Fiona Hill: Putin scored important win in Biden summit


Fiona Hill on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP)

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UPDATED 4:25 PM PT – Sunday, June 20, 2021

Former National Security Council Director Fiona Hill warned the Biden administration has empowered Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an interview on Sunday, Hill argued the summit with Joe Biden was a “very important symbolic win” for the Russian president.

Back in 2019, Hill testified in the impeachment hearing of President Trump as an expert on Russian affairs. Now, she claims the Russian government may continue to support alleged cyberattacks on U.S. soil and political repressions if left unchecked.

“…What we’re trying to do is try to reel that back and to basically win that back, that is, and try to get some kind of restraint here. So we’re basically, I guess, now with the dilemma of how do we do that?” she expressed. “Can we get a comprehensive cyber agreement like we do in the nuclear weapons realm or is that just going to be too difficult?”

Many lawmakers have slammed Biden’s approach on his recent summit with the Russian president. They argued Biden should have pushed back harder against Putin on matters such as cybersecurity and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Hill went on to say the Biden administration should press Russia on serious issues that pose “a threat” to U.S. national security.

MORE NEWS: Paris Dennard Discusses Juneteenth And Biden’s Agenda Negatively Impacting Minorities



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F-35: The Most Advanced Fighter on Earth (And the Price Keeps Dropping)


As the US Air Force (USAF) charts acquisition plans into the coming decades, an unmistakable trend emerges for the country’s most advanced fighter jet: the state-of-the-art  F-35 program has made major strides in reducing costs over the past decade, and there are even more encouraging signs on the horizon.

The debate over costs runs usually across two primary metrics: flyaway and sustainment costs. The flyaway cost is simply the price of producing a single additional model. As its name suggests, this is a marginal cost figure that excludes sunk expenses like research and development. Meanwhile, the sustainment cost refers to the price of operating a piece of hardware, including manpower, maintenance, system improvements, materiel, and more. These two figures are not strictly related, capturing different aspects of the expenses associated with an aircraft. When considered in conjunction, they can offer a comprehensive picture of how much it costs to produce and fly an F-35.

The long-term figures are unambiguous: Lockheed Martin has consistently driven down the F-35A’s flyaway cost between serial production batches. Lot 1 is estimated to have a per-model cost of around two hundred million dollars; with Lot 5, the price dropped all the way down to around $100 million per model. Lot 12 saw the cost come down to $82.4 million and, as of Lot 14, the per-model cost now sits at $77.9 million. For a sense of scale, consider that the F-35 now not only has a markedly lower flyaway cost than the less advanced F-15EX (which is typically quoted at around $85-90 million) but is also cheaper than competing foreign fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon. Indeed, the F-35 remains in high demand among US partners: Saudi Arabia, Spain, Qatar, Greece, the Czech Republic are among those that have expressed import interest in recent years.

“We really haven’t seen any sort of diminishing interest,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s new F-35 program head. “As the jet performs — and frankly as, for example, our European partners are able to operate together and see the power and the strength of the capabilities on the platform and particularly as they are interoperating in their missions — we are seeing a stronger conviction around what this means to the security of their individual nations and to the effectiveness of the alliances.” Lauderdale added that “the airplane is doing its job and selling itself.”

The F-35 has been or is being purchased by over a dozen U.S. allies, helping the American defense industry to secure a foothold in the lucrative and increasingly competitive high-end jet fighter market. Meanwhile, the consolidation of US allies around a single fighter platform is a major boon for the principle of interoperability that sits at the heart of NATO’s international military infrastructure.

Sustainment outlays, too, have seen a steady decline, with the fighter’s cost per flight hour dropping by 23% over the past four years. The F-35’s current cost per flying hour sits at $36,000, a sharp reduction from  $44,000 in fiscal year 2018. Through further logistics optimizations, Lockheed Martin seeks to drive that figure all the way down to $25,000 by 2025.

Significant progress has been made, but the good news doesn’t end here. As the F-35 program matures and expands, Lockheed Martin will be in a position to continue leveraging economies of scale and refining its supply chains. This will drive the fighter’s costs down even further in coming decades, giving the Pentagon and the American taxpayer rising value throughout the F-35’s roughly fifty years of projected service.

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for The National Interest.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin. 

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January 6 Was Prologue: Notes from The Atlantic’s Editor in Chief


Every month, our editor in chief will bring readers inside The Atlantic for a taste of how our journalism gets made, and the issues that concern us the most. Expect interviews with our writers, trips into our archives, stories you shouldn’t miss, and more. Sign up to get this newsletter, Notes From the Editor in Chief, delivered to your inbox.


The Capitol Riot Was Prologue

Donald Trump’s battle cry of insurrection—“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”—didn’t strike me at first as a four-horsemen moment for American democracy. This was a failure of imagination on my part. To be fair, I was busy trying not to catch the coronavirus. For most of Trump’s January 6 speech I was 100 yards or so from the stage, and my best guess is that only 5 percent of his supporters were masked. In my eagerness to be near the action, I had worked myself into the densest part of the crowd, a cul-de-sac of berserk anti-maskers. They were angry at Joe Biden, exceedingly angry at Mike Pence, and also a bit peeved at me.

“You don’t have to wear it,” one man said, pointing to my mask. “It’s not a mandate.”

“No, I do.”

“Why?”

“There’s a pandemic.”

“Yeah, right,” he said.

Trump’s speech, which was interminable (the truest thing he said was “I could just go on forever”), was also hard to fathom, pre-riot. Even after four years of his mad-king hijinks, it still didn’t seem likely that Trump would go so far as to threaten his own vice president. But this is what he said: “Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you. I will tell you right now. I’m not hearing good stories.”

It was finally time, per Trump’s instructions, to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. The rest you know all about, despite efforts by most Republicans in Congress to hide the truth of January 6.

At least from where I sit, the most important and most relevant truth of the riot is that it was not the culmination of the insurrection, but its prologue. If the Republican Party, as currently constituted, takes back the House and Senate next year (an outcome that is not only plausible but, history tells us, likely), and if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2024, it doesn’t seem likely that Congress will certify the victory. And then the four horsemen will most certainly ride.

Our magazine is governed by contradictory impulses: Our founding manifesto promises that we will be “of no party or clique,” and we do our best to remain independent and unentangled. The Atlantic is also committed to American ideals, specifically to the notion that this country is forever capable of refining democracy and becoming the more perfect union envisioned by its founders. It is not easy to balance these impulses when one of the country’s two major parties appears committed to the cause of voter suppression, to the dismantling of American institutions, and to undermining the faith that citizens have in our system of free and fair elections. America needs many things right now, including an actual conservative party, one committed to the rule of law and not to the autocratic inclinations of its defeated leader.

I’m starting this newsletter in part to keep our readers current with our most relevant and interesting work, and to bring you inside The Atlantic (to the extent you actually want to see the sausage being made, of course). But mainly I’m writing this newsletter because I’m very worried about the state of the American experiment. The Atlantic, for 164 years now, has made this experiment its chief concern, and we will be relentless in uncovering and examining threats to the American idea.


Lucy Jones

A Q&A With George Packer

In each installment of this newsletter, I hope to feature a short conversation with one of our journalists, often someone covering, up close, the continuing crisis. I’m starting today with George Packer, a winner of the National Book Award for The Unwinding, and one of America’s most important chroniclers of democratic decomposition. A couple of weeks ago we published on our website his article on the promise and pitfalls of civics education, and you can read his essay “The Four Americas” from our upcoming print issue, online now. His new book, from which this piece is adapted, is Last Best Hope: An Essay on the Revival of America. It is out this week, and highly recommended by yours truly.

Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jeff: You’ve written entire books on this general subject, but try to answer this question in a couple of lines: What causes you to worry the most about America’s future as a unified, coherent country?

George: We Americans don’t just disagree with one another. We don’t just have different values, narratives, and perceptions of truth. We actually see one another as moral threats, incompatible with all that we consider good, and we fantasize about a country in which the threats are no longer around. Not to be melodramatic, but you can recognize this kind of thinking in countries that fall into civil war.

Jeff: You think we’re actually heading to civil war?

George: Not likely, not with violence on a large scale. More like a cold civil war that continues to erode democracy, make every election seem existential, and prevent us from solving our major problems, with long-term decline.

Jeff: Are there, in your mind, credible, discernible off-ramps?

George: I see three ways this could change. One is separation (not actual secession, but red and blue areas having more and more political autonomy). Another is conquest (one side wins a decisive majority). Neither of these seems very tenable. The third off-ramp is more complex but more feasible: government-led improvements in people’s lives, a reversal of the inequality that’s at the root of much of our disunion, along with socially binding ideas like universal national service and better K–12 education (civics!).

Jeff: Reversing “the inequality that’s at the root of our disunion” seems like a pretty big damn thing. But put that aside: How do you convince people that (a) selfless national service and (b) a universal civics agenda could, or should, be done?

George: Becoming more equal as Americans is a huge thing. What matters is that we start moving in the right direction—and I think in recent months we’ve begun. As for national service and universal civics (though not a national curriculum, which would probably self-destruct), they would take some explaining, some persuading. But I don’t think they’re impossible. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans rate civic education as the single best way to strengthen American identity, and there’s a bipartisan bill in Congress to spend $1 billion on U.S. history and civics. Maybe Americans are beginning to grasp that a Thirty Years’ War between the red and the blue is not the best way to remain a strong democracy. Maybe there’s an untapped, even unconscious desire, especially among younger people, to be asked to do something larger than themselves. We’ll never know until we try.


The prime minister, photographed at 10 Downing Street in May 2021
Nadav Kander

Stories I Hope You’ll Read

Each month, I’m also going to recommend to you a small number of Atlantic articles that I loved. First, there’s our new cover story, posted last week, by Tom McTague:

The Minister of Chaos

Tom spent months following Boris Johnson across England—and he practically camped out at 10 Downing Street—in order to unravel some core mysteries about this popular, populist prime minister. If you want to know whether Johnson is Britain’s Trump, read this piece.

T. D. Jakes on How White Evangelicals Lost Their Way

Our Emma Green is the best religion reporter in America (this is not just my biased view) and she goes deep with one of the most influential figures in evangelical Christianity.

28 Books for Your Every Summer Mood

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Our editors and writers do the hard work of reading the whole world so you don’t have to. This is a great list.

Hollywood’s New Crown Prince of Musicals

Shirley, an ace Hollywood reporter, talks to Jon M. Chu, the director of In the Heights and Wicked, about the magic of movement and the limitations of words. (And let me also suggest, while we’re on this subject, an Atlantic essay by Lin-Manuel Miranda from 2019 on the role of art in times of political crisis.)

The Essential Ed Yong Reading List

And one more thing (this is known as burying the lede): Our pandemic reporter Ed Yong just won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. We’re all tremendously proud of Ed, his editors, and the work they did together, for our readers. You can find a selection of his stories right here.


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Kyrsten Sinema’s technicolour moderation | The Economist


WHEN KYRSTEN SINEMA first sashayed into the Senate, liberal hearts fluttered. The 42-year-old was one of the youngest women elected to the chamber, the first Democratic senator from Arizona for three decades, and exuded cosmopolitan élan. By repute a “Prada socialist” with a charismatic personality, she was also the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Did Mike Pence look uncomfortable as he swore her in—on the constitution, given her admitted irreligiosity (another novelty in Congress)? Or did the pious former vice-president hang onto her hand a trifle too long? Liberal tweeters were in raptures over such questions.

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Their hearts are now broken, since Ms Sinema has shown herself to be anything but a left-wing crowd-pleaser. Though Joe Manchin of West Virginia has drawn most of his party’s flak for refusing to vote down the legislative filibuster, she holds the same position as immovably. She says the 60-vote threshold was designed to foster bipartisanship, though it was more a procedural accident. She claims it remains a force for “comity”, which is a word rarely used outside the Senate these days, though the quality is seldom witnessed inside it. Many Democrats have decried this, their fear of Republican lawmaking—a much bigger reason for the filibuster’s endurance—having recently been trumped by fear of the gridlock it causes. The singer Cher called Ms Sinema a “traitor”, notwithstanding their shared fondness for colourful wigs.

The senator’s transgressions against her party line, of which her support for the filibuster is only the latest example, can be equally flamboyant. Eight Democratic senators opposed a provision in the covid-19 stimulus bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; only one signalled her opposition—to a cherished progressive initiative—with a Caesarean thumbs-down and derisive curtsy. Having called on her Republican colleagues to back a bipartisan commission into the mob attack on the Capitol in January, Ms Sinema outraged her party by failing to show up for the relevant vote (she claimed this was for family reasons). Despite her professed commitment to bipartisanship, she has meanwhile initiated no ambitious legislation nor formed notable partnerships in either party. She almost never speaks to journalists. Senior Democrats say they do not know what issues she is most interested in. She is described as “isolated”; also “very strange”.

Some of this tension can be attributed to the always-underestimated fact that Ms Sinema owes her position to a lot of voters who dislike her party. Arizona is a conservative state. To win there Democrats need a plurality of unaligned voters, who tend to be somewhat conservative. That Arizona has two Democratic senators and narrowly elected Joe Biden is the result of Donald Trump’s toxicity. And this is an advantage that Ms Sinema and her fellow Arizonan Mark Kelly will hope to increase. Mr Trump’s continuing influence on Arizonan Republicans—as shown by their lunatic obsession with non-existent electoral fraud—is likely to swell the ranks of disaffected conservatives further.

Yet a comparison with Mr Kelly also shows how gratuitous Ms Sinema’s performance can be. The former astronaut also defines himself against his party (especially on the southern border, a preoccupation for Arizonans) and preaches bipartisanship. But his carping is more selective and fact-based. He has meanwhile won plaudits for pushing gun control, with which his family is deeply concerned, and building relationships on both sides. He is more popular with Democrats on and off the Hill. Though both senators have solid ratings in Arizona, Mr Kelly scores better with Democrats and Ms Sinema with Republicans. Her provocativeness, in other words, is as much a political choice as an imperative.

It probably owes something to her most glaring potential vulnerability: a Damascene conversion from far-left protest politics. A former Naderite, who railed against capitalism and addressed anti-war demos in a pink tutu, she once prided herself on being the most left-wing member of the Arizona legislature. Yet she quickly tired of being the star of a Democratic minority so small it was known in Phoenix as the “pizza caucus” (because one large pizza could feed it). She proceeded to write a vapid but semi-amusing book on coalition-building (“Let go of the bear and pick up the Buddha…to be your most fabulous political self”) and campaigned for Congress as a pragmatic problem-solver. In the House she made a small mark on veterans’ affairs, low-hanging fruit for the aspiring conservative, and backed more of Mr Trump’s bills than almost any other Democrat.

Americans tend to be relaxed about political makeovers; yet Ms Sinema’s is unusual not only for its suddenness but also for the combination of attributes it has left her with. Blue-dog Democrats like Mr Manchin, whom she claims as a model, tend to be socially conservative but progressive on economic policy. She is the opposite, even as the right has largely abandoned its interest in economics for the culture wars. If she protests her newfound moderation too much, it is in part because that is her wont; but it is also an effort to shut this potential weakness down.

Don’t mess with her tutu

It helps that Arizona has a tradition of mavericks—including John McCain, whom she often praises. “We have that 48th-state attitude out here,” chuckles a veteran Arizonan Republican strategist. “We act like the juveniles that we are.” Perhaps that makes her as good a match for the state as the Democrats can hope for.

Certainly, a standard progressive could not win there. And, when not picking fights with her party, Ms Sinema quietly votes with it most of the time. Democrats should remember that. Even so, the hollowness of her grandstanding is depressing. It does not represent, as she claims, the perpetuation of a great bipartisan tradition. It represents its diminution, notwithstanding her larger-than-life performance, to such an extent that significant bipartisan co-operation now hardly exists.

For more coverage of Joe Biden’s presidency, visit our dedicated hub

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Sinema’s technicolour moderation”

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Why We Can’t Move On From Jan. 6


I started the new year with a bang, at a gathering in the Washington home of a European diplomat. I was interested in how Europe was processing America’s political scene, including

Donald Trump’s

refusal to accept the election outcome. I got an earful. The diplomat was rattled: America is democracy’s beacon, you’re letting the world down.

It was Jan. 1, my first trip to Washington since the pandemic started. In a note to the diplomat a few days later I threw in a caution: stay home on Jan. 6; the big Trump rally planned could bring trouble.

I knew this only because I pay attention to what’s going on, as adults do. I had no special information, no inside source, no heads-up on an encrypted app. I share this because I just read the report issued this week by two Senate committees on Capitol preparations for a possible insurrection. And the authorities weren’t paying attention.

No one was ready. The report underlined how stupid government agencies often are, how careless. They had intelligence systems and people who monitor the web. But there was a systemwide security failure, “critical breakdowns involving several federal agencies.” Agencies failed to warn of a potential for violence or to prepare. An arm of the Capitol Police knew of the danger in the weeks before Jan. 6 but failed to include the information in its assessments. Police leadership never developed a staffing plan for the joint session convened to count the electoral votes, and didn’t detail where officers would be located. After the insurrection they couldn’t provide documents showing where officers were as the attack began. Incident commanders couldn’t relay information to superiors because they were engaged with rioters. Frontline officers weren’t provided with proper equipment—helmets, armor, shields. Most defended the Capitol in their daily uniforms. Heavy gear was stored in a bus near the Capitol, but when a platoon tried to retrieve it, the bus was locked and nobody had a key. Capitol Police leadership bumbled calling in the National Guard and the Defense Department bumbled getting it there.

What a disaster. Reading it, after the indignation subsides, you realize: This sounds like a lot of America now. You put on the outfit and walk around playing a role. You’re doing your best but you haven’t been properly managed, trained or equipped, and you’re not sure exactly what to do. So you walk forward and do your best. This is true in many professions—politics, business, medicine. These institutions are interested in “public facing,” not “inner reality.” They’re all about marketing and communications. Managers are rewarded not for training carefully but for training quickly.

Anyway, Capitol Hill was asleep at the switch.

I want to say something about the meaning of 1/6 and why it is so important we set ourselves to knowing all that happened that day.

It’s not just “the past” and we can’t just “move on.” It’s a story that’s still happening.

People experienced it differently. Most of us were chilled and horrified as we saw the pictures of men in assault gear climbing the face of the Capitol, breaking in, swarming the Rotunda. It was a shock to see the Capitol breached.

But some weren’t horrified. They see the Capitol as already trashed through decades of bad governance, and now a stolen election. Jan. 6 was merely the physical expression of a longtime fact, that the vandals had already arrived and were wearing congressional pins.

To the horrified, the Capitol is a symbol and repository of our republic, our democracy. Those we choose to represent us do their work there. It may be a mess and a bit of a whorehouse but it’s always been a mess and a bit of a whorehouse, because it’s human. And yet greatness can erupt there, progress can be made, things improved.

It’s what as a nation we’ve got. It’s our only hope.

If you weren’t appalled by 1/6, then you have given up: Throw in the towel, democracy’s done, its over. Those who know it’s not done, not over, who won’t allow it to be done and over, also know that democracy needs friends right now.

Here is a way to be its friend.

The breaching of the Capitol happened because of a conspiracy theory: that the election was actually won by Mr. Trump but stolen from him by bad people. That theory hasn’t gone away, it’s growing and spreading. What might be called the Trump Underworld—the operatives, grifters and media figures around him—is pushing the theories harder than ever. It’s as if they think he’s not going to be a candidate in 2024 and they’d better make their money now, the window is closing.

This conspiracism is bad for the country: It leaves us more polarized and lessens our faith in our systems. It is bad for one of our two major parties: It leaves the GOP with an untreated cancer.

The only thing that can stop it is true facts independently developed and presented with respect—and receipts. How did 1/6 happen; who was behind it, paid for it, silently encouraged it, exploited it? Who didn’t care if people got hurt? Who wanted people hurt? This information is still gettable through deep dives into documentation—phone records, bank records, hotel records, text messages. It is gettable through sworn testimony.

Republicans senators recently shut down a bill to create a public 9/11-style commission investigating what happened and what led up to it. But they can’t stop, say, a House select committee with five Democrats, five Republicans, full staffing and full subpoena power.

Democrats haven’t been quick to launch a big and formal investigation. Maybe they’re afraid they themselves would be embarrassed by some revelations. Early on they figured Mr. Trump humiliated himself, and they should turn the page into the shining new Biden era. They should rethink this. A deep investigation would be a dramatic one, and it would help distract from recent bobbles.

Barbara Comstock,

a two-term GOP former House member and hearty supporter of a full investigation, notes the idea the election was stolen has morphed into “ ‘the November 3rd movement.’ ” She says in an interview: “I do think cutting out the sickness of conspiracy and QAnon is important. Trump-world is invested in it, they are duping good people who are writing $25 checks. You have smart people who believe in conspiracies now, and the ones who are smart are slower to figure out the truth than the ones who are not.”

She adds that “sometimes good policy is good politics.” Republican candidates need to be freed to develop policies that address people’s real issues again, not only their grievances. Politics needs to be serious again. Republican Trump stalwarts on Capitol Hill need to be confronted with the facts, pressed on them. “The future doesn’t have to be anti-Trump,” Ms. Comstock says, “it has to be non-Trump.”

She fears more violence and believes future attacks are possible: “Polarization has made the danger real. Threats are up 107% since the election. They wanted to hang

Mike Pence.

Capitol Police have told her they themselves want a broad investigation. “What happened to Back the Blue?” she asks.

Congress should take this seriously and do it sooner rather than later. “The longer you wait,” Ms. Comstock says, “the more records get away.”

Wonder Land: The Pelosi-Schumer Jan. 6 Commission won’t do anything about America’s time bomb of political violence. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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2020 autopsy points to Democrats’ worries of losing Black, Hispanic, Asian voters to GOP


An extensive analysis of what went right and wrong for Democrats in the 2020 elections warns that the party could see support drop with Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters in future contests unless Democrats do a more effective job countering Republican attacks.

While Democrats won the White House and narrowly captured the Senate majority in the 2020 cycle, in the battle for the House the GOP defied expectations and took a big bite out of the Democrats’ majority in the House and Republicans currently only need a net gain of five seats in the 2022 midterms to regain control of the chamber.

GOP SEN. RICK SCOTT PREDICTS REPUBLICANS WILL WIN HISPANIC VOTE ‘SOONER THAN YOU THINK’

A 73-page autopsy of the 2020 contests compiled by three pro-Democratic groups – the Third Way, a centrist think tank; the Collective PAC, which supports Black candidates; and the Latino Victory Fund, which promotes Hispanic candidates – spotlights that many House and some Senate Democrats underperformed at the ballot box because they failed to match now-President Biden’s support with voters of color, who despised then-President Trump but who also had reservations about the Democratic Party.

“The 2020 election was a mixed bag for Democrats. While thrilled with the Biden win and the new Senate majority, expected victories in many contested races failed to materialize, and the Party lost significant ground in the House,” reads an introduction to the report by the Third Way.

A line of voters wraps around the block outside Washington High School in Milwaukee during the primary election on April 7, 2020. 
(Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch via AP)

The introduction spotlights that “the purpose of this project was to determine what worked well for Democrats in these campaigns and, in particular, what challenges they faced, so that the Party can be best prepared to compete in 2022 and beyond.”

The analysis – which was first reported by The New York Times – points to specific electoral setbacks with Spanish speaking voters in Florida and Texas, Black voters in North Carolina, and Asian American voters in California, as it argues that Democrats failed to convey a consistent core message on the economy last year and “leaned too heavily on ‘anti-Trump’ rhetoric.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS ELECTION AUTOPSY BLAMES GOP ATTACKS, BAD POLLING, FOR DISAPPOINTING 2020 RESULTS

And then concludes that unless the party does a better job pushing back against GOP attacks comparing Democrats to socialists, they could see further erosion of support among minority voters.

The report was conducted over the past six months by veteran Democratic operatives and communicators Lynda Tran and Marlon Marshall. The analysis included nearly 150 interviews with candidates, staff, consultants, and pro-Democratic outside groups and organizations, as well as a in-depth look at polling and turnout data, and ad campaigns.

Among their findings – “voters of color are persuasion voters who need to be convinced,” “Republican attempts to brand Democrats as ‘radicals’ worked,” “Polling was a huge problem – even after 2016 adjustments,” “COVID-19 affected everything,” and “Our hopes for 2020 were just too high.”

At the end of their report, the authors stress that Democrats need “to be unapologetic about race. And we need to explain to all Americans why doing so is beneficial to everyone.”

Tran and Marshall also call for officials to “reimagine our Democratic Party message and narrative,” and for the party to “commit to early investment and year-round organizing.” 

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The new study is being shared with top Democratic National Committee officials as well as other party leaders. It comes on the heels of a “deep dive” of the 2020 election compiled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the reelection arm of House Democrats.

That report blamed bad polling that underestimated voter turnout by Trump supporters, as well as effective messaging by House Republicans that focused on the far left’s “defund the police” movement, for the party’s underwhelming performance in congressional elections last November.

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At Once Diminished and Dominating, Trump Prepares for His Next Act


WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump, the former president of the United States, commutes to New York City from his New Jersey golf club to work out of his office in Trump Tower at least once a week, slipping in and out of Manhattan without attracting much attention.

The place isn’t as he left it. Many of his longtime employees are gone. So are most of the family members who once worked there with him and some of the fixtures of the place, like his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen, who have since turned on him. Mr. Trump works there, mostly alone, with two assistants and a few body men.

His political operation has also dwindled to a ragtag team of former advisers who are still on his payroll, reminiscent of the bare-bones cast of characters that helped lift a political neophyte to his unlikely victory in 2016. Most of them go days or weeks without interacting with Mr. Trump in person.

But as he heads to the North Carolina Republican convention on Saturday night, in what is billed as the resumption of rallies and speeches, Mr. Trump is both a diminished figure and an oversized presence in American life, with a remarkable — and many say dangerous — hold on his party.

Even without his favored megaphones and the trappings of office, Mr. Trump looms over the political landscape, animated by the lie that he won the 2020 election and his own fury over his defeat. And unlike others with a grievance, he has been able to impose his anger and preferred version of reality on a substantial slice of the American electorate — with the potential to influence the nation’s politics and weaken faith in its elections for years to come.

Still blocked from Twitter and Facebook, he has struggled to find a way to influence news coverage since leaving office and promote the fabrication that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Some party leaders, like the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, are pretending he doesn’t exist anymore, while being deferential when Mr. Trump cannot be ignored.

Others, like Senator Rick Scott of Florida, have tried to curry favor by presenting Mr. Trump with made-up awards to flatter his ego and keep him engaged in helping Senate Republicans recapture a majority in 2022.

Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, said Mr. Trump had defied the model of ex-presidents who lose an election and tend to fade away, and the experience of Richard M. Nixon, who was treated like a pariah in the way Mr. Trump has managed to avoid.

As for being simultaneously big and small, Mr. Beschloss said: “He’s big if the metric is that politicians are afraid of him, which is one metric of power in Washington. Many Republican leaders are terrified of him and abasing themselves in front of him.”

Jason Miller, an adviser to the former president, agreed on Mr. Trump’s control over the party.

“There are two types of Republicans inside the Beltway,” Mr. Miller said. “Those who realize President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party and those who are in denial.”

Even in defeat, Mr. Trump remains the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024 in every public poll so far. Lawmakers who have challenged his dominance of the party, like Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who implored her colleagues to reject him after the Jan. 6 riot by his supporters at the Capitol, have been booted from Republican leadership.

From his strange dual perch of irrelevance and dominance, Mr. Trump has been narrowly focused on three things — his repeated, false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and his support for efforts to try to overturn the results; the state and local investigations into the practices of the Trump Organization; and the state of his business.

Mr. Trump, who White House officials said watched with pleasure as his supporters stormed the Capitol and disrupted the Jan. 6 certification of the Electoral College vote, has told several people he believes he could be “reinstated” to the White House this August, according to three people familiar with his remarks. He has been echoing a theory promulgated by supporters like Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow, and Sidney Powell, the lawyer being sued for defamation by election machine companies for spreading conspiracy theories about the safety of their ballots.

President Biden’s victory, with more than 80 million votes, was certified by Congress once the Jan. 6 riot was contained. There is no legal mechanism for reinstating a president, and the efforts by Republicans in the Arizona Senate to recount the votes in the state’s largest county have been derided as fake and inept by local Republican officials, who say the result is a partisan circus that is eroding confidence in elections.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has zeroed in on the Arizona effort and a lawsuit in Georgia to insist that not only will he be restored to office, but that Republicans will also retake the majority in the Senate through those same efforts, according to the people familiar with what he has been saying.

He has pressed conservative commentators and writers to echo his claims that the election was rigged. His focus has intensified in recent weeks, coinciding with the empaneling of a special grand jury by Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, into his businesses.

Frustrated by the lack of coverage, he has expressed his anger in news releases that still refer to him as the “45th President of the United States.”

“Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife,” he said in a statement on Friday after Facebook announced it would keep its ban against him in place for at least two years. “It will be all business!”

Last week, he shut down his blog after hearing from friends that the site was getting little traffic and making him look small and irrelevant, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

Some of his aides are not eager to engage with him on his conspiracy theories and would like to see him press a forward-looking agenda that could help Republicans in 2022. People in his circle joke that the most senior adviser to the former leader of the free world is Christina Bobb, a correspondent with the far-right, eternally pro-Trump One America News Network, whom he consults regularly for information about the Arizona election audit.

It remains to be seen what he says about the 2020 election during his appearance in North Carolina.

Mr. Trump was eager to take back the microphone on Saturday night in Greenville, where aides said he planned to attack Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as well as the Biden administration.

“Joe Biden wants American taxpayers to pay reparations,” Mr. Trump was expected to say, according to an aide involved in drafting the speech. “I want the Chinese to pay American taxpayers reparations.”

Mr. Trump’s first post-presidential rally is scheduled for later in June, followed by more appearances both for himself, paid for by his super PAC, and on behalf of House Republicans who support his agenda, advisers said.

He has been so eager for an audience that he is even billed as a speaker who will appear live, via Jumbotron, at a rally in New Richmond, Wis., where the other headliners are Diamond and Silk, the MAGA movement social media stars, and Dinesh D’Souza, who received a presidential pardon from Mr. Trump for a felony conviction of making illegal campaign contributions.

Despite the modest nature of some of the events he is interested in attaching his name to, even some of his biggest detractors are loath to write him off.

“I wish I was more confident it was ridiculous,” said Bill Kristol, a prominent “Never Trump” conservative. “It’s missing the forest through the trees to fail to see how strong he is.”

Both of his 2020 campaign managers, Bill Stepien and Brad Parscale, are on Mr. Trump’s payroll and still involved in his world. But Mr. Trump is episodically enraged with most members of his team.

This time around, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law who oversaw his 2020 campaign operation, has mostly dropped out, telling the small circle of advisers around the ex-president that he wants to focus on writing his book and establishing a simpler relationship with Mr. Trump, where he is just a son-in-law. Donald Trump Jr. has stepped in as the most politically involved family member in his father’s life.

Susie Wiles, the veteran Florida political consultant whom the former president and everyone in his orbit credit with winning the critical state in 2016 and again in 2020, oversees Mr. Trump’s fund-raising operation from Florida, shepherding the weekly conference call of the skeletal team that still runs the post-presidential operation.

In the evenings, Mr. Trump has attended fund-raisers at his Bedminster, N.J., golf course, both for his own political action committee and for Republican candidates.

But he has been eager to get back to holding rallies, announcing states where he planned to travel to before his team had finalized any venues or dates.

“If you’re a one-term president, you usually go quietly into the night,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. “He sees himself as leading the revolution, and he’s doing it from the back of a golf cart.”

Annie Karni reported from Washington and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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Flaming gas leak forces Mass. home evacuations


A gas leak ignited Saturday morning in front of a residence in Marshfield, sending plumes of flames into the air and forcing officials to evacuate about a dozen homes. (May 29)

      

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14-year-old boy will be tried as adult for allegedly stabbing teen girl 114 times


Tristyn Bailey was killed May 9 in St. Johns County, Florida.

Aiden Fucci’s case was moved from juvenile to adult court, State Attorney R. J. Larizza said during a press conference Thursday.

Fucci was initially charged with second-degree murder but did not have time to enter a plea before his charges were upgraded, the State Attorney’s Office of the 7th Circuit told ABC News. Larizza explained the decision was made to charge him as an adult given the brutality of the case.

Bailey was reported missing to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office on May 9. Her family said she was last seen around midnight. A sprawling search was launched and at 6 p.m. her body was discovered in the immediate area near a retention pond, according to the arrest report.

Fucci was identified as a suspect in the case and was arrested, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said in a May 11 news release.

“It brings me no pleasure to be charging a 14-year-old as an adult with first degree murder. It was clear to us after we look at what happened that it was not only appropriate to charge the defendant as an adult, but it was really the only charge we could make,” Larizza said Thursday.

He offered new grisly details about her murder, noting there were 114 stab wounds found on Bailey, citing the medical examiner report, and at least 49 of those wounds were to the hands, arms and head that were defensive in nature.

“She was fighting for life,” Larizza said. “To say it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement.”

Larizza added: “[Fucci] indicated to witnesses that he was going to kill someone by taking them into the woods and stabbing them. The statement that the defendant made to his friends made it clear he was considering a homicide.”

Fucci’s alleged statements were never reported to police, Larizza noted.

Larizza said the knife Fucci carried in the brutal attack was found in a nearby pond. Its broken tip was discovered in the girl’s skull by the medical examiner.

He said investigators found Fucci’s DNA on Tristyn’s body and her DNA was found on the knife, on Fucci’s shoes and on a T-shirt in his bedroom.

“I just want to say that I hope parents will learn something from this vicious, and brutal, murder. And that is you need to know what your kids are doing and what they’re saying. While we might not be able stop these vicious and brutal murders from happening, we ought to at least try,” Larizza said.

Fucci made his first court appearance on the new charges on Friday, appearing virtually via Zoom.

In the procedural hearing, Judge Howard M. Maltz informed Fucci of his rights, the charges and the probable cause to detain him. He will remain in jail without bond Maltz said. Fucci will be arraigned “in the next week or two,” local ABC affiliate WJXX reported.

He has not entered a plea. ABC News has reached out to Fucci’s defense attorney for comment.

The Bailey family also released a statement following Thursday’s announcement.

“We appreciate that today’s outcome is directly the result of the thorough and comprehensive work from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office along with the 7th District State Attorney’s office as part of the initial steps to bring justice for Tristyn’s murder,” the statement, shared with WJXX, said. “The caring and love shown from the people and businesses to raise up the memory of Tristyn and the resolve of our community serve as a beacon of light in the darkness. As shared in the Celebration of Life on the battle of the two wolves, it helps us to feed the good wolf,” citing an old Native American tale her father shared at her memorial service.

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Fed reverse repo volume sparks worries U.S. short-term rates could go below zero



FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

May 26, 2021

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Financial institutions flush with cash have flocked to the Federal Reserve’s reverse repurchase (RRP) facility, loaning the U.S. central bank money at 0% interest and raising concerns in the bond market that key short-term interest rates could actually fall below zero.

Volume at the Fed’s overnight reverse repo window surged to $433 billion on Tuesday, according to New York Fed data. Analysts said that was the third largest uptake ever, the biggest being $474.6 billion on Dec. 31, 2015.

A little over two months ago, around mid-March, there was zero reverse repo activity.

Scott Skyrm, executive vice president in fixed income and repo at Curvature Securities, said the fact that “volumes are this huge in a non-month end and non-quarter end period tells me that this is a distortion in the market.”

“Big picture, this suggests to me that quantitative easing is done and the Fed needs to taper,” or reduce its purchase of U.S. Treasuries and other debt assets.

The market is grappling with a surfeit of cash in the system mainly from Fed asset purchases and the U.S. Treasury’s financial support to the economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That has pressured front-end interest rates, with some overnight repo rates periodically turning negative this year. On Monday, the overnight repo rate fell to -0.01%, the lowest since late March, but recovered on Tuesday to 0.02%.

The Fed launched its reverse repo program in 2013 to soak up extra cash in the repo market and create a strict floor under market rates, particularly its policy rate. Eligible counterparties lend cash to the Fed in return for Treasury collateral on an overnight basis.

In this year’s March policy meeting, the Fed raised the amount counterparties can lend to $80 billion, from $30 billion.

Together with other deposits, the Fed has been draining more than $500 billion per day in bank reserves, according to Barclays.

“The fact that balances in these programs are swelling is an indication that money funds, non-U.S. official institutions, and the government state enterprises are struggling to find assets with returns above 0%,” said Joseph Abate, managing director, fixed income research at Barclays in a research note.

“And as their cash holdings increase, they have few investment alternatives outside the Fed’s balance sheet.”

Gennadiy Goldberg, senior rates strategist, at TD Securities said so far the facility is working as intended, “as a relief valve for excess cash.”

Without the reverse repo activity, “money market rates such as SOFR (U.S. secured overnight financing rate) would be pressured lower possibly below zero,” he added.

SOFR, an overnight repo rate that will replace Libor as a reference rate, has remained pinned at 1 basis point. The effective fed funds rate, the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans to meet reserves required by the U.S. central bank, is currently at 6 basis points, while Treasury bill yields with maturities beyond July are at 0% or barely above.

Some market participants expect the Fed to raise the reverse repo rate and the interest on excess reserves (IOER), currently at 0.10%, two rates that influence overnight fed funds to trade within the target range.

That should take pressure off the bill and repo markets.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Alden Bentley)



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