Friday PM

Minimum wage rise ruled out of American Rescue Plan, Manhattan DA gets Trump docs, Syria Air Strike

Kia ora and G'day

Mix of good news and bad for an old lefty like me, but here it is.

Trump's Financial Docs Handed Over

As you probably heard, Trump's New York accountants complied with court orders and provided the Manhattan DA with millions of documents relating to Trump's personal and business finances today. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the elusive 2011-2018 tax returns.

DA Cyrus Vance is reportedly looking into a range of questionable conduct, including the dodgy payments facilitated by former fixer Michael Cohen to at least two women prior to the 2016 election. Perhaps more seriously, though, are suspected bank and insurance fraud on the part of the Trump Org – namely, overstating asset values to secure loans they wouldn't otherwise secure, or understating them to evade taxes. This is criminal conduct and, if proven, opens the possibility of jail time for anyone involved, up to and including Trump himself.

If he believes he has a case, Vance will present the evidence to a Grand Jury, who will ultimately determine whether to indict. This won't happen overnight, but it's worth noting that, in the Paul Manafort case (pictured above), it was only a matter of months between the prosecutor obtaining financial records and securing an indictment – and Manafort's finances were even more densely complex than Trump's. We may see real movement on this before the end of the year. Something to look forward to!

Minimum Wage Ruled Out of Covid Bill

The Senate Parliamentarian (think Clerk of the House) has ruled that the proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 cannot be passed through Budget reconciliation as part of the American Rescue Plan. This matters because reconciliation is the arcane legislative procedure that only requires 51 votes in the Senate, allowing only Democrats to pass the bill. All other matters require a filibuster-proof 60 votes, and there's no way there are 10 Republicans who would support doubling the minimum wage. Is a smaller rise possible? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it.

U.S. Syria Strike Targets Iran

The New York Times reports:

The United States on Thursday carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria against buildings belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militias responsible for recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq.

President Biden authorized the strikes in response to the rocketing in Iraq and to continuing threats to American and coalition personnel there…

The Biden WH is eager to stress this was a proportionate response to Iranian aggression, and that they remain committed to deescalation in Eastern Syria and Iraq.

Big picture: It's pretty clear Biden wants back into the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2017. But there's skepticism, even among some national security Democrats, about rushing back into the agreement, so it seems as if today's actions may be also designed to send a message that Biden is not about to go soft on Tehran.

Story to watch: US Attorneys may be looking at Jan 5th Congressional Tours

Nothing may come of this, but Ohio Congressman and likely Senate contender Tim Ryan may have let an intriguing cat out of the bag today. Ryan revealed that US Attorneys are looking into allegations that one or more of his GOP colleagues may have guided Jan. 6th insurrectionists through the Capitol the day before the breach. This could spell trouble for those involved.

Biden pretty bloody popular

So far, so good on Biden's approval rating, which comfortably exceeds anything Trump achieved during his entire term. Sure, previous Presidents enjoy more spectacular honeymoons – but when you consider the extent of negative partisanship that pervades US politics these days, there's nothing wrong with these numbers. From FiveThirtyEight:

What's even more promising for Democrats is the popularity of their major policy initiatives, especially the signature American Rescue Plan. And it's not just the general public. Big business and Republican local leaders back the Biden plan, too. Reuters:

Nearly seven in 10 Americans in a Quinnipiac University poll this month said they support Biden's plan. And nearly eight in 10 people including a majority of Republicans like the $1,400 relief checks for individuals, the poll found.

More than 100 CEOs in a letter Wednesday called on Congress to "act swiftly and on a bipartisan basis to authorize a stimulus and relief package along the lines of the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed American Rescue Plan."

[…]

Over 30 Republican mayors have signed on to a letter supporting the bill as well.

GOP opposition to the $1.9 trillion plan, which includes $1,400 direct cash payments and billions for vaccines, may not look so great if it passes, and the post-pandemic economy takes off in 2022 as many expect.

Have a great weekend!