Tuesday Reads: Prosecutors Get Their Hands On Trump’s Tax Returns

CtHnyTzVIAEIzboGood Morning!!

As you know, yesterday the Supreme Court refused to keep Trump’s tax records secret any longer; they will finally be turned over to New York prosecutors who are investigation Trump and his businesses. The New York Times: Supreme Court Denies Trump’s Final Bid to Block Release of Tax Returns.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order that ended Mr. Trump’s bitter 18-month battle to stop prosecutors in Manhattan from poring over his tax returns as they investigate possible financial crimes.

The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Mr. Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret, taking his case to the Supreme Court twice. There were no dissents noted.

From the start, Mr. Trump’s battle to keep his returns under wraps had tested the scope and limits of presidential power. Last summer, the justices rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that state prosecutors cannot investigate a sitting president, ruling that no citizen was above “the common duty to produce evidence.” This time, the court denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block a subpoena for his records, effectively ending the case.

The ruling is also a big victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. He will now have access to eight years’ worth of Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, as well as other financial records that Mr. Vance’s investigators view as vital to their inquiry into whether the former president and his company manipulated property values to obtain bank loans and tax benefits….

Prosecutors in Manhattan now face a monumental task. Dozens of investigators and forensic accountants will have to sift through millions of pages of financial documents. Mr. Vance has brought in an outside consulting firm and a former federal prosecutor with significant experience in white-collar and organized crime cases to drill down into the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.

The Supreme Court’s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president. At a minimum, the ruling wrests from Mr. Trump control of his most closely held financial records and the power to decide when, if ever, they would be made available for public inspection.

byrnestaxesBut the tax returns are not all prosecutors will get their hands on. Mike McIntire at The New York Times: Trump’s Tax Returns Aren’t the Only Crucial Records Prosecutors Will Get.

The New York Times last year provided more or less a preview of what awaits Mr. Vance, when it obtained and analyzed decades of income tax data for Mr. Trump and his companies. The tax records provide an unprecedented and highly detailed look at the byzantine world of Mr. Trump’s finances, which for years he has simultaneously bragged about and sought to keep secret.

The Times’s examination showed that the former president reported hundreds of millions of dollars in business losses, went years without paying federal income taxes and faces an Internal Revenue Service audit of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed a decade ago.

Among other things, the records revealed that Mr. Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in his first year as president and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. They also showed he had written off $26 million in “consulting fees” as a business expense between 2010 and 2018, some of which appear to have been paid to his older daughter, Ivanka Trump, while she was a salaried employee of the Trump Organization.

The legitimacy of the fees, which reduced Mr. Trump’s taxable income, has since become a subject of Mr. Vance’s investigation, as well as a separate civil inquiry by Letitia James, the New York attorney general….

The tax returns represent a self-reported accounting of revenues and expenses, and often lack the specificity required to know, for instance, if legal costs related to hush-money payments were claimed as a tax write-off, or if money from Russia ever moved through Mr. Trump’s bank accounts. The absence of that level of detail underscores the potential value of other records that Mr. Vance won access to with Monday’s Supreme Court decision.

In addition to the tax returns, Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, must also produce business records on which those returns are based and communications with the Trump Organization. Such material could provide important context and background to decisions that Mr. Trump or his accountants made when preparing to file taxes.

John D. Fort, a former chief of the I.R.S. criminal investigation division, said tax returns were a useful tool for uncovering leads, but could only be fully understood with additional financial information obtained elsewhere.

“It’s a very key personal financial document, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Mr. Fort, a C.P.A. and the director of investigations with Kostelanetz & Fink in Washington. “What you find in the return will need to be followed up on with interviews and subpoenas.”

NYT investigative reporter Suzanne Craig posted a thread with links to more stories about possible criminal activities by the Trump crime family. 

Trump is not happy. He released a statement, which you can read here

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Lashes Out At Supreme Court Tax Returns Call Like A Man Who Knows Prison Is In His Future

In a statement on “The Continuing Political Persecution of President Donald J. Trump,” Trump rants that he is the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” Referring to the case the court ruled on, which concerns a subpoena of Trump’s accountants by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, who has opened a criminal investigation into the ex-president, Trump says, “This is something which has never happened to a President before,” naturally failing to mention the fact that, among past POTUSes, only Trump has a reputation as a notorious con man. Nevertheless, he incomprehensibly continues:

“[This] is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!

The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it. In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump. I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”

So, just to reiterate, Trump—a person who incited a violent riot in the hopes of overturning the election—believes that crimes have been committed against him, and, despite the fact that he literally tried to use the Justice Department to investigate enemies, that he is the victim of political “persecution.”

cg57f32916bd5e0Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Is Extremely Mad Prosecutors Will See His Tax Returns.

Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.

Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points. Trump’s position on the tax returns rests on a series of assertions, ranging from his false claim that Robert Mueller found “No Collusion” to his insistence that he actually won the 2020 election to his extremely ironic complaint that prosecutors targeting their political opponents is “fascism, not justice.” (Trump, of course, spent his presidency publicly demanding his Attorneys General investigate his political rivals.)

The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: “This is something which has never happened to a president before.” That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused….

His outpouring of rage that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance will finally have access to his financial documents suggests the only plausible reason for Trump’s evident dismay: He is very scared of being charged with crimes.

Here’s a little comedy interlude:

More stories to check out today:

Axios: Hillary Clinton to publish political thriller with author Louise Penny.

Raw Story: George Clooney to produce docuseries about abuse scandal that Jim Jordan was accused of covering up.

Politico: ‘A double standard going on’: Democrats accuse GOP and Manchin of bias on Biden nominations.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Now Republicans are offended by mean tweets?

Axios: Scoop: Biden’s OMB Plan B.

CBS News: Biden commemorates 500,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID-19.

Slate: Clarence Thomas Promotes Trump’s Voter Fraud Lies in Alarming Dissent.

Politico: Congress finally gets first chance for answers about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The New York Times: Bipartisan Senate Inquiry on Capitol Riot Will Begin With Scrutiny of Security Failures.

The Washington Post: At stake in Senate hearing Tuesday: The story of the Capitol riot, and who is responsible.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following? Are you watching the Senate hearing on the Capitol riot?


Monday Reads: Rule of Law! What a Concept!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’ve been watching the Merrick Garland confirmation and have been just so overwhelmed with wonky joyness over the discussion between Senator Amy Klobucher from Minnesota and the Judge up for the AG position.  I’ve been hearing basic American Economic liberty concepts like tougher Merger & Analysis scrutiny and trust law enforcement for huge, monopolistic companies including all the usual suspects in social media.

Then, I  watched him worddance with glee around some Republican Senator obsessed that their gun fetish and penis enhancer opportunities would be stolen in the name of protecting citizens from armed terrorists and criminals.  He waltzed around them like a professional ballroom dancer.

I feel ready to bring out my Nina Simone again!   It’s a new dawn! It’s a new day! 

Merrick Garland: “I would not have taken this job if I thought that politics would have any influence over prosecutions and investigations.”

More on that in a minute.  Here’s a bit of good news via the Supreme Court with the exception of Uncle Clarence Thomas who still is looking to convince every one he’s just a melatonin-capable version of wipipo.  They did, however, reject Stormy Daniel’s appeal of her defamation of character suit against Trump.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by adult film star Stormy Daniels in a defamation suit she brought against former President Trump.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in 2018 after he suggested on Twitter that Daniels had lied about being threatened by an unknown man in 2011 in relation to her alleged affair with the former president.

Daniels appealed to the Supreme Court after her case was dismissed in the lower courts. The justices on Monday denied her petition without comment.

Oh,  and I’m not quite done with Ted Cruz memes either.  I think JJ, BB, and I have all had a lot of fun with them this week but not quite enough.  But anyway, here’s the other SCOTUS decision for NYC.

More  from Scotus Blog from Amy Howe: “Justices will not block New York grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records.”

The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for a New York grand jury to obtain former President Donald Trump’s financial records. Over four months after Trump asked them to intervene, the justices turned down a request by the former president to stay a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that permits Cyrus Vance, the district attorney for Manhattan, to enforce a subpoena to Mazars USA, the president’s longtime accountant. Monday’s order means that Vance and the grand jury likely will finally acquire eight years of Trump’s tax returns and other related records, although grand jury secrecy laws may preclude them from becoming public.

The court’s order came in a dispute that began in 2019, when Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars as part of a state grand jury’s investigation into criminal violations of New York law. The investigation includes a probe into hush-money payments that were made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. A federal district court in New York and the 2nd Circuit rebuffed the president’s request to quash that subpoena, prompting Trump to appeal to the Supreme Court. The justices ruled in July that the president is not categorically immune from state criminal subpoenas, but they sent the case back to the lower courts to allow the president to challenge the subpoena on other grounds.

When the case returned to the district court, the president again asked the judge to quash the subpoena, arguing that it was a “fishing expedition” issued in “bad faith” to harass him. But the judge rejected the president’s contention and granted Vance’s motion to dismiss the president’s claims, prompting the president to appeal to the 2nd Circuit, which upheld that ruling.

So, this is where the Trump family crime syndicate gets its fortunes, freedom, and time ate up by courts, lawyers, and fees.  And this is where he looks to use Republicans again for fundraising and personal gain.  From Axios and Mike Allen: “Scoop: Trump to claim total control of GOP.”  Couldn’t happen to a better group of insurrection enablers.

In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans’ “presumptive 2024 nominee” with a vise grip on the party’s base, top Trump allies tell Axios.

What to watch: A longtime adviser called Trump’s speech a “show of force,” and said the message will be: “I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I’m still in charge.” Payback is his chief obsession.

Axios has learned that Trump advisers will meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the machinery for kingmaking in the 2022 midterms.

  • Trump is expected to stoke primary challenges for some of those who have crossed him, and shower money and endorsements on the Trumpiest candidates.
  • State-level officials, fresh off censuring Trump critics, stand ready to back him up.

Why it matters: Trump’s speech Sunday at CPAC in Orlando is designed to show that he controls the party, whether or not he runs in 2024.

  • His advisers argue that his power within the GOP runs deeper and broader than ever, and that no force can temper him.
  • “Trump effectively is the Republican Party,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told me. “The only chasm is between Beltway insiders and grassroots Republicans around the country. When you attack President Trump, you’re attacking the Republican grassroots.”

The big picture: The few Republicans who have spoken ill of Trump since the election — including House members who voted to impeach him, and senators who voted to convict — have found themselves censured, challenged and vilified by the parties in their home states.

What’s next: Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, has $75 million on hand, and he has a database of tens of millions of names.

The long game: Many Trump confidants think he’ll pretend to run but ultimately pass. He knows the possibility — or threat — gives him leverage and attention.

A Trump source said some Republicans have told him: “If you endorse me, I’ll run.”

Hope he keeps their nuts in cracker for a few years at least a few years. So, back to the Merrick.  Garland Hearing and Senator Klobucher whom I still love from the presidential primaries.

This is the sort of thing economists live for …  And of course the Republican think he’s going to make the DOJ a hotbed of political activism and gunhating.  They’re just the part of white outrage and hypocrisy any more with Tax Cuts for the rich thrown in.

Additionally, there was a strong statement on the current state of Domestic Terrorism which is probably why the gun nut senators were out in force today.  From Chris Strohm at Bloomberg:

“We are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City,” said Garland, who led the prosecution of the worst domestic attack in the U.S., the truck bombing of the federal building there in 1995.

Garland, who’s now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, appears headed for a bipartisan vote of approval in the Senate. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, called Garland “a good pick to lead the Department of Justice,” and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he’s “very inclined” to support him.

As the Justice Department pursues criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot, Garland pledged to lead the effort. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” he said.

Garland also signaled he’ll make decisions independently from Biden. “The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer — not for any individual, but for the people of the United States,” he said.

All of this is still very much breaking news as the hearing continues/

So, I’ll let us continue the discussion down thread as we continue to learn more about Garland and his views.  Sen. Lindsey Graham  asked Judge Merrick Garland the single most idiotic question I’ve seen so far .

“Do you promise to defend the Portland courthouse against anarchists?”

Next he’ll be asking to check the Biden Dog Beds for hidden communists I suppose.

So, hope everything is okay with y’all and you’re up for the vaccine or done with them by now!  It’s warming up down here so I’m feeling much better just with that!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Mars Sounds Off

Good morning….

On to a few serious issues…

Innit amazing!


Lazy Caturday Reads

images

Good Morning!!

We’ve reached the end of another week in the post-Trump era, and we continue to deal with crises that developed and worsened during the monster’s regime. It’s clear that it will take a long time to recover–if recovery is even possible. On the plus side, it’s great to have a normal president again–a person with empathy and compassion–and a caring, engaged first lady, and White House pets!

Biden’s Covid relief package appears to be on track for passage, despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress. The New York Times: Republicans Struggle to Derail Increasingly Popular Stimulus Package.

Republicans are struggling to persuade voters to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, which enjoys strong, bipartisan support nationwide even as it is moving through Congress with just Democratic backing.

Democrats who control the House are preparing to approve the package by the end of next week, with the Senate aiming to soon follow with its own party-line vote before unemployment benefits are set to lapse in mid-March. On Friday, the House Budget Committee unveiled the nearly 600-page text for the proposal, which includes billions of dollars for unemployment benefits, small businesses and stimulus checks.

Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a “payoff to progressives.” The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments — which they call a “blue state bailout,” though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans — and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.

f41e011b0d7776d62868846f4192e37dOut in the real world, even Republican voters support the relief bill.

More than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

While Mr. Biden has encouraged Republican lawmakers to get on board with his package, Democrats are moving their bill through Congress using a parliamentary process that will allow them to pass it with only Democratic votes.

“Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion dollars; that’s too much,” Mr. Biden said at an event on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”

House Republican leaders on Friday urged their rank-and-file members to vote against the plan, billing it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” They detailed more than a dozen objections to the bill, including “a third round of stimulus checks costing more than $422 billion, which will include households that have experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.” Ms. Pelosi’s office issued its own rebuttal soon after, declaring “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is moving forward with it’s investigation of Trump’s finances. Reuters: Exclusive: New York City tax agency subpoenaed in Trump criminal probe.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.

photo-of-snow-catAlong with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties….

The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the commission’s operations. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.

Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors, they added.

Subpoenas also have been issued to at least two creditors that helped finance Trump’s real-estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters has previously reported.

The Federal investigation into the January 6 insurrection is continuing to heat up. 

The Washington Post: U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters.

The Justice Department and FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures — including Roger Stone and Alex Jones — may have played a role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The investigation into potential ties between key figures in the riot and those who promoted former president Donald Trump’s false assertions that the election was stolen from him does not mean those who may have influenced rioters will face criminal charges, particularly given U.S. case law surrounding incitement and free speech, the people said. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking — and who may have influenced beliefs — which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial.

769e257ae7490ca39b79e8e4d1bbe242However, investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges, such as conspiracy or aiding the effort, the officials said. That prospect is still distant and uncertain, they emphasized.

Nevertheless, while Trump’s impeachment trial focused on the degree of his culpability for the violence, this facet of the case shows investigators’ ongoing interest in other individuals who never set foot in the Capitol but may have played an outsized role in what happened there through their influence, networks or action.

“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” said a U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending matter.

The Washington Post: U.S. Alleges Wider Oath Keepers Conspiracy, Adds More Defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot.

U.S. authorities on Friday alleged a broader conspiracy by Oath Keepers to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, charging six new individuals who appeared to be members or associates of the right-wing group.

One self-described leader in the group, which recruits among military and law enforcement, sent a Facebook message claiming at least 50 to 100 Oath Keepers planned to travel to D.C. with him on Jan. 6 and that they would “make it wild,” echoing a comment President Donald Trump made on Twitter rallying supporters to the Capitol.

A 21-page indictment alleged that the defendants “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown” to force entry to the Capitol and obstruct Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as president in riots that led to five deaths and assaults on 139 police.

The nine-person indictment named three already charged military veterans — Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both of Woodstock, Ohio; and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va. The six new defendants include siblings Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., and Laura Steele, of Thomasville, N.C. It also includes married couples Kelly and Connie Meggs, 52 and 59, of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Bennie and Sandra Parker, 70 and 60, of the Cincinnati area.

More details at the WaPo link.

74b47b2bb2069367067776f258164a25Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: The Capitol Rioters Are Starting To Face Much More Serious Charges For The Insurrection.

Bruno Cua, an 18-year-old from Milton, Georgia, was already facing serious charges when he was arrested on Feb. 6 in connection with the insurrection at the US Capitol a month earlier. He was accused not only of illegally entering the Capitol but also of assaulting police and of obstructing Congress’s efforts to certify the presidential election, which are felony crimes.

But it only got worse for Cua when a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, returned an indictment four days later. On top of the original set of charges, the grand jury bumped up misdemeanor counts he’d faced for entering the Capitol to felonies, citing evidence that he’d carried a “deadly and dangerous weapon” — in his case, a baton. The addition of a “weapons enhancement” meant the maximum sentence he faced for those counts jumped tenfold, from one year in prison to 10.

Cua is one of a growing number of defendants charged in the insurrection seeing their felony counts — and potential prison time — stack up as the investigation presses on. Other defendants only charged with misdemeanors when they were arrested are now facing felonies post-indictment. Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington had told reporters one week after the assault on the Capitol that the early rounds of arrests on misdemeanor charges were “only the beginning,” and promised more “significant charges” once prosecutors took these cases before a grand jury. New court documents in cases such as Cua’s show how that’s taking shape.

Of the more than 230 people charged to date, at least 70 are now facing a minimum of one felony count — the most common is obstruction of Congress, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. More than 30 are charged with assaulting or interfering with law enforcement officers, and at least 14 are charged with carrying or using a weapon that day. Weapons identified in the government’s court filings so far have included knives, Tasers, a hockey stick, a large metal pipe, baseball bats, fire extinguishers, and batons.

Now that Trump is gone, the Feds are admitting how dangerous right-wing extremism is.

Yahoo News: Feds now say right-wing extremists responsible for majority of deadly terrorist attacks last year.

The U.S. government is acknowledging for the first time that right-wing extremists were responsible for the majority of fatal domestic terrorist attacks last year, according to an internal report circulated by the Department of Homeland Security last week and obtained by Yahoo News.

cat-snowmanA review of last year’s domestic terrorist incidents by a DHS fusion center — which shares threat-related information between federal, state and local partners — found that although civil unrest and antigovernment violence were associated with “non-affiliated, right-wing and left-wing actors, right-wing [domestic violent extremists] were responsible for the majority of fatal attacks in the Homeland in 2020.”

The report, produced by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, a DHS-funded fusion center, was sent out to police and law enforcement agencies nationwide as part of an intelligence-sharing system created after the 9/11 attacks.

While independent think tanks and outside groups have been pointing to the rise in ring-wing violence for some time, this appears to be the first known instance of an official government or law enforcement agency clearly acknowledging the trend, though senior officials have noted the rise in white supremacist attacks. The report also comes not long after the end of the Trump administration, which was criticized for downplaying right-wing violence.

So . . . lots happening this weekend. I’ll add more stories in the comment thread. What’s on your mind today?


Friday Reads: It’s Brutal Out there!

Good Day Sky Dancers! 

We’ve got brutal weather around the country and the headlines are a bit brutal today too!  The brutal headlines are mostly about the Party of Sociopaths.  Take this one, for example on Senator Cold Hearted Cruz (Republican, Texass): “Ted Cruz Abandons Millions of Freezing Texans and His Poodle, Snowflake”. This from New York Magazine and the keyboard of Michael Hardy.

For most, though, especially Texans like me who have suffered through a week without heat or water in freezing overnight weather, the notion of Cruz leaving his dog behind to hit the beach was all too much — especially the thought of the power being out when they left. (The New York Times reported that Cruz’s wife Heidi had complained that the house was “FREEZING” in a group chat to friends and neighbors that proposed leaving the blackout behind for the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún.)

Like far too many of us, I’ve been without power and water for most of the week. I spent one night at the apartment of a friend who still has power, but the rest of the time I’ve been bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, shivering beneath four blankets, leaving the apartment only to charge devices in my car. With only an electric stove, I couldn’t heat up food. I haven’t showered since Sunday. And it could be worse — my parents in Austin still have no power or water, and yesterday one of their pipes burst, flooding the first floor of their house. To watch our junior senator escape to Cancun while the rest of us freeze is the ultimate indignity.

But Ted’s not the only Republican taking the proverbial heat for the lack of heat. This is from Marc Caputo at Politico:  “Top Texas Republicans on the ropes after tone-deaf storm response . The swaggering, Texas brand of free-market governance that’s central to the state’s political identity is taking a beating.”  Ah, aint that a shame?

The brutal winter storm that turned Texas roads to ice, burst pipes across the state and left millions of residents shivering and without power has also damaged the reputations of three of the state’s leading Republicans.

Sen. Ted Cruz was discovered to have slipped off to Mexico on Wednesday night, only to announce his return when he was caught in the act. Gov. Greg Abbott came under fire over his leadership and misleading claims about the causes of the power outages. And former Gov. Rick Perry suggested Texans preferred power failures to federal regulation, a callous note in a moment of widespread suffering.

It’s more than just a public relations crisis for the three politicians. The storm has also battered the swaggering, Texas brand of free-market governance that’s central to the state’s political identity on the national stage.

“Texans are angry and they have every right to be. Failed power, water and communications surely took some lives,” JoAnn Fleming, a Texas conservative activist and executive director of a group called Grassroots America, said in a text message exchange with POLITICO.

“The Texas electric grid is not secure,” said Fleming, pointing out that lawmakers “have been talking about shoring up/protecting the Texas electric grid for THREE legislative sessions (6 yrs),” but “every session special energy interests kill the bills with Republicans in charge … Our politicians spend too much time listening to monied lobbyists & political consultants. Not enough time actually listening to real people.”

Chad Prather, a popular Republican humorist who is running for governor against Abbott next year, echoed similar sentiments about the three politicians.

Then there’s was the death of Rush Limbaugh where the obits sound as harsh as the Big Fat Liar was air.  This is from Conor Friedersdorf at  The Atlantic:  “Don’t Read This If You Were a Rush Limbaugh Fan”

As a proponent of conservatism in America, Limbaugh was a failure who in his later years abandoned the project of advancing a positive agenda, culminating in his alignment with the vulgar style and populist anti-leftism of Donald Trump. Character no longer mattered. Budget deficits no longer mattered. Free trade no longer mattered. Nepotism no longer mattered. Lavishing praise on foreign dictators no longer mattered.

All that mattered was owning the libs in the culture war, in part to avenge a deeply felt sense of aggrievement. Limbaugh and Trump were alike in attaining great wealth and political influence while still talking and seeming to feel as though society was stacked against guys like them.

In obituaries and commemorations, many right-leaning commentators are crediting Limbaugh with advancing movement conservatism, as if he were the William F. Buckley Jr. of the Baby Boomer generation. That’s certainly how it felt in the 1990s when I would hear him in the car with my grandparents. Back then, before Fox News, no one on the right was as popular with the public.

Yet he wasn’t for everyone with conservative instincts, and the proposition that Limbaugh helped conservatism thrive or grow is unsubstantiated. National Review and Barry Goldwater reinvigorated conservatism in postwar America. The high-water mark of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan’s presidency, was over before Limbaugh was a force in American politics.

Over the ensuing decades, as Limbaugh grew in fame and gained as much influence in the Republican Party as anyone, the conservative movement suffered from political and intellectual decline. “In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar,” a writer at The American Conservative once complained. “Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right.” The seesaw of partisan politics gave conservatives occasional victories, such as the 1994 Republican takeover of the House and the 2010 Tea Party wave, but once in office the GOP tended to squander those victories quickly and never accomplished much conservative change. The government kept getting bigger. The country kept getting more socially liberal. The right delighted in the fact that the left was never able to create its own Rush Limbaugh, despite various attempts. But perhaps that supposed failing has helped progressives make gains.

Since Limbaugh’s political radio career took off in the late 1980s, each successive Republican president has been less conservative than the last, and Trump was the least conservative GOP president since Richard Nixon. Looking at that trajectory and thinking that Limbaugh helped advance conservatism in America is as delusional as believing Jeb Bush’s claim that his brother kept Americans safe on 9/11.

And that’s from a liberatarian bernie bro so  you can imagine the roasting and toasting from the progressive democrats.  Grave dancing would basically be kind characterization.  This is from  Dean Obeidallah, MSNBC Opinion Columnist: “How Rush Limbaugh helped to create Trump’s America.  It can be hard to tell where Trump begins and Limbaugh ends — but Limbaugh did it first.”

Shortly after news broke that Rush Limbaugh had died on Wednesday, 2020 election loser and former President Donald Trump held a phone interview on Fox News, where he praised Limbaugh as “irreplaceable” and as “a fantastic man, a fantastic talent.”

Limbaugh more than earned those words from Trump; even the one-term president likely gets that it was Limbaugh’s open embrace of racism, bigotry and sexism that laid the groundwork for Trump to win the White House in the first place. Perhaps more than any other one person, Limbaugh employed his media platform to weaponize America’s far-right into a political force that helped many conservative Republicans — including, of course, Trump — win elections.

Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once called the conservative radio commentator “the voice and intellectual force of the Republican Party.” He showed Trump that you could be as vile and hateful as you want — and there was still a mass audience on the right who loved it.

Before Trump slithered down the escalator of Trump Tower in 2015 to smear Mexicans as “rapists,” there was Limbaugh in 2013 praising Cuban immigrants (who tend to vote Republican) as hard-working, while suggesting Mexicans were lazy. Even before then, in 1993, Limbaugh “joked” on his show that the U.S. should let Mexicans into America to do the “stupid and unskilled” work.

Trump himself made despicable comments about Black and brown members of Congress, like Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, saying they should to “go back” to their countries. He repeatedly called Black American celebrities “low IQ,” a common white supremacist trope.

In doing so, Trump was conjuring up Limbaugh’s own racist playbook. Years before, Limbaugh had told a Black caller on his radio show, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” He also once said, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

Vile words from  two vile men.  Maybe I should be playing dead presidents for today’s music but I thought I’d pick this one instead.

Speaking of the vile one down there in Florida, today’s Telegraph has a Martin Fletcher Fauci interview that’s amazing. “Anthony Fauci exclusive interview: ‘When I publicly disagreed with Trump he let terrible things happen’. Labelled a ‘disaster’ by President Trump, who publicly lobbied against his top Covid adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci is now back in the spotlight”

Fauci’s challenge was to correct the president’s dangerous falsehoods as diplomatically as possible, often while sharing the stage with him at televised White House briefings, but he says that ‘when it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things – or allowed things to happen – that were terrible.

‘Like he allowed Peter Navarro [Trump’s trade adviser] to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I’ve ever said was wrong. He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I’ve made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes.’

Trump also began to denigrate Fauci in tweets and press conferences, setting him up as a target for the extreme Right’s hatred. ‘Which I became, to the point that to this day I have to have armed federal agents guarding me all the time,’ Fauci says. And he was not the only target. To his dismay, his wife and three adult daughters were also harassed and threatened.

Liberated under President Biden, Fauci can now speak frankly in a way he couldn’t last year. He tells me that in the final two months of his presidency Trump almost completely abandoned his duty to protect the nation from the pandemic. ‘We [the scientists] were trying, but we were acting almost alone, in the sense of without any direction.’

The vile offspring continue to be vile also.

So, while that side of the aisle continues viley on there is good news for the rest of us. The vacines are working and being improved.

and a bit more.

It might be possible we’ll have a more normal life by summer.  The only bad news on that front is this as reported by Jonathan Lemire “White House says winter weather has temporarily delayed shipment of 6 million coronavirus vaccine doses.”

And LOOK!  There’s a normal presidential response to the Texas disaster.

We also are having an actual conversation with our allies too on adult topics!

So, it looks like there’s the new reality with the old reality still lingering.  At least there’s less Trump presence in the TV news.  I can’t stand to see him animated any more unless it’s in a cartoon.

So, have a good weekend!  Hope the weather is good where you’re at! It’s supposed to improve here.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?