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Political Wire logo Trump Pardons Steve Bannon
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Trump Releases Video Farewell Address
Plans to Storm Capitol Were Made Days In Advance
More Than 400,000 Have Died In U.S. During Pandemic

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Final Countdown Is Underway...
      •  I Beg Your Pardon?
      •  Schumer, McConnell Close to a Deal on Power Sharing
      •  Biden Embraces Some Progressive Priorities
      •  Fox News in Decline
      •  Parler Is "Back"
      •  Cohen Implicates Boebert

The Final Countdown Is Underway...

Today is the last full day of Donald Trump's presidency. If you would like a more precise figure, the R-rated version of the Trump eviction clock, or the G-rated version can give it to you (thanks to reader C.P.S. in San Jose, CA for the heads up). In any event, Trump & Co. have kindly spent the waning days of his term reminding us of the ingredients that made his administration so...memorable. To wit:

  • Vendettas: Among presidents, only Richard Nixon has been comparable to Trump when it comes to remembering the names of those who caused offense, and then using the powers of the government to strike back when possible. The President has feuded with those who are alive and those who are dead, though his current target is the very much alive Joe Biden, who committed the crime of defeating Trump at the ballot box. The Trump administration has done much to complicate life for the incoming Biden administration, and that continued on Monday, as the White House announced that it was lifting COVID-19-related travel restrictions for folks from much of Europe, including the U.K. and Ireland, effective on January 26.

    Given that the pandemic is worsening right now, particularly in the U.K. and Ireland, this change of course would not seem to be indicated. And the timing—two days before the commencement of a new presidential administration—does not exactly speak to thoughtful policymaking, either. Quite clearly, Team Trump is trying to force Team Biden to "own" unpopular travel restrictions. It would seem that Team Biden does not mind owning them, however, as the President-elect has already announced that he will cancel Monday's order as soon as he takes office.

  • Petulance: Sometimes, one cannot directly harm one's enemies, and so one has to be satisfied with snubs, slights, and other forms of disrespect that most people left behind around the same time they graduated junior high school. For Trump, this whole week is an exercise in slighting the hated Biden family. Not only will the President skip the inauguration, he's also refused to meet with Biden in the White House, and he likely won't be writing a Resolute letter (not even one in Sharpie). Melania Trump has similarly refused to reach out to Jill Biden. VP Mike Pence, to his credit, did have a meeting with VP-Elect Kamala Harris, at which he offered any assistance that he might be able to render.

  • Cronyism: Every president installs some sizable number of friends and allies in appointed posts on taking office. Most presidents, however, have regarded "competent" as a necessary requirement, even for people who are friends/allies. Trump, by contrast, was largely unconcerned about competence, and instead was hyper-concerned about loyalty and willingness to do his bidding. As the President prepares to exit stage right, he's still at it, trying very hard to install loyalist Michael Ellis as the National Security Agency's general counsel. Since it is a civil service position, it could be hard to get rid of Ellis if the effort is successful. That said, many hard questions are being asked, including by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone appears to be dragging his feet. So, it may not work.

  • Incompetence: Most presidents have at least one or two high-profile failures that leave them with egg on their face, from FDR and court packing to JFK and the Bay of Pigs to George H.W. Bush and "no new taxes." That's the nature of the job; when you occupy the bully pulpit and you win, you tend to win big. And when you lose, you tend to lose big.

    Trump, however, has some additional liabilities that most of his predecessors did not have, over and above having the toughest and highest-profile job in the world. To start with, he came into office with no political experience and with limited understanding of how government works. That's survivable if you surround yourself with the right people, but given Trump's penchant for cronyism, he tended to surround himself with folks who were as inexperienced and ill-informed as he is. Further, the President has little patience for the slow, meticulous work that is generally necessary for successful policymaking and consensus-building. Oh, and he also likes to live on the very edge of the law, daring the courts (and others) to push back.

    As a consequence of all of these things, Trump has had more policy initiatives go bust than any president in memory, and very possibly any president ever. The latest, and presumably last, of these came over the weekend, when the Census Bureau announced that it would not release apportionment figures for congressional districts until after tomorrow's inauguration. That means that the plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionments is officially dead. In addition, the crony that Trump appointed to oversee the plan, namely Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, was compelled to resign his post on Monday. Presumably he thought that was better than hanging on until tomorrow and then getting fired by Biden.

  • Sniping from Former Allies: Another dimension to Trump's penchant for cronyism is that he's really good at keeping their loyalty while they are in his service, but he's pretty poor at keeping their loyalty afterward. From Omarosa Manigault-Newman to Michael Cohen to John Bolton, numerous high-profile folks have spilled their guts after becoming former members of the administration. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who hasn't been shy about criticizing Trump since being dismissed back in 2018, gave a particularly pointed interview to Foreign Policy magazine that was published this weekend. It contains observations about Trump like this one: "His understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of U.S. history was really limited. It's really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn't even understand the concept for why we're talking about this."

  • Corruption: The term that historians use to describe a situation when a politician uses the perks of office substantially, or primarily, to benefit himself and his allies is "spoils system." It's been a while since the U.S. has seen a spoilsman at Trump's level (Richard J. Daley?), and even longer since the country has seen a spoilsman president at Trump's level (Andrew Jackson?). The Donald has been more than happy to avail himself of various opportunities to aid himself and his buddies, and that will continue to the bitter end. Today, Trump will announce about 100 pardons (more below). The identities of the pardonees is not yet known but, at best, many of them will have gone through channels other than the regular ones, often with large sums of cash involved. At worst, some of the pardonees will push the legality of the pardon power to its limits.

  • Hypocrisy: Trump's official slogan is "Make America Great Again." However, there's a fair case to be made that his real slogan is "Do as I say, not as I do." He has been utterly shameless about demanding one standard of behavior from others, but adhering to a different standard of behavior for himself. He excoriated Barack Obama for spending so much time and government money on golf, and then went on to spend considerably more time and considerably more government money on golf himself. Similarly, the President had little good to say about voting by mail—unless he was the one doing it. On Monday, it was revealed that (former?) Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani—who filed multiple pro-Trump lawsuits based on the fraudulent nature of affidavit ballots—voted in November via...wait for affidavit ballot.

  • Casual Racism: Sometimes, as with "sh**hole countries," Trump's racism was overt. More often, it was expressed in dog whistle form. Well, dog bullhorn form, since this president really doesn't do subtlety. In any case, yesterday was—of course—the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. And Team Trump couldn't let that pass without mixing in at least a little casual racism. So, the 1776 commission, which is ostensibly developing standards for teaching the "true" (translation: pro-white, pro-evangelical, pro-conservative) history of the United States, issued a report that declares that the Civil Rights Movement was quickly subverted by nasty far-left activists who insisted on pursuing programs that would have horrified King, like Affirmative Action and socialism. The report further declares that identities like "Asian American" and "feminist" are the work of uppity social justice warriors who want to destroy America.

  • Lies: It may well be that the thing that Trump is best remembered for is the unending torrent of lies. After getting off to a relatively slow start during the early months of his term (a mere 10 lies/day), he really picked up the pace over time:

    The number of lies just grew and grew, faster
and faster; it took two and a half years to make it to 10,000, another year to make it to 20,000, and just six more months to make
it to 30,000 In case you were worried Trump wouldn't make it to 30,000, what with time running out and his Twitter account shut down, you can breathe easy. He crossed that threshold on Dec. 3, and he'll finish with around 30,500 lies. He didn't tell any big, public whoppers on Monday, largely because he's hiding out in the White House and he's banned from pretty much every social media platform extant. Nonetheless, there were plenty of headlines yesterday from governors who are angry that the Trump administration lied to them about how many vaccine doses had been stockpiled. As a bonus, this story also serves as a reminder of Trump's pandemic mismanagement.

In short, like any rock band that's nearing the end of the road, Trump and his team have treated Americans to a "greatest hits," just so you don't forget them when they're gone. Oh, and speaking of gone, today is the end of bidding for the honor of pushing the button when Trump Plaza Atlantic City is demolished. After a bunch of fake bids were yanked, it's up to $195,000. If you're looking for an early Valentine's Day gift, nothing says "love" like blowing up something that used to belong to Donald Trump. (Z)

I Beg Your Pardon?

Today, as noted above, Donald Trump will unveil about 100 pardons. Some of them will be controversial. Some of them might plausibly be deemed invalid or even illegal. In anticipation of this news, probably the last major news Trump will produce as president, we thought we would take a look at some of the issues and questions involved.

To start, because most presidents have been pretty careful not to abuse the pardon power (outside of an occasional controversial pardon, like Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich), they have been very little explored by the courts. So, much of this is necessarily somewhat speculative. And, with that said:

  • Preemptive Pardons: Among the questions surrounding the pardon power, this one probably has the clearest answer, and that is: Preemptive pardons, also known as prospective pardons, are definitely legal. The Supreme Court has actually weighed in on this specific question. In Ex parte Garland (1866), which centered on a preemptive pardon given by Andrew Johnson to former Confederate Augustus Hill Garland, the Court sustained the pardon, decreeing that the power "extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment." In addition to this, Richard Nixon was, of course, preemptively pardoned by Gerald Ford before Tricky Dick could be charged with any crimes. So, if Trump announces today that he's preemptively pardoned Donald Trump Jr. or Stephen Miller or Sidney Powell, then the pardons will certainly stand.

  • Mass Pardons: In contrast to preemptive pardons, mass pardons have not come before the Supreme Court. However, there is a fair bit of presidential precedent for them. George Washington mass pardoned participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, Andrew Johnson did the same for Confederate soldiers, and Jimmy Carter did it for Vietnam War draft dodgers. Dwight D. Eisenhower was also in the habit of issuing mass pardons, not necessarily because the pardonees had committed the same offense, but because he found it boring to sign his name 30 times when one time would do. That meant that his staff would often just list everyone being pardoned in the same pardon warrant, Ike would sign it, and that's that. So, if Trump tries to pardon say, the Capitol rioters, en masse, it will probably stand up. Or, at least, it won't fail based on an argument that he's allowed to pardon only one person at a time.

  • Blanket Pardons: If Trump does try to mass pardon the insurrectionists, there is a much stickier issue he will have to deal with. In the case of all the mass pardons mentioned in the previous paragraph, there was a very specific offense being pardoned. By contrast, the only "pardoned for any and all offenses that might have been committed" pardon in U.S. history prior to Michael Flynn is the one that Jerry Ford gave to Dick Nixon. Since nobody ever tried to prosecute Nixon, the validity of this blanket pardon was not tested. However, quite a few legal scholars think that, if asked, the courts won't go for blanket pardons. So, if Trump does try a mass pardon for the insurrectionists (or any other group), his lawyers are either going to have to come up with a list of all possible specific federal offenses that might be charged, or they will have to roll the dice that a blanket pardon will pass muster with the Supreme Court.

  • Secret Pardons: When a pardon is issued, a pardon warrant is prepared by the Dept. of Justice and signed by the president. Then, the White House keeps one copy and another copy is sent to the pardonee. Generally, the White House announces all of the pardons that have been issued, but this is not required. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request might work, but it might not—nobody knows, because it's never been necessary, so it's never been tried. Meanwhile, the pardonee does not need to reveal their copy of the warrant unless they need it to cancel a prosecution.

    This means that if Donald Trump has a secret pardon prepared for each of his kids, and then he signs them and delivers them, he might get away with keeping them secret. Or he may not; if the obvious candidates (the kids, Jared Kushner, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, etc.) are not on the list that is announced today, ProPublica will surely have their FOIA request, specifically naming those people, filed by this afternoon. And the next administration might be very generous in granting access to anything ProPublica wants.

  • Canceled Pardons: There are at least three known cases where a pardon was canceled. Ulysses S. Grant revoked two dubious pardons that were granted to Jacob and Moses Depuy by Andrew Johnson on Johnson's last day in office. And George W. Bush granted clemency to a sleazy real estate developer named Isaac R. Toussie and then changed his mind the next day and tore the document up. The Depuys and Toussie both sued and, taking note of John Marshall's finding in United States v. Wilson (1833) that "delivery is essential" in order for a pardon to be valid, the Supreme Court sustained both Grant and Bush.

    In short, if the Trump administration isn't careful to deliver the pardon warrants in a prompt fashion, and if Joe Biden were to move very quickly, then Biden might be able to cancel some of today's pardons. Alternatively, the incoming administration could try to spin the Grant case into a precedent that supports one president voiding the previous president's pardons, whether they have been delivered or not, but that's a much, much steeper legal hill to climb.

  • Quid Pro Quo Pardons: It is unlikely that Donald Trump will try to trade one day of being president in exchange for a pardon from Mike Pence. The two men's relationship has soured, and Pence has seen over and over again what happens to people who prostitute themselves for the Donald. If they did try it, though, it might or might not work. In the case of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, many people suspected that there was a quid pro quo, and those folks might well have been right. However, strong suspicions are not proof, and besides, no U.S. Attorney pursued the matter.

    By contrast, in this case, the quid pro quo would be much more evident. And if Trump and Pence were to be taken to court, it is at least possible the pardon would be found invalid for having been obtained fraudulently. Alternatively, the courts could find the pardon valid, but might be persuaded that the acts of granting and receiving the pardon were both crimes (fraud, conspiracy, something else) that necessarily took place after the pardon was given, and so were not covered by the pardon.

  • Self Pardons: This is the biggie, of course. No president has ever tried to self-pardon, and we suspect Trump won't try it, either. But if he does, he'll open a giant can of worms, and one that will pretty much force the (likely) Merrick Garland-led Dept. of Justice to pursue the matter.

    The argument that self-pardons are legal is a pretty simple one. Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution says: "The President ... shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment." The authors placed one explicit limit on the pardon power, and did not include any others, which somewhat implies that they did not want or expect there to be any additional limits, including a limit on pardoning oneself.

    On the other hand, there are a number of arguments against the legality of self-pardons. Here are the four main ones:

    1. English Common Law: Perhaps the strongest argument against self-pardons is rooted in the understanding of the law that the framers of the Constitution had. They assumed that English common law would become the foundation for the American legal system. And one of the most important precepts of English common law is "nemo judex in sua causa": "no man may be his own judge." It is entirely plausible that this was so obvious to them that they did not feel the need to spell it out. At the same time, it is entirely implausible that, having rebelled against a monarch who was above the law, they would turn around and create a president who was above the law.

    2. Internal Logic of the Constitution: The Constitution places other, explicit limits on a president's ability to use his office for his own benefit. The most obvious of these are the two emoluments clauses, which are meant to stop the chief executive from using his job to line his pockets. It is unlikely that the Founders would be worried about a president being on the take financially, but wouldn't care if a president was on the take legally.

    3. Linguistics: Some arguments focus on specific word choices in the Constitution, particularly the word "grant." "Grant" means "to give" or "to gift." You can't give a gift to yourself, the logic goes, so the wording of Article II, Sec. 2 implicitly tells us that a pardon can only be granted to another person, and not to oneself.

    4. Supreme Court Precedent: The self-pardon question has not been directly addressed by the Court, but in United States v. Lee (1882), they did affirm the "no man is above the law" doctrine: "No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it."

    Our opinion is that the anti-self-pardon arguments are stronger than the pro-self-pardon argument.

  • Admission of Guilt: Beyond the debate over self-pardons, this is the most contentious question when it comes to the presidential pardon power. In short, does acceptance of a pardon equate to an admission of guilt? You will find many people, on both sides of the question, who behave as if this is settled law with an ironclad answer. It is not. In the aforementioned Garland case, the Supreme Court declared that acceptance of a pardon is not an admission of guilt because the pardon wipes out the original crime as if it had never been committed. On the other hand, in Burdick v. United States (1915), the Court states that a pardon carries "an imputation of guilt, acceptance a confession of it." Since then, circuit courts have wrestled with which of these two declarations is the definitive one. And the upshot is that there is an argument to be made for either point of view until SCOTUS weighs in again and settles the matter.

    That said, whether accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt or not, there are related complications that undoubtedly shaped the White House's thinking as they compiled today's list. First, the standard in the court of public relations is rather less strict, and a self-pardon and/or family pardons could be bad PR that the Trumps don't want. Second, acceptance of a federal pardon could plausibly be used as evidence of guilt in a state-level case. Not proof, necessarily, but evidence. And third, anyone who accepts a pardon also gives up most of their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. And so, if the President pardons Steve Bannon or Rudy Giuliani or Jared Kushner, those folks could find themselves on a witness stand choosing between spilling their guts about Trump or else going to prison for perjury and/or criminal contempt of court.

In short, this is a very complicated and hazy issue, one that has very little jurisprudence associated with it. However, we suspect that Trump will issue at least a few pardons today that will eventually force the courts to make things a fair bit clearer. (Z)

Schumer, McConnell Close to a Deal on Power Sharing

Yesterday, we mentioned an op-ed co-written by Trent Lott (R) and Tom Daschle (D) who were, respectively, Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader in 2001, the last time that the Senate was evenly divided. They suggested that hammering out a power-sharing deal this time around might be very, very difficult, given the complexities involved, as well as the polarized environment in Washington these days.

It looks like they need not have worried, because soon-to-be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are reportedly close to a deal. The key elements: (1) Democrats will get all the committee chairs; (2) however, the two parties will have an equal number of seats on each committee; and (3) bills and nominations can advance from committee to the Senate floor even after a tie vote (usually it requires the support of a majority of the committee).

There are, in our view, two takeaways here. The first is that the Republicans won't actually have much more power than if they had 49 seats or 45 or 40; the filibuster (if it survives) will remain their only real tool to stymie the Democrats, assuming the Democrats remain unified. The second is that McConnell, as soon as he's working from a position of weakness, gets downright reasonable and accommodating. (Z)

Biden Embraces Some Progressive Priorities

Joe Biden, the politician, is most certainly not a progressive. He is a pragmatic centrist, which is often necessary to be elected president (at least, as a Democrat), and is definitely necessary to sustain a 40-year career as a senator representing what was, for many of those years, a purple state.

Joe Biden, the person, on the other hand, has sometimes been a fair bit leftier than his public image might suggest. Most obviously, he was a supporter of legalizing gay marriage well before that was a mainstream position in the Democratic Party. The same is true of legalizing pot. Furthermore, as a good party man, he knows that all factions need to share in the spoils after a big political victory. He clearly decided, with some justification, that getting a fire-breathing progressive into the cabinet was not especially plausible. In the last couple of days, however, he's made several announcements that should gladden the hearts of the Democrats' progressive wing.

As we have already noted, Biden has suggested he was going to pick Gary Gensler—no friend to the big banks—to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. On Monday, the President-elect announced that Rohit Chopra, a close ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will be his pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chopra's big on enforcing fair-lending laws, cracking down on payday loans, and vigorous enforcement of Dodd-Frank. He won't get any GOP votes for confirmation; he'll need to hope that he's acceptable to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Meanwhile, speaking of banks, Biden has reportedly narrowed his choice for Comptroller of the Currency, the nation's main bank regulator, to two candidates. The first is legal scholar and law professor Mehrsa Baradaran, who is an expert on the wealth gap, and is very popular with progressives. The second is former Treasury Dept. official Michael Barr, who is a bit less lefty than Baradaran, but who nonetheless helped craft the rules that were imposed on the financial sector after the Great Recession. Either way, it's going to be a new sheriff in town, and one that's not in the bankers' pockets.

And finally, Barack Obama spent much time waffling about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Not so Donald Trump, who allowed the project to move forward, consistent with his philosophy that more fossil fuels are always a good thing. Not so Joe Biden, either, who announced yesterday that he will yank the permit for Keystone XL on his first day in the Oval Office. With all the lawsuits and protests that the project has triggered, and with oil slowly being supplanted by other energy sources, and with at least 4 years (and very possibly 8 or 12 years) of an anti-XL president in the White House, one wonders if this will be the death blow for the project.

In any event, it's clear that Biden is working to throw at least a few bones to each of the Democratic factions that got him elected, whether Black voters, or young people, or progressives. Exactly how satisfied these factions are, we will have to wait to see. (Z)

Fox News in Decline

Fox News has, in the last few weeks, hit a bit of a road bump. Since the election, their ratings are down quite a bit, both overall and in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic. Part of this is loss of viewers to OAN and Newsmax. That's not the whole story, however, because CNN is surging, and has been the top-rated cable news channel for the last 8 weeks.

Colby Hall, writing for Mediaite, lists five things that are hurting Fox right now. Here is a summary:

  1. A historic news cycle—for the competition: Most of the big news stories of the last year, from the pandemic to Trump's election loss to the insurrection are the kinds of things that Fox tends to downplay (at risk of alienating their audience), while CNN and MSNBC were able to provide wall-to-wall coverage.

  2. Deemphasizing news department in favor of more opinion programming: Angry white commentary from folks like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro has been Fox's bread and butter for years and years. The news operation was seen as, in effect, an ugly stepchild. And with the news division losing most of its remaining stars (especially Shepard Smith) as well as the one hour of prime time it was allotted, it's become even uglier and even stepchildier (remarkably, that word passes spell check). It now appears that the news, while not the focus, at least differentiated Fox from its competitors. Now, Fox is not especially different from The Blaze, or The Daily Caller, or The Daily Wire, or Breitbart.

  3. Opinion programming all-in on conspiracies: For those who embrace conspiratorial thinking, and who can overlook those occasions where someone like Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity completely changes course (for example, "Dominion voting machines were hacked!" to "Dominion voting machines weren't hacked!") then there's no problem. However, for those who wish to believe that Fox is a serious news outlet committed to the philosophy of "we report, you decide," the conspiracies are awfully difficult to ignore.

  4. Outflanked on the fringe right by OAN and Newsmax: For many years, among cable channels, Fox News had an entire crazy right-wing landscape all to themselves, and could decide exactly how crazy they did or did not want to go. Now, it's basically impossible to out-crazy Newsmax and OAN, narrowing Fox's possibilities.

  5. Message fatigue, or the "classic rock" problem: There's only so much mileage to be gotten out of Benghazi, or Hillary Clinton's e-mails, or Barack Obama's tan suit. It would appear that, like "Hotel California" or "Stairway to Heaven" after they've been played for the millionth time, the "scandals" of Democrats past have lost a lot of their power.

It's a pretty good list, though we think that Hall might have done a bit more to highlight the problems that Joe Biden, in particular, presents for Fox News' talking heads. There was more than a bit of sexism embedded in many of the attacks on Hillary Clinton, and more than a bit of racism (or xenophobia) embedded in many of the attacks on Barack Obama. Biden, on the other hand, is a white guy in his 70s who is well-liked, nearly scandal-free, and fairly bland. There are some presidents that "Saturday Night Live" has struggled to satirize (Ronald Reagan and Obama, in particular, made far less interesting targets than Trump, the Bushes, or Bill Clinton). Surely, there are also some presidents who don't provide all that much fuel for the 24-hour rage machine. And we think Biden is one of those.

Obviously, it's only 8 weeks so far. Fox News is very good at this, which is why they have been King of the Hill for so long. Perhaps they will course-correct, and will be back on top again. On the other hand, it's also possible they are in the same position as the Republican Party, and will find that the price of going all-in on Donald Trump short term is serious long-term damage to the brand. (Z)

Parler Is "Back"

As long as we are talking about right-wing outlets, has apparently figured out a new arrangement after having been kicked off of Amazon's servers, and says it will be operational again by the end of the month.

At the moment, if you visit the site, it has a handful of old Parler tweets (Peets? Pleets? Parakeets?) and a message from CEO John Matze that says:

Now seems like the right time to remind you all—both lovers and haters—why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both.

We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!

The new domain registrar is Epik, which also serves as registrar to Gab, 8Chan, Stormfront, and pretty much every other high-profile ultra-right-wing site on the Internet. This has led some to dub them EpiKKK. It's not clear who is hosting the new Parler, though Epik issued a statement claiming that it's not them. Examining the DNS record, it looks like the host is...the Russkies.

In any case, Parler was presumably integrated enough with Amazon Web Services to require some retooling, but not so integrated as to make a switch impossible. As they re-launch, however, they will continue to have the problem that their reach is very limited, and mostly involves members of the choir whining and moaning to other members of the choir. Further, the site's sloppy security allowed many users—including many Capitol insurrectionists—to be doxxed. So, some folks may be very leery to put their trust in the site going forward. (Z)

Cohen Implicates Boebert

For at least a week, Democratic members of Congress have claimed that they saw some of their Republican colleagues leading tours of the U.S. Capitol complex in the days before the Trump Insurrection. Given that the complex is largely shut down right now, due to COVID, the tours led to raised eyebrows even before the Insurrection. And given that the rioters seemed to have excellent knowledge of the labyrinthine complex, then putting 2+2 together leads to the conclusion that perhaps those tours were, in fact, reconnaissance trips.

Until Monday, the identities of these alleged GOP tour guides were not known, as the Democratic accusers preferred not to make reckless accusations. But now, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) has come out and said that both he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) saw newly seated Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) leading a large group around the Capitol complex a day or two before the insurrection.

Cohen was careful to qualify his revelation, saying he had no way to know if the tour group included insurrectionists, or just friends/family who were there to be a part of Boebert's swearing-in week. Of course, knowing what we already know of Boebert, it's possible they were both. She's an outspoken Trump supporter and someone who definitely believes that violence solves problems, since she insists that her staff carry loaded weapons while working at her restaurant, and she wants to carry while working in the House of Representatives. In any event, there are cameras all over the place in the Capitol Building, and the FBI has been sparing no resource when it comes to identifying perpetrators. So, if Boebert was indeed leading soon-to-be insurrectionists around the Capitol, she's almost certain to be caught red-handed. Indeed, the fact that Cohen was willing to name names, after a week of not doing so, might suggest he already knows of evidence against her. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan18 Biden Plans a Dozen Executive Actions on Day 1
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Jan18 Running the Senate Won't Be Easy
Jan18 Republicans Are at Each Other's Throats
Jan18 Trump Blows Up the Arizona Republican Party on His Way Out
Jan18 Pardon Me?
Jan18 Harris Will Resign Today
Jan18 Love in the Time of Rioting
Jan17 Sunday Mailbag
Jan16 Saturday Q&A
Jan15 Much Is Murky about the Impeachment Trial
Jan15 Biden Explains His Economic Plan
Jan15 Biden Will Have a Prime-Time Inauguration Program
Jan15 It's Cheney v. McCarthy
Jan15 House to Fine Members Who Refuse to Go Through Security Screening
Jan15 It's Nightmare Time for Republicans
Jan15 Koch Brother Not Happy with Republicans
Jan15 Business Sucks
Jan15 Biden Is Already Worried about the Midterms
Jan15 Republican Governor Tries to End Gerrymandering--by Democrats
Jan14 Impeach-quel
Jan13 Ghosts of Republicans Past
Jan13 Sheldon Adelson Dies
Jan13 Biden Likely to Pick Gary Gensler to Chair the SEC
Jan13 SCOTUS Issues First Abortion Decision of the Barrett Era
Jan13 And Now It Is Three
Jan13 YouTube Joins Facebook, Twitter in Banning Donald Trump
Jan13 Michael Madigan Is Out as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Impeachment
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Rioters
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: COVID-19
Jan12 Conventional Republicans Push Back Against Trump...
Jan12 ...So Does the Sports World
Jan12 Wolf Is Out at DHS
Jan12 Biden Completes His Cabinet
Jan12 Trump Administration Tries to Stymie Biden, but Success May Be Elusive
Jan12 Trump Was Warned Not to Self-Pardon
Jan12 Parler Sues Amazon
Jan11 Poll: Trump Must Go Now
Jan11 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Jan11 Will Big Tech Save Democracy?
Jan11 Will Trump Start His Own Media Empire?
Jan11 Second Republican Senator Says Trump Must Go
Jan11 Dominion Voting Systems Sues Trump Lawyer for $1.3 Billion
Jan11 Biden Can Raise More Revenue without Raising Taxes
Jan11 Reforms That Would Improve Democracy
Jan11 Pennsylvania Senate Race Gets Going