Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American
August 3, 2021
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: former president Trump has raised $102 million since he left office, but aside from a recent donation of $100,000 to his chosen candidate in a Texas race which is not yet in the public disclosures (she lost), has spent none of it on anything or anyone but himself. Since January, he has convinced donors to fund his challenge to Biden’s election and to fund Trump-like candidates in the midterm elections. But election filings and a release of donors to the Arizona “audit” show he has not put any money toward either. So far, about $8 million has gone to the former president’s legal fees, while funds have also gone to aides.
The second piece of news that is surprising and yet not surprising is an ABC story revealing that on December 28, 2020, the then-acting pro-Trump head of the civil division of the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark, tried to get then–acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue to sign a letter saying: “The Department of Justice is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for President of the United States. The Department will update you as we are able on investigatory progress, but at this time we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.”
It went on to say, “While the Department of Justice believe[s] the Governor of Georgia should immediately call a special session to consider this important and urgent matter, if he declines to do so, we share with you our view that the Georgia General Assembly has implied authority under the Constitution of the United States to call itself into special session for [t]he limited purpose of considering issues pertaining to the appointment of Presidential Electors.”
The letter then made the point clearer, saying the Georgia legislature could ignore the popular vote and appoint its own presidential electors.
This is classic Trump: try to salt the media with the idea of an “investigation,” and then wait for the following frenzy to convince voters that the election was fraudulent. Such a scheme was at the heart of Trump’s demand that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, and the discrediting of 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over an investigation into her use of a private email server.
In this case, Donoghue and Rosen wanted no part of this antidemocratic scheme. Donoghue told Clark that there was no evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election and wrote: “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.” Rosen agreed, saying “I am not prepared to sign such a letter.”
The less obvious story today is the more interesting one.
Trump and his loyalists feed off Americans who have been dispossessed economically since the Reagan revolution that began in 1981 started the massive redistribution of wealth upward. Those disaffected people, slipping away from the secure middle-class life their parents lived, are the natural supporters of authoritarians who assure them their problems come not from the systems leaders have put in place, but rather from Black people, people of color, and feminist women.
President Joe Biden appears to be trying to combat this dangerous dynamic not by trying to peel disaffected Americans away from Trump and his party by arguing against the former president, but by reducing the pressure on those who support him.
A study from the Niskanen Center think tank shows that the expanded Child Tax Credit, which last month began to put up to $300 per child per month into the bank accounts of most U.S. households with children, will primarily benefit rural Americans and will give a disproportionately large relative boost to their local economies. According to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, “the…nine states that will gain the most per capita from the expanded child allowance are all red states.”
The White House noted today that the bipartisan infrastructure deal it has pushed so hard not only will bring high-speed internet to every household in the U.S., but also has within it $3.5 billion to reduce energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income households.
Also today, after pressure from progressive Democrats, especially Representative Cori Bush (D-MO), who led a sit-in at the Capitol to call for eviction relief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that in counties experiencing high levels of community transmission of Covid-19, it is extending until October 3 the federal moratorium on evictions that ended this weekend. It is doing so as a public health measure, but it is also an economic one. It should help about 90% of renters—11 million adults—until the government helps to clear the backlog of payments missed during the pandemic by disbursing more of the $46 billion Congress allocated for that purpose.
Today, the president called out Republican governors who have taken a stand against mask wearing and vaccine mandates even as Covid-19 is burning across the country again. Currently, Florida and Texas account for one third of all new Covid cases in the entire country, and yet their Republican governors, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, are signing legislation to keep Floridians and Texans unmasked and to prevent vaccine mandates. Biden said that he asks “these governors, ‘Please, help.’ But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”
At a Democratic National Committee fundraiser last night, Biden told attendees that Democrats “have to keep making our case,” while Republicans offer “nothing but fear, lies, and broken promises.” “We have to keep cutting through the Republican fog,” he said, “that the government isn’t the problem and show that we the people are always the solution.” He continued, “We’ve got to demonstrate that democracies can work and protect.”