Last week Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was held in contempt of court and fined for failing to stop collecting on loans owed by students who were defrauded by the for-profit Corinthian Colleges. As I have written in previous columns, spokespeople of for-profit colleges and student-loan companies are now routinely placed in positions of power within DeVos’s department.

This week, The Washington Post reported on a webinar in which payday loan executives were caught boasting that their financial contributions to Trump’s reelection campaign would help secure access to the president and fend off attempts by Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren to impose tougher regulations on this most usurious of industries.

This week, too, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota sided with the Trump administration in its efforts to end California’s nearly half-century-old Clean Air Act waiver, which has allowed the Golden State to impose anti-pollution and fuel-efficiency standards on car companies that are tougher than the federal government’s. GM and Toyota have both invested heavily in hybrid and electric vehicle technology in recent years, but now, perhaps smelling higher profits in an increasingly deregulated national market, they have sided with this administration’s war against California’s efforts to limit global warming.

Impeachment proceedings notwithstanding, the Trump administration’s peculiarly sordid version of crony capitalism is racing full-steam ahead. If you need additional examples, witness Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s efforts to secure millions of dollars in tax breaks that happen to benefit his friend, the onetime junk-bond king and convicted tax cheat Michael Milken. And note the reports that a $33 million federal contract to provide courthouse and cell-block security was channeled toward a company in which Trump’s younger brother, Robert, has a financial interest.

Meanwhile, Republicans seem determined to block election-protection systems and further expand its efforts to purge voter rolls. This week the Senate blocked a bill passed by the House that would have mandated paper-ballot backups in case of election machine malfunctions, as well as a series of other election-protection measures. That GOP exercise in malign neglect comes hot on the heels of the party’s blocking a bill last week that would have required political campaigns to report to the FBI all offers of foreign assistance. And, at the state level, Georgia has become the latest state to roll out a wholesale purge of voters deemed “inactive.” The list that Georgia’s secretary of state released this week of those likely to be purged contained more than 300,000 names.

All of this is Signal. The Noise is cell phone–wielding GOP stuntmen raiding committee hearings held in secure facilities; Bush-era Justice Department lawyer John Yoo charging on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show that National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is a spy; and Trump and Lindsey Graham bleating on about witch hunts.

The GOP’s modus operandi these days is pillage and plunder, hidden behind a smokescreen of ever-more inflammatory and lurid allegations against those who oppose their agenda. Stay focused on what is really happening. Don’t get disoriented in their fog.

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