Discover more from Letters from an American
July 27, 2023
More good news today for Bidenomics, as the gross domestic product report for the second quarter showed annualized growth of 2.4%, higher than projected, and inflation rose at a slower pace of 2.6%, down from last quarter and well below projections. Economic analyst Steven Rattner noted that as of the second quarter, “the US economy is over 6% larger than it was before COVID (after adjusting for inflation). At this point in the recovery from the Great Recession, 2011, the economy was just 0.7% larger than it had been in 2007.”
Both consumer spending and business investment, which is up 7.7% in real annualized terms, drove this growth. Business spending makes up a much smaller share of gross domestic product, but it drives future jobs and growth, and much of this growth is in manufacturing facilities. In keeping with that trend, the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer, First Solar, announced today that it will build a fifth factory in the U.S. as alternative energy technology takes off. This commitment brings to more than $2.8 billion the amount First Solar has invested in the U.S. to ramp up production.
While so-called Bidenomics is designed to rebuild the middle class, the administration is also trying to reestablish fair ground rules for corporate behavior. Yesterday, the Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Treasury invited American businesses to come forward voluntarily if they think they might have violated U.S. sanctions, export controls, or other national security laws by sharing sensitive technology or helping sanctioned individuals launder money. Coming forward “can provide significant mitigation of civil or criminal liability,” the note says.
It highlighted the anti–money laundering and sanctions whistleblower program in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.
While many of us were watching the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., to see if an indictment was forthcoming against former president Trump for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a different set of charges appeared tonight. Special counsel Jack Smith brought additional charges against Trump in connection with his retention of classified documents.
The new indictment alleges that Trump plotted to delete video from security cameras near the storage room where he had stored boxes containing classified documents, and did so after the Department of Justice subpoenaed that footage. That effort to delete the video involved a third co-conspirator, Carlos De Oliveira, who has been added to the case.
De Oliveira is a former valet at the Trump Organization’s Mar-a-Lago property who became property manager there in January 2022. Allegedly, he told another Trump employee that “the boss” wanted the server deleted and that the conversation should stay between the two of them.
In the Washington Post, legal columnist Ruth Marcus wrote, “The alleged conduct—yes, even after all these years of watching Trump flagrantly flout norms—is nothing short of jaw-dropping: Trump allegedly conspired with others to destroy evidence.” If the allegations hold up, “the former president is a common criminal—and an uncommonly stupid one.”
This superseding indictment reiterates the material from the original indictment, and as I reread it, it still blows my mind that Trump allegedly compromised national security documents from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (surveillance imagery), the National Reconnaissance Office (surveillance and maps), the Department of Energy (nuclear weapons), and the Department of State and Bureau of Intelligence and Research (diplomatic intelligence).
It sounds like he was a one-man wrecking ball, aimed at our national security.
The Justice Department has asked again for a protective order to protect the classified information at the heart of this case. In their request, they explained that, among other things, Trump wanted to be able to discuss that classified information with his lawyers outside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, a room protected against electronic surveillance and data leakage.
Former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division Peter Strzok noted that there is “[n]o better demonstration of Trump’s abject lack of understanding of—and disregard for—classified info and national security. He is *asking the Court* to waive the requirements for classified info that EVERY OTHER SINGLE CLEARANCE HOLDER IN THE UNITED STATES must follow.”
The Senate today passed the $886 billion annual defense bill by a strong bipartisan margin of 86 to 11 after refusing to load it up with all the partisan measures Republican extremists added to the House bill. Now negotiators from the House and the Senate will try to hash out a compromise measure, but the bills are so far apart it is not clear they will be able to create a bipartisan compromise. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has passed on a bipartisan basis for more than 60 years.
The extremists in the House Republican conference continue to revolt against House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) deal with the administration to raise the debt ceiling. They insist the future cuts to which McCarthy agreed are not steep enough, and demand more. This has sparked fighting among House Republicans; Emine Yücel of Talking Points Memo suggests that McCarthy’s new willingness to consider impeaching President Biden might be an attempt to cut a deal with the extremists.
As the Senate is controlled by Democrats, the fight among the House Republicans threatens a much larger fight between the chambers because Democratic senators will not accept the demands of the extremist Republican representatives.
The House left for its August recess today without passing 11 of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government after September, setting up the conditions for a government shutdown this fall if they cannot pass the bills and negotiate with the Senate in the short time frame they’ve left. Far-right Republicans don’t much care, apparently. Representative Bob Good (R-VA) told reporters this week, “We should not fear a government shutdown… Most of what we do up here is bad anyway.”
Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA), the second ranking Democrat in the House, disagreed. “The Republican conference is saying they are sending us home for six weeks without funding the government? That we have one bill…out of 12 completed because extremists are holding your conference hostage, and that’s not the full story: the extremists are holding the American people hostage. We will have twelve days…when we return to fund the government, to live up to the job the American people sent us here to do. This is a reckless march to a MAGA shutdown, and for what? In pursuit of a national abortion ban? Is that what we are doing here?
“The American people see through this. They know who is fighting for them, fighting for solutions…. Your time is coming. The American people are watching. They are going to demand accountability. We should be staying here, completing these appropriations bills, stripping out the toxic, divisive, bigoted riders that have been put on these bills and get[ting] back to work for freedom and for our economy and the American family.”