Monday Reads: The Escalating threat to the Constitution and Rule of Law

This from my buddy John Buss @repeat1968 who is the official cartoonist of the MadDog PAC! @maddogpac

Good Afternoon!

Trump is acting like a despot gone wild!  We’re getting decrees via twitter now!

We’re finding out how far KKKremlin Caligula will go to enrich his crime syndicate family and protect his fat orange ass from justice.  My guess is we will never reach the out of bounds boundary unless we vote for accountability in November. Benjamin Wittes–writing for The Atlantic–examines why “The president’s alarming Sunday tweet could genuinely produce a crisis between the White House, on the one hand, and the Justice Department and the FBI, on the other.”

Sunday afternoon, President Trump tweeted an extraordinary threat—extraordinary even by the standards of Donald Trump’s norm-busting use of Twitter and abusive conduct toward the Justice Department and federal investigations: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes—and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

I normally try to ignore presidential tweets. This one, however, those concerned about the integrity of law enforcement can’t ignore. It requires attention, because it could genuinely produce a crisis between the White House, on the one hand, and the Justice Department and the FBI, on the other.

I don’t want to overstate the matter. It’s possible that it won’t produce this crisis, both because Trump might (as he has done numerous times before) wimp out, and also because—as I’ll explain—he might issue the order in a fashion vague enough to be susceptible to relatively benign interpretation by the Justice Department and the FBI.

That said, the tweet on its own terms is alarming. It’s a statement of intent to issue a specific investigative demand of the Justice Department for entirely self-interested and overtly political reasons. And Trump published it in the absence of a shred of evidence that might support the demanded action. If we take his tweet at face value, the president is announcing that he will on Monday “officially” “demand” the Justice Department launch a specific investigation of activity that would be criminal were it true—about whether the DOJ and FBI spied on the Trump campaign for an improper purpose and whether the Obama administration demanded such action of them.

This is a nakedly corrupt attempt on the part of the president to discredit and derail an investigation of himself at the expense of a human intelligence source to whose protection the FBI and DOJ are committed. My colleague at Lawfare, Quinta Jurecic, and I fleshed out the history of this saga and warned, “Don’t underestimate this episode. It will have a long tail and big consequences—all of them terrible.”

Trump keeps raising the stakes in his attack on his on Justice Department and the Special Counsel assigned to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 election debacle.  His paranoia about the Obama administration is reaching Nixonian levels.

In September, the Justice Department said it had no evidence to support another of Trump’s unsubstantiated assertions: that Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It was unclear what kind of response Trump was seeking from the Justice Department this time, since investigations are kept secret and designed to be insulated from political influence and White House meddling.

A spokeswoman said the Justice Department had asked the Inspector General to expand a review of the process for requesting surveillance warrants to include determining whether there was impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its investigation.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s suspicion of an embedded spy “nonsense.” “His ‘demand’ DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems,” Schiff said on Twitter.

In his earlier tweets on Sunday, Trump reprised his attacks on Hillary Clinton, his Democratic challenger in 2016, and maintained that Democrats were not submitted to the same FBI scrutiny.

Trump also implied that the special counsel investigation of whether foreign governments tried to influence the presidential campaign was designed to hurt Republicans in the November congressional elections.

“Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party,” he wrote.

Trump, who has long complained the Russia probe has overstepped its bounds, referred to reports that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in August 2016 with an envoy representing the crown princes of United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

One can only assume that there is such much evidence of illegal activity by Donnie Jerko Junior that the Feds have a cell ready for his skinny ass and jawless face.  The RNC is already picking up the lawyer tab for Hope Hicks and others.

The Republican National Committee paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations, according to a new federal filing.

The RNC’s $451,780 payment to Trout Cacheris & Janis adds to the mounting legal fees associated with the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hicks hired Robert Trout, founder of the law firm, as her personal attorney in September, according to news reports. The report of the payments for legal and compliance services, contained in the Federal Election Commission report filed Sunday, is the first public disclosure of RNC payments to the law firm since Hicks hired Trout.

Three lawyers at the firm represent people in addition to Hicks in the investigations by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees, according to the firm’s website. Hicks, who was one of President Trump’s most trusted and loyal aides, was interviewed by Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence panels in early 2018.

Among the six-figure donors to the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats, were actor and producer Seth MacFarlane, who gave $2 million; Cynthia Simon-Skjodt, a philanthropist and daughter of the Simon Property Group founder, who gave $1 million; and Bay Area real estate developer George Marcus, who gave $1 million.

Rod Rosenstein has responded in a low key manner in an obvious attempt to appease the President to not do anything more stupid than royal decree by twitter.  AAron Blake–writing for WAPO–wonders if this approach is too weak?

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said in a statement.

The announcement was rather remarkable. Some saw it as deft maneuvering from Rosenstein. It’s certainly a compromise, and it doesn’t give Trump exactly what he wanted. It could effectively run out the clock by burying the matter in a lengthy inspector general’s probe. And it could also avert a potential constitutional crisis that could arise out of Trump ordering DOJ to do something and DOJ declining.

But the concession does risk further politicization of Justice Department business and also unavoidably lends credence to Trump’s allegations. Trump can now credibly say the Justice Department is looking into political bias in the Russia investigation, which risks furthering his goal of undermining the entire investigation. And Rosenstein basically handed him that PR win without much actual evidence.

Many blame the rainy weekend, lack of golf, and boredom for Sunday’s Tweet storm of insanity.  Let’s just say that both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama live in Trumps empty mind rent free. But perhaps these headlines set him off!

Via CNN: “Roger Stone says he is ‘prepared’ for possibility of special counsel indictment”.

From Bloomberg: “Trump Jr. Draws New Mueller Scrutiny Over Foreign Campaign Links”.

Futerfas said George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, was at the meeting with Trump Jr. The Times reported that Nader told Trump Jr. “that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.”

The other attendees were Joel Zamel, an Israeli and social media specialist, who presented “a multi-million dollar proposal,” for an effort to help Trump, and GOP donor Erik Prince –a former Navy SEAL, brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater — who arranged the meeting, according to the Times.

Mueller is looking into the interactions and questioning people about that Trump Tower meeting, the newspaper said.

Then, there’s ongoing discussion of how foreign policy seems to align itself with new cash flowing into to Trump and Kushner Private Deals.  Trump’s new China deals appeared after a China investment near a Trump property.  The deals look like complete cave in.

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration put its trade war with China “on hold” after two days of talks in Washington that he said had produced an agreement on increased Chinese purchases of American products and measures to make it easier for U.S. companies to operate in China.

Even though the agreement lacked the specific $200 billion reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China that was Trump’s signature demand on trade, the president halted tariffs he had threatened to impose on $150 billion in Chinese products.

In an earlier sign of softening,Trump directed administration officials to consider easing harsh penalties on a prominent Chinese telecom company that had violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

“It’s a huge disappointment given the expectations,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a partnership between steelworkers and their employers. “It plays right into Beijing’s hands . . . and is more of the same old failed policies we saw under the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Administration officials on Sunday scrambled to cast the Chinese talks as a victory, while some staunch Trump supporters questioned whether Trump had blinked in the first major confrontation with China.

“Not good enough. Time to take the gloves off,” Dan DiMicco, former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor, tweeted Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned in a tweet Sunday that by continuing to talk while putting the tariffs on hold “#China has outnegotiated the U.S. again.”

Settling for Chinese promises of increased purchases of American goods and improvements in intellectual property laws marked a shift for the administration, which disparaged earlier U.S. diplomatic dialogues with China as fruitless.

He really can’t make deal but he’s the King of the Grift.  Pay to play!  Quid pro Quo! Abuse of Power! Emollients Clause violations!  Campaign Law Violations!  Obstruction of Justice!  Get you Mueller Bingo card set up now!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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50 Comments on “Monday Reads: The Escalating threat to the Constitution and Rule of Law”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    This is sickening.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    This piece at Politico gave me some hope. It’s by a former prosecutor who worked under Giuliani in the Southern District of NY.

    3 Predictions for What Mueller Will Do Next

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/21/3-predictions-for-what-mueller-will-do-next-218410

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    He is going to get away with it. Nothing will be done to put a stop to this greed and power play.

    The lies will go unabated. The thievery will continue. No one will stop this disastrous and traitorous administration: not even Mueller.

    I am sickened by all this. It has been a fiasco since 2015. This unsavory and criminal man has gotten away with murder. And he will continue to do so because the GOP majority congress has reneged in its oath to the Constitution.

    The next election won’t change the outcome. Russian hacks, along with some of our own domestic partners, will see to it.

    This is his America now. We count for nothing.

    When the rule of law is dismissed this easily nothing remains safe.

    Something bad has been unleashed with this evil, corrupt, and avaricious fool and there is nothing to stop it.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I refuse to believe he’ll get away with it unless I actually see it happen.

    • jane says:

      For quite a while now we have had republican presidents who nearly bankrupt the US. Then we get a democrat in the WH and our economy rebounds and the Congress cleans up the budget. Then they elect another republican president and it starts all over again. After trump we will elect another democrat who will clean up his mess and we will fight to keep progress going for another 8 years.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    As Charlie Pierce said, we’d better see a constitutional crisis happening by the end of this week, or our country is screwed.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      It’s one thing to eliminate wild animals who kill humans if the animals are not endangered. But doing that to a cougar which was just being a cougar?

      I haven’t kept up on the whole story here, and it is very sad about the fatality, but killing the mountain lion isn’t going to make any of that better.

      • Catscatscats says:

        As far as i can tell that is SOP when any animal harms or endangers a human. They do it to dogs, they did it to Harambe the gorilla. It’s even worse (for me) when it was the human at fault. I assume the rationalization is, if they did it once they will do it again. Not only was the cougar being a cougar, but what idiot acts like prey in an area with predators? At least they euthanized the animal rather than put a bullet in him or her. I hope it wasn’t a nursing Mom.

        • quixote says:

          Yes, I know it’s SOP in ordinary cases. Mountain lions are severely endangered, though. (Aren’t they? Or am I wrong about that?) Anyway, the whole thing strikes as that peculiarly human kind of stupid that I wish we could stop doing.

          Maybe in another seven thousand years, if there’s anything left by then.

          • Catscatscats says:

            Amen, Q.

          • Catscatscats says:

            Q, i found this. Perhaps you were thinking of the Florida Panther?

            “Mountain lions are not threatened nor endangered in California. In fact, the lion population is relatively high in California and their numbers appear to be stable. Mountain lions are legally classified as “specially protected species”.
            Commonly Asked Questions About Mountain Lions – State of California
            https://www.dfg.ca.gov › lion › lion_faq

          • quixote says:

            Interesting. Here in SoCal, every cougar is numbered and tagged. Every time one is killed on the freeways (which happens way too much) there’s discussion of how much that damages the gene pool. Maybe they’re just endangered in the SoCal mountains, not the NorCal ones.

      • NW Luna says:

        From local news, the cougar was “emaciated” and weighed 30% – 40% less than normal. Apparently the cyclists thought they’d scared off the cougar, then started to bike off again, when it came back and pounced on one cyclists. The other one got off his bike and ran. Never run from a cougar Like any cat, it’s triggered to chase whatever runs away. So the cougar dropped the first guy and went after the running one. Then first guy gets on his bike and flees while his friend is hauled off.

        Cougar habitat has been significantly impaired by increasing development and logging. The teenage male cougars try to find their own range, but usually an adult male cougar will drive off the adolescent, and then the adolescent cougar has a hard time finding enough to eat while being driven from one alpha male’s territory to another. IIRC they need nearly 30 acres to each male.

        The “euthanasia” is relative BS. They tracked the cougar with a pack of dogs, treed it, and shot it.

        • quixote says:

          I’ve never been attacked by so much as a coyote, so this is very much armchair quarterbacking, but another thing I don’t understand is they had bikes.

          My first reaction (as I am mentally in the situation in my comfy armchair) is to put that between me and the cougar. And wait. If it comes for me, I’d do my best to use it as a club or a shield, depending on what was possible.

          Did the guys try that and it didn’t work?

      • NW Luna says:

        “Protected” species — but legally hunted and killed, up to 250/yr.

        While cougars are very common in the foothills of the mountains, attacks are rare. There have been 15 nonfatal attacks in Washington in the past century. The last fatality was in 1924, when a cougar ambushed a teenage boy near his home in Olema, Okanogan County. There were seven cougar attacks in the 1990s because of urban sprawl into the foothills, Myers said.

        Normally, cougars are secretive and aloof, said Myers, who has encountered many of them and has not felt threatened. They hunt and eat deer, elk, rabbits and small critters in the early morning, at dusk and evening.

        Males are solitary. On average, an adult male weighs 140 pounds, with females about 25 percent smaller. They have exceptionally powerful legs that enable them to leap 30 feet from a standstill, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

        Rich Beausoleil, the state’s bear and cougar specialist, said that cougars are territorial, and they limit their own population growth to about two cougars per 39 square miles.

        Cougars, also known as mountain lions and pumas, are a protected species. Each year, the state allows 250 cougars to be hunted and killed in 50 designated zones.

        https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/two-attacked-by-cougar-identified-wildlife-officials-say-predator-was-emaciated/

        Would be a very, very difficult job to number and tag all the cougars in WA state.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    This unbelievable:

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    Rosenstein caves.

    Surprise, surprise.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    The “spy” was almost in Trump administration! LOL

  10. bostonboomer says:

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  13. roofingbird says:

    Even if it’s legal to “demand” this investigation, you gotta wonder about the cost and the demand on personnel. I doubt that Congress will give money to do this. This is a good way to break an agency.

    • dakinikat says:

      it’s basically been sent to the audit department at this point plus the description from the weekend folds it into everything already existent.

  14. NW Luna says:

    They’re traitors. All of them.

    Headline right now on WaPo:

    GOP lawmakers introduce legislation to appoint a second special counsel