CNN: “Eighteen months after those meetings in Europe, Biden departed Washington on Tuesday for his year-end vacation, riding the momentum of historic legislative success and the defiance of political gravity that has reshaped the expectations for the critical months – and decisions – ahead. It’s a moment that Biden never seemed to doubt would come, even as his party – and some inside the White House – questioned or outright urged a change in approach to address political and economic headwinds driven primarily by soaring inflation that threatened to drag down his presidency.”
“During those 2021 meetings in England and Belgium, Biden found a group of allies genuinely shaken by the January 6 insurrection and the events that led to it. But the president tried to reassure them that the visceral divides that culminated in the violence that day would heal and the bleak moment in US politics would pass.”
Associated Press: “When he ran for the White House, Joe Biden told voters his presidency would be a bridge to the next generation. His first two years on the job have revealed it to be a much more ambitious venture.”
“As he nears the halfway mark on his first term, Biden is pointing to legacy-defining achievements on climate change, domestic manufacturing and progress on the COVID-19 pandemic — all accomplished with razor-thin majorities on Capitol Hill and rather dim views from the public.”
Politico: “This year’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time.”
Jonathan Bernstein: “After Ruth Bader Ginsburg died during Trump’s presidency, Democrats grew more aware of the benefits of strategic retirement from the Supreme Court. Some are starting to encourage Sonia Sotomayor, who is 68, and even Elena Kagan, 62, to step down while there is a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate — neither of which is guaranteed after 2024.”
“Even if Biden or another Democrat is president in 2025, Republicans have made it fairly clear that they would block any Democratic nominee to the high court if it is up to them. A Republican-majority Senate last confirmed a Supreme Court justice nominated by a Democrat in the 19th century.”
“And with a very favorable Senate map in this cycle, the GOP is in a position to gain two seats (and the Senate majority) even if it’s a decent year overall for Democrats. Nor is it hard to imagine it taking 12 years — or longer — for Democrats to regain the presidency and a Senate majority.”
Associated Press: “Three out of every four judges tapped by Biden and confirmed by the Senate in the past two years were women. About two-thirds were people of color. The Biden list includes 11 Black women to the powerful circuit courts, more than those installed under all previous presidents combined.”
“There were also 11 former public defenders named to the circuit courts, also more than all of Biden’s predecessors combined.”
“House Democrats on Friday released six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax records, making the closely guarded documents public after years of legal battles and speculation about Mr. Trump’s wealth and his financial entanglements,” the New York Times reports.
“While much of the information in the tax returns has already come to light, including through the two reports released last week, the full records from 2015 through 2020 are expected to provide a rare window into the complexity of Mr. Trump’s finances and whether he may have profited from tax policies he signed into law as president.”
Washington Post: “The returns show that Trump paid little, if anything, in income taxes over six years including the four in which he served as president. They have also raised questions over the lengths he took to claim tax deductions on items that may not warrant it to evade paying taxes.”
The records themselves include Trump’s individual returns from 2015 to 2020.
There are more than 1,000 pages.
“Donald Trump’s tax returns show the former president received income from more than a dozen countries during his time in office, highlighting a string of potential conflicts of interest,” Politico reports.
“The former president was known for fusing his business interests with America’s highest public office, drawing allegations of using his role to promote his private resorts, direct federal money to his hotels and encourage foreign governments to spend money that would directly benefit the Trump family interests.”
The Guardian: “During a 2020 presidential debate, Trump was asked about having a bank account in China. He said he closed it before he began his campaign for the White House four years earlier.”
“The tax returns contradict that account. Trump reported a bank account in China in his returns for 2015, 2016 and 2017.”
“Newly released IRS documents revealed former President Donald Trump’s sprawling empire was awash in a sea of red ink from 2015-2020,” Axios reports.
“Over six years, Trump’s primary holding company, known as DJT Holdings LLC, accumulated in excess of $313 million in reported losses.”
“As an outsider candidate, part of Trump’s appeal hinged on perceptions about his private sector acumen, earned through decades operating in New York’s rough-and-tumble world of real estate. Friday’s disclosures call into question his carefully-cultivated image as a savvy business magnate.”
Washington Post: “Trump’s charitable contributions declined over the course of his presidency. He donated $1.8 million in 2017, and about half a million dollars in each of the next two years. In 2020, as many nonprofits intensified their calls for donations as they scrambled to help victims of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated unemployment, the Trumps reported giving no money to charity.”
“Donald Trump made loans to his children Ivanka, Donald and Eric that the Internal Revenue Service should scrutinize, according to a recommendation by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Trump declared a total of $51,000 of interest paid to him by his three older children for each tax year from 2015 through 2019. For 2020, the amount of interest dropped to $46,000. The report questioned whether these related-party loans, as they are known, were ‘bona fide arms-length transactions’ or were disguised gifts that should be taxable to Mr. Trump.”
“The ‘Trump’ tax returns once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises.” — Donald Trump, on Truth Social, attempting to explain why his tax returns show his company lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Donald Trump put out a rather muted statement reacting to his tax returns being released by the House.
Said Trump: “The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people.”
He added: “The radical, left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!”
The Los Angeles Times does a deep dive into into whether Donald Trump’s “tax strategies simply took advantage of the law or broke it.”
“Republicans, who denounced the release of the returns as a violation of Trump’s privacy, are unlikely to inquire further once they take over the Ways and Means Committee in January. But in the Senate, where the Democrats continue to have a majority, leaders of the Finance Committee have indicated they may pick up where the House Democrats left off.”
Noah Bookbinder: “Getting Trump’s tax returns should not have been this hard. Every president elected since Richard Nixon—with the exception of Trump—has publicly disclosed his tax returns. Tax returns can tell the American people, and Congress, whether a president is following the law and behaving honestly. Crucially for Trump, who uniquely and inappropriately retained ownership of a massive international business while president, they can provide information about conflicts of interest that may have swayed his decision making.”
“Examining Trump’s tax returns and discovering all they can reveal about how his finances may have intersected with his presidency will take time. The committee released an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation stating that Trump had paid nothing, or close to it, in some years of his presidency. The income information included in that analysis also seems to support the assertion that Trump’s use of the presidency to steer business to himself from the government and those seeking to influence it may have reversed years of financial losses for Trump’s companies and led to hefty profits in 2018 and 2019, until COVID’s arrival in 2020 reversed his fortunes again. Now that the detailed returns are available, we’ll learn much more about those companies’ earnings, losses, and tax payments, and about Trump’s financial interests.”
“But the revelation about the IRS’s failure to perform the required audit of Trump’s taxes—that it did not happen at all for more than two years, and that, according to the committee, his 2017, 2018, and 2019 tax returns were not even selected for audit until after he left office—deserves yet more scrutiny.”
Remember when the Trump White House daily schedule suddenly changed at the end of his term to the president having “many calls and have many meetings” every day?
Former deputy press secretary Judd Deere testified Trump had no idea it was public:
“Every evening we prepared and released a daily guidance for the following day of the President’s public schedule. Beginning sometime around mid to late December, the President discovered that, for the first time, my understanding, that we released a public schedule of his to the public. He wanted to change the way we did that.”
“And so what became the new version of the public schedule was basically a couple of sentences about what his day would consist of rather than specific times and titles of events in an outline form.”
Playbook: “There’s a consensus among many House Republicans, one that few would dare utter publicly, that if McCarthy starts the 118th Congress as speaker, he’s not likely to end it that way.”
“If he’s able to lock down the 218 votes he needs to be speaker, the thinking goes, he likely will have given away the store to conservatives — including the ‘Never Kevin’ crowd’s demand to make it easier to call a vote to oust the speaker. Many Republicans are already predicting the Freedom Caucus will use that tool, known as the ‘motion to vacate,’ against McCarthy as soon as he strays from a conservative hard line.”
“The question on everyone’s mind is: When? The year-end spending deal struck between Democrats and Senate Republicans clearly bought McCarthy time. Instead of having to negotiate a politically precarious funding agreement with Democrats in his first months as speaker, McCarthy won’t have to go there until September at the earliest.”
“But even McCarthy allies tell us the real looming threat is the debt ceiling deadline. At some point next year — likely in the third quarter,according to the Bipartisan Policy Center — McCarthy will have to figure out a way to raise the federal debt limit or risk a national default, a move that will tear the GOP conference in two.”
Politico: “New guidelines sent to committees on Thursday… lay out a messy, complicated process for how the speaker’s race will have a trickle-down effect on everything from paying committee staff to student loan repayments.”
“Between the lengthy speaker fight, which members expect could go to multiple ballots and even last days, and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy‘s decision to punt contested committee chair elections, many staffers are facing heaps of uncertainty in the next term.”
Kim Strassel: “Sources tell me that House Republicans plan to set up a panel under the House Judiciary Committee, tentatively called the ‘Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.’ Such a panel was among the demands of some GOP holdouts to Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker. The Republican leader has publicly expressed his support for the subcommittee’s creation, which hinges on the rebels’ willingness to join the rest of their conference and back him in next Tuesday’s vote.”
“President Joe Biden was so disturbed by the Secret Service’s handling of text messages sought by the House January 6 select committee that he stopped speaking candidly in the presence of special agents assigned to his protection detail, a new book on the Biden White House has revealed,” the Independent reports.
“In The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, author Chris Whipple writes that Mr Biden’s discomfort with the post-Trump era agency began early on in his presidency, when it became clear that “some of” the agents charged with protecting him from assassination were strong supporters of the man he defeated in the 2020 election, former president Donald Trump.”
Also interesting: Biden’s relationship with his security further strained after an agent claimed that the president’s dog had bitten him — an allegation that Biden doesn’t quite believe.
Rep.-elect George Santos (R–NY) “made additional false claims over the years about his family history, work history and education in campaign appearances over the years, a review of statements made in two of his campaigns for Congress found,” CNN reports.
“CNN’s KFile uncovered more falsehoods from Santos, including claims he was forced to leave a New York City private school when his family’s real estate assets took a downturn and stating he represented Goldman Sachs at a top financial conference where he berated the company for investing in renewables.”
“CNN also reviewed more instances of Santos providing additional false history of his family’s background.”
Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) “has pioneered a new category of political scandal,” Politico reports. “The could-be congressman from New York appears to have invented his entire campaign biography, from his Jewish ancestry to his investment banking career and even his charitable contributions.”
“Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York are looking into the finances and financial disclosures of Republican Rep.-elect George Santos after he admitted to fabricating significant parts of his resume ahead of his successful bid for Congress,” CBS News reports.
“The federal probe marks a potentially serious turn for the congressman-elect, who said he still intends to take his seat in the House come January.”
New York Times: “The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that a person who met the constitutional requirements for office in the House of Representatives could not be refused a seat once elected. In that case, Powell v. McCormack, the court suggested that a permissible remedy for the House, should it try to exclude one of its duly elected members, would be a vote to expel the lawmaker once he or she was seated.”
“House leaders could, in theory, band together to try to defy that precedent and force Mr. Santos to challenge the move in court. But Republicans have no appetite to do so.”
“Could he be expelled? In theory, yes. Practically, probably not.”
Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) claimed during his congressional campaign that 9/11 “claimed my mother’s life” even though records show she died 15 years later, the Washington Post reports.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) told the Washington Examiner that he is “not supportive” of Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) — who admitted to lying about his background — being in the House GOP conference.
Said Sessions: “So I will just tell you, I am not supportive of him being in our conference at all from what I know. You cannot come into our conference as a known liar.”
Haaretz: “On the day he left office in June 2021, Netanyahu departed from tradition and refused to hold a public ceremony with his replacement, Naftali Bennett. Now that he’s coming back, he has again chosen not to have such an event. He will have a short handover meeting with Yair Lapid in private. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, the last 18 months were an aberration and not something to be dignified by a ceremony.”
“His greatest success in the period he was out of office was in creating an atmosphere of impermanence about the government. He often received help here from the governing coalition’s haphazard conduct – but it was above all his achievement. It was an atmosphere engineered firstly through his many proxies on social media and their incessant, toxic campaign against the members of the government. There were also noisy groups of activists gathering outside the homes of the weaker links in the coalition, until two of them – members of Bennett’s Yamina party – cracked.”
“More critically, despite not having any positions or public funding to allocate, Netanyahu managed to maintain an iron grip on the 52 lawmakers in his own camp. Not one of them was tempted to join the coalition for even a single vote.”
Associated Press: As Israel’s Netanyahu returns to office, troubles lie ahead.
The U.S. is considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine as part of a further package of military support, Bloomberg reports.
“Kyiv has been asking allies for tanks, longer-range missiles, armor and air defense systems, with Russia’s war now in its 11th month. Fighting continues on the ground in the east even as the onset of winter has slowed advances by either side, leaving Moscow resorting to missile strikes against the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.”
“As the battle for Ukraine turns into a bloody, mile-by-mile fight in numbing cold, Ukrainian and Russian officials have insisted that they are willing to discuss making peace,” the New York Times reports.
“But with a drumbeat of statements in recent days making clear that each side’s demands are flatly unacceptable to the other, there appears to be little hope for serious negotiations in the near future.”
Washington Post: “As Putin approaches New Year’s Eve, the 23d anniversary of his appointment in 1999 as acting Russian president, he appears more isolated than ever.”
“More than 300 days of brutal war against Ukraine have blown up decades of Russia’s carefully cultivated economic relations with the West, turning the country into a pariah, while Kremlin efforts to replace those ties with closer cooperation with India and China appear to be faltering the longer the war grinds on.”
“Putin, who started his career as a Soviet KGB agent, has always kept his own counsel, relying on a close inner circle of old friends and confidants while seeming to never fully trust or confide in anyone. But now a new gulf is emerging between Putin and much of the country’s elite.”
Russia on Thursday launched its “most massive” missile barrage against Ukrainian cities since the beginning of its invasion earlier this year, Axios reports. “Preliminary data released by the Ukrainian Air Force indicated Russia launched a total of 69 air- and sea-based cruise missiles and anti-aircraft-guided missiles.”
New York Times: “For three months, Russia has launched waves of cruise missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in what military analysts say is a strategy to plunge the country into cold and darkness and to demoralize the population. The volleys have come about every week or two.”
“Russian men called up to fight in Ukraine will be able to have their sperm frozen and stored at a cryobank without charge,” the Times of London reports.
“The House January 6 committee is withdrawing its subpoena of former President Donald Trump as it concludes its work,” CNN reports.
Said chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS): “In light of the imminent end of our investigation, the Select Committee can no longer pursue the specific information covered by the subpoena.”
“The Biden White House launched its first major broadside in response to incoming House Republicans likely to spearhead aggressive oversight of the administration,” Politico reports.
“A top lawyer for the president pledged in letters to those members that the administration would operate in good faith with them. But he also said that oversight demands made by congressional Republicans during the last Congress would have to be started over.”
New York Times: “The southern border already is in the midst of a record-setting migration surge that is likely to persist for the foreseeable future. The border-control measure is full of exemptions under which tens of thousands of migrants every month are showing up at U.S. ports of entry with a relatively high degree of confidence that they will be allowed to stay.”
Dan Drezner: “The mainstream media is not yelling about a recession. Here is why that is surprising.
As the old aphorism goes, if your neighbor loses their job it’s a recession, but if you lose your job, it’ s a depression. The addendum is that if a financial journalist loses their job, it’s the end of the economy as we know it….
Conservatives would likely suggest that this is an example of the mainstream media’s leftward bias overwhelming their own economic gloominess; they do not want to be bearish on the economy while the Democrats control the White House. But there are two other explanations that are more compelling. The first is that, as noted above, the aggregate economic data paints a more complex picture, and the economic coverage reflects that complexity.
The second is that even in media and tech, the story is not just about layoffs but about churn. In tech, for example, Insider’s Aki Ito noted earlier this month that even as there have been waves of layoffs, those laid off have found new (and sometimes better) jobs.”
Zachary Wolf on why 2022 was a tough year for Trump and 2023 may not be much better.
“The ongoing end-of-year revelations chipping away at Trump’s facade of power include large developments like the January 6 committee report – and smaller details. Hidden in court documents is the inconvenient truth that even his loudest acolytes on Fox News knew his 2020 election fantasy was false.
Sean Hannity, the Fox News opinion host, admitted he didn’t “for one second” believe the fraud claims he helped push. It might be nice for Fox viewers to hear that from Hannity, but the admission came off the air and in a deposition as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the conservative network, according to the New York Times.
Hannity, as we know from text messages, was in close contact with Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the days leading up to January 6.
That the conservative elites in Trump’s circle knew the truth adds context to the fears of fraud they pushed to encourage Republican lawmakers to pass new election security laws in key states.”
Finally today, The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer about six words that should be put out of commission in 2023.
For the last couple years, I’ve compiled lists of words (“woke,” “post-pandemic”) and phrases (“it is what it is,” “now more than ever,” etc.) to kill off as the calendar turns — and it’s been 100% successful, they’ve completely disappeared, yay us! Keep up the good work and stop using the following atrocities too
We come to bury these words, not to praise them. “Slay.” A few years ago, Beyoncé said “slay,” so we slayed. Unfortunately, she didn’t say when to stop. 2022 Google lookups of “slay” were higher than ever.
Now, through grievous overuse, the word has lost all meaning. Literally, all: One of the most popular definitions of “slay” on Urban Dictionary — a crowdsourced slang reference guide that’s surprisingly effective at capturing our lexicon in the moment — is a circularly referential nightmare: “slay: literally just slay. it can can [sic] be whatever u want it to be xx.” Urban Dictionary’s nonsense (but accurate) usage example reads, in its entirety: “omg slay.”
Omg!? That “word” needs to go, as well.