Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Thanks guys for pitching in to post news links when I was under the weather on Tuesday. I really appreciate it. My eyes are better, although they are still watery from hay fever. As usual, there is quite a bit of news today. I’ll try to hit the highlights.

Yesterday, President Biden announced his promised student loan forgiveness plan. That link goes to the White House website with a full explanation of the plan. 

The New York Times: Biden to Cancel $10,000 in Student Debt; Low-Income Students Are Eligible for More.

President Biden announced a plan on Wednesday to wipe out significant amounts of student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, saying he would cancel $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for those who had received Pell grants for low-income families.

The debt forgiveness, although less than what some Democrats had been pushing for, comes after months of deliberations in the White House over fairness and fears that it could exacerbate inflation before the midterm elections.

“All of this means people can start finally to climb out from under that mountain of debt,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the White House. “To finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business. And by the way, when this happens, the whole economy is better off.”

Mr. Biden also announced that a pandemic-era pause on student loan payments, which has been in effect since March 2020, would expire at the end of the year. The timing for the debt relief is uncertain; the Department of Education said it would set up an application process by the end of the year.

Across the United States, 45 million people owe $1.6 trillion for federal loans taken out for college — more than they owe on car loans, credit cards or any consumer debt other than mortgages.

Students who received Pell grants will be eligible for $20,000 in debt forgiveness on their loans. About 60 percent of borrowers have received Pell grants, and the majority come from families making less than $30,000 a year. The Education Department estimates that 27 million borrowers will qualify for up to $20,000 in relief.

Millions of other borrowers will be eligible for $10,000 in debt relief, as long as they earn less than $125,000 a year or are in households earning less than $250,000. Borrowers will be assessed based on the income they reported in 2021 or 2020.

See also this explainer at The New York Times: What You Need to Know About Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan.

Of course Republicans are complaining that the plan is unfair to people who never went to college and people who already paid off their student loans. Note that they are not concerned about the unfairness of their tax cuts for the richest Americans that must be paid for by the rest of us. Here’s how Biden responded to a press question about that:

 

Washington Post satirist Alexandra Petri’s response to these complaints:

Stop improving things right now! Everyone must suffer as I did!

DISGUSTING! AWFUL! I have just received word that life is getting marginally better for some people, and I am white-hot with fury! This is the worst thing that could possibly happen! I did not suffer and strive and work my fingers to the bone so that anybody else could have a life that does not involve suffering and striving and the working of fingers to the bone. I demand to see only bones and no fingers!

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thrashing because I have had the nightmare again, the nightmare in which someone else is being spared a small hint of the suffering I endured. The world should not get better! The world should get worse along with me and perish along with me.

Every time anyone’s life improves at all, I personally am insulted. Any time anyone devises a labor-saving device, or passes some kind of weak, soft-hearted law that forecloses the opportunity for a new generation of children to lose fingers in dangerous machinery, I gnash my teeth. This is an affront to everyone who struggled so mightily. To avoid affronting them, we must keep everything just as bad as ever. Put those fingers back into the machines, or our suffering will have been in vain.

When I see unleaded paint or un-asbestosed homes, I froth at the mouth and start stomping up and down like Rumpelstiltskin. And who are we to think we deserve better than to die of sepsis? Why shouldn’t smallpox be out in the world for us as it once was? Are we too good for scurvy, now? Our great-grandparents made do without penicillin, did they not?

What a fallen, broken world we live in. The audacity of people trying to eat food not contaminated by waste, or increase the number of rhinos in the wild — they had better not! Clean the air? YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. Inhaling thick lungfuls of coal smoke was miserable for me, and it will be miserable for you. Put the cockroaches back into the kitchen, please, and lye back into the meat!

Petri is a national treasure.

Two more articles on the student loan cancellation:

Lystra Small-Clouden at The Guardian: I’m 65 and have $300,000 in student debt. I and other older debtors are going on strike.

Joseph E. Stiglitz at The Atlantic: Actually, Canceling Student Debt Will Cut Inflation.

Hey, I’m 74 and I have no clue how much I owe at this point with all the added interest. It could very well be $300,00 at this point. I’m still happy that some young people are getting a break.

Another big story from yesterday: the secret memo that Bill Barr used to absolve Trump of obstruction of the Mueller investigation was released thanks to a lawsuit by Citizens for Ethics.

This is from The Washington Post: Justice Dept. memo to not charge Trump in Russia probe released.

The Justice Department has released the entire text of a secret 2019 memo thatlaid out the legal rationale for not charging President Donald Trump with committing obstruction of justice in the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The nine-page memo, addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, says no potential instances of obstruction of justice by Trump that werecited by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s “would warrant a prosecution for obstruction of justice,” regardless of whether the person being investigated was a sitting president….

The memo was written by two senior Justice Department officials for Attorney General William P. Barr, who subsequently told Congress there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of Mueller’s inquiry. A redacted version was released last year, leaving the legal and factual analysisunder seal.

The newly released analysis shows that Steven A. Engel, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and Edward O’Callaghan, then a senior Justice Department official, concluded that Mueller did “not identify sufficient evidence to prove any criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Pursuing such a case, the memo argued, could stretch obstruction laws to apply to a wide range of officials taking actions “that could influence an investigation” and would raise “serious questions of public policy and constitutional law that would weigh against pursuing criminal charges except under the clearest of cases.”

Click the link to read the rest. Also see this story at The New York Times: Memo Details Barr’s Justifications for Clearing Trump of Obstruction.

More news broke yesterday about Trump’s theft of highly classified government documents. It just keeps getting worse.

From the Rolling Stone article:

IN THE WEEKS after the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid, former President Donald Trump repeatedly made a simple-sounding but extraordinary ask: he wanted his lawyers to get “my documents” back from federal law enforcement.

Trump wasn’t merely referring to the alleged trove of attorney-client material that he insists was scooped up by the feds during the raid, two people familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. The ex-president has been demanding that his team find a way to recover “all” of the official documents that Trump has long referred to as “mine” — including the highly sensitive and top secret ones.   

Sources close to Trump agree with outside legal experts that such a sweeping legal maneuver would be a long-shot, at best.  “I hate to break it to the [former] president, but I do not think he is going to get all [the] top-secret documents back,” says one Trump adviser. “That ship has probably sailed.”

Further, several longtime Trump advisers say they want absolutely nothing to do with the now-infamous boxes of documents, fearing that any knowledge of them could invite an unwanted knock on the door from the feds. “Who would want any of that back? … If it is what they say it is, keep them the hell away,” a second adviser says.

Still, the former president’s legal team appears to be working to retrieve at least some of the papers seized during the Aug. 8 federal search. In recent days, the Trump team — led by former federal prosecutor Evan Corcoran — has been quietly prepping additional legal arguments and strategies to try to pry back material that the feds removed from the ex-president’s Florida abode and club, the sources say. Those measures include drafting a so-called “Rule 41(g) motion,” which allows  “a person aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure of property” to “move for the property’s return,” according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Good luck with that. Trump is even more delusional than I thought.

The Washington Post: Archives asked for records in 2021 after Trump lawyer agreed they should be returned, email says.

About two dozen boxes of presidential records stored in then-President Donald Trump’s White House residence were not returned to the National Archives and Records Administration in the final days of his term even after Archives officials were told by a Trump lawyer that the documents should be given back, according to an email from the top lawyer at the record-keeping agency.

“It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President Trump’s last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be,” wrote Gary Stern, the agency’s chief counsel, in an email to Trump lawyers in May 2021, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.

The email shows NARA officials were concerned about Trump keeping dozens of boxes of official records even before he left the White House — concerns that only grew in the coming months as Trump repeatedly declined to return the records. It also showed that Trump’s lawyers had concerns about Trump taking the documents and agreed that the boxes should be returned — at least according to the top Archives officials — while Trump kept the documents.

The previously unreported email — sent about 100 days after the former president left office with the subject line “Need for Assistance re Presidential Records” — also illustrates the myriad efforts Archives officials made to have documents including classified material returned over an 18-month period, culminating with an FBI raid this month at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida….

Stern does not say in the email how he determined that the boxes were in Trump’s possession. He wrote that he also had consulted another Trump lawyer during the final days of Trump’s presidency — without any luck. “I had also raised this concern with Scott in the final weeks,” Stern writes in the email, referring to Trump lawyer Scott Gast, who is also copied on the email.

In the email, Stern again asks for the documents to be returned.

So Trump knew he would be committing a crime if he kept those documents and took them with him when he left the White House. Read more at the WaPo link.

One more before I wrap this up. This new today.

The New York Times: Justice Dept. to Submit Redacted Affidavit Used in Trump Search Warrant.

The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to propose extensive redactions to the affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence in an effort to shield witnesses from intimidation or retribution if it is made public, officials said.

Despite a federal judge’s demand that the government submit its request under seal by noon, it is unlikely to lead to the immediate release of the affidavit. In its most complete form, the document would disclose important, and potentially revelatory, details about the government’s justification for taking the extraordinary step of searching Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8.

The submission by the Justice Department is a significant legal milepost in an investigation that has swiftly emerged as a major threat to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have offered a confused and at times stumbling response. But it is also an inflection point for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who is trying to balance protecting the prosecutorial process by keeping secret details of the investigation, and providing enough information to defend his decision to request a search unlike any other in history….

Last week, Bruce E. Reinhart, a federal magistrate judge in Florida, surprised prosecutors by saying he was inclined to release portions of the affidavit at the request of news organizations, including The New York Times, after the government proposed redactions.

Disclosing even a partial version of the affidavit would be highly unusual: Such documents, which typically include evidence gathered to justify the search, like information provided by witnesses, are almost never unsealed before the government files criminal charges. There is no indication the Justice Department plans to file charges anytime soon.

We should hear more about this later today.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Thursday!

 

 


9 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    This is interesting. Trump never had to sign anything swearing he would never reveal classified information. There’s apparently just an assumption that anyone elected to the presidency will be responsible.

    • NW Luna says:

      an assumption that anyone elected to the presidency will be responsible.

      Endless screaming!

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. Enheduanna says:

    Glad you are feeling better BB! It’s ridiculous people should be saddled with bone-crushing debt their entire lives just for trying to get educated enough to make a decent living.

    And why isn’t Dump in jail yet. Could he make himself and the GOP look more preposterous after how they went after Hillary?

    Hrrrrumph

    • NW Luna says:

      Oh yes, Trump could definitely make himself look more preposterous! Which is not going to stop the Rs from sucking up to him.

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. dakinikat says:

    That satire op-ed is wonderful. I never took student loans for my first two degrees but had to for my doctorate. Still have it. I just discovered that the loan might be forgiven because I teach at public institutions. Have to act before October. I believe that anything that lifts one person lifts us all.

    And Stiglitz is right. Paying down a loan increases wealth which is not the same as income that you spend. Since we’ve not paid on them for a few years anyway, chances are that our spending will only offset the inflation in our budget. It won’t be stimulatory, but it will help people build more wealth which is good. Minorities and independent women really need some wealth building. It’s one of the key inequities in our racist, patriarchal society.

    • NW Luna says:

      Similar here — no loans for first degree, but did for some of my master’s and then my doctorate. Unfortunately I’ve already paid those off. I do think that $125,000/yr is a very high threshold.

  6. dakinikat says: