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The big news of the day is the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to combat international terrorism and lawlessness through cybersecurity and international cooperation.
Today the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the Treasury Department together announced indictments against two foreign actors for cyberattacks on U.S. companies last August. They announced sanctions against the men, one of whom has been arrested in Poland; they seized $6.1 million in assets from the other. The State Department has offered a $10 million reward for information about other cybercriminals associated with the attack. Treasury noted that ransomware attacks cost the U.S. almost $600 million in the first six months of 2021, and disrupt business and public safety.
The U.S. has also sent Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman to Ethiopia and neighboring Kenya to urge an end to the deadly civil war in Ethiopia, where rebel forces are close to toppling the government. A horrific humanitarian crisis is in the making there. The U.S. is interested in stopping the fighting not only because of that, but also because the Ethiopian government has lately tended to stabilize the fragile Somali government. Without that stabilization, Somalia could become a haven for terrorists, and terrorists could extort the global shipping industry.
Meanwhile, it appears that Biden’s big win on Friday, marshaling a bipartisan infrastructure bill through Congress, has made Republicans almost frantic to win back the national narrative. The National Republican Congressional Committee has released an early ad for the 2022 midterm elections titled "Chaos,” which features images of the protests from Trump’s term and falsely suggests they are scenes from Biden’s America.
As Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other Republican leaders today attacked the popular Sesame Street character Big Bird today for backing vaccinations—Big Bird has publicly supported vaccines since 1972—they revealed how fully they have become the party of Trump.
Excerpts from a new book by ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl say that Trump was so mad that the party did not fight harder to keep him in office that on January 20, just after he boarded Air Force One to leave Washington, he took a phone call from Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, and told her that he was quitting the Republicans to start his own political party.
McDaniel told him that if he did that, the Republicans “would lose forever.” Trump responded: “Exactly.” A witness said he wanted to punish the officials for their refusal to fight harder to overturn the election.
Four days later, Trump relented after the RNC made it clear it would stop paying his legal bills and would stop letting him rent out the email list of his 40 million supporters, a list officials believed was worth about $100 million.
Instead of leaving the party, he is rebuilding it in his own image.
In Florida, Trump loyalist Roger Stone is threatening to run against Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022 to siphon votes from his reelection bid unless DeSantis promises he won’t challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024.
A long piece in the Washington Post by Michael Kranish today explored how, over the course of his career, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has singlemindedly pursued power, switching his stated principles to their opposites whenever it helped his climb to the top of the Senate. Eventually, in the hope of keeping power, he embraced Trump, even acquitting him for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection.
The former president is endorsing primary candidates to oust Republicans he thinks were insufficiently loyal. In Georgia, he has backed Herschel Walker, whose ex-wife got a protective order against him after he allegedly threatened to shoot her. In Pennsylvania, Trump has endorsed Sean Parnell, whose wife testified that he choked her and abused their children physically and emotionally.
Although such picks could hurt the Republicans in a general election with the women they desperately need to attract (hence the focus on schools), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott (R-FL), did not feel comfortable today bucking Trump to comment on whether Parnell was the right candidate to back. Scott said he would focus on whoever won the primary.
The cost of the party’s link to Trumpism is not just potential 2022 voters. In the New York Times today, David Leonhardt outlined how deaths from the novel coronavirus did not reflect politics until after the Republicans made the vaccines political. A death gap between Democrats and Republicans emerged quickly as Republicans shunned the vaccine.
Now, only about 10% of Democrats eligible for the vaccine have refused it, while almost 40% of Republicans have. In October, while about 7.8 people per 100,000 died in counties that voted strongly for Biden, 25 out of every 100,000 died in counties that went the other way. Leonhardt held out hope that both numbers would drop as more people develop immunities and as new antiviral drugs lower death rates everywhere.
And yet, Republicans continue to insist they are attacking the dangerous Democrats. Quite literally. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who has ties to white supremacists and who has been implicated in the January 6 attack, yesterday posted an anime video in which his face was photoshopped onto a character that killed another character bearing the face of New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Gosar character also swung swords at a Biden character and fought alongside Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
In response to the outcry about the video, Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said: “Everyone needs to relax.”
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is not relaxing. Today it issued six new subpoenas. The subpoenas went to people associated with the “war room” in the Willard Hotel in the days leading up to the events of January 6.
The subpoenas went to William Stepien, the manager of Trump's 2020 campaign which, as an entity, asked states not to certify the results of the election; Trump advisor Jason Miller, who talked of a stolen election even before the election itself; Angela McCallum, an executive assistant to Trump’s 2020 campaign, who apparently left a voicemail for a Michigan state representative pressuring the representative to appoint an alternative slate of electors because of “election fraud”; and Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner, who paid for the hotel rooms in which the plotting occurred.
Another subpoena went to Michael Flynn, who called for Trump to declare martial law and “rerun” the election, and who attended a December 18, 2020, meeting in the Oval Office “during which participants discussed seizing voting machines, declaring a national emergency, invoking certain national security emergency powers, and continuing to spread the false message that the November 2020 election had been tainted by widespread fraud.”
The sixth subpoena went to John Eastman, author of the Eastman memo saying that then–vice president Mike Pence could reject the certified electors from certain states, thus throwing the election to Trump. Eastman was apparently at the Willard Hotel for a key meeting on January 5, and he spoke at the rally on the Ellipse on January 6.
None of these people are covered by executive privilege, even if Trump tries to exercise it.
The 2022 midterm elections, scheduled for November 8, 2022, are exactly a year away.