It’s Monday and we’re headed towards April Fool’s Day.
Or did that happen yesterday afternoon when it became pretty obvious that a Quid Pro Quo was delivered to Congress by an Attorney General who did pretty much what he was hired to do. Congress Our Congress and we the people have to see the full report of the Mueller investigation to determine exactly what is meant by t the President wasn’t exonerated but, hey, I’ve decided to not prosecute and just make it all go away as much as possible because I believe in an imperial presidency and I did this before and got away with it.
I wasn’t exactly expecting a smoking gun from Mueller. I was, however, expecting a guy that wrote a diatribe on how the entire exercise was a witch hunt and then submitted it to the President for a spot back on the A team was going to do exactly what he was hired to do. He’s providing cover at whatever he cost for a law ignoring monster of a man.
Now, we wait for Congress and the Courts to shake it all out of the Barr.
But the critical part of the letter is that it now creates a whole new mess. After laying out the scope of the investigation and noting that Mr. Mueller’s report does not offer any legal recommendations, Mr. Barr declares that it therefore “leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.” He then concludes the president did not obstruct justice when he fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey.
Such a conclusion would be momentous in any event. But to do so within 48 hours of receiving the report (which pointedly did not reach that conclusion) should be deeply concerning to every American.
The special counsel regulations were written to provide the public with confidence that justice was done. It is impossible for the public to reach that determination without knowing two things. First, what did the Mueller report conclude, and what was the evidence on obstruction of justice? And second, how could Mr. Barr have reached his conclusion so quickly?
Mr. Barr’s letter raises far more questions than it answers, both on the facts and the law.
His letter says Mr. Mueller set “out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Yet we don’t know what those “difficult issues” were, because Mr. Barr doesn’t say, or why Mr. Mueller, after deciding not to charge on conspiracy, let Mr. Barr make the decision on obstruction.
On the facts, Mr. Barr says that the government would need to prove that Mr. Trump acted with “corrupt intent” and there were no such actions. But how would Mr. Barr know? Did he even attempt to interview Mr. Trump about his intentions?
What kind of prosecutor would make a decision about someone’s intent without even trying to talk to him? Particularly in light of Mr. Mueller’s pointed statement that his report does not “exonerate” Mr. Trump. Mr. Mueller didn’t have to say anything like that. He did so for a reason. And that reason may well be that there is troubling evidence in the substantial record that he compiled.
William Saletan–at Salon–has a take that’s worth considering. “Bill Barr’s Weasel Words. All the ways the attorney general is spinning the Mueller report to protect Trump.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation, and Republicans are gloating. They claim a four-page letterfrom Attorney General William Barr, purporting to summarize the report, exonerates President Donald Trump. They’re wrong. The letter says the Justice Department won’t prosecute Trump, but it reaches that conclusion by tailoring legal standards to protect the president. Here’s a list of Barr’s weasel words and what they’re hiding.
“The Russian government.” The letter quotes a sentence from Mueller’s report. In that sentence, Mueller says his investigation didn’t prove that members of the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The sentence specifies Russia’s government. It says nothing about coordination with other Russians. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, gave campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian associate who has been linked to Russian intelligence. Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met secretly in Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer. But neither Kilimnik nor Veselnitskaya is part of the Russian government. They seem to be excluded from Barr’s analysis.
Read the entire list of Weasel Words. Then, remember the last time Barr basically did the same kind of thing George HW Bush and Iran Contra. Why wouldn’t he do it again especially since he was out writing about it for Trump and all to see over the past two years? Remember all those pardons?
Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six peoplewho had been caught up in it.
“The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call,” Bush said then. “That’s what I’ve done.”
Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president’s decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.
To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.
“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.
Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.
“The big ones — obviously, the Iran-Contra ones — I certainly did not oppose any of them,” Barr said as part of the Presidential Oral History Program of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Well, he’s has certainly handed a reprieve-at the very least- to a very big one at the moment.
Marcy Wheelers’s conclusions at The New Republic are worth reading. This headline even sums it up nicely. “Yes, Trump Obstructed Justice. And William Barr Is Helping Him Cover It Up. The attorney general’s take on the Mueller report goes through contortions to avoid charging the president with a crime.”
It is widely believed that Barr had already categorically ruled out charging a president with obstruction. In a June 2018 memo, shared with Trump’s lawyer before his nomination, Barr argued that the theory of obstruction he believed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be adopting would not be proper. But in that very same memo—on the very first page!—Barr conceded, “Obviously, the President … can commit obstruction in [a] classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function.” Barr envisioned that if a president “suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony … then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.”
That’s important, because we know that Trump has been involved in getting his aides to lie. His own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, reportedly edited the prepared statement Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen gave to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen goes to prison in May, in part, for telling lies that Sekulow reviewed.
And Trump has repeatedly dangled pardons to subordinates under investigation, reportedly including former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, and Cohen. Indeed, in a hearing in February, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann argued that Manafort lied about the details of sharing Trump campaign polling data with the Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016—knowing that the data would be passed on to others including other Russians—specifically to “augment his chances for a pardon.”
Well, turn the TV news on if you dare. I’m just going to grade for awhile and hope there’s a plan some where to end this nightmare.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
It’s Persian New Year! Yesterday was National Puppy Day! I’ve been looking at all kinds of things to find some distractions but I still fell empty and wanting from my nearly 2 year relationship with Robert Mueller. I can’t help asking what does this break up mean? Is it really over? Where do we go from here?
I appear not to be alone in my search for clues and answers. So, here it is … the morning list of reads of what’s next or entering the next phase of throwing the entire Trump/Kushner family syndicate in jail and out of the White House.
!Oh, and this:
Plus, mmm this:
Continuing on ..
and, for your consideration …
Well, go read and get back to me …
JJ should be back this week. And, this is an open thread, no, really it is …
Meanwhile, here are some puppies to celebrate National Puppy Day a day late!!!
And read all about Nowruz (Persian New Year) here.
I don’t know what to think this morning. I’m still suspicious that AG Bill Barr may have ended the Mueller investigation prematurely. I guess we’ll learn more over the weekend. Reportedly, Barr is in his office today and CNN says we could get an update sometime today.
I’m reserving judgment for now, but I can help but be disappointed that Mueller didn’t charge anyone in Trump’s inner circle. Of course there are still multiple other investigations going on, but it looks like the Russia probe will now have be pursued in the House committees.
Some media reactions to check out:
Natasha Bertrand: What Mueller Leaves Behind.
After one year, 10 months, and six days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to the attorney general, signaling the end of his investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Mueller’s pace has been breakneck, legal experts tell me—especially for a complicated criminal investigation that involves foreign nationals and the Kremlin, an adversarial government. The next-shortest special-counsel inquiry was the three-and-a-half-year investigation of the Plame affair, under President George W. Bush; the longest looked into the Iran-Contra scandal, under President Ronald Reagan, which lasted nearly seven years. Still, former FBI agents have expressed surprise that Mueller ended his probe without ever personally interviewing its central target: Donald Trump.
The content of the special counsel’s report is still unknown—Mueller delivered it to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, and now it’s up to Barr to write his own summary of the findings, which will then go to Congress.
While aspects of the central pieces of Mueller’s investigation—conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and kompromat, the Russians’ practice of collecting damaging information about public figures to blackmail them with—have been revealed publicly through indictments and press-friendly witnesses, the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and Mueller’s own legacy, still hang in the balance. Did Trump’s campaign knowingly work with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton and win the election? And how much was Mueller actually able to uncover?
Bertrand breaks down the knowns and unknowns in each of the three categories above. Read it all at The Atlantic.
Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: After Mueller: An Off-Ramp on Russia for the Venal Fucks.
We don’t know what the Mueller report says, though given William Barr’s promise to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and follow it with a public summary, it’s not likely to be that damning to Trump. But I can think of five mutually non-exclusive possibilities for the report:
- Mueller ultimately found there was little fire behind the considerable amounts of smoke generated by Trump’s paranoia
- The report will be very damning — showing a great deal of corruption — which nevertheless doesn’t amount to criminal behavior
- Evidence that Manafort and Stone conspired with Russia to affect the election, but Mueller decided not to prosecute conspiracy itself because they’re both on the hook for the same prison sentence a conspiracy would net anyway, with far less evidentiary exposure
- There’s evidence that others entered into a conspiracy with Russia to affect the election, but that couldn’t be charged because of evidentiary reasons that include classification concerns and presidential prerogatives over foreign policy, pardons, and firing employees
- Mueller found strong evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, but Corsi, Manafort, and Stone’s lies (and Trump’s limited cooperation) prevented charging it
As many people have pointed out, this doesn’t mean Trump and his kin are out of jeopardy. This NYT piecesummarizes a breathtaking number of known investigations, spanning at least four US Attorneys offices plus New York state, but I believe even it is not comprehensive.
Read the rest at the link.
The New York Times: As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York.
Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.
Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business….
At this point, it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with a crime. Some of the investigations involve allegations that may be too old to be prosecuted. Yet taken together, the investigations show that the prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.
“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has finally completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, handing off his highly anticipated report to the attorney general on Friday. But legal experts warn that even though Mueller’s probe has stopped, there are still plenty more legal woes facing President Donald Trump.
“The Mueller investigation is but a fraction of the president’s troubles. If anything, it’s just the beginning,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek….
“I think that [the Mueller report] certainly is not the end-all, be-all for legal problems and ethics problems for the president,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Newsweek.
“There’s just a lot of really problematic conduct that is being investigated, and that’s not to say that what special counsel Mueller found is not going to be incredibly important…but there’s some danger to looking at whatever he produces as the definitive statement on whether or not this president did anything wrong,” he said.
Bookbinder added that Mueller has a “very narrow mandate” as the special counsel, but “there’s a whole lot more out there.”
Read more at Newsweek.
The Washington Post: At the center of Mueller’s inquiry, a campaign that appeared to welcome Russia’s help.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.
But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.
When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.
When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.
Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.
The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.
Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back.
But the mentions of “brief” and “confidential” in the regulations and accompanying commentary were just general guidelines for each type of report. The text of the regulations never required the attorney general’s report to Congress to be short or nonpublic. Rather, that text expressly included a key provision saying the “Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest,” even if the public release may deviate from ordinary Justice Department protocols.
Read the rest at The Washington Post.
That’s all I’ve got. I just hope we learn more soon, because I’m not feeling good about this sudden end to the investigation. I’ve heard that the report is extensive, so that may be a good sign. We’ll just have to wait for more information.
Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers! Hang in there. This is an open thread.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Every one seems to be on Mueller Watch today as more rumors fly about the investigation’s report. My issues appear to be more directly related to the absolute breakdown in the rules of how to be a polite person in a society of jerks when the jerks win the Presidency and Senate. Where ever you find a Trump supporter, you find filth, hatred, and calls to violence and I’m tired of it.
I actually dreamed last night that I met Cindy McCain at a convention/festival aimed at Anime fans that some how sprung up near my flooded out back yard of my last house in Omaha. I felt like I had to apologize to her over and over and over. My sleeping brain was obviously trying to figure out a lot of things.
One of my nuttiest hypereligious hyperTrumpy high school acquaintances was just regurgitating the Trump/Right WIng Party line on the late Senator John McCain on a mutual friends Facebook Thread on why attack the late Senator John McCain? I had my issues with “Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran” John McCain but I’m not about to pretend that a man whose father faked a bones spurs deferment is a hero compared to a guy that had a chance to get out of the Hanoi Hilton early and let others go before him.
Kerrey, a former Navy SEAL who lost part of his right leg during the war, said on Wednesday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” that “you don’t grow out of bone spurs.” If Trump had them in the 1960s, Kerrey said, he’d still have them now (unless he underwent surgery, which Trump has never mentioned).
The challenge followed Trump’s latest disparaging remarks about the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years. McCain, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, died in August.
“While John McCain was flying combat operations in Vietnam, you were, I think, falsifying that you had bone spurs in order not to go to Vietnam,” said Kerrey, a 1992 presidential candidate who retired from the Senate in 2000. “Now, I know lots of people who avoided the draft, but this isn’t what he’s saying. He said ‘I physically couldn’t go.’ Well, Mr. President, get your feet X-rayed and let’s see those bone spurs. I don’t think he has them.”
Kerrey said he also believed Trump “sees all of us who went to Vietnam as fools. We were the suckers. We were the stupid ones. We were the ones that didn’t have the resources to be able to get out of the draft.”
My childhood stomping grounds are surrounded by floods. Our home was way up in the hills of Council Bluffs and later way up on the hill my Dad found in West Omaha. And, as you know, I’m on high ground here in the kathouse in New Orleans. Grandad taught all of us to buy on the high ground when he and Nana lost everything to floods in Ohio back in the 20s. That lesson stuck with me.
Farmland floods. That’s what happens. Towns on rivers experience floods all the time. They are getting worse but not a single person who gets flooded out doesn’t need a lot of help. No one. No matter who they are or how they vote. But, racist Republican Congressman Steve King just keeps at it with the inference that flooded Iowans take care of their own but flooded New Orleanians beg only for government handouts. Why is every Republican these days such a hateful, horrid bigot and nut? (Via The Hill)
Who endlessly speaks ill of a dead Senator, Veteran, and former POW who certainly made policy gaffs but certainly his family shouldn’t have to endure this. What kind of person can’t recognize the absolute wreckage and death brought by Hurricane Katrina and the weeks that folks were not allowed near their homes? Banks were closed. It took me until December to get my damned paycheck from the University of New Orleans. I desperately needed that FEMA debit card and the help of a lot of people from St Charles, Louisiana, up through Texas, and well into Nebraska that included friends and strangers and yes, the government programs I used by heading to the Omaha Red Cross! I was raised in Steve King country. I haven’t seen any difference in how Americans respond to flood if either victim or helping neighbor.
Huge disasters require huge responses on all levels.. Why are you dancing on the graves of dead New Orleans and all of us that suffered, and still suffer from that event? What is wrong with you? I don’t like my tax money going to subsidizing noncompetitive businesses but I’ll write a check any day to rescue an American from a disaster over which they have no control.
Republican Rep. Steve King (Iowa) contrasted Iowans as being willing to help one another compared to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.“Here’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying ‘who’s gonna help me?’ ” King said at a town hall event in a video posted to his Facebook page.
He said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told him that an Iowan, however, would say “wait a minute, let me get my boots, it’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.”
“They’re just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other,” he added.
This WAPO article really brings home the headline : “Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes”. The Republican Party should be delegated a hate group.
Does Trump’s political rhetoric have a measurable link to reported hate crime and extremist activity?
We examined this question, given that so many politicians and pundits accuse Trump of emboldening white nationalists. White nationalist leaders seem to agree, as leaders including Richard Spencer and David Duke have publicly supported Trump’s candidacy and presidency, even if they still criticize him for not going far enough. The New Zealand shooter even referred to Trump as a “renewed symbol of white identity.”
So, do attitudes like these have real world consequences? Recent research on far-right groupssuggests that they do, especially when these attitudes are embraced and encourage by peers. Specifically, the quantity of neo-Nazi and racist skinhead groups active in a state leads to increased reports of hate crimes within that state.
How we did our research
Using the Anti-Defamation League’s Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism, Terrorism map data (HEAT map), we examined whether there was a correlation between the counties that hosted one of Trump’s 275 presidential campaign rallies in 2016 and increased incidents of hate crimes in subsequent months.
To test this, we aggregated hate-crime incident data and Trump rally data to the county level and then used statistical tools to estimate a rally’s impact. We included controls for factors such as the county’s crime rates, its number of active hate groups, its minority populations, its percentage with college educations, its location in the country and the month when the rallies occurred.
We found that counties that had hosted a 2016 Trump campaign rally saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes over comparable counties that did not host such a rally.
These folks are even cannibalizing their own. From Raw Story: “Trump fans launch all-out attack on ex-Navy SEAL GOP lawmaker for defending McCain: ‘You’ll be a one-term wonder’”
Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Dan Crenshaw — who now serves as a Republican congressman — defended former Navy Captain John McCain on Thursday. Supporters of President Donald Trump quickly suffered an online meltdown.
Crenshaw is a former Navy SEAL who earned two Bronze Stars and a purple heart for his service in Afghanistan, where he lost his right eye from an improvised explosive device explosion. He was subsequently elected to represent Texas in Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Mr. President, seriously stop talking about Senator McCain,” Crenshaw suggested.
This did not go over well with some of Trump’s most fervent supporters.
His twitterfeed became a toxic wasteland of very sick and disturbed people. That’s just about what’s going on with both Meghan and Cindy McCain too.
Cindy McCain posted a screenshot of the message that called the former Arizona Republican “traitorous” and “warmongering.” Peppered with profanity, the message reads, “I’m glad he’s dead.” The writer said she hopes Meghan McCain “chokes to death.”
Cindy McCain said she posted the message so the poster’s “family and friends could see.”
“I want to make sure all of you could see how kind and loving a stranger can be,” McCain wrote.
How long can we maintain a veneer of civilization if these people keep getting hyped about by mentally ill President who can’t seem to behave like a normal, polite, responsible adult? It’s impacting all of us and I keep wanting to scream “think of the children!!”. Well, some one did (Via WAPO): “An online threat of violence shuts down all Charlottesville schools”
Public school campuses in Charlottesville will be shuttered Friday for a second straight day — and more than 4,300 students will be kept out of classrooms — after a threat of racial violence surfaced online.
In a message to families, Rosa Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, said an investigation involving state and federal authorities remains active, necessitating the unusual step of keeping schools closed.
“We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged. We do not tolerate hate or racism,” Atkins said.
“The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color — and with people who have been singled out for reasons such as religion or ethnicity or sexual identity in other vile threats made across the country or around the world. We are in this together, and a threat against one is a threat against all.”
I am so worn down over this daily display of the worst of humanity parading around with threats of guns and violence, nasty attacks on every one for no other reason than disagreeing with this disagreeable President, and just plain rudeness and discourteousness. Can we return to some concept of disagreement on things without an entire section of the republican base behaving like poo flinging rage baboons and the rest ignoring them?
Meanwhile, I’m just tired and I’ve got grading to do so I’ll leave you to figure out how we best get rid of all this. I’ll probably choose one of the Democratic Primary candidates and work my ass off for them. Just again, none of the Bad News B’s for me.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’ve never been a fan of Joe Biden, so maybe I’ve just ignored his stance on reproductive rights. I did not know Biden was wobbly on the issue. I had even forgotten that Biden is a Catholic.
I couldn’t find anything recent on Biden’s abortion stance, except this piece at HuffPost from March 6: Biden In 1974: Women Don’t Have Sole Right To Say What Should Happen To Their Bodies.
When former Vice President Joe Biden was a freshman senator he said in a 1974 interview with Washingtonian that he believed the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling clearing the way for legal first-trimester abortions “went too far,” and that he didn’t “think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
In the interview, which took place just two years after Biden’s wife and two-year-old were killed in a car accident, Biden — then the youngest senator in U.S. history — said his anti-abortion views were part of his “socially conservative” outlook.
“My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known,” he said. “When it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother.”
Biden claims his remarks were “taken out of context.”
But Biden didn’t limit his anti-abortion views to rhetoric. He also advanced legislation on the subject.
In 1981, for example, Biden proposed the Foreign Assistance Act, which barred U.S. aid from being used for any medical research on abortion. It’s still in effect to this day. He has also voted in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion procedures.
He also supported former President Ronald Reagan’s “Global Gag Rule,” which prohibits the U.S. funding any nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on reproductive health care if they also offer abortion. President Trump was quick to revive it in 2017.
Biden’s approval rating from the pro-choice activist group NARAL has fluctuated throughout his career. In the 1990s, his score wavered between 34 and 46 percent ― a pretty abysmal scorecard for a Democrat. In recent years, however, it’s shot up to 100 percent.
Two articles on Biden and abortion from 2015:
In an exclusive interview with America released at the beginning of this week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. affirmed that pro-life people “absolutely, positively” are welcome in the Democratic party and that he believes, as a Catholic, that “abortion is always wrong.” His comments, very different from most contributions to the political conversation about abortion, are blurring some long-established lines in the culture wars and generating significant interest in the media and among commentators….
“It has been hard…I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God-fearing [and] non-God-fearing people that have a different view,” Biden said. He continued, “Abortion is always wrong…But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].” (See the exchange, which begins at the 13:30 mark, in the full interview embedded at the bottom of this post.)
Fr. Malone also asked Mr. Biden if there was room for people who are pro-life in the Democratic party. The Vice President responded resolutely: “Absolutely. Absolutely, positively. And that’s been my position for as long as I’ve been engaged.”
No. Just no. Anyone who is “pro-life” in the sense of opposing women’s reproductive rights should not be welcome in the Democratic Party.
Biden has been an inconsistent supporter of reproductive rights, sometimes backing the legal right of women to choose how to handle a pregnancy, while often hewing to his Catholic faith and moralizing against all abortions. Even today, when he and Clinton would most likely agree on most of the policy substance of ensuring access to abortion clinics, Biden sticks to a pro-life view in his personal politics.
During the early part of his career, abortion rights groups griped about Biden as an unreliable ally. “Joe Biden moans a lot and then usually votes against us,” a Planned Parenthood official said in 1986.
When he first entered national politics, Biden was willing to stand alongside politicians who wanted to make abortion illegal. In a Washingtonian profilepublished the year after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion, Biden unequivocally criticized the ruling. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion,” he said. “I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
He put that view into practice in 1982, voting in the Judiciary Committee for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned Roe v. Wade by declaring that the Constitution offered women no inherent right to abortion, and that the federal government and states would be free to regulate or ban abortion as they pleased. Under that amendment, state laws that restricted abortions would have superseded more permissive federal laws.
Read the rest at Mother Jones.
As Biden continues to agonize about getting into the 2020 presidential race, this is something that needs to be spread far and wide among Democrats. With Roe v. Wade likely to be overturned soon, Women cannot accept a candidate who doesn’t wholeheartedly support women’s right to control their own bodies.
The Kushners and the Trumps
I’m reading the new book by Vicky Ward, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. I can tell you that the Kushner family can definitely compete with the Trump’s in terms of corruption. Until now I had no idea just how much of a monster Charles Kushner is. No wonder Trump likes Jared so much. Ward was interviewed on Democracy Now this morning.
The New York Times has a story on the Kushners this morning: The Kingdom and the Kushners: Jared Went to Riyadh. So Did His Brother.
In late October 2017, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, dropped into Saudi Arabia for an unannounced visit to the desert retreat of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in the process of consolidating his power. The two men talked privately late into the night.
Just a day earlier, Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, then 32, was flying out of the kingdom.
Jared came to talk policy, but Josh was there on business.
The founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm, Josh Kushner had spent the three days before his brother’s arrival at an investor conference, where Prince Mohammed had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia.
As others sat through speeches in a gilded conference hall, several participants said, the younger Mr. Kushner frequently ducked out for more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials.
Some government ethics lawyers say those conversations — never hidden, but not previously reported — create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. Although Jared Kushner severed his ties with his brother’s company and divested his interest in his brother’s funds around the time he entered the White House, he was nonetheless discussing American policy with the rulers of the kingdom at virtually the same time that his brother was talking business with their top aides.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Mike Pence and Russia?
Check out this creepy scoop from Think Progress: Why was Franklin Graham schmoozing with a sanctioned Russian official this month?
Franklin Graham, America’s most prominent evangelical leader, says Vice President Mike Pence signed off on his trip to Russia earlier this month. While there, Graham met with sanctioned Kremlin officials — even as U.S. investigations ramped up into Moscow’s election interference efforts. One official Russian governmental social media account touted the meeting as a way to “[intensify] contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”
In an interview with RIA Novosti, a major Russian state-run outlet, Graham said he called Pence directly to tell him of the trip. “He was very happy to hear the news,” Graham said. “And he admitted that he fully supported my decision.”
Neither Pence’s office nor the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association responded to ThinkProgress’s requests for comment.
According to interviews in Russian media and photos on his own social media accounts, Graham, currently the chair of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, traveled to Moscow earlier this month to meet with a number of prominent Russian figures. Most notably, Graham had a sit-down meeting with Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and who has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Click on the link to read the rest.
More stories to check out, links only:
The New Republic: Nihilist In Chief: The Banal, Evil, All-Destructive Reign of Mitch McConnell.
The New York Times: Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras.
Trump Inc: Trump’s Moscow Tower Problem.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
Here we are on the first day of Spring 2019, and a madman is still “president.” He’s getting crazier and crazier with each passing day. Here’s proof, in case you need it:
What a fucking moron!
Then there are the moronic “B-boys.” There are four of them: Biden, Beto, Bernie, and now Buttigieg, the latest Democrat to dump on Hillary.
Hey Pete, Hillary’s slogan was “Stronger Together.” Are you sure you want to attack her millions of supporters who collectively said, “I’m with her?” Too late, you already did.
Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Beto, Biden and Bernie: The B-Boys and the media’s dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy.
As amorous embraces go, few could be more ardent than the one Beto O’Rourke got this month from Vanity Fair magazine.
The perfectly timed cover treatment was the full monty: Rugged-glam photo by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, the former Texas congressman’s earnest Kennedy-esque gaze, and the ripe-for-parody headline including this immortal quote: “I’m just born to be in it.”
Most Americans wouldn’t see the magazine itself, of course, but the rest of the news media — including network evening news — helped spread the image around as they gave over-the-top coverage to O’Rourke’s kickoff….
Somehow, despite a remarkably diverse Democratic field — which includes a record number of women, a gay man and several people of color — the B-Boys (that is, Beto, Biden and Bernie) — were off and running.
The news media undoubtedly was part of the equation. With more than 18 months to go before the 2020 election, the love and attention was not being dished out in equal measure.
As author Rebecca Traister described it, she woke up one morning this week thinking about the flawed notion that being a white man is actually a disadvantage, given this diverse field.
The reality is quite the opposite, she wrote on Twitter: “Early metrics would show it to be an extremely powerful polling & fundraising boon, as it has always, always been.”
And now we can add another B-boy to the list of white men getting all the attention.
I’m already sick and tired of the 2020 election campaign and it’s still early 2019.
More suggested reads and then some cartoons.
Barbara McQuade at USA Today:The bread crumb papers: Why Cohen document dump should worry Donald Trump and others.
Robin Marty at Politico: I Am an Abortion Rights Activist. I Hope the Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Centrists Have Great Bullshit Radar (in Sweden, Anyway).
Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: The Enigmatic Russian Paying Maria Butina’s Legal Bills.
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Everyone thinks they’re going to sell”: Hellfire at Fox as Hannity mulls leaving and Lachlan goes full Donna Brazile on Trump.
Even the cartoons aren’t funny anymore. Sad.
Some interesting news broke from the Justice Department this morning.
I wonder what it means? Check out this Twitter thread from Clint Watts:
Read the whole thing on Twitter. Here’s the conclusion:
Watts thinks it’s possible Barr already has the report, which isn’t going to be long review of everything Mueller found. As Marcy Wheeler long been arguing, Mueller is speaking through his court filings.
Before I get to the rest of today’s news, here’s the back story on the amazing photo at the top of this post.
When Lincoln, Maine-based photographer Roger Stevens Jr. was reviewing photos of a staredown between a squirrel and a bald eagle he took last Monday, he thought they looked “pretty sharp,” so he decided to share one on his Facebook page.
“I didn’t give it much of a thought after that,” Stevens said in an interview with Boston.com on Monday.
But it turns out Stevens had unknowingly struck viral gold.
The shares from the photo began to surge, which he thought was “kind of odd.” He sent the photo on to a contact at the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, which ran a story a couple days later, and to a local news station, as he sometimes does.
Stevens got calls about the photo from around the world. Here the background:
The fateful day began just like any other, Stevens described. He and his dog, Rosie, got up, had breakfast, and then headed out — Stevens says he “always” has his camera.
Stevens was looking for eagles specifically, he said. He’s published photo books on various animals before, and this is his latest project. He saw the eagle sitting in the tree next to the Rite Aid in the middle of Lincoln.
“It was kind of a gray day,” Stevens recalled. “Not a great day to film the eagle.”[….]
“The squirrel literally came from I don’t know where,” he said. “It raced up the tree and started just kind of like playing hide-and-seek with this eagle. And then it got really bold and stuck its neck out there in the picture that everybody sees. And I thought this is kind of odd, but I didn’t really think that much about it at the time.”
What Stevens had captured was an interaction between predator and prey — bald eagles eat squirrels and other small mammals, according to the National Eagle Center in Minnesota.
For those wondering what happened after the photo was taken, things didn’t end badly for the bold squirrel, according to Stevens. The eagle flew away after about 10 minutes.
The other big news this morning is the release of information about the Special Counsel’s investigation of Michael Cohen and the background to the FBI raid on Cohen’s offices.
The New York Times: Michael Cohen’s Emails Were Sought by Special Counsel in July 2017, Documents Show.
Federal authorities began investigating the email accounts of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, as early as July 2017, only months after Mr. Trump took office, according to documents unsealed on Tuesday.
The emails, dating back to January 2016, were sought by the office of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel conducting the Russia investigation, the documents show. The records show that Mr. Cohen’s business dealings had already been the subject of an extensive investigation by the time F.B.I. agents conducted a highly public raid on his home and office last April.
The records, including search warrants and materials related to the April raid, were among hundreds of pages of documents released in response to a request by The New York Times and other news organizations.
The materials that were unsealed on Tuesday came from F.B.I. searches last April on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment, hotel room and a safe deposit box.
The April 8, 2018, search warrant said that the F.B.I. and Manhattan federal prosecutors were investigating Mr. Cohen for a range of crimes, including defrauding several banks dating back to 2016 and a scheme “to make an illegal campaign contribution in October 2016 to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The warrant also indicated they were investigating him for wire fraud and conspiracy.
More stories on the Cohen documents:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators were allowed by a federal judge to review years of Michael Cohen’s emails and other online data from the time he worked under Donald Trump, according to newly unsealed warrants used in his case in Manhattan federal court.
In all, the prosecutors and FBI received permission from a Washington, DC-based federal judge to execute four search warrants on Cohen’s two Gmail accounts and for stored data in his Apple iCloud account in July, August and November 2017 — long before Cohen’s office was raided in April 2018 and he pleaded guilty in an illegal campaign contribution and tax prosecution led by Manhattan federal prosecutors.
Mueller also received approval on two separate occasions to track the numbers of Cohen’s incoming and outgoing calls.
The revelation gives new illumination to Mueller’s work throughout 2017 — before he had brought the bulk of his open criminal cases against defendants like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a host of Russians for interfering in the election — and shows how extensively Mueller had tracked computer data of those close to then-candidate Trump in the early days of his presidency.
The search warrants released Tuesday say that the special counsel’s office referred “certain aspects” of its investigation into Cohen to the New York-based US Attorney’s Office.
I wonder if this news explains Trump’s Twitter meltdown over the weekend? I’m sure we’ll being learning much more about what’s in these documents in the course of today. Marcy Wheeler has been tweeting about them; I look forward to her detailed analysis when she publishes it.
Interesting Mueller report speculation at Politico: Preet Bharara Expects a ‘Lengthy, Detailed’ Mueller Report.
[Bharara] thinks Robert Mueller, the special counsel brought in to investigate that allegedly tainted election after Trump fired Comey, will want to explain himself, at least privately. Bharara predicts Mueller will deliver a robust report to Attorney General William Barr that will lay out precisely why and how he decided to prosecute — or not — various individuals swept up in the Russia probe, including the president.
“He could give something bare-bones to the AG, because he’s said what he was going to say in publicly filed documents and indictments,” Bharara said in an interview. “Or, I think it’s slightly more likely — a hunch I have — that he’ll write a very lengthy, detailed document that goes into the prosecutions and the declinations at great length, with a lot of supporting exhibits as well.”
Then, he says, Barr will face an excruciating dilemma: how much of the report to reveal to Congress and to the public. Disclose too much, and he’ll anger his boss in the White House. Disclose too little, and Democrats will howl. With stakes this high, Americans’ confidence (or lack thereof) that Mueller’s inquiry has been rigorously impartial has become a proxy for our wheezing collective confidence in the justice system and even democracy itself, a subject that concerns Bharara greatly.
In leaky Washington, the broad outlines of such an explosive report likely wouldn’t stay hidden for long, Bharara predicts. “And once it is known that it’s” — he picks a number out of thin air — “a 480-page document, then let the games begin.”
Bharara argues that, unlike Clinton — or, say, a businessman suspected of defrauding a bank, but not ultimately charged with a crime — the president of the United States isn’t entitled to prosecutors’ silence. So even if Americans never find out why minor Russiagate figures such as Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner weren’t charged, Congress should be told what, if any, role the president played in Russia’s efforts to elect him, along with what he did to cover it up.
At the Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff scored an interview with Ukranian oligarch Dmytro Firtash: Indicted Oligarch Dmytro Firtash Praises Paul Manafort, Says Trump Has Third-Grade Smarts.
VIENNA, Austria—An indicted Ukrainian oligarch who faces years in an American prison joked about President Donald Trump’s intellect and distanced himself from Paul Manafort’s business dealings in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast at his palatial corporate offices in Vienna.
Dmytro Firtash is a Ukrainian oligarch-in-exile who controls much of the country’s natural gas distribution. He also befriended Manafort, did business with Russia’s state-owned gas behemoth, and became a target of Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He’s been a constant presence in the background of the story of Russian influence in the American elections—but now, he says American influence on Ukraine is the real story.
Read the whole article to learn more about Firtash’s background. Here’s the meat of the story:
Because of his work in the gas industry, Firtash also met a man who would become one of the globe’s most notorious thugs: Semion Mogilevich, a Russian mob boss who has spent years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Before he was poisoned in the U.K., ex-Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko claimed Putin and Mogilevich had a “good relationship,” as Business Insiderdetailed.
“Half of the Soviet Union knows him, everyone knows him,” Firtash said. “He’s from Ukraine. Everyone knows him, I’m not the only one who knows him. As I remember, we met in one gas company, but I don’t want to name it.” [….]
Firtash’s acquaintance with Mogilevich drew public interest in 2010, when WikiLeaks posted a tranche of stolen State Department cables. One cable, from the American embassy in Kiev, detailed a conversation Firtash had with then-Ambassador Bill Taylor. According to the cable, Firtash claimed that he’d needed Mogilevich’s approval to get started in the gas trade. According to Firtash, the cable was a lie.
Mogilevich is known as the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mob and he’s on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Read more about him and Firtash at the link above.
One more Russia-related story from Politico: Nadler: ‘Tens of thousands’ of documents delivered in Trump obstruction probe.
The House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it received responses from a “large number” of the 81 individuals and entities who were asked to provide documents as part of the panel’s wide-ranging investigation into obstruction of justice allegations against President Donald Trump — but the committee was mum on details about who complied.
“I am encouraged by the responses we have received since sending these initial letters two weeks ago,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Monday, the deadline for document requests the committee sent on March 4.
“It is my hope that we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list, and will be working to find an appropriate accommodation with any individual who may be reluctant to cooperate with our investigation,” added Nadler.
The broad request for information came as the Judiciary Committee — the panel that has the power to launch impeachment proceedings against the president — kicked off its sweeping probe into allegations of corruption, abuses of power, and obstruction of justice against Trump.
Read the rest at Politico.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories have you been following?