Tuesday Reads: No More Finger-Wagging Old White Men, Please.

Good Morning!!

Did you see the disturbing interaction between Joy Reid and Joe Biden at the Poor People’s Campaign forum? I didn’t watch it, but Rachel Maddow showed the clip last night.

Hundreds of women reacted on Twitter, calling Biden’s body language intimidating and his tone condescending. I agree.

Two male authors at CNN said Biden “forcefully pushed back against criticism that he is naïve to think Democrats can work with Republicans in Congress,” seemingly missing Biden’s threatening body language.

Here’s another Biden interaction with a woman that was posted on Twitter:

The Daily Dot: Voter behind Biden finger photo says they were ‘shocked’ by candidate’s actions.

We all know those people who say, “no one is a bigger feminist than I am” yet go on to show through their actions that they are anything buta feminist. A recent photo of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden pointing a finger in a womxn‘s face illustrates this type of character perfectly. And, hopefully, the memes emerging from this photo will put a spotlight on the former vice president’s policies concerning reproductive rights, abortion, and assault.

K.C. Cayo, who goes by @thelocalmaniac8 on Twitter, shared the now-viral photo of Biden—who is currently campaigning in Iowa—pointing a finger in their face with the caption, “Told Biden we need someone stronger on reproductive justice, and after his reversal on the Hyde Amendment, we asked him to protect assault survivors. He said, ‘nobody has spoken about it, done more, or changed more than I have.’ I told him we deserve better.”

Just what we need–another finger-wagging white male in his 70s. More from the Daily Dot story:

Cayo told the Daily Dot in a direct message on Twitter that they were “overwhelmed and excited” by the response to the photo, which was taken by Sarah Pearson. “I’m glad that survivors of sexual assault are finding that my experience resonates so much with them, and that we were able to capture Biden’s true colors,” they said….

“When it was happening, I was shocked—we all were,” they said. “This was not supposed to be a ‘gotcha!’ moment…this was supposed to be a candid discussion about why people like us were wary of his policies and voting record, followed by a question about how he would protect womxn by reforming and restructuring our courts to keep people like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh off of it.”

“Our conversation never got that far,” Cayo continued. “He continued to change the subject to VAWA, got increasingly agitated, leaned close, raised his hand, and raised his voice.”

And where did Biden get the idea that he can get Republicans to work with him? Why didn’t he do it during his eight years as Vice President if he’s so confident?

According to The Washington Post, Obama administration veterans are mystified:

While Biden often cited his relationship with Obama, he left some members of the Obama administration frustrated with his promises to cooperate with Republicans.

Joy-Ann Reid, an MSNBC host who moderated the session, asked Biden how he would pass his plans through a stubborn Congress — in particular, how he would work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who makes little secret of his satisfaction at blocking Democratic initiatives.

Biden bristled at the suggestion that his approach was misguided. As he wound through his response, Biden moved nearer to Reid, who was seated, and leaned over her.

“Joy-Ann, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive branch. Zero.” He added that “you can shame people into doing the right thing.”

Biden’s suggestion that he could persuade McConnell to cooperate prompted skepticism from those who have interacted with McConnell. Alyssa Mastro­monaco, a former Obama deputy chief of staff, tweeted, “maybe you can shame people. you can’t shame McConnell. it would be dope to find a path to greater bipartisanship but this isn’t that path.”

I will never vote for Biden. Never.

The youngest white man in the presidential race is having facing some trouble back home in South Bend. USA Today: Buttigieg cancels campaign events after fatal police shooting in South Bend.

Pete Buttigieg this week canceled several campaign events after returning to South Bend, Indiana, following a police-involved shooting that left a black man dead.

South Bend resident Eric Logan was shot early Sunday after the police responded to a report that a suspicious person was going through cars, the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office said, according to the Associated Press.

Logan was confronted by a police officer in a vehicle at an apartment building parking lot, the AP reported. The prosecutor’s office said Logan exited the vehicle and approached the officer with a knife raised and the officer opened fire, according to the AP. The name and race/ethnicity of the officer were not released.

Logan, 54, died at a hospital and an autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

Eugene Scott at The Washington Post: Police shooting in South Bend will put scrutiny on Buttigieg’s handling of race and police.

Buttigieg has spent the past few months trying to convince black voters that he hears, and understands, their concerns when it comes to issues of police violence against people of color — and that he will work to address those concerns if elected president.

During Buttigieg’s 2015 State of the City address, he used the phrase “all lives matter,” which critics say displayed a lack of awareness or a lack of sensitivity about the ongoing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color:

There is no contradiction between respecting the risks police officers take every day in order to protect this community and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses. We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.

“All Lives Matter” is a phrase often used to counter the argument made by those invoking “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan used to draw attention to police brutality against black people. The young mayor has said he was trying to acknowledge that police are worthy of respect for putting their lives on the line while also acknowledging implicit biases in the criminal justice system harm people of color.

Click the link to read much more about Buttigieg’s history with African Americans in South Bend.

Last night Trump sent a disturbing tweet about mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

some people on Twitter referenced Kristallnacht in reference to Trump’s threat.

The Washington Post: Trump vows mass immigration arrests, removals of ‘millions of illegal aliens’ starting next week.

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities….

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

It’s difficult to know if there really is such a plan for next week or if this is just bluster ahead of Trump’s hate rally in Florida tonight, where is supposedly announcing his run for reelection again. If he sees today’s Orlando Sentinel, he’ll have a nasty surprise.

Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump | Editorial

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Click the link to read the rest.

More stories of possible interest, links only:

The New York Times: Paul Manafort Seemed Headed to Rikers. Then the Justice Department Intervened.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Crickets. They’re Gone” Why the Mercers, Trump’s Biggest 2016 Backers, Have Bailed on Him.

The New York Times: Kremlin Warns of Cyberwar After Report of U.S. Hacking Into Russian Power Grid.

Yahoo News: Shanahan’s confirmation hearing for defense secretary delayed amid FBI investigation.

Politico: Pentagon sending 1,000 more troops as tensions with Iran grow.

Politico: Trump prepares to bypass Congress to take on Iran.

Politico: The House committee quietly racking up oversight wins against Trump.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Impeachment Monday Reads

2_weyantGood Morning Sky Dancers!

I guess now’s as good as any time to discuss the roadmap to impeachment.  I don’t know about you but I’m more than ready to start the roadtrip.  Let’s start with moving forward by looking back with The New Republic’s Matt Ford and his interview with an assistant to the Judge that decided that sitting presidents can’t be indicted while said Judge was writing the memo.

It’s a weird story that Rachel Maddow has covered because it links directly to Spiro Agnew.  Her podcast, Bag Man, took on the legacy of Agnew and how his criminality impacted the approach to Nixon‘s removal. So, why can’t sitting presidents be indicted?  Why can’t we just lock him up instead of letting him rot out here with unidicted co-conspirator status?  Should we revisit the Dixon memo?

Robert Mueller made a surprising assertion last month about the limits of his power. In his report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and President Trump’s potential obstruction of the investigation, the special counsel explained that Justice Department policy effectively prevented him from charging Trump with a crime while in office. But in his surprise press conference in May, he went even further. “[The report] explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” he said. “That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view—that too is prohibited.”

This remains an open legal question, despite Mueller’s unequivocal assertion. The Constitution itself is silent on the matter, and no court has ever ruled otherwise because no sitting president has ever been indicted. Mueller’s nod to “long-standing department policy” likely was a reference to the so-called Dixon memo, a 1973 Office of Legal Counsel opinion in which Assistant Attorney General Robert Dixon concluded that there were multiple practical and constitutional hurdles that made it effectively impossible. “The spectacle of an indicted president still trying to serve as chief president boggles the imagination,” Dixon wrote.

That memo’s primary purpose, however, was not to conclusively decide whether a president could be indicted while in office. While it’s commonly assumed that the memo came about during the Watergate scandal, it instead sprang from the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute Vice President Spiro Agnew in a tax-evasion case. Agnew argued that he was only subject to impeachment by Congress, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson asked Dixon to write an opinion on the question.

To understand the Dixon memo’s unusual origins and its continuing impact, I spoke with J. T. Smith, an attorney who worked as Richardson’s executive assistant during the Watergate scandal. Smith was present at the creation, so to speak, of the Justice Department’s policy on indicting a sitting president. He told me that if Richardson “had the benefit or detriment we have of the behavior of this particular White House, he almost certainly would say it’s high time this whole matter get revisited.”

1_summers_0The Dixon memo was FOIA’d last year. Here’s a link to the memo itself along with the letter acknowledging the FOIA request.    So here’s the Judge’s assistant’s direct response to if the Dixon Memo should be revisited.

Did you happen to see Mueller’s press conference the other day, where he said outright that it would be unconstitutional to indict a sitting president?

I saw that, and I’m not clear why he said it. It’s one thing to say that it is Justice Department policy, long standing, that a sitting president should not be subject to criminal process, but he sort of surprised me when he characterized it as being unconstitutional. Because the Dixon memo of 1973, I think, ends up on grounds that are policy-based more than Constitution-based, and indeed, the Dixon memo says that the Constitution doesn’t squarely address the topic.

DcccvljW4AA3RYlThis bit of wiggle has allowed Trump and his current AG to say, basically, nothing to see here when there is plenty to read there if any one would take the time to read the Mueller Report or listen to the folks that have.

Nancy Pelosi “is putting up guardrails” if you believe the analysis at WAPO by Amber Phillips.

As leader of the House of Representatives, she has quite a bit of sway. She is the top elected Democrat in Washington. And she decides what bills her chamber votes on. The lawmakers in the House and Senate actually running for president — 11 in all — just get to vote.

So it’s notable that under her leadership, the House hasn’t voted on any big-government policy package championed by the Bernie Sanderses and Elizabeth Warrens of the world.

In May, the House voted on seven health-care bills designed to bandage Obamacare now that the Trump administration is trying to kill it by a thousand cuts. Not a single one of those bills would establish universal health care, even though Medicare-for-all is a defining policy debate of the 2020 presidential primary. Five of the seven senators running for president support a Medicare-for-all bill.

She also hasn’t allowed a vote on the Green New Deal, a plan to tackle climate change with Roosevelt-era-style government-funded jobs, despite the fact that many 2020 candidates support some aspect of the plan. And she’s held off her party from taking the first steps to impeach President Trump even though 67 House Democrats — and a number of presidential candidates — want to.

Pelosi’s logic is simple. She’s not thinking about the Democratic primary.

She believes the battle for her House and the White House next November will be waged in communities that voted for President Trump in 2016 such as in Rep. Elise Slotkin’s Lansing, Mich., district or in Georgia where Rep. Lucy McBath got narrowly elected last year or in Iowa, where Rep. Abby Finkenauer is campaigning to stay elected after knocking off a Republican member of Congress. All three represent districts that voted for Trump in 2016 in states Trump won. None of them support impeachment of Trump.

20190423edbbc-a_1You can tell all of this talk of impeachment is getting to Trump.  His tweets over the weekend were some of his most unhinged screeds to date.  He also spoke to the many reporters questioning him on the topic.

The ABC interview with Stephanopolous was shown in Full on Sunday and Trump’s state of mind was on full display.  His usual “no collusion, witchhunt” rant seemed particularly hollow this weekend.  He’s fired a group of his pollsters and is undoubtedly flipping out about the latest poll showing the public’s move Impeachment Inquiry Curious.  This is from The Hill.

The report cited more than 100 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia but said there was insufficient evidence to conclude there was a conspiracy. Investigators also did not make a determination on whether Trump obstructed justice, with Mueller saying it was because a sitting president cannot be prosecuted.

In the same interview, Trump waved off a letter in which more than 1,000 federal prosecutors said he would have been indicted for obstruction were he not a sitting president, saying the signatories were “politicians” and “Trump haters.”

His interview was broadcast as a poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that support for impeachment hearings had increased 10 points since May, to 27 percent. The increase was largely driven by Democrats, 48 percent of whom now favor impeachment, up 18 points from last month.

The new poll found that the number of Americans who believe Congress should continue to investigate whether there is sufficient evidence to hold impeachment hearings fell 8 points to 24 percent.

A Fox News poll released Sunday, meanwhile, found that that 50 percent of respondents said they believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, up 6 points from March. Forty-four percent of respondents said they don’t believe there was collusion.

Half of that poll’s respondents favored impeachment, with 43 percent supporting impeaching and removing Trump — a 1-point increase from March — and 7 percent endorsing impeachment but not removal, compared to 48 percent who opposed impeachment. The same survey found that 56 percent of respondents said it was “not at all” likely that Trump will eventually be impeached.

The surveys come amid increasing chagrin from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) hard line against impeachment proceedings.

1_194Heather Cox Richardson–writing for The Guardian–makes “The historical argument for impeaching Trump.” It’s a run down of all the times Republic Presidents pushed the envelope on the imperial presidency.

The question of impeaching Donald Trump is about replacing the toxic partisanship of today’s Republican party with America’s traditional rule of law. It has become a constitutional imperative.

Since Richard Nixon, Republican presidents have pushed the envelope of acceptable behavior under the guise of patriotism, and Democrats have permitted their encroaching lawlessness on the grounds of civility, constantly convincing themselves that Republicans have reached a limit beyond which they won’t go. Each time they’ve been proven wrong.

Nixon resigned in 1974 because his attempts to cover up his involvement in the Watergate burglary made his obstruction of justice clear. Republican leaders warned Nixon that if the House of Representatives impeached him, the Senate would convict. Republican congressmen of the time believed in the rule of law.

Gerald Ford’s subsequent pardon of Nixon was perhaps given in that spirit: when the law rules, it permits mercy. But the absence of a humiliating public exposure of Nixon’s participation in Watergate, and the lack of a permanent bipartisan condemnation, gave Nixon loyalists cover to argue that he wasn’t guilty of crimes. Instead they claimed Nixon had been hounded out of office by outlandish liberals determined to undermine him and the country.

Ever since, Republican extremists have employed this rhetoric whenever they break the law or erode constitutional norms.

When Ronald Reagan’s administration was exposed for having illegally sold arms to Iran to raise money covertly for the Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government, Reagan acknowledged that the evidence was damning – yet defended the principle behind the scheme. Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, pardoned the six leading figures of the Iran-Contra affair because, he said, “whether their actions were right or wrong”, they were motivated by “patriotism”. The investigation into their actions was “a criminalization of party differences”.

2_174Quite a rundown, isn’t it?  Well, put that in light of the Trumpian window.

The same Republicans who had threatened to impeach Hillary Clinton remained silent when, immediately after his surprise victory, Trump refused to abide by laws about emoluments or nepotism, openly profiting from the presidency and filling the White House with personal relatives. They continued to remain silent when Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, then pointedly pardoned Scooter Libby, saying he was “treated unfairly”. They did not protest in February 2019 when the Trump administration openly defied the law by refusing to give Congress a required report on Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

By May of this year the White House was refusing to honor any congressional subpoenas on the grounds that “it’s very partisan – obviously very partisan”, as Trump told the Washington Post.

When the House committee on ways and means demanded Trump’s tax returns under a law that leaves no wiggle room, Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, nonetheless refused to deliver them, saying he saw no “legitimate legislative purpose” for such a request. An attempt by the executive branch to dictate to the legislative branch, the only branch of the American government that has the unilateral power to make law, is shocking, but Republicans stayed quiet. They also stayed quiet when Trump used declarations of national emergency to override laws passed by Congress, and on Monday the Trump White House asserted in court that Congress had no authority to determine whether the president has committed crimes.

Yet only one congressional Republican – Michigan’s Justin Amash – has called for impeachment.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, provided ample evidence that the president should be investigated for obstruction of justice in his attempt to quell the Russia investigation by firing Comey and urging aides to lie. At the same time, Mueller reminded Americans that the constitution charges Congress with presidential oversight. Indeed, under current Department of Justice policy, a sitting president cannot be indicted; congressional oversight is the only way to rein in a lawless president.

It’s a long, thoughtful essay.  You should read it all.  Yes, one Republican has called for impeachment still and yes, there’s that pesky Dixon Memo again.

But back home in Michigan, many people who know Amash say they’re not surprised at all by his willingness to go against his own party — even if that decision costs him his seat in Congress.

“Five-year-old Justin Amash was a lot like 39-year-old Justin Amash is like,” says Jordan Bush, who first met Amash when they were in kindergarten.

Bush says Amash is diligent and intentional. Someone who doesn’t bend his principles.

Other longtime friends echo similar sentiments. In high school, Amash became known for always finishing his homework, even if it meant his friends had to wait to hang out. Amash eventually went on to become valedictorian.

Amash’s parents are both immigrants. His mother is originally from Syria. His father, Attallah, came to the United States in 1956 as a Christian refugee from Palestine.

“Justin just always had a keen sense of what was at stake in terms of what governments do or don’t do, how much they interfere, how much they limit themselves,” says Jessica Bratt Carle, who got to know Amash in high school.

By the time Bratt Carle and Bush got to know the Amash family, they had built a successful family business, which they still own.

“I think a lot of that work ethic,” Bush says, “largely comes from his father.”

When Justin Amash got elected to Congress, Bush served in his district office. He says he saw the same person there that he did in kindergarten.

“Justin is the least surprising representative in Congress once you have an understanding of how he views his role,” Bush says.

That role, according to Bush, is to uphold the Constitution and protect individual liberty.

Amash is known as one of the more libertarian members of Congress. Some have speculated Amash could even dump the Republican Party to run as the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Amash has not ruled out that move.

But for now, he remains in the Republican Party, despite his many disagreements with party leadership.

When the 448-page report by former special counsel Robert Mueller was released to the public in April, Amash initially gave no comment. He posted on Twitter that he would read the report “carefully and completely” before saying anything.

And for nearly a month, Amash said nothing.

Then, in a string of tweets posted on May 18, Amash gave his conclusions from the report.

He said the report showed President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct and that Attorney General William Barr intentionally misled people about what’s in the report.

So, if you’d like cunning political commentary and a laugh to cheer you up then you should watch John Oliver whose commentary includes that impeachment talk is “effective hospice care” when a family with a father who died peacefully once they told him he Trump was impeached.  But, there’s more than that … watch the clever comedian talk about Nancy Pelosi too.

With a national conversation underway about the possibility of impeachment, John Oliver discusses whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

And believe me, we all could use a good laugh at Trump’s expense in these times.

Impeachment in no way Guarantees the removal of a President.

With that, I’ll leave you to think on it and discuss. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Happy Father’s Day: Open Thread

Cartoon by John R. Rose -

06/15/2019 Cartoon by John R. Rose

 

Happy Daddy Day, to all the fathers out there….

 

Cartoon by Peter Dunlap-Shohl -

 

06/16/2019 Cartoon by Peter Dunlap-Shohl

 

That cartoon hits home, because no matter where you are, the tRump assault is constantly on fire.

Happy Father’s Day 2019: 06/15/2019 Cartoon by David G. Brown

Cartoon by David G. Brown - Happy Father's Day 2019

06/16/2019 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!: 06/16/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!

Trump’s birthday: 06/15/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Trump's birthday

Bennett editorial cartoon: 06/15/2019 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Bennett editorial cartoon

Sleeps With The Fishes: 06/15/2019 Cartoon by Tim Campbell

Cartoon by Tim Campbell - Sleeps With The Fishes

NYTimes cartoon ban: 06/13/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - NYTimes cartoon ban

Damn Pictures: 06/13/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Damn Pictures

 

Market Mixer: 06/15/2019 Cartoon by Tim Campbell

Cartoon by Tim Campbell - Market Mixer

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: 06/16/2019 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Will Lie for Food: 06/14/2019 Cartoon by Jape

Cartoon by Jape - Will Lie for Food

06/16/2019 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

06/14/2019 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

 

06/13 Mike Luckovich: Dad’s losin’ it

This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Famous Authors And Their Cats (Plus News)

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, Dakinikat highlighted this article at The Independent in which the owner of a tanker that the Trump administration claims was attacked by Iran says the Trump folks are lying.

The ship operator said “flying objects” that may have been bullets were the cause of damage to the vessel, rather than mines used by Iranian forces, as the US has suggested.

Yutaka Katada, chief executive of the Japanese company operating the ship called Kokuka Courageous, one of two vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, said the damage could not have been caused by mines or torpedos that are shot underwater, since the damage was reportedly above the ship’s waterline.

Now Germany has chimed in. Newsweek: Germany Joins Chorus Casting Doubt on Trump Administration Claim that Iran was Behind Attack on Oil Tankers.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

William Faulkner and cat

The attack on the two vessels, one Japanese and one Norwegian, took place as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran to try to calm tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran’s culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran.

“The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” Maas told reporters during a press conference on Friday. The boat’s Japanese owner also cast doubt on the theory that a mine had been used to attack the ship, telling journalists that members of his crew had witnessed a flying object.

Iran has denied any role in the event, and some observers have raised questions about whether the intelligence was being used as a pretext for the U.S. to escalate conflict with the country.

Peter Baker writes at The New York Times: As Trump Accuses Iran, He Has One Problem: His Own Credibility.

For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting.

Ursula Le Guin and cat

For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said “he’s a liar” and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.

Fact-checking Mr. Trump is a full-time occupation in Washington, and in no other circumstance is faith in a president’s word as vital as in matters of war and peace. The public grew cynical about presidents and intelligence after George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on false accusations of weapons of mass destruction, and the doubt spilled over to Barack Obama when he accused Syria of gassing its own people. As Mr. Trump confronts Iran, he carries the burden of their history and his own….

The task is all the more formidable for Mr. Trump, who himself has assailed the reliability of America’s intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview.

That’s an important point. Trump has been attacking the findings of the U.S. intelligence community since he was a candidate. He has repeatedly said he believes Vladimir Putin over his own FBI and CIA.

Again following up on Dakinikat’s post yesterday, here’s a brilliant essay by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: All the president’s lying ladies — Hicks, Sanders and Conway — make news.

Anton Chekhov and cat

The Trump White House is a bit like Shakespeare summer camp: not enough substantial parts for the girls. The female roles at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are for craven ladies-in-waiting who are allotted very little moral agency, let alone opportunities for heroics. They subvert their ambitions to their overlord’s; they lie, in short.

Yes, there’s a Lady Macbeth, portrayed in Trumpworld as a waxen blonde sleepwalker, a ghostly daughter-wife whose veins are certifiably free of the milk of human kindness. (Ivanka’s understudy, the creepy Melania, has skipped so many rehearsals she’s been written off.)

A shrewd, unholy trinity has settled for lesser roles: the liar-handmaidens Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway. The president, according to Michael Wolff’s latest book, “Siege,” likes to see these three in a “cat fight,” in which each undermines the others as she competes to lie most robustly on his behalf.

The melancholic former White House Communications Director Hicks, choleric counselor Conway and splenetic Press Secretary Sanders aren’t just complicit in the president’s depravity. They have managed to advance it.

But the advantage this trio has over Lady Ivanka is that they can leave.

To further tempt you to read the whole thing, here is Heffernan’s characterization of Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

Sanders is known for her never-ending mendacity and her near-religious devotion to Trump, who, according to Wolff, calls her the “Huckabee Girl.”

Patricia Highsmith and cat

Indeed, Trump has often treated Sanders as if she were the possession of her father, Mike Huckabee, on loan to him as a scullery maid. Scullery for Trump includes, above all, mendacity. Sanders is featured in the Mueller report for her “slip of the tongue” — the claim that “countless” FBI agents disliked former FBI Director James Comey.

Not only was this fabrication part of Sanders’ tireless effort to make it seem as though Trump is a normal law-and-order Republican (and not a carnie thug with well-documented contempt for the whole FBI), it was also an effort to obfuscate Trump’s reason for firing Comey. We all know it: to kill the Russia investigation.

Go read the rest. You won’t be sorry.

At Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson explains how the trial of a border patrol agent could expose the “toxic culture” of his agency: ‘Guats,’ ‘Tonks’ and ‘Subhuman Shit’: The Shocking Texts of a Border Patrol Agent.

In the days before he allegedly struck a 23-year-old undocumented Guatemalan man with a government-issued Ford F-150, Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen sent a text to a fellow agent. In the exchange, which federal prosecutors now claim offers “insight into his view of the aliens he apprehends,” Bowen railed against unauthorized migrants who’d thrown rocks at a colleague as “mindless murdering savages” and “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” The text message also includes a plea to the president: “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”

Kingsley Amis and cat

Two weeks later, on December 3rd, 2017, Bowen was on patrol near Nogales, Arizona, when he spotted a suspected unauthorized border crosser. Identified as Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar in a federal affidavit, the man had been hiding but took off running back toward the Nogales point of entry, “in an apparent effort to avoid apprehension,” the affidavit states.

Instead of pursuing Lopez-Aguilar on foot, Bowen chased after him in his federal vehicle, known as a “Kilo Unit” in Border Patrol lingo. As caught on camera, Bowen maneuvered “the front grille of the truck directly behind Lopez-Aguilar,” according to the affidavit. With the F-150 bearing down on him, Lopez-Aguilar reached back “to ‘push off’ of the hood” before Bowen “accelerated the… Kilo Unit directly into the back of Lopez-Aguilar’s body, knocking Lopez-Aguilar to the ground,” the document states. The Ford’s tires came to a full stop “within inches of running Lopez-Aguilar over where he lay on the ground.”

Bowen, now 39, was indicted in May 2018, on two counts — one, a civil rights crime, for what prosecutors call Bowen’s choice to use “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat,” and the other, an obstruction charge, for his alleged effort to “cover up his crime.” Bowen has pleaded not guilty to both counts. (Lopez-Aguilar was scraped up, but not seriously injured according to court documents, and reportedly sentenced to 30 days for the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the United States.)

PD James and cat

Bowen’s trial is due to begin in August. But the case is already shining a spotlight on a troubled culture at Border Patrol, the law enforcement arm of Customs and Border Protection, at a moment when both agencies have been grappling with a surge in migrants, and faced allegations of widespread wrongdoing, ranging from physical and sexual abuse of minors to housing migrants in substandard shelters, including one likened to “a human dog pound.”

Read the rest at Rolling Stone.

At The Washington Post, David Von Drehle examines the differential treatment given to rich men in the U.S. justice system: Jeffrey Epstein’s scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system.

When rich people are credibly accused of crimes, does the public have a right to know? Should multimillionaires be allowed to silence their accusers with cash?

According to superlawyer David Boies, “dozens” of women who could give testimony about being sexually assaulted as girls by mysterious financier Jeffrey Epstein are silenced by settlements they reached with their alleged assailant. The exact number is yet another secret in this least transparent of criminal cases. “Three dozen or eight dozen, I don’t know, but there are dozens,” Boies told me recently. He himself represents two alleged Epstein victims bound by “non-disclosure agreements” (NDAs).

Robert Graves and cats

Because Epstein can afford to buy silence, he may succeed in shuttering the window of accountability pried open in a South Florida court back in February. U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that federal prosecutors — led by the current labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — broke the law by entering a secret sweetheart deal to allow Epstein to serve a cushy sentence without facing evidence that he assaulted more than 30 underage girls in Palm Beach.

That ruling may prove hollow, however, if the alleged victims are now gagged by their settlements with Epstein. What a galling next chapter that would be in this appalling story.

Epstein, whose enormous and unexplained wealth attracted a circle of friends that included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, actor Kevin Spacey and Britain’s Prince Andrew, travels from mansion to mansion while poor men accused of lesser crimes rot in prison.

This scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system. Too many cases involving potential felonies are resolved through civil settlements that include ironclad NDAs. Once the money changes hands, witnesses can no longer testify to crimes; indeed, penalties for telling the truth after a settlement often run to the millions of dollars — ruinous for most crime victims. It’s a short step removed from silencing witnesses with cement shoes.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice weekend!


Friday Reads: Bang The Drum Slowly but Loudly!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Do you remember the lead up to the needless invasion of Iraq? Having flashbacks yet? According to The UK Independent, “Trump administration providing ‘false’ information about Gulf of Oman attack, says Japanese tanker owner.”

The owner of the Japanese tanker attacked on Thursday said US reports have provided “false” information about what happened in the Gulf of Oman

The ship operator said “flying objects” that may have been bullets were the cause of damage to the vessel, rather than mines used by Iranian forces, as the US has suggested. 

Yutaka Katada, chief executive of the Japanese company operating the ship called Kokuka Courageous, one of two vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, said the damage could not have been caused by mines or torpedos that are shot underwater, since the damage was reportedly above the ship’s waterline. 

“It seems that something flew towards them. That created the hole, is the report I’ve received,” Mr Katada said at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, the Financial Times reported. 

Donald Trump’s administration has meanwhile insisted the attacks were carried out by Iran, which has denied having any involvement in either of the two incidents. 

The US insists that they have video of Iran taking a mine off of one of the ships.  This story line makes no sense to me.  What does Iran have to gain from attacking Japanese tankers and goods at a time when the regime is speaking to the leader of Japan for the first time since its revolution?  Also, there is continuing evidence that Iran has been living up to its agreements with the rest of the World.  Is this a false flag operation or some other weirdish situation Trump has set up to look like the role he loves to play most which is the aggrieved victim fighting back against some evil force?

Iran accused Washington of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” against it, while Trump countered that the country was “a nation of terror.”

“Iran did do it,” he said of the attack, in remarks Friday morning to “Fox & Friends.”

The black-and-white U.S. video of the Iranians alongside the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous came after its crew abandoned ship after seeing the undetonated explosive on its hull, said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command. It separately shared photos of the vessel, which showed what appeared to be a conical limpet mine against its side.

In the video, the boat from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard pulls alongside Kokuka Courageous at 4:10 p.m. Thursday. The Iranians reach up and grab along where the limpet mine could be seen in the photo. They then sail away.

Limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to a ship’s hull, are designed to disable a vessel without sinking it.

Analysts say Iran, if involved, wouldn’t want investigators to find an unexploded mine because they could check its serial numbers and other attributes to trace it.

Banging drums and making empty noises have always been a thing for religious nuts.  Adam Serwer discusses the role of culture wars by the religious right in Trumpistan at The Atlantic.   I don’t understand why these folks don’t get we don’t want to live within the parameters of their mythology.  Wanting them and their awful ways out of secular life and government is not an act of discrimination or oppression.

By the tail end of the Obama administration, the culture war seemed lost. The religious right sued for détente, having been swept up in one of the most rapid cultural shifts in generations. Gone were the decades of being able to count on attacking its traditional targets for political advantage. In 2013, Chuck Cooper, the attorney defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage, begged the justices to allow same-sex-marriage opponents to lose at the ballot box rather than in court. Conservatives such as George Will and Rod Drehergriped that LGBTQ activists were “sore winners,” intent on imposing their beliefs on prostrate Christians, who, after all, had already been defeated.

The rapidity of that cultural shift, though, should not obscure the contours of the society that the religious right still aspires to preserve: a world where women have no control over whether to carry a pregnancy to term, same-sex marriage is illegal, and gays and lesbians can be arrested and incarcerated for having sex in their own homes and be barred from raising children. The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.

That was then. The tide of illiberalism sweeping over Western countries and the election of Donald Trump have since renewed hope among some on the religious right that it might revive its cultural control through the power of the state. Inspired by Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Vladimir Putin in Russia, a faction of the religious right now looks to sectarian ethno-nationalism to restore its beliefs to their rightful primacy, and to rescue a degraded and degenerate culture. All that stands in their way is democracy, and the fact that most Americans reject what they have to offer.

The past few weeks have witnessed a nasty internecine fight among religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy’s time has passed. Sohrab Ahmari, writing at First Thingsattacked National Review’s David French for adhering to a traditional commitment to liberal democracy while “the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us.” Would the left have stood by liberal democracy in the face of such circumstances? In fact, the balance of forces tilted away from the left’s cultural priorities for most of my lifetime, and the left’s response was to win arguments—slowly, painfully, and at incalculable personal cost.

Many religious conservatives see antidiscrimination laws that compel owners of public accommodations to serve all customers, laws that might compel priests to break the seal of confession if they are told of child abuse, and the growing acceptance of trans people as a kind of impending apocalypse. It is no surprise that among their co-partisans, Ahmari seems to have the upper hand here; in such circles, “Crush your enemies” almost always plays better than “The other side has rights too.”

What follows is a diatribe that you’ll really suffer through but must read. 

We may be rid of Sarah Huckabee shortly but “The Queen of Gaslighting” is being encouraged to run for Arkansas Governor.  

When Sarah Sanders said Thursday that she hopes to be remembered for her transparency and honesty, the first impulse was to laugh.

But lying to citizens while being paid by them really isn’t all that funny.

Sanders took on an impossible job when she became Trump’s spokeswoman, a job that’s about to reach a welcome conclusion.

She would claim to represent the truth on behalf of a president who lies.

She did it disrespectfully, and apparently without shame or an understanding of what the role of White House press secretary should be.

She misled reporters or tried to, and through them, misled the American people. And all with her distinctive curled-lip disdain.

Thus, she delivered on what New York University professor Jay Rosen has called the “brand promise” of the Trump administration’s treatment of the press: “Watch, we will put these people down for you.”

 

Watching the Hatch Act go do in flames has another distressing bit of today’s news.  Conway’s violations have been punished with fines but sneering and asking about the court dates and handcuffs is just over the top  It is also a place where the Russian Potted Plant in the White House shows complete ignorance of the US Constitution and law.

Kellyanne Conway’s potential Hatch Act violations are anything but surprising.  Even less of a shock is President Donald Trump’s blatant apathy that a senior staffer openly and routinely flouts federal law.  Realistically, none of us expected Trump to fire Conway simply because it’s the recommended course of action. Still, though, it’s always jarring when the president proves that he doesn’t actually understand how the law works.

Trump’s official comment about Conway’s Hatch Act violations was that he’d submit himself to a “very strong briefing,” but that, “It looks to me they’re trying to take away her right from free speech, which is not fair.”

Trump might be interested to learn that a great many statutes abridge free speech.  Defamatory, inciteful, or obscene speech is properly prohibited by law. So is speech that violates a person’s medical privacy, that which violates court orders, and many, many other categories of communications.  Equating “free speech” with “absolutely unrestricted speech” is an error usually relegated to grade-schoolers who are still learning the words to the Star-Spangled Banner.

The purpose of the First Amendment was never to create a country in which any person could say anything at any time without consequences – it was to create one in which political discourse was unstifled by government. In fact, the Hatch Act is an example of a statute that abridges free speech for the purpose of keeping the government from inserting itself too much into politics.

Meanwhile, grifters continue to grift. The Trump Family Crime Syndicate also doesn’t believe the emollients clause of the US Constitution applies to Trump’s holdings. From Bloomberg:  “Ivanka Trump Made $4 Million From President’s Washington Hotel”.

Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father’s Washington hotel last year, according to a disclosure released by the White House on Friday.

She also made at least $1 million from her line of branded apparel, jewelry and other merchandise, down from at least $5 million in the previous year. Trump, 37, announced in July that she was closing her fashion businesses amid controversies over her role in the White House and after some big-name department stores dropped the brand.

Together, Trump and husband Jared Kushner earned between $28.8 million and $135.1 million in outside income while working as unpaid senior advisers to her father, President Donald Trump, their disclosures, which covers 2018, show.

The reports, which list the assets and sources of income for Ivanka Trump, her husband and dependent children, have yet to be approved by the White House counsel’s office. They will also be reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics.

Well, here’s something from US New Today.  What do we do with “Trump Era Anxiety” ?’  The wisdom beings know I have no clues.  I meditate. I try to grade and limit my exposure to newspapers and TV but I’ve never been one to be attracted to reading anything or watching anything much but nonfiction.  I’m actually stumped but I can tell you that I’ve said the Mani Mantra so much over the last few years it should have liberated something.  We’ve gone from near war with North Korea to bromance and now near war with Iran.  We keep losing voting and civil rights. WTF can calm us?

More than two years after Donald Trump took the oath of office, many Americans find themselves not just taking sides – sometimes vehemently – but growing mentally anxious and exhausted, experts say.

“We know the polarization has been growing for decades but I think it’s spiking now because there’s so much division around and about this president,” said Bill Doherty, a long-time family therapist who has been watching the anger up close. “I think it’s worse now because there’s a central figure. A lot of reds did not like Obama at all, but their loathing of Obama wasn’t even close to the loathing blues have for Trump.”

“Reds” are Republicans and “Blues” are Democrats according to a group called Better Angels, which Doherty helped start in 2017 when it became clear half the country was having trouble getting over the election result and the other half resented them for not being able to accept it gracefully.

Doherty, a family social science professor who also runs the Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, has tried to resolve a number of family splits over political differences.

There was the adult son living abroad, who upon finding out his mother and father voted for Trump, told them “you’re no longer my parents.” In another case, a wife told her husband that she would divorce him if he voted for Trump.

To her, “it was like voting for Chancellor (Adolf) Hitler,” Doherty recalled. “We don’t share values.”

A study last year by political science researchers from four different universities found that many Americans are “dehumanizing” the political opposition. More than three-quarters of respondents rated their political opponents as less evolved than members of their own party, the study concluded.

One of its authors, Alexander Theodoridis of the University of California-Merced, calls efforts such as Better Angels an “encouraging” step to lower the temperature of political discourse. But he’s not optimistic.

“There is little reason to expect dinners and meet-ups to overcome the divides in our body politic,” he wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “For many Americans, they are a clash between people like ‘us’ and people like ‘them.’  It becomes increasingly easy to attribute pernicious motives to our opponents, and increasingly difficult to stomach compromise with them.”

In January, 87% of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance during 2018 versus only 8% of Democrats who did, according to a Gallup poll. That 79-percentage-point difference is the largest Gallup has measured in any presidential year to date.

Yes, Yes it’s a problem but wtf can we do?  Evidently, there’s a few groups trying to bridge the gap.  You can read more about them.  Meanwhile, I’m going to throw myself into work and find some fantasy fiction.  I can’t handle this world right now.

So, that’s it for me today.  What’s on you reading and blogging list?

 

 


Thursday Reads: The “President” is Corrupt, Unethical, and Amoral.

Édouard Vuillard Woman Reading on a Bench, 1898

Good Morning!!

In 2016, Trump openly called for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. After he was elected with Russia’s help, we learned that Donald Trump Jr. organized a meeting on June 9, 2016 with a Russian lawyer who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The meeting included Paul Manafort and Jered Kushner. When the news of the meeting became public, Trump dictated a false statement about the meeting for his son. He clearly knew there was something wrong with the meeting, or he would not have felt he needed to lie about it.

Fast forward to yesterday: Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that if foreigners offer him opposition research on an opponent again, he would happily accept the help; and he wouldn’t inform the FBI about it.

Morris Kantor, Woman Reading in Bed, 1930

To be clear, if a candidate solicits or accepts foreign help for his campaign he has committed a crime under the Federal Election Campaign Act. From the FEC website:

The Act and Commission regulations include a broad prohibition on foreign national activity in connection with elections in the United States. 52 U.S.C. § 30121 and generally, 11 CFR 110.20. In general, foreign nationals are prohibited from the following activities:

  • Making any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or making any expenditureindependent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States;
  • Making any contribution or donation to any committee or organization of any national, state, district, or local political party (including donations to a party nonfederal account or office building account);
  • Making any disbursement for an electioneering communication;
  • Making any donation to a presidential inaugural committee.

Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both.

ABC News: ‘I think I’d take it’: In exclusive interview, Trump says he would listen if foreigners offered dirt on opponents.

Asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office on Wednesday whether his campaign would accept such information from foreigners — such as China or Russia — or hand it over the FBI, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both.”

Green Pajamas – Leopold Seyffert

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” [….]

Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI.

“Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

By David Hettinger

Trump also said that his own hand-picked FBI director Chris Wray “is wrong” when he says campaigns should report any approaches from foreign nationals to authorities.

If anyone had any doubts that Trump is utterly corrupt, unethical, and amoral, yesterday should have ended those doubts. This man is a crook, plain and simple. He has–with help from Mitch McConnell prevented his administration from doing anything to protect our future elections, and now he has invited foreign adversaries to help him get reelected in 2020. The real question is whether Trump has already been approached and offered more help from Russia, China, North Korea, or another country ruled by a despot.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump just mused openly about committing what might well be a crime.

Trump said he would likely entertain the information and then tell the FBI if he felt something was amiss.

“I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country — Norway — [and said,] ‘We have information on your opponent?’ Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

The comparison was startling even for Mr. Trump. Having tea with the queen of England is hardly the same as taking clandestine help from agents of President Vladimir V. Putin as part of a concerted campaign by Russian intelligence to tilt an American presidential election.

American law makes it a crime for a candidate to accept money or anything of value from foreign governments or citizens for purposes of winning an election. Many lawyers argued about whether incriminating information, as Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 agreed to take from the Russian government, would qualify as a thing of value.

By Darren Thompson, 2015

It was not clear what Trump thought might be “wrong” with such information. And Trump offered two reasons for why he might not go to the FBI — because it supposedly “doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it” and that if, “you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it.”

…there is no evidence that “all” members of Congress accept opposition research from foreigners, or even that many do.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

This morning, Trump childishly responded on Twitter to the outrage that followed release of portions of the ABC News interview.

The New York Times: Trump Equates Taking Dirt From Russia With Presidential Diplomacy.

President Trump on Thursday defended his willingness to accept campaign help from Russia or other foreign governments by equating it to the sort of diplomatic meetings he holds with world leaders as the nation’s chief executive.

In an interview broadcast on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump had rejected his own F.B.I. director’s recommendation that candidates call the authorities if foreign governments seek to influence American elections, saying he would gladly take incriminating information about a campaign opponent from adversaries like Russia.

“I meet and talk to ‘foreign governments’ every day,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Whales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about ‘Everything!’” he added, misspelling the title of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, before fixing and reposting it.

“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings?” he continued. “How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.”

Young woman reading (1902). Samuel Melton Fisher

The comparison was startling even for Mr. Trump. Having tea with the queen of England is hardly the same as taking clandestine help from agents of President Vladimir V. Putin as part of a concerted campaign by Russian intelligence to tilt an American presidential election.

American law makes it a crime for a candidate to accept money or anything of value from foreign governments or citizens for purposes of winning an election. Many lawyers argued about whether incriminating information, as Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 agreed to take from the Russian government, would qualify as a thing of value.

And for Republicans accusing Hillary Clinton of accepting foreign help, she didn’t use anything form the so-called Steele dossier; and in fact, she and her top campaign staff had no idea a DNC lawyer was paying from some of Christopher Steele’s research.

Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway called for Trump’s impeachment in an op-ed he coauthored with Neal Kaytal: Trump just invited Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

On Tuesday, Trump gave us direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law. He filed a brief in the nation’s second-most-important court that takes the position that Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings. It’s a spectacularly anti-constitutional brief, and anyone who harbors such attitudes toward our Constitution’s architecture is not fit for office. Trump’s brief is nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.

Woman reading by Lex Veen, 2013

The case involves a House committee’s efforts to follow up on the testimony of Trump’s now-incarcerated former attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump had allegedly committed financial and tax fraud, and allegedly paid off paramours in violation of campaign finance laws. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaedTrump’s accountants in mid-April for relevant documents, and Trump tried to block the move, only to be sternly rebuked in mid-May by a federal judge in Washington.

The appeals brief filed Monday by Trump attacks that decision. But to describe Trump’s brief is to refute it. He argues that Congress is “trying to prove that the President broke the law” and that that’s something Congress can’t do, because it’s “an exercise of law enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch.”

But in fact, Congress investigates lawbreaking, and potential lawbreaking, all the time. Mobsters, fraudsters, government employees, small companies, big companies — like it or not, all types of people and businesses get subpoenaed from time to time so that Congress can figure out whether current laws are effective, whether new laws are needed, whether sufficient governmental resources are being devoted to the task, whether more disclosure to the government or the public is required, or greater penalties, and so on.

To this, Trump’s brief complains that “Congress could always make this (non-falsifiable) argument” to justify any investigation. But that’s simply the result of the fact that, as the district court explained, Congress’s “power to investigate is deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Congress, relying on English parliamentary tradition, has performed this function since the founding.

Click the link to read the rest.

Conway’s wife Kellyanne is also in the news today. Politico: Federal agency recommends that Kellyanne Conway be removed from service over Hatch Act.

The government office that oversees compliance with the Hatch Act has recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent a report to President Donald Trump on Thursday that said Conway violated the law numerous times by criticizing Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.

This is the first time this office has ever recommended that a White House official be fired.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Wednesday Reads: Remember Pulse

This is an open thread.