With eleven days before Election Day, Josh Hawley’s record “is once again drawing scrutiny.” This weekend, reports found that Hawley’s office is “in turmoil,” being “short-changed” and “hollowed out” by an Attorney General that some Republicans believe is “a political opportunist uninterested in his official duties as the state’s top prosecutor.” Now, an attorney tells the Kansas City Star that Hawley “didn’t even look for the most basic facts” in one of his signature investigations.
Months after Hawley cleared former governor Eric Greitens of wrongdoing in his potential destruction of government records, new evidence has emerged showing “staff discussing the use of Confide to conduct public business,” and that several more staffers used the app that Hawley reported. As the private attorney pursuing the case noted, “Almost all of that information… could have been acquired by the attorney general with an open records request.”
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley faced criticism earlier this year after his office cleared former Gov. Eric Greitens of any wrongdoing over his use of a self-destructing text message app called Confide.
Now, less than two weeks before Hawley faces off against Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in one of the most closely contested senate races in the country, Hawley’s investigation of the former governor is once again drawing scrutiny.
A text message from a Greitens staffer obtained by The Star this week appears to show that the governor’s office had advance notice about when the attorney general’s investigation would conclude. And a story in The New York Times over the weekend revealed Hawley’s office acceded to the governor’s demand that interviews with Greitens staff members who used Confide could last only 15 minutes.
The new revelations are adding to questions that were already lingering about the quality of Hawley’s inquiry, ranging from a decision not to try to interview the governor to the fact that there was no forensic examination of phones used by the governor’s staff.
“We knew the attorney general’s conclusions were wrong, but why the attorney general didn’t even look for the most basic facts is a persistent, concerning question,” said Mark Pedroli, one of a pair of St. Louis attorneys who sued the governor’s office last year over its use of Confide.
…The Star uncovered in December that Greitens and members of his senior staff were using Confide, an app that automatically destroys messages after the recipient has read them. Transparency advocates worried Confide was being used to circumvent the state’s Sunshine Law and conduct government business without leaving a paper trail.
Shortly after The Star’s report, Hawley’s office launched an investigation. It concluded in March with the attorney general determining that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, in part because investigators could not find evidence.
…The governor was not interviewed because Hawley’s staff said they worried Greitens would invoke executive privilege. The governor’s attorneys were allowed to sit in on staff interviews.
…Over the next few months, documents uncovered as part of Pedroli’s lawsuit would show it was not only eight Greitens staffers who had Confide accounts but actually 27. That includes Greitens, who admitted to using Confide to communicate with his staff.
Text messages obtained from the governor’s office showed Greitens staff openly discussing the use of Confide not only among themselves but also with people outside the governor’s office. They also appeared to show staff discussing the use of Confide to conduct public business.
Almost all of that information, Pedroli said, could have been acquired by the attorney general with an open records request.
…Also raising concerns is a text message that recently turned up as evidence in Pedroli’s lawsuit showing an unnamed Greitens staffer discussing the attorney general’s inquiry.
The text was sent Feb. 2, a month before Hawley’s office would conclude its investigation. The Greitens staffer was discussing what happened in court that day in Pedroli’s lawsuit as well as what could be expected before the next court appearance.
“Next setting is a March scheduling conference,” the text said, “and we’ll have the AG opinion and a motion to dismiss on file by then.”
Greitens and his staff appear to know not only when the investigation would be finalized, Pedroli said, but also what the findings would be.
…On the same day Hawley concluded his Confide inquiry, and just days after officially jumping into the campaign for U.S. Senate, his office launched a second Greitens investigation.
…Seven months after initially launching his investigation, and five months after Greitens resigned from office, the attorney general’s probe of The Mission Continues is still not closed.
Yesterday on KMOX’s Total Information AM, Charlie Brennan observed that Senator Claire McCaskill is “very real” while he “can’t quite say the same thing about Josh Hawley. He seems a little fabricated.” St. Louis conservative radio host Mark Reardon agreed, adding that Hawley has a problem with many Trump voters who “don’t like [Hawley’s] ladder-climbing at all.”
CHARLIE BRENNAN: …I’m not too surprised that it’s tight. I think that [Claire] runs a difficult battle because it’s kind of Trump territory. But she also is appealing in many ways. She seems to be very real and I can’t quite say the same thing about Josh Hawley. He seems a little fabricated. He just got into office 2 years ago, running that he wasn’t going to seek higher office and then, as soon as he got in, he changed his mind…[…]
MARK REARDON: Well, I like Claire. I genuinely like her personally. We bond on black and gold. We disagree on a lot of issues. I don’t disagree with Charlie when – I think Hawley’s a little bit too, maybe a little bit too scripted at times. I think the issue for him – and this is serious – there are people who voted for Donald Trump – I’ve heard from many of them, by no means is this scientific – they don’t like the ladder-climbing at all. They think that that’s going back on a promise. So that’s going to be an issue for him.
This weekend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Josh Hawley for his positions on 10 major votes in the Senate, ranging from net neutrality and forced arbitration to bank regulations and the government shutdown. According to the article, “The Post-Dispatch asked Hawley to say how he would have voted on all 10. He declined.”
Here are the votes Hawley refused to give the Post-Dispatch a position on:
- Defunding Planned Parenthood
- Restoring net neutrality
- Rolling back regulations on small and medium-sized banks
- Ending the government shutdown in January
- llowing Americans to file class-action suits against banks instead of being forced into private arbitration
- Repealing the Affordable Care Act
- Preventing the mentally ill from buying guns
- Denying gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists
- The nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch
- The GOP tax plan
Hawley’s refusal to tell Missourians where he stands on consequential issues is nothing new. In July, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board called Hawley out for running a campaign that is free of substance. Hawley has repeatedly refused to answer key policy questions and failed to answer for his decisions as Attorney General. At every turn, Hawley has deflected on issues, instead choosing only to make wild and misguided attacks on his opponent.
“Apparently Josh Hawley is betting that his dark money donors will pour so much money into buying him this election that he will never have to come clean to Missourians about how he would vote in the Senate,” said Missouri Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Brooke Goren. “It’s no surprise Hawley doesn’t want to be honest — the truth is, on every issue, he will always choose what’s best for himself and his ambitions over the interests of Missouri families.”
A new analysis from the University of Missouri’s Commercial Agriculture Program today found that the President’s trade war is already costing Missouri millions of dollars in economic activity. With nearly a third of Missouri’s annual soybean crop destined for the Chinese market, the President’s trade war has caused the state’s soy prices to drop nearly 20 percent this summer. According to the report, this drop represents “more than $212 million in lost earnings for workers and business owners, and 3,000 fewer jobs… and a $726.6 million reduction in economic activity.”
The Joplin Globe editorial board writes today that, nationwide, “Damage to farmers because of the tariffs and counter tariffs and the deepening trade war has been estimated at $11 billion, but the final tally is far from known.” Meanwhile, the the US Chamber of Commerce estimates that, overall, the tariffs are putting over 800,000 Missouri jobs and nearly $900 million in total state exports at risk.
Yet even as Missouri’s economy takes a hit and farmers worry about potential long-term impacts from the tariffs, Josh Hawley has repeatedly doubled down on his support for the President’s trade war.
“Josh Hawley is so determined to remain in lockstep with the President that he’s willing to sacrifice millions in earnings for hard-working Missourians,” said Missouri Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Brooke Goren. “Will Hawley ever start standing up for Missourians, or will he just keep trying to advance his own ambitions at their expense?”
Josh Hawley is still facing questions about whether he’s “mailing it in,” and he doesn’t have a very good answer. This morning, Fox News’ Bill Hemmer asked Hawley about reports that he has not been working hard enough in his campaign for Senate. Instead of addressing the concerns — which were raised by Missouri Republicans — Hawley called the report “fake D.C. news.”
Perhaps Hawley’s retort would carry a little more weight if his campaign wasn’t being propped up by elite D.C. Republicans. On the heels of yet another lackluster fundraising quarter, Hawley has benefitted from three visits from the President and Vice President in the past two weeks alone. Tomorrow, he will be back in Washington D.C. for yet another set of elite fundraisers with Republican Senate leadership.
“There is apparently no limit to what Josh Hawley will say to serve his own personal self-interest. Yet again, Hawley is telling Missourians one thing and then turning right around to do the exact opposite,” said Missouri Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Brooke Goren. “Talk about hypocrisy.”
Josh Hawley apparently has a problem when it comes to being honest with Missourians. This month alone, Hawley has been caught launching false attacks against Claire McCaskill, lying about his motivations for running for Senate, and trying to distort his record on health care.
- This week, the Kansas City Star editorial board slammed Hawley for launching “nonsensical” and “desperate” attacks against Senator Claire McCaskill. The editorial board called Hawley out for campaigning on unvetted rumors, called his attacks “not credible,” and advised him to stick to the real issues.
- Meanwhile, Hawley has been claiming since he launched his bid for Senate that he “never planned” on running. However, the Huffington Post reports that Hawley’s own emails show the “GOP’s top Senate recruit wrote about seeking office as far back as 2011.”
- Perhaps worst of all, Hawley has been trying to deceive Missourians when it comes to his position on health care. In February, Hawley filed a lawsuit that would end protections for the nearly 2.5 million Missourians with pre-existing conditions. As soon as Hawley realized that siding with insurance companies over sick Missourians could become a liability for his Senate campaign, he tried to distort his record by claiming he supports those very same protections. Sorry, Josh, but your actions speak louder than words.
“It is perfectly clear that everything Josh Hawley does is a political calculation to advance his own ambitions and serve his donors,” said Missouri Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Brooke Goren. “The least he could do is be honest with Missourians about his true motivations.”
Instead of reversing its reckless trade policy, the Trump administration yesterday announced a $12 billion aid package for farmers who are losing their livelihoods to the President’s trade war. Farm-state Senators immediately railed against the administration for “replacing markets with handouts,” and continuing to risk the future of American agriculture. Meanwhile, Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley stood by smiling as the President touted his tariffs in Kansas City. Hawley has offered his unwavering support for the President’s trade war for months despite its negative impact on Missouri farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
“Since the Administration announced its first round of tariffs back in March, Josh Hawley has ignored Missourians’ concerns and backed the President’s reckless trade war,” said Missouri Democratic Deputy Communications Director Brooke Goren. “How many Missouri farmers and small manufacturers have to lose their jobs before Hawley stops putting this Administration first?”
Here’s what members of Hawley’s own party had to say about the President’s announcement yesterday:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE): “This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers, and White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches… This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again; they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): “This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits… I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD): “Taxpayers are going to be asked to initial checks to farmers in lieu of having a trade policy that actually opens and expands more markets. There isn’t anything about this that anybody should like.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD): “What’s the strategy, what’s the end game here, at what point do we start seeing things move out of the chaotic state they are in now and to where we actually see new trade agreements.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “This is what we feared all along, that these markets would be replaced by handouts… You lose some of these markets, you lose them for good or a long time.”
Sen. Bob Corker: (R-TN): “You put people in the poorhouse and provide them aid. What you need to do is not put them in the poorhouse… They put in place a policy that requires farmers to go on welfare.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers. If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX): “My hope is we’ll start to see some of these issues off of the table, like NAFTA… It would be good to not add more uncertainty and reduce the uncertainty by taking care of some of these trade disputes.”
Yesterday, Vox reported that while the Republican tax plan has “been a major windfall for corporations and the wealthy,” new data shows it has done nothing to boost wages for workers. A new chart from Bloomberg shows that “between the first and second quarters of 2018 — after the tax cuts were enacted — real wages fell by 1.8 percent.”
When Republicans delivered $1.5 trillion in tax cuts last December and slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, they said it would come with a big wage boost for American workers. Except it hasn’t.
Over the weekend, this chart from Bloomberg showing private data from PayScale’s wage index swept across Twitter. It shows a drop in wages in the second quarter of the year.
…And between the first and second quarters of 2018 — after the tax cuts were enacted — real wages fell by 1.8 percent.
…According to the BLS, wages and salaries increased by about 2.7 percent year over year in the first three months of 2018. That’s pretty much in line with inflation. And even as unemployment levels are historically low, worker pay isn’t rising.
It’s not that corporations don’t have more money — it’s that they have no particular reason to give that money to workers.
The Republican tax bill has been a major windfall for corporations and the wealthy.
…American corporations are showering their shareholders with stock buybacks, thanks in part to their tax savings, and have returned nearly $700 billion to investors this year.
…Some Republicans have even admitted that the tax cuts aren’t the boost to workers they promised. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) this spring said there is “no evidence whatsoever that money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”
…Further complicating the matter for the GOP: Trump’s trade war, which could wipe out the benefits of the tax bill altogether, including any potential boosts to wages. Former top Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn said in a June interview that the White House’s tariff battle could increase inflation and consumer debt and erase any positives from the tax cuts.[…]