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    Biden surges in the 2024 race … for celebrity support

    Hello!We’re sending the newsletter out slightly early this week, as Wednesday is Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth has been celebrated by Black Americans since the late 1800s and was made a federal holiday in 2021.While the day will be marked by parades and events across the US, the Biden and Trump campaigns are continuing their sprint to November.In the past week Joe Biden raised more than $30m at a star-studded fundraising event in Los Angeles. Jack Black, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand were among the big name acts, and Biden is certainly leading the race for celebrity endorsements: Donald Trump can only offer the musician Kid Rock, the British actor turned strange man Laurence Fox, and the guy who played Superman on TV in the 1990s.But does it matter? Should we care whether or not Taylor Swift endorses Biden? (His campaign has been courting her for months.) We’ll take a look after the headlines.Here’s what you need to know1. A silent debate?The debate between Biden and Trump later this month will feature muted microphones, CNN announced on Sunday: meaning neither man will be able to talk over the other during the 90-minute event. The first Biden-Trump debate in 2020 was one of the great farces of our time, with Trump continually interrupting and heckling Biden, before telling a white supremacist group to “stand by”.2. Trump can’t remember his doctor’s nameTrump was in Michigan on Saturday, bragging about his mental acuity and demanding Biden take a cognitive test. Trump said he had “aced” a cognitive test administered by his presidential doctor, whom he identified as “Ronny Johnson”. “[Ronny Johnson] was the White House doctor, and he said I was the healthiest president, he feels, in history. So I liked him very much,” Trump said. The only problem was that Trump was thinking of Ronny Jackson. The Biden campaign was quick to point out the error.3. Biden acts on immigrationBiden is set to announce a new executive action that will allow some undocumented immigrants who are spouses and children of US citizens to become American citizens themselves. The action will help about 500,000 American families, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and 50,000 children. Politically it could help insulate Biden somewhat from accusations from the left that he has given in to hard-right Republican demands on border immigration, while potentially shoring up his support with minority communities, which has slipped slightly since the last election.George Clooney and Julia Roberts v Phil Robertson and Randy QuaidView image in fullscreenIn the celebrity endorsement race – if such a race exists – Biden is defeating Trump comfortably.Saturday night was the perfect illustration. Biden flew west, to Los Angeles, for a campaign fundraiser with a who’s who of Hollywood names, including Clooney, Roberts, Black, Streisand, Jason Bateman, the late-night host Jimmy Kimmel – who compered proceedings – and Barack Obama, appearing alongside his former vice-president. The celebs coughed up $30m, a significant boost to the Biden campaign coffers.In May, Robert De Niro popped up to criticize Trump outside court in Manhattan, while Queen Latifah and Lizzo were featured at a fundraiser in New York in March. Michael Douglas hosted Biden for a campaign event at his home earlier this year.Trump, the former TV host and celebrity builder who has a long-running obsession with the rich and famous (he sent invitations for his third wedding to various stars including Billy Joel, who attended but later said he wasn’t sure why he was invited), has a less deep bench.Dean Cain, a former actor who played Superman in the 1990s TV series Lois and Clark, backed Trump in April – “I’m endorsing President Trump 100%. No question about it,” Cain told Fox News – but hardly anyone noticed because, well, very few people know who Dean Cain is.Kid Rock, the country singer and cowboy-hat wearer, has been a long-term Trump backer (“Many close to him wonder what the hell happened,” Rolling Stone reported last month.) There’s also Randy Quaid, best known for playing a booze-addled, alien-obsessed, ex-pilot in Independence Day, and Dennis Quaid, Randy’s brother. There’s the actor Jon Voight, who these days is perhaps most known for being Angelina Jolie’s dad. Phil Robertson, who invented a sort of pipe thing that replicates the quack of a duck and was a reality TV star before voicing his homophobia, is also keen.But that’s about it. If this was a celebrity-gathering competition, Biden would definitely win.But it isn’t. It’s an election. So does it matter?Kind of. Sometimes. Although not always.Hillary Clinton had the backing of all the hip-ish A-listers in 2016 – I remember listening to Demi Lovato belting out her hits at a Clinton event in Iowa one evening – and still lost. But studies have found that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama in 2008 did make an impact: it boosted Obama’s vote and increased contributions.There is a difference between then and now, however. In May 2007 the future president was a relative unknown: Winfrey was introducing him to some people for the first time. Few Americans alive haven’t heard of Biden and Trump, so the effect of an endorsement from, say, a duck-noise inventor is debatable.What some politicos believe really could make a difference is the backing of Taylor Swift. In 2023, one fairly innocuous Instagram post from Swift – “I’ve heard you raise your voices, and I know how powerful they are. Make sure you’re ready to use them in our elections this year!” – inspired tens of thousands of people to register to vote.It’s safe to assume plenty of those new voters were young people – exactly the kind of voter Biden needs in November. No wonder that the Biden campaign is eagerly pursuing Swift, who backed Biden in 2020: the New York Times reports that Swift is “the biggest and most influential endorsement target” for the president.Swift is clearly on Trump’s mind, too. He brought her up at a meeting with Republican lawmakers in DC last week, spoke about Swift at length – “She probably doesn’t like Trump” – in an interview for a new book.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionOf course, Swift hasn’t actually endorsed anyone yet. In 2020 she announced her support for Biden just one month before the election, so we could be waiting a while yet.Out and about: DetroitView image in fullscreenIf Trump had been hoping that the 80-minute headline speech at the Turning Point USA convention would improve his standing with Black voters, he would have been disappointed. The crowd before him on Saturday night in Detroit – which is 77% African American, and overwhelmingly Democratic – was almost exclusively white.The former president has been attempting in recent campaign appearances to present himself as popular with Black and Latino voters, as polls show his support among these demographic groups edging upwards. Michigan is also one of a handful of critical battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome of this year’s presidential race.Earlier on Saturday Trump visited a Black church in Detroit for an event billed as a “community roundtable” – but there was little audience crossover into the Turning Point event. Those attending were able to hear speeches from a range of Trump luminaries, including his former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon. Supporters could also pose for selfies in front of a gold-plated Mercedes bearing Trump’s image on the hood.– Ed Pilkington, chief US reporter, Detroit, MichiganBiggest lie: the vice-presidential hopefulsView image in fullscreenTim Scott, the South Carolina senator, and Byron Donalds, a Florida congressman, who are both auditioning to be Trump’s vice-president, each made similar claims during TV appearances this weekend – namely, that Biden is responsible for rampant violent crime.Scott said communities have been “ravaged by a wave of violent crime that we haven’t seen in five decades”, while Donalds claimed that while the murder rate might be down, it doesn’t mean violent crime overall is.Both are actually down. Recently released data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed big declines in violent crimes, including murder, and in property crimes in 2024 compared to 2023. Nor is it just a one-year drop. Violent crime is now at a nearly 50-year record low, Biden has said – and FBI crime data backs this up: it peaked in 1991, then has largely fallen, with occasional upward ticks such as 2020, which is often attributed to pandemic stresses.Unfortunately, while crime may be down, the public’s perception of crime is different. A Gallup poll in October found that 77% of Americans believe there is more crime in the US than a year ago, and Republicans seem to be happy to stoke those fears.– Rachel Leingang, misinformation reporterWho had the worst week: Republicans who like to smoke cigarsView image in fullscreenPity Tom Cole, the Republican congressman from Oklahoma, and his cigar-smoking pals, who have been left without a place to suck on their stogies after Cole left his position as chairman of the House rules committee.Cole spent 15 months as the Rules head honcho, and he allowed colleagues to puff on cigars in the rules office in the Capitol building. But it seems the new chair clamped down.“We desperately need a place to smoke cigars,” Cole told Business Insider this week.Smoking is banned in many public places in the US – including in Washington DC – but members of Congress can smoke all they like in their offices … which does little to counter the notion that politics is an elite little club, with its own little rules. More

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    Vermont Republican secretly poured water into colleague’s bag over months

    A Vermont lawmaker was compelled to apologize publicly after being caught on video pouring water into her colleague’s work bag multiple times across several months.The bizarre behavior is allegedly a part of a campaign of harassment that one legislator aimed at another who represents the same district in the Green Mountain state, independent outlet Seven Days first reported.The Republican representative, Mary Morrissey, 67, confessed to dumping water in the bag of the Democratic legislator Jim Carroll, 62. She later apologized during a Vermont state house session on Monday, Boston.com reported.“I am truly ashamed of my actions,” Morrissey said.Morrissey did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.She and Carroll both represent the city of Bennington, about 25 miles outside of Manchester. Morrissey has served 13 terms in the Vermont legislature while Carroll has served two.Carroll told the Guardian that Morrissey had poured cups of water into his bag since January.Carroll says he first suspected Morrissey as she had been “nasty” to him for several months despite the two knowing each other since childhood and even attending the same church.“[She] would say demeaning things in front of other legislators,” Carroll said.But Carroll had no evidence, so he decided to launch his own investigation. For weeks, Carroll secretly recorded footage of his backpack to catch the person in the act.In two videos Carroll captured, Morrissey is seen dumping a cup of liquid into Carroll’s green tote bag. Morrissey’s face was not captured in the video, but fellow lawmakers were able to identify her by her gray hair.Seven Days later used a public records request to obtain footage of Morrissey dumping water into Carroll’s bag. That was after the outlet initially reported on Morrissey’s behavior and an ethics investigation into her.Carroll initially refused to release the videos to Seven Days but ultimately changed his mind.“I have been very reluctant to disclose the video because I believe it will deeply embarrass Representative Morrissey,” Carroll wrote in a statement to the outlet. “However, it has become clear to me that the media are aware of the details of Representative Morrissey’s behavior and likely will continue to report on that behavior in the near future.”Carroll said when he first saw the video of Morrissey, he felt “sad”. “There was no good that was going to come out of this,” he said.Morrissey later apologized to Carroll during a subsequent meeting and claimed that she didn’t know the bag belonged to him.According to Carroll, Morrissey initially said that she “flicked” water on the bag because she saw a bug on it. But she later added that she didn’t know why she decided to dump water on Carroll’s bag for months on end.“At the end of the meeting, I looked at her and said, ‘You know, this has really fucked me up.’ There were weeks when I didn’t know who was doing this or why,” Carroll said.“I walked around this place, paranoid of my fellow legislators, racking my brain trying to think, ‘What could I have possibly said or done?’”Carroll said that he was still weighing whether he should pursue charges against Morrissey for the harassment.As for whether he forgives Morrissey, Carroll said: “I guess I would have to say yes in the spirit of forgiveness, reluctantly. But if I had to be a smartass, I’d say her apology holds about as much water as my canvas bag.” More

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    Trump to stage Wisconsin rally days after calling Milwaukee a ‘horrible city’

    Donald Trump is set to pitch for support in the key battleground state of Wisconsin on Tuesday, just days after calling its biggest population centre, Milwaukee, “a horrible city”.In what will also be his first visit to the midwestern state since last month’s felony conviction related to hush-money payments, Trump will stage a ticket-only rally in Racine, a city of about 76,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from Milwaukee.The former president will deliver remarks “on Joe Biden’s failed presidency”, according to his campaign.His message will compete with an advertising billboard placed nearby by the Democratic National Committee aimed at reminding locals of his Milwaukee comments, reportedly made last week to House Republicans during Trump’s first visit to Capitol Hill since the January 6 attack by a mob trying to overturn his presidential election loss to Joe Biden.“Want to know what’s really ‘horrible?’ Donald Trump for Wisconsin’s economy,” the ad will say.Republicans have scrambled to downplay or otherwise explain the unflattering reference to Milwaukee – all the more embarrassing because the city will host the party’s national convention, which starts 15 July and at which Trump’s nomination as its presidential candidate will become official.Trump himself, in characteristic fashion, has denied even uttering the remark, which was first reported by the Punchbowl website.“The Democrats are making up stories that I said Milwaukee is a ‘horrible city’. This is false, a complete lie, just like the Laptop from Hell was a lie, Russia … was a lie, and so much more,” he posted on his Truth Social site.“It’s called disinformation, and that’s all they know how to do. I picked Milwaukee, I know it well. It should therefore lead to my winning Wisconsin. But the Dems come out with this fake story, just like all of the others. It never ends. Don’t be duped. Who would say such a thing with that important state in the balance?”He conveyed a different message in an interview with Fox 6 News, in which he implicitly admitted the comment by attempting a clarification.“I think it was very clear what I meant. We’re very concerned with crime. I love Milwaukee,” he said. “But as you know the crime numbers are terrible, and we have to be very careful. But, I was referring to, also, the election,” when he unsuccessfully challenged vote tallies by falsely alleging fraud.Whatever the explanation, Democrats have announced plans to cash in by placing 10 billboards throughout Milwaukee blaring out Trump’s negative description in the run-up to the convention.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThe ads coincide with a $50m advertising offensive in battleground states, the focal point of which is a Biden campaign video zeroing in on Trump’s convicted felon status following the conviction in a Manhattan court of falsifying documents to hide hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actor.The intense messaging reflects Wisconsin’s status as a potentially crucial swing state, with Racine county being one of its most competitive bellwether districts. Trump won the county by 50% and 51% in 2016 and 2020 respectively. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush won it by comparable margins in their two election victories.Biden, who won Wisconsin by 21,000 votes in 2020, visited Racine last month, when he highlighted a $3.3bn investment planned in the area by Microsoft as evidence of the benefits of his economic policies.A RealClearPolitics survey this week showed Biden recording a 39.3% approval rating in Wisconsin, with 55.7% disapproving.Trump and Biden are running neck-and-neck in most national polls, with the former president showing leads in several battleground states. More

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    Boeing bosses accused of ‘strip mining’ company for profit in Senate hearing

    The CEO of Boeing has acknowledged “something went wrong” at the embattled planemaker after another whistleblower came forward, alleging that corners were cut on its production line.Dave Calhoun acknowledged some employees who raised concerns about safety and quality inside the company faced retaliation.The executive did not have the number of managers fired for retaliating against whistleblowers “on the tip of my tongue”, he told senators, “but I know it happens”.At a hearing entitled “Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture”, Richard Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, declared that the company was facing a “moment of reckoning” – and called for prosecutions.In heated exchanges, Calhoun – who has already announced plans to step down later this year – and Boeing executives were accused of “strip mining” the company for profit. “You’re cutting corners, you’re eliminating safety procedures, you’re sticking it to your employees,” said Josh Hawley, the Republican senator.“It’s working out great for you,” Hawley added, citing Calhoun’s “extraordinary” $33m pay package and asking why he had not yet resigned. “I’m sticking this through,” Calhoun replied. “I am proud of every action we have taken.”Hours before the session Sam Mohawk, a quality assurance inspector for the company in Renton, Washington, became the latest Boeing employee to go public with claims of safety issues. He alleged that he was instructed by his supervisors to conceal evidence from regulators.Boeing has come under intense scrutiny since a terrifying cabin panel blowout in January prompted fresh questions about quality and safety.View image in fullscreen“More than a dozen” whistleblowers have now come forward, according to Blumenthal, who urged other concerned workers at Boeing to contact his office. “Boeing needs to stop thinking about the next earnings call and start thinking about the next generation.”Calhoun insisted that he did not “recognize any of the Boeing you describe” when senators accused the company of weakening safety systems. “​Our culture is far from perfect,” he said, “but we are taking action, and we are making progress.”As he spoke, the families of victims of two Boeing plane crashes, in 2018 and 2019, in which 346 people were killed, and whistleblowers who spoke out about their experiences at the company, were sitting with him in the room.Turning to the families before starting his evidence, Calhoun apologized to them directly for their “gut-wrenching” losses.The company has delivered a quality improvement plan to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and claimed that employees have been emboldened to come forward with safety and quality concerns on the factory floor.But accounts from inside Boeing’s facilities have raised further questions. Earlier this month the Guardian reported on claims the firm’s largest factory was in “panic mode”.Whistleblowers including Sam Salehpour, a current engineer at Boeing, and Roy Irvin, a former quality investigator, have gone public with allegations about safety in recent months.“This is a culture that continues to prioritize profits, push limits and disregard its workers,” Blumenthal said of Boeing before Tuesday’s hearing. “A culture that enables retaliation against those who do not submit to the bottom line. A culture that desperately needs to be repaired.”Blumenthal said Mohawk recently told the panel he had witnessed systemic disregard for documentation and accountability of nonconforming parts.In a report released by the committee, Mohawk said his work handling nonconforming parts became significantly more “complex and demanding” after the resumption of production of the 737 Max, its bestselling commercial jet, in 2020. Production had been suspended following the two crashes in 2018 and 2019.Mohawk alleged the number of nonconformance reports soared 300% compared with before the grounding of the Max. The 737 program lost parts that were intentionally hidden from the FAA during one inspection, he claimed.Mohawk filed a related claim in June with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal regulator.Boeing said: “We received this document late Monday evening and are reviewing the claims. We continuously encourage employees to report all concerns as our priority is to ensure the safety of our airplanes and the flying public.”Reuters contributed reporting More

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    JD Vance ‘disrespecting the dead’ with bump stock remarks, Nevada senator says

    Political ripples from the supreme court’s decision to overturn a Trump White House-era ban on sales of “bump stocks” – a spring-loaded stock that uses recoil to in effect turn a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun – continued to radiate on Monday when Jacky Rosen took exception to comments on the issue made by his Republican colleague JD Vance.Vance, the Ohio senator and potential vice-presidential pick as Trump seeks a second presidency in November had dismissed efforts by senior Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, to pass legislation banning the devices as “a huge distraction”.Vance went further. “What is the real gun violence problem in this country, and are we legislating in a way that solves fake problems? Or solves real problems?” Vance said, before adding: “My very strong suspicion is that the Schumer legislation is aimed at a PR problem, not something that’s going to meaningfully reduce gun violence in this country.”Rosen, the Democratic senator, hit back, facing re-election this year in politically purple Nevada, the site of the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 58 and prompted Trump to ban the rapid-fire device.“This is not a fake problem,” she told reporters. “Let him come to Las Vegas. Let him see the memorial for those people who died. Let him talk to those families. It’s not a fake problem. Those families are dead.”Rosen said Las Vegas, the gambling mecca and major source of Nevada’s revenue, had been “changed forever because of what the shooter did, and the bump stocks helped him”. She invited Vance to visit memorials to the victims as well as to talk to first responders. “Shame on him,” Rosen added, visibly enraged. “Shame on him for disrespecting the dead.”In its ruling last week, the conservative majority on the supreme court ruled that the executive branch of government did not have the power to use existing firearms laws to prohibit bump stocks. But the justices allowed legislators to pass new laws banning the accessory.Schumer and other senior Democrats have since said they would quickly move to do so.Outcry from Democrats mounted after Vance reasoned that a bill to ban bump stocks would “end up just inhibiting the rights of law-abiding Americans” and mused about how many people would still have been killed if the heavily armed video poker player Stephen Paddock had not outfitted his armory with the contested devices.“How many people would have been shot alternatively? And you have to ask yourself the question: will anyone actually not choose a bump stock because Chuck Schumer passes a piece of legislation?” Vance said.After Vance made his comments, Schumer retorted: “Talk to the people in Las Vegas who lost loved ones.”The supreme court ruling gives both sides of the gun issue red meat for the election campaign, though it is complicated by the initial ban coming from the Trump White House. Lindsey Graham, the Republican South Carolina senator, told NBC News he will block the Democrats’ measure. And Vance questioned Democrats’ legislative priorities.Chris Murphy, the Democratic Connecticut senator who has championed tougher gun laws after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, said Republicans in his chamber should have no problem voting for the measure banning bump stocks.“Is it good politics to make it easier for potential mass killers to get their hands on machine guns? Probably not,” Murphy said. “The idea is to try to make this attractive to Republicans. And we would be a lot better off if psychopaths couldn’t get their hands on machine guns.”Between Friday – when the supreme court’s ruling on bump stocks returned gun control to the top of the national discourse – and Monday, there were 17 mass shootings reported across the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.Among those was a shooting Saturday in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in which nine people – including two children – were wounded at a city-run splash pad that families frequent to cool off in the summer. Police said the attack was carried out at random by a gunman who later died by suicide.Another shooting on Saturday in Round Rock, Texas, saw 14 people wounded and two killed. There, the shooting erupted after an altercation between two groups of people – the victims were uninvolved bystanders, police said.The non-partisan Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are wounded or killed.There have been at least 230 such shootings reported in the US so far this year, a high rate which has fueled public calls for more substantial gun control but which Congress for the most part has not heeded.
    Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed reporting More

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    Why is Trump cozying up to America’s most powerful business leaders? | Robert Reich

    The Business Roundtable is an association of more than 200 CEOs of America’s biggest corporations. It likes to think of itself as socially responsible.Last Wednesday, its chair, Joshua Bolten, told reporters that his group planned to drop “eight figures” while “putting its full weight behind protecting and strengthening tax reform”.Translated: it’s going to pour money into making sure that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts – most of which benefit big corporations and the rich – don’t expire in 2025, as scheduled.On Thursday, Trump met at the Business Roundtable’s Washington headquarters with over 80 CEOs, including Apple’s Tim Cook, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Walmart’s Doug McMillon.Trump reportedly promised the CEOs he would cut corporate taxes even further and curtail business regulations if elected president.Trump’s 2017 tax cuts reduced the rate of corporate income taxes from 35% to 21%. That has cost America $1.3tn.Those tax cuts, along with the tax cuts put in place by George W Bush, are the primary reason that the national debt is rising as a percentage of the economy.What have corporations done with the money they have saved? They haven’t invested it or used it to raise wages. Nothing has trickled down to average workers.A large portion has gone into stock buybacks. The year after the tax cut went into effect, corporations bought back a record $1tn of their shares. Buybacks do nothing for the economy but raise stock prices – and, not incidentally, CEO compensation, which is largely in shares of stock.Making Trump’s 2017 tax cuts permanent – as the Business Roundtable seeks – will cost $4tn over the next 10 years, $400bn per year – and cause the debt to soar.Yet every one of the CEOs that Trump met with last week has been thriving under Biden. Corporate profits are way up. Stocks are at near record levels. Inflation has plummeted.So why are they attracted to Trump, whose antics are likely to destabilize the economy? Is it mere ideology?Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City (a non-profit that represents the city’s top business leaders), relates that Republican billionaires have told her “the threat to capitalism from the Democrats is more concerning than the threat to democracy from Trump.”In my experience, CEOs of large corporations are more practical than ideological. They’re coming around to Trump because they want even more tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks – which means even more money in their own pockets.The Business Roundtable’s motto – “More than Leaders. Leadership” – suggests a purpose higher than making its CEOs and corporations richer.Indeed, in August 2019 the Roundtable issued a highly publicized statement expressing “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”, including a commitment to compensating all workers “fairly and providing important benefits”, as well as “supporting the communities in which we work”, and protecting the environment “by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses”.Signed by 181 CEOs of major American corporations, the statement concluded that “each of our stakeholders is essential,” and committed “to deliver value to all of them”.The statement got a lot of favorable press. But it was rubbish. At the time, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were gaining traction in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries with their criticisms of corporate America, and the CEOs of the Roundtable were worried. They needed cover.Then, after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, many of these CEOs announced they would not provide campaign funds to Republican members of Congress who refused to certify the 2020 election.Now, they’re lining up to fund Trump, because they and their corporations want another giant tax cut and rollbacks of regulations.If the Business Roundtable’s CEOs were honestly committed to all their stakeholders, they wouldn’t seek massive tax cuts.If they cared about preserving American democracy, they wouldn’t support Trump or any Republican.The greedy cynicism of America’s corporate elite is now on full display.
    Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His newest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a Guardian US columnist. His newsletter is at robertreich.substack.com More

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    Biden ad blitz targets Trump’s criminal conviction in pitch to swing voters

    Joe Biden is seeking to exploit Donald Trump’s recent felony conviction in a television advertising blitz, amid polling evidence that the presumptive Republican nominee’s criminal status is hurting him with independent voters.A new 30-second advert released on Monday homes in on Trump’s 31 May conviction in a Manhattan court on 34 counts of falsifying documents to conceal the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, an adult actor, who testified that the pair had sex.The ad – featuring black-and-white courtroom images of Trump – also highlights his losses in two civil court cases, one from the writer E Jean Carroll, who said the former president raped and defamed her, and a $355m fraud ruling against his businesses.“We see Donald Trump for who he is,” the ad’s narrator says. “He’s been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault and he committed financial fraud.“Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s been working,” the narrative continues in a calculated comparison between Trump and his successor in the Oval Office. “This election is between a convicted criminal who is only out for himself and a president who is fighting for you and your family.”The ad will run in key battleground states and is the Biden campaign’s most aggressive commentary yet on Trump’s criminal status after a muted initial response.It is part of a $50m advertising onslaught as the Biden election machine seeks to make Trump’s character a central issue in the run-up to the first scheduled televised debate between the pair on CNN on 27 June.In the immediate aftermath of the verdict – which Trump has appealed – the president appeared to play it down, saying: “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box.”The apparent change of course follows polling indicators that the conviction may sway potential swing voters, widely deemed crucial in a close race. A fresh poll for Politico shows 21% of independent voters saying it makes them less likely to vote for him in November – a potentially decisive factor in a contest in which opinion surveys have shown the two candidates running neck-and-neck, with Trump leading narrowly in many instances.The poll also recorded 43% of voters as believing that the verdict was intended to help Biden.One of Trump’s leading surrogates, the Florida congressman Byron Donalds, who has been tipped as a potential vice-presidential contender, called on the US supreme court – which has a six-to-three conservative majority, largely because of Trump’s nomination of conservative justices while he was president – to reverse the conviction, despite it having no jurisdiction over state cases.“In New York, the only ability for this to be overturned … is going to be happening two or three years from now,” he told NBC’s Meet The Press.“That’s why what happened in lower Manhattan was to interfere with an election, which is why Speaker [Mike] Johnson, myself included, and many Americans believe the supreme court should step in to this matter.”At a fundraising event in Los Angeles, attended by former president Barack Obama, and actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Biden told the comedian Jimmy Kimmel that a Trump victory would result in at least two more conservative justices being appointed to the supreme court, which he said would be “very negative in terms of the rights of individuals”. More

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    Donald Trump looking for ‘fighter’ as Republican running mate

    Donald Trump is looking for a “fighter” as his running mate in this year’s presidential election and regards factors such as their gender or race as irrelevant, according to sources close to the former US president.Conventional wisdom used to hold that Trump was likely to choose a woman or a person of color as his potential vice-president in an effort to broaden his appeal. But aides close to the presumptive Republican nominee currently say he will not take so-called identity politics into account.Instead, Trump, who is still trying to make up his mind, wants a candidate who is media-savvy and will fight for him on adversarial TV networks. “In short,” a Trump ally said, “he wants someone who is everything Mike Pence wasn’t.”Former vice-president was a valuable asset during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns – the Christian conservative who shored up support among Republicans suspicious of the thrice-married reality TV star. But Pence’s refusal to comply with Trump’s demand to overturn the 2020 election led to a falling out and made Pence a target of the January 6 rioters.Trump is seeking a “Goldilocks” running mate this time: strong but loyal, in tune with Maga but not over-rehearsed, telegenic but not likely to outshine him. His choice will go up against Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice-president.But his campaign does not regard having a Black candidate – such as Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina – as intrinsically helpful, preferring to reach voters of color through community outreach and policy plans. A source said the campaign hears from Black voters that identity politics matter less to them than the economy and community safety.Biden is 81 while Trump turned 78 on Friday. Both candidates have already served one term, putting more focus on the vice-presidency than in a typical election year. Fifteen vice-presidents have gone on to be president, eight of whom succeeded to the office upon the death of the incumbent.View image in fullscreenJim McLaughlin, a former pollster for Trump, said: “It’s got to be somebody that he knows can be the president of the United States because – he hasn’t said this but other people are saying this – this could be a person that’s in the White House for the next 12 years, so he understands the importance of that.”Speaking on a panel in Washington organised by polling firm JL Partners, McLaughlin added: “I think it’s also somebody who definitely believes in his agenda. I don’t think he’s going to go for somebody to have some sort of an ideological or necessarily political balance.“He’s going to want an ‘America first’ Republican to be his nominee. I get calls a lot of times from candidates: ‘Can you help me with the Trump endorsement?’ My first question to them is: what kind of relationship do you have with him? Because loyalty is huge with him. It’s got to be somebody he is comfortable with as a person.”Earlier this month, ABC News reported that Trump’s campaign had started a process of formally requesting information from a small handful of potential running mates. It named Doug Burgum, the governor of North Dakota; JD Vance, a senator for Ohio; and Marco Rubio, a senator for Florida.Speculation around Burgum, a 67-year-old multimillionaire businessman, has been gathering momentum in recent weeks, culminating in an 1,800-word profile in the New York Times. The article included details such as Burgum having worked as a chimney sweep in college, wearing a black-top hat and tails to evoke Dick Van Dyke’s character in the film Mary Poppins.View image in fullscreenRubio, 53, a son of Cuban immigrants, could potentially help the former president peel away Latino voters from Biden and, as the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, brings foreign policy experience. The US constitution poses a headache, however, since it bans electors from selecting a president and vice-president from the same state – and both Trump and Rubio call Florida home.Vance, 39, rose to fame in 2016 with his memoir Hillbilly Elegy about growing up poor in Appalachia. That year, he was a fierce critic of Trump, at one point calling him “cultural heroin”. Since 2018, however, he has embraced the 45th president and befriended his son, Don Jr. Vance is seen as an intellectual standard bearer for the ‘America first’ ideology with a connection to blue-collar voters.Reed Galen, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, said: “Vance tends to make the most sense. There’s the anti-Trump video that will be played a million times, but everyone’s got something like that now probably except for Ben Carson. But Vance seems to me to be the person who can bring youth to the ticket. He can lay back on that Hillbilly Elegy bootstraps bullshit that Republicans love.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionHe added: “Trump is certainly more dynamic on stage because he’s nuts – he’s a coked-up Tasmanian devil – but I would venture to say that, for a lot of Republicans, Vance reminds them of a Republican party that they want. Burgum’s boring but he’s got money. He’s not going to hurt you. He’ll do whatever he’s told. I think Vance would, too.”Other contenders include former housing secretary Ben Carson, the senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the representative Byron Donalds of Florida, the former Democratic representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, the Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the representative Elise Stefanik of New York. Scott, of South Carolina, who is African American, challenged Trump in the Republican primary race but is now a staunch advocate.View image in fullscreenAsked by the Newsmax network recently whether he is close to choosing a running mate, Trump replied: “I thought Tim Scott didn’t run as good of a race as he’s capable of running for himself, but as a surrogate for me, he’s unbelievable. He’s been incredible. Governor Burgum from North Dakota has been incredible. Marco Rubio has been great. JD Vance has been great. We’ve had so many great people out there.”Trump has ruled out Nikki Haley, his former US ambassador to the UN, who eviscerated him during the primaries but now says she will vote for him. Another potential pick, Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, is widely seen has having disqualified herself after writing in a memoir that she shot dead an “untrainable” dog that she “hated” on her family farm.Trump is expected to make the announcement at next month’s Republican national convention in Milwaukee. Given his mercurial nature and flair for theatricality, anything is possible. The names circulated by Trump, his campaign and the media might yet be upstaged by an entirely unexpected nominee.Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center thinktank in Washington, said: “It would not at all surprise me if Trump were to pull a name out of left and right field that he’s really been looking at and this is an entire misdirection.”Will it matter? Not much, if history is any guide. Olsen added: “If somebody is going to move the needle for Trump, it’s going to be somebody like a woman or a Black person. I guess I just won’t predict that because it’s quite clear going back decades that the identity of a vice-presidential nominee has a very limited and regional effect, if it has an effect at all.“You can be somebody who is callow and unprepared for office, like Dan Quayle, and George Herbert Walker Bush still comes from 17 points behind to win a comfortable seven-point victory. You can be somebody who clearly is out of her depth, like Sarah Palin – John McCain still rises or falls on his own merits, not Palin’s problems.” More