Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

When I first started looking at the news this morning, this story from The Baltimore Sun was all over Twitter: Trump declines request to lower flags in memory of Capital Gazette shooting victims.

Victims of the Capital Gazette Shooting: Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

President Donald Trump has declined a request from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley to lower American flags in honor of the fatal shooting of five employees of The Capital newspaper last week.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy?” Buckley said Monday afternoon. “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland state flags to be lowered to half-staff from Friday through sunset on Monday.

Through Maryland’s congressional delegation, Buckley put in a request to the White House over the weekend to lower the American flags.

Buckley had said he hoped having the American flags lowered, too, would help keep national attention on the attack.

Trump has ordered flags lowered for previous mass shootings, including in May after the deaths of 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 dead.

Apparently, public outrage sometimes works with the Trumpers because now the story includes this update at the top:

The White House has reversed its decision and will allow American flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of five victims of the shooting at The Capital newspaper last week. 

Maybe some White House staffer managed to get it through Trump’s thick head that the public his anti-press temper tantrums would not look so good in the context of actual reporters being murdered. In any case, good to know that public shaming is working on someone in the White House. Let’s redouble our efforts to shame them unmercifully!

Another judge has interfered with Trump’s cruel immigration policies. Politico: Judge’s order could undercut Trump’s immigrant detention plan.

Judge James Boasberg

An order a federal judge issued Monday requiring individualized decisions on whether some asylum-seekers can be released into the U.S. poses a new legal threat to President Donald Trump’s effort to crack down on migrants crossing the border from Mexico.

U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg said there is strong evidence that five offices of the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement were ignoring a 2009 agency directive requiring case-by-case determinations on whether asylum seekers who passed the initial “credible fear” screening could be released pending an immigration judge’s decision on their claim.

Boasberg said lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union justified the injunction by showing that releases of such immigrants by some offices dropped dramatically after Trump took office last year. Between February and September of last year, 100 percent of parole applications at three ICE offices were denied, the judge said, while two other offices released eight percent or fewer of those requesting release.

“The record indicates that, instead, they are subject to a de facto ‘no-parole’ reality, under which detention has become the default option,” wrote Boasberg, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Future determinations “shall not be based on categorical criteria,” the judge added in an order. He suggested a policy targeting those who made “recent entry” to the U.S. would be deemed categorical and contrary to the state policy.

The ruling applies only to people who come through an official port of entry and immediately request asylum and it only applies to five ICE field offices: Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark and Philadelphia. Still, it seems the courts are our best hope to have an effect on Trump’s awful immigration policies.

If you watched Rachel Maddow last night, you heard that the Trump administration is so far making zero effort to reunite families as ordered by a California judge last week. You can watch the interview with immigration lawyer Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch at this link if you missed it.

As Paul Krugman suggests, Trump is “governing” by temper tantrum. Whoever or whatever he doesn’t like becomes the target of his wrath, and the policies are unencumbered by any reality testing. He just wants what he wants when he wants it, and he’ll just lie about whether the policies accomplish his goals. Here’s Krugman on Trump’s trade wars: Temper Tantrum to Trade War.

In one way, Donald Trump’s attack on our foreign trade partners resembles his attack on immigrants: in each case, the attack is framed as a response to evildoing that exists only in his imagination. No, there isn’t a wave of violent crime by immigrants, and MS-13 isn’t taking over American towns; no, the European Union doesn’t have “horrific” tariffs on U.S. products (the average tariff is only 3 percent).

In another way, however, the trade crisis is quite different from the humanitarian crisis at the border. Children ripped from their parents and put in cages can’t retaliate. Furious foreign governments, many of them U.S. allies that feel betrayed, can and will.

But all indications are that Trump and his advisers still don’t get it. They remain blithely ignorant about what they’re getting into.

Back in March, as the U.S. was imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — and yes, justifying its actions against Canada (!) on the grounds of national security — Peter Navarro, the White House trade czar, was asked about possible retaliation. “I don’t believe any country will retaliate,” he declared, basing his claim on the supposed upper hand America has because we import more than we export.

Krugman points out that both our allies and enemies are retaliating and the situation could very easily get out of hand.

…both the scale and the motivation behind the Trump tariffs — their obviously fraudulent national security rationale — are something new. They amount to rejecting the rules of the game we created; the E.U., in its warning, bluntly calls U.S. actions “disregard for international law.” Sure enough, Axios reports that the Trump administration has drafted legislation that would effectively take us out of the W.T.O.

The U.S. is now behaving in ways that could all too easily lead to a breakdown of the whole trading system and a drastic, disruptive reduction in world trade.

There are some new Russia investigation stories in the news this morning. This one from Emptywheel is particularly interesting and scary too: Putting a Face (Mine) to the Risks Posed by GOP Games on Mueller Investigation. Marcy describes how she came to report a person to the FBI.

I never in my life imagined I would share information with the FBI, especially not on someone I had a journalistic relationship with. I did so for many reasons. Some, but not all, of the reasons are:

  • I believed he was doing serious harm to innocent people
  • I believed (others agreed) that reporting the story at that time would risk doing far more harm than good
  • I had concrete evidence he was lying to me and others, including but not limited to other journalists
  • I had reason to believe he was testing ways to tamper with my website
  • I believed that if the FBI otherwise came to understand what kind of information I had, their likely investigative steps would pose a risk to the privacy of my readers

To protect the investigation, I will not disclose this person’s true identity or the identity and/or role I believe he played in the attack. Nor will I disclose when I went to the FBI. I did so on my own, without subpoena; I did that in an effort to protect people who have spoken to me in confidence and other journalists. Largely because this effort involved a number of last minute trips to other cities, I spent around $6K of my own money traveling to meet with lawyers and for the meeting with the FBI.

John Darkow / Columbia Daily Tribune

You’ll need to read the entire post, but the gist is that Marcy was contacted by someone who had information about a meeting between Michael Flynn and and someone associated with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. This seemed to link up with reports that Jared Kushner wanted to open a back channel for communication with Russia about Syria policy. She also links to a new article by David Ignatius at The Washington Post, which I’ll get to in a minute. But the gist of her post is that House Republicans are putting people like Marcy who gave information to the FBI in danger.

The other reason I’m disclosing this now is to put a human face to the danger in which the House Republicans are putting other people who, like me, provided information about the Russian attack on the US to the government.

Several times since I first considered sharing information with the FBI, I’ve asked my attorney to contact the FBI to tell them of what I perceived to be a real threat that arose from sharing that information. One of those times, I let law enforcement officers enter my house without a warrant, without me being present.

My risk isn’t going to go away — indeed, going public like this will surely exacerbate it. That’s to be expected, given the players involved.

But I’m a public figure. If something happens to me — if someone releases stolen information about me or knocks me off tomorrow — everyone will now know why and who likely did it. That affords me a small bit of protection. There are undoubtedly numerous other witnesses who have taken similar risks to share information with the government who aren’t public figures. The Republicans’ ceaseless effort to find out more details about people who’ve shared information with the government puts those people in serious jeopardy.

I’m speaking out because they can’t — and shouldn’t have to.

Please do go read the rest at Emptywheel.

Now for the story by David Ignatius: Is Trump handing Putin a victory in Syria?

The catastrophic war in Syria is nearing what could be a diplomatic endgame, as the United States , Russia and Israel shape a deal that would preserve power for Syrian President Bashar al -Assad in exchange for Russian pledges to restrain Iranian influence.

Checking Iranian power has become the only major Trump administration goal in Syria, now that the Islamic State is nearly vanquished. President Trump appears ready to embrace a policy that will validate Assad, an authoritarian leader who has gassed his own people, and abandon a Syrian opposition that was partly trained and supplied by the United States….

The diplomatic discussions about Syria come as Trump prepares for a July 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Foreign diplomats and administration officials are unsure just what will be on the agenda, but the Syria package will probably be in play.

An intriguing aspect of the possible Syria deal is that it’s driven by close cooperation between Russia and Israel. The Israeli agenda, like Trump’s, is narrowly focused on blocking Iran — and Israelis seem to have concluded that Putin is a reliable regional partner.

Read the details of the prospective deal at the WaPo link above.

More Russia stories to check out, links only:

AP: Russian charged with Trump’s ex-campaign chief is key figure.

Buzzfeed News: The Senate Intel Committee Is In Regular Contact With The Trump–Russia Dossier Author.

Adam Davidson at The New Yorker: Is Michael Cohen Turning on Donald Trump?

Emily Jane Fox at Vanity Fair: “He Was Trying to Get Ahead of Things”: Michael Cohen, Former Trump Shield and Current Regency Prisoner, Got Sick of Being a Whipping Boy.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?

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34 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I hope you all have a nice 4th of July. Let’s hope we can hang on to the democracy it stands for.

    • Jslat says:

      Same to you, bb.

      Unfortunately, with The Rump in office we are currently experiencing a kleptocracy.

  2. Jslat says:

    “If you have a government of good laws and bad men, you will have a bad government. For bad men will not be bound by good laws.” R. Lefevre

  3. RonStill4Hills says:

    The main fascination with Michael Cohen seems to be gleeful speculation over whether Trump will dare to pardon ion or pay his legal bills.

    Facts coming to light is secondary maybe even tertiary by product.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Trump can’t pardon Cohen. That would only give prosecutors the ability to force him to testify without 5th amendment protection. There are also state crimes involved.

  4. dakinikat says:

    Follow that hashmark! It’s a gas!

  5. dakinikat says:

    That David Ignatius story shows what a clusterfuck we and Israel are under despot wannabes

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    Decision could have been very different with Trump-appointed judges.

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. dakinikat says:

    • Sweet Sue says:

      You know how detectives say that serial killers don’t look like serial killers? Jim Jordan looks like a serial killer and he’s the dumbest (pardon me) motherfucker in Congress. Yay, Ohio.

  10. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • NW Luna says:

        They advised not to post anything that may be interpreted as a threat.

        So, when will this be applied to Trump? Not holding my breath.

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. Sweet Sue says:

    I’d wish all of my friends, here, a happy Fourth of July but what the hell’s the use?

  13. NW Luna says:

    Asinine!

    Let Roe go

    Somewhat paradoxically, the way to make abortion less contentious is to throw the matter back to the states so that people can argue about it. Debating the difficult decisions regarding gestational age and circumstances would force people to confront the hard questions that abortion entails, which tends to have a moderating effect on extreme opinions.

    “moderating effect” Absolute BS.

  14. dakinikat says:

    This is from Jan but wondering what happens if POTUS ignores 30 day reunification order of District Judge. Different topic but same thing …

    Crisis Mode
    What happens if Donald Trump refuses a federal court order.
    By Dahlia Lithwick, Leon Neyfakh, and Mark Joseph Stern

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/01/what_happens_if_donald_trump_refuses_a_federal_court_order.html

    The situation has forced observers to reckon with a question that has little or no precedent in American history: What happens when the federal government or its agents refuse to honor a court order handed down by a federal judge? By definition, it has to be different from what happens when, say, a state lawmaker flouts the word of a federal judge, since in the past, such cases have involved the president himself sending in the U.S. Marshals to enforce the law. But who will be on what side if things escalate, and the executive branch itself explicitly and continuously refuses to follow the rulings of the judiciary? At what point does the conflict turn into a full-blown constitutional crisis?

    • dakinikat says:

      https://www.justsecurity.org/38268/holding-federal-government-contempt-court-powers-judges-administration/

      In general, it’s not uncommon for federal agency compliance with court orders to be imperfect and fraught. This is especially true when a court orders an agency to take an affirmative act that is costly or complex. That kind of order can strain the agency’s funding and personnel, mess with the agency’s ability to fulfill and prioritize its many legally-required tasks, and press the agency to act without enough information to make its decisions rational and legally defensible. If an agency gets hit with such an order, it will often return to court warning the judge that it badly needs more latitude (especially more time) to comply. Judges often relent, cutting slack and extending deadlines while demanding progress reports and other assurances from the agency to satisfy themselves of the bureaucrats’ good faith. But the judge may become suspicious that the agency is delaying and demanding slack more than is reasonable, perhaps out of incompetence or a brute political aversion to doing what’s been ordered. In that situation, judges may consider making the order more detailed, making the reporting requirements more intrusive, and ultimately, finding the agency or responsible officials in contempt.

      The potency of contempt findings against private defendants arises most obviously from the court’s power to attach sanctions of fine or imprisonment. But are contempt sanctions available against federal government defendants?

      it seems they sanction the agencies some how or can send federal marshals in ensure compliance.

      • NW Luna says:

        ….until SCOTUS has a majority of Trump yes-men. Damn I’m really cynical these days.

  15. NW Luna says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I’m not sure what this means but it’s rarely a good sign when a career official resigns in this administration.