First lady Jill Biden dismisses questions about the president’s mental fitness as ‘ridiculous’

Jill Biden Joe Biden
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive for the lighting of the national Christmas tree on the Ellipse December 2, 2021.

  • First lady Jill Biden said questions about President Joe Biden’s mental fitness are “ridiculous.”
  • The comments came in an upcoming interview with “CBS Sunday Morning.”
  • A recent poll found that 48% of Americans disagree that Biden is mentally fit.

Concerns about President Joe Biden’s mental fitness are “ridiculous,” First Lady Jill Biden said in an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning.”

The first lady defended Biden when asked about recent polls that show some Americans have questions about the president’s mental fitness.

“I think that’s ridiculous,” Jill Biden told host Rita Braver, according to an excerpt of the interview published by CBS News on Thursday.

The comments come after a Politico/Morning Consult poll released last month found that 46% of Americans agree that Biden is mentally fit, whereas 48% disagree. In the same poll, roughly half of Americans disagreed that Biden is “in good health.”

Republicans have persistently attempted to cast Biden as mentally unfit to serve as president since he won the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Biden has often laughed off the attacks and tried to shut them down.

Biden, the oldest person to become president, turned 79 on November 20. The day before his birthday, he underwent a routine physical examination, with his doctor saying that he’s in good health and fit for office. 

Jill Biden also spoke candidly about her own experience of becoming first lady, telling CBS that the job is “24 hours a day.”  

“I think it’s a little harder than I imagined,” Biden told Braver. “It’s not like a job that you do; it’s a lifestyle that you live, and it’s not something you leave at 5:00 or at 3:00 … it’s 24 hours a day.” 

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Democrats have 19 days to pass Biden’s big bill before parents get cut off from child tax credit checks in January, IRS says

joe biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in the State Dining Room of the White House on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

  • The IRS says December 28 is the latest Biden’s plan can pass for January CTC payments to go out.
  • Two Democratic aides privately confirmed the IRS communications to Insider.
  • Schumer is putting his foot on the gas, but Manchin hasn’t signaled that he’s onboard with this timeline.

The Internal Revenue Service has advised Congressional Democrats that December 28 is the latest date that President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social and climate spending bill must pass to ensure the January 15 round of child tax credit payments goes out smoothly.

Two Democratic aides were granted anonymity to privately discuss the matter with Insider.

The development could add further urgency to Democrats’ struggle to meet their ambitious timeline to approve the sprawling bill by Christmas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is using the looming deadline to pressure all 50 Senate Democrats to immediately unite around the package over unanimous Republican opposition.

“COVID isn’t over, and so these checks shouldn’t lapse either — on the contrary they should keep going!” Schumer said Thursday on the Senate floor.

Though Schumer is pressing his foot on the gas, he’s already collided with a major obstacle: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Manchin has not thrown his support behind the bill and said on Wednesday a chunk of the package was still being negotiated. He told Insider that the federal government had stepped in enough with a burst of new spending to help families during the pandemic, in the event of the child tax credit abruptly ending.

“We’re doing an awful lot,” Manchin said. “We did an expansion of SNAP. We’ve done everything that we can to help people — we sent out $5.4 trillion in aid.”

The current bill would renew the revamped child tax credit through 2022. It provides up to $300 a month per child age 5 and under, or $3,600 annually. For children between ages 6 and 17, families can receive $250 each month, or $3,000 yearly. And it would lock in the ability for the vast majority of American families to receive the cash every month, regardless of whether they file taxes.

Some 35 million families are receiving the monthly child tax credit, per the IRS and Treasury. Data shows the government cash is going towards basic expenses like rent, groceries and gas. 

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado told Insider on Wednesday that it would be a “disaster” if millions of families were abruptly cut off from the monthly checks. Experts agree.

“Letting the child tax credit expire would be a terrible mistake,” Lindsay Owens, an economist at the left-leaning Groundwork Collaborative who has closely studied the issue, told Insider. “It’s successful program that’s helping families afford the rising costs and take on childcare costs.”

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Despite promises, Biden has yet to issue a single pardon, leaving reformers depressed and thousands incarcerated

Biden petting a turkey
US President Joe Biden participates in the 74th annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon of Peanut Butter in the Rose Garden of the White House November 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Presidents have the sweeping ability to commute sentences, immediately freeing any federal prisoner.
  • They can also grant pardons, which erase a criminal conviction from a person’s record.
  • But Biden, like others before him, has been hesitant to use the power early on in his presidency.

At this point in his presidency, Joe Biden has pardoned just two sentient beings: Peanut Butter and Jelly, 40-pound turkeys from Jasper, Indiana.

Former President Donald Trump, by contrast, had pardoned three: a pair of flightless birds and Joe Arpaio, the ex-Arizona sheriff known for illegally detaining Latinos.

Over the past three decades, that’s pretty much been the norm, regardless of which political party claims the White House. Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush all waited until at least their second year in office before granting clemency to a human being.

That’s not because there is a dearth of potential candidates. As of October 2021, the Department of Justice had just under 17,000 pending petitions for clemency, up from 15,000 around the time of the 2020 election.

The problem, critics say, is one of urgency, or the lack thereof.

“Just because that’s what the situation has been doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be,” Nkechi Taifa, an attorney, activist, and leader of the progressive Justice Roundtable, said in an interview. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

biden holds his chin in thought during a meeting at the white house
President Joe Biden has a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Nov. 15, 2021.

That’s the message Taifa delivered to the Biden White House. In an early December meeting with Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and staff from the Office of the White House Counsel, she implored the administration to act now.

More than 7,700 federal inmates are currently on home confinement, granted release from prison on the grounds that they pose no security threat and are at a heightened risk of suffering severe complications from COVID-19. When the public health emergency is declared over, they could be forced to return. Leading Democrats, including Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, have argued it would be an injustice to send them back, urging the White House to consider granting clemency en masse.

In the meeting, White House staff appeared to agree, Taifa said. That’s not the problem.

“Their rhetoric says that they understand what we’re saying, and that they’re working on it,” she said. The issue is the conversation is taking place in December.

“If it’s going to take this long for a first step, how long is it going to take for the rest?”

A ‘bureaucratic morass’ to wade through

Biden has never been a favorite of those advocating criminal justice reform.

In the 2020 primaries, he was arguably the most conservative Democrat running for his party’s nomination. But he was also not the same man who, as a senator from Delaware, helped author legislation that put many people behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses.

On his campaign website, Biden promised to use his clemency power, like Obama, “to secure the release of individuals facing unduly long sentences for certain non-violent and drug crimes.”

But others pledged to go further. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, proposed a new clemency advisory board that could issue recommendations directly to the White House, bypassing what is currently a seven-step process.

6 2020 Democratic presidential candidates debate onstage
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.

“What we’ve got is this bureaucratic morass,” Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor, said in an interview. “There’s seven levels of review, one after the other, and the first four levels are all in the Department of Justice, which of course is conflicted because they’re the ones who sought the sentence in the first place.”

The first step is the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which is currently led, on an acting basis, by Rosalind Sargent-Burns, a career department lawyer former Attorney General William Barr appointed. They then present their recommendations on who should get clemency to the deputy attorney general’s office, where another staffer reviews it and passes it on — maybe — to their boss. Then it goes to the staff for the White House counsel, then the actual counsel, then an aide to the president and then, if all goes well, to Biden himself.

The president could, at any time, bypass this process. Trump did when he pardoned Arpaio and his other allies, such as Roger Stone and Steve Bannon.

If anything, Osler, now a professor at the University of Saint Thomas, told Insider he thinks Biden is too committed to the way things were. It’s one thing to respect the Justice Department’s career bureaucracy when it comes to deciding who deserves prosecution but, he said, “it doesn’t make sense in terms of clemency.”

A White House official told Insider the president is “exploring the use of his clemency power” for non-violent drug offenders who were moved to home confinement at the start of the pandemic, a transfer authorized by the March 2020 CARES Act — specifically, those with fewer than four years left on their sentences (one activist who has engaged the White House expects those with less than two years remaining will also be excluded).

“At the same time,” the official said, Biden “continues to consider requests for pardon and commutation that are submitted in the ordinary course.”

That’s not exactly what reformers want to hear. While Obama granted clemency to more than 1,900 people — compared to just 200 under George W. Bush and 238 under Trump — the byzantine process for requesting one’s freedom, “the ordinary course,” means many more deserving cases likely never reach the president’s desk for consideration.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called on Biden to immediately grant clemency to 25,000 people, namely those serving sentences longer than those handed out today, nonviolent drug offenders, and the elderly.

“If it’s unjust at the end of the term,” when presidents typically wait to grant pardons, “it’s unjust during the entire term,” Cynthia Roseberry, deputy director at the ACLU’s national policy advocacy department, told Insider.

She argued that it would be a failure if the administration tried to achieve its stated goals — of racial justice and correcting past wrongs — by relying on prosecutors and judges who sent people to prison to co-sign petitions for release.

“Justice hasn’t been done under that draconian system, and we can’t expect justice from that kind of system going forward,” she said. “It has to be radically changed.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on how many petitions for clemency have received favorable recommendations within the department or have been referred to the White House. It is impossible to say for sure, then, how much the delay in granting pardons is due to bureaucracy or stalling by political actors.

But sticking with the opaque status quo is itself a political decision — the president could unilaterally discard it — and it’s a disappointment, if not a surprise, to people like Osler. He’s not expecting big things.

“I haven’t heard anything from the administration that gives me hope,” he said.

Reform, denied

In 2020, there appeared to be a new consensus.

joe biden bernie sanders
Joe Biden greets Sen. Bernie Sanders before the Democratic presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 14, 2020.

A “unity” task force composed of Biden supporters and those backing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont issued a report endorsing the creation of a independent board to recommend pardons, saying it would “ensure an appropriate, effective process for using clemency, especially to address systemic racism.” The call also made it into the Democratic Party platform.

But it didn’t make it into the president’s agenda. Respect for institutions, however slow and flawed, is one explanation. Bureaucracy could also explain the lack of pardons. It’s not clear where in the process the 17,000-odd petitions for clemency are — if they are sitting on the president’s desk or in a cabinet somewhere else in the White House or Department of Justice.

The fear of political fallout could be another reason. Reports of someone who received a presidential pardon going on to commit a serious crime are extremely rare. But if it happens, that’s a television ad; the benefits of mercy toward those who go on to lead quiet lives in obscurity are perhaps less obvious.

The current political environment at least raises the question. Since the start of the pandemic, major cities in the US, red state and blue state alike, have seen an uptick in violent crime. Daring instances of smash-and-grab robberies have gone viral. And the opposition party has been eager to pin blame on the White House, despite the trend beginning under its previous inhabitant.

“It’s less about the review process and more about power,” Jeffrey Crouch, an expert on federal clemency at American University, told Insider. New presidents are, of course, focused on passing the big-ticket items in their agenda — think infrastructure and “building back better.”

They “may want to avoid potential controversy before a midterm election,” Crouch added.

Kermit Roosevelt, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, likewise thinks pardons are a victim of competing priorities, and not something that a new administration wants leading the news cycle.

“Some pardons are probably politically popular,” he said, “but many of them don’t actually look that good, which is why presidents tend to issue a lot just before leaving office.”

The vast majority of pardons, in fact, are uncontroversial. No one, for example, criticized Trump when he granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a Black woman in her 60s who had already served two decades behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense.

alice johnson
U.S. President Donald Trump signs a document as Alice Johnson looks on during an event in the Oval Office of the White House August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC.

But it is the “bad” pardons — of political allies, be they Trump’s former aides or, under Clinton, Democratic donor Marc Rich — that tend to stick out.

The president’s unique, unchecked power to commute sentences and free the imprisoned could, then, be seen as a potential liability with little upside.

But fear is not typically a good basis for policy.

“I think it reflects an outdated view of the clemency power as something politically risky,” Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, told Insider.

There may always be demagoguery associated with incarceration, but in recent years there has been increasing bipartisan agreement that too many people have been locked up for too long. Indeed, thousands of federal prisoners are serving sentences that would not be handed out today thanks to 2018 reform legislation that Trump signed into law.

“I understand the fear of backlash for perceived leniency — as if any tampering with the federal system, which is excessively punitive through and through — would be ‘lenient’ vs. ‘just,'” Grawert said, “but I don’t know if there’s a constituency for that.”

‘I pretty much lost all hope’

On the surface, an article The New York Times published last May was a victory for reformers.

“Biden Is Developing a Pardon Process With a Focus on Racial Justice,” the headline asserted, and this was the substance: that the president would begin to aggressively employ the power of his office ahead of the 2022 midterm elections — “identifying entire classes of people who deserve mercy.”

But to Rachel Barkow, a vice dean and law professor at New York University who is one of the nation’s leading advocates of clemency reform, the piece was anything but inspiring.

“It was kind of the death knell,” she said in an interview. “There were so many red flags that this was going to be a disaster that I pretty much lost all hope then.”

For starters, the piece said the Biden administration would continue to “rely on the rigorous application vetting process” at the Department of Justice. That process was established, in part, not by the US Constitution — which does not mention it at all — but by former President Ronald Reagan, whose administration issued strict guidelines on who is even eligible to ask for reprieve.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, George Bush, and Barack Obama on a blue background.
From left: Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, George Bush, and Barack Obama.

What the White House is calling “the ordinary course” was, Barkow said, an “historical accident.” And not a best practice.

“No state does this,” she said. “‘Ordinary course’ is not that you ask the same prosecutors who brought a case, ‘Should this person now get clemency?’ No one in their right mind would set clemency up that way.”

Every administration deals with competing priorities, and Biden, objectively, was dealt a bad hand, inheriting an economy still struggling to recover from a pandemic that continues to kill more than a thousand Americans every day. And his agenda is constrained by a slim Democratic majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate.

But that’s also why people like Barkow are so disappointed.

They’re passionate about freeing those they see as unjustly incarcerated, but they are not simply naive idealists, unaware of political realities. Clemency is an area where Biden can act alone and immediately improve lives. Democrats may feel constantly on the defensive over issues of criminal justice, but none other than Trump saw clemency as such a feel-good winner that his campaign ran a Super Bowl ad telling the story of one woman he freed from prison.

“Anyone who has spent any time with people who are incarcerated, with their loved ones, who have talked with people who were formerly incarcerated, would get the urgency of this,” Barkow said. “You wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

But there doesn’t appear to be urgency at the White House.

So far, roughly 1,200 petitions for pardons or commutations have been closed “without presidential action,” per the Department of Justice. Each day, loved ones are separated due to policies that the current president helped shape, which he now says were mistaken — contributors to racial injustice — and which he has thus far declined to ameliorate.

“It’s very depressing,” Barkow said. “I think it’s words on paper,” she said of the administration’s talk of change.

“It’s just not really something that they’re feeling in their bones. And as a result, it’s not getting done.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Trump says his base ‘will be very angry’ if he doesn’t run in 2024

Trump gives speech in Des Moines, Iowa
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on October 09, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa.

  • Trump said in a new interview that his base “will be very angry” if he doesn’t run in 2024.
  • He has teased a 2024 bid but has stopped short of any campaign announcement.
  • Recent polls have found that a majority of Republicans want Trump to run again in 2024.

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that if he doesn’t run for the White House in 2024, his base “will be very angry.”

The comments came during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who asked Trump which candidate the Republican Party will flock to if he chooses not to run in the next presidential election.

Trump skirted the question, replying: “If I do decide that, I think my base is going to be very angry.”

“Well, it will, but they’ll still have to find somebody,” Hewitt said.

“They will be very angry,” Trump continued.

Trump declined to weigh in on possible 2024 contenders that he’d throw his support behind if he does not enter the race himself.

“I think we have a couple of people that are, would be very good, but it’s, you know, very early. It’s very, very early,” he said.

Hewitt raised the question again later in the interview, bringing up the names of rumored GOP candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. 

Trump responded that he’ll comment on the topic “in about one year from now.”

“We’ll have another phone call, maybe before that. But I’ll discuss that subject right after the midterms. I know exactly, I mean, I have two or three that I think would be very good. But I’ll make my decision,” he said.

The former president also expressed excitement heading into the 2022 midterm elections. 

“I think that we’ll see what happens after, right after the midterms. I think we’re going to have a great ’22. And I think we should have a really incredible, you know, ’24,” he said. 

Since leaving office in January, Trump has repeatedly teased that he may launch his third bid for the presidency, but has stopped short of a 2024 campaign announcement. Last month he suggested that he’d win the Republican presidential nomination if he did decide to run. He also told Fox News in November that he’d “probably” wait until after the 2022 midterms to make an announcement about whether he’ll launch a 2024 campaign or not. 

Polls have found that a majority of Republicans want Trump to be the leader of the party, remain a major political figure, and run again in 2024. 

In a poll about a hypothetical 2024 rematch released by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Trump and President Joe Biden were virtually tied.

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Mark Meadows accuses former Defense Secretary Mark Esper of being ‘the culprit’ in major leaks to the press

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper speaks in Morocco in front of a stock photo of Donald Trump.
Former US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

  • Mark Meadows, Trump’s former WH Chief of Staff, addresses leaks in his new book.
  • He describes the Trump White House as “worse than the whispers and leaks had suggested.”
  • Meadows accuses former Defense Secretary Mark Esper as “the culprit” behind major leaks.

In his new book, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows accuses former Defense Secretary Mark Esper as the source of several major leaks from inside the administration.

“In the months to come, I would find out that the situation in the White House was worse than the whispers and leaks had suggested,” Meadows writes in “The Chief’s Chief,” released on Tuesday. “There was covert insubordination and a stunning lack of coordination—not to mention that every few hours, there seemed to be a major leak to the press.”

Meadows — who has described revelations in his own book regarding Trump’s COVID diagnosis as “fake news” — writes at length about his distrust of top military officials, and describes Esper as a leaker shortly after introducing him in the early stages.

“No matter what anyone said, generals were politicians at heart, and the generals around President Trump were clearly swinging toward the radical left,” Meadows writes. “I had been in several meetings where secret details had leaked to the press, and it was clear that Mark Esper was the culprit.”

Meadows does not specify what kind of “secret” information he believes Esper leaked, or if it was classified. He also doesn’t present any evidence to back up his claims.

Under the Espionage Act 0f 1917, leaking classified information is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Representatives for Epirus, an aerospace technology company where Esper is a board member, did not return Insider’s request for comment ahead of publication.

Instead of elaborating on Esper’s alleged leaking or providing any further details, Meadows uses his introduction of Esper and other top military officials for a segue on “woke” generals.

“But there was another battle coming between President Trump and his newly ‘woke’ military advisors, and it had nothing to do with funding,” Meadows writes, alluding to the military operating as a so-called deep state thwarting Trump’s will.

Esper, for his part, also wrote a tell-all book about his time in the Trump administration. In it, he recounts preventing Trump from sending the National Guard “with rifles and bayonets” from cracking down on anti-racism protests across the country in the summer of 2020.

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Donald Trump said it was ‘fake news’ that Melania Trump won’t return to the White House if he runs and wins in 2024

Melania Trump and Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump called claims that Melania Trump will not return to the White House if he runs and wins in 2024 “fake news.”

  • Donald Trump denied claims that Melania Trump won’t return to the White House if he runs and wins in 2024.
  • Trump called reports that his wife had no interest in being first lady again “fake news.”
  • Trump has repeatedly teased but not made an official announcement on whether he will run in 2024.

Former President Donald Trump has called reports that former First Lady Melania Trump would resist returning to the White House in 2024 “fake news.” 

While Trump has not officially confirmed that he will run for president again, he said on Thursday that it was untrue that Melania would not return to Washington D.C. if he were to win. Trump was responding to a question from “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, who asked him about reports that his wife said she would not return to Washington. 

“Is it true that the former First Lady Melania Trump has told you: ‘I’m not going back if you run again?'” Kilmeade asked Trump.

“No, that’s not true,” Trump said. “More fake news.” 

“She was a great first lady, she did a great job. She loves the people, they love her,” Trump added. “I see how they love her.” 

CNN reported this September that Melania Trump was actively attempting to avoid the spotlight. An anonymous source told CNN that she sees her life in the White House as being “over.” 

“You’re not going to see her at rallies or campaign events, even if he ‘officially’ says he’s running again,” another anonymous source told CNN, adding that personalities like Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle have the “urge” for a 2024 Trump presidential run that Melania “absolutely does not.”

Trump has continued to tease a 2024 run, though he has not made an official announcement. Speaking to former conservative politician turned media personality Nigel Farage in an interview broadcast on Wednesday, Trump said of a potential presidential run: “If you love the country, you have no choice.”

Meanwhile, the former president continues to push baseless claims of voter fraud, despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

He pushed the same voter-fraud claims during a close to 40-minute long interview with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell last month, where he expressed approval of the latter’s plan to melt down Dominion voting machines and turn them into prison bars.

 

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Why Trump’s allies think his Twitter ban actually helps him for 2024 and beyond

Former President Donald Trump in a black coat speaks into multiple microphones
Former President Donald Trump was a prolific tweeter throughout his presidency.

  • Allies of President Donald Trump think it’s great that he’s off Twitter.
  • “Every day was just overwhelming,” said a former Trump campaign aide.
  • Trump says he’s still relevant without it and there’s “no excitement on Twitter anymore.”

Donald Trump, his allies, and his enemies all agree: it’s not so bad to have him off Twitter. 

Twitter, of course, was the former president’s most consistent soapbox during his campaign and throughout his time in the White House. Trump’s regular rage tweets — where he hurled insults, picked fights with foreign leaders, and fired Cabinet secretaries — helped him to dominate news cycles and communicate directly with his base for years. 

So Twitter’s controversial move to boot the then-president from its platform in the wake of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol enraged the former president and many of his allies, who called it an attack on free speech. He was also suspended from Facebook

But nearly a year after Twitter’s ban took effect, and as Trump mulls another presidential run in 2024, some of the former president’s allies think it’s probably good for him that he’s not tweeting relentlessly anymore. 

“Every day was just overwhelming,” a former Trump campaign official told Insider in a recent interview. “In the long run, it’s probably good for the president, because nobody wants to hear this grievance shit that the election was stolen.” 

Trump is still fixated on the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from him despite the evidence that there was no widespread election fraud. Many Republicans, including some close to him, are anxious to move on. Without the Twitter barrage, they argue, Americans can focus on his policies instead of his outrage-du-jour. It might help him build up some goodwill in the electorate if he ultimately decides to run for president again in 2024. 

The Twitter ban “is a huge help to him” said another former Trump official. “Most people loved his policies.” 

Trump himself insists he doesn’t need the platform to stay relevant. 

“There’s no excitement on Twitter any more as I understand it,” the former president said in an interview with the former British politician Nigel Farage that aired this week. “They say it’s a very boring place to be.” 

Twitter was “wrong in what they did,” Trump added, but he disputed Farage’s suggestion that he has “virtually disappeared” on the global stage since he was kicked off social media earlier this year. 

“I didn’t know I was so quiet,” Trump replied. “I have a lot of things to say and sometimes I want to say them and sometimes I don’t because I don’t feel it’s appropriate to say them, based on the position.” He added, “We get the voice out; we have to do it.” 

Adam Kinzinger
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois thinks it’s “better for the country” to have Trump off Twitter.

‘He can cover up his crazy some’ 

Even without Twitter, Trump has been far from quiet.

He’s been more publicly critical of his successor than any president in modern history. He still does television interviews and rallies, and his office and political action committee tweet out statements that trash his perceived enemies. 

But those statements don’t have the same unedited all-caps urgency they used to, or the heft that they did when they came from the commander in chief. 

“I think it was really damaging to the country, so I actually think it’s better for the country that he’s off,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who was among the few members of his party who broke with the GOP to vote for Trump’s impeachment after the January 6th attack. Trump has called those Republicans “hacks” and gloated when Kinzinger announced his retirement from Congress.  

“I guess he can cover up his crazy some, but people don’t forget,” Kinzinger said, adding that it’s helpful for Republicans because they aren’t constantly forced to answer for Trump’s daily tweets like they were during his presidency. 

Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma and a Trump ally, said this week that Trump “seems to be doing pretty well” politically, even after losing his social media perch. “Whatever he’s doing is helping him or whatever President Biden is doing is helping him,” Cole said in a brief interview in the US Capitol. “I don’t see him as a liability in any way.” 

Trump’s enemies largely welcomed the former president’s ban from Twitter, calling it an overdue step that was urgently needed to prevent Trump from inciting violence and spreading misinformation. 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, urged Twitter to suspend Trump’s account last November, warning that he was spreading “pure disinformation” about the election. 

But it might actually be helpful to Trump now, Connolly told Insider this week. 

“Ironically, upon reflection, I would say it’s a net benefit for him,” said Connolly, the chairman of a House Oversight subcommittee. “From his point of view, it detracts from him because he always wants to be the center of attention,” but it also “removes a lot of the toxins associated with him, which he benefits from.”

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Mitch McConnell smacks down the GOP shutdown brigade, warning of ‘chaos and uncertainty’ if the federal government closes its doors

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on October 26, 2021.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on October 26, 2021.

  • McConnell swiped at the GOP senators pushing the government closer to a potentially chaotic shutdown.
  • McConnell said on Fox News a federal shutdown “makes no sense for anyone.”
  • Fast-tracking a short-term spending deal requires all 100 senators to be onboard as some Senate Republicans push to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday swiped at the small group of Senate Republicans threatening to shut down the federal government this weekend in a bid to defund President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates.

The directives for large employers to either require workers to get a shot or set up a COVID-19 testing regime at workplaces still isn’t in effect because they’re held up in court. But that hasn’t prevented a GOP shutdown brigade made up of Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Ted Cruz of Texas to demand a short-term funding deal intended to keep the government open also include a provision to strip funding from federal agencies charged with carrying out the order.

Not all Senate Republicans are onboard with their position, including McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican told Fox News that the funding bill isn’t the right venue to go after the mandates. “There’s a decent chance the courts will strike them down. I don’t think shutting down the government over this issue is going to get an outcome. It’s only going to create chaos and uncertainty.”

McConnell also reiterated his belief that the government wouldn’t end up closing its doors. “We’re not going to shut the government down,” he said. “That makes no sense for anyone. Almost no one on either side thinks it’s a good idea.”

His comments come as Congressional leaders struck a short-term funding deal that would keep the government open and fund it at existing levels until Feb. 18, commonly referred to as a “continuing resolution.” The only change to current funding levels in the bill is an additional $7 billion allocated to resettle Afghan refugees, a Democratic demand.

“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Now Democrats and Republicans are racing to swiftly approve the measure in both the House and Senate by midnight Friday when federal funding dries up.

The spending deal sets the stage for a possible House vote later on Thursday. But its prospects are cloudier in the Senate since all 100 senators must consent to fast-tracking the bill. Marshall didn’t appear to be ready to lend support to the deal on Thursday.

“Shutting down the government is worth saving the jobs in Kansas,” Marshall told reporters. 

GOP support is critical to avert a shutdown, but McConnell is struggling to quell the shutdown brigade in a challenge to his grip over the GOP caucus.

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Republicans eyeing a 2023 majority say they’re eager to grill Biden’s Cabinet secretaries, investigate Hunter, and (maybe) impeach the president

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington.
Congressional Republicans have big plans to thwart the Biden administration’s agenda.

  • Republicans have big plans to thwart Joe Biden if they reclaim the US House.
  • Biden foes like Reps. Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene would get more powerful.
  • The GOP can’t wait to grill Cabinet secretaries and investigate Hunter Biden.

Republicans can’t wait to make Joe Biden’s life miserable if they take back control of the US House in the upcoming midterm elections. 

Odds are high that the GOP will wrest control of the House from Democrats in 2022. They’ve got a decent shot of winning back the Senate, too. And House Republicans are feeling so confident that they’re already drafting their playbook for taking on the Biden administration once they’ve got more power on Capitol Hill. 

Insider asked some of the very Republicans poised to take charge what they’d do if American voters decide to put them back in the majority in Congress. Their plans: theatrical oversight hearings, investigations into Hunter Biden’s art sales, and maybe even one or more Biden impeachments. 

“No government agency will want to receive a letter from us,” said Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who is now the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and is in position to become its next chairman if the GOP takes the majority. 

Republicans are making the case that handing them majorities in the House and Senate would allow them to provide a check against the Biden administration. They argue that Democratic leadership in both chambers of Congress has failed to hold the administration accountable so far. 

Democrats made the same pitch in the midterm elections during President Donald Trump’s administration, and their House takeover in 2019 dramatically shifted the power dynamic in Washington and paved the way for Trump’s two impeachments. 

“Everyone’s frustrated with the Biden administration,” Comer told Insider in a recent interview on Capitol Hill. “What they see in Congress now is absolutely no oversight to the Biden administration. Like who was held accountable for Afghanistan? Who’s held accountable for the lack of border security? No one,” he added. “Someone needs to hold them accountable and provide oversight, and we’re going to do that.”

Hunter Biden attends the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony.
House Republicans want to investigate Hunter Biden’s art sales.

Clear your calendars, Cabinet secretaries

Comer expects a GOP-led Oversight Committee to be ground zero for GOP spats with the Biden administration, and that means the president’s Cabinet secretaries should expect regular grillings on Capitol Hill. “We’ve got problems with just about every one of them with respect to oversight,” Comer said. 

Another top target for GOP investigations: Hunter Biden. 

The president’s son is a favorite target for Republicans who want to investigate Hunter Biden’s international business dealings as well as his recent art sales. Comer has questioned whether would-be art buyers might try to seek improper influence over the White House by purchasing Hunter Biden’s work. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in October that the White House wouldn’t know who was buying the art. 

“Hunter Biden is at the top of the list,” Comer told Insider recently. “All I want to know is who bought that original art. And that’s not being nosy, that’s based upon a pattern of bad behavior for Hunter Biden.” 

The Biden White House would undoubtedly shift into a defensive posture if it’s dealing with an antagonistic GOP majority from either chamber of Congress that suddenly has the power to issue subpoenas. The Trump and Obama administrations both made personnel changes, altered their legislative agendas, and braced for regular oversight hearings when the House switched parties after those administrations’ first two years in office. 

The White House did not respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story. 

Biden impeachment prospects 

Republicans also have big plans to overhaul the House Judiciary Committee, which counts some of the Biden administration’s most vocal critics as its members. That committee is also typically where impeachment investigations and hearings take place. 

Rep. Jim Jordan — an Ohio Republican who’s a leader of the House’s most conservative GOP faction and is one of Trump’s staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill — stands to become the chairman of the powerful panel if his party takes the House. 

“Lord willing, I think we’re going to take back the majority and I want to be the chair of the Judiciary Committee,” Jordan told Insider in a November interview. 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, could have a tough time mustering enough votes to become the next House speaker if the GOP clinches the chamber. Jordan challenged McCarthy for the minority leader slot in 2018, but the Ohio Republican said there’s “zero” chance that he’ll be the next House speaker and that he’s focused on becoming Judiciary chairman. 

Some House Republicans are already trying to impeach Biden, but the effort is entirely symbolic with Democrats in the majority. Several Republicans filed impeachment articles in September, for example, criticizing Biden’s withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, his immigration policies, and his administration’s eviction moratorium. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed articles of impeachment against Biden the day after he was sworn in, calling him “unfit” for the presidency. 

Impeachment talk could gain traction if Republicans are in the majority, but the GOP might risk blowback if they pursue a move that the public perceives as overtly political. And even if Biden were impeached in the House, he’s unlikely to be ousted by a Senate where two-thirds of the chamber would need to support his removal — something that’s never before happened in US history.

Asked whether Republicans would pursue impeachment against Biden, Jordan said, “I don’t know. What I do know is that he’s had the worst presidency in history. It’s been a complete disaster.” 

Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., make their way to a vote in the Capitol on Friday, November 15, 2019.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida will get more powerful if Republicans take back the US House.

Chairman Matt Gaetz? 

Biden won’t just be dealing with committee leaders who have power. Some of the far-right GOP gadflies who are often treated as Hill sideshows would be emboldened to make problems for the Democratic administration.

For starters, Jordan wants to elevate Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is another staunch Trump defender and who is the subject of a federal sex-trafficking investigation. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing. 

In a recent interview on Gaetz’s podcast, Jordan said he wants to see Gaetz chairing a Judiciary subcommittee, “whichever one he wants.” 

McCarthy has also vowed to put flame throwing Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Greene of Georgia back on committees if the GOP takes the majority. 

The current Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, said he thinks Democrats will hold onto the House in the midterms. But as for a potential Jordan chairmanship, Nadler said, “Jordan frightens me. He’s off the wall.” Gaetz, Nadler told Insider, “is a little more sensible.” 

Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, predicted “chaos” if Republicans retake the House. Emboldening conservatives in the House like Jordan, Gaetz, and Greene is a “dreadful” prospect, Cohen told Insider. 

“My father was superintendent of a mental institution,” he said, “so I think about things like this.” 

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Michael Cohen says Trump won’t pursue a 2024 White House bid, calls his ‘Big Lie’ fundraising appeals ‘the greatest grift in US history’

Michael Cohen.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

  • Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the former president won’t run for president in 2024.
  • “This should become a documentary, and it should be called the greatest grift in US history,” Cohen said of Trump’s efforts.
  • “If he loses, which he will in 2024, what happens to the ‘Big Lie?’ The big lie disappears,” Cohen said.

Former President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen on Sunday said that the former president would not run for the White House in 2024.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cohen, a former Trump confidant-turned-critic, told host Chuck Todd that the ex-president’s efforts to secure political donations as he dangles another campaign in front of his supporters was being done “to keep the grift growing and to keep the grift going.”

“This should become a documentary, and it should be called the greatest grift in US history,” he said. “Donald Trump has made it very clear, right, that he is grifting off of the American people, these supporters, these individuals that are just sending money to him at record levels.”

“It’s really amazing that people don’t see exactly what the guy is doing,” he emphasized.

Cohen goes on to describe what he perceives to be Trump’s calling card.

“I talk about his sociopathy throughout ‘Disloyal,'” he said, referencing his memoir that was released last year. “I talk about it on my podcast, Mea Culpa, ad nauseam.”

He continued: “Please understand … and this is really important for all of the viewers as well. One of the things Donald Trump has done is grift off of the ‘Big Lie’ that the election was stolen from him in 2020. It was not stolen from him.”

Cohen said that Trump is using the specter of a campaign to continue airing his debunked election-related grievances, but contended that if the former president lost a 2024 bid, then his claims wouldn’t stand up.

“If he loses, which he will in 2024, what happens to the ‘Big Lie?’ The big lie disappears. He can’t now be like the boy who cried wolf. ‘Oh, they stole it from me in 2020 — they now stole it from me in 2024.’ Right? Now, that goes out the door and there goes his money,” he said of the former president’s claims.

“There goes the big grift. So like I said before, it’s not going to happen. He’s going to run it like he did in 2011, right to the very, very last second,” he added.

Trump has not yet indicated if he’ll run for the presidency in 2024, but earlier this month, he said that he would “probably” reveal his decision after the 2022 midterm elections.

The former president is playing an usually active role for an ex-president in 2022 Republican primary campaigns, seeking to prop up preferred candidates in Senate races while in some instances pushing other candidates to pursue other elected positions.

In a September interview with Insider’s Sonam Sheth, Cohen said that Trump would continue to soak up his time in the spotlight while continuing to rake in money from devotees of his presidency.

“His insatiable need for attention is one reason he continues to flaunt this disingenuous 2024 run,” he said at the time. “The other is he’s making more money doing that than anything he has ever done before.”

The New York Times reported in July that Trump had raised over $100 million in the first six months of the year, a total that surpassed every other Republican during that time frame.

Cohen, who was once part of the former president’s inner circle, was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2018 after pleading guilty to financial crimes and lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project.

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