Tuesday ReadsPosted: January 15, 2019
The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently questioning William Barr, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. It’s pretty much guaranteed that Barr’s appointment will be approved, so the main goal for Democrats is to get him to commit publicly to protecting Robert Muller and the Russia investigation.
Diane Feinstein already got Barr to say that he will protect the investigation and he said that he will abide by the rules of the Special Counsel statute. The hearings are expected to take about three days. You can read Barr’s prepared statement at CNN.
Also from CNN: Barr sent or discussed controversial memo with Trump lawyers.
Attorney General nominee William Barr shared a controversial memo last year with nearly all of President Donald Trump’s lawyers concluding that an aspect of special counsel Robert Mueller’s case could be “fatally misconceived,” Barr acknowledged Monday.
Barr’s 19-page memo — which concluded that Trump’s publicly reported interactions with ex-FBI Director James Comey could not constitute obstruction of justice — was addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel and released as a part of Barr’s Senate questionnaire last month. But it was previously unclear who else had seen it.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham Monday night, Barr said that he had sent it to White House special counsel Emmet Flood, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, and his former Justice Department colleague Pat Cipollone who is now White House counsel. He also discussed the issues raised in the memo with Trump lawyers Marty and Jane Raskin and Jay Sekulow. In addition he sent a copy, or had a conversation about the contents of the memo with Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Jared Kushner.
In Tuesday’s testimony, Barr will say he distributed the memo “broadly” so that other lawyers “would have the benefit of my views.” He said the memo was narrow in scope and targeted a specific obstruction of justice theory “under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the special counsel might be considering.”
“I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance , and based solely on public information,” Barr will say.
But the revelation comes as Democrats have pledged to make Barr’s criticisms of Mueller’s investigation a centerpiece of the hearings, particularly because Barr would be poised to oversee Mueller’s work if confirmed.
Cindy McCain weighed on Twitter.
Here are three opinion pieces on the Barr nomination to check out:
NBC News: William Barr confirmation hearing: Trump’s attorney general nominee still has a lot to answer for, by Glenn Kirschner.
The Washington Post: I was in Congress during Nixon’s impeachment proceedings. William Barr is wrong, by Elizabeth Holzman. former Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Lawfare: Lessons from Watergate: What the Senate Judiciary Committee Should Ask Bill Barr, by Mikhaila Fogel Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes.
In other DOJ news, The Supreme Court has declined to hear a “challenge to Whitaker as acting attorney general.” The Washington Post reports:
Washington lawyer and Supreme Court practitioner Thomas C. Goldstein has intervened in cases in Nevada and Maryland to say that President Trump did not have the legal authority to appoint Whitaker, who had been chief of staff to Jeff Sessions when Trump forced out his attorney general in November.
The justices denied the Nevada case and its attempt to substitute Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein for Whitaker. The Maryland case is still before a federal judge there.
Goldstein and others say that Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, should have succeeded Sessions and that it is unlawful for Whitaker to be running the department for even a short time.
Read more at the WaPo.
More legal news, just breaking this morning: Wilbur Ross can’t include a question about immigration status in the Census questionnaire. NPR: Judge Orders Trump Administration To Remove 2020 Census Citizenship Question.
A federal judge in New York has ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the administration to stop its plans to include the controversial question on forms for the upcoming national head count “without curing the legal defects” the judge identified in his opinion released on Tuesday.
Furman’s decision marks a significant milestone in a legal battle that began shortly after the Trump administration announced last year that the 2020 census would include a controversial question about U.S. citizenship status. The added question was: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” All U.S. households have not been asked such a question on the census since 1950.
It’s an important step in the right direction, but the case will likely end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Furman has noted that he does not expect his order to be the final word on the question’s fate. The district court ruling in New York is expected to be appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the two lead cases before Furman at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the administration is fighting five more lawsuits across the country filed by dozens of states, cities and other groups that want the question removed. A second trial over the question began earlier this month in California, and another is scheduled to begin in Maryland on Jan. 22.
Yesterday The New York Times reported that Trump is dying to make Putin’s dreams come true: Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia.
There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.
Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States.
Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.
In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States.
Read more at the NYT.
Will Devin Nunes finally get his comeuppance? The Daily Beast reports: Mueller Probes an Event With Nunes, Flynn, and Foreign Officials at Trump’s D.C. Hotel.
The Special Counsel’s Office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan are scrutinizing a meeting involving former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and dozens of foreign officials, according to three sources familiar with the investigations.
The breakfast event, which was first reported by The Daily Sabah, a pro-government Turkish paper, took place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. at 8.30 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2017—two days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. About 60 people were invited, including diplomats from governments around the world, according to those same sources.
The breakfast has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. The existence of that probe was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Special Counsel’s Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries, as first reported by The New York Times. Robert Mueller’s team has asked Flynn about the event, according to two sources familiar with the Special Counsel’s Office questioning.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Breaking Russia investigation news from Twitter:
The Women’s March is bleeding support because of concerns that the leadership of the group is anti-Semitic. The latest from Jewish News Syndicate: Democratic National Committee drops partnership with Women’s March.
The Democratic National Committee has dropped its partnership in the Women’s March over anti-Semitism concerns, according to a Democratic source.
This development comes amid accusations of anti-Semitism within the movement’s leadership, causing many organizations to drop their support of the this year’s march, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 19. There have been calls for firms to back out.
In recent weeks, a number of progressive groups that have withdrawn their support of the march, which was launched in 2017 in protest of the election of President Donald Trump, including, but are not limited to, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace, Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, Coalition Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
And from The Washington Post: What’s in a name? Women’s March groups spar over who owns the name and the movement.
After a year marred by accusations of anti-Semitism, financial opacity and infighting, the national Women’s March organization has sought to refocus the group with a rally and the rollout of a new federal policy platform dubbed the Women’s Agenda.
Meanwhile, local groups across the country — largely unaffiliated with the national organization — have been unable to separate themselves from the fallout. They say it has hurt their ability to organize, to attract participants and to be heard.
Even the name, Women’s March, has become a flash point.
Four organizations have sued the national Women’s March group — led by activists Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour — over efforts to trademark the name, arguing that no entity can own the march or the activism it has inspired. Some groups have sought to rebrand to shed the “Women’s March” name and the tumult that comes with it.
Frankly, I had issues with the women’s march in 2017, because they shut out Hillary and her supporters. The next march is scheduled for Saturday.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread below.