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Treasury Resorts to “Extraordinary Measures” as U.S. Hits Debt Ceiling

The Treasury Department is taking steps to make sure the U.S. doesn’t default on its debt, as House Republicans and the White House continue to face off.

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The Treasury is having to resort to “extraordinary measures” to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt, which could plummet the country into a recession, Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress Thursday.

In a letter, Yellen explained the U.S. has reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit, forcing her to take steps to ensure the government does not default and has a little more time to solve the problem. For now, those “extraordinary measures” include redeeming and suspending new federal investments in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. In a letter last week, Yellen also expected that the Treasury will suspend reinvestment of the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.

Suspending investment in these funds will preserve the country’s credit until June, but Yellen noted that the amount of time these measures will work is “subject to considerable uncertainty” and urged Congress to act quickly.

She warned last week that defaulting would cause “irreparable harm to the U.S. economy.”

The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money the U.S. can borrow. The current level was set two years ago. If the government reaches its borrowing limit, it could default on its debt or fail to make a payment. Already high prices and inflation could skyrocket, sending the U.S. into a recession.

House Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, refuse to raise the debt ceiling and instead are trying to slash spending in other areas, such as entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But Democrats and President Joe Biden refuse to negotiate, with White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre warning Wednesday that the debt limit should not be used as a “political football.”

Defaulting means the government would be unable to pay military salaries and Social Security benefits. A lower debt ceiling would also mean less funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, SNAP or food stamps, and meal programs for low-income students.

During the last debt ceiling standoff in 2021, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned that defaulting would send the U.S. into an almost immediate recession, wiping out up to $15 trillion in household wealth and nearly doubling the unemployment rate from about 5 percent at the time to about 9 percent.

“This economic scenario is cataclysmic.… The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, Zandi and Bernard Yaros, Moody’s assistant director and economist, said in a report.

George Santos Denies Being Drag Queen and Stealing From Dying Dog, Doesn’t Comment on 9/11 Lie

Once upon a time, lying about September 11 was enough to kill a political career.

George Santos walks outside as reporters swarm him
Win McNamee/Getty Images

George Santos has lied about most of his background, including that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, that his employees died at the Pulse nightclub shooting, and that he was a star volleyball player at a school he didn’t attend.

But this week brought another array of revelations about Santos’s past. First, there was the report that he used his fake animal charity to raise money for a homeless veteran’s dying dog, before stealing the money. Then newly uncovered immigration records showed that Santos’s mother, who Santos had repeatedly implied died from 9/11-related afflictions, was not in the United States at all that day.

And finally, another new piece of information came from old photos circa 2008 in Brazil, showing Santos adorned in drag, under the moniker Kitara Ravache, grinning alongside Brazilian drag queen Eula Rochard.

On Thursday, Santos denied stealing money from a dying dog and that he performed in drag, but notably ignored reports that he lied about 9/11.

Santos/Devolder/Zabrovsky/Ravache’s tweets are among the few public statements he has made in direct response to the endless stream of revelations and questions about his past.

The volume of new information about Santos’s background is continually shocking. Similarly interesting is what revelations seem to bother Santos and which ones he is trying to let slip through the public’s consciousness, simply by sheer will of the lies being so insurmountable, so untrackable, that it’s hard to maintain meaningful scrutiny on him.

Based on the little time Santos has actually spent denying most of the charges against him, perhaps he understands his party to be willing to overlook lies about 9/11 and the Holocaust, but not the rest.

Trump Mistook Photo of Rape Accuser for His Ex-Wife During Deposition

Trump has rejected the rape allegation from E. Jean Carroll by saying she’s not his “type.” That was already a weak argument, but even more so now.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump mistook the woman accusing him of rape for his ex-wife in a photograph during a deposition last year, contradicting one of his weakest but most-used arguments for his innocence.

Popular writer E. Jean Carroll is suing Trump for defamation and sexual assault. Trump has rejected the rape allegation, repeatedly saying that he never knew Carroll and that she is not his “type.”

Since Carroll accused Trump of assault, a photograph has been widely circulated and cited as proof that the two had met before. Taken in 1987, the picture shows Trump, Carroll, and their respective spouses, at the time Marla Maples and John Johnson, talking at a party. In an excerpt of Trump’s 2022 deposition, parts of which were unsealed Wednesday, Trump mistakes Carroll for Maples.*

Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba is quick to correct him, but only after Trump repeatedly insists that Carroll is Maples. The fact that he can’t differentiate between Carroll, a woman to whom he said he wasn’t attracted, and Maples, a woman to whom he definitely was, undermines Trump’s main case for his innocence.

In another unsealed excerpt of the deposition, given in October, Trump appallingly claimed that Carroll “loved” the assault.

“She said it was very sexy to be raped,” he said. He also repeatedly said Carroll was mentally ill.

Carroll accused Trump in her memoir, released in 2019, of raping her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. She has sued him twice for allegedly defaming her, first in 2019 when he said she made up the rape allegation in order to sell her book, and again in November for posts he made about her on social media.

She is not the only one: At least 26 women have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault since the 1970s, all of which he was denied, and he bragged in a 2005 recording of the show Access Hollywood about grabbing women’s genitals and kissing them without their consent. So far, Carroll’s case has gotten the most national attention and is one of the few to actually reach a courtroom. Trump is expected to go on trial in April.

Sexual assault is about power, not desire, and Psychology Today notes the “motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.” Trump has made clear the lengths he will go to for power, from trying to bully Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rival to lying about the 2020 election being stolen and so much more.

* This article originally misstated the year of Trump’s deposition.

Kevin McCarthy Gives the Republicans Who Trashed Him Everything They Wanted

The 21 Republicans who were blocking Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s gavel are now sitting on key committees.

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Kevin McCarthy owes his long-desired speakership to a group of 21 holdouts finally caving, all of whom have been rewarded for flipping with plum committee assignments.

McCarthy made no secret of his ambition to be speaker, apparently no matter the cost, and the California Republican made us all sit through 15 agonizing votes before finally making enough deals to win. But it seems that the many changes to the rules package were not the only concessions he made.

Representative Lauren Boebert kept her seat on the Committee on Natural Resources and received a new post on the powerful House Oversight Committee. She is joined there by Scott Perry, Anna Paulina Luna, and Paul Gosar. Gosar was previously stripped of all committee assignments after he shared an animated video showing him killing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz who, along with Boebert, were some of the most vocal McCarthy critics, will keep their seats on the House Judiciary Committee, along with Chip Roy and Dan Bishop. Byron Donalds, who at one point ran against McCarthy for speaker, will stay on the House Oversight Committee and has joined the House Committee on Financial Services. Many other McCarthy holdouts will keep their committee assignments.

McCarthy also rewarded his allies: Jim Jordan, who consistently voted for McCarthy even when the holdouts nominated Jordan for speaker, is the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Marjorie Taylor Greene spent months allying herself with McCarthy and urging her colleagues to back him. She, like Gosar, was stripped of committee assignments by Democrats for her inflammatory social media posts. Greene now sits on the Oversight Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security. Problematic king George Santos voted for McCarthy every time, and not only has the new speaker refrained from condemning the freshman congressman’s many lies but McCarthy also gave him two committee assignments.

James Comer is the new chair of the Oversight Committee. Mike Rogers threatened to withhold committee assignments from the holdouts and even nearly came to blows with Gaetz for refusing to vote for McCarthy. He now chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The White House slammed the assignments, with spokesman Ian Sams telling Axios, “It appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.”

Republicans are handing the keys of oversight to the most extreme MAGA members of the Republican caucus who promote violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories,” he said.

Ritchie Torres, former vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted he was “horrified” by Greene’s assignment to the group.

George Santos, Member of Anti-LGBTQ Party, Wore Drag Under the Name “Kitara” in Brazil

It seems when Santos was younger, he was a drag queen who went by the name “Kitara Ravache.” Now he’s a far-right congressman in a party that calls drag queens groomers.

New York Representative George Santos stands in the House chamber while other congressman around him remain seated

George Santos has positioned himself as a proud, unabashed conservative—on social issues and all. He has expressed support for Florida’s regressive “Don’t Say Gay” law that bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in school. Accusing Democrats of wanting to “groom our kids,” Santos peddled right-wing talking points that equate discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with children with sexual abuse. Such talking points often go further, holding that drag shows, or even LGBTQ people generally, groom and abuse children.

It now appears Santos has participated in drag himself.

A 2008 photo from Brazil depicts Santos, known at the time as Anthony, in a drag costume under the moniker Kitara Ravache.

The photo comes from Santos’s old friend Eula Rochard, a Brazilian drag queen who spoke with journalist Marisa Kabas. According to their conversation, Rochard met Santos when he was a teenager, and they bonded over both being gay and enjoying drag. After Rochard had seen a news story about Santos, Rochard shared the photo to her social media to prove the old connection.

“Me with the American Republican deputy at the Niterói parade, as I had said he wouldn’t leave my house, there’s the proof for those who called me a liar,” Rochard wrote on Instagram (in rough translation from Portuguese).

To be clear, it’s great that Santos enjoyed drag and made a friend while doing it. And in any abstract sense, it doesn’t matter! What matters is that Santos has positioned himself among a political movement incredibly antagonistic toward drag queens and others who enjoy drag, one that stokes transphobia and hate toward all LGTBQ people. Santos will try to have it both ways—and Republicans who have decried drag as a moral crisis will too: Either drag truly is an existential threat to our children (wrong) and Santos should be removed from Congress (correct), or drag is absolutely fine (correct) and Santos should not be removed from Congress (wrong).

In Major Rebuke, New York Committee Rejects Kathy Hochul’s Court Pick

The committee voted not to advance the nomination of Hector LaSalle, setting up a likely legal fight between the New York governor and state Democrats.

Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s controversial nominee to lead the state’s highest court has been rejected. In a Wednesday hearing, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted to prevent Judge Hector LaSalle from advancing to a Senate-wide vote, setting up a likely legal fight between Democrats in the state.

The final vote count was 2–10–7, with only two members voting in favor of totally advancing LaSalle. Ten members voted against LaSalle, while one Democrat joined the committee’s six Republicans in voting to advance LaSalle without recommendation. All in all, LaSalle’s advancement fails by a vote of 9–10.

New York Senate Democrats voted against LaSalle due to concerns over his judicial record on labor, abortion, and criminal justice. Hochul did not heed their earlier warnings, and instead promised to do “everything” in her power to push him onto the state’s Court of Appeals. The effort first began in December, when, just weeks after beating a Republican during a midterm election in New York by only five points, Hochul chose to nominate LaSalle, whose record has been criticized by liberals, progressives, workers, and abortion voters as being antagonistic to supposed Democratic values.

Instead of attempting to massage away the criticism, or just respond to it and renominate someone else, Hochul dug her heels in.

On January 9, Ironworkers Vice President James Mahoney criticized Hochul’s choice at a press conference, saying the nomination felt like being put “on the menu.” He felt this way, he said, particularly after he and other labor organizers worked so hard to elect Hochul in the first place. Afterward, Hochul allegedly revoked Mahoney’s invitation to her State of the State speech the following day.

On January 14, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries tagged alongside Hochul at a Bronx rally to endorse LaSalle. He is “highly qualified to serve as the chief judge,” Jeffries said. “Period, full stop.” (Recall that Jeffries is House minority leader, and not House speaker, in large part thanks to the conservative majority on the state’s top court, which drew unfavorable district maps.)

Finally, in one of the most brazen and bizarre displays of commitment to the nomination, Hochul appeared at two New York City churches on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to rally support for her nomination.

“Dr. King called upon us to be just and to be fair and to not judge people. And that has not been afforded to an individual named Judge Hector LaSalle,” Hochul said. “My household knew the story of Dr. King.… When he was gunned down, assassinated, my family sat there and held hands and wept. How could this be? How could this man of God who taught us about nonviolence and social justice and change, and not judging people by the color of their skin, or one or two cases out of 5,000 cases decided.”

If the shocking use of her pulpit on such a day wasn’t enough, Hochul presided over the police removal of activist and church attendee Genesis Aquino, who stood up during Hochul’s appearance to say she was praying for Hochul to heed tenants and working-class New Yorkers, hoping she would withdraw LaSalle and support eviction reform that would enable tenants to sue landlords for extreme rent increases.

All Hochul’s efforts were for naught. But she may not be done yet. Despite the committee’s “no” vote, Hochul is reportedly hiring a litigator to stake a legal battle on the basis of whether a nominee can be voted down in the Judiciary Committee in the first place.

Twitter Is Auctioning Office Items Like Espresso Machines, a Meat Slicer, and a Giant Neon Bird

Elon Musk’s Twitter is auctioning off items from its San Francisco headquarters, in a sad sign for the company.

Twitter bird logo on the San Franscisco office building
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Do you want to own a piece of history?

No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump’s weird NFTs. Twitter is auctioning off 631 different items from its San Francisco office, ranging from furniture and decor to massive espresso machines, kegerators, and a meat-and-cheese slicer.

People are already going nuts for the sales. A neon sculpture of Twitter’s bird logo has a bid of $34,000 as of Wednesday morning. The antique-looking wheel slicer is going for $7,000. Even less interesting things, like sets of whiteboard room dividers, are going for about $1,000 each. The auction, which was quietly launched on Tuesday, ends Wednesday at 10 a.m. P.T. (1 p.m. E.T.).

While the auction is, on its face, absurd, it also paints a pretty sad picture of what’s going on at Twitter. The sales include what looks like the entire office’s worth of furniture: break-room stools, desks, workstation setups, extra chairs for meetings, even soundproof conference room pods. And it’s all further proof of the utter chaos that seems to be raging at the online platform.

Since Elon Musk assumed the Twitter reins in October, it seems almost conservative to say that all hell has broken loose. He immediately fired the entire board of directors, followed by most of the staff. The rest have been leaving in droves, while those who remain have reportedly been living in their offices as they work around the clock.

Advertisers have shunned Twitter en masse, scared off by Musk’s lax regulations and willingness to let Nazis run amok on the platform. The Tesla founder was already hard-pressed to come up with the $44 billion he agreed to pay for Twitter, and he has been open about needing to cut costs and increase revenue any way possible. One method to do so has apparently been to stop paying rent on office space. The landlord of the San Francisco office sued Twitter for $136,260 in unpaid rent earlier this month.

Musk has also rolled out the pay-for-verification subscription plan Twitter Blue. The plan is highly controversial because anyone can pay for verification, and thus legitimacy, including the Taliban. Between taking the extremist group’s $8 and selling off everything in the San Francisco office, it seems Musk will go to a lot of lengths to make a buck.

A Lookback at Elon in 2022

George Santos Liked Using a Fake Jewish Name on GoFundMe Because “The Jews Will Give More”

Santos used the name “Anthony Zabrovsky” to better scam donors to his fake animal charity, according to his former roommate.

Representative George Santos smiles and walks, briefcase in hand.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

George Santos used to go by a Jewish last name to better scam donors to his made-up animal charity, according to a former acquaintance.

Gregory Morey-Parker, who said he and the New York representative were roommates for a few months, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday that Santos had gone by Anthony Zabrovsky at the time.

“He would say, ‘Oh, well, the Jews will give more if you’re a Jew.’ And so that’s the name he used for his GoFundMes,” Morey-Parker said.

As we all know by now, Santos appears to have fabricated the bulk of his professional résumé. He also seems to have lied about his personal background, including that he is descended from Ukrainian Jews who fled the Holocaust. He has previously said his maternal grandparents changed their name from Zabrovsky to avoid persecution. Records indicate, though, that Santos’s grandparents were born in Brazil and that he has no Jewish heritage whatsoever.

Santos also claimed that he ran a nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, which worked on pet rescue (but seemed to hate cats). The IRS couldn’t find any records that the animal rescue charity Santos says he founded in 2013 held tax-exempt status, and neither the New York nor New Jersey attorney general’s office could find records of the organization being registered as a charity. CNN has found that Santos ran a GoFundMe campaign that no longer exists for a pet charity under the name “Anthony Zabrovsky.”

Santos has come under fire from both constituents and the Republican Jewish Coalition for making up Jewish ancestry (particularly with a Holocaust link) for clout. Pretending to be part of a community so you can get more money out of people is also deeply offensive.

The Republican congressman continues to defy logic and offend all sensibilities. He is facing multiple calls to resign, three ethics investigations, three criminal ones, and a fraud charge in Brazil, and yet he was still given committee assignments in the House of Representatives.

George Santos Stole $3,000 Raised for a Homeless Veteran’s Dying Dog

A new report says that Santos’s fake animal charity raised $3,000 on GoFundMe for a veteran’s dying service dog. Santos then took the money and disappeared.

Representative George Santos walks through a doorway, briefcase in hand. A staff member walks ahead of him.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Every day, I wake up and think it can’t get worse for George Santos.

And every day, I’m proven wrong.

In May 2016, Santos allegedly raised $3,000 for a homeless and disabled veteran’s service dog, Sapphire, who was suffering from a life-threatening stomach tumor. After Santos (who went by Anthony Devolder at the time) closed the GoFundMe, he took the $3,000 and was never heard from again.

The revelations come from Rich Osthoff, the swindled veteran, who spoke with Long Island local outlet Patch.

Osthoff had been living in a tent in an abandoned chicken coop on the side of a New Jersey highway, alongside his dog, Sapphire, given to him by a veteran’s charity. After Osthoff visited animal veterinarians and learned about Sapphire’s tumor that would cost $3,000 to operate on, a veterinary technician helped connect him to “a guy who runs a pet charity” who could help.

That supposedly charitable man was Anthony Devolder—one of Santos’s former public identities—and the charity was “Friends of Pet United.”

The “charity” raised some $3,000 through GoFundMe. Osthoff recalled that after the fundraiser began, it became harder and harder to reach Santos. The now congressman had also led Osthoff along. In August, Santos had the vet tech drive Osthoff and Sapphire to a practice in Queens; Santos insisted they couldn’t use the New Jersey vet’s office and he had “credit” with the Queens one.

The veterinarian in Queens said Sapphire’s tumor was inoperable, something the New Jersey vet had not said. After the odd trip, Santos became even harder to reach. Finally, in November, Osthoff begged Santos to let him take Sapphire to another vet. “My dog is going to die because of god knows what,” he texted Santos.

“Sapphire is not a candidate for this surgery the funds are moved to the next animal in need,” Santos wrote back. Santos said he would take Sapphire himself elsewhere for an ultrasound but that Osthoff could not come and that it could not occur at the New Jersey office because they apparently wouldn’t accept the charity’s funding method.

Santos stopped responding after that, and the GoFundMe was gone. After all was said and done, Santos took the money and went with the wind.

A November 2016 Facebook post from Osthoff shows him declaring what happened. “To everyone who helped me and Sapphire raise the money for her surgery, I’m sorry to say that we were scammed by Anthony Devolder,” Osthoff wrote. “Sapphire has NOT received veterinary care, and her growth is 3 to 4 times bigger than it was when the campaign was fulfilled. She is facing euthanasia within months.”

Sapphire died two months later, on January 15, 2017. Osthoff told Patch that, after being out of work with a broken leg for over a year, he couldn’t even afford to euthanize and cremate Sapphire.

“I had to panhandle. It was one of the most degrading things I ever had to do,” he told Patch.

Read more at Patch.

Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema Literally High-Fived Over Their Refusal to End the Filibuster

The two senators, who have blocked bill after bill, high-fived at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Screenshot/World Economic Forum

Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, both of whom have blocked crucial legislation, literally high-fived over their mutual belief in keeping the filibuster.

The two were speaking on a panel about U.S. foreign and domestic policy at the Davos World Economic Forum on Tuesday. Sinema argued that the current levels of partisanship in government are not “healthy for democracy,” and then Manchin asked if they still agreed on not getting rid of the filibuster.

“That’s correct,” Sinema said, and the pair high-fived.

The filibuster is a process used to block a bill’s passage in the Senate. Contrary to popular belief, the filibuster is not in the Constitution but is instead thought to have arisen from “tenuous precedents and informal practices,” according to the Center for American Progress. As of late, the filibuster has been used to essentially enforce minority rule. It takes 60 votes to end debate on a bill, so senators in the minority party can still block a bill’s passage through the filibuster. Since bills must pass the Senate before being signed into law, minority senators can force the majority party to agree to changes in the legislation before allowing a final vote.

Democrats have been trying for years to abolish or at least amend the filibuster, but there have been holdouts—notably Sinema and Manchin. The two senators have made names for themselves as perpetual thorns in Joe Biden’s side, blocking some of the president’s keystone legislation, such as the $2 trillion Build Back Better package aimed at tackling climate change and social welfare.

Manchin and Sinema have been accused of being more self-serving than public servants. West Virginia Senator Manchin voted against paid leave for rail union workers, backed fossil fuel initiatives such as the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, and fomented the ridiculous pro-gas stove frenzy.

Sinema, meanwhile, appears to have undergone an ideological 180 since coming to Capitol Hill, seemingly jettisoning the progressive beliefs she previously espoused. She went viral for voting with a flippant thumbs-down against increasing the minimum wage—despite previously being vocal in support of raising it. The Arizona Democratic Party censured her for opposing the removal of the filibuster and accused her of cozying up to wealthy donors instead of fighting for her own constituents.

She was already deeply unpopular across party lines in Arizona, and since switching from Democratic to independent in December, it has only gotten worse. A recent Morning Consult poll found that Sinema is one of the most unpopular senators in the entire country.