• The Guy Who Tried to Sue a Fake Twitter Cow Is Going to Lead Trump’s Media Company

    Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Zuma

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is leaving the US House of Representatives to take on a position as CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group, the former president’s latest nebulous enterprise.

    Nunes, an ardent Trumper, has spent 10 terms in Congress. His main social media qualification seems to be that he likes to hold a petty grudge. During his tenure as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, he released an eponymous memo alleging that the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia was politically motivated. After his district’s biggest newspaper, the Fresno Bee, called him a “Trump stooge” in 2018 (they had endorsed him in every election from 1996 to that point), he waged war on them. Solid stuff—none of which stopped him from continuing to be reelected. But nothing shows that Nunes has the aggrieved mentality of the chronically online quite like the issue of a certain fake cow.

    In 2019, Nunes took offense to a number of satirical Twitter accounts, including one purporting to be his cow, and sued both the platform and several individual users for defamation.

    That’s the stuff.

    Now, Nunes will lead Trump’s social media company, despite having no previous experience in tech. His departure from the House comes on the heels of new draft maps of California congressional districts that would have likely made his reelection campaign much more competitive.

  • The Justice Department Is Suing Texas for Gerrymandered Maps

    U.S. Attorney General Merrick GarlandSarah Silbiger/Pool/CNP/Zuma

    Months after Texas Republicans approved gerrymandered redistricting maps that diluted the voting power of communities of color, the Justice Department is suing the state for violating the Voting Rights Act.

    As my colleague Ari Berman wrote, Texas’ new election maps increase the number of districts with white majorities—even though 95 percent of the state’s population growth in the last decade has come from communities of color.

    This gerrymandering is a brazen attempt to cement Republican dominance in the state despite demographic change:

    The maps consolidate white power as the white population is shrinking as a percentage of the state, and eliminate political competition at a time when longtime GOP strongholds are trending blue. The number of safe GOP seats would double in the new congressional maps, from 11 to 22, and the number of competitive districts would fall from 12 to just one. GOP candidates for Congress received 53 percent of the statewide vote in 2020, but are forecasted to control 65 percent of US House seats under the new map.

    The suit came after the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the federal government did not have to approve the redistricting maps before they went into effect. The only option for Justice Department was to sue, using the parts of the VRA left intact.

    “The complaint that we filed today alleges that Texas violated Section 2 by creating redistricting plans that deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language or minority group,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said of the suit on Monday.

    Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said that some aspects of the maps signaled “discriminatory intent.” “The Justice Department will not stand idly by in the face of unlawful attempts to restrict access to the ballot,” she said.

    Garland also called on Congress to pass legislation reinstating the government’s ability to review redistricting maps before they’re enacted.

    Read the full suit here.

  • Some of the Lawyers Who Attempted to Overturn the 2020 Election Were Sanctioned in Michigan

    Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/ZUMA

    The legal assault on democracy will be—barely—punished, after all.

    In 2020, attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, among others, brought baseless lawsuits against several states accusing them of election fraud in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

    Today, it was announced that these pro-Trump lawyers have been ordered to pay $175,250.37 in sanctions in Michigan. A federal judge called their actions a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

    Until a federal judge in Michigan sanctioned Powell and Wood in August, it seemed unlikely that the lawyers would face any repercussions. But now, the attorneys’ misconduct has a number. Powell, Wood, and others owe $21,964.75 to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and $153,285.62 to the city of Detroit.

    And, with ethics complaints pending in Arizona and a sanctions request underway in Wisconsin, the Michigan ruling could be just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The House Just Did Its Part to Avoid a Government Shutdown. Now GOP Senators Hold the Cards.

    Tasos Katopodis/AP

    On Thursday afternoon, the House passed a bill temporarily funding the government through the middle of February.

    The 221–212 vote comes after several days of concern that Democrats and Republicans in Congress would be unable to agree on a funding package ahead of the midnight Friday deadline, pushing the federal government into a shutdown that would furlough thousands of government workers, upend some federally funded services, and derail the economy just a few weeks before the holidays.

    While the House vote makes this less likely, the threat is not gone. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it will require unanimous agreement to quickly pass ahead of the government funding deadline on Friday. A few Republican senators, including Ted Cruz, have threatened to derail the funding bill unless it includes a measure to undo President Joe Biden’s business vaccine mandate. If they make good on this threat, they’ll tank the economy for hundreds of thousands of Americans just as they enter the holiday season. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned on Thursday that if this happens, it will be a “Republican anti-vaccine shutdown.”

    “Democrats and most Republicans, including the Republican leader, have said they don’t want to see a Republican shutdown,” he said from the Senate floor. “We hope cooler heads will prevail.”

    The last time the government shut down was in January 2019, when President Donald Trump refused to sign a budget that lacked funding for his plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. That shutdown’s economic impacts were enormous: It cost the US economy at least $11 billion, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, and more than 800,000 government workers went weeks without pay. Food banks around the country saw jumps in demand of as much as 20 percent, and furloughed federal workers turned to GoFundMe campaigns and shifts at McDonald’s to make ends meet.

    If the government shuts down this weekend, similar results are likely. S&P Global Ratings estimated on Thursday that the shutdown would cost the US economy $1.8 billion for every week that it continues. 

  • Susan Collins Said Kavanaugh Called Roe “Settled Law.” She Should Have Heard Him in Court Today.

    Sarah Silbiger/ Zuma

    Remember when Republican Sen. Susan Collins broke the tie to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s to the Supreme Court in 2018?

    At the time, Collins was just one of two undecided senators. Her vote of support was pivotal to putting Kavanaugh in the highest court despite many scandals, including an accusation of sexual assault. A large piece of this was that Collins—who supports abortion rights—told the public that Kavanaugh wasn’t likely to overturn Roe v. Wade; that, in fact, she would not support a nominee who “demonstrates hostility” to the precedent. In a meeting, Collins said Kavanaugh had assuaged this fear by saying Roe was “settled law.” 

    Well, that was three years ago and a lot has changed.

    During today’s oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson on Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks, Kavanaugh didn’t sound like the person who Collins described.

    He asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart to clarify whether his state was “not arguing that the Court somehow has the authority to itself prohibit abortion…” Or, to put it in layperson terms, that if the court repeals Roe, that doesn’t mean it is outlawing abortion. Um, Brett, nobody is asking the Supreme Court to mandate an abortion ban. We’re talking about the fact that there is a fundamental right to abortion not being upheld for people in states intent on infringing upon it.

    That wasn’t the end. Kavanaugh went on to list major court cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education, that overruled precedent. He said this was to show that “if we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong,” it’s fine to overturn them. “Doesn’t the history of this court’s practice…tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality?” he continued.

    Well, we know that a “position of neutrality” wouldn’t exactly be neutral. It would reverse Roe, overturning nearly 50 years of abortion rights for pregnant people.

    Again, Collins, this isn’t sounding very “settled”! Her thoughts? Well, she told a reporter that she did not listen to the oral arguments.

    “I did not see his questioning or hear any of the arguments. I hope to later tonight play them so I have first-hand knowledge…but so can’t comment about what I didn’t see,” she said, adding that she was “for” Roe.

    This has frustrated colleagues. “I don’t know where she got that reassurance,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told Mother Jones on Wednesday about Collins’ position, sounding exasperated. She cited Kavanaugh’s decision during his time as a DC Circuit judge that would have forced an undocumented minor further into pregnancy had a federal court not intervened to grant an abortion. “I have no assurances that he’s going to do much to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Hirono said. “He basically does not consider any regulatory burden so burdensome on a woman [that it should not legally exist].”

    The three justices appointed under Trump—Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett—all appeared to signal support for Mississippi’s ban. A decision is expected next summer.

  • Report: Trump Tested Positive for COVID Three Days Before First Debate

    Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Pennsylvania on September 26, 2020, shortly after he reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. Ron Adar/SOPA/ZUMA

    Evidence is mounting that Donald Trump received a positive COVID-19 test shortly before attending his first debate with Joe Biden.

    According to a report in the Guardian, Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, reveals in his forthcoming book that Trump tested positive for the virus on September 26, 2020, three days before the debate. Shortly after that test, Meadows writes, Trump also received a negative result from a different test and decided to press on with a rally in Pennsylvania, a maskless event for Gold Star families where he spoke about the “value of sacrifice,” an indoor press conference, and then the debate with the 77-year-old Democratic nominee. 

    “Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there,” Meadows reportedly writes.

    Two anonymous former Trump officials have confirmed to the New York Times that Meadows timeline is accurate.

    In a statement Wednesday, Trump complained about “fake news” but didn’t really deny his former chief of staff’s claim about the September 26 positive test. Instead, Trump asserted that he did not have COVID-19 “prior to, or during, the first debate” and that he received a negative test at some point before the debate. Days after the debate, Trump disclosed that he had the disease and he was eventually hospitalized, but at the time the White House infamously refused to say when he had last received a negative test.

    At one point, Trump appeared to blame the Gold Star families he met with for exposing him to the virus.

    “They come within an inch of my face sometimes, they want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up. I’m not doing it, but obviously it’s a dangerous thing, I guess, if you go by the COVID thing,” he told Fox Business. 

    That meeting, it now turns out, took place a day after Meadows says Trump first tested positive.

  • Justice Sotomayor Expertly Exposed the Bullshit of Mississippi’s Attack on Abortion Rights

    Michael Brochstein/ Zuma

    This morning, as the Supreme Court heard the most serious challenge to abortion rights in decades, Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered a stirring series of questions challenging the attempt to upend a person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

    It came as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Newly rammed full of conservative Trump appointees, the court is overseeing a challenge that poses a serious risk for abortion rights across the country. Sotomayor seemed eager to make clear how such a decision could harm pregnant persons and the court—especially with Texas eager to implement its abortion ban

    “The right of a woman to choose, the right to control her own body, has been clearly set since Casey and never challenged,” Justice Sotomayor said, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe, in response to comments by Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart. “You want us to reject that line of viability and adopt something different.”

    The “viability line”—drawn in 1973 by Roe and which does not allow states to ban abortions before a fetus could survive outside the womb—hasn’t been an issue for 30 years. In fact, Sotomayor goes on to say that 15 justices of varying political backgrounds have affirmed that basic viability line since 1992. Her point is that this is not a question of case law, but politics.

    “Will this institution survive the stench this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are just political acts?…If people actually believe it’s all political, how will the court survive?” 

    This was one one of the big moments in which Sotomayor dismantled the arguments of Stewart and conservative colleagues on the bench. But there were others.

    “How is your interest anything but a religious view?” Sotomayor asked of the state’s attempt to define when life begins. Sotomayor also fought back against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s comments on precedent. And she asked Stewart when the life of a woman and the risk she endures come into the calculus: “The state is saying to these women that we can choose to not only physically complicate your existence, put you at medical risk, make you poorer by the choice, because we believe…what?” 

    When she was interrupted, this happened:

    It’s too early to say what will become of Mississippi’s abortion law, which was blocked by lower courts in 2019. But Justice Sotomayor was firm in articulating the widespread ramifications of the law if the Court allows it to take effect.

  • Amazon Workers Will Likely Get Another Chance to Unionize in Alabama

    Jay Reeves/AP

    Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, who tried unsuccessfully to unionize earlier this year, will likely have another shot at a union election thanks to an order by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. The order said the company acted with “flagrant disregard” for certain policies that keep elections fair.

    In April, after an aggressive anti-union campaign from Amazon, warehouse workers in Bessemer overwhelmingly voted not to authorize a union. As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote at the time, people voted not to unionize in part because Amazon provided relatively solid wages and benefits in economically depressed areas. But that wasn’t the only reason:

    On top of those economic realities, Amazon fought unionization at every turn. It forced employees to attend anti-union meetings on company time, hired union-busting consultants, sent out barrages of texts urging workers to vote no, and launched a website called doitwithoutdues.com.

    All of that is legal. We live in a country long wedded to union busting. But one of Amazon’s actions crossed a line.

    During the election, Amazon had the Postal Service install a post office in the parking lot to make voting in the union election “convenient, safe and private.” Labor organizers disagreed, arguing that the box’s location near a security camera—and inside of an Amazon-branded tent—tainted the election. The regional NLRB agreed and granted a do-over.

    “Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union—which the Amazon voters were voting to join—said in a statement. “Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”

    Amazon can still appeal the decision, and a union win in a second vote is far from certain.

    Read the full decision here.

  • Lauren Boebert Doubles Down on Her Anti-Muslim Bigotry

    Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via ZUMA

    Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) called Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Monday after Boebert was caught on video likening the Minnesota congresswoman to a terrorist. The conversation went about as well as you’d expect. 

    The video of Boebert made the rounds on social media over the holiday weekend, drawing condemnation from Democrats and even a Republican or two. In the footage, Boebert claims that she and Omar, who is Muslim, were sharing an elevator in the Capitol when a police officer approached them. Then comes the bigoted punchline: “I look to my left, and there she is, Ilhan Omar. I said, ‘Well she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’”

    Ha! Islamophobia! 

    Last Friday, Boebert issued a kinda-sorta apology via tweet, noting that she’d reached out to Omar’s office to speak with her directly. That conversation—which House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy claims to have helped facilitate—took place today, but, according to both Boebert and Omar, it only made things worse. 

    Omar’s and Boebert’s accounts of what happened don’t really differ. According to public statements issued by the two congresswomen, Omar pressed Boebert to make a public apology for her comments, only for Boebert to demand that Omar make a public apology to the American people for “anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.”

    This led Omar to end the call. “I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” she wrote in a public statement, calling on McCarthy to hold members of his party accountable for mainstreaming anti-Muslim harassment. 

    In an Instagram video posted after the call, Boebert returned to voicing the racist tropes that had gotten her in trouble in the first place, implying that Omar sympathized with terrorists. Boebert also claimed, ridiculously, that Omar had “cancelled” her by ending the call. “Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101,” she fumed.  

    What’s surprising about this sorry affair isn’t that Boebert doubled down on her Islamophobic rhetoric, but that she ever expressed even an ounce of contrition. At the same event where she implied Omar was a terrorist, Boebert also made homophobic comments about Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, saying that he was trying to “chest feed” the twins he recently adopted. She’s yet to apologize for those remarks. 

  • Anonymous Republican Bravely Stands Up to Kevin McCarthy

    Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP

    Great news! At long last, Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking a courageous stand against the wing of their party that traffics in bigotry and outlandish conspiracy theories and that tried to end America democracy. Just look at the exciting headline on this scoop CNN published yesterday: “Moderate House Republican warns McCarthy over embracing far-right members.”

    Wow! So who is this brave lawmaker—this statesman who is willing to fight back against GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and the Trump acolytes McCarthy has spent years appeasing?

    A moderate House Republican is firing off a warning shot at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as he caters to his right flank in a quest for the speaker’s gavel.

    “He’s taking the middle of the conference for granted,” the GOP lawmaker told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conference dynamics. “McCarthy could have a bigger math problem with the moderates.”

    Specifically, the lawmaker said a number of moderates are upset with how McCarthy, of California, has embraced some of the extremists in the GOP conference and warned it could hurt the party in swing districts and undermine their chances of winning back the majority.

    Oh.

    The story, which was not published by The Onion, adds that this courageously unnamed public servant “predicted other moderate lawmakers would start speaking out publicly if McCarthy doesn’t do more to rein in the fringe members in the party.”

    “Our side isn’t going to take this much longer,” the anonymous lawmaker valiantly concludes.

    The absurdity here is self-evident. I don’t really blame CNN for publishing it—it’s a pretty useful window into how ineffective the non-authoritarian faction of the House GOP has become. Just a handful of Republicans voted for Trump’s second impeachment, or for the January 6 investigation, or even for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Many of them are either retiring or in serious danger of losing to a MAGA primary challenger. The rest of the GOP caucus has spent the last five years desperately trying not to do the right thing, and they certainly aren’t interested in speaking out publicly now.

    In his new book, Betrayal, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl recounts a remarkable conversation he had with McCarthy in the shadow of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on January 2—just days before McCarthy joined most House Republicans in voting to throw out Joe Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Karl noted that day that McCarthy had an opportunity to push back on the increasingly unhinged and dangerous rhetoric coming from the right. But McCarthy made it clear his priority was to avoid angering Trump:

    Exaggerating to make a point about the historical weight of the moment, I nodded toward the monuments along the National Mall—memorials to political leaders remembered precisely because they did things that were both important and difficult to do.

    “Who knows,” I said, “if you do the right thing, maybe there will be a statue of you out here someday.”

    McCarthy laughed.

    “Where’s the statue for Jeff Flake? Where the statue for that guy from Tennessee?” he said, referring to the former Republican Senator Bob Corker who, like former Republican Senator Jeff Flake, had stood up to Trump during Trump’s first two years in office. As McCarthy saw it, both men gave big speeches condemning Trump’s actions and were rewarded with political obscurity. They became pariahs within the Republican Party. Nobody talks much of Flake and Corker anymore. McCarthy believed they ultimately accomplished little by taking on Trump. Their speeches didn’t change Trump’s behavior—in fact, they may have egged him on to be more outrageous.

    So, in his quest to be speaker of the House, McCarthy can vote to overturn the election. He can promise to give influential committee assignments to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose extremist rhetoric got them kicked off their committees this year. And he can back the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from GOP leadership in the wake of her outspoken condemnation of Trump’s coup attempt. But maybe if McCarthy crosses any more lines, other Republican lawmakers will “start speaking out publicly.” Perhaps they will even use their real names.

  • Republican Governor Says GOP Leader Should Condemn Boebert’s Bigoted Remarks

    Andrew Harnik/AP

    After a video of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) making anti-Muslims comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) went viral over the holiday weekend, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, is calling on House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to condemn Boebert’s actions.

    “I think whenever, even in our own caucus, our own members, if they go the wrong direction, I mean, it has to be called out, it has to be dealt with,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s State of the Union after viewing a clip of the comments, “particularly whenever it is breaching the civility, whenever it is crossing the line, in terms of violence or increasing the divide in our country.”

    In the clip, Boebert likened Omar to a terrorist and referred to her as part of the “jihad squad.” Omar responded with a tweet and Boebert issued a quasi-apology the day after the video spread on social media. 

    This latest incident comes at a time when multiple members of the Republican Party are under fire for being unable to behave professionally. Earlier this year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was stripped of her committee assignments after old social media posts in which she appeared to indicate support for killing her political enemies went viral. Then, last week, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) was censured and removed from his committee seats after he posted an anime video that depicted him murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

    “One of the things that’s really important to us in the future is increasing the civil debate and civil discourse,” Hutchinson said on Sunday. “And we have got to look for ways that we can bring people together, and not divide, and certainly along racial lines.”

    It doesn’t appear that McCarthy will heed Hutchinson’s advice, though. In a statement, the GOP leader said only that he had spoken with Boebert and acknowledged her so-called apology. McCarthy said he had tried to help set up a meeting between Boebert and Omar, but he did not publicly condemn her statement. 

  • MAGA Congressman Falsely Claims Omicron Variant Is Part of Plot to Rig 2022 Election

    Rod Lamkey/AP

    The new coronavirus variant, Omicron—which was first detected by virologists in South Africa—has sparked concerns among public health experts. The United States quickly imposed travel restrictions on certain African countries. Scientists say that much about the new variant remains unknown. But it’s apparently not too soon for members of the US Congress to begin spouting ridiculous conspiracy theories about it.

    In a tweet Saturday, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), who served as White House physician for Barack Obama and Donald Trump before running for office on a hard-MAGA platform, dubbed the new strain “the Midterm Election Variant.”

    According to this latest crackpot theory, Democrats are going to use Omicron to “push” mail-in ballots during the midterm elections, which will supposedly enable massive amounts to cheating. 

    There’s a lot to unpack here. When does Jackson think the midterm elections are? How could the Democrats be using a new variant discovered in November 2021 to impact elections that are a full year away? Are the South African doctors who reported it to the World Health Organization also part of Democrats’ plan to steal the elections? What about the other countries Omicron has been detected in? What role do they play?

    Jackson’s tweet manages to hit on two conspiracy theories popular among far right: that the pandemic is somehow being manipulated by Democrats for political gain, and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It should go without saying that both of these theories are false. But as we approach the two-year mark in the pandemic, much of the world remains unvaccinated and patience is wearing thin. Ignorant tweets like Jackson’s will only fuel more conspiracy theories about the virus and endanger more lives. 

  • Bye-Bye, Trump Hotel

    AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

    It turns out not even Rudy Giuliani’s bar tab could save the Trump International Hotel. The Trump Organization lost at least $70 million since its opening in 2016, even as the grand hotel became a fixture of Trump-era Washington, a place where the president’s loyalists and sycophants alike could gather in a cozy bubble safely away from the fake news and impeachment managers and sip champagne from a spoon and imbibe cocktails starting at $24 a pop

    The Trump family has been threatening to sell it for the past few years, and now it seems they finally have: The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that a Miami-based investment firm, CGI Merchant Group, intends to assume the lease with the federal government for $375 million and turn the Trump Hotel into a Waldorf Astoria. 

    The hotel had become a liability for a family company that no longer had a steady stream of lobbyists and influence-seekers willing to pay inflated prices for rooms in a hotel that many businesses wouldn’t come near because of the association with Trump. It was by far one of the former president’s biggest conflicts of interest—he refused to relinquish control of the company that ran it. Trump had won the contract to lease the former Old Post Office Pavilion from the federal government by wildly overpaying, and then sinking $200 million into renovations, paid for with $170 million borrowed from Deutsche Bank. That loan, and others, comes due in 2024. Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee is continuing to probe how Trump handled hotel-related conflicts of interest, and the DC attorney general is currently suing the Trump Organization, alleging that the nonprofit created to manage Trump’s inauguration improperly misused charitable funds by grossly overpaying the Trump Hotel for event space to enrich the Trump family. Those investigations are likely to continue regardless of who owns the hotel.

    For a look back on the brief but sordid history of the DC Trump Hotel, check out this Mother Jones story by Zach Everson, who rode out the Trump years in the lobby of the famous hotel, reporting daily on the who’s who of MAGA-world, foreign nationals, tourists, and outright criminals who populated its bars and restaurants hoping to win favor with the 45th president. 

  • I Don’t Know About You But I’m Feeling 22 (and Like I Need a Three-Day Weekend Devoted to Taylor’s Version)

    A 100 percent, very real, very serious note from my Slack drafts … 
     
    Hey boss, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling I’m not going to be able to log on tomorrow. I need several 2-hour-and-10-minute time blocks to do nothing but listen. I need another 10 minutes to watch the Taylor Swift short film. Again. And again. I need another 10 minutes to watch the SNL performance. Again. I need time to Google (again) the ages of Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal. I need time to Google and then examine the photos of them walking down the street together. I need time to Google (again) the ages of Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. I need time to ponder why Dylan O’Brien, a completely nondescript, not very charming 30-year-old and onetime teen star, is suddenly everywhere. I need time to compare what Dylan looks like in a beanie to what Jake looks like in a beanie. I need time to find out if Taylor is actually friends with Phoebe Bridgers. I need time to order a red scarf. I need time to build an outfit around that red scarf. I need time to send angry notes to whoever let Taylor put on that red wig. I need time to figure out who the actress in the bathroom was. (And if it was Jennifer Aniston, did they talk about John Mayer?!) I need a full few hours to deal with the forthcoming video directed by Blake Lively. Finally, I need time to petition the government to make the third Monday in November an official federal holiday due to the fact that it’s now Holy Ground. This is the last time I’m asking you this. And by Wednesday, we’ll be in a cafe, watching it begin again. Sound good?*
     
    *Don’t come at me, it’s a slow news Sunday. 
  • Nearly 200 Countries Just Signed On to the Glasgow Climate Pact. Read It Here.

    Christoph Soeder/AP

    After two weeks of negotiations, representatives from almost 200 countries at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow hammered out an agreement Saturday, laying out measures the world could take to prevent a cataclysmic rise in global temperatures.

    As the New York Times reported:

    The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming, despite the urgent demands of many of the thousands of politicians and activists gathered at the climate summit here. It leaves unresolved the crucial question of how much and how quickly each nation should cut its emissions over the next decade. And it still leaves many developing countries far short of the funds they need to build cleaner energy and cope with increasingly extreme weather disasters.

    The talks underscored the complexity of trying to steer scores of countries, each with their particular economic interests and domestic politics, to act in unison for the greater good.

    But the agreement established a clear consensus that all nations need to do much more, immediately, to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. It outlined specific steps the world should take, from slashing global carbon dioxide emissions nearly in half by 2030 to curbing methane, another potent greenhouse gas. And it sets up new rules to hold countries accountable for the progress they make — or fail to make.

    Read the full 10-page agreement here.

  • I’m Moving to Portugal, See You Never

    Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    The promise of telecommuting tech was one of the biggest pump-fakes that workers have ever seen. Everyone was going to be able to work from anywhere—sad offices with pallid fluorescent lighting be damned!

    Obviously, that didn’t really come until the pandemic, and in a lot of ways telecommuting chained workers to their offices even more by making sure that their work was always present, in their computers and in their cellphones. Something needs to get done late? It’s not waiting until you get back into the office. Your boss is going to email/Slack/text you tonight to do it. 

    Portugal is done with all of that. Its parliament approved legislation on Friday making it illegal for managers to contact their staff outside of working hours. Now, if your boss tries to contact you late, they can be fined, unless it’s an emergency situation. The only catch is that you have to go into the office every two months to check in with your supervisors and fellow employees.

    And if you have a kid, you don’t even need your boss’ permission for any of this. You can just work from home without getting them to sign off. 

    The legislation was drafted by Portugal’s socialist-led government in the hopes of regaining the work-life balance that has escaped many remote workers during the pandemic. Which is why, as I write this in the middle of my once-every-two-months weekend shift, I’ve also got a tab open for flights to Lisbon. Wish me a boa viagem, will you?

  • Kaiser Permanente Workers Just Scored One of Striketober’s Biggest Victories

    (Kirby Lee/AP)

    Kaiser Permanente reached a tentative agreement with its workers’ unions Saturday, handing its workers a big victory and averting what would have been a historic strike by two days.

    More than 30,000 employees had vowed to strike on Monday if the company did not reach an agreement with the unions. As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote last month, the health care workers threatening to walk off the job were particularly upset over the so-called two-tiered pay structure that Kaiser had proposed:

    Workers’ biggest problem with the wage proposal is that it would cut starting pay for new hires by between 26 percent and 39 percent beginning in 2023. They believe it would deepen an existing staffing crisis at Kaiser’s facilities and put patients at risk by making the nonprofit unable to recruit and retain talented workers. There are also fears that it would lead to resentment among those paid less for the same work, or cause Kaiser to replace the more expensive workers covered by the old contract with new hires. Kaiser’s push for two-tier pay resembles similar proposals from Kellogg and John Deere that have already led to strikes this fall. 

    Essentially, workers feared that Kaiser was trying to create a caste system within their ranks, paying workers who do the same jobs, even side by side, different salaries and benefits. These kinds of moves can splinter workers into different groups of have-somes and have-lesses, making it harder for them to organize in the future. In the end, Kaiser dropped its push for the two-tiered pay system.

    The health care giant had defended the proposed cuts as necessary to stay competitive, but the numbers tell a different story. In 2019, Kaiser gave its outgoing CEO Bernard Tyson a $35 million pay and retirement package. During the pandemic, it made $10 billion. And it made that money while its workers were ground down by the grueling conditions of laboring through a global pandemic. 

    In his October story, Noah detailed the intense situations that some of these workers have had to endure while their company’s bottom line has thrived. Take the case of Hollie Sili, an emergency room technician:

    These days, Sili usually works a 12-hour shift from noon to midnight. But due to staffing shortages, she often ends up staying until 4 a.m. before returning for another shift eight hours later. Last year, she had a stroke, which she attributes to the physical and mental stress she’s experienced at work.

    Or Daniel Stretch, a hospital engineer:

    Stretch, the hospital engineer, estimates that his workload and stress levels have doubled during the pandemic, while pay has remained the same. He and roughly two dozen other engineers are responsible for keeping air conditioners, humidifiers, sterilization machines, cooking equipment, TVs, nurse call buttons, and much more running at their Southern California facility. In pandemic times, they scrambled to push air circulation systems beyond their normal limits to protect patients from COVID-19.

    Or Katie Johnson, an oncology infusion nurse at a Kaiser clinic in Longview:

    Johnson, an oncology infusion nurse at a Kaiser clinic in Longview, Washington, doesn’t see how new hires would be able to pay off their nursing school debts and maintain a decent standard of living after a 39 percent cut to starting salaries. Even at today’s higher rates, she ended up moving to Longview after being priced out of the housing market 50 miles south in Hillsboro, Oregon. She says Kaiser has always operated on a lean staffing model, but that things have only gotten worse as colleagues left the field during the pandemic. “If we can’t attract the talent now,” she asks, “how are we going to attract talent at a lower rate?” 

    Had the strike happened, it would have been one of the largest in American health care history, and it would’ve come on the heels of an uptick of labor activism that observers have dubbed Striketober.

  • Oh, So *Now* Chris Christie Wants to Criticize Donald Trump?

    Dennis Van Tine/AP

    Chris Christie has a new book out, which means the former New Jersey governor—and Trump critic turned Trump ally who recently turned back again to Trump critic—is ready to put his longtime frenemy on blast. Sort of.

    “An election for president was held on November 3, 2020. Joe Biden won. Donald Trump did not,” Christie says in his forthcoming book, Republican Rescue: Saving the Party From Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden, according to the New York Times. “That is the truth. Any claim to the contrary is untrue.” 

    This might sound like a strong criticism of Trump, who even before the results of the 2020 election had alleged that it would be rigged against him, but Christie has waffled in condoning and rebuking the former president. Despite saying that Trump’s election claims are false, he said in an interview with the Times‘ Maggie Haberman he would not rule out supporting a potential Trump presidential candidacy in 2024. 

    After slamming Trump on the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 primaries, Christie eventually worked with him during his post-election transition and even in his debate prep ahead of the 2020 election. But he largely refrained from criticizing Trump until after the election and ensuing violence on January 6. 

    In the interview with Haberman, Christie explains why he held back: “I generally agreed with the policies that he was pursuing.” When they did argue, he said, “it was rarely over policy.”

    Still, Christie did blame Trump’s “rigged” rhetoric for helping induce the Capitol riot, and criticized Republicans for not moving on from the unfounded conspiracy theory. Meanwhile, Christie also didn’t rule out another presidential run of his own in 2024.

  • Lindsey Graham Calls Off His Friendship With Biden for Political Points

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks during a news conference in response to President Joe Biden's decision to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan.Kent Nishimura/Getty

    On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on Fox News to tell President Joe Biden that their friendship could not continue, on account of “what he did in Afghanistan.” 

    “I will never forgive,” Graham said of Biden’s withdrawal—before continuing on with a gleeful hope of stopping the Democrat’s “socialist train” in the upcoming election.

    Graham does this all the time. With his faux-gentlemanly air, he pays lip service to his relationship with Joe Biden before denouncing his friend’s actions on national television and demanding that he face severe punishment. The underlying message always seems to be: This time Biden has just gone too far! Of course you have to believe me! I’m Biden’s friend

    Graham took a similar tone when he called for a special prosecutor to investigate the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter. He insisted that he still liked Biden personally. But, especially during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, something had to be done.

    According to the New York Times, Graham called Biden in November 2020 to make amends over his attacks on Hunter, allegedly explaining that he was simply trying to placate Trump supporters. But around that same period, Graham made additional calls to election officials as part of Trump’s attempt to overturn Biden’s presidential win.

    Biden and Graham were genuinely close friends from their time serving together in the Senate. In 2015, Graham told Huffington Post that the then–vice president was “as good a man as God ever created” and “the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics.” 

    “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation, because what’s not to like?” he said. 

    How many times will Graham use that friendship to throw Biden under the bus?

  • A Capitol Rioter Was Just Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison

    Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Zuma

    A New Jersey man who was captured on video hitting a police officer in the head outside the Capitol on January 6 has been sentenced to 41 months in prison by a federal judge, the most serious sentence yet stemming from the attack.

    Scott Fairlamb, a 44-year-old gym owner and former MMA fighter, pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer. He was the first Capitol rioter sentenced for violence against the police, and the federal judge’s highly awaited decision will likely serve as a benchmark for how other January 6 insurrectionists charged with violence will be punished. Most other Capitol riot cases have dealt with nonviolent offenders charged with misdemeanors and sentenced to minimal, if any, jail time.

    In a video, Fairlamb can be seen in a camouflage jacket shoving and then punching a Capitol Police officer. Other evidence showed Fairlamb posing with an “AREA CLOSED” sign outside the Capitol and encouraging others to storm the building.

    Prosecutors had recommended a 44-month sentence. The judge, Royce Lamberth, said that Fairlamb’s guilty plea and and expression of remorse earned him a lesser sentence than what other offenders might receive. “Had you gone to trial, I don’t think there’s any jury that could have acquitted you,” he said.

    “I truly regret my actions that day,” Fairlamb told the judge. “I have nothing but remorse.” Still, that hasn’t stopped him from raising more than $30,000 in an online fundraiser since his arrest.