The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

What Should Concern Us: Trump

Today we seem to be in a waiting mode. Lots of things are about to happen. I’m looking forward to what happens with President Biden on the UAW picket line tomorrow. This could be a real turning point for the 2024 campaign, and maybe for the Democratic Party. It would be great if it could become an unabashedly pro-union party again, which it hasn’t been for more than fifty years, IMO. See also Biden is presiding over a labor renaissance.

And let me just say I’m really tired of the way media are covering Biden. If you cruise around looking at headlines and news roundups, over and over it’s People are concerned about Biden’s age; Democrats are worried about Biden’s poor poll numbers; “Biden World” is worried about Biden’s re-election chances for one reason or another; Maybe Biden shouldn’t run. Etc. It’s no wonder people who aren’t news/politics junkies think they should be concerned about Biden’s age and think he really isn’t doing much. I have been pleasantly surprised by Joe Biden as President. There have been some things that could have been done better, but on the whole he’s been more progressive than I thought he’d be.

Trump, on the other hand, may be descending into new depths of crazy. His thing right now is to accuse everybody he doesn’t like of treason. This was him over the weekend:

Late Friday night, the former president of the United States—and a leading candidate to be the next president—insinuated that America’s top general deserves to be put to death.

That extraordinary sentence would be unthinkable in any other rich democracy. But Donald Trump, on his social-media network, Truth Social, wrote that Mark Milley’s phone call to reassure China in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.” (The phone call was, in fact, explicitly authorized by Trump-administration officials.) Trump’s threats against Milley came after The Atlantic’s publication of a profile of Milley, by this magazine’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, who detailed the ways in which Milley attempted to protect the Constitution from Trump.

Here’s the kicker:

And yet, none of the nation’s front pages blared “Trump Suggests That Top General Deserves Execution” or “Former President Accuses General of Treason.” Instead, the post barely made the news. Most Americans who don’t follow Trump on social media probably don’t even know it happened.

Of course not. The news needs to fill up with more headlines about how everyone is worried about Joe Biden’s age. When Trump is a meaningless three years younger and no doubt in worse health.

And then this happened:

Former President Donald Trump spent his Sunday night threatening Comcast and NBC, saying if he gets a second term in the White House he would investigate the independent media outlets for “treason” and make them “pay a big price.”  

“Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC … should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason,’” Trump wrote on his favorite bootleg social media platform Truth Social. 

“I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events,” Trump added. “The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!” 

Trump going after members of the media is nothing new for the man who thinks he coined the term “fake news,” but campaigning on targeted threats of retribution takes things to a more alarming level. 

You’d think media would be more proactive in bringing this to people’s attention. They’re the ones he’s going to target if he gets back in the White House, and there will be nothing to stop him. Especially after he’s purged the civil service of everyone who questions his views.

Until then, though, l’État n’est pas Trump.

The good news is that Sen. Bob Menendez is up for re-election next year. He made a statement this morning in which he said the many other Democrats calling for him to step down were just taking advantage of a “political opportunity.” He was, I think, supposed to declare he is definitely running for re-election, and I’m not sure he did. But he’s not resigning, either.

President Biden to Stand With the UAW Strike

The latest from President Biden:

This is good. A couple of days ago, Paul Waldman wrote at MSNBC that to stop Trump’s “union stunt” in its tracks, that’s just what the President should do. Trump, you probably heard, is planning to address the strikers on Wednesday during the second Republican Party presidential debate.

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain had asked the President to come and stand with the workers on the picket line earlier today.  (Fain is a French surname, but every time I hear his name i think of Sinn Féin, the Irish political party, pronounced Shin Fain. But I guess he’s not Irish.) Politico:

The announcement of his trip was seen as a seismic moment within certain segments of the labor community. “Pretty hard-core,” said one union adviser, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump’s plans for Wednesday seem a bit vague, but I understand he will speak to a “room” of auto workers. Some news stories call it a “rally.” He has no plans to visit the picket lines at this time. And he was not invited to do so by Shawn Fain.

Shawn Fain, the UAW president who has previously said that a second Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” seemed to argue against Trump’s efforts.

“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”

Dave Green, a UAW regional director in Ohio and Indiana, said the former president’s actions during his time in office give him “zero credibility” with organized labor now, adding that he doesn’t see a way the UAW would ever endorse Trump.

“His only intention here is to try and get votes for himself. And also divide our members against each other using political rhetoric,” Green told The AP on Monday.

The first thing Trump said about the strike is that “The autoworkers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump.” This is the leadership the union members elected. Trump’s argument is that the auto workers will soon all lose their jobs because electric cars will be made in China. I hope Biden explains why that’s not going to happen.

See also Trump’s Anti-Worker RecordTrump says he always had autoworkers’ backs. Union leaders say his first-term record shows otherwise; and (from 2020) The Trump administration’s attacks on workplace union voting rights forewarned of the broader threats to voting rights in the upcoming election.

Other Republicans aren’t exactly meeting the moment, either.

“I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike. He said, you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me,” Scott said at the Iowa event. “To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.”

The UAW has filed a labor complaint against Scott. Nikki Haley, meanwhile, went out of her way to call herself a “union buster.”

The strike will soon expand to 38 locations in 20 states.

In other news: There are some things you can count on to happen regularly. Flowers bloom in the spring. The Old Faithful geyser keeps doing its geyser thing. Beer sales spike before the Super Bowl. Dogs bark at squirrels.

And Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is suspected of corruption. This seems to happen regularly. There’s always somethng with Menendez. But I think they’ve got him this time. The governor of New Jersey, also a Democrat, wants Menendez to resign. Chuck Schuner does not, for some reason. I’d rather he were out of the Senate, frankly.

The Nation Will Shut Down on Trump’s Orders

I am not hanging on every bit of news coming out of the House, because it all seems to be bad. And I’m not sure the details really matter. It all boils down to a mob of bad, spoiled children stomping on everyone else’s sandcastles.

As I understand it, yesterday a group of what are generously known as “moderate” Republicans had a long meeting on Wednesday and worked out some kind of spending agreement that the whole House was supposed to vote on today. Whether it was a good agreement or a bad agreement, I don’t know. But guess what happened?

But any good feelings out of that meeting crumbled Thursday morning, when five Republicans — Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Eli Crane (Ariz.) and Matthew M. Rosendale (Mont.) — voted against advancing the measure to a final vote. Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) switched his vote from “yes” to “no,” which allows Republicans to bring up the motion again later if they have the votes.

This article doesn’t say why MTG et al. pulled the plug, but MSNBC is reporting that Trump has been talking to them and wants them to leverage the looming shutdown to “defund” the prosecutions against him. Trump posted on his failing social media platform, “This is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots. They failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the Country!”

To which Matt Gaetz responded, “Trump opposes the continuing resolution. Hold the line.”

There has been much commentary pointing out that the nutjob caucus makes no sense. They can’t seem to settle on why they keep blowing up the apprpriations bills or what they really want. Yesterday Josh Marshall pointed to reports that the Republicans were debating whether to move the CR debate away from spending levels and toward border security. “It illustrates perfectly what most of us already know, which is that policy issues are just an excuse to shut the government down because it’s something Republicans like to do,” he said. And that’s true; I think the children see themselves as being bold and brave and blowing up the Deep State, or something. But they’ve also been talking to Trump all this time.

This a defense funding bill, people. The old Republican Party is dead.

“You Don’t Know Anything About the Boxes”

Yesterday ABC reported that Trump wrote to-do lists for an assistant on White House documents marked classified. The assistant was Molly Michael, who told investigators that Trump wrote directions to her on notecards that had been prepared for Trump to brief him on matters of international relations. The notecards had classification markings; Trump considered them scrap paper.

The notecards with classification markings were at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate when FBI agents searched the property on Aug. 8, 2022 — but the materials were not taken by the FBI, according to sources familiar with what Michael told investigators.

When Michael, who was not present for the search, returned to Mar-a-Lago the next day to clean up her office space, she found the documents underneath a drawer organizer and helped transfer them to the FBI that same day, sources told ABC News.

The sources said Michael also told federal investigators that last year she grew increasingly concerned with how Trump handled recurring requests from the National Archives for the return of all government documents being kept in boxes at Mar-a-Lago — and she felt that Trump’s claims about it at the time would be easy to disprove, according to the sources.

Sources said that after Trump heard the FBI wanted to interview Michael last year, Trump allegedly told her, “You don’t know anything about the boxes.”

ABC continued, “It’s unclear exactly what he meant by that.” No, it isn’t. we all know what he meant. I bet Ms. Michael knew what he meant, too. But she’s apparently too smart to waste her life defending Donald Trump.

Michael became Trump’s executive assistant in the White House in 2018 and continued to work for him when he left office. She resigned last year, in the wake of Trump’s alleged refusal to comply with federal requests, ABC News said.

Trump’s, shall we say, undisciplined work habits always remind me that he never held a real job in his life.

Former DOJ lawyer Jeffrey Clark is not, apparently, as smart. By all accounts he completely botched his bid to remove his RICO case from state court to federal court. I don’t think a decision has been made yet, but per David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo:

A federal judge in Atlanta seemed deeply skeptical that former Trump DOJ lackey Jeff Clark is entitled to removal of his RICO case from state court – and Clark didn’t give him much to work with. Highlights from yesterday’s removal hearing:

* Clark didn’t appear in person and did not testify, making it very difficult to meet the legal standard of proof for removal.

*The judge refused to admit a sworn declaration from Clark because he wasn’t there to be cross examined by prosecutors.

*The judge also rejected a sworn declaration on Clark’s behalf by Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese.

Meanwhile, DA Fani Willis called former Trump DOJ Civil Division Chief Jody Hunt to testify that Clark’s actions were outside the bounds of that role.

Clark faced a tougher slog to begin with than Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows did in his so far losing effort for removal, but Clark did little to help himself.

Note that Clark has a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center (1995), yet seems unaquainted with law.  And Ed Meese is 91 years old now, for the record.

Around the House: I keep seeing headlines with words like “infighting,” “open warfare,” “GOP Implodes Spectacularly,” “rebellion,” and “up in flames.” How long before we get to “shots ring out” and “blood in the aisles”?

The Meet the Press Trump Interview

So Kristen Welker is now the moderator of Meet the Press, and I’m sorry to say she interviewed Donald Trump for her debut. And I take it the interview was a mess. It was not live but taped and edited, and it was still a mess.

To some political observers, the new interview –where Trump talked over his questioner and received little pushback — was yet another debacle that led American Enterprise Institute scholar and Atlantic contributor Norman Ornstein to declare it was a huge error in judgment.

According to Ornstein, “Oy. Trump says the Capitol Police testified against Nancy Pelosi, and then burned all the evidence. Lie upon lie upon lie. Unchallenged by Welker. Every word out of his mouth is a lie, and he talks over any questioner. Just a colossal mistake to showcase this sociopath.”

After viewing clips from the “Meet the Press’ interview, media critic Dan Froomkin complained, “In these clips, Trump utters about 30 different lies, and there’s zero pushback from Kristen Welker, who instead calls him ‘fired up’ and ‘defiant’ – and ‘the president.’ This is, actually, worse than the CNN town hall in terms of normalizing a maniac.”

I didn’t watch, but I read some of the transcript. Basically Trump just talked over the questions. Welker did attempt to challenge him but he talked overe the challenges. He basically just bulldozed Welker and left her buried under a heap of lies.

He repeatedly refused to answer questions—directly telling Welker “I’m not going to tell you” when asked if he watched the chaos on Jan. 6 from a White House dining room—and made multiple ludicrous claims that were left largely unchallenged, or weakly so. (Democrats want to kill babies after birth! Nancy Pelosi was responsible for Jan. 6!)

NBC produced multiple post-interview fact-checks on air and online, including after each interview segment during the broadcast, but that is no replacement for an on-the-spot confrontation. Presenting an evidence-backed fact check to Trump’s face allows an audience to watch him reject truth in real time. That serves a greater purpose than roundups scattered throughout NBC’s online platforms.

I think the only way you could get him to stop spewing lies and confront the questions being asked of him is with an electric cattle prod.

In other news: This headline is from the Murdoch New York Post:

I suppose it would have to be a right-wing media outlet running that headline. Just as long as it kills her re-election to the House …

Update: This is a long read, but worth it. The article focuses on one of the lesser-known Georgia RICO conspirators, a bail bondsman named Scott G. Hall, and goes into detail how he got mixed up in the conspiracy and what he did.

The UAW Strike and Other News

The United Auto Workers are now on strike against the three biggest auto makers. However, as I understand it, this doesn’t mean every auto worker in the nation is off the job.

But the UAW strike won’t mean all of the nearly 150,000 union members who work at the three automakers will walk off their jobs en masse.

Instead, workers at three Midwest auto plants –a General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Stellantis assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, and part of a Ford plant in Wayne, Mich.– were the first to walk off the job under UAW president Shawn Fain’s “stand up strike” strategy.

After decades in which union membership declined and unions politically marginalized, this strike seems significant. See Peter Coy at the New York Times, In the Auto Workers Strike, One Side Has the Higher Ground.

Also: some interesting stuff from the tell-all book by McKay Coppins on Mitt Romney.

Romney shared a unique disgust for Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who he thought were too smart to believe Trump won the 2020 election but “put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution.”

He also was highly critical of Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who reinvented his persona to become a Trump acolyte after publishing a best-selling memoir about the working class that Romney loved. “I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than J. D. Vance,” Romney said.

Can’t argue with that.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’s civil case against Trump has been put on temporary hold by a state appellate court judge. I don’t know if this is a big deal or a speed bump.

The Daily Mail reports that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem and Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, both married to other people, have been having an affair. I don’t know how credible this is. I can’t say that I care.

So it looks like Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell will go on trial next month in Georgia, and everyone else will wait. Could be a fun trial.


More Political Theater in the House

First, if you missed Sen. John Fetterman’s reaction to the news of the House impeachment inquiry, here it is.

Yesterday, Bess Levin wrote at Vanity Fair:

Earlier today, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that Republicans will move forward with an official impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, despite the embarrassing fact that, as House Freedom Caucus member Ken Buck told MSNBC on Sunday, they haven’t uncovered a single piece of evidence “linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor.” Also deeply embarrassing? The tantrum Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is now having over not getting the credit she thinks she deserves for calling to impeach Biden first.

Greene—who commemorated 9/11 one day earlier by calling the president’s policies “traitorous” and suggesting states should secede—was apparently triggered by a post from Congressman Matt Gaetz, who wrote, “When @SpeakerMcCarthy makes his announcement in moments, remember that as I pushed him for weeks, [Fox News host Brian Kilmeade] said I was: ‘Speaking into the wind’ on impeachment. Turns out, the wind may be listening!”

That didn’t sit right with Greene, who has been absurdly calling for Biden’s impeachment since he took office in 2021—and she needed to make sure everyone knew that. Taking to the platform formerly known as Twitter, she responded: “Correction my friend. I introduced articles of impeachment against Joe Biden for his corrupt business dealings in Ukraine & China while he was Vice President on his very first day in office. You wouldn’t cosponsor those and I had to drag you kicking and screaming to get you to cosponsor my articles on the border. Who’s really been making the push?”

Yes, it’s always fun when our elected representatives act like preschoolers. Last night Chris Hayes commented on Matt Gaetz, “That guy’s bark to bite ratio is like ten thousand to one.” Greene, too. But how’s it going to work when these people are banging all their pots and pans about their impeachment inquiry while failing to meet the end-of-September appropriations deadline? At some point one would think that even their own voters might notice what wastes of space they are. But I guess there are people who cannot be underestimated, or there would be no Trump supporters.

I understand it’s significant that McCarthy announced the inquiry without taking a vote. It’s likely he wouldn’t have gotten the votes. The entire point of the exercise is to take up space in the news cycles and allow House Freedom Caucus members to publicize insinuations and suspicious about President Biden to hurt his re-election chances. It’s also to please Supreme Leader Trump, who has been pushing the impeachment with House members.

Televised impeachment hearings could also act as counterprogramming to the initial Fulton County, Georgia, RICO trial expected to begin on October 23. However, given the embarrassing mess the Hunter Biden House investigations have been so far, televised House hearings may not have the effect the Freedom Caucus intends.

Most Senate Republicans admit there is no evidence linking President Biden to corruption, and they’d rather the House got serious and passed appropriations bills. Because most Senate Republicans, with a few exceptions, understand that what the House Freedom Caucus is doing is political poison .

But the FCs have already let it be known that getting an impeachment inquiry does not change their nutjob demands for the appropriations bills. Maybe Kevin McCarthy will keep his job — why he wants it is beyond me — but he’s gotten nowhere with trying to keep the problem children from playing with matches.

In other news: Mitt Romney won’t seek another term as senator. Do the Dems have a plausible candidate to run for his seat?

In more other news: Lauren Boebert and date were booted from a theater during a performance of the musical Beetlejuice.

Brian Kitts, director of marketing and communications for Denver Arts and Venues, said the patrons were talking loudly, vaping and using cameras during the performance. They were warned during an intermission, but the behavior continued into the second act, at which point the two were asked to leave.

As they were being escorted from the property, the two people said “stuff like ‘do you know who I am,’ ‘I am on the board,’ (and) ‘I will be contacting the mayor,’” according to a security incident report obtained by The Sun from the city through an open records request.

The incident report said there were “multiple complaints” about the two people during the performance.

No class.

Update: At Pollitico,  A House GOP attempt to advance abortion measure backfires in funding fight. The House is a bleeping mess.

Ginni Thomas and the Malefactors of Great Wealth

I’m still digesting the Politico story by Heidi Przybyla about the long-standing financial relationship between  Leonard Leo and Ginni Thomas. Here is a bit it:

At the time, the Citizens United ruling was widely expected, as the court had already signaled its intentions. When it came, it upended nearly 100 years of campaign spending restrictions.

The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.

From those early discussions among [Leonard] Leo, [Ginni] Thomas and [Harlan] Crow would spring a billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action and many other issues. It funded legal scholars to devise theories to challenge liberal precedents, helped to elect state attorneys general willing to apply those theories and launched lavish campaigns for conservative judicial nominees who would cite those theories in their rulings from the bench.

The movement’s triumphs are now visible but its engine remains hidden: A billion-dollar network of groups, most of which are registered as tax-exempt charities or social welfare organizations. Taking advantage of gaps in disclosure laws, they shield the identities of most of their donors and some of the recipients of the funds. Among those who’ve been paid by the groups are leading thinkers and individuals with close personal ties to Leo — including a whopping $7 million to a group run by a close friend and his wife. They also include a for-profit business for which Leo himself is chairman and which received tens of millions of dollars from his nonprofit network.

Leo’s role as the central figure in this movement has long been known, culminating in his acquisition last year of what many believe to be the largest political donation in history. Few are aware of the extent to which the movement’s baby steps were taken in concert with Ginni Thomas.

That’s the intro. From there it goes deeper into how Ginni Thomas fits into this. There are many connections between Leonard Leo (and his money), Ginni Thomas, and business before the Supreme Court. Dark money groups funded by Leo, Crow, and other associates appear to have been shovelling a considerable amount of money at Ginni Thomas over the years. Because of lax disclosure laws there is no way to know how much money the Thomases have gotten from these groups, or when, or what was expected of them in return. But it appears that Clarence Thomas might as well be on Leonard Leo’s payroll.

And speaking of malefactors of great wealth, do read Eugene Robinson, Elon Musk shouldn’t be calling the shots on how Ukraine fights (no paywall). Musk, who owns the Starlink satellite internet system on which Ukraine has depended. And he’s been imposing his own judgments about what Ukraine ought not be doing by withholding the service at critical moments. And he’s done this more than once, often after having conversations with Russian officials, including Putin himself. There are no words to describe how wrong this is.

Robinson writes, “an impulsive billionaire, unsure of whether he wants to be a superhero or a Bond villain, should not have been in a position to make that call. No private citizen should be making such unilateral decisions about our national security.” The Pentagon needs to step in and put a stop to this, somehow. Robinson continues,

Of course, to launch our government-owned satellites, we’ll probably need the reusable rockets developed by SpaceX or those made by Blue Origin (a private company owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Post). Putting men on the moon was an epic national quest, in which we were all invested. Landing humans on Mars is being outsourced to the billionaires.

How to deal with the gravest threat to peace and security in Europe since the end of World War II should be a matter for our elected officials. No one elected Elon Musk.

In other news: Kevin McCarthy has launched an official “impeachment inquiry” in the House, so that the House Freedom Caucus members can pretend to be investigating President Biden and maybe get interviewed on Fox News.

Loose Cannon Slow Walks the Documents Case

It’s the anniversary of that day again. Reflect and remember.

In Trump criminal justice news — remember the documents case? The one in Florida? In the past few weeks we’ve all been looking hard at the Georgia and  federal J6 indictments. What’s been happening in Florida?

The answer is, not a whole lot. David Kurtz writes at TPM that Judge Cannon is deliberately slow walking the case.

Welp, we’re coming up on a month since U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon issued any meaningful orders or rulings in the Mar-a-Lago documents case – and frankly that’s a generous application of the word “meaningful.”

Back on Aug. 17, Cannon did issue an order but it was more notable for kicking the can on the case than actually moving it forward. And since then, very little has happened in the Mar-a-Lago case. If you’re watching closely to see if Cannon is slow-rolling the case to the benefit of Trump, whose entire legal strategy at this point across multiple prosecutions is delay, then the past month is plenty cause for concern.

Here’s what Cannon still hasn’t done:

  1. Issued a protective order covering the handling of classified documents in the case.
  2. Held Garcia hearings on the potential conflicts of interest facing two of the defense counsel in the case.

But it’s actually even a little worse than that: Cannon hasn’t even scheduled hearings on these matters yet, even though they’ve been pending in one form or another for weeks.

There are more examples of dithering, so read the whole post. The last hearing Judge Cannon held in this case was on July 18, when she denied the government’s motion for a CIPA protective order. She gave Smith and crew a chance to re-up its motion, which they did later in July. Crickets since.

Will Jack Smith let this stand?

In other news: On Friday U.S. District Judge Steve Jones denied Mark Meadows’s bid to move his case from Georgia state court to federal court. Today Meadows appealed the decision to the to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In that filing, Meadows’ lawyers argued that several aspects of the district court’s order departed from precedent, including failing to credit Meadows’ account of his conduct and duties and raising the burden on Meadows to justify the removal of his case from state court.

I take it this means Judge Jones failed to appreciate that overturning an election in Georgia is a normal duty for a White House chief of staff.

This afternoon, Judge Jones replied to Meadows’ emergency request by ordering Georgia prosecutors to file a brief in response by Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET. So there are more twists and turns ahead.

In more other news: A few days ago I wrote about the PEPFAR program that has been very effective in fighting AIDS in Africa. An unsupported rumor claims that PEPFAR has been funding or encouraging abortions, and now Republicans want to kill it. Some protesters stormed Kevin McCarthy’s office today demanding that PEPFAR be funded. They were arrested, which is what often happens when you get rowdy in government buildings.

But while I agree with their cause, this is an example of stupid protesting. Kevin McCarthy has little control over the House and isn’t going to be swayed by protesters. The protests need to focus on educating the public about how stupid it would be to let PEPFAR lapse. Protests don’t work by yelling at the powers that be. They work by swaying public opinion.

Another Government Shutdown Looms

The Congress Critters are returning to Washington and preparing to take up the next battle in the war over funding the government. The adversaries are the House Freedom Caucus versus Everybody Else.

With less than three weeks remaining before government funding runs out on Sept. 30, Congress has not cleared any of its 12 annual appropriations bills, though there has been more progress than in the recent past. Given the rapidly approaching deadline, leaders of both the House and the Senate agree that a temporary stopgap funding measure will be needed to avert a government shutdown beginning Oct. 1. But that usually routine legislation is facing major obstacles in the Republican-led House, making its path to President Biden’s desk unusually fraught.

Members of the House’s far-right Freedom Caucus are pledging to oppose even a temporary measure if it does not cut funding substantially or include new border controls and restrictions on prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump. At the same time, senators of both parties want the stopgap bill to include billions of dollars in new assistance to Ukraine, a demand that House Republicans are resisting. House Democrats want nothing to do with any of the Republican bills, which have also been loaded with conservative social policy riders that have little chance of enactment.

The major obstacle for Mr. McCarthy is that a significant segment of the hard-right members in his ranks are insisting on conditions on the temporary funding measure that could never clear the Democratic-led Senate even as they call for deeper spending cuts in the full-year spending measures that many of their fellow House Republicans will not support. That internal divide and differences over abortion policy and other issues forced Mr. McCarthy to pull funding measures from the floor just before the August recess.

The House Freedom Caucus has about 41 members out of 222 total Republicans, I believe. Yet they appear to be calling the shots in the House, possibly because the remainder of the Republicans aren’t able to pull together a united resistance. And because Kevin McCarthy is a waste of space.

The FCs are loading up appropriations bills with junk riders about  keeping drag shows and critical race theory out of the military. And some House Republicans want to add amendments to appropriations bills that would “prohibit the use of federal funding for the prosecution of any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election on November 5th, 2024,” it says here. And we know which presidential candidate would benefit from that.

Because of the very narrow Republican majority, McCarthy needs a united party to pass anything with only Republican votes. He’s not going to get that. And if McCarthy tries to put together a coalition of not-Freedom Caucus Republicans and Democrats to pass a stopgap measure, the FC members will challenge his leadership. They’ve got him by his boy parts.

The funding dynamic is entirely different in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee have been working cooperatively to advance spending bills at a higher level than what is being considered in the House. Leaders of the panel have also kept the bills free of the contentious policy riders that are drawing fire in the House.

The Washington Post reports that the Senate is preparing to take the appropriations initiative away from the House.

After being largely on the sidelines during the debt-and-budget battle in the spring, the Senate is ready to take the lead on the fall legislative session on the outline for government funding and supporting critical national security efforts overseas.

Beginning with a simple resolution to keep agencies open, a bipartisan collection of senators wants to add its priorities to that bill. The group essentially is daring the divided House Republicans to oppose it and take the blame for shutting down the government if the Sept. 30 deadline has not been met.

These senators then expect to use their largely unified position as leverage to get their way in the more detailed agency funding outlines expected in the late fall, while also dominating the split House on negotiations over the annual Pentagon funding policy legislation.

In all, the Senate wants to reimpose its traditional role of regularly jamming the lower chamber into accepting its bipartisan approach to big policy matters.

I take it a majority of Senate Republicans want to continue to fund Ukraine, to increase (as always) the defense budget, and to increase disaster aid to parts of the country devastated by storms and fires. Further, in case the government shuts down October 1 because the FCs have gummed up the works, Senate Republicans have vowed that the nation will know that it’s all the fault of the freaking Freedom Caucus.

As a political act, government shutdowns have a long history of backfiring on the party that caused it. So why is the Freedom Caucus so all-fired eager to shut it down? Because they are idiots, that’s why. They are no more capable of imagining the real-world consequences of anything they do than a toad can sing opera,