Discover more from Letters from an American
September 13, 2022
In an event at the White House today, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the First Lady and Second Gentleman, along with lawmakers and those who worked for the causes the law embraces, celebrated the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the new law that lowers prescription drug costs, invests in new technologies to combat climate change, and raises taxes on billion-dollar corporations both to fund the new investments and to reduce the federal deficit.
In contrast, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today announced he will introduce a national abortion ban. This is a pretty transparent attempt by the Republicans to deal with the political toxicity of the Republican-dominated Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, a toxicity unlikely to go away while news breaks, as it did today, that the state of Texas will not publish data on maternal death until after the midterm elections, suggesting the data will be bad indeed.
When the court ended the recognition of the constitutional right to reproductive rights in June, Republicans tried to manage the backlash by saying that the decision would simply return to the states the right to decide the status of abortion within their boundaries. The idea was actually that of enslavers in the 1830s: that true democracy operated at the state level because lawmakers there were closer to their constituents and would represent them better than those at the national level, thus enabling them to dismiss national pressure against enslavement as interference in state rights.
Graham himself echoed this line. As recently as August 7, 2022, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, he said, “I’ve been consistent. I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion.”
Now, as those opposing the end of the national protection of abortion rights warned, Graham is calling for a national abortion ban. He tried to explain away the change by saying that after the Democrats had announced what they stood for—presumably, President Joe Biden’s recent warning that Trump and the MAGA Republicans endanger our rights and our democracy, while the Democrats have rebuilt the economy for everyone—he wanted to make sure the Republicans did, too.
But the Republicans can read the polls as well as anyone and are facing the reality that their base might well not turn out without Trump on the ballot, while opponents of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision overturning Roe v. Wade are showing up in big numbers to vote against Republicans. Graham’s offer to impose a national ban on abortion seeks to bring the Republican base to the polls. “If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” he said today. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”
But while Graham courted the Republicans’ extremist base, he also tried to make his proposal palatable for those who support reproductive rights by framing it as a moderate one that would simply bring the U.S. in line with European countries by banning abortion after 15 weeks, ignoring that European countries have much better access to contraception, early abortion, exceptions to the laws, and maternity care.
The proposal is neither moderate nor in line with European countries. But it is also a giant red flag for our democracy, showing that the argument that the federal government should turn issues back to the states was the lie opponents said it was. Graham is calling for the federal government to impose a law backed only by an extremist minority on the entire country. It is the same principle that so-called “originalists” pretended to reject in the Dobbs decision, now reimposed to reflect not the will of the majority, but the tyranny of the minority.
Some Republican Senators are distancing themselves from Graham’s proposal, but that distancing reflects the attempt to muddy the waters so voters can believe what they want. The proposal reflects both concern on the part of Republican leaders going into the midterms, and a determination to hide what they are really calling for. CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona reported this afternoon that at least 80 House Republicans are introducing their own bill, similar to Graham’s.
Over on his Truth Social network, where he has been amplifying extremist QAnon accounts, Trump has been making it harder to deny the party’s growing radicalism. Today, he “retruthed” an image of himself wearing a QAnon pin with Q slogans, apparently going all-in on the conspiracy theory base. Ben Collins of NBC News noted the importance of the words on the image—“The Storm is Coming”—which refer to the “big end date for QAnon, when Trump is supposed to round up all of his political enemies and hang them in public after a brief military tribunal.”
Trump’s legal troubles continue to mount. The new subpoenas from the Department of Justice appear to be focusing on the money Trump’s Save America PAC raised for an “Official Election Defense Fund” that didn’t exist. The money went to Trump’s associates. This scam is not unlike the one for which Trump associate Stephen K. Bannon is now indicted: he and others allegedly raised at least $15 million to build a wall on the U.S. southern border, only to pocket the money.
Trump pardoned him from federal charges, but Bannon is now facing state charges in New York. “The simple truth is that it is a crime to profit off the backs of donors by making false pretenses,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters.
Today the affidavit for the search warrant that FBI agents fulfilled at Mar-a-Lago on August 8 was released with fewer redactions. The new material reveals that after handing over documents produced for a subpoena, Trump’s lawyer told the Department of Justice that “he was advised” that all White House records were in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and that “he was not advised” there were records anywhere else. Ryan Goodman of Just Security notes that this likely points to Trump as the person lying to him. The subpoena for security videos from the vicinity of the storage room at Mar-a-Lago reached back to January 10, 2022.
This afternoon, Missy Ryan of the Washington Post reported that a senior U.S. official has revealed that since 2014, Russia has spent at least $300 million in more than 24 countries to weaken democracies and strengthen global forces friendly to Putin’s interests. That would likely include funds spent attacking U.S. elections, most notably that of 2016, as detailed in the five-volume report of the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian Active Measures, Campaigns, and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election. The administration commissioned a review of Russian efforts this summer and discovered that Russia intended to continue pouring money into destabilizing other countries.
The administration will declassify some of the report to show the techniques Russia has been using. “By shining this light on Russian covert political financing and Russian attempts to undermine democratic processes, we’re putting these foreign parties and candidates on notice that if they accept Russian money secretly we can and we will expose it,” the official told reporters.
Meanwhile, Russian president Putin’s power at home is wobbling. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted today that he had a 90-minute phone call with Putin in which he demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine and recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Fifty Russian municipal deputies have publicly called for Putin to resign.