Tuesday Reads: The Constitutional Crisis Has Arrived And No One Is Protesting

Good Morning!!

It was almost more than I could bear to turn on my computer this morning. We’re experiencing a slow-motion Saturday night massacre, and there are no protests. Is this how democracy ends–“not with a bang but a whimper?”

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post: The constitutional crisis is here.

Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes.

When Trump demanded an investigation into the investigators, the DOJ caved to his demands rather than stand up to him.

Justice tried to mollify the president by at least appearing to give him what he wants. The Republican leadership in Congress has been silent as a mouse. This is how uncrossable lines are crossed….

The Justice Department answered Trump’s tweeted demand by announcing that an existing investigation by its inspector general will now “include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation” by the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein may hope that is enough to avoid a showdown. I fear he is wrong.

I had the same fear last night, and now this morning Trump far-right allies are demanding a second special counsel to look into the investigation into his very real crimes. Fox News: House Republicans to call for second special counsel to investigate alleged FISA abuse, Hillary Clinton probe.

A group of congressional Republicans plans to introduce a resolution Tuesday calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate alleged misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department.

The resolution is backed by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus as well as two of the group’s co-founders — Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.

Fox News has learned the 12-page resolution will ask a second special counsel to probe matters related to three topics: The ending of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, the progress of the Trump-Russia investigation from its origins through the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel, and abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the warrant application process.

The resolution is expected to say that a second special counsel would have greater autonomy to investigate those issues than the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg explains that Trump is simply following the playbook he used in his shady real estate business:

Back in 2011, Donald Trump published “Midas Touch,” one of his many how-to books offering secrets for financial success. This is where Trump, a lifelong performance artist, revealed that one of his favorite business personas is the “Outlaw.”

“The Outlaw archetype loves to break the rules,” the book noted. “The motto of the Outlaw is: ‘Rules are meant to be broken.’”

The president, who turns 72 next month, has prided himself on being a rule-breaker in business and politics for the past 50 years. Back in the 1970s, he and his father flouted federal housing regulations by discriminating against prospective renters of color at their apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Queens. During his own career as a New York developer, Trump routinely tried to strong-arm regulators and politicians who asked him to comply with local zoning and housing laws.

After flirting with personal bankruptcy in the early 1990s, Trump used his media platform to slag bankers tasked with keeping him on an allowance while they juggled more than $3 billion in loans he couldn’t repay. His biggest Atlantic City, N.J., casino, the Taj Mahal (which eventually filed for bankruptcy protection), violated anti-money-laundering regulations 106 times during its first 18 months in business, prompting the Treasury Department to fine the company about $500,000 in 1998. In 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission forced Trump’s casino company to sign a cease and desist agreement after an investigation showed it had used “fraudulent” reporting tactics and doctored accounting in its public earnings statements.

Since his earliest days in Atlantic City, Trump also did business with organized crime figures, a practice he continued more recently in New York City when he helped develop the Trump SoHo Hotel. In yet another set of dustups, beginning in 2010, Trump University students and the New York State attorney general separately sued Trump’s company for fraud. Trump repeatedly denigrated a judge in one of the cases, then settled some of the claims for $25 million in 2016.

Please go read the rest. Anyone who belieChaves Trump is going to follow rules and respect norms now is delusional. He will keep pushing the limits until we stop him.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: By Demanding an Investigation, Trump Challenged a Constraint on His Power.

When President Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into the F.B.I.’s scrutiny of his campaign contacts with Russia, he inched further toward breaching an established constraint on executive power: The White House does not make decisions about individual law enforcement investigations.

“It’s an incredible historical moment,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School who helped write a coming scholarly article on the limits of presidential control over the Justice Department. Mr. Trump’s move, she said, “is the culmination of a lot of moments in which he has chipped away at prosecutorial independence, but this is a direct assault.”

Almost since he took office, Mr. Trump has battered the Justice Department’s independence indirectly — lamenting its failure to reopen a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton that found no wrongdoing, and openly complaining that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry. But he had also acknowledged that as president, “I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” as he told a radio interviewer with frustration last fall.

As part of that pattern, he has also denied the account by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he abruptly fired, that the president privately urged him to drop an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

But Mr. Trump has also been flirting with going further, as he hinted late last year when he claimed in a New York Times interview that “I have an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.” And now, by unabashedly ordering the department to open a particular investigation, Mr. Trump has ratcheted up his willingness to impose direct political control over the work of law enforcement officials.

Read the rest at the NYT.

One more before I retreat into some escapist fiction for awhile. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Believe the autocrat.

This morning, new details are emerging about the depth of President Trump’s efforts to subvert the workings of justice in order to undermine an ongoing investigation into himself and his cronies. We still don’t know how far Trump will go in this regard.

But here’s one thing we do know: He is seriously considering pushing this interference as far as he thinks he’ll be able to get away with, meaning that external constraints — or a belief that doing this will backfire on him politically — may be the only things capable of stopping him.

We know this because Trump has told us so himself, in his own words, repeatedly. Perhaps we should believe him.

The Post and the New York Times report that at yesterday’s meeting between congressional Republicans allied with Trump and officials from the White House and the Justice Department, the White House brokered a deal to allow those Republicans to view highly classified documents relating to the FBI informant that Trump and his allies have railed about. It is still unclear precisely what Justice officials agreed to; we’ll learn more in coming days.

This may buy some time. But it represents yet another step in the president’s continuing encroachment on the independence of this investigation. It may serve as a setup for another lurch in this direction: Republicans will be given access to these documents and will profess themselves unsatisfied, arguing that they are now more convinced than ever that the informant improperly “spied” on the Trump campaign. (The best reporting indicates that the informant tried to gather information from Trump advisers after the FBI obtained evidence that those advisers had questionable contacts involving Russia — that is, as part of a legitimate counterintelligence investigation.) Perhaps those Republicans will selectively leak info to further the more nefarious interpretation.

Then Trump could potentially order a full Justice Department investigation into the genesis of the probe, or fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and replace him with a loyalist to limit the probe, or even try to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But whatever is to be on that front, what we now see happening is that Trump is directly pressuring Justice to conduct this investigation into his campaign in a certain way, and at least to some extent, it is complying.

When will we see protests? When will the Democrats wake up and start fighting back?

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45 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: The Constitutional Crisis Has Arrived And No One Is Protesting”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    To top it all off, Trump refuses to use a secure cellphone. We can assume that Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are all listening to his phone calls and perhaps even listening to what he’s doing in the oval office.

    The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

    While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

    The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      “But her emails…”

      • quixote says:

        Yeah. All three of them out of over 30,000, sent to her by others (something she had no control over), retroactively classified to the lowest level of confidentiality.

        Clinton: guilty of buying choclates after 8 pm.

        Dump: guilty of selling the USA to anyone who’ll pay him something for it.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Matthew Miller at the WaPo: Rod Rosenstein’s dangerous gamble.

    There is no legitimate justification for asking the inspector general to investigate a hyped-up claim that the FBI inappropriately infiltrated the Trump campaign. Just as in February there was no legitimate justification for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in response to claims by House Republicans, asking the inspector general to investigate alleged — and debunked — abuses by the department in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page.

    But the president’s direct involvement — and his transparent motives in using the demand to undermine the Mueller probe — makes the abuse here far more grave. It is one thing for an inspector general to review unsubstantiated allegations made by members of Congress. It is quite another for an inspector general to do so at the direction of a compromised president — whose demands carry the implicit threat of removal and who, in this case, is himself the subject of the underlying investigation.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      This is it, and no one is standing up to that orange fucker. Waiting until November, will be too late…

    • dakinikat says:

      Devin Nunes needs to be arrested for obstructing justice and if he outs any confidential sources they need to dump his ass in a jail cell in a basement where the sun doesn’t shine. Hopefully, in a country that will waterboard him for us.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I saw that. It’s horrifying.

      • teele says:

        Yes, it is. That building is OURS. It belongs to the American people, who paid for it, and who pay the incompetent a-holes who have been given patronage jobs there. This is the continuation of the Traitor-in-Chief’s war on our free press, formerly protected by the document once used as our Constitution, now used to wipe the Usurper’s stinking butt. Will the corporate news organizations stand up to him, or just let him decide which companies get to be the Official State News and which will be relegated to the dust heap?

        Also, I really don’t understand why the Kochs, Mercers, Adelsons, and other billionaires aren’t concerned by Orange Man’s actions toward Bezos. He has a bone to pick with one of the man’s businesses, so is trying to destroy one of his other businesses. What happens when he looks at the Kochs and decides they have more money than they really need, and figures out a way to make one or more of their businesses “illegal”? Sure, they have more than plenty, and can probably afford to pay him some extortion money, but even they can’t be stupid enough to believe that the bastard’s greed can be sated. Are these guys really just as ill-informed and stupid as the rubes in Iowa and Alabama? Do they not see what happens when you give this much power to a narcissistic, power hungry creep with the impulse control of a first-grader? They need to look at places like Venezuela, and stop pretending Trump is as smart as Putin, who at least recognizes he needs to generously reward some of his thugs to keep them loyal. Trump expects loyalty unconditionally, and if these folks think that won’t apply to them, they might want to ask Michael Cohen how that worked for him.

        Sorry for the rant, but I am over it. I truly have never seen so many weak-as-water men (for the most part) kowtowing and toadying. It’s a shameful and disgusting sight.

  3. dakinikat says:

    A new study was just released that proves Russia’s Trump Twitter bots likely swayed election results

    https://washingtonpress.com/2018/05/21/a-new-study-was-just-released-that-proves-russias-trump-twitter-bots-likely-swayed-election-results/

    A new academic study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that Twitter bots, automated social accounts that post content, likely generated enough activity to sway the outcome of both the 2016 Brexit vote and the last US presidential election.

    Economist Yuriy Gorodnichenko from the University of California-Berkley and two researchers Swansea College in Wales, UK concluded that “given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes.”

    • dakinikat says:

      Well over 1/3rd of President Trump’s Twitter followers are fake and recently, numerous conservative pundits made a commotion when Twitter deleted millions of fake accounts, lowering their follower counts dramatically.

    • NW Luna says:

      I am bloody tired of saying “I/we told you so!”

  4. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Gah. He’s never deeply engaged in anything except his own ego. And this man is sitting in the Oval Office. Dangerous.

  5. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Yeah, just like America’s winning all the time and the little people are getting rich. Uh-huh.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Was watching the Trump/Moon Presser and I’m encouraging our President to do the right thing for being so dishonorable by committing seppuku. He said he wants us and our allies to make North Korea Great Again! Is orange a good color with sweaty ignorant desperation?

    • NW Luna says:

      Make N Korea great again, China great again… And of course the Orange Caligula is ill-informed, rude and unpleasant. He’s always been that, except to Putin.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. dakinikat says:

    I honestly don’t know how long it’s going to take us–if ever–to recover from this monster. The O’Brien article is spot on. We’re a thugocracy now.

    • NW Luna says:

      That’s what’s been worrying me the most lately. Whichever Dem wins in 2020 will have an enormous job undoing the thuggery.

  9. dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Given that there’s really nothing about milking cows or growing beans to make you lose your mind, I’m wondering if the difference may actually be that Sinclair owns something like 75% of the local TV stations in rural US? But almost nothing in cities.

  10. bostonboomer says:

  11. Pat Johnson says:

    In the midst of moving but popping in to let you all know I stand with you!

    Like you ever had a doubt.

  12. Minkoff Minx says:

    Shakesville: More on Paul Campos' Trump-Broidy Theory

    Four days after after the raid on Cohen’s office, on April 13, The Wall Street Journal published a story claiming that this David Dennison, in the NDA signed by Shera Bechard, was none other than Elliott Broidy — despite its being precisely the same pseudonym Trump had used in the Stormy Daniels NDA.

  13. Minkoff Minx says:

    I know I keep going on about this….but I am pissed off:

    Ten people didn’t die in Santa Fe because a girl “spurned” a boy – Feministe

    Last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, didn’t happen because a girl “spurned” Dimitrios Pagourtzis. It didn’t happen because she “humiliated” him or “embarrassed” him in front of the class. It was neither “sparked” nor “provoked.”

    The headline is not that a girl rejected him. The headline is that Pagourtzis harassed her for four months before going on his killing spree.

    Shana Fisher had every right to do what she is said to have done. After a reported four months of increasingly aggressive harassment, Fisher finally resorted to one of the only options left: bringing the attention of their classmates to the matter as a deterrent. Any woman who’s ever stood up in a bar and said loudly, “No, I don’t want to go anywhere with you, so stop asking” knows what that’s like and, frankly, how scary it can be

  14. Kathy Lauren says:

    Great post. Like you, I’m terrified every morning when I turn on the TV…what next? Can it get any worse? And then it does…. Our GOP congress has become the swamp..

  15. bostonboomer says:

    More problems for Michael Cohen. His business partner just pleaded guilty and flipped on him.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It looks like he has lots to offer:

      Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen’s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions.

      Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

      Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he faces five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding.

  16. dakinikat says:

  17. Grace Laine says:

    We are waiting for a loud thunderclap and bolts of lightning across the skies. I am very, very concerned. The Democrats in Congress ARE ringing the alarm bells believe it or not but their voices and efforts are buried. Meanwhile, we all jump on Twitter, still deluded into thinking this is political activism. We need to be in D.C. Now. Millions of us.