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House Subpoenas Phone Records of More Than 100 People

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Walls May Be Closing In
      •  Perdue Will Challenge Kemp
      •  It's All about the Grift?, Part I
      •  It's All about the Grift?, Part II
      •  Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Olympics Is a Go
      •  A Date Which Will Live In Infamy
      •  A December to Rhymember (Parts 5-6)

To our Jewish readers: We hope you had a Happy Hanukkah, and that each of the eight nights was filled with light.

The Walls May Be Closing In

The 1/6 Committee took a pretty big gamble in sending out a gaggle of subpoenas. If AG Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice had refused to enforce them, and all of the recipients had ignored them, it would have taken all the wind out of the Committee's sails and might even have compelled them to quietly wind down their investigation. But the DoJ did act, and once the subpoenas actually had some teeth, some of the recipients decided that they were not particularly interested in a nice, long stay at Club Fed.

The latest person to announce that they will cooperate is Marc Short, former chief of staff to Mike Pence. He is, at least potentially, the Trumpers' nightmare witness. Because he was in the room, at least much of the time, he knows an awful lot. But his loyalty is to Pence, not Trump, and his interest (in addition to saving his own hide, as needed) is to help protect the former, very possibly at the expense of the latter.

We cannot know if any of these "cooperative" people are really being cooperative until their testimony becomes public. However, the Committee has shown no hesitation about going after those who are not playing nice, and that includes those who are only pseudo-cooperating. So, the fact that several people have said they were cooperating and then were the subject of no further public action by the Committee suggests that some of them are indeed being helpful.

As more folks turn, in effect, state's evidence, it very much complicates the lives of the remaining holdouts for at least three reasons:

  1. Court Challenges: The more people who sing, the harder it is for resisters to win their various court challenges. For example, a judge might ask: "Why should you need to claim executive privilege if Marc Short did not need to do so?"

  2. The Prisoner's Dilemma: If nobody talks, then maybe nobody gets in trouble. But if some people talk, then they will be the ones to tell the story of 1/6 at the expense of those who do not talk. At a certain point, there's wisdom in showing up, giving your version of events, and pushing back against those who are willing to throw you under the bus.

  3. Trump: Donald Trump's vitriol is a laser and not a shotgun. He's very effective at putting the screws to one person, or maybe two or three. He's lousy when it's a dozen people or more. And so, the more people who work with the committee, the less likely any one of them will have to deal with the unmitigated rage of the former president and his followers.

One or more of these issues may explain why lawyer John Eastman, who was previously threatening to hold out, said on Monday that he has no choice but to abide by the subpoena he got, because "Congress has the power to issue criminal contempt." He even noted that while threats of criminal contempt are usually hot air, this time the DoJ clearly plans to follow through. Eastman offered the usual complaints about this being unconstitutional and infringing on his liberties, and said he would do what he could to fight this through the court system. Maybe he will do so, and maybe he'll be able to drag things out ad infinitum. As a lawyer, he knows the Fifth Amendment does not nullify a subpoena, but he can certainly show up and then plead the 5th as the answer to every question. It could take years for the courts to resolve on a question by question basis. But it is also possible that he knows how that might work out and is about to wave the white flag. (Z)

Perdue Will Challenge Kemp

Donald Trump badly wanted a Republican to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) in next year's primaries. And now, Trump has landed his man. It's former senator David Perdue (R), whose entry into the race had been rumored for over a month, and who made it official yesterday.

Just in case there was any doubt that the previously-not-that-Trumpy Perdue is Trump's candidate, the former president waited approximately two seconds before bestowing his endorsement, declaring via statement:

[Perdue] is a Conservative fighter who isn't afraid of the Radical Left, and is the only candidate in Georgia who can beat Stacey 'The Hoax' Abrams in November. Brian Kemp has failed Georgia. He caved to Stacey Abrams before the 2020 Election and allowed massive Election Fraud to take place... [He] will eliminate the Income Tax, secure the Elections, defend the Second Amendment, support our great Farmers, get crime in Atlanta and other places under control, take care of our great Vets, and put parents back in charge of the schools.

You can tell Trump wrote the statement himself, since it's full of both unfulfillable promises and inappropriate capitalizations. Well, unless his underlings have just learned to mimic his Style, which is undoubtedly the best, smartest, most bigly Style of writing that Americans have Ever Seen from a President.

With Perdue as the Trumpy candidate, that makes Kemp the establishment candidate. Henry Olsen, who is most certainly a Republican, and is most certainly not a Trumper, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post headlined "Republicans must reject David Perdue's bid for Georgia governor," and previewing the tack that Kemp will likely take, namely that Perdue's bid is not about Stacey Abrams, it's about putting someone in the governor's mansion who will see to it that Republicans "win" all future elections there, no matter what it takes. Olsen also points out that this is bigger than Georgia, as the defeat of Kemp and/or Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) will throw the fear of God into Republican officeholders across the nation, while victories could give some backbone to those who are Trump-skeptical. Olsen concludes: "Georgia has now become ground zero for the battle over Trump's influence within the Republican Party. For Republicans who want to move on from Trump, and for former Republicans who want their party back, there's only option: make sure Brian Kemp wins."

That means that Stacey Abrams (D), who is not likely to face any serious opposition, can sit back and raise money while she watches the bloodsport taking place on the other side of the contest. And anyone who says they know how it will turn out is yanking your chain. The limited amount of polling has been inconclusive and, besides, the primary election is 6 months away (May 24). One complication is that Georgia is an open-primary state, which probably works to Kemp's benefit, since many Abrams voters will vote for him in order to block Perdue. Another complication is that there are other Republicans in the race, including at least one significant one in Vernon Jones. And if no Republican gets 50% of the votes plus one, then the top two will head to a runoff on June 21.

Also, don't forget that neither Kemp nor Perdue is all that popular in Georgia. In his first gubernatorial election, against Abrams in 2018, Kemp got 50.2% of the vote. Perdue, for his part, was sent packing with 49.4% of the vote in the 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate runoff, and in the election before that, in 2014, he got 52.9% of the vote. So, whichever candidate emerges from the primary process—very probably after two rounds of voting—is going to be bloody, hated by some huge percentage of his party's voters, and probably low on cash. In particular, if it becomes clear that Kemp prevailed on the strength of crossover Democratic votes, how enthusiastic do you think the Trump Republicans will be to vote for him?

Once the Republican battle royale is resolved, the survivor will get to face Abrams, who will not be bloody, will have the Democratic Party unified behind her, will have a huge war chest, and who will have probably registered another 100,000 Democratic voters while she was waiting. Surely, even with Georgia's restrictive new voting laws, her odds must be 50-50 or better at this point. And if those laws are struck down by the courts, then she might even be the favorite. (Z)

It's All about the Grift?, Part I

Please take careful note of the question mark in the headline. We're not making an affirmative declaration, we're just saying that grift looks like a real possibility in this item and the next one.

Anyhow, this particular item actually starts with some candidate news. To wit, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced yesterday that he will resign from his seat before the end of the year so that he can take over as CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group.

Nunes' decision is not terribly surprising. His seat is currently R+6 and, given that California's districts are going to be redrawn by an independent commission, he can't count on friends in high places to give him a little more of a cushion. It's certainly possible his district could end up R+8 or R+10, but it could also end up R+4 or R+2. And since the state is losing a seat, he could also end up facing off against some other incumbent. Given that he's not all that popular with his constituents, he simply could not be certain of reelection.

Meanwhile, there was also nowhere else for Nunes to go, ambition-wise. He used to be one of the "outrageous" Republicans in the House, but he's now been outdone on that front by a dozen or more of his colleagues. There's no future for him in House leadership, and no way he's getting elected to the U.S. Senate or to statewide office in California. So, he might as well get out while the gettin's good and make some money while doing so. Terms of his deal have not been announced, of course, but he's surely going to get more than the $174,000/year he's being paid right now.

Nunes is going to have to hit the ground running at his new job, because a rather serious problem has already presented itself. More than $1.25 billion in funds for Trump's new company were raised for the venture by Digital World Acquisition Corporation (DWAC). That is a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC), which is an instrument where people invest money with the basic instruction to go find a good company to buy. For that reason, they are sometimes called "blank check companies." SPACs are inherently kind of scammy, as they almost always enrich the sponsors and early investors and stick the remaining investors with losses.

Anyhow, SPACs are legal, even if they are kind of shady, and even if they do tend to contribute to stock market bubbles. The problem here is that DWAC was apparently in negotiations with Trump & Co. far earlier than they let on (May), and certainly much earlier than DWAC's public stock offering (October). This information was not shared with investors and it was omitted from SEC filings. That means that everyone involved with the transaction, including the officers of the Trump Media & Technology Group, may well be guilty of fraud.

You may not know this, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is not particularly fond of Donald Trump. She also has a passing familiarity with stock market manipulation. So, she sent a letter to the SEC on Nov. 17 in which she laid out—with a level of detail worthy of someone who is both an academic and a politician—the case that a crime might have been committed here. Maybe it was Warren's letter that did the trick, or maybe the SEC's antennae were already picking up bad vibes, or maybe it was both of those things. Oh, and the head of the SEC is Gary Gensler, a professor in the business school at M.I.T., someone Harvard professor Warren might just have run into on the bus along Mass. Ave. on the way to Boston one day. Who knows? And they certainly met during Gensler's confirmation hearing in the Senate. In any event, an SEC investigation is now underway.

In their announcement, the SEC cautioned that all that they are doing right now is fact-finding, and that "the investigation does not mean that the SEC has concluded that anyone violated the law." However, the known facts certainly don't look good for Trump & Co. And when he found out that the SEC was investigating, the former president was furious, slamming it as a "witch hunt" that could lead the nation to "pure communism." He doesn't generally react like that unless he feels threatened, so his rage just might be instructive. Meanwhile, one wonders if Nunes will have second thoughts about changing jobs. (Z)

It's All about the Grift?, Part II

As long as we're talking potential grift, there was also news about Trump acolyte Sidney Powell yesterday. It was already known that she founded a super PAC called Defending the Republic to fight the 2020 election results, and it was also known that the PAC was being investigated. Now, there are more pieces to the puzzle.

To start, it turns out that the PAC's haul was sizable—$14.9 million. And the bookkeeping was shady, as many of the checks were made out to Powell's law firm, and the location of many of the assets is known only to her. Robert Weaver was hired to serve as the PAC's Chief Financial Officer, and he quit after a few days because he couldn't get information about the PAC's true financial position. Overall, Defending the Republic appears to have spent about $5.5 million and to have over $9 million remaining. Although again, only Powell knows for sure.

On top of this, the founding of the PAC was...problematic, at best. Powell started collecting donations for Defending the Republic before the organization legally existed, which means that there are a couple of weeks of prime donation-collecting that are currently a mystery, and that could represent additional (unreported) millions. Eventually, an application was apparently made to the IRS to form a nonprofit, but nonprofits cannot have politics as their primary focus. Finally, at the start of December 2020, the PAC was formally incorporated.

At best, all of this information speaks to someone who has no idea what they are doing (which, by the way, is not a defense for breaking the law). At worst, it speaks to someone who was on the take, and who fleeced people for millions of dollars. In any case, federal prosecutors have their microscopes out, and are taking a very close look at everything. It does not help that Powell put at risk other folks who, like Weaver, have no particular loyalty to her, and no interest in going down in flames with her, and are willing to sing like canaries. In short, it's even more trouble for someone who already had several plates full of it. (Z)

Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Olympics Is a Go

It has long been hinted at, but now it's official: The United States will have a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic games, set to take place next February in Beijing. That means that American athletes will be there, but government officials will not. This is prompted by China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang," according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

China is not happy about the announcement. They did a little saber-rattling, threatening "resolute countermeasures," and also said the decision was not consistent with the "Olympic spirit." Of course, neither is the persecution of millions of Uyghurs, and the deaths of untold numbers of them.

IOC member Dick Pound also weighed in, opining that the boycott is unlikely to have much of an effect on the Chinese government. However, his opinion is worthless. And not because he's Canadian. No, it's because many IOC members are corrupt, and the remainder are really corrupt. Also, because he is misunderstanding (perhaps deliberately) what the real intent is here.

The Biden administration is under no illusions that the absence of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs is going to spur some sort of meaningful change in Chinese domestic policy. But if the administration boycotts the games completely, many people will be furious that the athletes worked so hard, only to be used as political pawns and to be denied the opportunity they aspired to for their whole lives. If the administration does nothing, then different people will be furious that the administration looked the other way when it came to Chinese misdeeds. A diplomatic boycott was the only real middle course, and is meant entirely for a domestic audience, not for Xi Jinping, and certainly not for Dick Pound and the IOC. (Z)

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Today, of course, is the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the incident that drew the United States into World War II as a formally declared belligerent (the Roosevelt administration had been involved behind the scenes for close to 2 years at that point).

In a semi-coincidence (it's not a full coincidence, as 80 years is a long time, after all), this weekend the United States lost the two men who might have been the most prominent living American veterans of the war. The first, of course, was Bob Dole. The other was Col. Edward Shames, the last living member of the "Band of Brothers," who passed at the age of 99. We're not sure who succeeds them as the most prominent living American veteran of the conflict; it's probably Pfc. Richard M. Barancik (the last of the "Monuments Men"), Benjamin B. Ferencz (the last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials), Hershel W. Williams (the only still-living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II), or James L. Buckley/Daniel J. Evans (after Dole's passing, the last two living people to have served in both World War II and the U.S. Senate).

It will not be long, of course, until all the folks who fought in World War II will be gone. The last known survivor of the U.S. Civil War was Albert Woolson, who died in 1956, 91 years after the end of the conflict (there were other claimants who died after Woolson, but all have been debunked). The last living American to have fought in World War I was Frank Buckles, who passed in 2011, 93 years after that conflict. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, roughly 240,000 still survive. Judging based on the Civil War/World War I, and allowing for the larger number of World War II veterans and the improved state of medical care, the last living World War II veteran will probably leave us in 2040 or so (i.e., 95 years after the war ended).

Does this have anything to do with modern politics (i.e., the focus of this site)? Yes, we would say so. Following the Civil War, the veterans of that conflict were pretty protective when it came to the story of that war—what happened, why it was fought, what the long-term lessons were, etc. That is not to say that all Civil War veterans' interpretations agreed—quite often, in fact, the vets disagreed bitterly with one another. But, pretty much to a man (and to a woman, in the case of the handful of women soldiers who managed to disguise their gender), they did not take kindly to outsiders stepping in to co-opt the war.

Over time, of course, the number of Civil War veterans shrank, and shrank, and shrank some more. Those who served were the most powerful political lobby in the country through the mid-1890s or so. From that decade through the 1910s, they were a notable faction, but no longer dominant. By the 1930s, the few thousand living survivors were a curiosity, and by the 1950s, of course, they were all gone.

That the veterans could no longer speak with as loud a voice by the 1910s or so opened the Civil War up to appropriation by non-veterans. At first, it was primarily politicians. For example, Woodrow Wilson used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg to emphasize the importance of national unity. Franklin D. Roosevelt used the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg to do the same thing. This may seem a curious lesson to draw from, you know, a civil war, but you know how politicians are. Both Wilson and FDR were referring to how the country came together after the war, of course, and specifically how the veterans of the war led the way. Never mind that this tale of unity is more fiction than fact, that it excludes many Americans (like, say, Black people), and that the great majority of Civil War veterans hated to be used in this way.

By 1945, with virtually all remaining Civil War soldiers dead and the remaining handful enfeebled by extreme old age, it was open season for those who desired to appropriate the memory of the war. Most famously, and most infamously, Southern reactionaries got the Confederate battle flag out of mothballs, dusted it off, and used it and the iconic figures of the Confederacy as rallying points in their white supremacist fight against the Civil Rights Movement. Others, including Lyndon B. Johnson (more justifiably) invoked the war in the name of fighting for civil rights. Still others, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, asserted that the real lesson of the Civil War was that communism must be defeated at all costs. (He did not explain exactly which side had the commies, though.) And all of this is before we consider the commercial exploitation of the war, particularly during the centennial (1961-65), with products including cereal, games, toys, shirts, hats, movies, TV shows, books, collectibles, artworks and, of course, guns:

Advertisement for a blue and gray set of commemorative
Colt pistols, which come in a Civil War-decorated box

How can you really consider yourself a true American if you don't have at least one set of Civil War-themed handguns?

This same process didn't exactly happen with World War I, which never achieved quite the same salience as the Civil War, in part because WWI didn't demand as much of Americans as the Civil War did, and in part because WWI was somewhat pushed aside by WWII, which started just 23 years later. However, we should definitely expect to see the same thing happen with World War II, particularly as the number of veterans and other survivors who might say "boo" fades. This is not a very difficult prediction to make, since we're already seeing it.

There are many Republicans today who seem to have approximately four historical references they are aware of, and two are from World War II—Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust (the other two are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.). There was a time when casually deploying Hitler, or Josef Mengele, or Auschwitz would have triggered a loud and angry response from those who helped win World War II (on the war front and on the home front), as well as from Holocaust survivors. But there just aren't enough of them to push back anymore, especially as the outrageous use of the war becomes more frequent.

It is not a surprise that it tends to be the far right (whether today, or in the 1950s), and sometimes the far left, that does this. There is a reason that terrorists use bombs: they have the weaker tactical position, and they're desperate to level the playing field. And that's exactly the same reason that people on the political fringes use popular historical events/figures to support their cause.

However, as several commentators have noted—most recently David A. Graham writing for The Atlantic—the modern Republican fringe is particularly outlandish in their invocation of "history." As Graham puts it, they "use history as a bludgeon, without regard to context, logic, or proportionality." Or, to put it another way, folks like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) either have no idea what they are talking about, or they just don't give a damn. Maybe it's both.

In other words, those Southern reactionaries back in the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s may have been behaving offensively according to modern standards, but at least they weren't being ahistorical. The Confederacy, its leaders, and its soldiers really did fight to sustain white supremacy. On the other hand, there is no comparison whatsoever between Anthony Fauci and Mengele, vaccine mandates are wholly incomparable to the Holocaust, and there is no Democrat in political office today who is similar to Adolf Hitler in any meaningful way.

We are aware, of course, that many on the left these days are comparing Donald Trump, his supporters, and his movement, to fascism. You could also describe such behavior as appropriating and distorting the legacy of World War II (though it's worth noting that not all the notable fascists of the 20th century were a part of that conflict). However, there are some historical parallels that are absolutely valid, and some circumstances where history does serve as cautionary tale. Just like the folks in the 1960s who said the real story of the Civil War was emancipation, it's our view that the "Trump has fascist tendencies" folks are on vastly more justifiable historical ground than the "Biden is implementing a new Holocaust" folks.

Anyhow, whenever a Trumper makes a historical reference these days—particularly to World War II, but really any historical reference—there is close to a 100% chance that it's pure BS. And it's not easy to push back against this nonsense, whether it's from a politician on a national stage, or a "friend" on Facebook, since the people who have the credibility to say "boo" are almost all gone. But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying, so that the service and the sacrifices of Dole, Shames, and all the others (including all four of Z's grandparents), along with the suffering of those millions who were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Stalin regime, and others are not twisted beyond all recognition.

Those are our thoughts on this notable occasion. We hope to answer a bunch of World War II questions in this week's Q&A, so if you have one, this would be a good time to send it along. (Z)

A December to Rhymember (Parts 5-6)

Today is the 11th day of the Advent, so we're going to be doing double duty for several more days to catch up. Here are the previous entries:

We'll get back to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as he was a very popular subject, but for now we'll move on to some of his fellow Republicans. First, from F.L. in Denton, TX:

Boebert and Gosar and Green
Acted very much like a teen.
They pandered quite fully
To any old bully,
And they all were terribly mean.

And then from J.B. in Sherman Oaks, CA:

This Congress is really obscene
With monsters like M. Taylor Greene
And everyone hates
Boebert and Gaetz
But McConnell is the most unclean

Again, we are still happy to receive submissions, if you care to try your hand. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec06 Manchin and Sinema Are Still Not on Board the S.S. Biden
Dec06 Secretary of State Races Will Get Top Billing in 2022
Dec06 Eastman Takes the Fifth
Dec06 Steve Bullock: Democrats Need to Get Out of the City More
Dec06 Maybe "Roe" Won't Save the Democrats
Dec06 Does Fox News Matter?
Dec06 Some Advice for the Democrats from a Lifelong Conservative Republican
Dec06 More Republicans than Democrats Are Dying of COVID-19
Dec06 "Democracy Has Failed"
Dec06 Truth Social Raises $1.25 Billion
Dec06 Bob Dole Is Dead
Dec06 A December to Rhymember (Parts 3-4)
Dec05 Sunday Mailbag
Dec04 Saturday Q&A
Dec03 Surprise! Crisis Averted!
Dec03 Republicans Stand for Nothing
Dec03 Murder Was (Almost) the Case
Dec03 Predictions: Trump Won't Run Again
Dec03 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec03 Talkin' 'bout Baseball
Dec03 A December to Rhymember (Parts 1-2)
Dec02 A Triple Play
Dec02 It's Not a Good Time to be on Team Trump
Dec02 Abrams Is In...
Dec02 ...and Baker Is Out
Dec02 McCormick Wants to Head to Washington...
Dec02 ...While Peter DeFazio Is Going to Leave
Dec02 It's a Lockout
Dec01 Today's the Day
Dec01 Appeals Court Appears to Be Ready to Reject Trump's Lawsuit
Dec01 Meadows Is Said to Be Cooperating with the Committee
Dec01 Trump Is Trying to Place Allies in Key Positions in Advance of 2024
Dec01 Trump Helps NRCC Raise $17 Million at One Dinner
Dec01 Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire in Pennsylvania
Dec01 Republicans Now Want to Support Anti-Vaxxers Financially
Dec01 Greece Imposes a 100-Euro Fine on Unvaccinated Seniors
Dec01 Atlanta Has a New Mayor
Nov30 Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar--meet Lauren Boebert
Nov30 Democrats Have Quite the To-Do List
Nov30 Obstruction Is Their Business, and Business Is Good
Nov30 Let the Conspiracies Begin
Nov30 Florida Republicans Embrace Their Inner Elbridge Gerry
Nov30 McConaughey Is Out
Nov30 Carrie Meek, 1926-2021
Nov29 Sunday in Virusland
Nov29 A New Milestone Is Here
Nov29 Is Trumpism Contagious?
Nov29 Michael Cohen: Allen Weisselberg Is Not the Key to Prosecuting Trump
Nov29 Ketanji Brown Jackson Is on the Panel Reviewing Subpoena Case
Nov29 Six Is Much More than Five