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In the administrative skills category, Trump was ranked last among the 45 former presidents. He also fell in last in the category of moral authority, just below Buchanan — who is most widely known for his failure to prevent the Civil War. Trump fared better in the Public Persuasion category, in which he was ranked 32nd, and economic management, where he was 34th.

Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who has advised C-SPAN on the survey since its first iteration, said one reason for Trump’s low ranking could be his 2021 impeachment, which made him the only U.S. president ever to be impeached twice.

“This year, people compared which is worse: Watergate or the Trump impeachment?,” Brinkley said in a C-SPAN press release. “The word ‘impeachment’ probably cost Nixon a few spots downward this year, and maybe Clinton too.”

Trump’s four years in office were also marked by the onset of Covid-19, his administration’s handling of which has been widely criticized, as well as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, for which Trump has been widely blamed. Trump still maintains the disproven claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

In the overall survey, Abraham Lincoln was ranked first, as has been the case since the survey began. George Washington came in second and Franklin D. Roosevelt in third — the same former presidents comprising the top three in the list since 2000. The top nine rankings remained the same as they were in 2017, following Obama’s second term.

In Obama’s climb to the top 10, his rating improved greatly in the relations with Congress category, where he jumped from 39th to 32nd. In the performed within context of times category, Obama also improved from 15th to 10th. The 44th president’s pursued equal justice for all rating remained his highest, with him sitting at third, just below Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson, for the second survey in a row.

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C-SPAN noted that the category with the most change in rankings over the last 20 years was pursued equal justice for all, with Woodrow Wilson’s category ranking dropping 17 points since the first survey to this year’s.

“Despite the fact that we’ve become more aware of the historical implications of racial injustice in this country and we’re continuing to grapple with those issues, we still have slaveholding presidents at or near the top of the list,” Howard University professor Edna Greene Medford said in the press release. Washington, still the second president on the list, enslaved people during his term. “So even though we may be a bit more enlightened about race today, we are still discounting its significance when evaluating these presidents.”

Obama’s move into the group of top 10 presidents in this year’s survey edged out Johnson, who fell to 11th place. Other presidents whose position dropped in this year’s survey include Gerald Ford (28th place) and Bill Clinton (19th place), while others, like Warren Harding (37th place) and Chester Arthur (30th place) moved their way up the list. Still, the rankings remained largely similar to the previous survey, taken in 2017.

The largest jump since the 2000 survey to 2021 was claimed by Ulysses S. Grant, who served during Reconstruction. Grant was ranked No. 33 in the first survey, and now stands at No. 20.

“Grant,” Brinkley said in the press release, “is having his Hamilton moment.”


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Garland pauses federal executions as DOJ reviews policies

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday paused federal executions as the Department of Justice reviews its death penalty policies and procedures.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guar anteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a statement. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

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Legal battles over the traditional three-drug protocol for carrying out execution by legal injection, and a shortage of sodium thiopental — one of the drugs — led to a two-decade lapse in federal executions. But then-Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal prisons to resume executions in 2019, after making changes to the federal execution protocols.


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New York Assembly OKs subpoenas in Cuomo impeachment probe

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Additionally, members have taken the technical step of issuing a commission to the law firm of Davis Polk, which the Assembly has retained to handle much of the probe. That step “allows our independent counsel to take testimony under oath,” Lavine said.

The Assembly launched its investigation of Cuomo in March. It is probing a litany of allegations made against Cuomo on subjects ranging from sexual harassment to the governor’s $5.1 million book deal.

State Attorney General Tish James is examining several similar issues. She started issuing subpoenas in March.

James said last week that she does not “share information” with the Assembly investigators. But Abinanti said on Wednesday that the granting of a commission to Davis Polk opens up that possibility, “because now they are authorized to subpoena the same information the attorney general’s office is subpoenaing … so I would assume the attorney general’s office would feel more comfortable cooperating with our counsel.”

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Wednesday’s meeting was notable as the Assembly’s first mostly in-person committee meeting since state government shut down in March 2020. Since Cuomo ended New York’s state of emergency last week, the Legislature is now fully subjected to the Open Meetings Law, and the public was allowed into the room in the state Capitol for five minutes. The remainder of the roughly two-hour gathering took place in executive session.

Does the issuing of subpoenas mean that the investigation of Cuomo is nearing an end?

“Oh no, not yet, no no,” Abinanti said. “Let’s face it, we’ve given [Davis Polk] a huge task. There’s a lot of issues for them to look at.”


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Opinion | Republicans Shouldn’t Sign on to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

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The conventional wisdom is that the Senate has to prove that it can work, and the test of its functioning is how much of Biden’s spending Republicans endorse.

This is a distorted view of the Senate’s role, which shouldn’t be to get on board a historic spending spree for which Biden won no mandate and which isn’t justified by conditions in the country (it’s not true, for instance, that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling).

Besides, if bipartisan spending is the test, the Senate just a few weeks ago passed a $200 billion China competition bill by a 68-32 vote. It used to be that $200 billion constituted a lot of money, but now it doesn’t rate, not when there’s $6 trillion on the table.

The infrastructure deal lurched from gloriously alive to dead when Biden explicitly linked its passage to the simultaneous passage of a reconciliation bill with the rest of the Democratic Party’s spending priorities in it.

Then, it revived again when Biden walked this back, and promised a dual track for the two bills.

The fierce Republican insistence on these two tracks doesn’t make much sense and amounts to asking Democrats to allow a decent interval before going ahead with the rest of their spending—Democrats are going to try to pass a reconciliation whether the bipartisan deal passes or not.

At the end of the day, then, there’s only one track: Democrats are going to spend as much money as they possibly can. The bipartisan deal might shave some money off the hard infrastructure priorities (according to Playbook, the White House says it doesn’t want to double dip, on say, electric cars or broadband by getting some money for them in the deal and then getting yet more in the reconciliation bill). But the emphasis is going to blow out spending across the board.

The calculation of Republicans supporting the bill is that a significant bipartisan package can take some of the heat off of Sen. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in their resistance to the filibuster.

A deal that passes and is signed into law will certainly be a feather in their caps, but it’s hard to believe they’d change their minds on the filibuster if the deal fell apart.

They are both so extensively and adamantly on the record in favor of the filibuster that a climb-down would be politically embarrassing and perilous. They may be sincere in believing that the filibuster is important institutionally to the Senate. But the politics also work by allowing them to brand themselves as a different breed of Democrat.

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If they flip-flip on the filibuster, they release the brake on the left-most parts of the Democratic agenda and find themselves taking a lot of tough votes on priorities dear to the Democratic base.

Republicans supporting the deal also think that it will make passing the subsequent reconciliation bill harder. First, the parts of infrastructure that have the widest support—roads and bridges—will be in the deal and not in the reconciliation bill. Second, the unwelcome tax increases excluded from the bipartisan deal will be in the reconciliation bill.

This isn’t a crazy calculation, although it’s not clearly correct, either. The higher the top-line number is for the reconciliation bill, the harder it is to pass. By allowing Democrats to cleave off some of their spending into a bipartisan deal, the overall number for the reconciliation bill gets smaller. In other words, the bipartisan deal could make the partisan reconciliation easier rather than harder to pass.

If this is true, the deal is bipartisanship in the service of a partisan end.

It not as though Biden is fiscally prudent on all other fronts, except in this one area which he considers a particularly important national investment with unmistakable returns. No, he’s universally profligate. His reckless spending on all fronts (except defense) makes it more imperative for Republicans to stake out a position in four-square opposition.

It’s not as though the bipartisan bill is exemplary legislation, by the way. It resorts to all the usual Beltway gimmicks to create the pretense that it’s paid for, when it’s basically as irresponsible as the rest of the Biden spending.

Bipartisanship has its uses, but so does partisanship. Joe Biden wants to be known for his FDR- and LBJ-like government spending, believing that it’s the key to political success and to an enduring legacy. Fine. Let him and his party own it.


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