Saturday Report 8/27/22 - Is the Sun Setting on the Gas-Powered Car?
The Best of the Rest of the News
— Why did he do it? That’s the big question about Trump’s squirreling away super-top-secret documents that could have included payroll records for our spies in Russia, details on our first-strike and response-strike options for a nuclear war with Russia, and details on Russian involvement with the 2016 election. Increasingly, former members of the intelligence community are coalescing around the possibility that Trump was trying to create a “Dead Man’s Switch.”
You may recall that Edward Snowden did this when he took intelligence documents with him to China and later Russia: he let it leak that he’d put out some of America’s most damaging and embarrassing secrets in the event he was taken down. As Kim Zetter wrote for Wired back in July of 2013:
“Snowden also reportedly passed encrypted copies of his cache to a number of third parties who have a non-journalistic mission: If Snowden should suffer a mysterious, fatal accident, these parties will find themselves in possession of the decryption key, and they can publish the documents to the world.” Zetter notes that this was a common strategy for Russian spies, writing that it “has been likened to a tactic employed by the U.S. and Russian governments during the Cold War.”
Other possibilities include:
* Trump thought he could monetize these documents at some future time or may have already passed them along to the Saudis (which may have accounted for that government gifting Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin $3 billion, with the side deal of an as-yet-unknown amount of billions going to Trump himself via untraceable offshore accounts the billionaire holds overseas.
* Trump took documents Putin wanted — from the identities of US spies in Russia to nuclear war plans — and has either already passed them along or was waiting for an opportune moment because Putin owns him and has since Russians bailed out his failing real estate empire in the 90s.
* Maybe Putin already has them: a Russian-speaking woman pretending to be a Rothschild heir showed up driving a $125,000 Rolls Royce and wearing a fortune in designer clothes at Mar-a-Lago and appears to ingratiated herself with both Donald Trump and Lindsay Graham (there are photos of the three of them on the golf course there!).
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted yesterday: “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project learned that numerous records have been turned over to the FBI as part of the inquiry, including copies of two fake passports from the U.S. and Canada — bearing her photo and the name Anna de Rothschild — and a Florida driver’s license with the same name that shows the address of an opulent $13 million mansion in Miami Beach where she has never lived.” It’s not known if she was able to break into the insecure locations where Trump was hiding these documents, but she — along with thousands of others (one room they were in wasn’t even secured with a lock until June of this year!) — apparently had the opportunity. All of these possibilities are why the CIA/NSA/DOD etc. are doing “damage assessments” right now.
* Trump is simply mentally ill with a condition common among billionaires: hoarding syndrome. If he hadn’t been born rich, he’d be living in an apartment filled with newspapers and old tin cans from floor to ceiling; instead, he hoards money and anything else he thinks has value that gets close enough to grab. This is “normal” among kleptocrats like Idi Amin or Baby Doc Duvalier: they think that they are the state, so everything the state owns is their property. Supporting this premise are over 3,000 former contractors and employees (including attorneys) who’ve sued Trump because he’s refused to pay them over the years.
The release yesterday of the redacted dossier behind the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago has neither confirmed nor overturned any of the above theories.
Whatever the reason for Trump’s theft of our nation’s secrets, America’s security has been compromised, which should have been no surprise when, in his first week in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador, resulting in MOSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy. Never forget his trashing our security folks while praising Putin in Helsinki, and now it looks like he may have already sold our spies identities and our foreign adversaries have been picking them off like fish in a barrel:
— The Republican war on women rolls on. In Louisiana a woman with a nonviable fetus was denied an abortion, putting her life at risk, a story that’s now been repeated in multiple states. Trigger laws just went into place this week in Texas, Tennessee, and Idaho, as Texas Republicans are looking for ways to nail women who leave the state or receive abortion pills from out-of-state. Fully a third of American women have now lost access to abortion care in their home states, and many are in the crosshairs of vigilantes looking to make big money by turning people in to the state. (One of the best summaries of the state of affairs is the “All In Her Head” newsletter that Jessica Valenti publishes. Strongly recommended!)
What will all this mean? Listeners and viewers of my radio/TV program will remember that when the Dobbs decision was first leaked months ago, I said that it would be the beginning of the end for the GOP both nationally and in multiple swing states, and that Democrats needed to jump on the issue with both feet (sorry to mix cliches, but you get the point). I stand behind that even more strongly right now, and am expecting really good news this November.
In the meantime, Republicans are doubling-down on voter suppression: in addition to passing laws criminalizing voting and voter registration, making it more difficult to vote, and sending armed militiamen to polling places in minority areas, they’re purging people from the voting rolls, particularly in Blue cities in Red states, like there’s no tomorrow.
Reporter Greg Palast tells me he expects at least 4 million people to be wrongly purged from the voting rolls by this November; it’s gotten really bad since 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized such purges in an Ohio case in 2018. Double- and triple-check your voter registration; even in Blue states, Republicans can challenge your voting status and you may never even know until you show up to vote and are given a provisional “placebo” ballot that won’t be counted (or your mail-in ballot simply never arrives).
— After spending almost two years lying about the outcome of the 2020 election, Republicans have settled on a new big lie to campaign on. Every Republican administration since Reagan has reduced the budget of the IRS: Trump alone cut almost a quarter of all their auditors, a reduction in force so severe that the agency has all but quit auditing billionaires because of the cost, complexity, and manpower demands of such audits. Specifically, just Trump’s cuts resulted in “54% fewer audits of large corporations and 70% fewer audits of millionaires.” In an effort to rebuild the agency, Congress included about $8 billion a year for a decade in the Inflation Reduction Act, money specifically designated to “modernize its technology, improve customer service, and crack down on millionaire and billionaire tax cheats who aren’t paying $160 billion in taxes each year that they already owe.” That’s right: the IRS estimates right now that American billionaires are cheating their way to over $160 billion a year of theft from the rest of us who now have to foot the bill for our government.
The Republican response to this has been an effort to incite hysteria with naked lies. While the IRS may end up spending some of that money to hire back a few thousand agents to audit billionaires (a good thing), there are no “87,000 agents” in the pipeline. It looks like somebody at the GOP simply took the cost of an agent’s salary and divided it into the ten-year $80 billion the agency is getting, and ended up with 87,000. Or they pulled the number out of their ass. Whichever, here’s the new lie that’s gone totally viral on rightwing media:
Now billionaire Republican donor Steve Wynn (the gambling magnate who was accused of sexual abuse by dozens of women) gave some advice to the GOP in a recent donor conference call leaked to Politico, saying the party should just keep pushing the hysteria. From Politico:
“The billionaire also offered up some messaging advice. Republican candidates, he said, should run aggressive TV ads casting Democrats as advocates of tax policies that would hurt lower-wage earners and small businesses.
“‘Hard-hitting kind of spots with a man’s voice, no soft pedal,’ Wynn suggested, before giving a sample script: ‘They’re coming after you if you’re a waiter, if you’re a bartender, if you’re anybody with a cash business … they’re coming after you.’”
Meanwhile, massive corporate PACs — legalized by five Republicans on the Supreme Court striking down literally hundreds of good government laws with Citizens United in 2010 — are pouring cash into the campaigns of Trump-humping, election-denying, democracy-skeptical Republican politicians. The companies’ main request: just keep the tax-cuts, corporate subsidies, and deregulation/privatization coming.
— After Mitch McConnell started whining about the student debt relief granted this week by President Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out that McConnell’s tuition, when he went to college before the Reagan Revolution, was $330 a year. Not per term or semester: per year. The White House, responding to individual Republican members of Congress complaining about the debt relief, tweeted out to each of the complainants with the amount of their PPP debt forgiveness. It was so elegant that Marjorie Taylor Greene, who received over $183,000 in debt relief, was reduced to the oh-so articulate response, “Go to hell!”
— Investigative reporter Vicky Ward, at her Vicky Ward Reports Substack newsletter, has a slashing new analysis of Jared Kushner’s new book. Just one of her gems:
Kushner was facing a “ticking time bomb of a $1.8 billion mortgage on 666 Fifth Avenue that would come due in February of 2019—a debt no domestic buyer was interested in. Not even the Chinese or Qataris wanted it. … Kushner desperately needed a bail-out for his troubled building…and the clock was ticking.
“Then, in the spring of 2018, two things happened within weeks. First, the U.S. withdrew their support of the blockade of Qatar, leading the Saudis and Emiratis to lift it. Then, Brookfield, a Canadian real estate investment trust whose largest outside shareholder is the Qatari government, bailed out the Kushners in a deal that has real estate moguls rolling their eyes to this day: A 99-year lease paid upfront on a building that was bleeding money.”
Jared’s dad, of course, went to prison for his grifting; his new book proves — as much by what it says as by what it avoids — that the kid is a chip off the old block and the perfect addition to the Trump Crime Family. Ward’s reporting on this is well worth taking a few minutes to read.
— Geeky Science: Did California again rescue America from auto exhaust and this time help the planet with climate change? Governor Gavin Newsom, who insists he’s not running for president in 2024 (at least not yet), recently announced that California will follow Norway and a handful of other nations in banning the sale of new gas- or diesel-powered cars by 2035. Given how California’s emissions standards decades ago saved the rest of us from choking smog, this could again be the start of something big. Washington state and Massachusetts, in fact, just announced that they intend to follow California’s lead. Good news!!
— In Very Good News: President Biden finally uses the F-Word. While Democrats across the nation have been calling Republican policies fascist for years (DNC Chair Jaime Harrison called the GOP “fascists” on my show just a few months ago), President Biden has been more rhetorically restrained. No more.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Hartmann Report to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.