The Biden administration on Monday announced that it’s expanding refugee eligibility for Afghans and their family members, opening a pathway to safety for allies affiliated with media or non-governmental organizations but who didn’t qualify for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) due to previous criteria, The New York Times reports.

“This designation expands the opportunity to permanently resettle in the United States to many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members who may be at risk due to their U.S. affiliation,” the State Department said. “Refugee resettlement organizations have advocated for such a designation for weeks,” Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said.

In an announcement on Monday, the State Department said it was expanding access to “Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement,” “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization,” as well as others who “have not met the time-in-service requirement to become eligible.”

It comes as Afghanistan is seeing “increased levels of Taliban violence,” the Biden administration said. LIRS President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah called the expansion “another vital step in the right direction,” saying “it recognizes that the danger of affiliation with America extends well beyond those who served as military interpreters.”

“There are countless journalists, teachers, women’s rights activists, and other civil society leaders who believe deeply in the ideals we fought for, and whose lives are in jeopardy because of it,” O’Mara Vignarajah said. “It is our moral duty to offer a pathway to protection for them, especially as the security situation rapidly deteriorates. We simply cannot let those who befriended the U.S. be beheaded by the Taliban.”

O’Mara Vignarajah applauded recent steps taken by the Biden administration to aide Afghan allies, including the evacuation of hundreds of special visa applicants and their families to a U.S. base in Virginia, and the president signing into law legislation increasing special visas by 8,000. She urged the continued evacuation of all allies and their families to either the U.S. or a U.S. territory, saying the “administration has set an important precedent in where it has moved these first allies, proving the easiest and safest way to relocate others is by bringing them to U.S. soil.”

Our #AfghanAllies are finally coming. But, many are coming as “walk-ins” and arriving independently after receiving their visas. This means that when they arrive, they have nowhere immediately to stay and nowhere to find food. DONATE NOW TO HELP: https://t.co/Ah4PC3Htqe pic.twitter.com/L6mANxho1v

— LIRS (@LIRSorg) July 31, 2021

A coalition of media organizations had also called on the Biden administration to evacuate Afghan journalists and staff, who “fear retaliation from the Taliban for having  courageously associated themselves with the American press.”

“Much attention has been given in recent weeks to the plight of Afghans who worked for the U.S.,” more than two dozen media organizations wrote. “The SIV program does not reach those Afghans who have served U.S. news  organizations. Yet they and their families face the same threat of retaliation from the Taliban, which  views the American press as a legitimate target. The Taliban has long conducted a campaign of  threatening and killing journalists.”

The organizations said in that letter that they believed about 1,000 of their colleagues have been at risk due to Taliban forces. “The need for action is urgent,” they continued. “Without the assistance of the U.S.  Government, many of these Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing  more than lent their labor and skills to making certain the world knew what was going on in their country while U.S. troops were there for the past twenty years.”

Biden admin to extend safety to Afghan allies who worked for non-governmental groups, media 1

Missouri health officials are conducting contact tracing after someone who attended a St. Louis County Council meeting reversing a countywide mask mandate on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19. The meeting attracted hundreds of attendees, many of whom were maskless and protesting the mandate that went into effect a day earlier in the county, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “We are still in a pandemic caused by a virus that continues to spread rapidly in our communities, causing severe health complications including death,” Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis, said in a city news release. “It is very important that residents practice the health and safety mitigation measures of wearing a face covering, social distancing themselves from those who do not live in their households and routinely wash their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.

“The DOH is continuing its contact tracing investigation into this case and encourages those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated. It is the best tool we have to prevent severe COVID-19 complications, including death.”

The City of St. Louis Department of Health announced in the release issued Saturday night that officials are working to notify those in contact with the individual, “but out of an abundance of caution it is recommended that anyone who attended the council meeting quarantine for the next nine days and monitor their symptoms.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Austin Huguelet described an indoor council chamber that was packed with people to see the council end its mask mandate. “Most of them were unmasked, and some declared their opposition to getting the vaccine on signs and in public testimony,” Huguelet wrote. “Many spoke to the council at a public podium. The crowd cheered and jeered throughout the meeting.”

St.Louis County Council votes to end mask mandate. pic.twitter.com/QKCDDpq8kb

— Jeff Bernthal (@JeffBernthal) July 28, 2021

Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said in a letter to council Chairwoman Rita Days while presenting his analysis of COVID-19 during the meeting politicians that Mark McCloskey and Paul Berry berated and tried to distract him. “After my presentation was completed, I tried to leave the chamber but was confronted by several people who were in the aisle,” Khan wrote. “On more than one occassion, I was shoulder-bumped and pushed. As I approached the exit and immediately outside the chambers, I became surrounded by the crowd in close quarters, where members of the crowd yelled at me, calling me a ‘fat brown c–t’ and a ‘brown bastard.’”

A letter from Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Dept of Public Health, to the county council concerning last night’s meeting on mask mandates. Read this. pic.twitter.com/LGSleUvagk

— Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) July 29, 2021

Khan said the slurs haven’t hampered his willingness to brief the council on public health issues. “I simply ask that you take appropriate steps to investigate these matters, prevent similar events from happening in the future, and ensure that a safe and orderly environment be created for any future testimony me or my staff are asked to provide to the Council,” Khan wrote.

The council ultimately voted 5-2 to overturn the mask mandate, with Councilman Ernie Trakas—who made no effort to defend Khan—preaching about liberty. Democrats Rita Days and Shalonda Webb voted with Republicans Tim Finch, Trakas, and Mark Harder to reverse the mandate issued by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, while Democrats Lisa Clancy and Kelli Dunaway voted to keep the mandate, according to St. Louis Public Radio. “If (County Executive) Sam Page wants health mandates, this council stands ready to hear his arguments and act on his requests,” Fitch said. “This is the legal and proper way to do this.”

Woah…. It’s a mask. It’s a piece of fabric. 🤦🏼‍♀️ The circus was in town for last night’s St. Louis County council meeting. pic.twitter.com/DGrFmn1dGw

— Laura B (@LauraAnnSTL) July 28, 2021

Clancy tweeted on Saturday that a “public health order was flagrantly violated … Even those who didn’t like it and voted to rescind it know it existed or they wouldn’t have had anything to rescind! Ironic and unfortunate example of why mask mandate needed in first place,” Clancy added in the tweet. Clancy said in another tweet that she plans to introduce legislation imposing a new mask mandate on Tuesday. “I hope for Councilman Fitch’s support for the bill I’ll intro and (hopefully) pass Tuesday,” she said in the tweet.

The referenced opinion says Council can’t do mandate by order or resolution (which was the question posed by Fitch), but that we CAN do it via ordinance. I hope for Councilman Fitch’s support for the bill I’ll intro and (hopefully) pass Tuesday. https://t.co/hdeUWVKErr

— Lisa Clancy (@lisadclancy) July 30, 2021

Clancy is also pushing for meetings to be held virtually and for “basic health protocols” to be enacted. “I’m very concerned for all the unmasked attendees at the meeting,” the councilwoman tweeted.

In a state that lags behind the federal average for number of residents receiving at least one vaccination shot, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 413 on Friday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the figure represents a level of hospitalizations the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force hasn’t reported since before February when the vaccine wasn’t widely accessible. Only 49% of Missouri residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine compared to 57% nationally, yet Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who’s also running for the U.S. Senate, has launched a lawsuit to invalidate mask mandates, the newspaper reported.

“Today, my office filed suit against St. Louis City and County for reimposing their mask mandate on the citizens of St. Louis,” Schmitt said in a news release last Monday. “This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine. There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school.

“Back in May, I filed suit against St. Louis County for continuing to impose such unlawful restrictions, and just three days later, those restrictions were lifted. I will continue to fight this seemingly unending control and intrusion on peoples’ lives – we will not back down.”

Schmitt said in the lawsuit: “St. Louis County and St. Louis City seek expanded government power that has failed to protect Missouri citizens living within their boundaries in the past and is not based on sound facts and data.” He called the St. Louis County mask mandate requiring those ages 5 years old and over to wear face coverings indoors and in enclosed spaces “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful.”

Schmitt has also filed a motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to more immediately “halt the mandate.”

RELATED: Missouri isn’t just the heart of the new COVID-19 outbreak, it’s a political disaster zone

RELATED: Missouri’s three Republican Senate candidates are leading the race to be worse than Trump

First they protest masks in racist fury. Then hotbed of loud, wrong Missourians attracts COVID-19 2

The aggressiveness with which Florida governor and obsessive Trump-wannabe Ron DeSantis has sought to boost his own state’s pandemic infection rates just keeps ratcheting up. DeSantis was among the quickest, in the early days of the pandemic, to repeat whatever clownish claims came out of Donald Trump’s mouth as if they were holy decrees from COVID’s own pope. That meant denying that the pandemic was coming, denying that it was happening when it got here, denying that government could do a damn thing about it, belittling the safety measures recommended by health experts, fudging the data, and, of course, mounting multiple publicity tours declaring that his do-nothing-and-screw-the-rest-of-you approach was “winning” the pandemic.

An ambitious Republican, DeSantis read the room and decided that bellowing about mah freedoms would be a far bigger hit with the party base than please do your part during a national emergency. So, off he went. Even a partial list of all the attacks on pandemic safety mounted by DeSantis is still overwhelming; DeSantis has focused most of his efforts not on fighting the pandemic, but toward using his office to make sure no cities, businesses, industries, or state agencies are imposing public health measures of their own.

DeSantis has signed new orders and laws nullifying vaccination and mask requirements imposed by most other entities in the state. (His orders steadfastly avoid messing with the The Walt Disney Company, though; even DeSantis knows that taking a shot at Disney will end up with someone buried twelve feet deep under the concrete footings of the latest Splash Mountain.) His all-out battle with the cruise ship industry to ensure they may not require their guests be vaccinated before welcoming them onto the world’s most efficient mechanism for spreading disease is among the most famous; his new order barring mask requirements in Florida schools even as the pandemic once again soars may turn out to be the most consequential.

But if there’s any question over whether DeSantis is countering public safety measures during a global health emergency purely as political stunt aimed at his conspiracy rubes, selling “Don’t Fauci My Florida” swag through his political committee should answer that one. Screw you, experts who suggest the mildest possible safety measures during a time of 600,000 U.S. deaths. Our family members didn’t die in two world wars for a world in which I would have to briefly wear cloth on my face in a grocery store.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard, the shit has now hit the fan (again) in Florida, and it’s a direct result of each of DeSantis’ moves to scrub out pandemic emergency measures while attacking those that promote masking, vaccines, and social distancing as anti-American oppressors. Florida pandemic cases have now topped the previous all-time records set during last winter’s massive surge; about twenty percent of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in the towns and cities under DeSantis’ mandates. It’s been absolutely huge, and DeSantis has responded solely with new insistences that no matter how bad it gets or how many Florida residents die, he won’t be relenting on orders that block cities and businesses from imposing safety measures of their own.

It is very, very, very bad and it’s going to get worse.

Too late in FL to mitigate meaningfully. FL has 2,038 in ICUs. FL needs to position to deal w/ the potential of 3-4 weeks of overwhelmed healthcare systems: plan for hospital surge, especially pediatric capacity. Neighboring states are strained & soon might not be able to help.

— Thomas P. Bossert (@TomBossert) July 31, 2021

Meanwhile, the rest of Florida’s Republican brain trust is dismissing the state’s new surge as “hysteria” because among vaccinated Americans, “serious illness appears to be near zero.”

We have media hysteria over Covid “cases” because “bad news” sells But what matters isn’t how many people have Covid, what matters is how many people are seriously ill The real story here is how for the fully vaccinated the risk of serious illness appears to be near zero

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 2, 2021

Yeah, um … Florida hospitals are not hitting the panic buttons because they’re now overfilled with vaccinated, healthy Floridians. They’re treating the unvaccinated people who listened to Ron DeSantis and other Republicans when those Republicans called the pandemic overhyped “hysteria” through each of the 600,000 prior deaths.

Something in Florida is going to break, and it’s probably going to be the hospitals. DeSantis and the state’s other Republicans have signaled that there is no way in hell they will allow cities to take further emergency measures, which is an absolutely certain method of ensuring the surge’s peak will arrive only after spreading employee illness causes the unexpected closure of local government offices, schools, and businesses regardless of DeSantis’ orders—after all hell has broken loose, in other words, and DeSantis has no further say in it.

Other states are seeing pandemic surges as well, and there’s little speculation needed as to why. After COVID-19 vaccines became widely available to the public, states relaxed pandemic safety measures for the vaccinated. This naturally resulted in large swaths of unvaccinated Americans mimicking the same non-measures, and now a portion of those Americans are sitting in hospital beds, along with significant numbers of children too young for the vaccine and too powerless to have much say in whether the adults around them will infect them.

But DeSantis is a special case. The political media, which apparently is made up entirely of people too dim and gullible to make it on any other beat, fawned over every one of DeSantis’ declarations of victory over the virus as if he were somehow not just a cheap, grifting sack of ambition determined to ride his political base’s resentment towards self-sacrifice into as many new pandemic surges as it takes to propel him into the party’s top position. We were told over and over that the Florida “approach” of doing very damn little and crowing about it had proven effective, and impressive, so long as you skipped the parts with mass death and incompetent, almost malevolent state bumbling.

DeSantis will not be moved by the new surge. He and the state’s other top Republicans will prop up the new corpses as trophies of their party’s purported victory: Floridians may be stuffing the state’s hospitals to overflowing, but it is a small price to pay for the right to sell political swag mocking health experts as oppressive overseers whose mask mandates and social distancing warnings are crafted specifically because they are trying to make conservatives feel bad.

If you’re in Florida, vaccinated or not, put yourself in lockdown. Wear the mask in public. Don’t go anywhere you don’t have to. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated immediately. The hospitals are filling up and there will be no room for you. Spend the next four weeks taking care of yourself, because heaven knows your state’s government doesn’t give a flying damn about what’s lurking outside your door.

DeSantis did it: He finally got a Florida pandemic surge that will top all the others 3

On June 24, President Joe Biden stood with a bipartisan group of senators to announce an infrastructure deal. Finally, five weeks and many blown deadlines later, as well as a weekend’s worth of bad faith from Republicans insisting Democrats were trying to trick them (they weren’t), there’s a bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer kept the Senate in session through the weekend to ensure that it finally get done.

The $550 billion package clocks in at more than 2,700 pages (double-spaced, huge margins) and is largely what the group previewed Friday: $110 billion for surface transportation—roads and bridges—with $40 billion of that for bridges; $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations; $39 billion for transit; $55 billion for water systems; $1 billion for Biden’s original $20 billion plan to “reconnect” communities of color; $66 billion for freight and passenger rail; $65 billion for broadband; $25 billion for airports; $73 billion to modernize the energy grid; and $21 billion toward environmental remediation. With existing levels of funding for transportation assumed, the final bill totals about $1 trillion. The new funding is about a quarter of Biden’s original American Jobs Plan, but one he worked hard to achieve.

The Washington Post has a history of Biden’s efforts, stretching across months, to reach out to Republicans. It’s enough to make a House Democrat weep. The House, you see, had a surface transportation and water bill all decided upon and wrapped up. While all but two Republicans voted against it, it was bipartisan—more than 100 Republicans submitted earmark requests and got them into the bill.

Whether that ends up on the cutting room floor in lieu of this bipartisan Senate bill, or the House and Senate go into conference, or the Senate bill falls apart under the weight of Mitch McConnell gamesmanship all remains to be seen.

McConnell surprised everyone when he announced last Wednesday that he was going to vote to proceed to consideration of the bill. Everyone was much less surprised when he then immediately began trashing Democrats and the essential $3.5 trillion budget resolution they’re working on to do all the stuff that isn’t adequately dealt with in the bipartisan bill.

Democrats’ rampant spending has already fueled painful inflation. But now they want to ram through another $3.5 trillion reckless taxing-and-spending spree? That’s the opposite of what this recovering economy needs right now. pic.twitter.com/6ZwR0Fetuz

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) July 29, 2021

It’s not clear yet what McConnell intends to do on the process for the bipartisan bill, which sponsors hope to have wrapped by Thursday. That seems like an optimistic deadline given that they said they were ready to go last Wednesday, but didn’t have legislative text until 9:00 PM on Sunday. The only hint we’ve got from what Republicans are going to demand in the amendment process comes from close McConnell ally, Texas Sen. John Cornyn. “I hope we can now pump the brakes a little bit and take the time and care to evaluate the benefits and the cost of this legislation,” Cornyn said Sunday. As if Republicans hadn’t been riding the brakes since spring, when Biden started meeting with West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

Republicans are going to do their damnedest to use this process to poison the larger and absolutely essential budget reconciliation bill. It’s essential for actually making a start on dealing with climate change, essential for continuing the job started on tackling poverty.

At this point, Biden is going to have to start wooing and placating some House Democrats, particularly after the eviction moratorium debacle of last week that left everyone in the House Democratic caucus and White House bruised and angry and pointing fingers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still insisting that the House will not vote on the bipartisan Senate bill until the budget reconciliation bill is ready, and to hold the majority of her caucus together she’s going to need to stick to that. That means Schumer is going to have to navigate these two bills in the Senate delicately, while McConnell trashes them and openly courts Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in an effort to poison the well.

All the while, the House is officially on recess (subject to the call of the chair, which means they can come back on a few days’ notice) until September 19 and the Senate is supposed to go out on August 9. Speaking of Sinema, she reportedly told Schumer that she has vacation plans that she will not cancel, so if infrastructure isn’t done this week, she won’t be there to vote for them later. That might change, since one of the bills—the bipartisan one—is supposed to be mostly hers, but who knows.

Infrastructure inches forward in Senate, McConnell plots, House Democrats wait 4

The two Republicans serving on the select committee to investigate Jan. 6 agree on at least one thing: Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio are prime targets for a subpoena. 

Asked if the pair should be subpoenaed over the weekend, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois responded that he would “support subpoenas to anybody that could shed light” on what Donald Trump was doing as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol played out. 

“If that’s the leader, that’s the leader,” Kinzinger told ABC News’ Jon Karl on This Week. “If it’s anybody that talked to the president that can provide that information—I want to know what the president was doing every moment of that day after he said, I’m going to walk with you to the Capitol.”

Both McCarthy and Jordan fall into the category of people who talked to Trump on Jan. 6. Kinzinger knows that, and his comments echo those of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the select committee’s lead GOP member, who last week tagged Jordan as potentially being “a material witness.” 

Jordan himself fessed up last week to speaking with Trump on Jan. 6, though he claimed to be foggy on both when exactly the call took place and what was said. That tracks—who could possibly recall what they said to the guy sitting in the Oval Office on a day in which the most violent attack on the U.S. Capitol since 1812 unfolded?

Subpoenaing McCarthy is also a prospect Cheney laid out months ago when she volunteered during an interview with ABC News that McCarthy should “absolutely” testify, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised if a subpoena became necessary to compel that testimony. 

So what would happen if the select committee subpoenas McCarthy, Jordan, and potentially other GOP members of Congress? The legal answer to that question is still a total mystery since it’s essentially unprecedented. What we do know is the Justice Department has already indicated it does not support an executive privilege exemption for anyone who spoke with Trump about Jan. 6 or his other efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

But one way or the other, the political stakes could be very high. Whether or not GOP members ultimately testify, refusing to comply with an effort to uncover what really happened on Jan. 6 might enthuse Trump cultists, but it’s unlikely to play well with the key swath of suburban voters who could prove decisive in the midterms. 

McCarthy, Jordan top the list of GOP members begging for subpoenas in Jan. 6 probe 5

Sports draw in fans, build alliances, and create rivalries. You can be a fan of one team and root against another. Athletes are professionals who are paid significant sums of money—even in my youth—and rooting for them is and has always been entertaining. U.S. Olympians are in that rarified air of representing America. They are the best at what they do, and serve as ambassadors of a sort for our country.

I remember Carl Lewis jumping up and down waiting as Florence Griffith Joyner came down the line to break records in track—a record that stood until a few days ago. I remember letdowns, moments when the U.S. effort fell short. There will always be heartbreak when a beloved athlete gave supreme effort and found that, ultimately, they were outmatched by the competition. A few upsets, like Lochte-gate, made me grit my teeth.

One thing I never found myself doing, though, was rooting with absolute glee against America. Last night, after a 1-0 loss to Canada, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team was eliminated from gold medal contention. The way in which Republicans took to the internet to celebrate shows exactly the problem we face: a group of people with absolutely no accomplishments reveling in sheer spite when an athlete who challenges their political beliefs stumbles, fails, or chooses to protect their own safety.

The content is never-ending on Twitter, and it’s not worth my time or yours to go down that rabbit hole, but this comment is representative of the Republican urge to root against America.

I support watching Megan Rapinoe lose. They kneeled. They shouldn’t represent America.

— Nick Adams (@NickAdamsinUSA) August 2, 2021

As Simone Biles withdrew herself from Olympic events, citing the twisties, too many also began bashing her. The reality of what she faced was real—and the injury could have been devastating. They simply didn’t care. 

When a baseball player has the yips they just take them out of the game. When a golfer has them they just have an embarrassing tournament and move on to the next one. When a gymnast has them they could snap their legs like match sticks or much worse. https://t.co/Z7FoedTk4K

— Nate Igor Smith (@drivenbyboredom) July 30, 2021

WALSH: Simone Biles Quit On Her Team And Her Country. She Should Not Be Celebrated For It.  https://t.co/OYNUEh10fO pic.twitter.com/icdP7Z1y98

— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) July 27, 2021

The false equivalence stuck from the beginning.

I wish I could quit my job and get praised for it by everyone in the fake news media. Simone Biles QUIT and helped the Russians win a Gold Medal. Like it or not, that’s her JOB, and she let her country down because she thinks Twitter is mean.

— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) July 28, 2021

In 1984, Mary Lou Retton won two bronze medals and she was called “America’s Sweetheart.” People understood the level of dedication and work she put in. 

Rooting for Americans to fail is where the Republican Party is right now. They don’t want to just have a disagreement—they want to justify damning and mockery of people who disagree with them. Who benefits from this, and what drives this attitude?

I go back to thinking about the pro teams I followed, and the players I rooted for—even after they left my home town. Alex Smith was someone who was known in the Kansas City community for supporting good causes and working to help change social discussions. He made that more clear last year.

It takes all of us. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/d8MDxGubnt

— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) September 13, 2020

This was no surprise to anyone who knew about Smith’s charitable giving and support for foster children and the community. When Smith was subject to one of the worst injuries in the NFL, a spiral fracture of his leg, both sides took to one knee, held hands, and rooted for him to get better. Whether those people were fans of his team or were rooting for the other side did not matter.

We are a nation with ideals toward equality, individual and collective success, and above all, presenting Americans as free and equal citizens to the world. Rooting against America and our freedoms, especially against freedom of expression? Schadenfreude for America? Miss me with all of that.

Republican joy at rooting against America sums up their party right now 6

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a choice: In the wake of his comment at a Tennessee Republican dinner over the weekend that if he gets the House speaker’s gavel back, “It will be hard not to hit [current Speaker Nancy Pelosi] with it,” McCarthy is going to have to decide whether to apologize, pretend it was a joke, or go full Trump over it.

There are combination options, of course. McCarthy can go with an eye-rolling, sullen “I apologize if anyone misunderstood my joke,” or a blatantly insincere apology followed by a quick pivot to attacking Pelosi. McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday, The Washington Post reported.

At the event, as confirmed by multiple reporters, McCarthy was given an oversized gavel. “More importantly, I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” he responded to a cheering audience. “It will be hard not to hit her with it.” The cheering crowd, of course, is key here. This wasn’t McCarthy slipping up and saying something he’ll regret. It was McCarthy pandering to the Republican base, the logical next step after years of “lock her up” chants from Donald Trump’s rally crowds, and after McCarthy’s decision to embrace the Capitol insurrection wing of the Republican Party.

”A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted in response

McCarthy wants to be all things to all Republicans, and right now that means a mix of casual misogyny, embrace of violence, and contempt for democratic norms. As of a couple months ago, when under pressure to do so, he would still throw in the occasional statement mildly critical of things like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing public health guidelines to the Holocaust. But on the whole, McCarthy has obviously decided that it’s not really worth pandering to independent voters or trying to appear respectable to the media. He’s all in on the Trump Republican Party, trying to put a team of vandals on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and then pulling out of that committee when Pelosi rejected them. Greene’s Holocaust comparisons get a late, mild warning, while the Republicans who agreed to serve on the select committee, at Pelosi’s invitation, have their committee assignments threatened and get publicly branded as “Pelosi Republicans.” And McCarthy has increasingly embraced the Republican culture war against public health precautions like masking, prompting Pelosi to dub him a “moron.” (She did not, however, threaten to hit him with a gavel.)

For a while, McCarthy thought he could try to play both sides of the Republican Party, but by now he has chosen a side, and he’s with Donald Trump and Greene and Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert. He’s with violence and misogyny. He’s with insurrection, or at least with covering up the one that already happened. Even when you get past Trump, this is the leadership of the Republican Party. It’s past time for the media to wake up to that.

Here’s audio of @GOPLeader’s comment on @SpeakerPelosi: https://t.co/tSmcteVcdk pic.twitter.com/yLC4lzGEVV

— Vivian Jones (@Vivian_E_Jones) August 1, 2021

'It will be hard not to hit' Pelosi with gavel, top House Republican says 7

In a rare application of a law in place in Wisconsin and six other states, a judge overruled a prosecutorial decision on Wednesday not to charge a police officer who shot and killed Jay Anderson Jr., a Black man who, moments before his death, was sleeping in a parked car in 2016. Milwaukee County Judge Glenn Yamahiro will appoint a special prosecutor after finding probable cause to formally charge Joseph Mensah with homicide by negligent use of a weapon, NBC News reported. The judge’s order directs the prosecutor to charge Mensah, also a Black man, within 60 days.

Mensah found Anderson at a park asleep in his car at about 3 AM in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, NBC News reported. The officer accused Anderson, 25, of reaching for a gun before Mensah shot him, but both Anderson’s family and Yamahiro said the evidence didn’t support that story. Anderson’s family asked Yamahiro to review the case in what’s known as a John Doe proceeding. The statute maintains: “If a person who is not a district attorney complains to a judge that he or she has reason to believe that a crime has been committed within the judge’s jurisdiction, the judge shall refer the complaint to the district attorney or, if the complaint may relate to the conduct of the district attorney, to another prosecutor …”

Mensah has fatally shot two other people of color, one a Latino and American Indian man named Antonio Gonzalez, and 17-year-old Alvin Cole, a Black teen, NBC News reported. Mensah killed Gonzales in 2015 and prosecutors failed to charge the cop, saying Gonzales refused to drop a sword he was holding. Prosecutors also decided not to charge Mensah in Cole’s death, during which Mensah shot the teen while he was running from police at a mall in 2020. Mensah claimed Cole pointed a gun at him, NBC News reported, in a shooting that set off multiple days of protests. Mensah ultimately resigned last November, taking home a $130,000 severance check and going on to serve as a deputy hired under Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson.

Mensah’s attorney, Jonathan Cermele, told NPR station WUWM the judge heard evidence “from one side and one side only … We weren’t able to be involved, we weren’t able to cross-examine or provide witnesses,” he said. “The judge made a call on a very limited amount of evidence.”

Yamahiro said during court proceedings: “The evidence has shown that on June 23, 2016, Officer Mensah drove into Madison Park parking lot in 3:01 a.m., and positioned his vehicle approximately two car lengths facing the Anderson vehicle with his high beam lights on and his emergency flashing blue and red lights off. Failure to activate the emergency lights is significant because doing so would have automatically activated the dash camera of Officer Mensah’s SUV squad car.”

Yamahiro said Mensah should have realized that pulling out his weapon “created an unreasonable risk of death” and the officer could have deescalated the encounter simply by waiting for previously called backup to arrive. Severson said in a statement WUWM obtained that he “will be reviewing all of his options, and will have a more detailed statement and decision forthcoming.”

Attorney Kimberley Motley, who represents the families of Anderson, Cole, and Gonzales, told WUMW the John Doe process brought to light evidence the public simply wasn’t privy to. “We all know a Jay Anderson,” she said. “We all know a young guy who has a daughter who is just a good guy. And his daughter is now six years old. She will never have Jay Anderson in her life.

“You have a right to fight for justice as long as you do it within the legal avenues. I hope people understand and understand this is still a legal process and we all need to see how this plays out.”

Linda and Jay Anderson Sr., the parents of #JayAndersonJr., speak with @yodittewolde on #MakingTheCase about their son’s murder. “It’s been hard and I’m glad that things came out that came out,” said Linda. “The truth came out,” added her husband. pic.twitter.com/zOWzQtVAlo

— BNC (@BNCNews) July 30, 2021

Motley also called Cermele’s response to the judge’s decision “pathetic” in an interview with criminal defense attorney and TV host Yodit Tewolde. “Mensah was also a witness that we subpoenaed with regards to this John Doe hearing,” Motley said. “We actually asked him, subpoenaed him to come and testify to tell his side of the story, but instead of coming, Mensah hid and he decided not to come to court and instead he sent his lawyer to argue that he has the right to remain silent, which is his constitutional right.” Motley said Mensah was “cowardly” when he decided not to come to court after controlling the narrative in the case publicly for the last five years. “And frankly, if he wants the world to hear his story, why isn’t Mensah doing interviews right now?” Motley asked. “Let him go out in front of the microphone and tell the world what happened cuz we’re listening.”

Anderson’s parents, Linda and Jay Anderson, told Tewolde they are thankful for Motley. “I felt a relief. This has been five years coming, and Kim brought it all out and we appreciate her as a lawyer,” Linda Anderson said. Jay Anderson added that he cried “tears of joy … It’s a step towards justice,” he said.

Cop who killed Jay Anderson Jr. to finally face charges, and his attorney cries ruling is unfair 8

"Give Us the Moratorium": Rep. Cori Bush Sleeps on Capitol Steps Demanding Eviction Protection 9

We speak with Missouri Congressmember Cori Bush, who is formerly unhoused, about why she has been sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with others since Friday night to protest her colleagues’ decision to adjourn for August recess without passing an extension to the federal eviction moratorium, which expired July 31, as millions are behind on rent. Bush tells Democracy Now! she could not “walk away from this situation and go on vacation” knowing that millions of people could end up on the streets. “This isn’t easy. This is not performative in any way. I would rather be at home, but I understand the urgency and the need of this crisis right now,” Bush says.

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

OH-Gov: Former Rep. Jim Renacci unveiled the opening fundraising haul on Friday for his Republican primary bid against Gov. Mike DeWine, and his numbers were not good. Renacci, who launched his campaign on June 9, reported raising a mere $22,000 from donors through the rest of the month.

The former congressman self-funded another $1 million and had about that much on hand, but there’s reason to be skeptical he’ll put it to use. In 2018, when Renacci campaigned against Sen. Sherrod Brown, he loaned his campaign a hefty $4 million, but his fellow Republicans became pissed when they learned how little of it he was actually spending. The then-congressman ended up losing the general 53-47 even as DeWine prevailed 50-47, and his vanquished candidate soon repaid $3.5 million of that loan to Renacci.

It remains to be seen whether a stronger Republican will step up to take on DeWine, who infuriated the far-right early in the pandemic by promoting public health measures, and later alienated Donald Trump when he recognized Joe Biden’s victory. One person who did express interest in a primary bid back in late February is Rep. Warren Davidson, who trashed the governor for his “overbearing” approach to fighting the pandemic.

Campaign Action

Davidson doesn’t appear to have said anything new over the last five months, but speculation about his plans has not ended. On Thursday, one day before Renacci publicized his abysmal fundraising numbers, NBC’s Henry Gomez tweeted, “Some Ohio Republicans, even with Renacci already primarying DeWine, have been wondering in recent days if Davidson might still jump” into the race.

Governors

CA-Gov: The Republican firm Medium Buying reported Friday that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has booked a total of $12.3 million in TV and radio time from Aug. 2 through the Sept. 14 recall, which is an increase from the $8.6 million reservation we heard a few days before.  

MN-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has been considering joining the GOP primary for governor for a while, and he’ll now reportedly make a decision by late August, around the time of the state fair. Gazelka had previously said he’d make his choice around the end of Minnesota’s legislative session in May, but gave conflicting signals in July when he said he’d decide “in 40 days” as of July 6, which he later moved to a more cryptic timetable of “weeks to months.”

His shifting timeline on a decision may be related to his desire to run, as the Minnesota Reformer relays that he may end up sitting this contest out, partially due to his tenuous support among the GOP base. The Reformer also reports that state Sen. Michelle Benson, another potential Republican candidate considering a bid, is eyeing a mid-August campaign kickoff. Benson did not dispute the report, simply responding “stay tuned.”

VA-Gov: Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s newest TV commercial features a Danville man named Fred Adams praising the former governor for caring about communities like his at a time when so many politicians ignore rural areas. “When he was governor, Terry focused on bringing good paying jobs everywhere,” says Adams. “Terry cut rural unemployment in half when he was governor.”

This strategy is somewhat reminiscent of fellow Democrat Mark Warner’s, who famously focused on winning over voters in the state’s mountain communities during his successful 2001 campaign. That said, McAuliffe hasn’t yet tried reuniting Warner’s bluegrass band.

House

MO-02: State Sen. Trish Gunby, who filed paperwork for a potential campaign against Republican Rep. Ann Wagner the other day, now confirms through a spokesperson that she will in fact run. She joins businessman Ben Samuels in seeking the Democratic nod.

PA-08: Businessman Teddy Daniels, who is once again seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, appears to have had “a front-row view” for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, according to new reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer. On that day, Daniels posted a video of rioters chanting with the caption, “I am here. God bless our patriots.”

As the Inquirer notes, “If Daniels shot the video, he would have been well beyond the police barricades that day,” according to researchers. Daniels, whose Twitter feed is replete with bellicose tweets deriding others as fearful “sissies” and “pansies,” has not responded to questions from the newspaper. Last year, he came in second in the six-candidate GOP primary in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, losing to 28-24 to former Trump administration official Jim Bognet, who is considering a rematch.

SC-07: State Rep. Russell Fry, who’d been considering a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Tom Rice ever since the incumbent voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, announced Thursday that he would enter the race. Several other notable Republicans are already running, but when his name was first floated, the Post and Courier described Fry (who is chief whip in the state House) as “an up-and-comer in state GOP politics” with strong fundraising potential.

Most importantly, South Carolina requires runoffs between the top two vote-getters in the event that no candidate wins a majority in the primary. Rice, therefore, can’t count on squeaking through with a plurality.

Obituaries

Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, whose service from 1979 to 2015 made him the Wolverine State’s longest-serving senator, died Thursday at the age of 87. Levin, who twice led the Armed Services Committee, was an influential figure during his time on Capitol Hill, and he played an integral role in passing the 2010 bill that ended the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The senator was also known for his investigations into corporate wrongdoing, including his 2002 probe of Enron.  ‘

Levin, who was the nephew of a federal judge, got his start in public life in 1964 as general counsel for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, and then went on to help create the Detroit Public Defender’s Office. Levin’s older brother, Sandy Levin, was the more famous of the two at the time, as he was elected to the state Senate in 1964 before serving as state party chair and as minority leader. Carl Levin soon joined him in elected office when he won the 1968 race for a seat on the Detroit City Council, and he later rose to become council president; during this stint, Levin became well-known at home for protecting the city’s interests from the federal government.

Sandy Levin lost close races for governor in 1970 and 1974 to Republican William Milliken, but his brother had much more success when he ran statewide in 1978. Carl Levin campaigned for the Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Robert Griffin, who had announced his retirement the previous year, saying, “​​Twenty-two years is long enough.” National Republicans, though, successfully pressured Griffin to reverse course and seek re-election after all, a development that seemed like a huge blow to Democratic hopes for a pickup.

Before he could focus on Griffin, though, Levin had to get through a primary that included wealthy newspaper owner Phil Power; former Rep. Richard Vander Veen, who became nationally famous by winning the 1974 special election for Gerald Ford’s former House seat; and three state legislators. Levin’s strong base in Detroit helped establish him as the frontrunner, and he beat Power 39-20.

Levin spent the general election arguing that “new blood” was needed to replace Griffin, who had missed numerous votes in the Senate. The senator fought back by unconvincingly trying to distance himself from “that Washington crowd” and attacking Levin as “a free‐spending liberal,” but it wasn’t enough. Levin prevailed 52-48, a victory that made him Michigan’s first Jewish senator.

Levin was joined in Congress after the 1982 election by Sandy Levin, who would ultimately retire from the House in the 2018 cycle. (The two kept a “confusion file” listing people who mixed them up.) Two years later, the senator found himself locked in a tough battle to maintain his seat; Levin’s 1984 opponent was retired astronaut ​​Jack Lousma, a Republican who unsubtly touted his good looks in what Levin would describe as a contrast to his own “plump, balding, and disheveled look.” The incumbent, though, decided to play up the physical difference himself, joking, “Our pollsters tell us that it’s a winner because there are more of us than there are of them.”

Lousma stood a good chance in a year when President Ronald Reagan was poised to sweep 49 states, and the Republican made sure to tie himself to his party’s standard-bearer. Lousma, though, made some serious mistakes, especially when he claimed “An average high school boy could sit down and with three hours of briefings could know all you’d want him to know about issues in Michigan.”

Lousma’s biggest gaffe, though, came when he revealed that he owned a Toyota, a remark that went over especially badly in the state that was home to the American automotive industry. Then-Gov. Jim Blanchard would later recount that he had to convince Levin to use this material against his opponent, as the senator initially believed that Lousma’s honesty was hardly damaging. Blanchard was right, though: Reagan ended up carrying Michigan by a wide 59-40 margin, but Levin prevailed 52-47.

Levin would face a few other notable Republican opponents during his long career, but he was never truly close to losing any of them. In 1990, Levin turned back GOP Rep. Bill Schuette 57-41; Schuette would go on to revive his career in Michigan politics, which culminated in his 2018 defeat in the gubernatorial race. Levin’s opponent in 1996 was Ronna Romney, daughter-in-law of former Gov. George Romney and mother of current RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. Romney’s brother-in-law, Mitt Romney, had lost the Massachusetts Senate race two years before, and she fell to Levin 58-40.

The senator would win his final two races with more than 60% of the vote before retiring in the 2014 cycle, and Sandy Levin would decide not to seek re-election himself four years later. The family still holds a seat in Congress, though, as Sander Levin’s son, Andy Levin, was elected in 2018 to Michigan’s 9th Congressional District.

Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm,

who led the state as a Democrat from 1975 to 1987 and unsuccessfully sought the 1996 Reform Party nomination for president, died Thursday at the age of 85. Lamm supported abortion rights and environmental protection legislation during his time in politics, but he infuriated much of the party base in 1981 by supporting the repeal of the state’s Bilingual Bicultural Education Act.

Lamm, who would acquire the nickname, “Governor Gloom,” would also alienate progressives by calling for cuts to immigration and Social Security and for his many attacks on diversity after the end of his career. Lamm infamously served as an adviser to an anti-immigration organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center identified as a hate group, and he was roundly condemned for his 2006 book where he fantasied about waving a wand “across the ghettos and barrios of America and infuse[ing] the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition.”

Lamm got his start in elected office when he won a 1964 race for the state House, where he proposed what would become the nation’s first law promoting reproductive rights. In 1972, Lamm also was a leader in the movement to reject the 1976 Winter Olympics, which had been awarded to Denver; while he acknowledged he’d originally supported hosting the games, he argued that they’d be an environmental and financial mess that the state could not afford. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that year that would have provided more state funds for the event, which led Denver to become the first city to ever effectively refuse to host the Olympics after it had already won the games.

Lamm sought a promotion in 1974 when he decided to take on Republican Gov. John Vanderhoof, who had ascended from lieutenant governor to governor the previous year. Lamm, who had drawn attention by walking across the state, decisively won the nomination and soon unseated Vanderhoof 53-46 in that Democratic wave year. Lamm’s party lost its lock on the legislature in 1976 and Lamm would spend the rest of his tenure battling the GOP majority, but he never had trouble winning re-election himself.

Lamm’s career, however, fared poorly after he left the governorship. After turning down Democratic entreaties to run for the Senate in 1990, Lamm decided to enter the 1992 open seat race. The former governor ended up losing the primary to conservative Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell 45-36, though, in what turned out to be Lamm’s last statewide race.

Campbell defected to the GOP in 1995, and Lamm made his own party switch the next year. Lamm declared, “The Democrats are too close to the trial lawyers and the National Education Association. The Republicans are too close to the radical right,” and he soon announced he would seek the Reform Party’s nomination for president. But he was quickly overshadowed by the candidacy of Ross Perot, who had attracted nearly 20% of the vote in 1992 as an independent. Perot decisively won the party’s vote, and Lamm never sought office again. The former governor’s wife, Dottie Lamm, was on the ballot in 1998, though, as the Democrats’ unsuccessful nominee against Campbell.

Morning Digest: Ex-congressman primarying governor targeted by Trump barely raises a nickel 10