CLEVELAND — Reassuring frustrated blue-collar voters, President Biden on Wednesday visited Ohio iron workers to highlight federal action to shore up troubled pension funding for millions now on the job or retired — and to make his political case that he’s been a champion of workers in the early going of his presidency.
Biden’s speech at a Cleveland high school showcased a final rule tied to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from last year. The rule allows troubled multicompany pensions to be made financially whole, ensuring full benefits for 2 million to 3 million workers and retirees.
Hurt politically by inflation at a 40-year high and damage wrought by the pandemic, the president chose to deliver his message in a state that has been trending strongly Republican, with Donald Trump easily carrying it twice. In his sixth visit as president, Biden looked to personally reverse that electoral tide, touting the rule to help multi-company pensions as one of the most significant efforts to support union workers’ retirement funds in the past 50 years.
“A lot of politicians like to talk about how they’re going to do something about it,” Biden said. “Well, I’m here today to say we’ve done something about it.”
The roughly 200 pension plans receiving assistance faced possible insolvency without government aid. And without the full benefits, workers and retirees could struggle to pay for housing, food, and other essentials. The financial support should help keep the pension funds solvent for roughly 30 years until 2051.
That’s important, several retirees said.
Bill DeVito, who introduced Biden, was an iron worker for almost 50 years before retiring a decade ago. When his pension was cut 40 percent in 2017, he said, “it was devastating.”
“The thing of it is, we had a lot of politicians over the years saying, hey, we’ll try to help you, we’ll do everything we can, and nobody’s ever done anything for us until Joe Biden come along,” said DeVito, 73. He said that other Ohio Democrats in Washington kept pushing, too.
The effort to highlight a program to help union workers comes as Democrats hope to pick up a US Senate seat in Ohio, where a strong showing with working class voters could play a pivotal role.
Republican Rob Portman is leaving the Senate after two terms. Vying to replace him are Democratic Representative Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance, the author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” who secured an endorsement during the primary from Trump. Ohio voters backed Trump in 2016 and 2020, with his margin of victory each time at roughly 8 percentage points.
In a sign of Biden’s standing in the state, Ryan didn’t appear with him at Wednesday’s event, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration was “in close contact with Congressman Tim Ryan in particular.” Biden in his speech noted Ryan’s absence and referred to him as the “future” US senator from Ohio.
Rogan says he’s turned Trump away from podcast
Joe Rogan, whose contrarian views on vaccines and political conspiracy theories have made him popular with many supporters of former president Donald Trump, revealed that he has declined to host Trump on his influential podcast several times.
“I’ve had the opportunity to have him on my show more than once. I’ve said no every time,” Rogan, host of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” said on Lex Fridman’s podcast on Monday. “I don’t want to help him.”
Rogan, a comedian and sports commentator in addition to a podcast host, is Spotify’s highest paid podcaster, with a $200 million deal for exclusive rights to host his show, which attracts millions of listeners per episode.
On Monday, he described the former president as “a polarizing figure” and “an existential threat to democracy.” Rogan, who endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive from Vermont, for president in 2020, recently voiced his support on his podcast for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, if he were to run for president.
The podcast host has been condemned for using a racial slur on his show, mocking the first openly transgender athlete in mixed martial arts, and having a “love-hate relationship with conspiracies.” He has been criticized for amplifying COVID-19 misinformation on his platform, prompting medical professionals to call on Spotify to take action at the beginning of this year.
Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO, refused to “cancel” Rogan in a memo in February after artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell left the streaming service in protest.
Other major tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have long struggled to determine their roles in moderating the speech of users, particularly prominent ones such as Trump.
New York Times
Appraiser tied to Trump firm found in contempt
The Trump Organization’s former appraiser Cushman & Wakefield Inc. was found in contempt of court and will be fined $10,000 a day for failing to produce documents subpoenaed in a New York investigation of Donald Trump’s company.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is probing potentially fraudulent asset valuations at the Manhattan-based real estate business. She issued subpoenas on Cushman & Wakefield in September and February.
The appraiser failed to block the subpoenas in court and on appeal was ordered to turn over what the judge called “an enormous number of documents” by June 27. On June 29, it sought an extension.
“This court is incredulous as to why Cushman & Wakefield would wait until two days after the court-ordered deadline had lapsed to initiate a process of asking for yet another extension,” New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron wrote in an order Tuesday. He said the fine would start July 7 and continue until the company complies.
Cushman & Wakefield said in an e-mailed statement that it had gone to “extreme lengths” to comply with the court’s order.
“We have gone to great expense and effort to quickly identify, collect, review and produce the massive set of documents requested by the OAG, and we have now produced over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and over 650 appraisals since the last subpoena was issued in February 2022,” the firm said, referring to the office of the attorney general. It said it would appeal the contempt ruling.
The judge in April held Trump himself in contempt for failing to turn over records related to the valuations, resulting in $110,000 in fines against the former president before he was found in compliance last month. He has called James’s probe a political vendetta.
Graham plans to challenge Georgia subpoena
NEW YORK — Attorneys representing Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Wednesday he intends to challenge a subpoena compelling him to testify before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating former president Donald Trump and his allies’ actions after the 2020 election.
Graham was one of a handful of Trump confidants and lawyers named Tuesday in petitions filed by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as part of her investigation into what she alleges was “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Graham attorneys Bart Daniel and Matt Austin said in a statement Wednesday that the Republican senator ‘’plans to go to court, challenge the subpoena, and expects to prevail,” and they slammed the probe as politically motivated.
“This is all politics. Fulton County is engaged in a fishing expedition and working in concert with the January 6 Committee in Washington,” they wrote, adding that, “As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Graham was well within his rights to discuss with state officials the processes and procedures around administering elections.”
“Should it stand, the subpoena issued today would erode the constitutional balance of power and the ability of a Member of Congress to do their job,” they went on. They also said they had been informed by Fulton County investigators that Graham “is neither a subject nor target of the investigation.”
“Should witnesses choose to challenge an order that they testify before the Special Purpose Grand Jury, the District Attorney will respond in the appropriate court to compel their appearance,’’ Fulton County district attorney’s office spokesperson Jeff DiSantis said in an email.
In the petition submitted Tuesday, Willis wrote that Graham, a longtime Trump ally, made at least two telephone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of his staff in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. During those calls, Graham asked about reexamining certain absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” she wrote.
Willis also filed petitions to compel cooperation from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was one of Trump’s primary lawyers during the failed efforts to overturn the result of the election, as well as lawyers Kenneth Chesebro, Cleta Mitchell, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, and Jacki Pick Deason.