pete Buttigieg could have done something to prevent the Southwest debacle, but I haven’t seen that argument yet.

You’ve probably also heard that Southwest has not been exactly generous in issuing refunds or giving stranded people meal and hotel vouchers. I expect Secretary Buttigieg to step up on this issue and make Southwest do right by its passengers. If he still has any presidential ambitions, this is his moment to be a hero.

Self-Destruction on the Right?

A couple of days ago I assumed the newsmakers wouldn’t do anything alarming before today. Well, I was mistaken. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had busloads of migrants dumped in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s house on Christmas Eve, in below freezing weather. A group called the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network swooped in and got the migrants food and shelter. They say they’re used to it, no big deal.

The nonprofits that have organized to take care of the humanity Abbott has been dumping on them say it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if only Texas (and Florida) would be willing to coordinate what it’s doing with federal and local authorities instead of just randomly dumping busloads of people in northern cities with no advance notice. But of course this is all about Abbott showing off what an asshole he is to amuse the home folks and “own the Libs,” who are not in fact “owned.” So that’s not going to happen.

Speaking of assholes, a number of Republican office holders show are at least going through the preliminary steps of challenging Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024. Trump’s early declaration is not going to clear the field.

Even better, some circular firing squads are forming. Pillow Guy Mike Lindell is floating the theory that Ron DeSantis is guilty of election fraud. “On his show Tuesday, Lindell indicated that he’s going to turn his crack team of voter-fraud investigators on DeSantis’s win in the 2022 midterms,” it says here. Lindell is suspicious because DeSantis’s margin of victory looked too big, and because DeSantis is now considered the real front runner for the 2024 GOP nomination.

And then a few days ago a cat fight broke out between Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. They are no longer allies. I take it the basis of the rift has to do with Greene’s continued unwavering support for Donald Trump and for Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker of the House. Boebert refuses to commit to Trump in 2024 and to McCarthy ever.

And the Daily Beast reports that the Far Right has turned on MTG as a “faker.”

As for why fellow extremists are upset? That’s three-fold—and it involves Greene’s vocal support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy to be the next Speaker of the House, her public spat with onetime friend Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and the finalization of her divorce.

“MTG wants to protect McCarthy from being removed if he is elected Speaker,” Jan 6th organizer Ali Alexander wrote on Telegram, seething over Greene. “There is something so odd about what is going on between McCarthy and MTG. I’ve only ever once before seen anything like it. It may be time for me to intervene.”

The “Stop the Steal” leader—once an ally of Greene’s—subsequently returned to Telegram to tear into the Georgia Republican, who he referred to as a “trailer park hoodrat,” for “attacking” Boebert earlier this week after the Colorado congresswoman ignited a public feud with Greene. …

… Likewise, former Right Side Broadcasting Network host-turned-failed Republican congressional candidate Mike Crispi suggested that Greene was being “blackmailed” by McCarthy, which he called the “only logical explanation” for her fervent support.

“All she does is bully and try to discredit,” he continued of the Georgia Republican.

White nationalist leader-turned-Kanye West informal campaign associate Nicholas Fuentes additionally turned on Greene earlier this month after she denounced him in late November, despite speaking at Fuentes’s annual AFPAC conference months earlier in March.

Fuentes—who now refers to Greene as “Large Marge”—has since encouraged his white nationalist “groyper” followers to heckle Greene at her campaign events.

Next year may not be that awful.

Some Christmas Cheer, plus Tucker Carlson

The House passed the omnibus spending bill, which includes the Electoral Count Act reform and billions of dollars for Ukraine. And President Biden signed it yesterday, too. So that’s a done deal.

In other good news, it appears the Fulton County Grand Jury is winding up its work. It may not be long before Fani Willis issues indictments.

I’m not sure if I linked to this yet or not — Tucker Carlson’s rage at Zelensky caps a year of getting things wrong. I always knew Tucker was an asshole, but he’s gone off the asshole scale entirely into something even darker. He’s even attacking Lindsey Graham. What’s up with that? Is Vladimir Putin more important to Tucker than the Republican Party?

I am assuming the newsmakers will settle down for a few hours and not do anything alarming, at least until Monday. Until then, I hope everyone has some Christmas cheer and that your power stays on!

The Most Damning Facts in the J6 Report

The full J6 report was released about 10 pm EST last night, which caused a whole lot of people in newsrooms and elsewhere to be up all night analyzing the thing. (You can read it yourself, here.) And this morning there are a lot of “key takeaway” stories available. Think of this post as the key takeaways from the key takeaways.

A topline takeaway from several lists is that the Committee focused like a laser on Trump and his key associates, but didn’t spread the blame around as widely as they could have. From Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic:

But the committee zoomed in so tightly on the culpability of Trump and his inner circle that it largely cropped out the dozens of other state and federal Republican officials who supported or enabled the president’s multifaceted, months-long plot. The committee downplayed the involvement of the legion of local Republican officials who enlisted as fake electors and said almost nothing about the dozens of congressional Republicans who supported Trump’s efforts—even to the point, in one case, of urging him to declare “Marshall Law” to overturn the result.

They were thinking like prosecutors, Brownstein says. They didn’t want to dilute the narrative. The endpoint they are going for is criminal indictments for Trump and his inner circle. Nobody says Jack Smith can’t go after the “marshall law” tribe.

Adam Schiff now has an op ed in the New York Times, Members of the Jan. 6 Committee and I Don’t Want You to Forget About ‘the Republican Congressmen.’ (no paywall)

But one line of effort to overturn the election is given scant attention, and that involved the willingness of so many members of Congress to vote to overturn it. Even after Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police put down the insurrection at great cost to themselves,the majority of Republicans in the House picked up right where they left off, still voting to overturn the results in important states.

At one of our Jan. 6 committee hearings, the committee vice chair Liz Cheney, a Republican, called out her colleagues in Congress for their duplicity in the most searing terms: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

With our work on the committee largely concluded, it will now fall to the Justice Department to ensure a form of accountability that Congress is not empowered to provide, and to vindicate the rule of law in a manner beyond our reach: through prosecution.

Hear that, Hawley, you piece of bleep? In order to object to the electors the House needed a senator to sign off on it, and Mitch McConnell had told his caucus to not go there. But then Josh “the Flash” Hawley stepped up and became the first Senator to defy Mitch and sign on to objections to electors. After Hawley, Ted Cruz and a few other senators joined in. But Trump only needed one. Without at least one senator, Trump’s whole plan would have been halted.

From TPM, we learn that the fake electors scheme not only came from the top; the RNC itself was in on it.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, for example, personally gave Trump an update on the fake elector effort on the evening of Dec. 14, the day that the slates all voted.

Her involvement was previewed on Monday, when the committee released the executive summary, which stated that Trump “solicited the RNC’s assistance with the scheme. McDaniel agreed to provide that assistance.”

The full report goes further. McDaniel’s message purportedly said that “President Trump’s electors voted” both in “states that he won” and also in six “contested states.” It’s a funny formulation — both a cop to Trump’s ego and a partial admission that the effort was all a sham.

Trump’s executive assistant replied to McDaniel 101 minutes later, the report says. “It’s in front of him!” she wrote. 

Also, too,

The idea that Biden electors in states Trump lost could be replaced with fake, “alternate” electors that would vote for Trump had been kicking around the White House for weeks, but it was given legal heft by various Trumpworld attorneys, including Ken Chesebro and John Eastman, who drafted memos to put the scheme in motion.

Per the report, Eastman and Trump spoke over the phone for 23 minutes on Dec. 23, 2020 — the same day that the right-wing attorney drafted a memo outlining the theory.

From the excellent list of takeaways at Just Security, this is a quote from the report itself:

In early December, the highest levels of the Trump Campaign took note of Chesebro’s fake elector plan and began to operationalize it. On December 6th, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows forwarded a copy of Chesebro’s November 18, 2020, memo to Trump Campaign Senior Advisor Jason Miller writing, “Let’s have a discussion about this tomorrow.” Miller replied that he had just engaged with reporters on the subject, to which Meadows wrote: “If you are on it then never mind the meeting. We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states.” Miller clarified that he had only been “working the PR angle” and they should still meet, to which Meadows answered: “Got it.” Later that week, Miller sent Meadows a spreadsheet that the Trump Campaign had compiled. It listed contact information for nearly all of the 79 GOP nominees to the electoral college on the November ballot for Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And on December 8th, Meadows received a text message from a former State legislator in Louisiana recommending that the proposed “Trump electors from AR [sic] MI GA PA WI NV all meet next Monday at their state capitols[,] [c]all themselves to order, elect officers, and cast their votes for the President.
. . . Then they certify their votes and transmit that certificate to Washington.” Meadows replied: “We are.”

The “fake electors” section of the report is Chapter 3, which begins on PDF page 367, or hard copy page 341.

Vox points out that extremists were an integral part of the plot before January 6.

It also shows that key figures on the right thought the march to the Capitol was a central part of the plan. Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and organizer of the rally that day, believed that the White House wanted him to march to the Capitol. Alt-right media personality Alex Jones even asked Caroline Wren, a prominent Republican fundraiser who helped organize the rally, when he should leave Trump’s speech and begin the march, according to Wren’s testimony. Many of these figures connected in a Signal chat called “Friends of Stone,” named after longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. It included Stone, Alexander, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.

The Just Security takeaways list leads with the role of racism in fueling all this extremism.

Another major takeaway is the extent of the effort to pressure state and local officials to overturn elections results. This is from Vox:

The committee laid out just how much effort Trump and his allies put into schemes to convince state and local officials to overturn the election. According to the report, “between the November election and the January 6th insurrection, President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation.”

This tally does not count other efforts by Trump campaign staffers to contact state legislators, which included efforts to contact 190 Republican elected officials just in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan. The Trump campaign also put on a full-scale whip operation to organize its efforts to select fake electors and ensure they convened on December 14, when the Electoral College met, so they would have an alternate avenue to challenge the election results.

For a sense of how invested the former president personally was in his efforts, Trump tried to speak with Brad Raffensperger “at least 18 times” before that infamous January 2 phone call where he asked the Georgia secretary of state “to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

Go for it, Fani Willis! I understand the Fulton County Grand Jury is writing a final report now.

There was already a lot of talk about how Cassidy Hutchinson’s “Trump World” lawyer, Stefan Passantino, advised her to withhold what she knew from the committee. From Above the Law:

On Monday, at the conclusion of the final public hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren alluded to a witness whose lawyer tried to manipulate her testimony to help Donald Trump and his allies hide the truth about the events leading up to the Capitol Riot. Approximately five minutes later, Passantino’s bio disappeared from the website of his law firm Michael Best.

Mr. Passantino is in a heap o’ trouble. And if this was done to one witness, it must have been done to others. It’s just a matter of time before more comes out, I suspect.

A lot of people will be disappointed that there is no mention of Ginni and Clarence Thomas in this report. We still don’t know why National Guard were not deployed in a more timely manner. I haven’t yet absorbed what was said about intelligence failures; probably not enough. But what intelligence there was had been shared with the White House. There is plenty of evidence to show that Trump knew many of those who came to his rally on January 6 had planned in advance to march on the Capitol.

They’re All Showing Us Who they Are

Although the word apocalypse has come to mean something like “ultimate catastrophe,” the original meaning was closer to “revelation.” It evolved from a Greek word that means “to uncover” or “reveal.” An apocalypse in that sense was a time in which  secrets were exposed to the light.

We may not be in full apocalypse mode, but we’re awfully close. A lot of information will be trickling out over the next several days, as Trump’s tax returns and the January 6 report are analyzed. Trump’s tax situation already has shown us that the IRS gave him remarkably lax treatment while he was in office, in part because he refused to cooperate with the would-be auditors. But as several news stories are saying today, “it remains unclear” why the IRS just gave him a pass without saying a word about what was going on.

The actual returns will probably show us more red flags than proof of malfeasance. But now that the IRS will get more funds next year, I hope it is ordered by Congress to do a full, deep audit. It seems especially justified knowing that Trump’s company was recently found guilty on multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

About President Zelensky’s speech, which was a smashing success: It’s going to be harder now for House Republicans to cut off military funding, I think. Even so, in the middle of the cheering and standing ovations there sat Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, who were mostly looking at their phones and revealing themselves to be the assholes they are through the whole thing. I wonder if it suddenly occurred to the two of them that they are part of a minority and not, in fact, the lords of the universe? Nah.

Some Congress critters did skip the speech. I haven’t seen a complete list, but among senators not there were Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee.

When I saw that President Zelensky was not wearing a suit I figured someone on the Right would criticize him for it. Sure enough, Tucker Carlson called him a “Ukrainian strip club manager.” See especially “Putin’s Useful Idiots: Right Wingers Lose It Over Zelensky Visit” at the Bulwark. Lots of outrage about the sweatshirt.

The MSNBC folks were going a bit overboard comparing Zelensky to Winston Churchill, methinks, but in the part of his speech where Zelensky brought up Franklin Roosevelt’s early support for Britain during the Blitz, it occurred to me that would mean nothing to the Right. The MAGA folks especially are unconnected to American history. It might not mean much for the young folks, I don’t know. But it is a fact that  the pre-Pearl Harbor, anti-interventionist, America First Hard Right stood in the way of lifting a finger to help Britain under assault from Nazi Germany. And a lot of them were big admirers of Hitler. So there are a lot of parallels to that time and today.

Update: Jonathan Last at Triad points out that Zelensky’s speech would have thrilled Ronald Reagan and John McCain. And even W.

McCain and W. and Reagan would have stood by Zelensky until the gates of hell froze over. And it’s why Donald Trump Jr. and Lauren Boebert and Benny Johnson and Thomas Massie and so many other Republican elites spent yesterday insulting Zelensky. The Republican party—and conservatism—have changed.

It’s not that conservatism has changed. It’s that conservatism has been frozen out by reactionism and fascism. And Reagan got that started, let us not forget, even though I’m sure the result we’re living with now isn’t what he intended. (end update)

It seems to me there’s a real danger of a Russian-Iranian-Chinese axis forming that could challenge the rest of the world. Ukraine’s stand against Russia is making that a lot less likely. I’m not sure Russia has much of a military left. It has missiles and nukes but not much of an armed forces. Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder explains that the money we’re spending on Ukrainian defense is a bargain that is benefiting us greatly. Ukraine is making Europe safer from Russian aggression and making China think twice about taking Taiwan. And the amount we’re spending is a tiny part of the defense budget — a “rounding error,” Snyder says.

In other news — the Senate has passed the omnibus bill to fund the government, and Nancy Pelosi is determined to get it passed in the House this evening.

Zelensky, Trump’s Taxes, and the J6 Report

Big day today. As I write this President Zelensky is either somewhere over the Atlantic or close to arriving in Washington already, I understand. I’m sure he realizes that once Republicans take the majority in the House, military aid from the U.S. will likely dry up. But he will address Congress and do his best to open right-wing eyes.

And yesterday we pretty much got the Holy Grail, also known as Trump’s taxes. They’ll be released as soon as some personal information like people’s Social Security numbers have been redacted. But what’s come out so far is that the IRS failed to do its duty to audit Trump’s taxes while he was in office (yet chose to do “deep audits” of Andrew McCabe and James Comey). Further, it appears Trump made all kinds of claims of deductions and write-offs and losses and values without providing any documentation. One suspects he just pulled numbers out of his ass.

Susanne Craig of the New York Times commented yesterday,

I’ve long felt Donald Trump didn’t want his tax return information released because it exposes him as a wildly unsuccessful businessman. In 2019, we obtained a printout of Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts from 1985 to 1994, when Trump lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. That’s right — more money than any other individual in the country. We were able to establish this by comparing his results for those years with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners.

And one suspects he’s been fudging numbers on his tax returns for years to keep himself financially afloat. A real audit could ruin him. Anyone got popcorn?

And the January 6 committee’s final report is supposed to be released today. Possibly the best news is that we learned yesterday that the committee had already been cooperating with and sending documents to special prosecutor Jack Smith.

Enjoy the moment. I’m not hearing any reports on how Trump is handling all this, but here is a good guess.

Senate Republicans Want Trump to Go Away Now

While waiting to hear if the House Ways and Means Committee will vote to release Trump’s taxes — Greg Sargent writes at WaPo that Senate Republicans have quietly been working to Trump-proof the government.

Nobody tell Donald Trump, but Republicans in the Senate appear poised to join Democrats in protecting our democracy from exactly the election subversion he attempted in 2020 — and would surely attempt again in 2024 if given the chance.

The omnibus spending bill has been released, and buried inside it are provisions that would reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts presidential electors. Trump’s effort to subvert his presidential reelection loss exploited many weaknesses in the ECA that would be fixed if the omnibus passes, as expected.

This was being done with little discussion on right-wing media, or anywhere else. One might almost think the Senate Republicans didn’t want people to know what they were up to. I am not surprised, however. Unlike the rabid and distempered House Republicans, at least some Republican Senators probably want to see Trump out of public life as much as Democrats do.

Just about every main ECA reform in the omnibus responds directly to what Trump did. It would clarify that the vice president’s role in counting electors is ceremonial. (Trump pressured his vice president to halt the count.) It would raise the threshold for Congress to nullify legitimate electors. (Trump got dozens of Republicans to object to Joe Biden’s electors.)

Reform would also combat state-level subversion. Trump pressured GOP state legislators to appoint sham electors for himself, so reform would essentially require governors to certify electors in keeping with state popular vote outcomes. It would create new avenues to legally challenge fraudulent electors and require Congress to count electors that are validated by the courts.

Burying the vote reform provisions in the omnibus spending bill gives the Republicans a way to hobble Trump without confronting him or going on the record on a stand-alone vote.

In a key tell, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued in the Louisville Courier Journal this week that reform would disarm the secret liberal plot to dismantle the electoral college, which would be easier to do (he claimed) if liberals can show the electoral count is prone to exploitation.

Whatever works. And lest we forget —

No one should confuse this with a full-scale outbreak of pro-democracy sentiment among Republicans. Most resolutely support making voting harder, and many are actively working to sabotage a full national reckoning with Trump’s insurrection and widespread GOP support for it.

Also, at The Hill

Senate Republicans are stepping out of the way of the House Jan. 6 committee’s recommendation that the Justice Department prosecute former President Trump for crimes related to the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

GOP senators, especially those allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), say the Jan. 6 committee interviewed “credible” witnesses and added to the historical record in a substantial way, even though they have qualms about how Democrats have tried to use the panel’s findings to score political points.  

This will probably be the last legislation passed by the current Congress. The House already passed its version of ECA reform in September.  All Democrats and nine Republicans voted in favor of it.

Coming Attractions: Trump, Taxes, January 6

Maggie Haberman writes that the coming week may be among the most consequential in the life of Donald Trump. First, the January 6 Committee meets today on the teevee to debate and vote on criminal referrals. Hints have been dropped that there will probably be criminal referrals for Trump. That’s 1 pm EST, folks. I’ll be watching.

Then, the taxes:

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will meet privately to discuss what to do with the six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns that it finally obtained after nearly four years of legal efforts by Mr. Trump to block their release.

The committee could release them publicly, which would most likely be done in the final days of Democratic control of Congress.

This is from Politico:

Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal won access to Trump’s filings in November, after a long court fight, but they remain closely held, with only a handful of lawmakers and aides allowed to examine them. They’re still protected by strict privacy laws that make it a felony for anyone to divulge even basic details about Trump’s taxes.

But there is a way around those rules: Neal’s committee could vote privately to make them public, and that’s what the Massachusetts Democrat wants his colleagues to consider in a closed-door meeting now set for Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Go for it, folks. And then Wednesday the J6 Committee is expected to release its final report.

Some long reads worth reading:

Putin’s War: The Inside Story of a Catastrophe in the New York Times. No paywall.

‘THE central issue’: How the fall of Roe v. Wade shook the 2022 election in Politico.

How Trump jettisoned restraints at Mar-a-Lago and prompted legal peril at the Washington Post. No paywall. Trump sounds truly pathetic in this one.

On some quiet days, another aide, Molly Michael, who served as Trump’s assistant in the White House, has called around to Trump’s network of allies across the country requesting that they dial the former president to boost his spirits with positive affirmations. There’s nothing going on, she has told them, adding that his friends know how restless he gets when nothing is going on, according to people who have heard her appeal. …

… A longtime Trump confidant termed his Mar-a-Lago existence, where he has tried to re-create the trappings of the presidency, as “sad.” Comparing it to life at the White House, this person added, “It’s like a Barbie Dream House miniature.” …

…Trump took time to readjust to his post-presidential life. He was surprised by how much his Secret Service detail and motorcade had shrunk. He no longer had use of a major aircraft; Air Force One was unavailable to him, and his company’s TRUMP-emblazoned Boeing 757 was in the shop — repairs that took years, with delays that infuriated him. His living spaces were far smaller than the White House. And he was annoyed that his statements to the press were not getting much attention, four advisers said.

At one point in early 2021, Trump asked a team of advisers if he could summon a press pool — like the contingent of reporters, photographers and videographers who travel with the president — for an event at his Florida club. But there was no pool on call because he was no longer president.

“We had to explain to him that he didn’t have a group standing around waiting for him anymore,” one former aide said.

Trump Campaign’s Big Idea: Get the NFT-Hawking Former President to Focus on “Policy” by Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair.

Perhaps more than at any point of his political career — even more than after the time he actually lost election — the guy just looks like a loser

Fortunately for him, the brains at Trump campaign headquarters have a plan to reverse his fortunes: According to the Wall Street Journal, advisers to the former president are preparing to send him out early next year on a tour of “policy events” across the country in order to “remind voters of the ideas Mr. Trump advanced during his time in office.” 

“If he runs on his record,” Republican Representative Randy Weber told the paper, “he’s got a lot to run on.” …

… There are, of course, a couple big problems with this policy-centric campaign strategy. 

The most obvious is he doesn’t have any real policy ideas. Oh, sure, he has opinions — let’s buy Greenlandlet’s build a big beautiful walllet’s re-run the election from two years ago, and so on. But none of that is really policy, and unless he’s spent his month in Mar-a-Lago exile doing a hell of a lot of cramming, it’s hard to imagine him suddenly changing. Susie Wiles, his incoming campaign manager, is just the latest to indulge in the delusion of a more disciplined Trump — and, like the others who have sought to keep him focused, it’s only a matter of time before she collides head-first with the reality of who he is. 

That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, politically. While he proved a useful means to an end for other Republicans’ agendas — mostly related to tax cuts, the judiciary, and the border — Trump’s appeal on the right has never actually been about policy, but about his unique ability to inflict pain on the people they don’t like. The trouble is, he even seems to be losing his knack for that. Yes, the demagoguery is still there. But none of it, in the early-going here, has seemed to burn with the same intensity it once did. His act has gotten old, the far-right has found new vessels for its cruelty, and the reek of his desperation is becoming intolerable — even, it seems, to some in his base. “i can’t believe i’m going to jail for an nft salesman,” white nationalist internet personality Baked Alaska, who is facing six months of prison time for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, tweeted after Trump’s pathetic “major announcement” Thursday.  

I wonder how people have failed to notice this.