It’s better that we found out now!
June 23, 2022
No audio version due to travel.
At Tuesday’s hearing of the January 6th Committee, Rusty Bowers earned the admiration of a grateful nation for his principled refusal to surrender to Trump’s demands to overturn the 2020 election. On Wednesday, Bowers revealed that his principles and “faith” will not prevent him from voting for Trump in 2024. According to Bowers, he will vote for Trump because
what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.
Of course, Bowers skips over the part where Trump incited a violent insurrection to overturn two centuries of constitutional rule in America. That pesky fact is apparently less important to Bowers than what Trump did in his first term as president before losing the November election.
Bowers is apparently referring to Trump’s signature legislative achievement—reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. That tax cut resulted in a loss of revenue that propelled the budget deficit to near-record levels ($1 trillion) before the Covid stimulus packages. Setting aside the efforts of Bush and Obama to save the economy from collapse in the Great Recession of 2008, Trump owns the largest deficit of any US president.
Other Trump achievements include:
Legislation ending an Obama-era regulation that prevented coal-mining companies from dumping debris and waste into nearby streams;
Legislation ending financial disclosure requirements for energy firms;
Legislation repealing an Obama-era regulation requiring internet service providers to seek customers’ consent before sharing private data;
Legislation prohibiting the Department of Education from adopting the Common Core curriculum (which was created by agreement among the states, not the federal government);
Imposing protectionist tariffs on China that were paid for by US consumers; and
Pardoning Jared Kushner’s father (Charles Kushner), Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
And let’s not forget the ban on travel from Muslim countries, separating children from parents at the border, and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a “wall to nowhere.”
Ah, yes, Rusty Bowers! Those were the “good old days” when government favored business over the people’s interest in privacy, the environment, education, and financial transparency, and when the president’s “cronies” received a “Get Out of Jail Free” card!
As discussed in The Atlantic’s article, The Comment That Reveals the Depths of the Republican Party’s Moral Collapse, Bowers is not the only allegedly “principled” Republican who has opposed Trump in the past but who is now happy to vote for Trump in 2024. Susan Collins? Yup! Brad Raffensperger? Of course! Mitch McConnell? Need you ask? Bill Barr? Faster than you can say, “Vladimir Putin”!
The fact that “principled” Republicans can overlook the stray coup and occasional insurrection so long as businesses receive tax cuts is worrisome, to say the least. It highlights the fact that there is no substitute for putting Trump behind bars for the rest of his life. If we don’t, faux patriots like Rusty Bowers will campaign for Trump in 2024 without regard to the threat he poses to our democracy.
The DOJ issues subpoenas relating to “fake electors” scheme.
Per the Washington Post, the DOJ has delivered subpoenas in multiple states directed at “fake electors.” See WaPo, Jan. 6 probe expands with new subpoenas focused on false electors. I will not criticize this effort for being a year too late. Instead, I will praise it for being an important warning to Trump supporters who believe they can impersonate duly elected electors in 2024. That is good. Let’s hope the DOJ moves with all deliberate speed.
January 6th Committee expands hearing schedule.
The work of the January 6th Committee has exceeded all expectations. It continues to gather new evidence, including a previously undisclosed “documentary” that recorded Trump family members in the weeks before January 6th. The filmmakers also have footage of “the Capitol grounds” on January 6th, although it is not clear if that includes footage of Trump himself. The existence of the footage is causing panic among Trump allies. See Politico, Trump aides ‘blindsided’ by subpoenaed footage.
The Committee may also be extending its presentations to include new information about the role of Ginni Thomas in the attempted coup. The Committee recently received a new batch of emails from John Eastman pursuant to an order by federal Judge Carter in California.
One of the emails in the new batch includes a statement by Eastman that four Supreme Court justices are in “a heated fight” over taking up a Trump challenge to the 2020 election. See NYTimes, Trump Lawyer Cited ‘Heated Fight’ Among Justices Over Election Suits.
Hmm . . . Aren’t deliberations on the Supreme Court supposed to be confidential? Where would John Eastman learn about “heated” discussions among the justices? Here’s my guess: Ginni Thomas!
If Ginni Thomas was the source of those leaks, she learned the information from Justice Clarence Thomas. Chief Justice Roberts may have a once-in-the-life-of-the-republic scandal on his hands. If he wants to get ahead of this scandal, he should start his own investigation ASAP! Otherwise, the January 6th Committee will overtake his efforts and wrest all control from the Chief Justice.
Supreme Court calendar.
The Supreme Court announced that it has added one day—this Friday—for releasing opinions from the 2022 term. The Hill, Supreme Court adds extra decision day on Friday. The additional day for announcing opinions strongly suggests that the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health will be released on Friday of this week.
The Gun Safety bill in the Senate.
The text of the proposed Senate bill is here: Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Before you invest time in pouring over its provisions, you should know that the bill is opposed by (a) the NRA, (b) Donald Trump, and (c) House Republicans. See CNN, House GOP leaders oppose bipartisan gun deal as Senate moves toward passage
Speaking of House Republicans, on Wednesday, they opposed the creation of a national “Active Shooter Alert System.” The Hill, House fails to pass bill creating active shooter alert system. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the bill. Per The Hill, “one Democrat, Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.), voted with 161 Republicans against the bill.”
Please excuse my allusion to profanity, but WTF?? Do House Republicans want to ensure that mass shooters at schools get a “head start” killing children before an “all hands” alert goes out to law enforcement? The vote of the 161 Republicans against the bill is despicable.
The actions of Republicans in the House cause me to worry that even the modest provisions of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will fail. I hope I am wrong, but predicting the bottom of GOP depravity is a fool’s errand.
The limits of religious liberty for a Christian Supreme Court?
If you have been paying attention, you will know that the Supreme Court has set religious liberty above all other rights. To date, the contours of the Court’s religious liberty doctrine have conformed precisely to the contours of Christian evangelical theology. The Court’s newfound commitment to religious liberty is about to be tested in a case brought by a Jewish synagogue in Florida that claims the state’s ban on abortion violates their religious beliefs. See Talking Points Memo, Florida Synagogue Sues To Challenge 15-Week Abortion Ban As Violation Of Jewish Law.
Conservative commentators are already trotting out arguments claiming that Jewish beliefs are not entitled to the same constitutional respect as Christian beliefs. See the essay by Josh Black in his article in Reason, Tentative Thoughts On The Jewish Claim To A “Religious Abortion”. Josh Black writes, in part:
Every Jew can look to faith in his own fashion. And there is no obligation to be consistent. A Jew could hold one opinion in the morning, and then change his mind over lunch, and go back to the original position after dinner. The old saw, “Two Jews, Three Opinions”, is apt.
Black then concludes that
The legal concept of a “substantial burden,” which was developed in the context of Christian faiths, does not neatly map onto a Jewish faith that does not actually impose any requirements on congregants, but instead only offers aspirational principles.
Got that? Christians are substantially burdened when someone asks them to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, but when Florida tells Jews they can’t access abortion rights permitted by their faith it’s “no big deal” because Jewish law “only offers aspirational principles.” At its core, this argument boils down to “My religion is better than your religion.” It is offensive, grotesque, and unconstitutional.
Dahlia Lithwick and Micah Schwartzman demolish Josh Black’s argument in their essay in Slate, Do proponents of religious liberty really intend to dispute the religious commitments of Jews? They write, in part,
It should go without saying that liberal Jews—like so many other liberal and progressive believers and nonbelievers—have deep and abiding religious and ethical obligations. But as a legal matter, they don’t have to stand on those obligations in order to show that the state has violated their religious freedom. If Jews sincerely believe that their religious values motivate their decisions . . . that is the end of the “substantial burden” inquiry for federal and state courts.
However offensive you may find Josh Black’s arguments, we cannot assume they will be rejected by Trump’s reactionary majority on the Supreme Court, which has shown “no obligation to be consistent” when interpreting the Constitution. Our remedy is to expand the Court before it can adopt Josh Black’s “my religion is better than your religion” approach to the First Amendment.
The abrupt about-face by Rusty Bowers was a bitter blow, but a good reminder. Republicans routinely exploit the tendency of Democrats to assume the best in people, to seek compromise, and to take the high road. Those are admirable qualities that Democrats should not abandon. But Democrats must be clear-eyed in their assessment of who is on the side of democracy and who opposes it. Sadly, Rusty Bowers supports a leader striving to end democracy to satisfy his insatiable desire for adulation, money, and pardons.
We should not bemoan what we learned about Mr. Bowers. We should be thankful that we found out before it was too late. The truth is that we don’t need Trump’s base to win in 2022 and 2024. Republicans are the fourth largest voting bloc in America. Democrats are the third largest, and Independents are the second. “Did not vote” is the largest. We need to persuade members of the first and second groups to join us in defending democracy.
In the next forty-eight hours, the reactionary majority will make us less safe by allowing everyone to carry a concealed weapon in public and less free by telling women when they must bring a child into the world. Democrats must energize and engage Democrats and members of the two largest blocs of voters in America: Independents and “Did not vote.” That means breaking the record-breaking turnout of 2018 and 2020. With the help of the January 6th Committee presentations and the attack on safety and liberty by the reactionary majority, we have a good chance of achieving that lofty goal. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!
I will be traveling for the next five days but will have access to the internet. Given the Thursday hearing by the January 6th Committee and the expected rulings from the Court, I plan to publish a newsletter every day. The timing of publication may be earlier or later than usual because of transit but look for the newsletter in your inbox on Friday and Saturday (at least).
Stay strong! Talk to you tomorrow!