Republican Group Rips Trump Supporters’ Use Of Confederate ‘Treason’ Flag

A Republican group of critics of President Donald Trump released a new video on Sunday slamming his supporters’ use of the Confederate flag.

“The men who followed this flag 150 years ago knew what it meant,” a voiceover in the spot from the Lincoln Project states. “Treason against their country. Death of the United States.”

Yet the flag keeps turning up at Trump events.

The ad also highlights Trump’s 2017 comments that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and others on the far right.

“What does it say that they’re all in for Trump?” the voice in the ad asks:  

The Lincoln Project will spend $500,000 running the ad in the battleground states of Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan and in the nation’s capital, CNN reported. 

A different video by the group set Trump off last month. That spot, titled “Mourning in America,” claimed Trump’s failures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic had left the nation “weaker and sicker and poorer.” 

After it aired, Trump repeatedly attacked the organization’s founders, including conservative attorney George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who he derided as “Moonface” and her “deranged loser of a husband.”

The group raised $1.4 million in the three days after the ad aired on TV, The New York Times reported last week.

Another one of the group’s founders, longtime GOP strategist Rick Wilson, mocked Trump for losing “his damn mind” over the “Mourning” video.

“We expected this ad to hit,” Wilson added. “We did not expect him to behave in the completely maniacally way he behaved all day today, but here we are.” 

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Biden Camp Limits Journalist Access To High-Dollar Wall Street Fundraiser

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign removed the press from a fundraising call with Wall Street donors on Thursday shortly before the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee began taking questions from those on the line.

It was the first time Biden has limited media access to a virtual high-dollar fundraiser, Bloomberg News noted, and it drew criticism from reporters covering his campaign who said it went against his pledge of transparency.

“This pool report was written based just on his opening remarks because your pooler was quickly kicked off the phone call when Biden said he was ready to take questions from any of the 25 donors present, a move that goes against traditionally covering these pooled fundraisers in their entirety,” NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor, the reporter representing news organizations who covered the event, wrote. “Also, reporters heard Biden over the phone, not through Zoom as has been common practice in the virtual campaign era.”

The event was hosted by the heads of three investment banking firms: Roger Altman of Evercore, Blair Effron of Centerview Partners and Deven Parekh of Insight Partners.

Biden said last year that he would open all of his big-donor fundraisers to the media, and his campaign team said at the time that the move reflected a “commitment to transparency.”

His campaign said Thursday’s fundraiser featured a “new format” when asked why reporters weren’t allowed to listen in to the question-and-answer portion, signaling Biden might limit press access in the future to court big-ticket donors. The campaign did not reply to HuffPost’s requests for a transcript of the questions or a list of those who attended the fundraiser.

“Tonight’s event was a new format as we enter a new phase of the general election campaign,” Rufus Gifford, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement. “But we will continue to ensure press access to our virtual finance events as part of our campaign’s commitment to transparency ― one that vastly exceeds anything that Donald Trump and his campaign have offered the American people.”

Reporters were able to listen to Biden’s opening remarks, during which he addressed what he called “anxious times” and lambasted Trump’s leadership throughout the pandemic that has infected more than 1.5 million people in the U.S.

“You know when Trump ran in 2016, he promised to stand up for the ‘forgotten man,’” Biden said. “As soon as he got elected, he sure as hell forgot them quick enough. Now we’re seeing the telltale signs of Trump-o-nomics in the way that he’s implemented this stimulus. No strings, no oversight, no [inspector general], no accountability, and is setting up what I would call a corrupt recovery.”

Trump does not usually allow reporters to report on his own fundraisers, but many in the Democratic race had pledged to open up their own fundraisers during the 2020 election cycle.

Biden has been aggressively fundraising since Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ended his own Democratic presidential bid, seeking to build a war chest to counter the sizable fundraising arm wielded by Trump. The former vice president raised more than $60 million in April with the Democratic National Committee.

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What Is Justin Amash Thinking?

Congressman Justin Amash has a penchant for going his own way. He is one of the few unwavering critics in either party of government mass surveillance programs and forever wars under the guise of “protecting the homeland.” He was the lone Republican in Congress to conclude that President Trump had engaged in impeachable crimes when he tried to obstruct the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. When his fellow Republicans ripped him for daring to criticize the president, Amash quit the Republican Party, a decision that catapulted him to political celebrity and made for a strange #resistance hero, liberal Democrats and independents swooning over a libertarian who reads Hayek in his free time.

After months of carefully worded hints to suggest he was considering whether to take his message to the national stage, Amash said Tuesday that he’d taken the “first step” toward a presidential bid on the Libertarian Party ticket. His announcement and a new website outline a vision heavy on values and light on hard policies. He wants to “put an end to cronyism,” restore a government that “secures our rights” and “recognizes its limits.” Amash says he’d be “an honest, principled president who will defend the Constitution and put individuals first.”

The obvious question is: Why is Amash doing this? And what does he hope to achieve?

You can find clues to Amash’s thinking in various interviews he’s given over the past year. (An aide to Amash did not immediately respond to a request to interview the congressman.) Last fall, he told Rolling Stone that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of running for president and was weighing where he thought he could make the most impact. He was adamant that if he would only run for president if he thought he could win: “If I were to run for president, that’s not something I would do unless I felt very confident I could win it. And so if you were to see me get into the race it means that I’m confident I can win the race.”

This is how all smart and ambitious politicians talk. No one decides to run for president thinking they don’t have a shot, however slim. And Amash’s chances are slim.

Amash’s decision to seek the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination makes all the sense in the world. He believes in free-market economics, civil liberties, and limited government. He opposes the surveillance state just as fiercely as he opposes most spending by the federal government. (He says more authority should rest with the states.) Friends and colleagues reach for words like “purist” and “doctrinaire” to describe him; his office gives out free copies of the 1850 libertarian ur-text The Law by Frédéric Bastiat; the small-government group FreedomWorks rates his voting record as one of the best in Congress.

If he does run, Amash will also surely point to his opposition to Trump and decision to ditch the Republican Party. The move cost him his seniority, access to the GOP’s fundraising apparatus, and surely some relationships in Congress. And even though he still votes with the Republican majority a lot of the time, he remains perhaps the most high-profile member of his former party to voice his discontent with the president’s behavior and then act on that discontent.

But is there anywhere close to a big enough constituency for Amash’s brand of politics that could deliver him a single state on the electoral map, let alone the presidency? The district he represents in West Michigan is in a lot of ways a microcosm of the state, a purple-ish blend of urban and rural communities with a good deal of economic and racial diversity. Amash has won the district five times in a row, fending off Republican primary challengers and Democratic general-election opponents.

But the math isn’t there on a national stage. The Libertarian Party’s membership is paltry. The most electoral support a Libertarian presidential candidate has ever received was former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s 4.48 million votes in the 2016 election. That’s nothing to scoff at, but it’s nowhere near enough to win the presidency.

Based on what little data there is available, Amash’s entry into the race would potentially peel more votes away from likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden than Trump. A 2019 poll by the Detroit News found that Amash siphoned 6 points away from Biden when he was added to the presidential ticket as opposed to a two-way Biden-Trump race. After the 2016 election, Catalist, a Democratic analytics firm, conducted a long-term analysis to understand the American electorate based on values and attitudes as opposed to demographics and voting history. The largest slice of the electorate, the analysis found, was the “Libertarian left,” which was made up of mainly young white voters that resisted labels and being told what to do.

Recent history is littered with libertarian figures trying (and failing) to build a real political movement. Every four years, it seems, some magazine writes about how libertarianism is poised to have its “moment.” Four years of Trump and system failures in Washington may not usher in the first libertarian president, but perhaps they’ve created the conditions for a candidate like Amash to expand the reach of libertarian politics and mobilize the ranks of disaffected voters. In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Amash said he believed there was a large constituency of voters out there who don’t follow the daily ins and outs of politics, but who were searching for a candidate with integrity and principles in an era when those qualities feel hard to come by. “What they really take away from their elected officials is: ‘Can I trust this person? Does this seem like a person who is standing up for convictions or is this person just bowing to political pressure all the time?’” Amash told me.

And for Amash, principles are everything. “My gratification comes from being true to the principles that I speak about,” he told me last year. “At the end of the day, if I feel like I stuck to my principles, I go home happy.” Amash may run for president and fail miserably, but if he felt like doing so was the only way to uphold his principles, he’ll go home happy.

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An Early Look At Who Bernie Sanders Wants To Join Joe Biden’s Policy Task Forces

The campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says it won’t appoint any “shrinking violets” to the joint task forces developing a compromise policy platform with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Sanders and Biden are creating six task forces — on the economy, education, criminal justice, immigration, climate change and health care — as a core part of Biden’s outreach to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Sanders announced when he endorsed the former vice president last week.

The goal is to present a united platform before the convention, influence the kind of personnel who would fill a possible Biden administration and arm Biden with possible executive orders that he could enact quickly should he be elected president. 

HuffPost obtained a preliminary list of some of the people Sanders is considering. Everything is still in early stages, and the two campaigns have been negotiating who will be in these six policy groups and how big the groups will be. 

The list includes progressive policy experts who heavily influenced Sanders’ campaign platform over the last year, such as Darrick Hamilton, The Ohio State University economist who has become one of the leading academics on the racial wealth gap in the United States, and Stephanie Kelton, an economist at Stony Brook University who has championed Modern Monetary Theory — the idea that governments can never run out of money, and that deficit spending on major domestic programs would lead to economic growth.

Though not exhaustive, some other names on the Sanders campaign’s early list include Heather Boushey, an inequality expert with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two leading economists in the world of wealth inequality and progressive taxation; Jeffrey Sachs, who runs Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development; Josh Bivens, an economist with progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute; Daniel Kammen, who runs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at University of California, Berkeley; Tara Raghuveer, an affordable housing activist who runs the Kansas City Tenants group; and Bonnie Castillo, the executive director with the National Nurses Union.

Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager who has been negotiating with the Biden campaign for weeks, would not confirm that the campaign was considering these individuals. These task forces are not yet finalized and could consist of a mix of campaign staff and outside experts. HuffPost reached out to every person on the preliminary list. Sachs and Kammen said they had not heard from either campaign. Boushey and Kelton declined to comment. The others did not respond. 

Shakir said the Sanders campaign will put forward “people who are experts that are going to represent the ideologies of the respective candidates.”

“There are no shrinking violets here,” he said, adding that Biden’s team has been very “receptive” to their suggestions.

A Biden campaign aide echoed the sentiment, saying the task force will “represent the diverse viewpoints of the Democratic Party.” 

These people, if included on the task forces, would represent a significant shift in the kind of policy thinking surrounding Biden. The former vice president’s close-knit inner circle includes people such as Bruce Reed, who oversaw President Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform push and, as The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner said, “epitomized the right wing of the Clinton and Obama administrations.”

Sanders’ campaign compiled its list internally with the intention of representing the voices of the progressive activist community, labor unions and progressive academics that their policy team often relied on during the campaign. (That said, Sanders was not the only candidate to turn to these experts throughout the campaign cycle; Hamilton, for example, consulted on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s higher education plan and was behind New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s proposal to give most Americans government-backed savings account at birth.)

Sanders’ team published a momentously left-wing agenda that called for an aggressive wealth tax, as well as a suite of expansive social programs such as universal child care, family leave, tuition-free public school from pre-kindergarten to college and university, government-run health insurance, and student and medical debt cancellation.

Biden, whose campaign primary did not emphasize policy in the last year, hasn’t come close to adopting any of those ideas, though his platform remains far more progressive than that of Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. He has signaled an openness to making some adjustments, crediting Warren and Sanders — two candidates often considered the progressive wing of the Democratic presidential field. In the last two months, Biden has backed making public colleges and universities tuition-free for those from families with incomes less than $125,000 a year, eliminating student debt for those making less than under $125,000 a year, and lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60. 

Sanders and his allies, however, have said those changes are not going far enough. 

Shakir said the Sanders team has not consulted with Warren’s staff on the task forces, but did not rule out the possibility that Biden’s staff has been reaching out to those that worked on other Democratic campaigns in the last year. 

Among those negotiating on Biden’s side are veteran Democratic operatives and Obama administration veterans Ron Klain and Anita Dunn, who has come under scrutiny in the left for her work in the private sector at political communications firm SKDKnickerbocker and for her recent comments dismissing Sanders as a “protester who often shows up at campaign events.” Shakir and Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver have been representing Sanders’ side of negotiations.

Outside progressive groups like Demand Progress, the Roosevelt Institute and the Revolving Door Project are also working to influence those staffing decisions. Biden told donors at a fundraiser that he is open to unveiling his picks for Cabinet appointments during the general election. 

“We are starting the process of the platform conversation much earlier than certainly 2016, but earlier than ever before,” Shakir said.

 Kevin Robillard, Daniel Marans and Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.

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Bernie Sanders Tells Supporters It Would Be ‘Irresponsible’ To Oppose Joe Biden

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Tuesday that it would be “irresponsible” for his strongest supporters not to get behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sanders warned that progressives who “sit on their hands” in the months ahead of the November vote would just be enabling President Donald Trump’s reelection.

“Do we be as active as we can in electing Joe Biden and doing everything we can to move Joe and his campaign in a more progressive direction?” Sanders asked. “Or do we choose to sit it out and allow the most dangerous president in modern American history get reelected?”

Sanders formally endorsed Biden in a livestream on Monday, about a week after the Vermont senator dropped out of the presidential primary. Democrats hope the endorsement will help heal the party after the primary revealed vast ideological differences within it.

After Sanders suspended his campaign, many progressive individuals and groups announced they would not be endorsing Biden ― including Sanders’ own campaign press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray.

“I supported Bernie Sanders because he backed ideas like #MedicareForAll, cancelling ALL student debt, & a wealth tax,” Gray tweeted on Monday. “Biden supports none of those.” 

Sanders appeared to distance himself from Gray, saying she’s “not on the payroll” for the campaign, but the AP clarified with a Sanders spokesperson that all campaign staffers will still get a severance check next month despite no longer being on the campaign payroll.

The Vermont senator promised to support whoever is the Democratic nominee since he launched his campaign in early 2019 and has continued to stress the importance of getting Trump out of the White House above all else.

“I believe that it’s irresponsible for anybody to say, ’Well, I disagree with Joe Biden ― I disagree with Joe Biden! ― and therefore I’m not going to get involved,” Sanders told the AP.

With Sanders’ endorsement of Biden, the former vice president is now expected to make some concessions to appeal to progressive voters. The Vermont senator said the campaigns plan to create joint task forces to develop policy positions on key issues like the economy, criminal justice, climate change, immigration and education.

Biden has signaled that he’s open to shifting his campaign leftward, recently announcing his support for canceling student debt for many Americans who make less than $125,000 a year and adopting a proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to repeal a bankruptcy law he once championed.

Still, Sanders and many progressives see ample room to push Biden further left. Eight progressive groups wrote a letter to Biden last week pushing him to adopt a list of left-wing policies while promising to spend $100 million to encourage young voters to vote.

Sanders also plans to stay on the ballot in states that haven’t yet held their primaries to gather as many delegates as he can before the Democratic National Convention this year. The hope is that gathering more delegates will help influence Biden’s platform and push him in a more progressive direction.

“I will do everything I can to help elect Joe,” he told the AP. “We had a contentious campaign. We disagree on issues. But my job now is to not only rally my supporters, but to do everything I can to bring the party together to see that [Trump] is not elected president.”

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Here’s Joe Biden’s Opening Bid To The Left

Former Vice President Joe Biden is pivoting to the left as he begins his general election campaign against President Donald Trump, promising to eliminate student debt for a huge portion of people making under $125,000 a year and lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60. 

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, announced both policy proposals in a Medium blog post on Thursday afternoon, arguing the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic made both moves necessary. But both shifts ― especially on student debt ― are designed to appeal to younger and left-leaning voters who were skeptical of his candidacy and instead supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the primary. Sanders ended his candidacy yesterday. 

“Recovery will require long term changes to build a more inclusive and more resilient middle class, and a greener and more resilient economy,” Biden wrote. “We have to think big — as big as the challenges we face. As we start to lay the groundwork for recovery, we have to build back better for the future.”

Biden’s campaign emphasized that both proposals fit within his long-standing goal to rebuild the American middle class, though it also acknowledged Sanders’ influence. 

“Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I’m proud to adopt them as part of my campaign at this critical moment in responding to the coronavirus crisis,” Biden wrote.

As a political calculation, it shows Biden’s campaign is confident about their standing with many suburban moderates who were swing voters in the past but have moved solidly into the Democratic Party during Trump’s presidency, offended by his bullying demeanor and chaotic style. Many of these voters flocked to the polls in the final weeks of the Democratic primary, padding Biden’s margins of victory over Sanders.

Instead, the Biden campaign is ― at least for the time being ― trying to improve its standing with younger voters, many of whom lean to the ideological left. Polling throughout the Democratic primary showed Sanders triumphing with young voters by massive margins, and early polling in the general election has shown Biden running weaker with younger voters than past Democratic nominees.

Lowering the eligibility age for Medicare traditionally performs well in public opinion surveys, while the popularity of proposals to eliminate student debt often depends on the details of the proposal and how the question is phrased.

Progressives and Democratic operatives focused on youth turnout have argued that Biden — who often criticized progressive priorities like single-payer health care during his primary run — would need to move on policy in order to win over voters who are skeptical of him. Sanders himself made a similar pronouncement during an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Wednesday night.

“I hope to be able to work with Joe in a more progressive direction. Joe is a good politician and he understands that in order to defeat Trump, he’s going to have to bring new people into his political world, working people, young people,” Sanders said. 

He said he thought Biden was prepared to move in a progressive direction on a number of issues, including immigration, criminal justice reform and the cost of higher education. (Sanders notably did not mention health care.)

“Joe is not going to adopt my platform,” Sanders acknowledged. “But I think if he’ll move in this direction, people will say, ‘This is a guy that we should support.’” 

A Sanders campaign aide, granted anonymity to discuss sensitive talks, said the conversation between Sanders and Biden’s senior staffers was ongoing.

“We understand that the Biden campaign is going through a process of trying to convince progressives that he stands with him … but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be making these overtures without Bernie pushing,” the Sanders aide said. “This is the beginning of the process, not the end of the process.” 

The Sanders campaign warned not to expect an imminent endorsement of Biden.

Biden, who based his successful bid for the Democratic nomination on the importance of defeating Trump and returning to normalcy, had long resisted calls to eliminate student debt. He inched toward the position last month, adopting a proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to forgive $10,000 worth of student debt per person as a part of immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

His new position ― totally eliminating student debt for those making under $125,000 a year who attended either a public college or a historically Black college ― goes further while still falling short of Sanders’ proposal to eliminate all student debt, or Warren’s proposal to eliminate it for 95% of borrowers. Biden would also phase out the benefit, to avoid a “cliff” for those who make above $125,000.

The number of people whose debt would be forgiven by Biden’s plan is unclear, as is its total cost. But he proposes paying for the plan by eliminating a business losses tax cut included in the coronavirus stimulus package that Congress passed last month. That $170 billion cut was seen as a GOP giveaway to real estate investors. 

Biden is also proposing expanding the federal health care program for seniors by lowering the Medicare age from 65 to 60, who would pay the same rate as any other Medicare beneficiaries. The proposal is notably different than some Medicare “buy-in” proposals widely endorsed by congressional Democrats, which usually have higher premiums for those under the age of 65 looking to join the Medicare system. 

Democrats have long advocated for lowering the age for Medicare as many older Americans, at higher risk of health problems, struggle to gain secure employment, and face high average premium costs on the federal health insurance exchange. 

Lowering the age for Medicare is a popular proposal across party lines. According to a January 2019 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 77% of Americans supported allowing individuals between the ages of 50 and 65 to buy coverage through the program, including 69% of Republicans.

Biden’s current health care platform expands the Affordable Care Act by creating a public option like Medicare that is open to all Americans, in addition to expanding the tax credits available for people on the exchanges. His plan would not reach universal coverage outright, but would get the country a lot closer to it.

While Biden credited the Sanders campaign in part for inspiring these changes to his campaign platform, they are a far cry from what the Vermont senator proposed on the campaign trail. Sanders endorsed a “Medicare For All” system that would move every American on to a single government-run health insurance program.

In March, Biden claimed to have adopted a Sanders proposal on tuition-free college for some in the run up to the final Democratic presidential debate, endorsing the compromise platform between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton from 2016 that would make public colleges and universities tuition-free for those from families with incomes under $125,000. Sanders said it was not enough. 

“It’s great that Joe Biden is now supporting a position that was in the Democratic platform four years ago,” Sanders responded in a statement in March. “Now we have to go much further. We need to make all public universities, colleges and trade schools tuition-free for everyone like our high schools are. We need to cancel all student debt. And we can fund it with a small tax on Wall Street speculation.”

The Sanders campaign said not to expect similar criticisms about the incremental nature of Biden’s new proposal.

“Like last time, this is a process that will take time,” the Sanders aide said, referring to the negotiations that led up to Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016. “The Biden campaign will put out what they are comfortable with.”

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