February 15, 2022
In all the chaos surrounding the former president, the actions today of the current president, Democrat Joe Biden, seem to be getting short shrift. This is unfortunate because they say a lot about his reorientation of the U.S. government.
At 3:30 this afternoon, Biden addressed the nation to update us on the crisis in central Europe as Russia threatens to invade Ukraine again. He reiterated that the U.S. has engaged in “non-stop diplomacy” for weeks and is prepared to continue that approach, proposing new measures for arms control, transparency, and strategic stability.
If diplomacy fails, the U.S. and our allies and partners around the world will impose economic sanctions on Russia and exert “intense pressure on [Russia’s] largest and most significant financial institutions and key industries.” Nord Stream 2, the valuable natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, will halt. And while the U.S. will not send military personnel to fight Russia in Ukraine, it will support Ukraine with armaments and intelligence. The U.S. will also honor Article 5 of our “sacrosanct” North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obligations, defending any NATO country Russia attacks.
The U.S., NATO, and Ukraine are not a threat to Russia, he said, and we have no beef with Russian citizens. But the U.S. insists on basic principles: “Nations have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have the freedom to set their own course and choose with whom they will associate.”
“This is about more than just Russia and Ukraine,” he said. “It’s about standing for what we believe in, for the future we want for our world, for liberty…the right of countless countries to choose their own destiny, and the right of people to determine their own futures, for the principle that a country can’t change its neighbor’s borders by force. That’s our vision. And toward that end, I’m confident that vision, that freedom will prevail.”
Biden ended his speech with a significant statement: “Thank you,” he said, “I’ll keep you informed.” With that, he echoed Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and reinforced democratic norms: the president answers to the American people.
Meanwhile, in Russia, opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is serving two and a half years in prison for charges that the European Court of Human Rights called “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable,” is again on trial, behind closed doors, for allegedly stealing $4.8 million from organizations he founded. If convicted, he could be sentenced to another ten years in prison.
There was another way in which Biden today reinforced the idea that the government answers to the people. It harked back to an executive order Biden signed on July 9 that sort of slipped under the radar. Designed “to promote the interests of American workers, businesses, and consumers,” the order addressed the consolidation of industries in the last several decades. It noted that mergers and the rise of megacorporations have stifled competition and increased racial, wealth, and income inequality as power is transferred to corporate employers, making it harder for workers to bargain for higher wages and better working conditions.
The order called for reversing these trends and established a White House Competition Council to figure out how best to restore competition, workers’ rights, and consumer protection. It charged the different government departments with reporting on the consolidation in their areas of concern.
Today the Department of Defense issued its report. It noted that since the 1990s, the defense sector has consolidated from 51 to 5 defense contractors. This is a national security issue, it said, since lack of competition means higher prices for the government, slows innovation, and risks supply chains. The report calls for encouraging new businesses, broadening the supply chain, and overseeing mergers more carefully. The Defense Department called for the government as a whole to increase domestic capacity, expand supply chains, and build the workforce to reduce the reliance of our national defense on a few contractors.
In another shift away from big business and toward the American people, today the gunmaker Remington settled a lawsuit with the nine of the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when a gunman murdered 20 first graders and six educators and wounded 2 others. The killer used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle manufactured by Remington.
A 2005 federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits when someone misuses their weapons, but in 2014, the families sued Remington on the grounds its marketing strategy, aimed at young, at-risk males through product placement in violent video games, made it partially at fault for the Sandy Hook massacre. The ads represented the gun as a combat weapon; Connecticut law prohibits deceptive ads.
The settlement was for $73 million, and it permits the families to release documents showing how Remington marketed the gun. Since Remington went bankrupt and its assets were sold off to other companies in 2020, four insurers will pay the settlement. A lawyer for the families said he hoped this settlement would change the ways gun manufacturers market their products.
Meanwhile, the former president today produced a four-page, somewhat nonsensical statement pushing back against the letter from his accountants, released yesterday, saying that no one should rely on the last ten years of Trump’s financial statements and that they were cutting ties with him. Trump began by saying that “We have a great company with fantastic assets that are unique, extremely valuable and, in many cases, far more valuable than what was listed in our Financial Statements,” then went on to provide cartoonish numbers purporting to prove he has a net worth of more than $6 billion. He said Mazars had withdrawn from his employment because of “vicious intimidation tactics,” and that “[t]his crime against me is a continuation of a Witch Hunt the likes of which has never been seen in this Country before.” He called for investigations of Hillary Clinton instead.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol today subpoenaed six more people: two members of the 2020 Trump campaign and four Republican officials from the battleground states that sent fake electors to Washington, D.C.
Michael A. Roman, who has made his career accusing Democrats of voter fraud, was director of Election Day operations for Trump’s campaign; Gary Michael Brown was his deputy. The committee told Roman it has communications showing he was involved “in a coordinated strategy” to get Republican members of state legislatures in contested states to elect false Trump electors, and then helped to direct Trump campaign staffers who were helping to organize the fraud. This puts the effort to overturn the election into Trump’s campaign staff explicitly.
Douglas V. Mastriano of Pennsylvania, Mark Finchem and Kelli Ward of Arizona, and Laura Cox, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, were all key participants in the scheme to attack the validity of Biden’s election and to create fake alternative electors to enable Pence to overturn that election.
Lawyer John Eastman, who produced the infamous memo with a blueprint for Pence to overturn the election, has claimed that he cannot produce the documents the January 6th committee has subpoenaed because of attorney-client privilege. The judge overseeing the case has ordered him to document those attorney-client relationships by February 22.