West Virginia Governor’s Coal Empire Sued By The Federal Government — Again

This article was originally published at ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.

Federal authorities sued West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s business empire on Wednesday, seeking $7.6 million in unpaid environmental fines and overdue fees. The move adds to Justice’s growing legal and debt problems and comes just a month into his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

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“The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only 15 of us, but we went into action. We … threw some of them out the windows … Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up … We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

— Meyer Lansky, gangster, remembering breaking up meetings of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund in Yorkville on New York’s Upper East Side in the 1930s.

SCOTUS, ‘Color Blindness’ and the Invented Past

This morning I was reading this Slate article by Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick on newly released papers which seem to show the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist held on to his segregationist views well into his time as chief justice. (For background, as a SCOTUS clerk in 1952, Rehnquist wrote a memo explicitly defending the constitutionality of Plessy v Ferguson and the segregationist system that was built up on it. He later played a key role in organized voter suppression efforts in Arizona in the 1960s.) Hasen and Lithwick tie Rehnquist to the current Court majority’s view that the 14th Amendment is essentially a warrant for color blindness in the law.

The 14th Amendment particularly has implications which were very much by design that go beyond the fate of post-war ex-slaves. It essentially creates a thing we now take for granted, the status of citizen of the United States. It also has implications beyond things the architects of the amendment could have conceived of. But there are certainly concrete things that are totally clear about it and the other Civil War amendments if you spend even some basic time understanding why they were created, what they mean and what they meant to accomplish. Reading Hasen’s and Lithwick’s piece was helpful, reminding me of this by showing the bust-up collision between the actual Civil War amendments and the theoretical latticework that gets promoted in Federalist Society world and in some ways (albeit often in a much more benign form) in law schools generally. In the latter case, there’s nothing wrong with theory. It has its place. It’s necessary if your aim is not simply historical understanding of the amendments but some level of application to present-day realities.

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The Evidence Against Trump Keeps Piling Up In MAL Case

A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Before we dive into the new reporting, a quick caveat: Criminal charges against Trump in the Mar-a-Lago (and now Bedminster!) documents case are not guaranteed. That said, all signs point to charges coming sooner than later. Okay, here’s the latest:

CNN’s Scoop On The Recording Of Trump

The key elements of the big CNN story:

  • Trump was recorded at a July 2021 meeting at his Bedminster club in New Jersey touting a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.
  • “On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the sources said.”
  • Special Counsel Jack Smith has “focused” on the meeting and has been asking grand jury witnesses about it.

What The NYT Adds To The CNN Report

The NYT followed up CNN’s report with some additional details:

  • Trump aide Margo Martin was at the Bedminster meeting and routinely recorded interviews Trump gave. The Times and CNN stop short of saying Martin recorded this one, but the implication is clear.
  • Smith did obtain the recording.

The Guardian Adds More Details

Reporter Hugo Lowell has been all over the MAL case:

  • The document Trump was touting was classified as “SECRET.”
  • “For several minutes of the audio recording, the sources said, Trump talks about how he cannot discuss the document because he no longer possesses the sweeping presidential power to declassify now out of office, but suggests that he should have done so when he was still in the White House.”
  • Smith obtained the recording “around March.”
  • “The tape was played to multiple witnesses, including Martin, when she testified in mid-March after having her laptop and phones imaged by prosecutors, the sources said. The first time the Trump lawyers learned about the tape was after Martin testified, one of the sources said.”

There’s Still The Matter Of The MAL Surveillance Vid

As if the Bedminster news weren’t enough, the NYT has new details on Jack Smith’s investigation into whether Trump et al. obstructed justice in response to a grand jury subpoena for Mar-a-Lago security footage.

Trump Wants Judge To Recuse In Hush Money Case

Former President Trump is seeking the recusal of Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the criminal hush money case in state court in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Trump is still trying to get the case removed to federal court. Morning Memo hasn’t bored you with the procedural details there.

For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical that either prong of Trump’s belt-and-suspenders approach will be successful. Merchan presided over the tax fraud trial of the Trump Org and refused to recuse in that case, too.

Our Manufactured National Nightmare Is Over

The House passed the Biden-McCarthy debt limit deal Wednesday evening, with a majority of Republicans voting in favor of the package. Democrats supplied enough votes to push it over the top, 314-117. It now heads to the Senate, where the only question is how quickly it passes. They’re up against the deadline for when Treasury’s obligations exceed its cash reserves, but I wouldn’t lose much sleep over the bill in the Senate.

A couple of the more interesting aspects of this entirely unnecessary saga:

  • Those side deals: The Big Part of the Debt Ceiling Deal Congress Isn’t Talking About
  • WaPo: How the debt deal may prevent a shutdown

Sums It Up

HuffPo: After Calling Joe Biden Senile, Republicans Complain He Outsmarted Them

Don’t Lose Perspective

The House GOP is still full Of insurrectionists and conspiracists.

How The Con Works

House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) is still threatening to hold FBI Director Chris Wray in contempt for failing to turn over a confidential investigative document purportedly accusing then-Vice President Joe Biden of bribery, despite Wray offering to show it to Comer privately.

It’s all a bunch of nonsense except for what it shows about the corrupt GOP misinformation factory. In this instance, the document has its roots in the special pipeline Attorney General Bill Barr set up for Rudy Giuliani to funnel misinformation from Ukraine directly into the Justice Department, and now Comer is using it all these years later to attack Biden, as originally intended:

Project Veritas Sues Founder James O’Keefe

Project Veritas’ lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan accuses James O’Keefe of breach of contract, trade secret violations, breach of fiduciary duty and loyalty, and conversion, among other claims. “Being known as the founder of an organization does not entitle that person to run amok and put his own interests ahead of that organization,” Project Veritas said in the complaint.

Maybe If Cain And Abel Had Facebook …

The musician brother of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in a Facebook post beseeched people not to mistake him for his brother: “Due to recent statements by him promoting racial stereotypes, white nationalism and other various controversial topics, I feel compelled to distance myself from his ignorant, hateful rants.”

The Halal Meat Scandal We’ve Always Needed


Sen. Bob Menendez hosted a 2018 meeting in his Washington, D.C., office with a New Jersey businessman who is a focus of a federal public-corruption probe of the Democratic lawmaker that has broadened in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

The meeting, which hasn’t been previously reported, came months before the businessman, Wael Hana, secured a contract with Egyptian officials for certifying halal meat exports. The contract is a key part of the probe examining whether Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or his wife received gifts in exchange for political favors.

2024 Ephemera

  • Mike Pence will launch his presidential campaign in Iowa on June 7.
  • Chris Christie will announce his presidential campaign in New Hampshire on June 6.

Lowering The Boom

The losing GOP candidate in New Mexico who is accused of shooting at the homes of Democratic officials has been brought up on new federal charges. That’s in addition to the existing state charges against him.

Great Read

Abortion clinic and Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph was captured 20 years ago this week.

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McCarthy Steers Debt-Ceiling Bill Through House After Months-Long Hostage-Taking. But Not Without Far-Right Threats To Speakership

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt ceiling hostage-taking gambit came to a close Wednesday evening after he managed to convince a large chunk of Democrats to join Republicans to pass the legislation to avoid allowing the nation to run out of money and, in so doing, tank the national and perhaps global economy. The bill was the product of a compromise with the White House after McCarthy used Republicans’ leverage as the majority party in the House to hold the debt-ceiling hostage and forced some budget concessions out of Democrats.

While progressive House Dems were vocally opposed to the bill, Democratic leadership said Wednesday they’d get behind the measure in order to avoid default.

After the deal was reached this weekend, it seemed fairly likely the bill would pass the House. But far-right Republicans who mucked up McCarthy’s speakership bid tried to flex their muscles again, this time threatening to block the bill and oust McCarthy, believing the proposed cuts didn’t go far enough.

Catch up on our live coverage below:

Where Things Stand: Save This Clip For Next Time They Pretend They Don’t Wanna Cut Soc Security, Medicare

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is seemingly trying to get a handful of far-right members of the Freedom Caucus to chill out and stop threatening to redo the speakership election. They’re not likely to successfully depose him, but no one is eager for a redo of the January spectacle as a few loud members seek to reassert their authority. And, so, in what is seemingly a half-hearted effort to throw them a bone, McCarthy went on Fox News and promised to create some vague “commission” that’ll review further cuts to next year’s budget.

The speaker then took it a step further. Instead of just promising that “this isn’t the end” and proposing some sort of additional amorphous cuts to quell a hardliner uprising, McCarthy doubled down, raising the possibility that this next step commission could look into gutting Social Security and Medicare. Music, in theory, to the ears of a salivating Freedom Caucus.

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Trump Attacks DeSantis For ‘Blatantly’ Plagiarizing A Speech Line That Trump Actually Took From Reagan

Former President Donald Trump is continuing to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his closest — though still fairly distant — rival in the polls amid an increasingly crowded Republican presidential primary field. On Tuesday evening, Trump’s campaign blasted out a press release that claimed DeSantis had “blatantly” plagiarized the former president’s 2020 State of the Union address. The accusation hinged on a single phrase: the “great American comeback.” 

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The Secret History of ‘Debt Ceiling,’ the Original Movie

As we analyze and try to make sense of how this debt ceiling drama has worked out, there’s one important difference with the original crisis 12 years ago to keep in mind. Back in 2011, President Obama was very much bought into the idea of deficit reduction and “the grand bargain.” Some of this of course is the distinct matter of inoculating against Republican fiscal politics — nods to fiscal probity, deficit reduction and so forth. To really understand politics it’s critical to distinguish between true agendas and reactive, positioning politics of that sort. But, to a degree, he was actually bought into it.

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