No more sneaking around to steal elections for Republicans, they’re doing it in plain sight

Prosecutors say they are onto Steve Bannon's attempted manipulation of his own case

The Patriot Movement’s creep into the GOP mainstream formed the war on democracy’s nexus

'We’ve effectively turned housing into a luxury': Kevin McCarthy takes eight hours to fight change

Omicron update: Latest variant tests to see if the planet has learned a #@$%ing thing in two years

Majority of Republicans want a Trump 2024 run, but he's practically toxic to everyone else

Cartoon: Gun talk

Cheers and Jeers: Monday

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Waiting is excruciating, but it doesn't help to speculate about Omicron

Mayors, Borough Bosses and Land Commissioners: Why Donald Trump Is Making Extremely Local Endorsements

Why Crime Likely Won’t Be An Issue In The 2022 Midterms

Fundos de aposentadoria nos EUA especulam com a destruição da Amazônia

A Pandemic Guide To Anime: Fantasy, magic, and tea-time with spirits

This George Clinton-approved Detroit children's choir will funk you up this holiday season

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Why don't we take these races more seriously?

An interview with David Pepper, ‘Laboratories of Autocracy’ author, about the GOP war on democracy

Cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation: What's the difference?


How Hmong farmers are building collective power in Minnesota

Systemic inequality is leaving trillions on the table

'Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter': Ilhan Omar defends herself when GOP silent

No good emperors: Why do we insist on reading history backwards?

The anatomy of a fake conservative news story about vaccine mandates killing a child's dad

As the holidays approach, incarcerated people in Florida say goodbye to physical mail

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Why Crime Likely Won’t Be An Issue In The 2022 Midterms

Violent crime is up. Data from the FBI found that the murder rate increased nearly 30 percent in 2020. And homicides continue to rise in 2021 as well, if not by quite…

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Mayors, Borough Bosses and Land Commissioners: Why Donald Trump Is Making Extremely Local Endorsements

During their local mayoral race in early November, town residents in Hialeah, Florida, population 230,000, heard a familiar voice in a campaign ad for the city’s election. “Steve Bovo,” boomed former President…

Fundos de aposentadoria nos EUA especulam com a destruição da Amazônia 5

Fundos de aposentadoria nos EUA especulam com a destruição da Amazônia

O desmatamento da Amazônia e do Cerrado se intensificaram de forma alarmante nos últimos anos, atrelado ao crescimento constante da agricultura. E, impulsionado em parte pela busca de retornos de investimento por…

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Buying a House Feels Impossible These Days. Here Are 6 Innovative Paths to Homeownership

A dozen Grade-A eggs will run you about $0.40 more than they did a year ago, and you’ll have to fork over $0.66 more for a pound of ground beef. At the…

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About Vote Democrat

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Home 23

A THANKSGIVING TOASTFriends,If your family and friends are…

A THANKSGIVING TOASTFriends,If your family and friends are... 8


Friends,If your family and friends are anything like mine, there will be a lot of talk today over turkey. Some of it will be gossip. Some of it, about sports or jokes or jobs or plans. 

But some of your guests (perhaps even you) will want to talk about the distressing state of the nation and the world.Your cousin Sue worries about climate change and how little was accomplished in Glasgow. Your Trumpish uncle Bob can’t keep his mouth shut about Biden’s failures in Afghanistan and at the border. Your son Jared, back from college, wants to talk about systemic racism. Your friend Sid can’t stop worrying about the pandemic, or assault weapons, or hate crimes, or near-record inequality, or the opioid epidemic, or soaring homelessness, or voter suppression. Your daughter Sarah chimes in about the continuing menace of Donald Trump and lawmakers too timid to stand up to him.

All reasons for concern (except for those of your Trumpish uncle Bob), but I’d hope someone at your table also notes that America has gone through worse times, and have in some ways emerged better.

When I graduated college in 1968, I thought America would never recover. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, as had Robert F. Kennedy. Our cities were burning. Tens of thousands of young Americans (including several friends) were being ordered to Vietnam to fight an unwinnable and unjust war that ultimately claimed over 58,000 American lives and the lives of over 3 million Vietnamese. The nation was deeply and angrily divided. Young people were tear-gassed at the Democratic National Convention. And then in November of that year, Richard Nixon was elected president. 

But we did recover. We enacted the Environmental Protection Act. Eventually we achieved marriage equality for gays and lesbians. We elected a Black man president of the United States. We passed the Affordable Care Act. In 2018 we elected a record number of women, people of color, and LGBTQ representatives to Congress, including the first Muslim women.​ ​Eighteen states raised their minimum wages. In 2020, Trump was sent packing, and Democrats took over the Senate and the House.

COVID was a horror but Congress created a safety net that prevented millions from falling into deep poverty because of it. More than 70 percent of us are now vaccinated against it. We will soon be investing over $1 trillion repairing our crumbling roads and bridges and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. And it seems likely (although hardly a certainty) that American families will get help with childcare and universal pre-K, and more.

What about the future? No one can tell, but there are some reasons for optimism. For one thing, we are on our way toward becoming a nation of startling diversity. ​Most Americans under 18 are now people of color. ​In ten years, most under ​35​ will be. In thirty years, most of us. That diversity will be a huge source of strength — as our growing diversity has strengthened us since our founding.

For another, our young people are determined to make America and the world better. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and I’ve never taught a generation of students as dedicated to public service and as committed to improving the nation and the world, as the generation I’m now teaching. 

I should also point out that ​60 percent of today’s college students are women​, an astounding achievement. It portends more women in leadership positions – in science, politics, education, nonprofits, and in corporate suites. This will also be a great boon to America, and the world.

I’m no technophile but I can’t help being impressed by what science and technology are accomplishing, such as the COVID vaccines that have saved countless lives, and solar and wind energy sources that are rapidly replacing carbon fuels. With the right laws and incentives, science and technology could solve many more of the problems that plague the nation and the world.

I don’t want to minimize our current plight. I’m deeply worried about climate change, systemic racism, and growing attacks on our democracy. I’m not going to tell any of my friends or relatives over dinner today that they’re wrong to feel angry or to despair. 

But I will remind them of this nation’s resilience, and the many ways the future could be bright. And when we raise our glasses for a toast, I will ask that they never give up fighting for a more just society. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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Biden Taps Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell for Second Term

President Joe Biden selected Jerome Powell for a second four-year term as Federal Reserve chair while elevating Governor Lael Brainard to vice chair, keeping consistency at the U.S. central bank as the nation grapples with the fastest inflation in decades and the lingering effects of Covid-19.

The move, announced by the White House on Monday, rewards Powell for helping rescue the U.S. economy from the pandemic and tasks him with protecting that recovery from a surge in consumer prices. A Republican, Powell faces what will likely be a smooth confirmation in the Senate, where he was backed for his first term as chair in an 84-13 vote and whose members he subsequently worked hard to woo.
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Brainard would replace Richard Clarida in the vice chair slot and may face opposition from Senate Republicans for her confirmation. She was interviewed by Biden for the chair position and was seen as a strong contender for the separate job of vice chair for supervision, which remains vacant.

Biden plans to announce that nomination along with additional picks for open seats on the Board of Governors beginning in early December, the White House said.

Read More: How Lael Brainard Compares to Jerome Powell for Fed Chair

Powell, 68, has enjoyed bipartisan support, including from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other Democrats, although progressive Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren lobbied Biden to choose someone more aligned with them on overseeing banks and battling climate change. Powell also had to answer for an ethics scandal after trading revelations by some senior Fed officials.

Biden’s choice of Powell will also likely win approval from investors by ensuring continuity at the central bank as it begins withdrawing ultra-easy monetary policy amid the challenges of persistent inflation.

Biden, in a written statement, called the economic recovery so far a “testament to the economic agenda I’ve pursued and to the decisive action that the Federal Reserve has taken under Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard to help steer us through the worst downturn in modern American history and put us on the path to recovery.”

Biden added, “I’m confident that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard’s focus on keeping inflation low, prices stable, and delivering full employment will make our economy stronger than ever before.”

He also singled out what he called their “deep belief that urgent action is needed to address the economic risks posed by climate change, and stay ahead of emerging risks in our financial system.”

Brainard and Powell have similar views on monetary policy, but differ over bank regulation with Brainard opposing at nearly every step Powell’s modest rollbacks of some of the tough curbs imposed on banks after the financial crisis.

Brainard, 59, was appointed a Fed governor in 2014 by President Barack Obama. In 2020, Biden considered picking her as Treasury Secretary, before he picked Janet Yellen.

A graduate of Harvard University, Brainard served in Bill Clinton’s White House as deputy national economic adviser. In 2009, under Obama, she joined the Treasury and became undersecretary for international affairs in 2010.

Powell’s second term is going to be very different from his first. While the economy is rebounding, inflation is running at a three-decade high, Covid-19 cases remain elevated and strained supply chains present big uncertainties.

Some officials are already suggesting the Fed may need to pull back its massive asset-purchase program faster than now planned and Powell will also be presiding over a committee with a number of members who likely want to raise interest rates sooner than he does.

Powell said this month he won’t consider hiking rates until the labor market shows greater signs of healing.

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‘Give Us a Break!’ Cuban Activists Say U.S. Sanctions Are Blocking Them from Online Services

On Nov. 9, Cuban journalist Elaine Diaz was trying to send out a newsletter to the subscribers of Periodismo de Barrio, her watchdog news site covering human rights issues on the island, when she got an error message on her screen.

The U.S.-based service she had been using, MailChimp, had suddenly and unexpectedly eliminated her account. “They did it without prior warning, for being based in Cuba,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s not the first Cuban outlet to go through this experience. Shameful.”

As Internet access has exploded on the island, an increasing number of Cuban journalists, activists, dissidents and artists find themselves locked out of the online platforms and services used by the rest of the world—not by their communist government, but due to restrictions imposed on American companies by the broad, 60-year-old U.S. embargo. In recent years, they have been abruptly blocked from cloud services, file transfer sites, social media managers, editing software, development apps, video calling, free education platforms and NFT marketplaces. It not only shuts them out of the global digital economy, several young Cubans tell TIME, it also makes it harder to create content and reach a wider audience.
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The restrictions come on top of the Cuban government’s own tight grip on Internet access for its citizens through the state-owned telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, which blocks news websites deemed critical of the regime. The agency also restricted access to social media platforms in the wake of historic protests over food and medicine shortages in July, with some calling on President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down.

The two factors have combined to hit the heart of Cuba’s protest movement. The summer protests, as well as the San Isidro demonstrations that preceded it last year, were spearheaded by young artists who rely on digital platforms to disseminate information and express and organize themselves online. As a result, the blunt instrument of the decades-old embargo is inadvertently stifling the very freedom of expression and robust civil society that the U.S. government seeks to support in Cuba, experts say, as U.S. companies try to avoid running afoul of the law.

‘Give Us a Break!’ Cuban Activists Say U.S. Sanctions Are Blocking Them from Online Services 9
Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty ImagesA group of young intellectuals and artists demonstrate at the doors of the Ministry of Culture during a protest in Havana in November 2020. Some two hundred young artists are calling for “a dialogue” with the Ministry of Culture in Havana after the police broke up a 10-day protest by the San Isidro Movement (MSI) claiming the risk of epidemiological contagion.

“It’s a classic case of our own sanctions boomeranging and biting us in the ass,” says Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College who has written a book on Cuba’s digital revolution. “The embargo is so ill-targeted and its enforcers know little about the island’s emergent digital civil society.”

Although Mailchimp ultimately reinstated Diaz’ account after she went public, that was a rare exception, according to Cuban artists and activists who spoke to TIME. (A Mailchimp spokesman told TIME the service “operates in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations” but did not clarify how Diaz’ circumstances changed.) There are at least 107 popular tech sites, software and web services restricted from being used in Cuba, according to a compilation by Cuban programmers on Github, a site for sharing code. These services list restrictions on users in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria on their websites, citing U.S. law.

“As time goes by, more and more websites and services are being blocked for Cubans,” says Gabriel Guerra Bianchi, a Havana photographer and artist. Like many Cuban artists and activists who had started to build a community around digital art, he was frustrated when OpenSea, a popular website for selling digital items, blocked Cuban users in May citing the embargo, locking them out of one of the largest marketplaces for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“Sometimes one doesn’t even know where these [blocks] are coming from—whether from here or from there,” Bianchi said. He says he doesn’t blame services like OpenSea, which he said expressed regret to their community of Cuban users. “It’s not out of bad faith from these companies, but rather it seems to be part of their security protocols to avoid future problems with the U.S. State Department.”

Cubans have lived with the impact of the U.S. embargo for generations. President John F. Kennedy imposed a near-total trade embargo on the country in 1962 after Washington’s failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, citing “the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism” the regime was aligned with. As a result, Cuba, which depended heavily on trade with the U.S., became reliant on the Soviet Union, and later Venezuela, for economic and military aid.

But the embargo’s restrictions on U.S.-based services have gained new urgency as web access has expanded to more Cubans. Internet usage in Cuba grew dramatically in the wake of the historic détente in 2014, when President Barack Obama and Raul Castro agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, leading to the easing of many restrictions on business with and travel to Cuba, as well as an influx of U.S. dollars. Although Cuba only allowed full Internet access on mobile phones in 2018, more than four million citizens on the island—over a third of the population—now access the web on their smartphones.

‘Give Us a Break!’ Cuban Activists Say U.S. Sanctions Are Blocking Them from Online Services 10
Mauricio Lima—The New York Times/ReduxCubans connecting to the internet using cellphones at a Wi-Fi hot spot in a square on the outskirts of Havana in March 2016. A mobilization of protesters in the Cuban capital in November 2020, was a rare instance of Cubans openly confronting their government — and a stark example of how having widespread access to the internet through cellphones is testing the power balance between the Cuban regime and its citizens.

The relationship between the two countries deteriorated again under Trump, who promised to reverse Obama’s measures and toughened the embargo by imposing over 240 sanctions during his four years in office. President Joe Biden, despite vowing during his presidential campaign that he would restore Obama-era policies of engaging with the Cuban regime, so far has not moved to ease the restrictions.

The complicated web of regulations, trade restrictions and sanctions that comprise the embargo forbid U.S. companies from providing any type of service to Cuba. While there are exceptions for some telecommunications services that expand actual Internet access on the island and “directly benefit the Cuban people,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), this does not include most web services, which would only be able to provide services to Cuba under a special license. Confusion over how to interpret these regulations has led many U.S. platforms and companies to abruptly pull their services in recent years, rather than risk violating the embargo.

Read more: Food Shortages, COVID-19, and Instagram: The Driving Forces Behind the Cuba Protests

Access has been tightening for years. In 2014, Coursera, a California-based online education platform that offers free classes, suddenly blocked users from Cuba as well as other sanctioned countries from logging into their accounts. The company said in a statement at the time that while export control regulations for educational services had “been unclear,” they had received information from the State Department and OFAC that allowing users in these countries to access their services was in violation of U.S. law. Similarly, link-shortening website Bitly suddenly stopped working for Cuban users in 2016, leading to a wave of broken links across Cuban websites.

In 2017, Cuban human rights activist Rosa María Payá saw an error message for her website “Cuba Decide,” an initiative calling for a national plebiscite on free elections. She found that the site had been blocked not by the communist government but because it was using Google’s Project Shield, a DDoS protection service that works with journalists, human rights organizations and elections monitoring sites. In a tweet, Payá called it “the error with which Google joins censorship in Cuba.” Google said at the time the site was being blocked due to compliance with the U.S. embargo. “I would like to know what provision of the embargo forces Google to block an initiative to promote freedom of expression?” Payá asked the Miami Herald.

Four years later, the list of web services used to create and disseminate content and organize online communities has only grown—and with it, the sudden errors that Cuban users encounter. Google blocks access in Cuba to a variety of services that might run afoul of the embargo, such as Google Cloud, Google Developers, Google One and Google Play, according to the list compiled by Cuban programmers. Some of the other apps that are blocked are Adobe, Android Developers, Gitlab, IBM software, Intel, Java, Oracle, Zoom, and a host of payment apps that are necessary to participate in much of the digital world.

PayPal, for instance, which will allow transactions that mention the words “bomb” or “cocaine,” will block any transaction with the word ‘Cuba’ in it. (When a TIME reporter tried to send another user in the U.S. $1 with the note “Cuba Libre” on Nov. 17, PayPal immediately restricted their account and put the transaction under review.) Paypal’s terms of service note that its services may not be used by residents or nationals of “any country subject to United States embargo or UN Sanctions.”

‘Give Us a Break!’ Cuban Activists Say U.S. Sanctions Are Blocking Them from Online Services 11
From left: Courtesy Gabriel Guerra Bianchi; Courtesy Rubén Martínez Rojas; Courtesy Rosa María PayáScreenshots of web services that have been blocked for Cuban users, from left: OpenSea, VPN access, and CubaDecide.

One day last June, Claudio Pelaez Sordo, a Cuban photo and video-journalist who works for independent news outlets, woke up to find himself no longer able to access WeTransfer, a file transfer service that had become indispensable among many Cuban artists and content creators. Unlike Google Drive, it didn’t require users to register for an account, and allowed them to send files up to 2 GB.

“The U.S. government prohibits the provision of certain products and services to specific countries. What this means is that regrettably we are unable to provide our services to you,” the error message read. Although headquartered in Amsterdam has offices in New York and Los Angeles. WeTransfer did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

“This adds itself to the long list of sites and platforms that [we] can’t access as part of the economic blockade against Cuba,” Pelaez Sordo posted on Facebook on June 10. But “if there’s something the Cuban government has taught us, it’s how to always find a way around it,” he wrote, adding the hashtag #righttolivewithoutblockade.

Read more: Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders within Cuba’s San Isidro movement

Young Cubans have increasingly relied on VPNs to work around these restrictions, in order to access everything from news websites blocked by the Cuban government to online services and apps blocked by U.S. sanctions. But low-cost VPNs tend to work slowly, according to people who spoke to TIME, forcing Cubans to spend their money on expensive ones if they want to access or use services that are free to access in the rest of the world.

This has especially frustrated some young artists as Havana has become an unlikely hotspot for crypto art in recent months. Cuban artists have launched several art collections through NFTs, which not only open up new sources of income in their devastated economy but serve as outlets of protest and expression.

“Oh come on!!!! Really!??” tweeted Bianchi, the Havana photographer and artist, when OpenSea blocked him in May. “Cuban artists can’t have access. We are creators! Give us a break!” (An OpenSea spokesman acknowledged to TIME the service had been blocked for Cuban users due to the U.S. sanctions). When sympathetic followers from around the world suggested VPNs to bypass the block, Bianchi explained the reality: even many slow, cheap ones are out of reach for many Cubans.

“This $10 dollars a month is a 10-day salary in Cuba,” he replied on Twitter. “Not only that, we don’t have credit cards in Cuba to pay, or bank accounts.”

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Ramon Espinosa—APMen hang Cuban flags over the windows of Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s home in an attempt to stop him from communicating with the outside on Nov. 14, 2021. García is a playwright and leader of Archipelago, a Cuban opposition group.

The complicated web of U.S. trade restrictions under the embargo, as well as the whiplash of the recent opening and closing of U.S.-Cuba relations during the Obama and Trump administrations, has deterred American companies and platforms from trying to find a way to operate in Cuba, experts say.

“I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years who take a very conservative approach and decide they don’t want to run that risk,” says Doreen Edelman, a partner at Lowenstein Sandler who chairs their global trade and policy practice, adding that this is especially true for the start-ups who run many of these services. “They’re not going to want to pay for legal fees for stuff like this, so they’ll just follow the embargo and be done with it.”

But while the blanket Cuba embargo dates back 60 years, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has recently been “much more surgical” in its approach to sanctions, says Laura Fraedrich, senior counsel at Lowenstein Sandler’s global trade and policy team. She points to sanctions against certain people and specific activities in countries like Russia and Venezuela. “It’s targeted at people who are in or have been in the government, and you really wonder why we couldn’t go to something like that for Cuba to mitigate some of these secondary and tertiary effects.”

Unsurprisingly, the Cuban government has used the blocking of these services as part of their broader criticism of the U.S. embargo. In a report to the U.N. Secretary-General last year, it outlined how the embargo’s impact on online communications had resulted in Cuban representatives having trouble accessing or participating in virtual U.N. meetings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, since digital platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are restricted in Cuba. (The State Department referred questions to OFAC, which did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.)

It’s a rare point of agreement between the communist regime and some young Cubans. “Solidarity or just appearances?” Rubén Martínez Rojas, who lives in Havana, wrote in a Facebook post in August. “It would be interesting to know how it is possible that the U.S. is so interested in a free access internet for Cubans but prevents us from accessing digital platforms such as WeTransfer, OpenSea, Adobe and dozens of others that are accessed by the rest of the world, adding obstacles to our human development.”

‘Give Us a Break!’ Cuban Activists Say U.S. Sanctions Are Blocking Them from Online Services 13
Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty ImagesA group of young activists and artists hold up lights on their mobile phones as they demonstrate at the doors of the Ministry of Culture in Havana in November 2020

Though a group of Republican politicians, including Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, have been clamoring for the Biden Administration to do more to facilitate Internet access in Cuba to promote democratic values on the island, Rojas pointed out that goal is at direct odds with the impact of the embargo.

The U.S. restrictions are preventing Cubans from creating iCloud accounts or installing applications from the App Store, necessary for anyone wanting to use an iPhone, forcing them to pay for expensive workarounds, he wrote. “No U.S. senator is worried about resolving these issues caused by this decades-long blockade which affect every inhabitant of Cuba.”

Lawmakers who have called for expanded Internet access for Cuba placed the blame squarely on the Cuban government. “The U.S. sanctions specifically do not apply to telecommunication,” a Rubio spokesperson told TIME. “It is the regime that is blocking access to it and reporting otherwise is to parrot their propaganda.” His office did not respond to the fact that many of the services in question cite the embargo as the reason for their restricting service to Cuba.

Both U.S. technology policy towards Cuba and the general policy under the embargo are beset by the same internal contradictions, says Henken, the professor at Baruch College. While their aim is to isolate or target the Cuban government, they often impact the people they are designed to support and empower, working against U.S. interests in the country, he says. “The irony is that the same U.S. politicos that support granting free and uncensored access to the internet for the Cuban people also support an embargo which puts those connections in legal and financial jeopardy,” he says.

He cites the example of Cuban opposition group Archipelago, which was behind an attempted Nov. 15 protest and relies on online activists. The November demonstrations were largely suppressed by the government, but could have easily been affected by the U.S. embargo, he says.

“Just imagine if a group like Archipelago would have had one of its essential social media accounts canceled right during the planned protest, due not to the Cuban regime’s internal blockade on the free flow of information but due to the ham-handed and woefully imprecise U.S. embargo.”

—With reporting by Abby Vesoulis

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Kevin McCarthy’s Very Trumpy 8-Hour Audition for House Speaker

This article is part of the The DC Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox every weekday.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy rose at 8:38 p.m. Thursday, ostensibly to speak in opposition to Democrats’ social-spending and climate bill. But it quickly became apparent that he was auditioning for the job of Speaker of the House.

And by the time he wrapped at 5:10 a.m.—eight hours and 32 minutes later—it was clear that he had an audience of one: ex-President Donald Trump, a figure who is still widely seen as the true commander of the Republican Party and still a critic of McCarthy for not doing more to keep Trump in the White House after his electoral loss.
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So McCarthy, who has said he had to keep Trump close to keep him from engaging in even more extreme shenanigans, rose in an act of contrition to the 45th President. He criticized the Nobel Peace Prize committee for denying Trump the recognition and blasted Democrats for two impeachments: “​​It was all lies.” He took a personal dig at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for taking three trips to Europe in the last three months on what he mused might be her “farewell tour” and offered without evidence that she might leave office before this term ends. He mocked her fancy refrigerator and ice cream, and at one point before 2 a.m. slid into a mock female voice to mimic her comments. And McCarthy repeatedly claimed China unleashed COVID-19 on the world—despite new doubts about the virus’ origin raised just hours earlier in a widely respected journal.

McCarthy is an ambitious pol, albeit not one who necessarily focuses on details. He’s had his eye on the Speakership since he served as the recruitment chairman for House Republicans and helped to usher in the Tea Party wave of 2010. He is the only one of the three self-proclaimed “Young Guns” to lead a new generation of Republicans to still remain in elected office, the other two dispatched by what would now be called Trumpist politics. McCarthy’s not a shoe-in for the Speakership if Republicans win in 2022, though. He sought the gig once before, back in 2015. He dropped that at the last minute as it seemed like a defeat was imminent.

Now, he’s again within reach of the job. But to get it, he will need Trump’s blessing. One bad word from Trump can sink McCarthy’s ability to win the majority of the 435 voting members of the House. It’s why McCarthy reversed course Thursday and said he would not just restore censured Rep. Paul Gosar’s committee assignments but also those of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, two polarizing figures to say the least. And at a news conference before he started his gabfest, McCarthy disclosed that Trump had phoned him just that morning from a golf course.

Then there’s the not-so-quiet rumor rumbling through conservative circles that Trump himself may prefer the role of House Speaker, one fueled by comments made by Trump’s last chief of staff, himself a former House member. The literal passing of the gavel between Pelosi and her successor could be an incredibly spiteful moment if that heir is Trump. A perch at the Capitol would be useful for his 2024 campaign. Plus, the perks of the Speakership are pretty great, including the use of a government plane and a role as third-in-line for the presidency. There is no requirement, though, that the Speaker be an elected member of the House. Congress has never had a non-member serve as Speaker, but America also never had a President like Trump, either.

But, McCarthy is instead posturing for himself to be part of the hand-off. “I want her to hand that gavel to me. I want her to be here,” McCarthy said, again repeating the unfounded rumor that Pelosi’s resignation was imminent.

At another point, he was explicit—even if that candor was unintentional. “Where’d the Speaker go? Did you fall?” he asked. “Can I be Speaker?” he inquired at the five-hour mark as the Democrats took turns presiding over the House.

Democrats, who around midnight decided to delay the vote to Friday morning and left the chamber, were clearly frustrated. “Kevin McCarthy has now shown more anger about making child care affordable than he has about the insurrection on January 6th,” tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York. Others shouted at McCarthy at other points and jeered him for making messy what should have been a major win for Biden and his Democrats.

But, in perhaps a strategic error, McCarthy’s delay now puts the vote at the start of the day and denied the bill the epithet of being “passed in the middle of the night.”

McCarthy also repeated all of the GOP’s greatest hits, alleging Democrats want to “Defund the Police” and are soft on China for its role in COVID-19 pandemic, seek to take away private property and embrace a socialist posture. He plucked the strings of the culture wars. “I don’t think the Taliban cared about the pronouns in the military,” he sneered. He recounted the story of allegations of the sexual assault of a female student by a gender-fluid student at a suburban D.C. school. Fears of unsafe neighborhoods for kids, unrelenting immigrants crossing the Southern border illegally and wanton joblessness lurk behind every corner in McCarthy’s telling.

“Every American city is set to become a border city and a sanctuary city,” McCarthy said as the clock ticked past 2 a.m. It was fear-mongering 101, and it is shaping up to be a roadmap for the GOP heading into the midterm elections. It worked in Virginia two weeks ago as Republicans defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor. As McCarthy was just under the six-hour mark, he invoked those results, noting two Democratic incumbents hail from Virginia districts that voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin by margins of 8 and 11 points.

But back here in Washington, McCarthy was working at proving himself fit for the top job, even if his facts were at times badly inaccurate. He inflated the total cost of the bill to $5 trillion, even as the scorekeepers at the Congressional Budget Office pegged it at $1.68 trillion over a decade. He treated Biden’s Justice Department as out-of-control spies on parents, the IRS as a force to knock on every American’s door and Biden’s one-party control of Washington as a threat to U.S. democracy.

“We will not allow America to fall further behind as the Biden Administration has,” McCarthy promised if Republicans retake the majority next year. “I think you’re fighting to make this a socialist country,” McCarthy told the Democrats.

Because of his privilege as the Republican Leader, he is one of three House lawmakers who can speak without a check on his time. It’s the House version of the Senate filibuster, although deployed far less frequently and unlike its Senate sibling, can’t be shut down by anyone. The stunt is unlikely to derail Biden’s Build Back Better Act, although that fact didn’t stop him from taking advantage of every opportunity afforded him in what is known on the Hill as a Magic Minute. That, in turn, allowed him to deliver an occasionally meandering critique of the spending bill with a history of Reconstruction, the Cold War and Reaganism. He gave a mini-history of Washington Crossing the Delaware, the portrait of America’s first President that hangs (as a reproduction) in McCarthy’s conference room. And he seemed to delight in angering Democrats who occasionally heckled him before finally realizing McCarthy was settling in for a long delay tactic.

“I’m just getting geared up,” he said at 11:35 p.m., three hours into the show.

An hour later, he noted that most Democrats had gone home. “I don’t know if they think they left, I would stop,” McCarthy said. “I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to the American people.”

Finally, McCarthy wrapped up just after 5 a.m. In a factoid that only Congress nerds will appreciate, McCarthy surpassed Pelosi’s legendary Magic Minute, which went eight hours in 2018, until this morning widely considered a record for a House speech.

It’s impossible to have a speech of this length and expect it all to make sense. And McCarthy has never been known as a skilled orator; his success has been in fundraising and managing friendships. So McCarthy can be excused for some of the words making less than perfect sense. Even the most generous listeners would have trouble tracing his desire to have been in Tiananmen Square during the violent 1989 crackdown on protests and in Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Add to that McCarthy’s disclosure that he might have a little headache during his overnight talk-a-thon from his third COVID-19 booster shot.

But he also gave his critics plenty of fodder. For instance, he said he got his first vaccination on Jan. 6, the day Trump riled up a crowd on the National Mall to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race. McCarthy, who supported Trump’s efforts to undermine the results, said he had had a bad reaction to the jab. “I got the chills. I got the shakes—for a lot of reasons,” McCarthy said in a very tone-deaf recollection on a day that saw a violent mob storm the Capitol.

But ultimately, the evening and into the morning was about proving McCarthy is up to the top job in the House should the Republicans prevail in 11 months. He noted that in his time in the majority, the GOP never lost a procedural motion—an insider boast as an organizer. And he was already announcing prospective rules changes. “No more proxy voting. You’re going to have to show up to vote,” he said. He announced he would scrap the metal detectors outside the House chamber, a second layer of security put in place after Jan. 6. He also hinted that he would strip several Democrats from all committees. “Don’t worry, there will be many more (without committee assignments) next time,” McCarthy said.

If that doesn’t sound Trumpian to you, you’ve not been paying attention to Trump’s capacity for retribution. But McCarthy would also do well to remember this Trump trait: his loyalty is, at best, wobbly. McCarthy spent four years in the service of Trump but could still find his quest for the House gavel unsuccessful if the former President wakes up one day with another idea.

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Os profissionais: quem são os articuladores do Centrão nos bastidores do orçamento secreto 14

Os profissionais: quem são os articuladores do Centrão nos bastidores do orçamento secreto

“A articulação do governo está nas mãos de profissionais”, costuma me dizer um político com acesso direto ao gabinete de Jair Bolsonaro, sob a condição de não ter o nome revelado. O que ele quer dizer é que quem comanda e organiza o governo é o Centrão, nome dado ao ajuntamento de políticos de direita que vendem apoio ao governo do momento.

Sem receio de se expor, quem me falou a mesma coisa foi o deputado bolsonarista Delegado Waldir, do PSL de Goiás. “Quem tem esse controle [sobre quem recebe orçamento secreto e quanto] é o assessor de orçamento, o [presidente da Câmara Arthur] Lira e o [presidente do Senado, Rodrigo] Pacheco. Ninguém mais tem”, me disse na entrevista que acusou o governo de comprar votos com emendas.

Mas os profissionais não são apenas políticos como o ministro da Casa Civil, Ciro Nogueira, ou o presidente da Câmara, Arthur Lira, ambos do Progressistas. Essa estrutura só funciona porque há servidores qualificados a municiá-los. Trata-se de pessoal que já prestou serviços a figurões da política como Eduardo Cunha, Geddel Vieira Lima e Romero Jucá, ex-caciques do MDB.

A atuação desses assessores foi tema do programa semanal do Intercept no YouTube, o Cama de Gato, apresentado por Leandro Demori. Veja o programa aqui.

A especialista

Logo que assumiu a presidência da Câmara, Lira recorreu a uma velha conhecida do Centrão, a advogada Mariangela Fialek, para que o ajudasse a organizar acordos e coordenar o apadrinhamento das emendas secretas de relator. O relato é de um líder partidário aliado de Lira, na condição de não ter seu nome revelado. Tuca, como é conhecida, foi nomeada para ocupar um cargo de natureza especial da presidência da Câmara um mês após Lira assumir o comando da casa, em março passado.

Por Fialek passam as informações que são omitidas da população e dos órgãos fiscalizadores, entre elas a relação de quais parlamentares e partidos usam o orçamento secreto, em que proporção e aonde direcionam os recursos negociados.


Mariangela Fialek, a Tuca: braço direito de Arthur Lira na operação do orçamento secreto.

Foto: Divulgação

Entre políticos e servidores, acredita-se que estejam sob a posse de Fialek listas completas com a relação de beneficiados pelo orçamento secreto. Eu a procurei, por telefone e aplicativo de mensagens, pedindo uma entrevista. Ela não respondeu até o fechamento deste texto.

O caso do orçamento secreto foi revelado por uma série de reportagens do Estadão. No último sábado, o deputado bolsonarista Delegado Waldir, do PSL de Goiás, abriu o jogo em uma entrevista ao Intercept e acusou Lira e o governo de usarem os recursos para negociar votos e favorecer aliados. Segundo Waldir, o voto para eleição de Lira era negociado por ao menos R$ 10 milhões em emendas.

Como um dos beneficiados pelas emendas de relator, Waldir conhece Fialek. “Ela só faz a indicação [das emendas pedidas pelos deputados] para os ministérios, ela não faz o acompanhamento [da execução orçamentária]. Quem faz acompanhamento é a minha assessoria. Se eu tenho R$ 5  milhões, por exemplo, meu assessor técnico faz a indicação dos municípios [a que vou encaminhar os recursos] e manda a listagem para Tuca. E ela manda isso para os ministérios”, resumiu Waldir.

Para além da confiança que estabeleceu com políticos de alto escalão, Fialek é descrita por colegas de trabalho como uma pessoa de bom trato, competente e trabalhadora. O relato foi repetido por cinco assessores parlamentares de diferentes partidos de centro e dois deputados federais. Todos pediram que seus nomes não fossem revelados

Entre suas funções, ela é responsável por reunir as recomendações de emenda junto aos parlamentares e às assessorias das lideranças –  de nomeações para cargos à viabilização de projetos e outros assuntos cotidianos ao toma-lá-dá-cá do Centrão. Com os pedidos em mãos, ela organiza as demandas e informa Lira. São essas informações que ajudam o presidente – quem de fato detém o poder de selar acordos – a negociar com parlamentares.

O orçamento público é um mecanismo complexo e hostil a quem não o domina. Entendê-lo e manejá-lo exige profissionais altamente qualificados. Possui complexidades como vários tipos de execução de despesas, meios de pagamento, definição de rubricas e valores, além de uma burocracia e legislação próprias e que orientam o uso de dinheiro público. Não basta, portanto, definir acordos políticos. É preciso saber como executá-los nesse labirinto normativo, de forma a fazer o dinheiro fluir.

Fialek tem familiaridade com tudo isso. Em seu currículo, ela diz ter “longa experiência em processo legislativo”. Antes de ser chamada por Lira, ela atuou como chefe da Assessoria Especial de Relações Institucionais do Ministério do Desenvolvimento Regional, comandado por Rogério Marinho, do PSDB do Rio Grande do Norte. A pasta é um dos principais veios para distribuição das emendas secretas.

Fialek conhece bem o funcionamento burocrático de Brasília. Além de passagens no Executivo e Parlamento, ela acumula no currículo nomeações aos conselhos fiscais da Pré-Sal Petróleo S.A., do BNDES Participações S.A. e ao conselho de administração da Brasilcap Capitalização S.A. São cargos em que o que pesa é a indicação política.

“Ela bota aqui: você tem direito a um trator. Ela é braço de articulação política. O presidente [da Câmara] tem que ter alguém de confiança, essa pessoa é ela”, me disse ironicamente um deputado quando o questionei sobre as atribuições de Fialek. O parlamentar pediu para não ser identificado por temer represálias.

De FHC a Bolsonaro

Como todo bom assessor político, Fialek trabalha para a direita ou esquerda. A carreira dela acumula passagens por ministérios do final do governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso e do início do governo Lula.

Até ser nomeada para trabalhar com Rogério Marinho, ela passou por cargos-chave da articulação política de diferentes vertentes políticas. Trabalhou em cargos de confiança no gabinete do senador Romero Jucá, do MDB de Roraima, na Secretaria de Governo de Michel Temer, do MDB, e em um escritório de representação do governador paulista João Doria, do PSDB, em Brasília.

Durante o trabalho com Jucá, o nome da advogada alçou as manchetes dos noticiários em razão das investigações da Lava Jato sobre o político. A apuração apontou que Fialek enviou um e-mail do gabinete do senador para executivos da Odebrecht, em que apresentava um rascunho de alterações sobre uma medida provisória. A informação foi divulgada por delatores premiados da empreiteira, e não houve acusação criminal contra Fialek.

O nome da assessora também passou pelos bastidores da CPI da pandemia, no Senado. O relator da investigação, senador Renan Calheiros, do MDB de Alagoas, relacionou a servidora em uma lista para solicitar à Receita Federal, seus dados cadastrais, participações societárias nos últimos dez anos. No ofício, Calheiros pedia que a Receita Federal fizesse gráficos dos relacionamentos societários dela e das demais pessoas.

Na relação de pessoas, estavam nomes de pessoas indiciadas pela CPI, como o dono da Precisa, Francisco Maximiano, o líder do governo na Câmara, Ricardo Barros, do PP do Paraná, e do coronel da reserva Marcelo Bento Pires, ex-assessor do Ministério da Saúde. Também estavam no rol figuras próximas a Bolsonaro, como o advogado do presidente, Frederik Wassef, e um colega dele com bom trânsito junto à família, Willer Tomaz.

O ofício foi tornado sem efeito “por erro material” após pressão de senadores e colegas parlamentares de Fialek, segundo me relatou uma fonte que acompanhou a situação. Com o recuo, o nome não foi mais listado por Calheiros. Perguntei à assessoria do senador porque o nome dela saiu do radar, mas tudo que ouvi foi que “não se lembravam do motivo”.


Carlos Henrique Sobral (ao microfone): homem de confiança de Eduardo Cunha e Geddel Vieira Lima agora bate ponto no Palácio do Planalto.

Foto: Divulgação/Ministério do Turismo

O homem de Cunha e Geddel

Para efetivar os acordos prometidos no Congresso, o Centrão precisa sincronizar a atuação em dois ministérios que ele já controla: a Casa Civil e a Segov, Secretaria de Governo, ambos ligados à Presidência da República. A Segov é coordenada pela ministra Flávia Arruda, do PL do Distrito Federal, e a Casa Civil por Ciro Nogueira, senador pelo Piauí e presidente nacional do Progressistas. Ambos têm como missão a articulação política do Palácio do Planalto junto ao Congresso e aos demais ministérios.

Nesse caso, os número dois de cada uma das pastas têm funções decisivas para destravar o orçamento secreto. Quem assessora Arruda é mais um velho conhecido do centrão: Carlos Henrique Sobral. Também da velha guarda do MDB, Sobral fez parte das assessorias de figurões como Eduardo Cunha e Geddel Vieira Lima.

Sob responsabilidade dele está o direcionamento das emendas que foram orientadas pelo Congresso e serão repassadas para que os ministérios as empenhe (empenhar é o termo técnico para a reserva de dinheiro no orçamento) e siga as fases para acompanhamento e execução do recurso.

Sobral foi assessor de ex-ministro Geddel no extinto ministério da Integração Nacional, no governo Lula. Dali, ele seguiu para o gabinete de Eduardo Cunha, então líder do MDB na Câmara, e depois o acompanhou à presidência da casa. Já no governo Temer, voltou para o Executivo, como chefe de gabinete de Geddel, na Segov.


Jônathas de Castro: convocado por Ciro Nogueira – que também empregou a esposa dele – para Casa Civil.

Foto: Roque de Sá/Agência Senado

Com o bom trânsito político, Sobral também teve assento nos conselhos fiscais do Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Comercial e também do Serviço Social do Comércio.

Ao contrário de Fialek, Sobral já circulava pelo governo Bolsonaro. Ele atuou como assessor do médico negacionista Osmar Terra, deputado federal pelo MDB, quando ele era ministro da Cidadania e depois quando se tornou assessor especial do ministro da Saúde, Marcelo Queiroga.

Já na Casa Civil, o secretário-executivo é Jônathas de Castro. O Estadão revelou que o gabinete dele foi utilizado como quartel-general durante a reta final da campanha de Lira à presidência da Câmara. Castro é apontado por dois assessores parlamentares com quem conversei como um dos principais responsáveis por distribuir aos ministérios os pedidos de emenda de relator que o Planalto recebe do Congresso. Com mais poder que ele, só Ciro Nogueira, que se desdobra para paparicar o subordinado. Segundo reportagem do Metrópoles, Nogueira nomeou a esposa de Castro, Ana Carolina Argolo, a um cargo com salário mensal de R$ 13 mil no Ministério de Minas e Energia, em setembro deste ano.

Castro conhece bem a máquina pública. Desde 2010, passou por funções de confiança nos ministérios da Economia, Desenvolvimento Regional e órgãos ligados a Presidência da República. No governo Bolsonaro, era um dos homens de confiança do general Luiz Eduardo Ramos, que esteve à frente da Segov na negociação de emendas por votos, como Waldir já havia apontado ao Intercept.

Eu enviei perguntas a Sobral e Castro via assessoria de imprensa da Presidência da República. Não recebi respostas até o fechamento desta reportagem.

The post Os profissionais: quem são os articuladores do Centrão nos bastidores do orçamento secreto appeared first on The Intercept.

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