November 28, 2023
On this fifth day of the pause in the fighting between Hamas and Israel, Hamas released 10 Israeli and dual-national hostages and two Thai nationals; Israel said it released another 30 Palestinians from imprisonment. An Israeli official told the Washington Post that they expect another two or three days of the pause and hostage-prisoner exchanges, “after which we either resume operations in Gaza or potentially reach a follow-on agreement.”
Central Intelligence Agency director William J. Burns arrived in the city of Doha, the capital of Qatar, today to meet with Qatar’s prime minister and Burns’s counterparts from Israel and Egypt: David Barnea, chief of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, and Abbas Kamel, director of Egyptian General Intelligence. They will discuss a broader deal for a longer truce between Israel and Hamas.
Also today, the U.S. airlifted more than 54,000 pounds of United Nations–provided medical supplies, food, and winter clothing to Egypt for delivery to Gaza. The administration took credit for the humanitarian aid transfers underway, noting that when Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel on October 16, Israeli policy was that it would shut Gaza off from water, fuel, and supplies until Hamas released all the hostages.
Blinken cut a deal for aid before Biden arrived two days later—the deal was a condition of his visit—and trucks began to travel into Gaza on October 21. Since then, deliveries have ramped up to 240 trucks a day of medicine, shelter, food, and supplies to keep infrastructure functioning. This is still not enough, an official told reporters: it is imperative to get commercial contractors back in service in Gaza. Fuel, which is crucial for purifying water to prevent disease, among other things, is also making it into Gaza, but not in the quantities required.
The pause in fighting has enabled supply deliveries to ramp up significantly. A White House official acknowledged that “from the President on down, we understand that what is getting in is nowhere near enough for normal life in Gaza, and we will continue to push for additional steps, including the restoration of the flow of commercial goods and additional basic services.”
Here at home, the 2024 presidential campaign is heating up. This morning, Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News broke the story that former vice president Mike Pence had offered to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office new details about Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Pence allegedly said he had told Trump that they had lost the election, but Trump turned to those lawyers who would tell him otherwise.
Pence also allegedly decided—briefly—that he would not attend the January 6 counting of the electoral votes because it would be “too hurtful to my friend,” Trump. But his son, a Marine, later reminded him that they had both taken the same oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” making Pence reconsider his plan to avoid the ballot counting.
Also on the topic of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election was a story by Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, and Elizabeth Stuart of CNN about a forthcoming book by former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). The trio obtained an early copy of the book, which will be released on December 5, and say it outlines the many lawmakers and media figures who knew Trump had lost the election but lied about it.
“So strong is the lure of power that men and women who had once seemed reasonable and responsible were suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cheney says. She notes that now-chair of the House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan (R-OH) didn’t appear to care about rules or legal processes surrounding the election results. “The only thing that matters is winning,” he told her.
Cheney wrote of how she and then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi came to respect each other over their common defense of the Constitution, a nonpartisan stance that foreshadows her conclusion that Trump is dangerous to the country. “Every one of us—Republican, Democrat, Independent—must work and vote together to ensure that Donald Trump and those who have appeased, enabled, and collaborated with him are defeated,” she writes. “This is the cause of our time.”
Still, MAGA Republicans are defending the former president, in part by trying to launch an impeachment case against President Joe Biden. But that effort took a hit today. Representative Lisa McClain (R-MI), who sits on the House Oversight Committee that is out front on the impeachment effort, admitted on Fox Business that the committee has found no evidence that President Biden changed any policies after what Republicans claim was a bribe from China.
Also today, the lawyer for the president’s 53-year-old son Hunter responded to a subpoena from Representative James Comer (R-KY), chair of the Oversight Committee, for Hunter Biden’s testimony in what Republicans insist is business corruption (there is no evidence of such wrongdoing by either Hunter Biden or his father).
Although his lawyer noted that the committee appeared to be ignoring the business activities of the Trump family, whose members were actually in office whereas the younger Biden is a private citizen, he said that Biden agreed to testify but that he would do so in a public hearing, not in the closed-door session Comer wanted.
“We have seen you use closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and mislead the public,” Biden’s lawyer wrote, and indeed, Comer did not even attend the July closed-door deposition of Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer but nonetheless went on television to misrepresent Archer’s denial that Hunter Biden’s father was involved in the business. “If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings,” the lawyer wrote.
Comer, whose previous hearings have tended to blow up in his face as well-prepared Democrats tear into the Republicans, rejected the idea of holding a hearing in public.
“Let me get this straight,” Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the committee, said. “After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspiracy, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose? What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it.
“After the miserable failure of their impeachment hearing in September, Chairman Comer has now apparently decided to avoid all Committee hearings where the public can actually see for itself the logical, rhetorical and factual contortions they have tied themselves up in,” Raskin said. “The evidence has shown time and again President Biden has committed no wrongdoing, much less an impeachable offense. Chairman Comer’s insistence that Hunter Biden’s interview should happen behind closed doors proves it once again. What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth.”
MAGA Republican lawmakers’ defense of Trump ran into another snag today as Americans for Prosperity Action, an anti-Trump super PAC backed by billionaire Charles Koch, announced it was backing former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. A memo from AFP Action said Haley offers “the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era.”
The AFP Action endorsement is a window on the reaction of pro-business Republicans to the party’s recent shift to embrace Christian nationalism. Today’s party rejects small government and a market economy, which was the rallying cry of the Reagan Revolution, in favor of laws based on right-wing religious ideology. As Florida governor Ron DeSantis showed with his attack on Disney for supporting LGBTQ+ rights, this ideology would require businesses to ignore market forces and instead bow to the will of a strong government.
AFP Action stayed out of the presidential races of 2016 and 2020, but now, saying that Haley’s policies are close to AFP Action’s free-market ideology, it is taking a stand against the MAGA movement. Even if Haley doesn’t win the nomination—and that looks unlikely considering Trump’s commanding lead—weakening Trump so he is defeated in the general election would get rid of the MAGA base and enable libertarian-leaning business leaders to regain control of the Republican Party.