Friday Talking Points -- M.T.G. Threatens An M.T.V.

[ Posted Friday, March 22nd, 2024 – 18:18 UTC ]

For once, big things are actually happening in Congress. No, really!

As we write this, the House has passed the final budget bill for this fiscal year (by a vote of 286-134) and sent it over to the Senate. The Senate may pass it tonight, if senators like Rand Paul can restrain their natural urge to be total [insert favorite plural derogatory expletive here]. If they do throw a monkey wrench into the works, we could have a very short-lived partial government shutdown, but if it gets resolved before the weekend is over then it won't do much damage at all. Either way, the bill's got the votes to pass the Senate, so it's now only a matter of time until President Joe Biden can sign it and the budget that was supposed to be in place on the first of October last year will finally be finished.

The bigger news, though, is that Representative Marjorie "Three-Names" Taylor Greene expressed her displeasure with Speaker Mike Johnson by filing a "motion to vacate the chair," which may result in a no-confidence vote when the House returns after one of its many, many two-week vacations. We say "may" there because the way Greene filed her motion-to-vacate (which waggish headline-writers are already calling the "MTG MTV") doesn't actually force a vote on any schedule. If she had filed it as "privileged," it would have to be acted on within 48 hours, but she decided not to -- which means she can just hold it over Johnson's head as a threat and then move to vote on it whenever she feels like.

We've said all along -- from the moment he was chosen speaker after an excruciating couple weeks of voting -- that Johnson's chances of surviving the entire budget process were no more than 50-50, so we're not exactly surprised by this development. However, there are two interesting dynamics at play this time. First, the other Republicans (even some of the hotheads) don't seem to be leaping to back Greene's tantrum. As things stand right now, Johnson could only lose two GOP votes and still manage to cobble together a majority -- but that will get even more precarious next month, as yet another Republican (Mike Gallagher) has decided to head for the exit early. When Gallagher leaves, Johnson will only be able to lose a single vote -- the smallest of majorities that is even possible.

But that's not the really interesting part. This time around, Democrats may save Johnson's bacon, because they have some leverage that they would dearly like to use. Rumors are already flying that enough Democrats would vote in such a manner to allow Johnson to survive the no-confidence vote -- if he brings the Ukraine military aid bill that passed the Senate up for a House floor vote. The more time that passes without some sort of aid bill the more dire things get for the Ukrainians, so forcing a quick vote might be enough for Democrats to save his speakership in return. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out (in two weeks' time, of course, after yet another of their generous vacations).

Perhaps in the spirit of bipartisanship (heh), Democrats heaped praise on Greene this week, agreeing wholeheartedly with something she tweeted out. Democrats leapt to support Greene (for obvious reasons) after she admitted: "Our Republican majority is a complete failure."

Turning our attention to the campaign trail, the White House started off the week by inviting an absolute passel of Kennedys to drop by for St. Patrick's Day, and at least 49 of them showed up -- a real showing of family strength and solidarity for Biden (which must have been embarrassing for R.F.K. Jr.).

Some more primaries were held this week, and while both Joe Biden and Donald Trump won a bunch more delegates, the real story (as far as we were concerned) was the fact that even though the mainstream media has been shining a spotlight on "protest votes" against Biden in his primaries, Trump is actually doing a lot worse on the same metric -- over one in five Republicans are refusing to vote for him in the Republican primaries, which certainly seems to signal an "enthusiasm gap" on the GOP side. Biden is also doing a whole lot better with fundraising than Trump, but then again he doesn't have to shell out millions and millions of dollars to legal teams defending him in court.

Biden will be appearing this weekend with both Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, to celebrate the successes of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise affectionately known as Obamacare. The more we see of Obama on stage with Biden the better, obviously, so we certainly hope this becomes a regular thing.

Biden also rolled out another $5.8 billion in student debt forgiveness this week, bringing his totals to almost four million students helped out to the tune of $144 billion. And Biden unveiled an $8.5 billion investment in Arizona in Intel computer chip factories, which is a direct result of Biden's legislative accomplishments. All around, Biden seems to have ratcheted his campaign pace up a few notches, which is certainly a reassuring thing to see.

Team Biden also seems to be doing a good job at quickly producing ads to highlight the many times when Trump says something outlandish, responding immediately to Trump's suggestion that he'd be open to cutting both Social Security and Medicare. They also put an ad out after Trump warned of a "bloodbath" should he not be elected, to remind everyone that Trump regularly says frightening things of this nature.

Trump is now considering backing a national abortion ban (although he still hasn't decided on 15 weeks or 16, it seems) and is out there telling American Jews that they "hate their religion" if they vote for Democrats, both of which also seem ripe for a Biden ad to spotlight.

Then there's always the thorny issue (for Republicans) of in-vitro fertilization and how they cannot square supporting it with their insistence that "life begins at conception." Democratic governors and other down-ballot Democrats are already attacking Republicans for their doublethink on the issue, which is also a good thing to campaign on this year.

Moving on to our "Trump legal woes" segment of our weekly round-up, Trump's lawyers this week filed paperwork pleading poverty (which certainly amused many). They swore he just didn't have the half-billion dollars he's supposed to put up by Monday and begged for some sort of relief from the courts. If he doesn't put up a bond, the New York attorney general could start seizing his property -- freezing bank accounts, putting liens on real estate, and (our favorite) perhaps even seizing Trump's own personal airplane. Trump did get some good news on his finances, as his pet social media company seems about to hit the stock markets (which will give Trump a bonanza, since he owns most of the stock), but he won't actually be able to cash in on it for at least six months, so this may not help him at all before Monday dawns.

Trump, being Trump, then undercut all his lawyers by sending out a message claiming that he's got the $500 million just lying around in cash, which means either he is lying his face off or his lawyers were lying in their court filing which clearly stated that Trump does not have that much cash on hand. Trump is always Trump's own worst enemy, as usual.

Of course, nobody knows at this point how this is all going to work out on Monday, but there is one scenario which is beyond disturbing -- what if some foreign government were to put up the money Trump needs? What if his buddy Vladimir Putin or some oil emirate ponies up the half-billion? That would represent the most serious national security risk imaginable if Trump actually wins the presidency once again.

What else? Trump lost most of his motions in his porn-star hush-money case, meaning both Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels will indeed be able to testify in front of the jury. Trump, in a fit of pique, sued ABC and George Stephanopoulos, which will (no doubt) be laughed out of court just like all the other baseless defamation cases Trump has filed over the years.

And as the icing on the legal cake, Peter Navarro turned himself in to a federal prison to begin serving his sentence for contempt of Congress this week, making him the first (but hopefully not the last) Trump toady to go to jail for all the crimes committed before, during, and after Trump's presidency. That seems like a good place to end on this week....


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Before we get to the main award, we have a Honorable Mention to hand out first.

House Republicans forged ahead with their impeachment inquiry this week, and once again all they achieved was completely beclowning themselves. Don't believe me? Here is conservative commentator Charlie Sykes on how it all went:

It is one thing to say that this thing is falling apart, but that actually understates how horrifically bad this is. I mean, this was dumb and dumber. Lev Parnas coming out and just humiliating this committee.

Parnas was one of the witnesses, who later laid out how Russian propaganda had a clear pipeline to the American public straight through Fox News.

But Representative Jared Moskowitz at least provided some comic relief during the hearing. The Florida Democrat absolutely taunted the chair of the committee, Representative James Comer, by absolutely daring him to hold an immediate impeachment vote:

"If these hearings were a success, right, if what we've been doing for the last 15 months had convinced the American people that Joe Biden committed a high crime and misdemeanor, you can be damn sure they would have called the vote by now, right?" Moskowitz said, suggesting that Republicans lack evidence in their impeachment inquiry.

. . .

"They haven't proven he committed a high crime and misdemeanor. Otherwise, we would call for impeachment," said Moskowitz, who had showed up to the hearing wearing a mask of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Moskowitz then decided to troll Comer by asking for him to support a motion to impeach Biden.

"I just think we should do it today," Moskowitz said. "Let's just call for it. I'll make the motion, Mr. Chairman. I want to help you out. You can second it, right? Make the motion to impeach President Biden. Go ahead. It's your turn. You second it."

Comer stayed silent.

"No? Nothing? OK, we got nothing." Moskowitz said mockingly.

For taunting Comer right to his face, Moskowitz certainly deserves at least an Honorable Mention, don't you think?

But snarkiness aside, our winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week had a much more serious moment by sharing a very painful and personal decision in order to point out how the politics of abortion has very real human consequences to millions of women. Here is an excerpt of an article about Arizona state Senator Eva Burch's floor speech (or you can watch video excerpts for yourself):

When Eva Burch learned recently that she would lose another pregnancy, she felt exhausted.

The Arizona state senator had struggled with fertility for years, suffering a miscarriage more than a decade ago and getting an abortion after experiencing a nonviable pregnancy in 2022. She and her husband knew there was a chance her current pregnancy would not be viable. And after a medical provider told her that she would not be able to deliver a healthy baby, she knew she would seek another abortion.

This time, Burch and her husband also made another difficult decision: She would tell the Arizona Senate about her plan to end her pregnancy -- and how the state's abortion restrictions made it more painful.

. . .

On Monday, she shared her story in a 10-minute speech on the Senate floor. Voice shaking, Burch told her colleagues that she'd visited a clinic on Friday where she was given an invasive ultrasound and counseling on alternatives to abortion, despite already knowing her pregnancy was not viable. Required under Arizona law, those experiences, Burch said in the speech, were "cruel."

She went on to warn that "the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world. There's no one-size-fits-all script for people seeking abortion care, and the legislature doesn't have any right to assign one." She was "forced to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound that she did not want" and then told of alternatives such as adoption that were not even options for a non-viable pregnancy like hers. All because the state passed laws mandating such things. Which is why she felt she was the "perfect example of why this relationship should between patients and providers."

This was an incredibly brave thing to do. No woman should have to go through what she went through, either in the doctor's office or on the floor of the state senate. This should truly be a private decision and neither the doctor nor the woman should be forced to jump through hoops before this decision is made.

Arizona may have a state constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion rights on the ballot for voters to decide upon this November. So this is not just incredibly important to Burch right now, it is also incredibly important to all the voters of Arizona.

Sharing her story in such a public way was very brave and a very impressive thing to do. The more women share such stories, the more the public has to confront the reality that abortion isn't some one-size-fits-all issue, and that it is different for every woman facing the choice. Eva Burch demonstrated how personal a decision it truly is and why the politicians have no right to be interfering in it. Which is why she is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Arizona state Senator Eva Burch via her Arizona Senate official webpage, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We also have a (Dis-)Honorable Mention to hand out this week. David Trone, who is running for the Democratic nomination in an open Senate race in Maryland this year (and who is also White, just for the record), stuck his foot in his mouth with a disastrous gaffe. While speaking about corporate tax rates, he (quite obviously) meant to use the term "bugaboo," but instead he came up with an incredibly offensive racial slur:

"So this Republican jigaboo that it's the tax rate that's stopping business investment, it's just completely faulty by people who have never run a business," he said during a House Budget Committee hearing. "They've never been there. They don't have a clue what they're talking about."

He has repeatedly apologized for his error -- and it pretty obviously was an error (since the slur made no sense whatsoever in the sentence he used) -- so there's not a whole lot more to say about it.

This week, we're giving the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week as a group award, to "the entire New Jersey Democratic political machine." We certainly weren't aware of the ins and outs of how Democrats in New Jersey get elected before now, but we have to say that it needs to change as fast as possible.

Here's how it works. Primary ballots in New Jersey are not arranged in a fair way. There's simply no other way to put it. In most states, the order of how candidates' names appear on the ballot is randomized -- often randomized in each county to further improve fairness. This is because the name which appears first on the ballot has a built-in advantage. People who have no idea who to vote for often just pick the first name they see. So you can't even arrange them alphabetically, since an "Aberdeen" would have a clear advantage over (as just a random example... ahem...) a "Weigant."

In New Jersey, it's even worse than that advantage, though. Because each county's Democratic machine is in charge of how the ballot is arranged. And they choose which candidate to favor -- either by voting on it within the party or (in some counties) just in a proverbial smoke-filled back room. The first line (or column, in some cases) is known as "the line" and the party bosses control who gets to appear on it.

This is so unfair that the Democratic attorney general of the state just announced he cannot defend the practice in court because it is "unconstitutional." One of the Democratic candidates for Senate, Andy Kim, is suing to end the practice entirely. Here's the story:

New Jersey's ballot design process is unlike any other in the nation -- it allows parties to place their endorsed candidates in a specific portion of the ballot known as "the line," while candidates running without their party's endorsement appear in a different section of the ballot, farther down from where voters can see their names.

In his lawsuit, [Representative Andy] Kim claims that New Jersey's unique ballot-design process violates the U.S. Constitution by favoring candidates "who happen to be endorsed by a faction of a party's leadership." Such design choices, the lawsuit claims, "cynically" manipulate voters and are "anathema to fair elections."

The attorney general called that feature "unconstitutional" in a letter Sunday to U.S. District Judge Zahid N. Quraishi. "This is an exceptional case, justifying the Attorney General's exceptionally rare decision not to defend the constitutionality of the challenged statutes," the letter states. The result of the ballot design is that "it is often impossible for unbracketed, non-pivot office candidates to secure an earlier position on the ballot compared to their bracketed competitors," [New Jersey Attorney General Matthew] Platkin's letter says. "These features of grid balloting and bracketing also have allowed unbracketed candidates to be placed at the end of a ballot with multiple blank spaces separating them from their competitors, which creates the phenomenon known as 'ballot Siberia.'"

There is thus "an electoral advantage for candidates who bracket and a corresponding disadvantage for candidates who do not," according to the letter.

Here's a local news article with an image of one of these ballots (where the names are arranged by column, not by line, but the advantage is still just as clear).

This practice is so obviously unfair that the state legislature is slowly realizing that they're going to have to do something about it. They're not exactly sure what, or when they will address it, but the embarrassment factor seems to already be through the roof.

When the state attorney general -- from your own party -- refuses to defend the party machine's unfairness, you know it's bad. And it is. So bad, in fact, that the entire New Jersey Democratic Party machine is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

[Contact the New Jersey Democratic Party via their official webpage, to let them know what you think of their actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 744 (3/22/24)

We begin this week's talking points with an open question. Because there is a political tactic which has become so common (at least on the Democratic side) that it really deserves a snappy name. But as far as we can tell, nobody's slapped a catchy moniker on it yet, even though it deserves something on the order of "the full Ginsberg," which (of course) refers to any politician making the full rounds of all the Sunday morning political shows on the same day.

The nameless tactic just bore fruit again this week, as Ohio voted for an extreme MAGA Republican over one who had been supported by the party bigwigs. Democrats wanted this outcome to happen, so they spent some advertising money to actually boost his chances.

These type of ads have a thin veneer of "plausible deniability," since they almost always say something like: "Candidate X is too conservative for our state!" This means the Democrat paying for the ad (or whatever super PAC or other group) can claim: "No, no, we're not trying to help him, we're warning voters about him!" but the real effect is it motivates GOP voters to support the candidate over other GOP candidates who are more moderate. This usually makes it easier for the Democrat to win the general election, since extremism turns off a certain segment of the voters.

It happens every election cycle, these days. Newspapers routinely use the word "meddling" in headlines describing the tactic, but that just somehow doesn't seem good enough -- it needs a more-specific (and less Scooby Doo-ish) name. The only other political term that is even close is too broad, too petty, and too profane to really work (since "ratfucking" is not going to make it into many headlines, for obvious reasons).

We must admit we haven't done our homework and looked up who the first Democrat was to utilize this tactic. Or their opponent. Either name could work, really. But when we tried to free-associate something not tied to an actual name, we must admit we didn't come up with anything. So we're throwing it open to our readers -- what would you call the tactic of running ads that boost an extreme opponent in a backhanded way? There seems to be an obvious need for a neologism here, and (rather astonishingly) the entire rest of the punditverse has yet to fill this need, so toss out any ideas you may have!

OK, with that out of the way, let's move on to the talking points.

The Biden campaign team tweeted out a thread this week that was so damning we almost used quotes from it as our entire talking points segment (but then that would be lazy, so we decided not to). Check it out if you have forgotten how many people who worked directly for the Trump administration now say things like Trump "threatens our democracy" or "is unfit to be president." And that's not even counting the fact that Trump's own vice president refused to endorse him this week -- which is a major embarrassment, you've got to admit.

Instead, we're going to devote all our talking points to stomping some hobnailed boots on Republicans who think they're being cute by using Ronald Reagan's famous line: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

The problem, for these Republicans, is the calendar itself. All the supporters of Donald Trump have conveniently thrown all of 2020 down the Memory Hole, since they would much prefer everyone just think about the first three years of his term -- before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. But strike it did, and four years ago right now was just not a fun place to be.

Both the folks at Meidas Touch and the Biden campaign immediately cut ads to refute such "blowing sunshine up your skirt" nonsense. Both are worth watching. Which is why we're answering back with our own talking points to remind Americans precisely where we were four years ago -- and who was to blame for how it all unfolded.


   Remember the lockdown?

Let's start with an overview.

"I hear Republicans asking if I'm better off now than I was four years ago, as they try to get Donald Trump elected again. Well, I don't know about you, but four years ago was exactly when the American economy went into a tailspin, with more people unemployed than at any time since the Great Depression. Remember the days of the lockdown? Remember the streets being empty and businesses being shut? I do. And yeah, I am better off now than I was then."


   Get out the sanitizer

Remember what everyday life was like?

"Remember sterilizing everything that came into your house? Running a U.V. light over your mail? Wiping down all your groceries with Lysol? Remember that? Because I for one sure don't want to go back to those days."


   T.P., not concert tickets

Personally, this is the memory that won't be forgotten any time soon.

"Remember when there was a dire shortage of paper products? I remember lining up at the local Safeway at 5:30 in the morning, getting in line to buy some toilet paper. The only other time in my life I've lined up at that hour of the morning it was to buy concert tickets for a show that was guaranteed to sell out. But there I was -- shivering in the cold just to have something to wipe my butt with. Yeah, no thanks, I don't want to go back to those days."


   Remember the leadership void?

Let's make it a little more personal, shall we?

"Remember President Donald Trump actually refusing to admit that a pandemic was even happening? Remember him wasting months because he didn't want himself to look bad? He didn't care that thousands were dying, he didn't care that medical supplies were impossible to obtain, he didn't care about any of it -- instead he just flat-out lied to the American public about how it would all magically somehow go away on its own. Guess what? It didn't. Imagine how much better things would have been if we had had a president who was capable of showing an ounce of leadership instead of worrying about his poll numbers. Yeah, I definitely don't want that to happen again."


   Remember the Hunger Games?

This was the absolute worst.

"Remember Trump refusing to use the power of the federal government to help out the states? Remember him setting all the governors against each other in some twisted Hunger Games fight for masks and ventilators and test kits? Remember when one governor called out his National Guard to protect a planeload of COVID tests that he had had flown in from South Korea -- so the federal government wouldn't steal them all? Yeah, that happened. In the United States of America. And, no, I never want to see anything like that happen again. We are better than that -- or we should be, as long as we don't put Trump back in charge."


   Remember Trump being an idiot?

This is just the worst example of it, mind you.

"Remember Trump trying to give COVID briefings even though it was painfully obvious that he didn't have a clue what he was talking about? Remember the medical professionals squirming in the same room, listening to his dangerous nonsense? Remember Trump casually musing about injecting bleach or somehow shining some sunlight inside people's lungs? I want a president who is capable of understanding complex issues, or at the very least able to let the experts speak for themselves. Trump is incapable of doing either of those things, in case anyone's forgotten."


   How many needlessly died?

This is the real question at the root of all the others.

"How many thousands upon thousands of people needlessly died because of Trump's delays and lack of leadership? America was the worst country on the planet in terms of the COVID death rate, and a large part of that has to be laid at Trump's feet. Remember bodies stacked up? Remember thousands dying every single day? Remember that over a million people died here? I do. And I never ever want that to happen again. I want a leader who takes human life seriously to be president. I want a leader who shows some humanity and some empathy, not some blowhard who is incapable of seeing past his own self-interest. I want anybody but Donald Trump to be president, so you can just take your 'are you better off than you were four years ago' and stick it where the sun don't shine, OK? Because pretty much anything would be better than reliving 2020."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


11 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- M.T.G. Threatens An M.T.V.”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Thank you!!!

  2. [2] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    This week's MIDOW award is *absolutely* deserved.

    Arizona state Senator Eva Burch, and all women who publicly acknowledge what *should be* a private medical decision, show great courage.

    IMO the MEN whose partners choose abortion should also be speaking out - with their partner's consent of course. Abortion affects everyone in the family, after all. The parents of the woman, other siblings, even close friends.

    Of course, this can't happen in the current environment, where speaking out makes one an immediate target for the trolls of the twitterspere (or worse).

  3. [3] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    While I have no idea what their political affiliation, we can hope that MOST of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's family are Democrats. They deserve at least an honorable mention for MIDOW for killing the RBG award to king trolls.
    'Among the critics were Ginsburg’s own family members, who wrote a letter to the foundation calling the list of honorees an “affront” to the late Supreme Court justice’s memory. Her son, Jim Ginsburg, told NPR that Musk and Murdoch “are antithetical to everything Mom stood for.”'

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    But that's not the really interesting part. This time around, Democrats may save Johnson's bacon, because they have some leverage that they would dearly like to use. Rumors are already flying that enough Democrats would vote in such a manner to allow Johnson to survive the no-confidence vote -- if he brings the Ukraine military aid bill that passed the Senate up for a House floor vote. The more time that passes without some sort of aid bill the more dire things get for the Ukrainians, so forcing a quick vote might be enough for Democrats to save his speakership in return.

    How crass this must seem to Ukrainians.

  5. [5] 
    dsws wrote:

    I don't remember, did I ever get a substantive response about "Three-Names"?My old comment

    As always, Russia delenda est.

  6. [6] 
    dsws wrote:

    Huh. <br> gives a line break in the preview, but not in the actual comment.

  7. [7] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    There is a third option regarding Trump's seeming contradiction of his lawyers' filing that he didn't have the money to pay the judgment. Both could be true, Trump didn't have the money when his lawyers made their filing, but got it from some outside source shortly after and prior to his social media statement. It's been widely speculated that some wealthy entity could pay off Trump's judgment as a means of gaining leverage on him after all, so we shouldn't rule out that exactly that happened.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well, the budget seems to have been successfully navigated. i'm sure Donald is disappointed.

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:

    Trump is now considering backing a national abortion ban (although he still hasn't decided on 15 weeks or 16, it seems) and is out there telling American Jews that they "hate their religion" if they vote for Democrats, both of which also seem ripe for a Biden ad to spotlight.

    I guess it never occurred to the Two Corinthians Con that they don't "hate their religion" or "hate Israel," maybe they just "hate" Trump and also how it would be a cold day in Hell before anyone of any faith would listen to a grifting swindling self-aggrandizing foul-mouthed thrice married philandering serial adulterer and adjudicated rapist for any explanation whatsoever regarding religion.

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    Moving on to our "Trump legal woes" segment of our weekly round-up, Trump's lawyers this week filed paperwork pleading poverty (which certainly amused many). They swore he just didn't have the half-billion dollars he's supposed to put up by Monday and begged for some sort of relief from the courts.

    I saw that "Don Poorleone" was trending on Xitter.

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Trump lost most of his motions in his porn-star hush-money case, meaning both Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels will indeed be able to testify in front of the jury.

    He also just lost a motion to delay (again), and jury selection begins in three weeks on April 15 in the fraud case wherein Trump et alia conspired and entered into an agreement with David Pecker/American Media to "catch and kill" stories that could harm Trump's 2016 campaign and then falsified business records (34 counts) in order to cover up the payments to multiple persons with whom he had extramarital affairs. The reimbursements were disguised as a legal retainer, which they were definitely not.

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