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Manchin’s Last-Ditch Attempt to Save His Pipeline Deal is Unlikely to Work

Senator Joe Manchin isn’t giving up on his fight for permitting reform, even after it was removed from the annual defense spending bill.

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Senator Joe Manchin

The final text of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, was released Tuesday, and absent was Senator Joe Manchin’s so-called “Dirty Deal,” a set of provisions he was promised in exchange for his support for the Inflation Reduction Act (a bill he massively watered down).

Now Manchin is trying yet again to include his provisions, this time as an amendment to the annual defense spending bill. Manchin released his amendment Wednesday, with various concessions to try to appeal to Republican support instead of members of his own party. Nevertheless, he seems unlikely to garner enough support.

The bill would weaken environmental review processes and fast-track the permitting process for energy projects, including pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure.

Manchin’s bill seeks to clear the path for the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, a West Virginia project opposed by several community and environmental groups, facing lawsuits in state and federal courts, and even invalidated by an appeals court.

Federal agencies would be called to proceed in issuing permits and leases, superseding citizen challenges and clearing the path for the legally and communally opposed fossil fuel project.

But the effort failed for a second time Tuesday, after Manchin previously attempted to attach the bill to the September continuing resolution that avoided a government shutdown.

Manchin’s provisions were not all inherently bad. They sought to promote construction of new electrical transmission lines, which are urgently needed in order to reach net-zero emissions. And to be fair, opposition to energy infrastructure projects can be rooted in Nimby-esque rationales; expedited permitting can help push forward the construction of urgently needed green infrastructure.

But Manchin’s approach, foregrounded by his thirst for a natural gas pipeline, did not capture  those potential benefits. Democrats don’t have to trash the entire bill, but they also ought not leave the fight for permitting reform to the most conservative Democrat in Congress.

After Losing Georgia, Republicans Are Suddenly Interested in Early Voting

After Raphael Warnock’s victory, Republicans may be rethinking their years of attacks on early voting.

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) and Senator Lindsey Graham

After Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s loss in Georgia Tuesday night, some Republicans are conceding that maybe attacking methods of voting isn’t a good way to, well, get votes.

On his program Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity looked to Republicans including House leader Kevin McCarthy and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for insight as to why “Republicans have been unwilling, for whatever reason … to vot[e] early and vot[e] by mail.”

“Republicans in the past, we had an advantage because we would vote early, we would vote by mail, and we put that away,” McCarthy said.

Gingrich, an election denialist who had previously suggested arresting election workers after the 2020 election, told Hannity that “you have to play the game by the rules that are existing,” encouraging Republicans to vote early and by mail.

On Wednesday, Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott also suggested that their party could improve on its early and mail-in voting stances. Fomenting distrust in such practices “has to change because we need to bank votes like they do,” said Graham.

The reason Republicans haven’t been voting early or by mail is because Donald Trump—and his followers—all discouraged it. From January to September 2020, Trump attacked mail-in voting over 100 times, according to The Washington Post. And Republican politicians, officials, and media followed suit, leading to 18 states passing legislation that made mail-in voting harder this year.

Georgia Republicans themselves sought to block early voting from beginning on November 26.

Hannity too has shared Project Veritas videos peddling mail-voting conspiracies to his millions of followers on Twitter and has hosted segments attacking mail-in and early voting practices, sowing doubt in the integrity of such methods.

Unfortunately, Republicans still can’t outright say, “It’s good to make voting easier for people,” in the same way they can’t outright denounce Trump.

“There were many in 2020 saying, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early,’” said RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel Tuesday on Fox News. “And we have to stop that and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done in one day.”

An RNC spokesperson later said that McDaniel apparently wasn’t talking about Trump, who has been the loudest voice on the matter and called to ban early voting when he announced his 2024 candidacy last month.

Paul Gosar Deletes Tweet Supporting Trump’s Call to Terminate the U.S. Constitution

Republican Representative Paul Gosar announced on Twitter that he agrees with Donald Trump, and then backtracked an hour later.

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Republican Representative Paul Gosar

Republican Representative Paul Gosar on Wednesday endorsed Donald Trump’s call to terminate the U.S. Constitution and overturn the 2020 election—and then deleted the post an hour later.

In his latest effort to reverse his loss, Trump demanded over the weekend to terminate the Constitution, baselessly citing “WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION” on Truth Social. Republicans have been horrifically slow to condemn him, and Gosar went a step further and publicly agreed with him on Twitter.

A few Republicans have spoken out against Trump’s demand, but they are mostly all moderates or already vocal critics of the former president. Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only Republicans on the House January 6 investigative committee, were explicit and forceful with their condemnations, but they are both outgoing members of Congress.

Although the Republican Party at large seems to be turning on Trump, he still holds significant sway in Congress and among the American public. Anyone seen as going against him risks losing the support—and provoking the wrath—of his rabid fan base.

The list of his outrageous behavior in just the past few months continues to grow, and yet Republicans are loath to criticize him lest they lose his favor.

What Democrats Can Do With 51 Seats in the Senate

With Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia, Democrats can now do a whole lot more in the Senate.

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With Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia, Democrats have officially secured 51 seats and an outright majority in the U.S. Senate.

Warnock beat MAGA Republican Herschel Walker on Tuesday night with, coincidentally, almost 51 percent of the vote. His win means that Democrats now have an outright 51–49 majority in the Senate, instead of a 50–50 split with a tiebreak.

And that one-seat difference is huge: “It’s big. It’s significant. We can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told a press conference on Wednesday. “It gives us … just a great feeling, enthusiasm, unity, encouragement.”

Crucially, the Senate now has a rock-solid majority to block certain measures by the House of Representatives. Republicans eked out control of the chamber during the midterms and have already promised a raft of somewhat petty moves, such as investigating Hunter Biden and impeaching members of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

The Senate, which tries impeachment cases, can acquit anyone put forward. It can also block unnecessary investigations or legislation.

House Republicans have previously indicated they have some traditionally conservative plans, such as supporting tax cuts and reducing government spending. But they have also pledged to ban trans women from playing in women’s sports and to seek to restrict abortion access.

Democrats also now hold the majority of votes in Senate committees, which means investigations and legislation will move much more quickly. The Senate will also be able to approve presidential nominees, including for judges, more easily.

And last, the party no longer has to be fully unified to achieve its goals. Before, if a single senator—usually Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin—broke ranks, it could tank a bill or nomination. But now Democrats have a little more wiggle room.

Most legislation in the Senate requires a 60-vote minimum to pass, though, so Democrats will still need to negotiate with Republicans in order to get bills through.

With the 2024 election cycle already approaching, it’s hugely important for Democrats to leverage their newfound power, even if it seems slim, and pass major legislation. The more they are able to accomplish in the next two years, the better positioned they will be to hold onto the Senate and maybe even retake the House.

Warnock: My Mom Grew Up Picking Somebody Else’s Cotton, Now She Picked Her Son as U.S. Senator

The newly elected Georgia senator delivered a powerful speech, and made sure to thank his mom while he was at it.

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Taking the stage to roars of “six more years,” Senator Raphael Warnock delivered a victory speech Tuesday night befitting someone who may end up serving in higher office one day.

And the newly re-elected Georgia senator made sure to thank his mom for helping make it all happen.

“She grew up in the 1950s, in Waycross, Georgia, picking somebody else’s cotton and somebody else’s tobacco,” Warnock said. “But tonight, she helped pick her youngest son to be a United States senator.”

Warnock, a progressive pastor who leads the same church Martin Luther King Jr. preached at, also thanked voters for showing up in the run-off elections.

“I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children.”

“Here is what I’ve learned as a pastor,” Warnock continued. “You can’t lead the people unless you love the people. You can’t love the people unless you know the people. And you can’t know the people unless you walk among the people. You cannot serve me if you cannot see me.”

Warnock later explained how his own children empower him to better the world. “You help inspire me to do my part to build a world befitting of the curiosity, the creativity and the possibility that I see in your eyes and in the eyes of all of our children.”

Warnock’s victory and spirited remarks serve to remind that Democrats actually have a wide bench for a post-Biden era.

Warnock, a man elected twice in a state that otherwise resoundingly elected Republicans statewide; newly-elected Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Senator John Fetterman who both displayed that “social issues” are not in conflict with “kitchen table issues,” and are actually winning items; Gretchen Whitmer, who has had as much success in Michigan as media-favorite Ron DeSantis has had in Florida.

They are among Democrats who have committed to generally progressive stances, while still winning impressively. Much of that is perhaps spurred by Warnock’s simple, closing thought: “I want all of Georgia to know, whether you voted for me or not, that every single day I am going to keep working for you.”

You can watch Warnock’s full victory speech here.

Herschel Walker’s Son: “Everyone With a Brain Begged Him Not to Do This”

Christian Walker, the estranged son of failed Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, had some choice words for his father and the entire Republican Party.

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Failed Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker’s son has gone off on the failed Georgia Senate candidate, branding him a “backstabber” and a liar.

Christian Walker, an ultraconservative social media influencer, has been vocal in his criticism of his father. Following Herschel Walker’s loss Tuesday night to Democrat Raphael Warnock, the younger Walker did not hold back.

In a series of tweets, Christian Walker condemned his father for both his past actions and his decision to run.

I was called a backstabber after getting angry and blowing up from watching my dad lie for 18 months straight.… But he’s not a backstabber for leaving his 2 minor children he kept secret to grow up without a dad as he chases more fame and power?” he demanded in another tweet. “Pathetic. Raise your kids.”

Christian Walker had kept his distance from the Senate campaign—although Herschel Walker spoke often about the relationship the two had—but he finally snapped in October.

Herschel Walker, a MAGA Republican, has repeatedly said he does not believe in abortion and criticized absentee Black fathers. But reports began to surface that he had paid for one women to get an abortion and fathered a child with another.

Christian Walker slammed his father for lying and pretending to be a “moral, Christian, upright man.” “You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives.  How dare you,” he tweeted at the time.

Both Christian Walker and his mother have accused Herschel Walker of abuse and threatening to kill them. Two women have now accused the former NFL player of forcing them to get abortions, and at least five women have accused the former NFL player of emotional or physical abuse.

Walker has denied the allegations, and the Republican Party continued to back him throughout the midterm elections and the runoff race.

Raphael Warnock Wins Georgia, Giving Democrats 51 Seats in the Senate

Warnock’s victory means Democrats have an outright majority in the Senate.

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Raphael Warnock won a historic second term as Georgia’s first Black senator Tuesday, beating conservative opponent Herschel Walker in the state runoff race, according to a projection from Decision Desk HQ.

Warnock, whose reelection means Democrats have an outright majority in the Senate, leads Walker 50.34 percent to 49.66 percent, with 84 percent reporting. Decision Desk made the call at 9:48 p.m. E.T.

Warnock and Walker faced off on Tuesday after neither one in November won the minimum 50 percent of votes required to avoid a runoff election.

Warnock was elected to Congress alongside fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021, also in runoff elections, a major victory for Democrats in the historically red state. Georgia also went for President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Warnock’s win means that the Democrats now have an outright 51–49 majority in the Senate, instead of a 50–50 split with a tiebreak.

But despite the state’s recent history of leaning Democratic, Walker and Warnock were locked in a dead heat for almost the entire race.

A pastor, Warnock describes himself as “Christian progressive,” similar to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who presided at the same church in Atlanta where the senator now leads the congregation.

Warnock is pro-choice and campaigned on the belief that the United States can overcome its racist roots and enact social change. During the runoff, he focused on pocketbook issues such as inflation and health care and also sought to win over younger voters, as well as independents and more centrist Republicans.

Walker, meanwhile, ran on an ultra-right-wing platform, saying he is pro-life, supports traditional (heteronormative) family values, and would back another run by former President Donald Trump.

He complained about “wokeness” and says he does not believe racism exists. He also focused on mainly far-right dog-whistle issues, such as transgender athletes and abortion.

But he has also lied multiple times about his résumé and been accused by former partners as well as his son of domestic abuse. Two women came forward in October alleging he forced them to get abortions.

The Republican Party continued to back Walker, insisting that electing a Black senator proves their party is not racist, but they also began chaperoning him in interviews to try to curb his commentary.

Challenge to Republicans “Condemning” Trump: Say His Name

Republicans condemning Donald Trump for his call to terminate the U.S. Constitution seem unable to actually say the former president’s name.

Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy
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Donald Trump has made quite a splash in the first weeks of his 2024 presidential campaign. Hitting key constituencies—antisemites, racists, and election denialists—he capped it all off with a call to terminate the Constitution and crown himself unelected president.

In response, most Republicans have remained silent. Those who have spoken out have managed to carefully avoid the words “Donald Trump.”

On Tuesday, asked about having to address Trump’s behavior two weeks in a row, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say anything actually definitive.

“What I’m saying is it would be pretty hard to be sworn in to the presidency if you’re not willing to uphold the Constitution,” he replied, before ignoring a follow-up question about his personal support for Trump.

This mirrors his response to Trump dining with Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white nationalist who has threatened murder against Jews and expressed approval for the Taliban. Here, McConnell said it would “be pretty hard” for someone behaving this way to become president. Then he said someone meeting with an antisemite or white supremacist is “highly unlikely to ever be elected president.”

In neither instance does McConnell simply say: Donald Trump should not be president.

Also on Tuesday, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy—whose speakership is being challenged—could only muster, “I fully support the Constitution,” before running off from having to dare elaborate.

Senators John Thune (the number two Senate Republican), Roy Blunt, Mike Rounds, John Cornyn, and others have followed suit, expressing disapproval without unequivocally denouncing Trump.

Even people likely running against Trump for the Republican nomination have hesitated saying anything.

Time after time, minus a few exceptions, if a Republican does say something about Trump’s behavior, it’s grounded in some abstract nod to appropriate “sentiment” or “language” or a reflection that some things are just not “responsible” to say. Seldom do these statements rise to the degree of seriousness these incidents warrant. Unfortunately, kale and yoga mats draw more ire from these Republicans than a Nazi-friendly presidential candidate.

Trump Organization Found Guilty on All Counts of Tax Fraud

A Manhattan jury found the Trump Organization guilty on all counts of tax fraud and related crimes.

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A Manhattan jury on Tuesday found the Trump Organization guilty on all charges of tax fraud and related crimes, connected to a 15-year scheme wherein top executives were compensated off the books with luxurious secret perks, subsequently enabling them to evade paying taxes.

Two Trump Organization companies—Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp.—were convicted on 17 criminal counts, including scheming to defraud, conspiracy, tax fraud, and falsifying business records. The companies could face a maximum $1.6 million fine when sentenced next month.

Donald Trump, whose presidency benefited greatly from the company, will now be freshly associated with the criminal activity attached to the organization sporting his name as he seeks to regain the presidency.

Though Trump himself evaded any implication in the scheme, prosecutors said it was “sanctioned” and “the practice was known to Mr. Trump.” They have also indicated Trump himself remains under investigation.

The trial centered on testimony from longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who has worked with Trump’s family for nearly 50 years and who was testifying as part of a plea deal. In August, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to evading taxes on nearly $2 million in perks from the company. His testimony detailed the Trump Organization’s tactics to avoid payroll taxes and award high-level executives with perks like lavish apartments, private school tuition, and vehicles.

Numerous documents implicate some level of involvement from Trump. There was even a witness, Jeff McConney, the senior vice president at Trump Corp., who at first implicated Trump in the scheme but then walked back that testimony. McConney’s legal fees are paid for by the Trump Organization.

Meanwhile, Trump is still facing investigations on all sides—on the state and federal level—for his seizure of classified documents after he left the White House, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial records and valuations. The guilty verdict for his namesake organization today only adds fuel to the fire driving these investigations.

While the Trump Organization has been found guilty by the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation, the New York attorney general is also pursuing a $250 million civil lawsuit into whether Trump’s asset valuation statements were indicative of fraud. Among financial penalties, Trump and his family could be barred from leading business operations in New York ever again.

This story was updated.

Read more at CNN.

Cawthorn Fined Over $15,000 for Promoting “Let’s Go Brandon” Crypto

Representative Madison Cawthorn was fined by the House Ethics Committee for violating congressional conflict of interest rules.

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Representative Madison Cawthorn

Representative Madison Cawthorn will have to pay more than $15,000 for promoting a cryptocurrency in violation of congressional conflict of interest rules, the House Ethics Committee said Tuesday.

An investigative subcommittee began investigating Cawthorn and his involvement with the cryptocurrency “Let’s Go Brandon,” or LGB Coin, in May. The North Carolina representative repeatedly promoted the coin on social media from December 2021 to March 2022.

The report, submitted a few weeks ago, found “substantial evidence that Representative Cawthorn promoted a cryptocurrency in which he had a financial interest in violation of rules protecting against conflicts of interest.”

According to the report, Cawthorn was not paid for his social media posts about LGB Coin, but in December 2021, he received 180 billion coins, worth more than $150,000, at a cheaper price than what was available to the public. He paid for the coins just a few days before LGB Coin announced it would sponsor a Nascar driver, sending its value up (Nascar later revoked the sponsorship). Cawthorn paid $14,237.49 less than the public price, meaning he received an improper gift from the cryptocurrency. He sold his LGB Coin shares throughout December and January.

The report also found Cawthorn failed to disclose these transactions to the House. It did not, however, find sufficient evidence that he was guilty of insider trading.

The bipartisan Ethics Committee unanimously adopted the report and ordered Cawthorn to pay $14,237.49 to a charitable organization of his choice. He must also pay $1,000 in late fees for his disclosure forms to the Treasury within the next two weeks.

LGB Coin has been accused of being a pump-and-dump scheme, meaning its value is falsely inflated through marketing. Once investors have bought in, giving it actual value (the “pump” part), the scheme organizers will “dump” their shares at a profit. After they sell off their shares, the asset’s value deflates rapidly, revealing it was worthless all along.

Cawthorn was elected in 2020 as an avid Donald Trump supporter, but his time in office has been plagued with scandal. He lost the Republican primary in May and will leave office in January. Multiple reports indicate that both his Washington and North Carolina offices have already been vacated.