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Mike Bloomberg has spent $100 million on campaign ads in a month

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent well over $100 million on advertising since entering the Democratic presidential primary about a month ago — a head-spinning sum of money for ad buys that dwarfs most of his competition and highlights the unique advantages of being a billionaire in a highly competitive contest.

Only one other candidate has come close to Bloomberg in spending on ads: the other billionaire in the Democratic primary, former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer, who has been in the race since July. Combined, the two tycoons have spent roughly $200 million on ad buys, Advertising Analytics, a firm that monitors ad campaign purchases, told NPR.

Bloomberg and Steyer have broken records left and right with their vast war chests. Bloomberg’s initial television ad buy of more than $30 million upon entering the race immediately made history as the most money a presidential candidate has ever spent in a week in a primary.

The two billionaires in the 2020 race have spent more than double the total combined ad spending of every other candidate in the primary over the course of the entire year.

According to Advertising Analytics, Steyer’s and Bloomberg’s ad buys equal about a quarter of the advertising money spent in the 2016 presidential cycle — including both the primaries and the general election.

The next-biggest spender on ads is South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has spent $20 million — another candidate trying to up his national name recognition.

“We’ve never seen spending like this in a presidential race,” Jim McLaughlin, a Republican political strategist who worked for Bloomberg’s mayoral campaigns, told Politico. “[Bloomberg] has a limitless budget.”

In places like Wilmington, North Carolina, Bloomberg’s television ads are running up to 36 times a day. He’s also spent serious cash on online advertising, and his campaign ads are reportedly popping up in strange places on YouTube.

The volume and velocity of Bloomberg’s ad spending have shed a light on how the primary system is vulnerable to being gamed by plutocrats — but it also has revealed the limitations of using money alone to try to buy popularity.

On one hand, it’s remarkable that, after just a month of being in the race, Bloomberg is polling at around 5 percent in national surveys and has leapfrogged prominent candidates like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

On the other hand, Bloomberg’s path to the nomination looks nearly impossible given the gulf between him and the top four candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Buttigieg.

Bloomberg’s money is a gift and a curse

Because of the late date at which he entered the race, Bloomberg is not eligible to run in the first four states of the primary. Instead, he’s hoping to make a splash on Super Tuesday in March, when 16 states and territories vote. According to Politico, he’s overwhelmingly focused on this set of states with his advertising, which can spread word of his campaign faster than the typical retail politics type of introduction to voters in early primary states.

But Bloomberg’s style of campaigning also makes him uniquely susceptible to attacks from the left that he’s just another member of “the 1 percent” trying to buy an election.

As I reported for Vox earlier in December, Bloomberg has been flippant about these accusations, like when he did the first television interview of his presidential campaign with CBS This Morning:

In the interview, CBS’s Gayle King repeatedly pressed Bloomberg to respond to criticism that he’s buying the election. Bloomberg sounded irritated by the accusation and pointed out that he gives away most of his money for good causes.

But instead of going the usual route for former businessman candidates wherein they point out how their business acumen prepared them for leading the country, he chose to highlight his rags-to-riches story and almost seemed to imply the other candidates’ public service was a missed opportunity to become a billionaire.

“They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money. And how much of their own money do they put into their campaigns?” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg also argued that since everyone relies on lots of money to run for president, he wasn’t all that different from his rivals.

“I’m doing exactly the same thing they’re doing, except that I am using my own money,” he said. “They’re using somebody else’s money and those other people expect something from them.”

It’s unclear if Bloomberg’s nonchalance about his wealth will bother the moderate set of voters he’s hoping to win over in order to secure the nomination. But it certainly gives the progressive wing of the party — represented by Warren and Sanders — a villain to fight against.

In a political climate in which wine cave fundraisers are fodder for anti-establishment Democrat attack ads and fundraising bids, Bloomberg’s full-fledged embrace of his wealth is a bold gambit. We’ll see if it pays off.

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Top 10 fact-checks of 2019

In 2019, we fact-checked many statements about the impeachment of President Donald Trump and claims by and about the Democrats running for president.

Two of our most clicked-on fact-checks of the year were related to impeachment – one about Joe Biden and his son Hunter and a debunked claim that the sons of other prominent politicians serve on boards of energy companies doing business in Ukraine.

Many of the posts we debunked this year about politics were surfaced through our partnership with Facebook, which began three years ago. That partnership lets our staff see posts that have been flagged as potentially false or misleading. After we rate something as false, Facebook decreases its future reach in the News Feed, and users who shared it receive a notification. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

PolitiFact tallied our 10 most clicked-on fact-checks of the year:

Claim: Undocumented immigrants get Medicare for free.

Rating: False

There have been some reported cases of undocumented immigrants improperly receiving benefits, but they’re not eligible for Medicare. While undocumented immigrants can get limited emergency Medicaid covering, there is no available Medicare program. 

Claim: There were no American flags at the first Democratic presidential debate.

Rating: False

Photos of the debate show no physical American flag. But the stage had a set that featured images of the flag and many of the candidates wore flag pins.

Claim: Quotes Trump as saying in 2013, “A shutdown falls on the President’s lack of leadership. He can’t even control his own party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the president is weak.”  

Rating: Half True

We could not find Trump saying these exact words, but he did repeat similar statements on social media and in interviews saying “the pressure is on the president” during a shutdown and that the president “has to get everybody in a room and be a leader.”

Claim: The nuclear deal gave Iran “$150 billion, giving $1.8 billion in cash — in actual cash carried out in barrels and in boxes from airplanes.”

Rating: Half True

The $150 billion was inflated. The high-end estimate from the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015 was $56 billion, and outside analysts believe the number could be lower. The $1.8 billion is reasonably accurate. The official amount is $1.7 billion. Also, there’s no evidence that barrels and boxes were involved.

Claim: Says the sons of Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney and John Kerry are all on the boards of “energy companies doing business in Ukraine.”

Rating: False

Pelosi’s son briefly served on the board of an American energy company, but there’s no evidence the company had dealings with Ukraine while he held that seat. There is no evidence that any of Kerry’s stepsons or Romney’s sons have worked for energy companies with ties to Ukraine.

Claim: Members of Congress can “retire with the same pay after only one term” in office.

Rating: Pants on Fire!

Versions of this viral falsehood have been circulating since at least 2011. It’s never full pay. And the only one-term members who would be eligible for any pension would be senators.

Claim: When Joe Biden’s son Hunter was serving as “a director to Ukraine’s largest private gas producer,” the elder Biden “threatened to withhold $1 BILLION in U.S. aid to Ukraine if they didn’t fire a prosecutor looking into” the gas company.

Rating: Half True

The statement gets individual pieces of this assertion right – Hunter Biden was a director of the company, and Joe Biden did leverage U.S. aid to fire a prosecutor. But it overreaches by assuming that Joe Biden acted to protect the company his son was affiliated with. In reality, there was widespread agreement in the West that the existing prosecutor had to go, and it’s not clear that the company would have benefited from his ouster anyway, given evidence that its cases had long been dormant.

Claim: “I’ve had tremendous Republican support. I have a 90% — 94% approval rating, as of this morning, in the Republican Party. That’s an all-time record.”    

Rating: Half True

When we fact-checked Trump’s statement in June, we found that while his numbers held steady in the mid-to-high 80s, but no poll put him at 94%. Nor did the White House point to a poll with that level of support. Still, 87% or 89% approval is a strong showing. Where Trump went overboard was in saying he had set some kind of all-time record. That didn’t happen.

Claim: A New York law makes it “now perfectly legal to murder” a baby a minute before it would be born.  

Rating: False

The Reproductive Health Act permits abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy — if the mother’s health is threatened or if the fetus isn’t viable. The post doesn’t highlight those clear restrictions.

Claim: “October 2013, Obama shut down the government for 16 days to force Obamacare.”  

Rating: Half True

In 2013, leading Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, noted that Obamacare largely would move forward even if some elements were defunded. In that sense, Obama was not fighting to “force” Obamacare, because he didn’t need to.

Second, in 2013, two issues, Obamacare and the debt ceiling, were on the table. In 2018, funding for the wall stood alone as the driving force behind the shutdown. In 2013, a compromise on the debt ceiling cleared the way to reopen the government.

The situation in 2013 was more complicated than in 2018. Obama, like Trump, aimed to protect a favored policy. But he also wanted to raise the debt limit, an issue of at least equal importance. 

See a claim that you think we should fact-check? Send it to [email protected]

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CNN panelist compares McConnell’s Senate trial to an ‘all white jury for a Klansman Trial’

[Ed. – Talk like this is intended to inflame passions on the left, and nothing more.]

A CNN panel got heated during a post-Christmas discussion when former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter slammed Mitch McConnell and brought up the Ku Klux Klan.

Painter got the ball rolling when he pointed out the Senate impeachment trial is “a trial” and not a “political game.”

“The oath of loyalty is to the United States of America, not to Donald Trump,” he continued on. “These senators, Democrats and Republicans have an obligation to hear the facts, to hear witnesses, and make a decision.”

Trending: Joe Biden: ‘They’ve tried to ruin my only surviving son’

Then, he said this, slamming the Senate Majority Leader and evoking the Ku Klux Klan: “… Mitch McConnell … may think he’s a judge impaneling an all-white jury for a Klansman trial in Mississippi in 1965. That’s not the kind of trial we have.”

(h/t Weasel Zippers)

Continue reading →

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Bernie Sanders gaining ground in 2020 primary battle: ‘Buckle up’

Sen. Bernie Sanders is everywhere this week.

“Why Bernie Sanders is tough to beat,” reads the headline from The New York Times.

“Democratic Insiders: Bernie Sanders could win the nomination,” says a Politico article.

And Sanders surrogates have been more than happy to make the case on air that he’s as competitive as ever, in the run-up to the January campaign crunch before Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond. Underlying the fresh attention to the two-time presidential candidate, though, is an unshakeable reality — the independent senator from Vermont is ticking back up in the polls, leading the race for campaign cash by a long shot and proving to have a political staying power that has eluded other big names in the crowded 2020 primary battle.


Which begs the question: Could he actually snag the nomination?

“They can go ahead and crown Joe Biden if they want to, but Bernie Sanders is not going anywhere and his followers are not going anywhere,” former Sanders 2016 campaign adviser Tezlyn Figaro said Friday on “Fox & Friends.”

Sanders has been a part of the top tier of nomination contenders since he launched his campaign in February but hasn’t necessarily enjoyed the spotlight so much as former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — or even Sen. Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke before they bowed out.

His reputation as a radical political agitator has endeared him to his base and isolated him from the mainstream essentially since his 2016 primary battle against Hillary Clinton. But Sanders has enjoyed a rise in support in the polls since returning to the campaign trail in October after suffering a heart attack.

He stands at 19 percent in an average of the latest national polls, second only to Biden.

More importantly, in the kickoff caucus state of Iowa, he’s at 20 percent in the latest polling – slightly behind Buttigieg. And in New Hampshire, he’s topping the field at 19 percent in the latest average of public surveys.

Sanders is also leading in the crucial dash for campaign cash. He hauled in a whopping $28 million in the July-September third quarter of fundraising – more than any other Democratic contender – and has raised more this cycle than any of his rivals for the nomination. Early last month, the populist senator who’s pushing ultra-progressive policies touted that he reached 4 million individual donors.


And Sanders is drawing big crowds at many of his campaign stops, including a massive beachfront rally in Venice Beach last weekend, where an estimated 14,000 people showed up to see him and one of his leading surrogates – progressive freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Figaro put forward a prediction that Sanders would “go all the way to the convention” — where a close race could mean a rare, contested nomination process.

“It’s going to be a long season, so they can just buckle up,” Figaro said of the party establishment.


Sanders returned Friday to New Hampshire, the state that launched him into a nationally known politician. Once a long-shot, Sanders crushed former Secretary of State Clinton in the state’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary, boosting him into a marathon battle with the party’s eventual nominee.

At his first stop in the Granite State, he landed the endorsement of one of the state’s top progressive officials — Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. The 2020 candidate for governor was the Sanders campaign’s legal counsel in New Hampshire in 2016 and served as a pledged Sanders delegate at the nominating convention in Philadelphia.

Volinsky told Fox News that this time around, “I kicked the tires with a number of campaigns in the state. There are a number that are very, very, good.”

But he emphasized that “although I spent time with a number of the other campaigns, I kept coming back to Sanders and I think that’s where I belong and I am pleased and privileged to endorse Sanders for president.”

Sanders’ surge the past two months will likely invite more scrutiny, however.

While fellow progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Buttigieg took plenty of incoming fire at recent primary debates, Sanders has largely avoided the fray.

Democratic operative Michael Ceraso, a veteran of Sanders’ 2016 White House bid, raised doubts about whether the senator is really in contention in 2020.

“We need to recognize Bernie still has the same challenges he faced in 2016: higher unfavorables among [voters over 50] can kill him in the early primary and caucus states and Super Tuesday. Can he break through with an older electorate that makes up roughly 50 percent of the vote? I’m skeptical,” he said.

Ceraso, who served as Buttigieg’s New Hampshire state director before parting ways with the campaign this past summer, said “this is problematic for his candidacy because he can’t win the delegates needed to win the nomination if he’s unable to break through with older voters.

“He’ll have to hedge his bets that both his primary opponents are unable to form a voter coalition that can compete with his hold on young and non-college educated voters and that the Democratic electorate is too divided on their choices. That’s a lot of what-ifs.”

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Demolishing the Trump campaign’s holiday guide to debating liberal ‘snowflakes’

On Christmas Eve the Trump campaign launched a website to guide its supporters in holiday political debates with their liberal, “snowflake” relatives. To assist any “snowflakes” on the receiving end of the campaign’s falsehoods and blatant distortions of fact, a point-by-point takedown follows:

The Trump Economy: In demonstrating how strong the “Trump economy” supposedly is, the campaign’s holiday debate guide highlights job growth since Trump assumed office. But job creation has slowed significantly since January 2017. Despite Trump’s relentless self-aggrandizing and bragging, a whopping 1 million fewer jobs were created during Trump’s first 34 months in office compared to Obama’s last 34. Period.

The Trump campaign also points to record low unemployment. In response, “snowflakes” should show their Trump-supporting friends and relatives a graph of the unemployment rate over the last decade and challenge them to point out where – exactly – things magically changed when Trump took over. Unsurprisingly, Trump supporters have no response. Unemployment has declined at a consistent rate since early 2010, meaning that nothing changed after Trump became president. Trump is loudly taking credit for the Obama administration’s aggressive economic recovery measures which, according to the experts, saved the American economy.

Moreover, Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. But the truth is that manufacturing now accounts for the smallest share of the American economy in 72 years.

Thanks to Trump’s tariffs, which amounted to the largest tax increase on Americans in decades, farm bankruptcies and farmer suicides have spiked.

Meanwhile, median household income, an important economic measure, has remained largely stagnant over Trump’s first three years in office. Trump administration spin aside, increases in household income trail those under Obama, which grew steadily toward the end of his administration.

Despite Trump’s overblown boasts about the economy, his campaign is suspiciously silent on the most important economic measure of them all: Annual economic growth. With Trump’s promises of “4 percent, 5 percent, even 6 percent” economic growth, his campaign’s silence is not surprising. Growth will slow significantly this year, demolishing Trump’s absurd predictions of “6 percent” growth. Indeed, Trump will end his first term with a high of 2.9 percent growth (in 2018), tying Obama’s economic record.

Moreover, stock market gains under Trump lag significantly compared to those under Obama and President Clinton.

When it comes to the economy, Trump’s schoolyard boasting is just louder and more relentless than his more-humble predecessors.

Immigration: Deportations are far lower at this point in the Trump administration than they were during the Obama administration.

The Trump campaign’s holiday debate guide also attempts to link immigration detention “cages” to the Obama administration. To be clear, separating migrant families was a Trump administration policy. There was no blanket policy separating children from their parents under previous administrations.

Military Spending by Allies: Trump often takes credit for persuading countries in the NATO alliance to spend more on defense. But our NATO allies have been steadily increasing defense spending since 2014, when Russia invaded eastern Ukraine.

America is now the laughingstock of the world. And, with Trump siding with authoritarians and dictators around the world, American credibility and popularity on the international stage have plummeted to historic lows.

Trade Deals: Without relentless insistence by Democrats on labor and environmental protections, Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would have been nearly identical to NAFTA. This is not a “win” for Trump.

Health care: Trump (and GOP) efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act resulted in 1.1 million Americans losing health coverage in 2018. This breaks a 10-year streak of rising numbers of insured Americans.

Two-thirds of Americans filing for bankruptcy do so because they cannot afford to pay medical bills — often despite having health insurance. Perhaps worse, America is seeing an alarming increase in “deaths of despair,” particularly among the white, working-class citizens who came out in droves to vote Trump into office. Perhaps their votes for the “angry,” scapegoating candidate were grounded in a dramatic decline in their health, economic fortunes and overall quality of life.

The Trump Tax Cuts: The Trump campaign claims that Trump’s massive tax cuts – his only legislative accomplishment – are driving economic growth. But a devastating analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the Trump tax cuts had virtually no effect on the economy. Moreover, the Trump tax cuts did not boost workers’ wages. Instead, they went to corporate stock buybacks, which benefit the ultra-wealthy.

This stunning lack of economic growth begs the question: Why are we racking up trillions of dollars in debt (much of it bought up by China) thanks to the massive Trump tax cuts for the rich?

Indeed, as a direct result of Trump’s tax cuts, 2018 was the first year ever that tax revenues actually declined in a relatively strong economy. This paved the way for the Trump administration to post the largest monthly deficit in U.S. history, exploding the federal debt. Where is the Tea Party outrage on this?

While many commentators blame Obama for skyrocketing debt during his administration, they conveniently ignore that those increases – according to the U.S. Treasury – were overwhelmingly due to the long-term effects of the George W. Bush tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. This graph makes it quite clear.

Beyond Trump’s astronomical debt increases, the only other discernible effect of the Trump tax cuts appears to be an explosion in wealth and income inequality. Indeed, inequality in America is now at levels not seen since 1929, when Wall Street greed caused the Great Depression.

For his part, Trump told his ultra-rich friends that “You all just got a lot richer” immediately after his tax cuts were passed.

Impeachment and Quid Pro Quo: Given the facts, there is zero doubt that Trump withheld crucial military assistance to an ally at war for personal political gain. That is the definition of “corruption.”

Trump’s own political appointees (including his acting chief of staff and budget director), widely-respected diplomats, a Purple Heart recipient, foreign policy professionals, career budget officials (rightly concerned with obeying federal law) and a leading Fox News analyst have all made the president’s corrupt intent an indisputable fact. Indeed, why was critical military aid to Ukraine halted just 91 minutes after Trump’s (not-so-perfect) call with the Ukrainian president?

More importantly, if Trump did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide, why is the White House refusing to let four key officials testify? Do innocent people go out of their way to bury the facts?

Why are Republicans – supposedly impartial jurors in an impeachment trial – engaging in “total coordination” with the accused? In any other American court the judge would immediately order such jurors removed and replaced before going to trial.

It should hardly be surprising that 55 percent of Americans support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. That number will only grow as more details of Trump’s corrupt actions emerge.

Bonus fact: Trump was against providing lethal military aid to Ukraine, blowing up a favorite Republican talking point.

Joe BidenJoe BidenPrimary debates threaten to leave people of color behind Longtime campaign aide vows Sanders will continue to combat political establishment as president 2019 in Photos: 35 pictures in politics MORE and Ukraine: America’s NATO allies, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists all publicly called for the removal of a corrupt and ineffective Ukrainian prosecutor. To the relief of America’s allies and patriotic Ukrainians, Biden managed to get him fired.

Importantly, the Ukrainian company that hired Biden’s son was not under investigation when Biden intervened. Moreover, there is zero evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. On the contrary, the removal of an ineffective prosecutor represented an enormous victory in the fight against endemic corruption in Ukraine. Biden should be commended for his efforts.

Trump, on the other hand, undercut and sidelined the most effective voices against corruption in Ukraine for personal political gain.

The Trump Economy, the Environment, and Oil Production: The Trump campaign’s holiday guide claims that “Trump has taken important steps to restore, preserve, and protect our land, air, and waters.”

Could the campaign be referring to Trump green-lighting toxic emissions of mercury from coal-fired power plants? Or perhaps the litany of ways the Trump administration has dismantled laws and regulations protecting healthy, safe and clean drinking water? Could the campaign be referring to Trump exposing American workers to toxic particulates and dust? The list goes on and on, and it’s not pretty.

As detailed above, the rollback of these critical health and environmental regulations did not result in a spike in economic growth, making their repeal utterly unnecessary — not to mention dangerous for all Americans.

Lastly, the Trump campaign takes credit for the United States becoming the world’s largest oil producer. But this trend began in 2011. Trump had nothing to do with it.

More importantly, with a staggering 120,000 weather records broken in the U.S. this year alone and the world’s top companies projecting at least $1 trillion in costs due to climate change, Trump has very little to crow about.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.

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Trump Blasts Pelosi and Her ‘Filthy Dirty District’ in Lengthy Unhinged Rant

Nancy Pelosi’s demands for a fair impeachment trial clearly have Donald Trump at his wit’s end (if he hasn’t reached it already. The impeached president went off on the Speaker of the House late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning in a pair of lengthy tantrums.

Tweeted Trump: “Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States? Got ZERO Republican votes, there was no crime, the call with Ukraine was perfect, with “no pressure.” She said it must be “bipartisan……& overwhelming,” but this Scam Impeachment was neither. Also, very unfair with no Due Process, proper representation, or witnesses. Now Pelosi is demanding everything the Republicans weren’t allowed to have in the House. Dems want to run majority Republican Senate. Hypocrites!”

He kept going Thursday morning:

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Elizabeth Warren Now Accused Of Distorting The Truth About Her Family

Elizabeth Warren Now Accused Of Distorting The Truth About Her Family – By Her Own Brother

Does Elizabeth Warren ever tell the truth?

First she was caught in her decades long deception about being a Native American.

Now she is being called out by her own brother for distorting the truth about their father.


Mediaite reports:

Elizabeth Warren’s Brother Reportedly ‘Furious’ She Claims Their Father Was a Janitor

Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren apparently angered her brother by claiming their father worked as a “janitor,” with a family friend saying that the characterization made David Herring “furious.”

The Boston Globe published an article this week about Warren’s three older brothers that contained the detail — related by a family friend and not directly contradicted by Warren, who told the paper she didn’t know why the claim would anger her brother:

“Families can also disagree on the details of a shared life. According to a family friend, David has disagreed with the way Warren calls herself the daughter of a janitor as she describes the work he found after losing a job as a salesman after his heart attack.

“When she called her dad a janitor during the early stages of this, David was furious,” said Pamela Winblood, 78, a longtime friend of David who had fallen out with him and supports Warren’s presidential bid.

“He said, ‘My Dad was never a janitor.’ I said, ‘Well, he was a maintenance man.’ ” (In an interview, Warren said she had no idea why that characterization would bother her brother; she has referred to their father as a “maintenance man” in her 2014 autobiography but often as a “janitor” on the campaign trail.)”

Her lying seems pathological at this point:

If her campaign wasn’t already toast, it certainly looks that way now.

Cross posted from American Lookout.