CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21:  on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Where Things Stand: Anti-Trans Bills Are The GOP’s New Culture War. But Most Americans Aren’t On Board Prime Badge
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TIMES SQUARE NYC, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/07/26: On July 26, 2017, after a series of tweets by President Donald Trump, which proposed to ban transgender people from military service, thousands of New Yorkers took the streets of in opposition.  Thousands of transgender soldiers are currently serving in all branches of the United States Armed forces. (Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Without any real policy agenda, Republicans in Congress have largely seized on various fronts in the culture war to distract from Biden’s successes. And GOPers at the state level are doing the same, with a new heightened focus on an element of their socially conservative base’s traditional values: Going after the LGBT community.

Lately, that’s meant a fresh wave of anti-trans rights bills.

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Why Now on Manafort and Kilimnik? Prime Badge

I want to recommend you read Josh Kovensky’s write up of yesterday’s Treasury Department statement about the 2016 Trump campaign’s direct tie to Russian intelligence. The Mueller report and the later Senate intelligence report were both unwilling or unable to determine whether Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik had passed the campaign information he received from Manafort to Russian intelligence. Treasury said he did. This is not a huge surprise since Kilimnik is widely reputed to be a Russian spy. And we should note that these are assertions listed in what amounts to a bill of particulars. They don’t explain what evidence underlies these claims. But this is the first time the US government has connected the pieces so clearly and categorically.

Why now?

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on May 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Where Things Stand: Fortunately, It’s Not Just The Insurrectionists Prime Badge
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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 21: Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Raphael Warnock walks to State Farm Arena to cast his ballot on October 21, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

While the Republican ringleaders of the Big Lie have seemingly fundraised in a big way following their efforts to overturn the results of the election, at least one Democrat is raking in substantial cash for doing, sort of, the opposite.

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The Uncanny Political Moment Prime Badge

There’s a sizable batch of new polling out which shows that President Biden’s infrastructure plan is popular with a broad cross-section of the public. The popularity isn’t quite as overwhelming as it was for the American Rescue Plan. But by almost every standard in a polarized age the numbers are still overwhelming. A new poll sponsored by the Times shows 64% support. Democrats almost unanimously support it (97%). 72% of Independents support it. And even 29% of Republicans support it. The support is spread broadly across demographic groups and the individual components of the plan poll well too.

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A Key Detail from the Gaetz Timeline Prime Badge

In recent days, most new details in the Matt Gaetz saga have been yet more nuggets of information from anonymous sources all of which add up to the same basic story: Gaetz appears to be in a lot of trouble, though whether sex with a minor will be part of an eventual indictment is not entirely clear. But there was one detail in a story published late Tuesday in Politico which adds a significant piece to the puzzle. One key question has been when Gaetz knew he was being investigated. The Politico story says federal executed a search warrant “this winter” in which they seized Gaetz’s iPhone. He changed his number in “late December.”

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Where Things Stand: GOP Acknowledges Asian Hate Crime Bill Might Not Be Right Time To Force First Filibuster Prime Badge
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Many Senate Republicans nonetheless argued the bill wasn’t necessary in the first place.

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More on the Pause Prime Badge

It’s a tough call. But I’m inclined to agree with the decision to call a pause on the J&J Janssen vaccine. Yes, based on what we know the risk is much less than many other things we do as a matter of course. Certainly it’s far lower than the risks of getting COVID. But these matters are not purely ones of statistics. They’re more centered on building trust. In that domain people’s intuitive rather than mathematical perceptions of risk can be just as important.

If I were leery of the safety of the vaccines – as opposed to holding some deep ideological or Trump-loyalist aversion – seeing federal regulators ignore or soft pedal even a small number of potential fatalities in the greater interest of getting everyone vaccinated would sap my trust more than anything else. If the US were ditching the J&J vaccine based on what we know now I’d think differently. But I don’t think that’s likely.

Here TPM Reader JS

I agree that there is a stench of innumeracy about the risks of the vaccine here. The risk of being killed driving there is less, fine. I’ve also seen that the risk of dying of COVID is actually higher than dying from the vaccine. Suppose these are both true. Then it would seem foolish to “pause” vaccinations, right?

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Numbers and Perception Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MM

When J&J-vaccine-related blood clots first were suspected/observed in Europe, I wrote to you about the statistical insignificance of the number of observed cases, about how and why scientists tended not to make good politicians, and about the obvious need to monitor the evolving situation closely. Not long after, I wrote again to applaud the EU leadership for having listened to their “scientists and technocrats”, who presumably told them more or less the same thing in much more detail. No doubt you’ve followed developments since then more closely than I have, despite the virtual tsunami of other, more purely-political news inviting or demanding your analysis and commentary.

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Where Things Stand: An Old Man With A Grudge Still Runs The Show Prime Badge
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on October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.

And Senate Republicans know it. 

All hope of retaking the majority in the Senate lies with the former president’s ability to put aside his personal grievances for the sake of the Party. 

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GOP Lawmakers Across The Country Are Trying To Make Mail Voting More Difficult Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
Where Things Stand: That Raised Fist Pays Off Prime Badge
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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is learning that, in 2021, sowing distrust in basic functions of democracy can be good electoral politics.

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On Bessemer #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DG

I too have experience as a union organizer. What XX says is right on target. Besides what XX said, I believe there are two areas that need to be addressed:

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On Bessemer #2 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader LV

Like the previous reader, I too was a union organizer earlier in my career. His/her description of both sides of the campaign as “by the book” are both depressingly accurate and infinitely repeatable if something doesn’t change.

And here is where I have a rather small suggestion that the Biden administration could make to rebalance things.

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On Bessemer Prime Badge

On the unionization vote in Bessemer, Alabama, a note from TPM Reader XX

I hesitate to comment before the votes are in. But I would be surprised if the RWSDU won the election. Based on my former experiences as a union organizer (including one campaign in Alabama,) I believe there are three reasons–

First, there’s a reason companies place factories–and this is a factory, in internal organization if not in name–in rural areas, especially in the South: The pay and benefits are so much better than anything else in the area. These are good jobs, relatively speaking.

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A Glorious Anniversary Prime Badge
Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) shown wearing a military uniform and posing for a portrait. He served in the U.S. Civil War at various levels of military command. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general in 1864 and given command of all Union armies. He was eighteenth president of the United States, elected in 1868 and reelected in 1872.

April 9th is a glorious anniversary: the day Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of the US Army, received the surrender of Robert E. Lee, a renegade US Army Colonel who was a leader of a violent rebellion against the United States which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Grant offered generous terms to Lee and the other traitors making up his army. Six days later President Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, DC.

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Where Things Stand: Suppressing Democracy To Appease The Faithful Prime Badge
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Brian Kemp is up for reelection in 2022. And the true leader of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump, has made it pretty clear that Kemp has fallen far outside of his good graces.

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New Terrible News from Manchin! Yay! Prime Badge

I just got around to reading Joe Manchin’s new OpEd in the Post. And, well … it’s pretty bad news and by my read almost all bad news. With anything less than heroic squinting and wishful thinking, it reads pretty clear: Manchin won’t support abolishing or weakening the filibuster. Full stop. This seems to take back what had seemed to be his pretty clear openness to some version of a talking filibuster earlier in the Spring. He claims early efforts to weaken the filibuster have only increased partisan polarization, a claim that makes no sense – correlation, causation, etc.

What jumps out to me most is that his argument is absurd even on its own terms.

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Europe’s Vaccine Misfortune Prime Badge

Europe is again grappling with a problem we in the US are really lucky to have avoided. European and British regulators now seem to be increasingly confident the AstraZeneca vaccine is associated with a serious but extremely rare blood-clotting side effect. Until now the UK – which has one of the world’s leading vaccination campaigns – has rejected reports of adverse side effects. But now they’re seeing them too and are recommending those under 30 get other vaccines. (There’s some indication younger people may be more susceptible to the side effect; and of course they face less threat from COVID.)

This isn’t just a major setback for Europe. It’s a major setback for the whole world. The global effort to vaccinate the populations of poorer nations (COVAX) relies heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine because it requires less complex refrigeration and transport technology.
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Where Things Stand: Traditional Conservative Values Butt Heads With The New Culture Wars Prime Badge
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Asa Hutchinson’s veto of an anti-trans bill in his state, which we covered yesterday, proved to be for naught — it was promptly overridden by his GOP colleagues in the state legislature.

But his defense of his veto saw him position himself at a crossroads for conservatism, between libertarian values and the increasing desire on the right to punish one’s perceived enemies.

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The Brave New Post-COVID Vaccine World Prime Badge

Somehow yesterday I happened on this December article about COVID vaccines by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine. The premise is a set of facts you probably know. The Moderna vaccine, which along with Pfizer’s and Johnson and Johnson’s is now protecting millions of Americans from COVID and in all likelihood bringing a halt to the pandemic, was designed by January 13th. A month later a small first batch had already been sent to the NIH to begin phase one trials. Moderna was first but the Pfizer vaccine was almost as fast. In other words, we had the vaccines before the pandemic in the US even really got off the ground in early March.

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Where Things Stand: GOP Governor Steps In To Stop Anti-Trans Bill Prime Badge
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As Republicans fling one culture war after another at the wall to see what sticks in recent weeks, at least one GOP governor isn’t playing along.

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McConnell, “Serious Consequences” and the Limits of “Woke” Corporate America Prime Badge

Mitch McConnell is upping the ante and threatening “serious consequences” for corporations who use their clout against GOP voter suppression bills in states. They should “stay out of politics,” he warns. I discussed the broader issue on Friday as a disjuncture between culture and consumerism on the one hand and apparatus of the American political system on the other. But McConnell’s threat of “serious consequences” demonstrates the hollowness of this debate.

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