Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday afternoon announced that he too, just like former Attorney General Bill Barr, had no idea the Dept. of Justice was spying on at least two top House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. The scandal has shaken both the DOJ and the general public so broadly the Inspector General – less than 24 hours after The New York Times bombshell dropped – announced a wide-ranging internal investigation.
The track records of both Barr and Sessions when it comes to telling the truth – even under oath – are questionable at best and subject to interpretation.
Are they setting former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein up to take the fall? Or was it Rosenstein all along? Or both – were they all in on spying on Democrats?
Many Americans will remember that Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing:
Jeff Sessions lied under oath about meeting with Russian officials during the presidential campaign pic.twitter.com/zxVnV2Asdc
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 2, 2017
And this famous video of then-Senator Kamala Harris, now Vice President Kamala Harris, grilling Barr to a crisp is legendary:
Flashback: May 2019
Harris: Has the president or anyone at the WH ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
Harris: Seems you’d remember something like that and be able to tell us.
Barr: Yeah, but I’m trying to grapple with the word suggest. pic.twitter.com/y8ewAgVAgE
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 11, 2021
Barr on Friday also claimed Trump knew nothing about the “investigation” and did not order the spying.
This is what Trump was tweeting about the same month that Trump’s DOJ subpoenaed Apple for metadata to spy on Rep. Schiff & other House Intel Democrats who Trump accused of “leaking”. It seems clear that Trump was directly involved in the DOJ’s targeting of Schiff, which is huge. pic.twitter.com/mdEH6ame5p
— Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D (@RVAwonk) June 11, 2021
At the FBI, which the DOJ oversees, it’s called “lack of candor” and it’s a fireable offense. Unless you’re the Attorney General and your boss is Donald Trump and you’re helping him.
(Sessions was fired by Trump, not directly for this lie, but as a result of it: he was was forced to recuse himself from all things Russia, including protecting Trump, which led to Trump giving him the ax.)
Legal experts have said there is no way any investigation into a sitting member of Congress could have taken place – including, especially, with subpoenas of at least a dozen staffers, family members, and a minor child signing off on those warrants – unless a very top official or officials at DOJ approved the investigations.
On Friday both Barr and Sessions claimed they knew nothing about the investigations involving members of Congress, so, if Americans are to believe them, (and there’s great reason to not,) presumably the only other person who conceivably could have approved the spying on top elected Democrats would be Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein is also the only top DOJ official who was there throughout the spying, which started in 2017 under Sessions, ended after nothing was found, and was started up again under Barr. And again, came up empty.
Speaking of lack of candor, Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is under DOJ investigation and has every reason to want to take a swipe at DOJ, would like you to believe Rosenstein is the one who OK’d the spying:
To all those “shocked” and “horrified” that Rod Rosenstein might spy on Schiff…
He was making these threats to BOTH sides, including congressional staff.
They don’t treat their critics well at the DOJ. https://t.co/iLWS6nVuX6
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) June 11, 2021
So all we know is that we don’t know, but hopefully the Inspector General will find out and let the American people know who approved spying on Democrats for political retribution.
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House Republican’s Bill Aims to Put LGBTQ Children in Adoption and Foster Care at Risk
In September, the Biden administration’s Dept. of Health and Human Services announced new proposed rules to protect LGBTQ youth in foster care or adoption agencies, and included the basic requirement that any child who identifies as LGBTQI+ be placed in a supportive environment, “free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse.”
Now, a far-right MAGA Republican Congressman, Jim Banks of Indiana who is running for the U.S. Senate, has proposed legislation that could harm not just LGBTQI+ kids but all children awaiting foster care or adoption, by stripping federal funding from agencies that abide by the Biden administration’s protections for those children.
Rep. Banks is a far right-wing extremist who forged multiple congressional documents sent to federal agencies and voted to not certify the 2020 election. He is also an anti-LGBTQ activist and anti-science climate change denier who opposes a woman’s right to choose, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage.
“For too long,” the Dept. of Health and Human Services said in its announcement, “LGBTQI+ children have faced significant disparities in the child welfare system. LGBTQI+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, but face worse outcomes, including poor mental health, higher rates of homelessness, and discrimination just because of who they are in some foster care settings.”
“LBGTQI+ children often have unique needs and deserve care that affirms their identities,” HHS noted, stating its proposed rule “would require that child welfare agencies ensure that each child in their care who identifies as LGBTQI+ receive a safe and appropriate placement and services that help them thrive.”
It would also “protect LGBTQI+ youth by placing them in environments free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status,” and “would require that caregivers for LGBTQI+ children are properly and fully trained to provide for the needs of the child related to the child’s self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”
Fox News reports, “Banks’ bill, the Sensible Adoption for Every (SAFE) Home Act, would prevent child welfare agencies and related groups that receive federal funding from getting those funds if they refuse prospective parents who insist against the child’s stated LGBTQ status.”
That means parents could foster a 14-year old girl or boy who identifies as lesbian, bisexual, or gay and force they to say they are straight. They could adopt a 15-year old transgender boy, block him from any medication or counseling he might have been receiving, and force him to wear clothing that does not conform to his gender identity. Depending on state law, they could force an LGBTQI+ child into dangerous so-called conversion therapy that has been likened tom torture.
Congressman Banks told Fox News the “Biden administration is cruelly preventing countless children in the foster care and adoption system from going to loving homes just because parents are opposed to irreversible sex change procedures on kids,” falsely suggesting all LGBTQI+ kids are transgender and falsely suggesting all gender-affirming care involves “irreversible sex change procedures.”
“This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. This is just plain wrong, and every sane person knows it,” Banks added.
‘Hardball? You Bet’: Dems ‘Need to Be Prepared’ After McCarthy Exit Urges Top Political Scholar
The American voters sent 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats to the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections, the exact same margin, but flipped, as the 2020 election. But today, with the announcement that ousted, former GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is not only not running for re-election but is quitting Congress at the end off the year, Republicans have a big majority crisis — because of their now tiny majority.
It’s no longer 222 to 213.
After McCarthy’s exit, and with the recent expulsion of now-former Congressman George Santos (R-NY) Republican Speaker Mike Johnson will have a very slim majority.
“The party’s margin in the House fell to three seats from four with the expulsion of Representative George Santos of New York last week,” The New York Times explains. “That leaves almost no wiggle room for Mr. Johnson, who is already dealing with a revolt from the far right for working with Democrats to keep the government funded and faces another pair of shutdown deadlines in mid-January and early February.”
“When the House returns in January,” The Washington Post adds, “Republicans can lose only two votes from their ranks to pass any legislation at a time when the chamber faces major decisions on government spending and foreign aid. That dynamic could force Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who assumed the post after a tumultuous three weeks following McCarthy’s ouster, to work with Democrats to avert a partial government shutdown as soon as mid-January.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) has announced he will retire and exit Congress early next year.
But possibly even before that, Speaker Johnson’s tiny majority could at some point become an opening for Democrats, according to a top political scientist and scholar, Dr. Norman Ornstein.
“Democrats need to be prepared to act swiftly and decisively if the numbers drop below 218– even if only for a day. Quick motion to vacate, [Hakeem] Jeffries as Speaker, immediate agenda,” writes Dr. Ornstein, a senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), “where he has been studying politics, elections, and the US Congress for more than four decades.”
Ornstein offers more opportunities should Democrats be able to take the majority back soon.
“Reconciliation bill to secure robust spending, eliminate debt limit permanently, taxes on rich to pay for permanent child tax credit.”
He adds, the number of Republican members “would need to get down to 213. But any set of problems– a Covid outbreak, for example– could bring those numbers down, if only for a day or two. Have a plan ready! Hardball? You bet.”
David Rothkopf, the noted foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator, responding to Ornstein’s remarks appeared to urge Republicans to join with Democrats to elect a Democratic Speaker, or even to switch parties:
“This. C’mon you GOPers from purple districts. Trump will have you purged and sent to Siberia. We just need 2 of you. You can be unloved by the GOP or heroes to the rest of America! Make your move now.”
Of course, special elections will be held to replace both Santos (scheduled for February 13, 2024) and McCarthy (likely summer, according to The Post), and at some point Johnson.
But with the extremely large number of members of Congress who have exited or will be, as Ornstein says, Democrats need to be ready.
How Mike Johnson Spent the Day Protecting Mike Johnson
Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made two major statements Wednesday at a press conference on his Biden impeachment inquiry, both of which serve to protect not the rule of law, the public’s faith in the credibility of Congress, or American democracy, but Mike Johnson.
Johnson, elected Speaker by every House Republican just five weeks ago, was widely described as a “back-bencher,” (a British term Americans have co-opted to refer to a low-profile or lower-level member of Congress,) yet he was anything but. While not well-known by the American people, Johnson had made his mark during the 2020 election, leading The New York Times recently to call him “a key architect of his party’s objections to certifying President Biden’s victory.”
“Mr. Johnson played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results” of the 2020 presidential election, The Times reported. “In December 2020, Mr. Johnson collected signatures for a legal brief in support of a Texas lawsuit, rooted in baseless claims of widespread election irregularities, that tried to throw out the results in four battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
In an opinion piece last month, The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie declared, “Mike Johnson Is a Right-Wing Fever Dream Come to Life.”
In addition to Johnson’s far-right wing views on religion and social issues, Bouie pointed to the Speaker’s “tireless advocacy on behalf of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
He noted: “Johnson wrote one of the briefs purporting to give a legal justification for throwing out the voting results in several swing states. He advanced the conspiracy theory that Venezuela was somehow involved with the nation’s voting machines. On Jan. 6, 2021, he urged his Republican colleagues to block certification of the election on the grounds that state changes to voting in the face of the pandemic were illegitimate and unconstitutional. When questioned, during his first news conference as speaker, whether he stood by his effort to overturn the 2020 election, he ignored the question, and his fellow Republicans shouted down the reporter who asked it.”
Johnson “is, in short, an election-denying extremist who believes that his allies have the right to nullify election results so that they can impose their vision of government and society on an unwilling public.”
On Wednesday, Speaker Johnson falsely described both impeachments of Donald Trump as “meritless.”
It was an important statement for him to make, for Mike Johnson.
“I’m a lawyer. I’m a constitutional law attorney,” Speaker Johnson told reporters Wednesday, a statement he frequently uses to remind people of his status. “I served on President Trump’s impeachment defense team twice. And we lamented openly, we decried how the Democrats politicized that process, they were brazenly political, and how they brought those meritless impeachment charges against the president.”
Donald Trump was impeached the first time for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after “Trump froze military assistance for Ukraine,” NPR reported in early 2020, “at the same time he sought investigations that he thought might help him in the 2020 campaign.”
The second time Trump was impeached, in January 0f 2021, was for “incitement of insurrection.” Speaker Johnson calling that meritless is in direct contradiction of a Colorado judge’s recent ruling that Trump did, in fact, “engage in insurrection.”
“This, what you’re seeing here, is exactly the opposite,” Johnson continued on Wednesday, referring to his committee chairmen’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. It is an inquiry that Republicans have been forced to admit, even while on Fox News, they have no actual proof of any impeachable offense.
“We are the rule of law team,” Johnson continued. “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law. And the people in charge of this are doing this thoroughly, carefully. methodically. They’re investigating and gathering all the facts and to do this appropriately and to do it in a manner that upholds our constitutional responsibility. requires time, it requires a sound process. You don’t rush something like this. You can’t.”
Speaker Mike Johnson during a news conference dismisses both of Trump’s impeachments as “meritless” pic.twitter.com/twXn3ztSh2
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
It was critical for Johnson to mischaracterize and demean Democrats’ impeachments of Donald Trump, especially Trump’s second impeachment over his “incitement of insurrection.”
Remember, as The Times noted, Johnson was a “key architect” of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The insurrection was part of that effort.
Two weeks ago NCRM noted the stakes for Johnson “are simple: his three-vote majority is already razor-thin. Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Santos would be allowed to stay as long as possible. Will Johnson direct his leadership team to actively whip to expel Santos, knowing his majority will slip even further?”
Johnson answered that question on Wednesday. Despite having just called his House Republican caucus “the rule of law team,” Johnson effectively declared he opposes Republican efforts to expel U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who is facing 23 federal felony charges, and a damning Ethics Committee report.
Johnson’s tiny majority would become even smaller, should the House expel the embattled New York GOP lawmaker. And early next year it could shrink even more, given the announced upcoming resignation and exit of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), not to mention the other “House Republicans who may head for the exits.”
Dana Houle, a former chief of staff for a Democratic Congressman noted, “Ohio law is murky, but it’s possible [Bill Johnson’s] (overwhelmingly Republican) seat will remain open until November. It’s a reason why Santos won’t be expelled; if Santos’ & Johnson’s seats are vacant the GOP will have only a two seat majority.”
And that’s likely another reason why Speaker Johnson on Wednesday declared, “we’re going to allow people to vote their conscience” on the Santos expulsion vote, expected Thursday. “We’ve not whipped the vote and you wouldn’t I trust that people will make their decisions thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this. I’m, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Speaker Johnson says he has “real reservations” about expelling George Santos pic.twitter.com/JyaluKfVET
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
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