Thursday Reads: Democratic Debate, Roger Stone Sentencing, and Other News

Good Morning!!

I ended up watching the debate last night, and I have to admit it was entertaining. I’m not sure how much it accomplished for the candidates. Elizabeth Warren opened with a vicious smackdown of Mike Bloomberg, and he never really recovered as she continued the beatdown throughout the two-hour debate. I actually started to warm up to her for the first time. There’s no doubt she clearly dominated last night. Here’s the full transcript at NBC News.

Unfortunately for Warren, her efforts will likely help Biden the most. There are many more moderate voters than those who support Sanders and Warren. If those voters consolidate around a candidate, it might be possible to stop Bernie, but it would be a moderate, not Warren.

What Warren needed to do was attack Bernie Sanders; and, although she got in a couple of jabs, she didn’t really do enough. I was absolutely stunned when she went on a long rant about the dumping of toxic chemicals in poor areas without mentioning Sanders’ role in doing just that. She did criticize his health care plan, calling it a “good start.” She also tore down all the other candidates’ plans pretty effectively. She also criticized Bernie’s mean bro supporters.

Bloomberg almost gave Sanders another heart attack when he called him out for being a millionaire with three houses. Warning: there’s a lot of screaming in this video.

Biden also had a good debate. If he had done as well in the previous debates, I don’t think he would be doing as poorly as he is now.

Finally, Klobuchar and Buttigieg mostly attacked each other.

Moving on from the debate, Roger Stone’s sentencing hearing is this morning. Here’s what I’ve seen on Twitter so far.

Click here to read a long thread on the hearing by Dan Friedman.

It looks like Judge Jackson is considering a longer sentence than Billy Barr would like.

Associated Press: Trump ally Roger Stone to be sentenced as case roils DOJ.

Roger Stone, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, faces sentencing Thursday on his convictions for witness tampering and lying to Congress.

The action in federal court comes amid Trump’s unrelenting defense of his longtime confidant that has led to a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department and allegations the president has interfered in the case.

Trump took to Twitter to denounce as a “miscarriage of justice” the initial recommendation by Justice Department prosecutors that Stone receive at least seven years in prison. Attorney General William Barr then backed off that recommendation, prompting four prosecutors to quit Stone’s case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said during the hearing that Stone’s use of social media to stoke public sentiment against the prosecution and the court was intended to reach a wide audience, including using a photo of Jackson with crosshairs superimposed.

“This is intolerable to the administration of justice,” Jackson said.

Outside the courthouse, a small crowd gathered for Stone’s arrival. Two people held a large banner featuring a sketch of Stone and #PardonRogerStone emblazoned underneath. Next to it was a large multimedia figure of a rat constructed to look like Trump, with his distinctive red tie and hair. Stone had no comment as he arrived.

I’ll move on to other news,, while the hearing continues.

Yahoo News: Rohrabacher confirms he offered Trump pardon to Assange for proof Russia didn’t hack DNC email.

Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed in a new interview that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.

In a phone interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.

A lawyer for Assange in London on Wednesday cited the pardon offer from Rohrabacher during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Rohrabacher said that not only did talk of a Trump pardon take place during his meeting, but he also followed up by calling then White House chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal. He did not, however, ever speak to Trump about it, he said.

“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher said. “He knew I could get to the president.”

When he spoke to Kelly, the then chief of staff was “courteous” but made no commitment that he would even raise the matter directly with the president.

I think we’ll eventually learn that Trump did initiate this quid pro quo. It fits the pattern.

Another one of Trump’s “best people” has been appointed acting ODNI, even though he’s completely unqualified. The Washington Post: Trump to name Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting head of intelligence.

President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as the next acting director of national intelligence, placing a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against.

It is unclear whether Trump intends to nominate Grenell to fill the top intelligence post on a permanent basis, which would require Senate confirmation.

The appointment took many in Washington, including on Capitol Hill, by surprise.

Grenell, a former State Department official and communications executive, has been a Trump confidant and ad hoc adviser on issues beyond his ambassadorial work in Berlin.

He is a conservative foreign policy hawk and sometime media critic, as well as a vocal supporter of Trump on social media. He has sparked controversy in his diplomatic role, but also won praise in Germany and elsewhere for taking on issues such as gay rights in Eastern Europe and the long-running tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.

Richard Grenell

Grenell would be the first openly gay member of the Trump Cabinet. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump was being pushed by some in the intelligence community to nominate the current acting intelligence director, Joseph Maguire, to take the job permanently, but the president has been fixated on appointing people he believes are loyal to him…

Politico: Trump allies target Mueller team, one by one.

For months, a loose network of pro-Trump commentators and outside agitators has been urging the president to purge his administration of anyone and everyone involved in the Russia probe.

They’ve celebrated as many of the FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the investigation have left government. And now, with an angry and newly liberated President Donald Trump seeking retribution in the wake of his impeachment acquittal, they’re pressing him to finish the job.

“Why would they expect not to be fired?” said Kurt Schlicter, a conservative political commentator and Trump supporter, referring to the roughly half-dozen prosecutors and officials who worked in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and are still employed by the Justice Department.

Trump’s allies have long called for a “cleaning out” of DOJ and FBI, aimed at career officials perceived as hostile to the president. Several of Trump’s top targets have been forced out, including former FBI Director James Comey, his former deputy Andrew McCabe, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, all of whom worked on the Russia probe.

Read the rest at Politico.

Bloomberg: White House Admits That Trump Trade Stance Did Depress Economy.

The White House acknowledged what many economists considered obvious through much of last year: President Donald Trump’s trade stance depressed economic growth and business investment.

“Uncertainty generated by trade negotiations dampened investment,” Trump chief economist Tomas Philipson told reporters in a briefing on the annual Economic Report of the President released on Thursday.

The admission contrasted with Trump’s repeated assertions that his tariff tactics hadn’t hurt the economy while swelling the government’s tax coffers.

Even so, the deleterious effect of trade uncertainty got barely a mention in a 435-page economic report that frequently extolled the president’s programs and argued that they’ve led to a “great expansion” that is benefiting a broader swathe of Americans.

Philipson, who is acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declined to say how much of an effect trade uncertainty has had.

Finally, George Conway has an op-ed at The Washington Post on Trump’s pardon spree: Trump’s ‘King Kong’ nickname has come into full fruition.

Not for nothing did President Trump’s first White House counsel give him the nickname “King Kong.”

Former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who resisted Trump when he sought to violate the law and sometimes engaged in “epic” “shouting matches” with him, reportedly selected the sobriquet to connote Trump’s “volcanic anger” and “emotional decision-making.”

But as Trump’s behavior this week demonstrates, the moniker fits for another reason as well. It reflects Trump’s desire to escape constraints — in particular, legal constraints. That Kong-like urge was illustrated by two developments: the president’s latest executive clemency spree and his continued attacks against the federal judiciary.

Trump revels in issuing pardons, because that power is essentially absolute. The Constitution sets out no standards for granting pardons. They require no consent from Congress, and courts can’t second-guess them.

They also offer instant gratification to a president who desperately craves it. As one source close to Trump told Axios last year: “What he enjoys most about this job is finding things he has absolute power over,” which is why he gets “a kick out of pardons,” and the fact that “he could pardon anybody he wants and people would come to him to court him and beg him.”

Trump’s specific invocations of the pardon power, moreover, appear unwedded to any notion of mercy or public good; they are not guided by the ordinary process of careful review. Rather, they are impulsive expressions of Trumpian spite and self-interest.

Read more at the WaPo.Still no sentence in the Stone case. It should be coming soon. As always, this is an open thread. Have a great Thursday!


34 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Democratic Debate, Roger Stone Sentencing, and Other News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    USA Today: Truth still matters’: Judge sentences Roger Stone to 40 months in prison for obstructing Congress’ Russia investigation

    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison and two years of probation, a punishment that is likely to fuel criticism from the president and speculation that he’ll pardon the flamboyant GOP operative.

    Though less than what prosecutors originally asked for before the Justice Department overruled them, the sentence marks a stunning downfall for the longtime political consultant who has advised presidential campaigns stretching back to Richard Nixon.

    Stone, 67, was found guilty in November of lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential race. He also was convicted of threatening a potential congressional witness.

    • dakinikat says:

      Just saw this announced on Andrea Mitchell … guess the judge really chewed him a new ass

    • bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      How come these guys never get perp-walked straight to prison? How many months have we been waiting for Flynn to get locked up? Weeks will turn in to months. I hope he’s at least wearing an ankle thing and confined to his home.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The judge still has to consider his request for a new trial. If that fails, there will be appeals. it will be a long time before he goes to prison, if ever. Trump will probably pardon him.

    • dakinikat says:

  2. dakinikat says:

    I wound up coming home from lecture early because I’m still sick after 10 days with this Influenza Type 2 so I curled up with the pets and watched the shouting match.

    I’m not sure what Amy and Pete were up to but it didn’t come off well at all. I’m not sure why they didn’t address Biden more since he’s really their roadblock still.

    Bloomberg’s eyerolls were epic… almost up to Gore level

    Oh gawd ,,, the ghost of Christ Dowd is on Andrea Mitchell .. another one of those blasts from the past that needs to go back to knitting knickers on the porch. He’s a Biden surrogate now.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    Warren took every possible opportunity to call out Bloomberg’s questionable history throughout last night’s debate. She already has a reputation as a cold-blooded killer on the debate stage. Last month, she confronted Bernie Sanders point-blank after the debate, saying “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” She does not shy away from beef. If Sanders has Cardi B backing him, Elizabeth Warren might have to get fellow queen of beefing, Nicki Minaj, on the phone.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      I thought she was just great. Can you imagine Trump stalking her around a debate stage? She’d annihilate him.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Love it.

    • joanelle says:

      Good grief, Do they understand that they are supposed to be running against Republicans not fellow Democrats. I’m disappointed in Warren They have to focus on defeating Trump, not ach other. They should be supporting each other’s finer points

      • quixote says:

        I know what you mean because I’m also (while trying to keep my fingers off bold, all-caps, italics) ready for the Orange Dogpile to be out. But this is a primary. They’re *supposed* to be duking it out.

        The nicest thing would have been if they could have decided who was the best (Harris, obviously, as far as I’m concerned!) from both a campaigning and governing standpoint, coalesced behind that person, and spent all this time destroying the Dump. Nobody really needs a primary at this point. Especially if the only thing it does is give us a choice of fossils.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Oopsie! I thought all along it was a huge mistake for Warren to go the purist route, but now she looks like a hypocrite.

    • bostonboomer says:

      • bostonboomer says:

        This is the point I tried to make in my post.

        …as she’s done in previous debates, Warren held back when it came to Bernie Sanders. Early on in the debate, she suggested that he should take responsibility for the vicious attacks his supporters launched on members of the Culinary Union, but other than that, she kept her powder dry.

        It was actually Mayor Pete who effectively took on both Bloomberg and Sanders by saying that Democrats shouldn’t nominate a candidate who wants to burn the party down (Sanders) or one who wants to buy it out (Bloomberg). He effectively made the case for what distinguishes Warren from Sanders. It isn’t merely the fact that she doesn’t share his antipathy for the Democratic Party. As I suggested previously, she has shown an awareness of what it takes to govern as the chief executive in a democracy.

        The fact of the matter is that Bernie Sanders is currently the front-runner in the Democratic primary. He especially stands in the way of Warren’s path to the nomination, because their proposals have more in common. In order to open a path for her candidacy, Warren will need to clarify why she is the better choice between the two.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      This is why Grenell got the job.

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. Minkoff Minx says:

    The cartoons are great.