The Good Word, as told by Trump
For a former president obsessed with delusions that the election was stolen from him, Holy Week became days of rage. Witness this Easter morning message from Donald Trump:
"Happy Easter to ALL, including the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election, and want to destroy our Country!" read Trump's statement. That message, along with his other statements over the weekend, was emailed from Trump's Save America political action committee, a platform that's been a fallback since his ban from Twitter and other social media.
Trump's message marking Christianity's most solemn weekend was testament to his ability to free-associate his grievances with any occasion. Consider his appearance just a weekend ago, on March 27, at a private wedding reception held at Mar-a-Lago. He offered perfunctory words of congratulations for a newlywed couple, along with buckets of bile for President Joe Biden and how the election turned out. "It’s a rough thing, and I just say, ‘Do you miss me yet?’ " Trump asked the wedding guests.
On Friday, he stewed about news coverage of the U.S. Capitol car-ramming attack on a pair of Capitol Police officers, including the slain William "Billy" Evans, that stirred memories of the insurrection he incited on Jan. 6 to overturn the election results. His statement Friday night repeated his debunked claims: "Why is it that every time the 2020 ELECTION FRAUD is discussed, the Fake News Media consistently states that such charges are baseless, unfounded, unwarranted, etc.? Sadly, there was massive fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election, and many very angry people understand that." The statement concluded, in the spirit of the season: "Other than that, Happy Easter!" There was no mention of the dead and injured officers.
Later Friday and Saturday, Trump turned his anger on Major League Baseball for its decision to move July's All-Star Game from Atlanta to side with opponents of Georgia's new voting law, which was inspired largely by Trump's false fraud claims and which critics say will lead to suppression of Black voters. Major companies also have denounced the Georgia law. (See an explainer on the new law.)
Trump responded by assailing "WOKE CANCEL CULTURE" and called for conservative consumers to fight back. "Boycott Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS, and Merck," he said in a statement that concluded, "We will not become a Socialist Nation. Happy Easter!"
Joe and Jill Biden also had an Easter message. The 46th president empathized with families across the country who are not celebrating together because of the coronavirus pandemic. "Yet as the Gospel of John reminds us, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," he said and urged people who hadn't received the COVID-19 vaccine shot to get it. "We share the sentiments of Pope Francis who said that getting vaccinated is a moral obligation, one that can save your life and the lives of others," Biden said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
The road to infrastructure
U.S. Cabinet secretaries and Democratic lawmakers pitched Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill on the Sunday talk show circuit. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it "a generational investment" that can position the country for the future, reports Newsday's Scott Eidler.
Buttigieg said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I don't think, in the next 50 years, we're going to see another time when we have this combination of a demonstrated need, bipartisan interest, widespread impatience and a very supportive president who is committed, by the way, not just to the infrastructure itself but to the jobs we're going to create."
Biden's team signaled a willingness to work with Republicans. "Obviously the preference is to have this done in a bipartisan way," said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. But GOP voices were raised against the massive spending plan, including the president's plan to finance it in part by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. "That’s going to cut job creation in the United States," said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Sen. Roy Blunt(R-Mo.) said he'd favor an infrastructure package more than two-thirds smaller than proposed.
Buttigieg was noncommittal on demands by some Democratic House members from high-tax states, including Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), to include in the same bill a repeal of the 2017 GOP tax law's limit on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. "We can look at any number of ideas," Buttigieg said.
Axios reported last week that the White House doesn't want to endorse the idea, seeing it as expensive and not tailored to help the working class, but will let lawmakers fight it out.
Janison: Ukraine test for Biden?
In 2019, the U.S. held up delivery of congressionally approved arms support for Ukraine while Trump famously prodded that nation's newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig up a campaign scandal on the Bidens.
The move failed, the aid went through and Trump was impeached but acquitted. Now on Biden's watch, Russian rival Vladimir Putin oversees escalation of hostile actions in Crimea — a follow-up to Russia's bitterly denounced 2014 annexation of that territory from Ukraine.
On Friday, Biden spoke with Zelensky for the first time as U.S. president. The White House "readout" of the call suggested nothing jarring. It said Biden "reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea."
Trump's sneaky fundraising drained the base
A company that processed the 2020 Trump campaign's online donations had to refund roughly 10% of the $1.2 billion raised — in substantial part because the credit card and checking accounts of donors who thought they were making one-time contributions were tapped multiple times, according to a New York Times investigation.
Buried in fine print — and in some cases, finer print beneath below that — were boxes that were automatically checked to authorize the campaign to keep coming back for more without asking again. Contributors had to wade through the disclaimers and manually uncheck a box to opt out of multiple payments.
The unintended payments busted credit card limits. Some donors canceled their cards to try to avoid recurring payments. Others were socked by overdraft fees from their banks. A Kansas City man in hospice care, living on less than $1,000 a month, donated $500 in September. Without his knowledge, another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October until the bank account had been depleted and frozen — and his utility and rent payments bounced.
The disclaimers became increasingly opaque as the election neared, the Times reported. The Trump team introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a "money bomb," that doubled a person’s contribution. Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said of the tactics: "It’s unfair, it’s unethical and it’s inappropriate."
The withdrawals based on prechecked boxes continued long past the election, into mid-December, as Trump raised tens of millions of dollars for his Save America PAC.
Capitol assailant seen as unbalanced
The man who rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the Capitol on Friday — killing one officer, Evans, 41 — had been suffering from delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. In online posts since removed, the driver, Noah Green, 25, described being under thought control by the government. Green, who left the vehicle with a knife in his hand, was shot dead by police, authorities said.
In the wake of Friday's car attack and the Jan. 6 insurrection, lawmakers are trying to figure out the right balance between openness and safety.
Blunt — the top Republican on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which oversees that chamber's side of the Capitol — told ABC's "This Week" that the Capitol is "an important element of who we are. It’s an important symbol of who we are. And we need to keep that in mind with every decision we make."
Blunt said the fencing erected after Jan. 6 should come down. "I think it would be a mistake for fencing to be a permanent part of the Capitol," he said.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Jesse Coburn. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- A former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said the pace of vaccination may limit the severity of a fourth coronavirus wave. "I think that there’s enough immunity in the population that you’re not going to see a true fourth wave of infection," Gottlieb said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
- Rep. Matt Gaetz's communication director, Luke Ball, resigned abruptly Friday amid a storm of controversies that have hit the Florida Republican and Trump acolyte, including a federal investigation into Gaetz's alleged sexual relationship with a teenage girl and potential violations of sex trafficking laws. Ball said he acted "out of principle," a source with direct knowledge of his decision told the Pensacola News Journal.
- Several vulnerable House Democrats got an unwelcome surprise in their campaign accounts: $5,000 from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's fundraising arm, Politico reports. The swing-district Democrats don't want to be identified with the Bronx/Queens Democrat's left-wing brand.
- Hunter Biden, the president's son, said on CBS' "Sunday Morning" that he expects to be exonerated after the Justice Department concludes an inquiry into his finances, reports Newsday's Eidler. The wide-ranging interview also touched on his history of drug addiction and other troubles, which he wrote about in a new memoir.
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