And they've barely begun to interview witnesses!
The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report today detailing the plot by Trump and his goons to use the Justice Department to overturn the election. Actually, the Committee released two reports: one from the Democrats that laid out what happened in excruciating detail, and one from Republicans, saying LOL, no harm no foul. We'll be concentrating on the Dem report, because that's the one with all the actual facts, but God willin' and the crick don't rise, we hope to get back to the minority report, because that is some hilariously weak shit.
Most of what's in the real report, based on interviews with former (acting) Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and former US Attorney in Atlanta BJ Pak, has appeared in the media before. We knew that the Trump White House, most particularly Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, engaged in an extended pressure campaign to get the Justice Department to look into — and, more importantly, announce investigations of — non-existent election fraud in key swing states. We knew that this pressure continued long after those nonsensical allegations had been thoroughly debunked. We knew that Jeffrey Clark, acting head of the DOJ's Civil Division, attempted to stage a coup inside the DOJ with the aim of getting himself made acting Attorney General so that he could instruct swing states to decertify their electors. We knew that Trump tried to get the DOJ to sue the states on the basis of his nonsensical election fraud claims. And we knew that it was only thanks to concerted resistance by his own consiglieres that we avoided a major constitutional crisis.
But seeing it all woven together into a coherent narrative is really breathtaking. Particularly juxtaposed against reminders of just how seriously this violated DOJ norms and stated White House policy intended to insulate the Justice Department from political interference.
Because it wasn't Democrats who said, "The White House may communicate with DOJ about matters of policy, legislation, budgeting, political appointments, public affairs, intergovernmental relations, administrative matters, or other matters that do not relate to a particular contemplated or pending investigation or case." It wasn't Barack Obama who limited contacts between the White House and the Justice Department to the President, Vice President, Counsel to the President, and Deputy Counsel to the President on the one end, and the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, or Solicitor General at the other. That was Trump's first White House Counsel Don McGahn, in an all-staff memo issued on January 27, 2017.
So when you see Rep. Jim Jordan shouting about insubordination at the DOJ because it refused to go along with Mark Meadows' order to investigate allegations that an Italian Space Laser stole the election, it's critical to understand that he's retconning a gross violation of longstanding policy meant to ensure the Justice Department's independence. And when you see that Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Civil Division, was having meetings with Trump behind acting AG Jeffrey Rosen's back and also conferring with Trump campaign attorneys, it's important to appreciate that this was the real act of gross insubordination and ethical impropriety.
With all that said, let's focus on a few particularly hair-raising details from the report.
On December 28, Clark, who had been secretly meeting with Trump and cahootsing with Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, sent acting AG Rosen an email about "Two Urgent Action Items." The first related to a requested meeting with the Director of National Intelligence on procedures to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, permitting Trump to declare a national emergency due to "unusual and extraordinary threats" to the United States and to "block any transactions and freeze any assets within the jurisdiction of the United States to deal with the threat." In the email, Clark made clear that he intended for Trump to use this emergency declaration to block the transfer of power to Biden based on foreign attacks on our election.
We're going to repeat that again, in bold this time: Clark made clear that he intended for Trump to use this emergency declaration to block the transfer of power to Biden based on foreign attacks on our election.
As the basis for his "urgent" request, Clark cited evidence, supposedly in the public domain, from "white hat hackers" indicating that a "Dominion machine accessed the Internet through a smart thermostat with a net connecting trail leading back to China." Clark did not produce or quote any of this purported evidence, but he wrote that he believed the ODNI "may" have additional classified intelligence on this matter.
The second action item was a draft email entitled "Georgia Proof of Concept" which Clark wanted Rosen to send to Georgia legislators advising them of "serious irregularities" in their election and instructing them to convene to dispose of their electoral votes as they saw fit. And after Georgia did it, they could send similar letters to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada, and then Trump could be president forever, HOORAY!
The concept is to send it to the Governor, Speaker, and President pro temp of each relevant state to indicate that in light of time urgency and sworn evidence of election irregularities presented to courts and to legislative committees, the legislatures thereof should each assemble and make a decision about elector appointment in light of their deliberations. I set it up for signature by the three of us. I think we should get it out as soon as possible. Personally, I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter. I put it together quickly and would want to do a formal cite check before sending but I don't think we should let unnecessary moss grow on this.
No matter that there were no such irregularities and in fact federal investigations had uncovered no systemic fraud, and zero evidence that the state's electoral tabulations were incorrect — Clark had DO UR OWN RESEARCHED on the internet, and he was sure it was true anyway.
The situation came to a head on January 3. Clark had repeatedly pressured Rosen and Deputy AG Donoghue to sign onto his bogus fraud letters, and that afternoon he told Rosen that he had accepted an offer from Trump to take over the top job at DOJ, but would allow Rosen (i.e., his boss) to stay on as his subordinate. Rosen then assembled the leadership at the DOJ, who all agreed that they would resign if Clark were put in charge, before heading over to the White House for a meeting with the president.
"One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren't going to do anything to overturn the election," Trump began, repeatedly insisting that he needed Clark in charge. He was only dissuaded from pulling the trigger because his entire senior legal staff threatened to publicly resign, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who described Clark's letter as a "murder-suicide pact." Or, as Sen. Chuck Grassley and the Republican minority put it in their report, "President Trump listened to his advisors, including high-level DOJ officials and White House Counsel and followed their recommendations." (The whole bloody thing is like that — complete whitewash.)
And even after he'd been rebuffed, Trump sicced his campaign lawyers on the DOJ in an attempt to coerce the government into filing a lawsuit at the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate swing state electoral votes. Rosen describes being hounded by Kurt Olsen, one of the lawyers on the infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who somehow got Rosen's cell phone number. During the last week of December, campaign lawyer Olsen bombarded the DOJ leadership with calls and emails making clear that he'd been dispatched by the president.
Here's one email to Rosen's chief of staff from December 29:
Thank you for calling me on behalf of AG Rosen. Attached is a draft complaint to be brought by the United States modeled after the Texas action. As I said on our call, the President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action. I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after this meeting. I can be at Main Justice (or anywhere else in the DC Metropolitan area) within an hour's notice.
Indeed, Trump's own Oval Office assistant Molly Mitchell forwarded the proposed lawsuit, which was full of debunked claims and facially laughable legal arguments, to Rosen and Donoghue herself — making it clear that Trump expected the DOJ to take orders from the campaign to benefit Trump and subvert the election.
In short, this shit is hair on fire CRAZY. Which is perhaps why Mr. Clark has refused to meet with the Committee to discuss his role in it and may go some way toward Trump's insistence that he'll be invoking executive privilege to stop further inquiry.
In summary and in conclusion, this ain't over. Not by a long shot.
Follow Liz Dye on Twitter RIGHT HERE!
Please click here to support your Wonkette. And if you're ordering your quarantine goods on Amazon, this is the link to do it.
You can still hate Louis DeJoy. We sure do!
The US Postal Service seems poised to make a whole lot of good-government nerds very very happy with a four-city pilot program that will try out an old idea whose time probably never should have ended: postal banking. From 1910 until 1966, when you went to the Post Office, you could not only get stamps or send a package or dodge bullets, you could also put some money in your postal savings account, or withdraw some after it had grown by a whopping two percent interest rate.
At its height, postal banking served some four million Americans, and before the New Deal created the stabilizing force of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, postal savings accounts were especially attractive because, unlike a bank that could go bust, the deposits were backed by the full faith and credit of the USA.
The USPS got out of the banking business in 1966, but for decades, think tanks and policy geeks have said it would be a great thing to bring back, because there are millions of Americans who don't use banks, yes in 2021. Instead, far too many Americans are unbanked — about five percent of us — and pay too much to cash their paychecks at payday lenders, (some) grocery stores, or Walmart.
Starting last month, the USPS began testing out a new system where people can cash business checks up to $500 and receive the money in the form of a gift card that can be used pretty much anywhere. As David Dayen puts it at the American Prospect, this is a big effing deal: He calls it "the most far-reaching executive action that the Biden administration has taken since Inauguration Day."
The move puts the USPS in direct competition with the multibillion-dollar check-cashing industry, which operates storefronts to allow unbanked or underbanked residents to cash their paychecks.
And if you cash your check at the Post Office, nobody's going to try to interest you in a short term high interest loan, either.
The pilot program is starting out (very) small, with just a single post office location in each of the four cities of Washington DC, Falls Church, Virginia, Baltimore, and the Bronx. And it's new enough that when the American Prospect sent reporter Jandos Rothstein to try cashing a business check at the P.O. in Falls Church, the postal worker at the counter "said she didn't think she could take the check."
"But she read the check into her scanner and it went through." He didn't need to show identification or endorse the check. The post office charged Rothstein a flat fee of $5.95, for any amount up to $500.
Several larger check-cashing chains charge a percentage rate that comes out to $15 or more for a $500 check. Walmart charges between $4 and $8 for check cashing.
Post offices already sell single-use generic Visa gift cards that work like debit cards, either to buy stuff at a store or online, or to get cash at an ATM (for a fee, unfortunately). This made the check-cashing pilot fairly easy to put in place, from both a tech and legal standpoint:
Because the only innovation in the test pilot involves allowing gift cards to be purchased with a business or payroll check, no additional authority from Congress was required. Those who set up the product expansion are confident that it falls within their legal mandate. [...]
[But] officials have floated ideas for how it could expand. The card could be reloadable rather than single-use, used to store multiple paychecks over time. USPS could keep track of the card value, accounting for a user's balance in case it gets lost or stolen. Postal gift cards, currently branded for businesses like Barnes & Noble or Olive Garden as well as the generic Visa card, could be branded as coming specifically from USPS, with no-fee branded ATMs inside post office buildings.
Now, you may ask, how did something this smart happen under Louis Goddamned DeJoy, the schmuck who as soon as he became Postmaster General last year set to dismantling the USPS, slowing mail times, and in general monkeywrenching the mail just in time to make Americans worry their mail-in ballots might not arrive? If you can read past the business-speak bafflegab in this statement, it gets a little clearer:
"Offering new products and services that are affordable, convenient and secure aligns with the Postal Service's Delivering for America 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence," said USPS spokesperson Roy in a statement to the Prospect. "This pilot, which is in collaboration with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), is an example of how the Postal Service is leveraging its vast retail footprint and resources to innovate."
Firstable, there's some revenue in it, and DeJoy desperately wants USPS to make some money. But that bit about the union is key, it turns out: It seems that the union had insisted on postal banking pilot programs as part of its 2016 contract with USPS. The postmaster-general prior to DeJoy, Margaret Brennan (hired during the Obama administration), didn't do a damn thing to move on those pilot programs. And then DeJoy came along, and the postal workers appealed to his desire to raise revenue:
[The] union engaged him personally in a series of meetings, pitching the postal banking idea again. In a sign that DeJoy was interested, those meetings soon became weekly events, involving technical staff.
"They listened, they didn't shut us down," said one APWU source involved in the negotiations. "They have made the analysis that the future of the USPS lies not in letters but in packages, and they see the expansion of financial services as a companion to the package market."
So it was kind of a package deal, ha! ha!
Now, there's no love lost between the union and DeJoy; they still want him gone, baby gone. But hey, postal workers, having to get all those letters and packages to fit in a pokey little van, know all about compartmentalization. So they were happy to collaborate on the postal banking while still calling for DeJoy go the way of the hated three-wheel Cushman Mailster, which had a habit of falling over while cornering and getting stuck in even a little bit of snow.
In conclusion, fuck Louis DeJoy, fuck payday lenders, Fuck the Cushman mailster except for people who collect 'em, hooray for the union, and let's have postal banking again, yay!
Yr Wonkette is entirely funded by reader donations. If you can, please help with a monthly $5 or $10 donation. Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night will stay Yr faithful mommybloggers from bringing you snark and dick jokes. Also, we only remember the postal motto from Laurie Anderson's "O Superman."
He's kinda funny lookin'. More n' most people even.
MyPillow guy and elections expert Mike Lindell has in recent weeks moved beyond insisting there was massive fraud in all the states where Donald Trump lost in 2020, and is now going around claiming that vast computer fraud stole votes from Trump even in states the Great Man won, like Alabama, and now Idaho, which is, dear readers, not exactly full of progressive liberal hippie types, at least outside certain parts of Boise and the college towns.
But when you have a racket, you have to keep flogging it, so Lindell recently sent a very serious letter to elections officials in Idaho, insisting that electronic voting equipment had switched votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in every single one of Idaho's 44 counties. Lindell also promoted his "analysis" on such social media he hasn't been kicked off of, prompting angry calls and emails to county elections officials, too. Mike Rosedale, the Republican county clerk for Bonner County, up in the panhandle, said the reaction from outraged Lindell fans felt like "a freight train coming at me."
Now, let's just remind you that Donald Trump won Idaho in 2020 with 64 percent of the vote. In Bonner County, Trump did even better, winning just short of 67 percent of the vote, with 18,369 votes to Biden's 8,310 votes, plus the expected smattering of votes for fringe candidates. Kanye West somehow got 102 votes in Bonner. Go figure.
But you see, in Lindell's very smart "analysis," Trump really should have gotten far more votes, so the only possible explanation has to be massive fraud. Not that he presented any evidence of it, beyond a spreadsheet he cleverly titled "The Big Lie," which pretended to specify exactly how many votes were supposedly stolen from Trump and switched to Biden in each county.
Astonishingly, the document didn't bowl over the folks at the Idaho Secretary of State's office, who quickly noticed a bit of a problem with Lindell's assertion of statewide electronic vote theft, as they explained in a statement this week:
"Once we had the document in hand, we immediately believed there was something amiss" says Chief Deputy Secretary Chad Houck. "This document alleged electronic manipulation in all 44 counties. At least 7 Idaho counties have no electronic steps in their vote counting processes," states Houck, "That was a huge red flag, and one we knew we could either prove or disprove fairly directly."
Houck told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that his office considers the vote tabulation process in those counties to be protected by a "'Flintstone gap,' because there's no equipment in the process. It's still Stone Age."
Well there's a lesson for Lindell: Don't go around making accusations of computer hacking in places where the votes are still tabulated on the county clerk's fingers and recorded on clay tablets. We could pretty much stop right here, but the details are kind of fun if you're a big election process nerd.
Just to be on the safe side (and no doubt to forestall outraged howls that Lindell's bullshit accusations weren't being taken seriously), the secretary of state's office sent examiners to the clerks' offices in two of Idaho's smallest counties, Camas and Butte, to conduct an in-person inspection of the ballots, and presumably to look in every closet for a hidden Fraud-O-Matic 9000 machine. To make it all official, the examination was conducted with representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties observing.
While both recounts were videotaped, we'll admit we didn't review them to see whether any of the participants commented on what a colossal waste of time it was. (Butte County Recount / Camas County Recount) We'd check, but we have a whole lot of anime to catch up on this weekend, including the series finale of the Higurashi When They Cry sequel.
In any case, the investigations found that both counties' vote totals were indeed consistent with the official canvas, except that in Camas County, there was one extra vote for Trump, out of 675 ballots total, a .14 percent discrepancy. Lindell's spreadsheet had somehow decided Trump had to be missing 54 votes in the tiny county.
In Butte County, Joe Biden still had the same 188 votes as in the official canvas, not the 130 votes Lindell insisted he "should" have had. But the hand recount did find an error! Donald Trump actually received nine fewer votes than the official tally of 1,202 votes reflected. So there's your massive fraud: the official count was .63 percent greater than Trump's real total. The mistake seems to have resulted from
thermal printed ballots that come from assisted voter terminals, which are the same size as the absentee envelopes contained in the same storage boxes. As such, adjusted sorting and storage policies were recommended should a recount occur in the future.
Thank Crom for Mike Lindell's fog and phony show, since by promoting absolute hogwash, he inadvertently led the county to make a minor adjustment to its election processes that had nothing to do with any bizarre tampering conspiracy.
After the recount, we'll assume the local officials took everyone out for Bronto-burgers in their foot-powered car.
Meanwhile, up in Bonner County, Mr. Rosedale announced that his office would conduct a hand recount of the county's 2020 ballots as well; that show is being livestreamed right now if you want to waste a perfectly good Saturday. He too is certain that the official results are accurate, and that the recount will not find anything like the 2,200-vote undercount that Lindell insists happened.
Rosedale also pointed out to the Spokane Spokesman-Review that there's no way Bonner County's election equipment could be hacked, either:
"I said, 'That's impossible,' " Rosedale said. Bonner County does use a machine to tally its votes, but that machine is not connected to internet, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and thus has no IP address to be hacked.
Weirdly, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee, when the accusations of vote tampering were first circulating on Lindell's website, Rosedale issued a press release endorsing Lindell's big lies — but only in those damn Democrat states, it seems:
While I generally agree with Mike Lindell's focus on massive voter fraud in 6-plus key states, his facts regarding Idaho quite miss the mark. Well, completely miss the mark.
Gosh, he's really helping to tamp down the paranoia and fearmongering that have led Americans to distrust the voting process, you bet.
So what the hell was Lindell's made-up claim based on, if anything? Houck thinks he's figured it out.
Houck said such a result [in Camas and Butte counties] was to be expected, because it appeared the spreadsheet circulated by Lindell took a vote discrepancy and applied it universally across all counties. He estimated it took him and his office 45 minutes, perhaps less, to determine that the document was using a formula, rather than verified accounts of fraud, in its estimations of ballot numbers.
Houck doesn't appear to have specified what wrong data point Lindell started with, but the point is, yet again, it's all bullshit, and Donald Trump did just fine in Idaho, even without running up an imaginary score, the end.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please sign up for a monthly $5 or $10 donation, so we can keep pointing and laughing at all these dipshits together.
First Amendment, how does it go?
We are about three news cycles away from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatening to beat up Mark Zuckerberg behind the gym after fourth period. And even that would probably be more credible than the latest round of bullshit spewing from the governor's mansion in the vague direction of Palo Alto.
The latest fucktussle was sparked by the Wall Street Journal's recent series on problems at Facebook. The first article revealed that the social media platform had an internal "whitelist" of celebrities and politicians who were exempt from the rules banning harassment, incitement, and even nudity. Normal people might think, "Yeah, no shit, you guys left that maniac on there, and we wound up with an attempted coup." But Ron DeSantis is not normal people.
So yesterday Gov. Florida Man directed Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee to "immediately investigate this alleged election interference caused by Facebook through its whitelisting program — and any other previously undisclosed program within Facebook — in order to determine whether any violations of Florida's election laws took place."
Note that he doesn't specify which laws might have been violated. Because no such law exists. And even if Florida's preposterous social media law purporting to make it illegal to deplatform political candidates hadn't been immediately blocked in court, the statute wasn't scheduled to go into effect until July 2021 — well after the 2020 election when these supposed "violations of Florida's election laws took place."
DeSantis's theory, if his rancid babbling can be dignified with that term, rests on internal documents admitting that whitelisting politicians amounted to an advantage for incumbents. DeSantis himself passed a law which would have mandated a similar whitelist for all political candidates, forcing Facebook and every other website to allow politicians to violate the sites' rules with impunity. (Well, not Disney, because Ol' Ron knows who butters his moldy bread, so he made sure there was an amusement park exception.) But logical consistency has never been DeSantis's forte.
"If the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, Facebook has created a privileged class of speakers and has empowered them to manipulate our elections with impunity," he babbled. "Even more disturbing, these elite users on Facebook's 'whitelist' were allegedly selected by the tech giant behind closed doors."
All of which sounds quite ominous, but not illegal. Because Facebook is a private company, and thanks to the First Amendment, it can put whatever it bloody likes on its own website. As Ron DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, knows perfectly well. And if he forgot the first semester of ConLaw, US District Judge Robert Hinkle just reminded him in June when he barred enforcement of that dumbass social media law.
"[L]eveling the playing field—promoting speech on one side of an issue or restricting speech on the other—is not a legitimate state interest," he wrote, blocking the law because forcing platforms to carry specific content is a "violation of their editorial judgment and the First Amendment."
Which is perhaps why DeSantis directed his performative outrage to the secretary of state, rather than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which investigates actual crimes. As Politico's Gary Fineout points out, election officials don't usually investigate or prosecute election crimes, and are mainly concerned with the timely filing of campaign finance reports.
"The Division of Elections does forward information to the state elections commission for inquiry — but that's usually if someone filed their campaign finance reports late," he writes. "Any Florida reporter can recite the time they brought up some potential violation of law only to be told the Division only has a 'ministerial' role and does not investigate."
Nonetheless, DeSantis directed the Department to "use all legal means to uncover any such violations, including but not limited to, issuing subpoenas, conducting witness interviews, reviewing all available information and consulting with law enforcement."
Violations of what? Well, Ron's not saying. But he does know that "Floridians deserve to have faith that their elections are free from Big Tech interference, and corporations like Facebook deserve to be held accountable for actions that erode the legitimacy of our institutions."
Look out, Zuck, Florida Gov 'bout to do some LOCK HER UPS before that 2024 campaign gets underway.
Follow Liz Dye on Twitter!
Click the widget to keep your Wonkette ad-free and feisty. And if you're ordering from Amazon, use this link, because reasons.