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Interrupting coverage of the war | ticker VIEWS

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… To bring you these under-the-radar political notes from the US

The extraordinarily tragic war in Ukraine has side-lined political news out of Washington and the US. 

Here are a few items worth paying attention to in these very confronting times:

  • Virginia Thomas, wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a forceful conservative political activist in her own right, was in direct touch with Mark Meadows, White house Chief of Staff, throughout President Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election.  
Virginia Thomas

The text messages were included in Meadows’ provision of his phone records to the House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection. 

Meadows cooperated for a time with the Select Committee, and then ceased providing materials of record.  Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who co-wrote PERIL on Trump’s last year in office, broke the story for the Washington Post:

“Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline

Between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

On Nov. 10, after news organizations had projected Joe Biden the winner based on state vote totals, Thomas wrote to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Ms Thomas has every right to speak her mind on any issue.  But these texts reveal she was a player in advising Meadows on Trumps strategy to “stop the steal.” 

Those machinations would find their way to the Supreme Court, where her husband would – and did – rule on Trump lawsuits to throw out the election.  Justice Thomas did not recuse himself from those cases.

What to watch for:

Will the House Committee subpoena Ms Thomas to testify on what she did and whether she worked with her husband?  Will Justice Thomas take unilateral steps to recuse himself from any further participation in Trump-related cases before the Supreme Court? Public hearings on all the Select Committee’s work will occur in the next few weeks.  They will be explosive.

  • Trump dumps Brooks.  President Trump has endorsed dozens of Republican candidates for House and Senate races in the upcoming midterm elections.  
Trump dumps Brooks.

If Trump-backed candidates win, and if Republicans take control of the House or Senate or both, Trump will claim credit for the Republican wave and further boost his prospects for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Rep. Mel Brooks of Alabama was a huge Trump backer.  He appeared onstage at the rally January 6 that helped incite the Trump mob to attack the Capitol. Trump endorsed Brooks for his run at the open Senate seat in Alabama.  But Brooks has been polling badly, and Trump pulled his endorsement last week.  Brooks is angry, and went public on what Trump expected him to do in return for the endorsement:

“President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”

What to watch for:

This is shocking stuff.  First, the only way Biden can be removed as president is by impeachment, and that will not happen. 

Second, there is no way that Brooks or anyone else can put Trump back into the White House – only the American people can do that.  Third, there are no “special elections” in the United States for the presidency.  What this episode shows is how Trump is increasingly fixated on 2020, more than he is in looking beyond the 2024 election – and this obsession of Trump’s is becoming a bigger issue for many rank-and-file Republicans.

  • Republicans look very strong heading into the midterms.  New polling shows growing Republican support in 77 key swing districts across the country.  They need a net gain of only five seats to take control of the House.

Politico is reporting:

Republicans lead the generic ballot by 4 points. Biden won these battleground seats by an average of 5.5 points.  In these districts, 75% of swing voters say Democrats are “out of touch” or “condescending.” About two-thirds say Democrats are spending too much money in Washington.  Biden’s net approval rating in these districts is -15. About 40% of voters in these seats approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 55% disapprove. Among independent voters, his net approval is -32 — a 34-point swing since February 2021 from a group that often dictates which party holds the House majority. And among Hispanic voters, his net approval is -10, a drop of 31 points in the same time frame. Economic concerns substantially advantage the GOP. Voters who identified jobs/the economy as their No. 1 concern favor Republicans by 20 points on the generic ballot. Among those who put “cost of living” at the top, Republicans are at a 24-point advantage. 

What to watch for

Continuing Republican pressure on what they believe are the killer issues for them in November:  inflation, gasoline prices, crime in the cities, immigration at the southern border, what woke progressives are teaching children in schools, especially on racial issues, transgender sports, new laws to restrict abortion.  Republicans firmly believe these hot button issues will drive their voters to the polls – and President Biden’s approval remains well under 50%.

  • She’s baaack?!  Don Young, Alaska’s solo member of the House of Representatives and the longest-serving member of the current House (elected 1973), died last week at 88.  His seat will be filled in the November election.
Don Young

It looks like Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who was John McCain’s incendiary vice-presidential running mate in 2008, and who famously said she could see Russia from her backyard, is positioning to run.  Here’s what she told Sean Hannity on Fox last week:

“I’m going to throw my hat in the ring because we need people that have cajones. We need people like Donald Trump who has nothing to lose like me. We got nothing to lose and no more of this vanilla milquetoast namby-pamby wussy pussy stuff”

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor

What to watch for

Whether her pre-formal-entry stunting is enough to scare off other challengers and whether she still has strong appeal in the state.  The special election is likely to be held well before November.

Which is a good note on which to bring this special edition to a close.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Disney vs Netflix – who will win the streaming revenue raise?

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Netflix and Disney shares fall as the streaming companies fight to stay on top of their game

Investors to evaluate Walt Disney’s shift from cable television to subscription service as the company’s shares fall by 31 percent.

This comes after Netflix announced its first ever decrease in subscribers last month. The company reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers in its first quarter while predicting more losses ahead.

Netflix’s decision to suspend its services in Russia also led to a loss of 700,000 subscribers. It’s shares have also fallen by a staggering 71 percent this year, a bigger loss than its competitor Disney.

While Netflix struggles with its subscriber count, FactSet Estimates predicts Disney+ to have attracted 5.3 million new subscribers through march leading to a total of about 135.1 million subscribers.

Disney also predicts it will have amassed more than 230 million subscribers by September 2024.

Netflix is reportedly considering adding an advertisement-based subscription option by the end of the year as the company looks at how to stay competitive in the increasingly saturated streaming market.

In a previous statement, Netflix’s chief executive said they were looking to introduce advertisements in a year or two but a leaked internal note to the employees has revealed the company is introducing it as early as October 2022.

The note also says Netflix will begin cracking down on password sharing by monetizing it.

All of this has resulted in Netflix being sued by shareholders who argue they have been mislead about the state of the company and future prospects.

Rijul Baath contributed to this report

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Biden on his bike for 2024

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Before President Joe Biden fell from his bike while dismounting in Rehoboth Delaware – at his summer home for his 45th anniversary celebrations with Dr Jill Biden and Fathers Day on Sunday – he had a lot on his mind

Bruce Wolpe joins ticker NEWS – Donald Trump teases 2024 presidential bid

When he spoke to the Associated Press late last week he was very candid. 

In discussing the mood of the country, the president said

“ People are really, really down. They’re really down. Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset. Everything they counted on upset. But most of it’s a consequence of, of, of what’s happening, what happened is a consequence of the, the COVID crisis.

People lost their jobs. People are out of their jobs. And then, were they going to get back to work? Schools were closed. Think of this. I think we vastly underestimate this.”

BIDEN FALLS OFF BIKE

As a politician, Biden has always felt the people who he works for in his gut

The White House can be a bubble, but Biden’s was a pretty accurate take on how so many Americans are feeling right now. He went deeper:

“We have a little thing called climate change going on. And it’s having profound impacts. We got the tundra melting. We’ve got the North Pole, I mean, so people are looking and, and I think it’s totally understandable that they are worried because they look around and see,

“My God, everything is changing.” We have more hurricanes and tornadoes and flooding. People saw what — I took my kids years ago to Yellowstone Park. They call me, “Daddy did you see what happened at Yellowstone, right?” Well, it’s unthinkable. These are 1,000-year kinds of events.

I think, you know, I fully understand why the average voter out there is just confused and upset and worried. And they’re worried, for example, you know, can they send their kid back to, back to college? What’s going to happen? Are we going to take away the ability of people to borrow? So I think there’s a lot of reasons for people to want to know what comes next.”

Biden talked about his legislative program, and he thinks he can get the votes to lower the household costs of utility bills and prescription drugs, make investments in technology and broadband, and enact fairer taxes for the super-wealthy.  

Biden knows he has to deliver the goods. 

While the political chatter in Washington lurched into making his stumble off the bike a metaphor for his presidency right now, Biden immediately got back on it and pedaled ahead to his destination:  re-election in 2024.

There is a lot of speculation on whether he will run again. 

Here are the facts:  Biden wants to run again.  He especially wants to run again if Trump runs again.  Biden entered the presidential campaign in 2020 because he felt he had to save the country by stopping Trump from destroying America’s democracy.  And he did. Trump in 2024 only re-ignites the urgency of Biden’s mission.

There is no whispering from inside the White House undermining or contradicting the president’s intention. Among political professionals, there no material dissent from the judgment that Biden is the strongest Democratic candidate:  there is no obvious alternative who commands anything near the support Biden has among Democrats.  

Biden knows his approval rating.  He knows the Republicans smell blood. He knows many Democrats who voted for him have doubts given his age and his current standing.  But Biden knows that inflation will recede, the economy will recover, and the Republicans in 2023 will be the most extremist cohort of radical lawmakers the country has ever seen, and  that the place to be is in the centre, where elections in the United States are won and lost.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina

Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the third ranking leader in the House, whose support for Biden effectively sealed Biden’s nomination in 2020, said over the weekend   “My advice: be yourself, stay focused. Make the promises and keep them.”

That is exactly where Biden is.  To Joe Biden that looks like the winning hand in ’24.

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EXCLUSIVE: Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia speaks out

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Vasyl Myroshnychenko is seeking to engage private and public investment in Ukraine to help with its war recovery

Vasyl Myroshnychenko could not have possibly foreseen under what circumstances he would be accepting his ambassadorship.

The 41-year-old was fast-tracked into the important role of Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia when Russia invaded his nation in late February.

Myroshnychenko is seeking to meet with Australia’s newly-elected government to discuss trade and aid opportunities after returning from the war-torn country.

During Myroshnychenko’s eight-day visit to Ukraine, he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s most senior advisors, the prime minister, and other military officials.

“I hope Putin dies tomorrow, maybe today.”

Vasyl Myroshnychenko

Myroshnychenko spoke exclusively to TICKER NEWS, in which he says morale is at an all-time low in his home country.

Ukraine has been fighting Russian forces for nearly four months. Russia’s latest military offensive is seeing troops fighting in the east of Ukraine, where hundreds of civilians have lost their lives.

“As long as Russia stays on Ukrainian territory, this war will continue. We need to get the Russians out of Ukraine, free the nation of Russian occupation and then we will be free.”

Vasyl Myroshnychenko

The ambassador is seeking to hold talks with Australian lawmakers on the current situation. He says more lethal aid and economic assistance is essential.

President Zelensky speaks to Australia’s Parliament.

President Zelensky has invited Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to Ukraine. Meanwhile, leaders from France, Germany and Italy travelled to the war-torn nation on Thursday, where they toured regions that have been decimated.

“I think that’s it’s very important that the world hears Ukraine, the world steps in, because that can solve energy issues that can solve the food crisis,” Myroshnychenko told TICKER NEWS.

Trade on the horizon

A bilateral trade deal between Australia and Ukraine could be on the horizon. The deal would reportedly be modelled on the U.K. free trade agreement.

“My role is to mobilise more support for Ukraine and Australia, I will soon be credited to New Zealand as well,” Myroshnychenko says.

Vasyl Myroshnychenko says he hopes President Putin dies.

Myroshnychenko studied international trade at the London School of Economics. He says additional military might is needed urgently.

“My job is to get more military assistance, more financial assistance for Ukraine. But every Ukrainian no matter what he or she is doing, is able to contribute either on social media, either fighting in the trenches, or doing the work they are doing to help Ukraine become stronger,” he says.

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