Kevin Liptak at CNN: Trump puts on show of erratic behavior in final days.
“Right now, because of coronavirus,” one retired judge advocate general says, “the president actually has unprecedented emergency powers, ones that might convince him—particularly if he listens to certain of his supporters—that he has unlimited powers and is above the law.”
“But martial law,” says the lawyer, “is the wrong paradigm to think about the dangers ahead.” Though such a presidential proclamation could flow from his order as commander-in-chief, an essential missing ingredient is the martial side: the involvement and connivance of some cabal of officers who would support the president’s illegal move.
Read the rest at Newsweek.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: The Triumph of Kleptocracy. With Donald Trump’s pardon of Paul Manafort, kleptocracy has successfully waited out its enemies.
Paul Manafort came of age in New Britain, Connecticut. His father, the garrulous mayor of that decaying factory town, taught him how to cobble together an electoral coalition, passing down the tricks of the trade that became the basis for the son’s lucrative career as a political consultant. But as the local hardware manufacturers fled to foreign shores, the Mafia moved into town. To hear the local papers tell the story—or to read the counts alleged in a prosecutor’s indictment—Paul’s father, the local political boss, served as a protector of the DeCavalcante family. The charges against the father never stuck, but the example of those years did. Paul Manafort received a first-rate education in omertà.
For a brief moment, nearly two years ago, that education looked like it might be wasted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors believed that Paul Manafort—then clad in an orange jumpsuit, the dye fading from his news-anchor head of hair—would turn state’s witness against Donald Trump.
In court, Mueller’s lawyers told the judge that Manafort was the heart of their case. They had already nailed him for tax fraud and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They had trapped him in a perjurious tangle. And as they followed the trail of evidence, they noticed that Manafort’s aide de camp was an asset of Russian intelligence. They had nabbed Manafort passing along confidential campaign data to a favored oligarch of the Kremlin, to whom he owed millions. Everything in the prosecutors’ presentation suggested that they were on the cusp of a breakthrough. Manafort would be their cooperative witness, the key to their ability to tell a more expansive narrative about what had happened in the 2016 election.
But before prosecutors could achieve that revelation, the president made his move. Trump began to tease the prospect of a pardon for Manafort. While the Mueller report is a maddening document, deadened by its steadfast unwillingness to draw conclusions, it is unambiguous about Trump’s treatment of Manafort. It describes how his tweets and statements about a pardon might have shaped Manafort’s strategic calculus.
The head of the family had sent an unambiguous signal. Just then, the instincts from Manafort’s old neighborhood kicked in.
Click the link to read the rest.
More reads, links only:
Tim Miller at The Bulwark: The Treasonous Pardon of Paul Manafort.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump Completes Russiagate Cover-up by Pardoning Paul Manafort.
Noah Bookbinder at USA Today: The craven corruption of Trump’s pardons: Separate justice system for friends and allies.
The Texas Tribune: The Trump administration awarded border wall contracts to build on land it doesn’t own in Texas.
The Washington Post: Trump administration pushes forward on $500 million weapons deal with Saudi Arabia.
ProPublica: Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree.
Reuters: Millions of U.S. vaccine doses sit on ice, putting 2020 goal in doubt.
Paul Campos at New York Magazine: Pence Should Remove Trump From Office on Sunday.I
Karen Tumulty at The Washington Post: Trump is trashing the government on his way out. Biden is confident he can fix it.
Sorry about all the horrible news, but that’s where we find ourselves right now–in a hell created by the monster who has been enabled by Republicans for four long years. I hope your holiday plans will insulate you from these horrors. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. We are going to survive the monster somehow some way.