Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Village Fool by Victor Tkachenko

The Village Fool by Victor Tkachenko

As we learn more about Trump’s successful efforts to undermine U.S. democracy, it is becoming evident that Trump and Trumpism will be haunting us for a long time to come. I only hope it isn’t too late for this country to recover.

Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the latest Trumpian outrages, and this morning there is much more being reported in the aftermath of yesterday’s revelations about Trump’s corruption of the Department of Justice–specifically about The New York Times’s blockbuster story about the Trump DOJ obtaining phone and email data belonging to members of the House Intelligence Committee.

It turns out Apple didn’t know that it was turning over information about Congresspeople. CNN: Justice Department requested data on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses from Apple.

The Department of Justice sent a broad request in February 2018 to Apple as part of its investigation that collected data on members of Congress, staffers and their families. The department demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses from Apple, the company said Friday evening.

Apple received the subpoena from the Justice Department on Feb. 6, 2018, but it contained no information about who the investigation was targeting or why, the company said. Apple also said determining who the targeted accounts belonged to would have required extensive research.

A person familiar with the request said the subpoena requested information on the targeted accounts beginning with the inception of the accounts through the day of the subpoena.

Apple said it limited the information it provided to metadata and account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures. While Apple says it would have normally informed customers, a nondisclosure order prevented it from doing so in this case, the company said.

The nondisclosure order was extended three times, each time for a year, Apple said. When it was not extended for a fourth time, Apple said it informed the affected customers on May 5, 2021.

Apple said they believe that other providers also got subpoenas, and the story reports that Microsoft was ordered to turn over data belonging to a Congressional staffer. This one was also accompanied by a gag order.

According to Reuters, Apple has now “tightened some of its rules for responding to legal requests.”

Jeff Sessions claims that he had no clue about what was going on, according to The Daily Beast.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump.

Lotte Laserstein

Painting by Lotte Laserstein

In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.

“[What’s been reported] is explicitly the kind of thing that Donald Trump would often say he wanted out of his Justice Department,” said the individual familiar with the matter. “But right now, it’s unclear how many top officials [at the time] even knew about this.”

And what about Bill Barr? 

Politico: Barr distances himself from Trump-era subpoenas of Democratic lawmakers.

Former Attorney General William Barr on Friday distanced himself from reports that the Trump Justice Department seized communications records belonging to two prominent Democratic lawmakers who were spearheading investigations into then-President Donald Trump.

In a phone interview, Barr said he didn’t recall getting briefed on the moves.

Barr’s comments came after The New York Times reported that in 2017 and 2018, the Justice Department secretly seized the records of at least 12 people connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including its current chair. Barr became attorney general in 2019….

Barr said that while he was attorney general, he was “not aware of any congressman’s records being sought in a leak case.” He added that Trump never encouraged him to zero in on the Democratic lawmakers who reportedly became targets of the former president’s push to unmask leakers of classified information.

Trump “was not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases,” Barr said. “I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn’t really ask me any of the specifics.”

Yeah, right. I don’t believe a word of that bullshit.

From Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Barr pushed investigators to finish leak probes.

(CNN)The Justice Department’s leak investigation that targeted lawmakers was more than a year old when Attorney General William Barr took office in 2019. Barr had vowed early on to help answer lingering questions from conservatives about the fairness of the Justice Department’s handling of politically sensitive investigations.

Barr pushed for briefings from national security prosecutors and urged them to move quickly to complete investigations, according to people briefed on the matter. In some cases, he sought to bring in outside prosecutors to help reinvigorate investigations he thought weren’t moving quickly enough….

Giacomo Ceruti

Painting by Giacomo Ceruti

The probe looking into whether lawmakers briefed on classified information leaked information to reporters was among several that were launched early on during the era of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing matters related to Russia, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused….

As part of his effort to crack down on leakers, Barr brought in a well-regarded New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, in early 2020 to help oversee leak investigations, which raised some eyebrows among Washington-based prosecutors because the line prosecutor had not had extensive counterintelligence or leak investigation experience. Like Trump, Barr had suspicions about leaks and believed the department’s credibility was at stake if it couldn’t show it fully investigated them, people briefed on the matter said.

He also found a set of aggressive career prosecutors leading this and other leak cases who were willing to take extraordinary steps to try to complete the probes.

Good old Rod Rosenstein. He turned out to be a loyal Trumpist too.

An op-ed at by former federal prosecutor Elie Honig at CNN: Bill Barr’s despicable conduct is now on full display.

It was already a matter of record that William Barr abused his power as attorney general under former President Donald Trump. Turns out, it’s even worse than we knew.

There’s no question that Barr was fundamentally dishonest (to put it charitably). Federal judges nominated to the bench by presidents of both political parties have found that Barr “lack(ed) … candor“; that his public and in-court statements were “disingenuous,” “incomplete,” “inconsistent” with truth and “called into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.” Others, including former special counsel Robert Mueller, thousands of former Justice Department officials (including me), and members of Congress have expressed doubt or worse about Barr’s truthfulness and integrity.

Photo by Brook Hummer

Photo by Brook Hummer

We already knew that Barr politicized the Justice Department. He used it defensively to shield Trump from potential criminal exposure by misleading the public about Mueller’s findings, and by declaring, contrary to the evidence and the law, that Trump had not obstructed justice. (In his report, Mueller detailed extensive evidence of obstruction, but declined to clearly state whether he concluded that Trump had committed a crime). And Barr intervened in unprecedented fashion to undermine his own Justice Department’s prosecutions of Trump’s political allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

But recent revelations — that prosecutors in Trump’s Department of Justice subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Democratic members of Congress, their staffs and families — are different in kind. According to The New York Times, Barr even moved a New Jersey-based attorney to the main Justice Department to work on a case related to Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the House Democrats whose data was sought. (Barr, the Justice Department and Apple declined to comment on the story to the Times, though the Justice Department’s inspector general has said it will investigate.)

In taking such action, Barr used the staggering power of his position to selectively pursue Trump’s perceived political rivals. This is eerily similar to former President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” and his efforts at retributive action.

 Read the rest at CNN.

In other news, a number of media outlets recently reported that an IG report exonerated Trump of accusations that he ordered protesters cleared from Lafayette Square last year so he could do his despicable photo-op holding up a bible. Not so fast.

Vox: What the new IG report about the gassing of protesters around Lafayette Square actually says.

On June 1, 2020, as the Black Lives Matter protests were escalating, President Donald Trump, in an effort to project power and restore a sense of “law and order,” decided to walk across the street from the White House and hold aloft a Bible outside St. John’s Church, which had been damaged during a protest the night before.

He was able to do so because the crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, which abuts the church, had been forcibly cleared by law enforcement in what some outlets referred to as an “attack” — officers from various law enforcement groups used horses, riot shields, batons, pepper spray, and tear gas to clear the area.

Girl in the red dress with cat and dog, by Ammi Phillips, 1788-1865

Girl in the red dress with cat and dog, by Ammi Phillips, 1788-1865

Reporters and onlookers understandably linked Trump’s desire to hold a photo op with the operation to forcibly clear protesters. But the new IG report has prompted a reevaluation of that linkage with its conclusion that “the evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP (United States Park Police) cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church.”

“Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31,” it says.

Again, not so fast.

But the report does not clarify everything about what happened on June 1. For example, it does not offer perspective on whether the injury to officers actually necessitated clearing the park — a question raised immediately after protesters were removed. Nor does it definitively state that Trump had nothing to with how the clearing was carried out.

In fact, the report also suggests that other law enforcement agencies that were on the scene that day, such as the Secret Service, may have had reasons for taking aggressive action to clear protesters that went beyond the desire to install new fencing.

But because the IG report is limited to the actions of the USPP and did not include interviews with the Secret Service or the attorney general at the time of the incident, Bill Barr — who spoke with law enforcement before the operation began — important questions about the chain of events that led to protesters being forcibly cleared from the area on that day remain unanswered.

There’s much more at the link. See also this piece by attorney Luppe B. Luppin: Reading the Park Police IG Report More Closely. It doesn’t support the headlines, and this article at The Week by Ryan Cooper: Trump’s false Lafayette Square exoneration.

I wish we could be permanently rid of Trump and his family and cronies, but it doesn’t look like that will happen for a very long time.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!!


9 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    A strange story from Massachusetts:

    Cape Cod Times: ‘I was completely inside’: Lobster diver swallowed by humpback whale off Provincetown.

    At a little before 8 a.m. Friday, veteran lobster diver Michael Packard entered the water for his second dive of the day.

    His vessel, the “Ja’n J,” was off Herring Cove Beach and surrounded by a fleet of boats catching striped bass. The water temperature was a balmy 60 degrees and the visibility about 20 feet….

    In something truly biblical, Packard was swallowed whole by a humpback whale.

    “All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Packard recalled Friday afternoon following his release from Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. “I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth.”

    Initially, Packard thought he was inside a great white shark, but he couldn’t feel any teeth and he hadn’t suffered any obvious wounds. It quickly dawned on him that he had been swallowed by a whale.

    Read about his escape at the link.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    A Chicago police officer has been arrested for his role in the Capitol insurrection.

    Chicago Sun-Times: CPD officer used N-word, shared pictures when bragging about role in US Capitol riots: feds

    A Chicago police officer used the N-word and shared pictures of himself inside U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s U.S. Capitol office when bragging in text messages about his role in the Jan. 6 breach, federal prosecutors said Friday.

    Three days before the insurrection, Officer Karol J. Chwiesiuk allegedly messaged an associate, saying he was “busy planning how to f- – – up commies” during a conversation about unsuccessful lawsuits that had been filed to dispute the results of President Joe Biden’s election.

    Chwiesiuk then allegedly traveled from Chicago to Washington D.C. by car and joined the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was seen wearing a CPD hoodie in pictures taken at the riot, his criminal complaint shows.

    Chwiesiuk, who is charged with five misdemeanor counts, was asked to surrender his FOID card Friday and not possess a weapon or keep weapons in his home while he awaits trial on an unsecured $15,000 bond. U.S. Judge Gabriel Fuentes also told Chwiesiuk he cannot travel to Washington.

  3. dakinikat says:

    I have to say we’re going to have a long haul smoking out 4 years of illegal actions and crooks. We still can’t get a full inquiry into an insurrection/coup led by a President.

  4. quixote says:

    Excellent post, bb. Especially including all the links to sources.

    I sure hope the US is fixable. If not, human rights and rule of law are going to be carried by the Europeans & Brits all by themselves, and so far they’ve shown themselves to be pretty much even bigger ditherers than too many Dem leaders.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks. I don’t know if Merrick Garland is taking the threat seriously enough.

  5. djmm says:

    Not only is the post excellent, the cat pictures are stunning.

    This is worse than Nixon. Much worse.

  6. RonStill4Hills says:

    I totally agree. For some reason the Biden admin seems afraid to confront Trumper wrong doing, they should be afraid of not doing enough. If ever the term existential threat was applicable, it is now.

    These people are the enemies of democracy, the constitution and human rights. They are racist authoritarians.

    They may not wear brown shirts and do that goofy salute, but we should not get it twisted about what they are capable of.

  7. dakinikat says: