October 19, 2022
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $1.3 billion program to give debt relief to struggling farmers with qualifying USDA farm loans. Already, more than 13,000 farm borrowers have received about $800 million in assistance with the goal of creating long-term stability to keep them in the profession while also transforming USDA loan servicing. The program, which has access to $3.1 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, will ultimately help about 36,000 borrowers. The average amount of relief for direct loan borrowers was $52,000, while for those with guaranteed loans the average was about $172,000.
“Through no fault of their own, our nation’s farmers and ranchers have faced incredibly tough circumstances over the last few years,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The funding included in today’s announcement helps keep our farmers farming and provides a fresh start for producers in challenging positions.”
Republicans who have complained about debt relief for college loan borrowers did not respond to questions from David Pitt of the Associated Press about whether they support help for farm loan borrowers.
The Department of Justice announced today that the Antitrust Division is enforcing our antitrust laws, and that seven directors of corporate boards recently resigned when the DOJ expressed concern that they were violating the prohibition on directors and officers serving simultaneously on the boards of competitors. Congress outlawed this practice under Section 8 of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter explained, because it “further concentrates power and creates the opportunity to exchange competitively sensitive information and facilitate coordination—all to the detriment of the economy and the American public.”
“Companies, officers, and board members should expect that enforcement of Section 8 will continue to be a priority for the Antitrust Division,” the DOJ said in a statement, and it urged anyone with information about other interlocking directorates “or any other potential violations of the antitrust laws” to contact the DOJ.
Help for farmers and enforcement of antitrust legislation—including permitting those in danger of running afoul of the law to resign before launching legal action—feels much like the reforms of the Progressive Era, when leaders like Theodore Roosevelt tried to claw back a government that worked for industrialists.
That use of the government to restore a level playing field stands in contrast to the news coming from the Republicans. Big news came today from U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter for the Central District of California, who has been overseeing the fight between Trump lawyer John Eastman and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Eastman was the author of the memo outlining a plan for stealing the 2020 election. The January 6th committee subpoenaed Eastman’s emails, but Eastman tried to shield a number of them, arguing that they fell under attorney-client privilege.
After reviewing the emails, Carter ruled some of them must be made public because of the “crime-fraud exception,” meaning that they are not privileged because they appear to reveal a crime. Four documents show how the Trump team’s primary goal in filing lawsuits was not to obtain relief, but rather “to delay or otherwise disrupt the January 6 vote.” Those documents, then, further the crime of obstruction.
Crucially, one of the documents concerns a lawsuit Trump and his lawyers filed in Fulton County, Georgia, in which they badly miscounted the numbers of voters they claimed were voting illegally and Trump signed a verification of those numbers. After filing in Georgia, they decided to sue at the federal level. But by then, Eastman had learned that the numbers they had put into the Georgia lawsuit were inaccurate.
He warned: “Although the President signed a verification for [the state court filing] back on Dec[ember] 1, he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate. For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate.”
But Trump and his attorneys filed the federal complaint without changing any of those numbers. Trump “signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers ‘are true and correct’ or ‘believed to be true and correct’ to the best of his knowledge and belief.”
This appears to provide proof that Trump and his allies deliberately lied about so-called voter fraud numbers both before the public and in court. Carter found that “these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States” and ordered Eastman to disclose them to the January 6h committee.
That is, Trump appears knowingly to have lied, in writing, under oath, to a court.
A series of texts from former senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), obtained by Greg Bluestein, Tamar Hallerman, and David Wickert of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, show how Trump’s control of his voters enabled him to amass power in the Republican Party even after his election loss. Facing a runoff election against the Reverend Raphael Warnock on January 5, Loeffler appears to have been uncomfortable challenging the Georgia election results and tried to walk a line between reality and Trump’s supporters.
But she faced a lot of pressure. On December 2, Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote: “Hey! I need to talk with you about a plan we are developing on how to vote on the electoral college votes on Jan[uary] 6th. I need a Senator! And I think this is a major help for you to win on the 5th!” On December 20, she wrote: “Hi Kelly, I’ve organized a meeting with President Trump, his legal team, and Members of electoral college votes for Joe Biden in several key states on January 6th. It’s tomorrow at 2:00. Can you come to the White House? It’s an informational meeting and planning session.”
Loeffler wriggled away from the invitation but assured Greene that “everything is on the table” for January 6th. When Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) pressured Loeffler to sign a letter challenging Biden’s victory and calling for election audits, Loeffler’s aide warned her, “you can’t afford not to be on it.” She didn’t sign it, but when Trump threatened to abandon her, she publicly supported challenging the election results in exchange for his appearance at a rally. She asked aides to make sure Trump retweeted her statement “so I don’t get booed off the stage!!”
Finally, today, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared martial law in the four regions of Ukraine he has claimed illegally to annex, undermining his argument for annexing them: the idea that their inhabitants want to join Russia. He has also given Russian regional governors emergency powers.