Plea deal requires Weisselberg to testify at Trump Organization trial

August 19, 2022

Allen Weisselberg—the CFO of the Trump Organization and for decades one of Donald Trump’s most trusted executives—reached a deal to plead guilty on Thursday, August 18, and admit to participating in a long-running tax scheme at the former president’s family business, reports The New York Times

Weisselberg will have to admit to all 15 felonies that prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office accused him of, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And if he is called as a witness at the company’s trial in October, he will have to testify about his role in the scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish corporate perks, the people said.

But Weisselberg will not implicate Trump or his family if he takes the stand in that trial, the people said, and he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors in their broader investigation into Trump, who has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Even so, his potential testimony will put the Trump Organization at a disadvantage and is likely to make Weisselberg a central witness at the October trial, during which the company will face many of the same charges.

On cross-examination, the Trump Organization’s lawyers could accuse Weisselberg of pleading guilty only to spare himself a harsher sentence: Under the terms of the plea deal, . Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, will spend as little as 100 days behind bars. They might also argue that it would be unfair to hold the Trump Organization accountable for a crime that was not committed by the Trump family, who control the company.

But Weisselberg’s testimony—an acknowledgment from one of the Trump Organization’s top executives that he committed the crimes listed in the indictment—would undercut any effort by the company’s lawyers to contend that no crime was committed.

The indictment placed Weisselberg at the center of a conspiracy that prosecutors said allowed him to avoid paying taxes on leased Mercedes-Benzes, an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

Prosecutors have said other employees benefited from a similar arrangement, but no one else has been charged with a crime. Weisselberg’s testimony could help prosecutors prove their broader claims.

The prosecutors also essentially accused him of conspiring with the Trump Organization, which he will have to acknowledge at his plea hearing on Thursday and at the trial, if he is called as a witness.

Earlier in August, Trump’s refusal to answer questions about the tax scheme came on the heels of the FBI’s search of his Florida home as part of an unrelated criminal investigation. He also faces scrutiny in Washington, D.C., and in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In Manhattan, the investigation has long presented a significant threat to Trump. For years, District Attorney Cy Vance’s prosecutors sought his tax returns—a battle that reached the Supreme Court twice. Before the court ruled in the district attorney’s favor, Bloomberg News reported on some of the perks that Weisselberg had received; leading prosecutors to more closely scrutinize the chief financial officer’s conduct.

In the indictment, prosecutors said that Weisselberg avoided reporting his perks to tax authorities, and that they were not reflected in the Trump Organization’s general ledger, even though they were tracked on spreadsheets within the company.

Even after his indictment, Weisselberg refused to cooperate against Trump as the office continued its investigation into the former president. Before leaving office at the end of the year, Vance directed prosecutors to begin presenting evidence about the former president to a grand jury.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg was sworn in on January 1 and, after weeks of meetings about the case, he developed concerns about proving that Trump had intended to commit a crime. The grand jury stopped hearing evidence and, in February, the two prosecutors leading the investigation resigned, leaving the investigation’s future uncertain.

Bragg has defended the inquiry and said that it has continued. But Weisselberg has refused to cooperate with the broader investigation, and that decision made a plea deal in his own case elusive, the people said.

Even without his cooperation against the Trump family, the negotiations gained steam in recent weeks, culminating in a meeting on Monday, August 15, among Weisselberg’s lawyers, prosecutors, and the State Supreme Court judge presiding over the case.

The judge won’t sentence Weisselberg until after the Trump Organization’s trial, providing prosecutors some leverage over him until the time that he may testify. If the judge finds that. Weisselberg did not live up to the terms of the plea agreement, he can impose a stiffer sentence than the expected five months.

It is unclear where Weisselberg would serve his time, but defendants who receive sentences of less than a year are generally sent to one of the jails on Rikers Island. If Weisselberg were to be sent there, he would be likely to be held in protective custody. His lawyers could also ask that he be placed in a medical ward, or could seek home confinement.

Research contact: @nytimes

Liz Cheney considers run for president after Republican primary defeat

August 18, 2022

Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney has announced she is considering her own run for the White House in an all-out effort to prevent Donald Trump from winning another term as U.S. president, reports The Guardian.

Cheney decisively lost her Republican primary race on Tuesday night, August 16, and will lose her seat in the U.S. Congress.

The Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman beat Cheney by almost 40 points as Wyoming voters took revenge for her voting to impeach Trump and for focusing on her role on the January 6 House select committee.

The panel—on which Cheney serves as vice-chair and is one of only two Republicans—is investigating Trump’s role in fomenting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on 6 January 2021, in a vain attempt to stay in office following his defeat by Joe Biden.

Cheney was asked on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday morning whether she was thinking of running for president. She did not respond to the question directly but, when pressed a second time, admitted she was.

“It’s something I’m thinking about, and I’ll make a decision in the coming months,” she said.

On Tuesday night she said she would “do whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office”. After her loss to Hageman by almost 60,000 votes was confirmed, aides revealed the former House number three planned to set up her own political action committee.

“In coming weeks, Liz will be launching an organization to educate the American people about the ongoing threat to our republic, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president,” Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler told Politico Playbook.

NBC confirmed on Wednesday that it will be named The Great Task, which was the title of Cheney’s final pitch to Wyoming voters, and features in the closing sentence of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

On Wednesday, Cheney laid out her priorities for the next few months before leaving the House in January.

Beyond “representing the people of Wyoming”, she said: “We have a tremendous amount of work left to do on the January 6 committee. And also, though, I’m going to be making sure that people all around this country understand the stakes of what we’re facing, understand the extent to which we’ve now got one major political party, my party, which has really become a cult of personality.

“We’ve got to get this party back to a place where we’re embracing the values and the principles on which it was founded. And talking about fundamental issues of civics, fundamental issues of what does it mean to be a constitutional republic.”

Cheney, daughter of former Republican vice-president Dick Cheney, attacked both Trump and the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, the architect of her ousting from the party’s House leadership in May 2021 after she denounced the former president’s false claims of a stolen election. She expressed her belief that “the Republican party today is in very bad shape”.

“Donald Trump has betrayed Republican voters. He’s lied to them. Those who support him have lied to them and they’re using people’s patriotism against them,” she said.

“They’re preying on people’s patriotism. Kevin McCarthy made his decision a few weeks after January 6, knowing what he knew about Donald Trump’s role in the assault on the Capitol, when he went to Mar-a-Lago and said we’re going to welcome him back into the party. To me, that’s indefensible.

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat, a risk to our republic, and I think defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. That’s what I intend to be a part of.”

To some in the crowd of supporters on Tuesday night—gathered in an open field beside a red vintage Chevrolet truck, four U.S. national flags, a dozen hay bales, and a hospitality tent—it already sounded like the launch of a presidential campaign.

Research contact: @guardian

Justice Department objects to releasing affidavit used to search Trump’s home

August 17, 2022

On Monday, August 15, the Justice Department contested making public the affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida—saying its release would “compromise future investigative steps” and “likely chill” cooperation with witnesses, reports The New York Times.

In a 13-page pleading, filed in a federal court in southern Florida in response to requests by The New York Times and other news organizations to make public the evidence included in the document, prosecutors suggested that the department has undertaken a broad, intensive inquiry into Trump’s handling of some of the most secret documents of the government after he left office.

The prosecutors acknowledged interviewing witnesses in connection with the investigation of. Trump’s retention of the material. They also wrote that releasing the document could compromise the continuing investigation.

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses,” prosecutors wrote. They added that releasing the affidavit could harm “other high-profile investigations,” as well.

One of the reasons proposed by the government for not releasing the affidavit was to protect the identities of witnesses against death threats. On Monday, prosecutors in Pennsylvania unsealed charges against a man accused of repeatedly threatening to kill F.B.I. agents in the days after Trump’s property was searched.

The magistrate judge who signed the search warrant, Bruce E. Reinhart, ultimately will decide whether the affidavit should be released. It is unclear when he will rule on the news media’s request.

According to the Times, “The legal—and political—aftershocks from the search were still reverberating a week after F.B.I. agents appeared at the resort while the president was at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey.”

Trump—who has accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt” and roughly rifling through his family’s possessions—claimed on Monday that the government “stole my three Passports,” in a post on Truth Social, the online platform he founded.

By late Monday, the Justice Department had contacted Trump’s legal team to retrieve the three passports—two of them expired and the third an active diplomatic passport, according to one of the former president’s lawyers, Evan Corcoran, and a spokesman for the department.

In a statement late Monday, the F.B.I. said that it “follows search and seizure procedures ordered by courts; then, returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes.”

Garland agreed last week to release the warrant used to search Trump’s private club, but has resisted attempts to make public the underlying affidavit—a far more sensitive document that should contain, among other things, the reasons prosecutors believe there was probable cause that evidence of a crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The investigation into the mishandling of government documents—while known for months—had not been considered to be as significant as the department’s sprawling investigation into the attack on the Capitol, which has been moving closer to Trump and his top advisers.

Federal agents removed top secret documents when they searched Trump’s residence last week as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant made public on Friday.

At least one lawyer for Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said.

Even as the former president counterattacked, new details emerged of how Trump and his inner circle flouted the norms, and possibly the laws, governing their handling of government records.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Trump and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the man who oversaw presidential records in the chaotic closing days of the administration, failed to organize an effort to collect, box, and deliver materials to the National Archives — as prior presidents former Vice President Mike Pence, did.

Instead, they often focused on settling political grievances and personal grudges, they said.

In the weeks leading up to Trump’s departure from the White House, officials discussed what to do about material that he had at various points taken up to the residence and that needed to be properly stored and returned.

By then, the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, known for trying to keep systems in place, had left the administration. Meadows said he would address such issues, according to a senior administration official.

As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Pence’s senior aides—Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel—indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work.

Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him, one of the officials said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Judge rules Graham must comply with Georgia grand jury subpoena

August 16, 2022

A federal judge ruled on Monday, August 15, that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) must comply with a special grand jury subpoena from the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney, who is investigating former President Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia officials into overturning the state’s 2020 election results, reports The Hill.

 U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May denied Graham’s motion not to comply with the subpoena—rejecting his arguments that he has testimonial immunity from state judicial proceedings as a federal legislator.

 In a 22-page decision, May said the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause, which shields members of Congress from being compelled to testify in court about their legislative work, does not warrant quashing the subpoena as Graham had requested. 

 “In sum, the Court finds that there are considerable areas of potential grand jury inquiry falling outside the Speech or Debate Clause’s protections,” May, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, wrote.

 “Additionally, sovereign immunity fails to shield Senator Graham from testifying before the Special Purpose Grand Jury. Finally, though Senator Graham argues that he is exempt from testifying as a high-ranking government official, the Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections.”

 A spokesperson for Graham said the senator would appeal, which he had vowed to do before Monday’s decision during a press conference last week.

 “This is ridiculous,” Graham said. “This weaponization of the law needs to stop. So I will use the courts. We will go as far as we need to go and do whatever needs to be done to make sure that people like me can do their jobs without fear of some county prosecutor coming after you.”

 Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) subpoenaed Graham in July, seeking his testimony in the investigation into a scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Willis’s office cited phone conversations that the South Carolina senator had with a pair of Georgia officials in the weeks after Election Day.

 Research contact: @thehill

Newsweek: An informer told the FBI what docs Trump was hiding—and where

August 15, 2022

The raid on Mar-a-Lago on Monday, August 8, was based largely on information from an  FBI  confidential human source—one who was able to identify exactly which classified documents former President Donald Trump still was hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials have leaked to Newsweek.

Who was that insider? Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen weighed in on the matter, telling Business Insider that he wouldn’t be surprised if the informant turned out to be Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, or one of [Trump’s] hildren.

Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff for Trump, has speculated that, if an FBI informant in Trump’s camp did exist, he or she would likely be one of the six to eight people closest to the former president.

Mulvaney spoke to CNN on Thursday about the FBI’s Monday raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. He said that he thought the informant whose tip-off sparked the raid was likely someone deeply embedded in Trump’s orbit and “really close” to him.

As for the rationale for the raid, both senior government officials who spoke to Newsweek said that the raid was scheduled with no political motive; the FBI solely intent on recovering highly classified documents that were illegally removed from the White House.

Preparations to conduct such an operation began weeks ago, but in planning the date and time, the FBI Miami Field Office and Washington headquarters were focused on the former president’s scheduled return to Florida from his residences in New York and New Jersey.

“They were seeking to avoid any media circus,” says the second source, a senior intelligence official who was briefed on the investigation and the operation. “So even though everything made sense bureaucratically and the FBI feared that the documents might be destroyed, they also created the very firestorm they sought to avoid, in ignoring the fallout.”
On Monday at about 9 a.m. EDT, two dozen FBI agents and technicians showed up at Donald Trump’s Florida home to execute a search warrant to obtain any government-owned documents that might be in the possession of Trump—but actually had been required to be delivered to the Archives under the provisions of the 1978 Presidential Records Act. (In response to the Hillary Clinton email scandal, Newsweek cites that Trump, himself, signed a law in 2018 that made it a felony to remove and retain classified documents.)

The act establishes that presidential records are the property of the U.S. government and not a president’s private property. Put in place after Watergate to avoid the abuses of the Nixon Administration, the law imposes strict penalties for failure to comply. “Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined” $2,000, up to three years in prison or “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”

The act, and concerns about the illegal possession of classified “national defense information” are the basis for the search warrant, according to the two sources. The raid had nothing to do with the January 6 investigation or any other alleged wrongdoing by the former president.

The road to the raid began a year-and-a-half ago, when in the transition from the Trump Administration to that of President Joe Biden, there were immediate questions raised by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as to whether the presidential records turned over to the federal agency for historical preservation were complete or not.

In February, Archivist David Ferriero testified before Congress that his agency began talking with Trump’s people right after they left office and that the Trump camp had already returned 15 boxes of documents to the Archives. Ferriero said that in those materials, the Archives discovered items “marked as classified national security information,” unleashing further inquiries as to whether Trump continued to possess classified material, Newsweek says.

The basic outlines of the facts surrounding this timeline have been confirmed by the former president. He has previously said that he was returning any official records to the Archives, labeling any confusion in the matter as “an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”

Trump also claimed the Archives “did not ‘find’ anything” in what he had already been returned, suggesting that there was nothing sensitive. He said the documents had inadvertently shipped to Florida during the six-hour transition period in which his belongings were moved.

According to the Justice Department source, the Archives saw things differently, believing that the former White House was stonewalling and continued to possess unauthorized material. Earlier this year, they asked the Justice Department to investigate.

In late April, the source says, a federal grand jury began deliberatingv whether there was a violation of the Presidential Records Act or whether President Trump unlawfully possessed national security information. Through the grand jury process, the National Archives provided federal prosecutors with copies of the documents received from former President Trump in January 2022. The grand jury concluded that there had been a violation of the law, according to the Justice Department source.

In the past week, the prosecutor in the case and the local Assistant U.S. Attorney went to Florida magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart in West Palm Beach to seek approval for the search of Donald Trump’s private residence.

The affidavit to obtain the search warrant, the intelligence source says, contained abundant and persuasive detail that Trump continued to possess the relevant records in violation of federal law, and that investigators had sufficient information to prove that those records were located at Mar-a-Lago—including the detail that they were contained in a specific safe in a specific room.

“In order for the investigators to convince the Florida judge to approve such an unprecedented raid, the information had to be solid, which the FBI claimed,” says the intelligence source.

Indeed, The Washington Post reported on August 12, ‘Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The senior Justice Department source says that Attorney General Merrick Garland was regularly briefed on the Records Act investigation, and that he knew about the grand jury and what material federal prosecutors were seeking.

FBI director Christopher Wray ultimately gave his go-ahead to conduct the raid, the senior Justice official says. “It really is a case of the Bureau misreading the impact.”

In consideration of that impact—which included demands from Congress and from the American people for the details of the search—on August 11, Attorney General Garland asked the judge to approve the release of the details of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, pending approval by Trump’s lawyers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, late on August 11, the former president said on his social-media site that he wouldn’t oppose the release of the court documents, encouraging their “immediate release,” while adding he viewed the process as partisan.

Trump was given a copy of the warrant and a list of items that were taken during the search and his aides had previously declined requests to release them. According to people familiar with the search, some of the documents contained highly classified national-security information.

Research contact: @Newsweek

‘We’re not releasing a copy of the warrant’: Trump allies ‘circling the wagons’ after Mar-A-Lago search

August 11, 2022

Former President Donald Trump has no plans to release a copy of the search warrant that FBI agents obtained for his residence at Mar-A-Lago, reports Raw Story.

To do so, would expose the reasons for the search—and that is not something that the former president is willing to do.

Trump is free to share a copy of the warrant to clear up confusion about what investigators were looking for, but a source close to the president told NBC News that it’s the DOJ‘s responsibility to notify the public, but not Trump’s.

“No, we’re not releasing a copy of the warrant,” the source said, adding that there was a “complete circling of the wagons” by the Republican Party around the former president.

Trump’s legal team had been in discussions with the Justice Department as recently as early June about classified records stored at Mar-A-Lago, and his attorney Christina Bobb said the FBI removed about a dozen boxes from a basement storage area.

Bobb also said the search warrant indicated they were investigating possible violations of laws covering the handling of classified material and the Presidential Records Act.

She said DOJ officials said they did not believe the storage unit was properly secured, but she said Trump officials added a padlock to the door that FBI agents later broke when they executed the search warrant.

Trump had already returned 15 boxes of documents that the National Archives and Records Administration said had been improperly removed from the White House at the end of his presidency.

Research contact: @RawStory

Trump’s private residence in Florida is searched by F.B.I.

August 10, 2022

Former President Donald Trump said on Monday, August 8, that the F.B.I. had conducted what he referred to as an “unannounced” search of his Palm Beach, Florida, home on the grounds of the private Mar-a-Lago Club, and had broken open a safe—an account signaling a major escalation in the various investigations into the final stages of his presidency, reports The New York Times.

The search, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation, appeared to be focused on material that the former president had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, when he left the White House. Those boxes contained many pages of classified documents, according to a person familiar with their contents.

Trump delayed returning 15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives for many months, only doing so when there became a threat of action to retrieve them. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the archives early this year.

According to the Times, “The search marked the latest remarkable turn in the long-running investigations into Trump’s actions before, during and after his presidency—and even as he weighs announcing another candidacy for the White House.”

It came as the Justice Department has stepped up its separate inquiry into Trump’s efforts to remain in office after his defeat at the polls in the 2020 election and as the former president also faces an accelerating criminal inquiry in Georgia and civil actions in New York.

Trump has long cast the F.B.I. as a tool of Democrats who have been out to get him—and the search set off a furious reaction among his supporters in the Republican Party and on the far right of American politics. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, suggested that he intended to investigate Attorney General Merrick Garland if Republicans took control of the House in November.

The Times notes that the F.B.I. would have needed to convince a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant. Proceeding with a search on a former president’s home would almost surely have required sign-off from top officials at the bureau and the Justice Department.

The search, however, does not mean prosecutors have determined that Mr. Trump committed a crime.

An F.B.I. representative declined to comment, as did Justice Department officials. The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, was appointed by Trump.

Trump was in the New York area at the time of the search. “Another day in paradise,” he said Monday night during a telephone rally for Sarah Palin, who is running for a congressional seat in Alaska.

Eric Trump, one of his sons, told Fox News that he was the one who informed his father that the search was taking place, and he said the search warrant was related to presidential documents.

Trump, who campaigned for president in 2016 criticizing Hillary Clinton’s practice of maintaining a private email server for government-related messages while she was secretary of state, was known throughout his term to rip up official material that was intended to be held for presidential archives. One person familiar with his habits said that included classified material that was shredded in his bedroom and elsewhere.

The search was at least in part for whether any records remained at the club, a person familiar with it said. It took place on Monday morning, the person said, although Trump said agents were still there many hours later.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, maintaining it was an effort to stop him from running for president in 2024. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Democrats’ big climate, healthcare, and tax package clears major Senate hurdle

August 9, 2022

The U.S. Senate voted on Sunday, August 7, to advance a sweeping climate and economic bill with the support of all 50 Democrats—bringing long-stalled elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda one step closer to reality, reports NBC News.

The procedural vote on the filibuster-proof package was 51-50, with all Republicans opposing the motion to begin debate and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.  The bill will be sent to the House in the coming days.

The legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, includes major spending to combat climate change and extend healthcare coverage, paid for with savings on prescription drugs and taxes on corporations. It puts hundreds of billions of dollars toward deficit reduction.

“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on the floor before the vote.

“It’s going to mean a lot for the families and the people of our country,” Harris told NBC News as she arrived to break the 50-50 tie.

The procedural vote, during a rare weekend session, kicks off several hours of debate, followed by a “vote-a-rama”—a process in which senators can offer virtually unlimited amendments that require a simple majority of votes to adopt.

The legislation isn’t subject to the filibuster—it is being pursued through a special process called reconciliation, which allows Democrats to pass it on their own. But the process includes limits; policies included in the bill must be related to spending and taxes, and the legislation has to comply with a strict set of budget rules. It’s the same process Democrats used to pass the American Rescue Plan in 2021 and Republicans used to pass the Trump tax cuts of 2017.

Before Sunday’s vote, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that key Democratic provisions on clean energy and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices passed muster and could be included in the inflation package, Democratic leaders said.

“While there was one unfortunate ruling in that the inflation rebate is more limited in scope,” Schumer said, “the overall program remains intact and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”

The Democrats-only package, which includes several pieces of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, was long thought to be dead after Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)rejected a larger bill in December. He cut a deal last week with Schumer, pleasantly surprising many of his Democratic colleagues, and has since been on a media blitz to sell it.

“It’s a red, white and blue bill,” Manchin said recently on MSNBC, calling it “one of the greatest pieces of legislation” and “the bill that we need to fight inflation, to have more energy.”

On Thursday, August 4,  Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), following a week of silence, signed off on the bill after securing some changes to it.

Sinema forced Democrats to remove a provision that would have limited the carried interest tax break, which enables wealthy hedge fund and investment managers to pay a lower tax rate.

Instead, it was replaced by a new 1% excise tax on stock buybacks that is expected to bring in $74 billion—five times as much as the carried interest provision, Schumer said. Sinema also secured $4 billion in funding for drought prevention in Arizona and other western states.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said on Friday, August 5, that the amendment process would be unpleasant. “What will vote-a-rama be like? It’ll be like hell,” he said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Dick Cheney calls Trump a ‘coward’ in campaign ad for his daughter

August 8, 2022

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in a campaign ad for his elder daughter, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming)—who serves as Vice Chair of the January 6 Committee—said former president Donald Trump is a “coward” and the greatest threat to the nation in its 246-year history, reports The Washington Post.

“He is a coward,” Cheney says in the ad, which was released on Thursday, August 4. “A real man wouldn’t lie to his supporters. He lost his election, and he lost big. I know it, he knows it, and deep down I think most Republicans know it.”

Liz Cheney faces a tough primary on August 16 for Wyoming’s sole congressional seat, with Trump-backed Harriet Hageman favored to win.

Trump, Cheney said, “tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him.”

The former president has repeatedly spread false claims of voter fraud and a rigged election, the Post reports. The House impeached him on a charge of inciting an insurrection for the January 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters intent on stopping the confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college win.

“In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump,” Dick Cheney says.

In the ad, the former vice president wears a white cowboy hat and speaks directly to the camera. He says he and his wife, Lynne Cheney, are proud of Liz Cheney for “standing up for the truth, doing what is right, honoring her oath to the Constitution when so many in our own party are too scared to do so.”

Liz Cheney was ousted from her spot as the House’s No. 3 Republican after she voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection.

“Liz is fearless. She never backs down from a fight,” her father says in the ad. “There is nothing more important she will ever do than lead the effort to make sure Donald Trump is never near the Oval Office again. And she will succeed.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

With climate deal in sight, Democratic hopes hinge on Sinema

August 5, 2022

Now that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is on board, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the final holdout on her party’s domestic agenda. So far, she’s staying characteristically silent, reports The New York Times.

Sinema—an inscrutable lawmaker who has shown a willingness to buck her party, according to the Times—has replaced Manchin as the most prominent and speculated-upon holdout on his party’s major climate, energy and tax package.

On Tuesday, August 2, he approached her on the Senate floor with a hushed entreaty. The results are still unknown.  “She’ll make a decision based on the facts,” Manchin told reporters later, calling it “a good talk.”

While Senator Manchin has embraced the public scrutiny and attention that comes with being a swing vote in the evenly divided Senate, Senator Sinema has remained a tight-lipped enigma. Passage of the Democrats’ major domestic policy initiative, negotiated by Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, now hinges on whether she is willing to support it.

So far, Senator Sinema won’t say—putting her colleagues in a perilous position as they rush to move the package forward as early as this week and toil to unite all 50 members of their caucus behind it. Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the plan, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in energy and climate proposals, tax increases, extended health care subsidies and a plan aimed at lowering prescription drug prices—meaning Democrats cannot spare a single vote if all Republicans are present.

Party leaders also will have to maneuver the bill through a series of rapid-fire amendments that could pass if any Democrat joins Republicans in support. With Manchin enthusiastically embarking on a media tour to celebrate the measure, fears of failure were now being fueled by Sinema’s characteristic silence.

A spokesperson for Sinema has said that the senator continues to review the legislation and wait for guidance from top Senate rules officials, who are analyzing whether it meets the strict rules that apply under the budget reconciliation process. Democrats are using the reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a filibuster and speed it through Congress.

Top Democrats on Wednesday were quietly weighing what potential changes to the bill, particularly to its tax provisions, might be needed to win Sinema’s support, as the Arizona senator was preparing her own wish list.

While she voted for the initial $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that allowed Democrats to begin work on the legislation, Sinema has not offered explicit support for many pieces of the current package, most notably much of the tax increases included to pay for it.

Doubt about Sinema’s support has centered on her past opposition to a proposal aimed at limiting the carried interest preferential tax treatment for income earned by venture capitalists and private equity firms. A similar proposal was among the tax changes that Manchin and Schumer included in their deal.

Manchin and other Democrats have said the provision would ensure fairness in the nation’s tax code. But Sinema, who resisted many of the tax rate increases her colleagues had pushed for, has privately signaled she wants the carried interest measure removed.

She also is pushing to add funds for drought resiliency, given that her state has struggled with devastating water shortages, according to officials briefed on the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive negotiations.

Politico first reported the request from Sinema, whose state is currently in its 27th consecutive year of drought, according to the state’s climate office.

Sinema, like most of her colleagues, was blindsided by news of the deal between Manchin and Schumer and its details. Manchin has said that he intentionally did not confide in or consult other Democrats during final negotiations to salvage the climate and tax proposals because, he told reporters on Monday, “I wasn’t ever sure that we would get to a finale, to get a completed bill.”

It was unclear whether Democrats would be willing to strike the tax break for wealthy executives altogether to win over Sinema. Estimates suggest it would raise about $14 billion, a small portion of the $740 billion plan.

Party leaders expressed guarded optimism that they could pass the package with its key elements intact. “I’m very hopeful we’re all going to be united and pass this bill,” said Schumer, who said he and his staff were in touch with Ms. Sinema about the measure.

Research contact: @nytimes

Editor’s note: According to The New York Times, ” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, announced on Thursday evening that she would support moving forward with her party’s climate, tax and health care package, clearing the way for a major piece of President Biden’s domestic agenda to move through the Senate in the coming days.”