Posted: February 23, 2020 Filed under: 2020 Elections, morning reads, open thread
The last few days have made me sick…like, make me wanna puke sick.
There has to be a joke in that monkey tweet, I’m just too disgusted to think of one.
This is an open thread.
Posted: February 22, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bernie Sanders, California primary, Department of Homeland Security, Donald Trump, FEMA, intelligence community, national security, Nevada Caucuses, Richard Grenell, Russian election interference, Super Tuesday
The Nevada Caucuses will wrap up this afternoon, but thousands of people have already voted. Political pundits have already crowned Bernie Sanders the winner, but that may not be a sure thing.
David Byler at The Washington Post: We lack the data to predict Nevada’s outcome. Be wary of pundits’ gut instincts.
Nobody really knows what’s going on in the upcoming Nevada Democratic caucuses. Sure, we have a little bit of polling to go on — the RealClearPolitics average includes three recent polls, and it shows Bernie Sanders leading the pack at 30 percent, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar all clustered between 16 percent and 10 percent of the vote. But it’s hard to nail down the electorate in a caucus state, and Nevada is flush with the sort of young, Hispanic voters that pollsters often have trouble contacting. So all we really know is that Sanders has a lead, but that he’s not invincible.
In a normal election, this lack of concrete information wouldn’t be a problem: Nobody ever died because they didn’t see enough Nevada polling. But primaries aren’t normal elections. The trajectory of the race is often influenced by media-created “expectations” and narratives about “momentum.” And in Nevada, many political pros will be setting those crucially important expectations using gut feelings and groupthink rather than real information. That’s a riskier undertaking for them than they might acknowledge — and for the voters who listen to them.
Much more at the link.
Harry Enten at CNN: Why Nevada could surprise us.
There have been just eight polls released publicly over the last three months. Two of those were internal polls. Only five of those have been taken since the primary season began a few weeks ago, and of those, a grand total of zero meet CNN standards for publication….
Put all together, Sanders is something around a seven in 10 favorite to win in Nevada. That’s based off of the prediction markets and how good the polling in Nevada has been since 2008 (the first year in which Nevada was one of the first four states to vote). Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are next with somewhere around a one in 10 chance to win. Everybody has less than a one in 10 shot in Nevada.
Sanders clearly has a better shot than anyone else to win, but a seven in 10 shot is not an overwhelming favorite. It means that there’s a decent chance Sanders won’t win.
The lack of confidence we should have in the Nevada outcome is partially because of the lack of polling data, but also because the polling data has not been particularly predictive in the past.
Since 2008, Nevada has b een a polling wasteland. Looking at all candidates who polled at 10% or better after undecideds were allocated, Nevada polls taken after the Iowa caucuses have had an average error per candidate of 8 points. The 95% confidence interval for each candidate above 10% is something closer to +/- 20 points. That is, to put it mildly, a huge range.
Read the rest at CNN.
Cat Nap – A Pink Chair by the Window, Lara Meintjes
And we can’t forget that early voting has already been going on in many Super Tuesday states. I’ll be voting early here in Massachusetts next week.
Kelly Mena at CNN: Forget Nevada. Almost 2 million votes have already been cast in Super Tuesday states.
Super Tuesday is still more than a week away, but almost 2 million ballots have already been cast — including in delegate-rich California and Texas.
More than 1.3 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned in California since February 3, according to county data provided by Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. That’s out of more than 16 million ballots sent out — a flood that allows the vast majority of the state’s more than 20 million registered voters to cast their ballots before March 3.
“The California presidential primary may be on Super Tuesday, but for millions of Californians, it is really Super February,” Padilla said in a news release earlier this month.
California, with 494 delegates at stake — the most of any single state — has taken on new prominence this year after moving its primary date up in the calendar. Democratic candidates need 1,991 to clinch the nomination.
The other big delegate haul up for grabs on Super Tuesday is Texas, with 261 delegates. Almost half a million ballots have already been cast since early and by-mail voting opened on February 18, according to the secretary of state’s office. Texas has more than 16 million registered voters.
Unfortunately, Bernie is also leading in California polls; and he’s so confident of winning Nevada that he has already left to campaign in CA.
Cat on a chair, Diane Hoepner
Two polls released this week in California show Bernie Sanders holding a comfortable lead. The latest poll from The Public Policy Institute of California, released on Tuesday, shows Sanders ahead at 32%, with Joe Biden (14%), Elizabeth Warren (13%), Pete Buttigieg (12%) and Michael Bloomberg (12%) closely knotted in a race for second. Amy Klobuchar stood at 5% in that poll, with Tom Steyer at 3% and Tulsi Gabbard at 1%.
Monmouth University also released a California poll this week. Their poll finds Sanders leading with 24%, Biden at 17%, Bloomberg at 13%, Warren at 10% and Buttigieg at 9%. Behind them, Steyer (5%) and Klobuchar (4%) were about even, with Gabbard at 2%.
Yesterday we learned that Russia is trying to help Bernie win the Democratic nomination. The Washington Post reports:
U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.
President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.
So Bernie has known this for a month and did and said nothing about it. And he’s not happy with the media for reporting the news. He attacked the Post for reporting the story.
He is also furious with MSNBC for some reason. As far as I can tell, he is getting full support from Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Ali Velshi, but I guess he’s angry with some of the guests on the network. Page Six: Bernie Sanders calls out MSNBC over campaign coverage.
Bernie Sanders went ballistic at NBC and MSNBC execs ahead of the Democratic debate this week — jabbing one top TV exec repeatedly in the face with his finger and accusing the networks of offensive negative coverage.
Surging Sanders stormed through the walk-through for the Las Vegas debate, singling out one top producer at the end and aggressively sticking his finger in his face. One shocked witness said, “Bernie marched right up to NBC and MSNBC’s head of creative production and began jabbing his finger right in his face, yelling, ‘Your coverage of my campaign is not fair . . . Your questions tonight are not going to be fair to me.’ ”
Sanders did not hold back as he continued to rant about MSNBC coverage. According to the witness, “The NBC exec told Sanders he would be treated fairly.”
A separate insider confirmed the confrontation, saying Sanders was so steamed he also sparred with MSNBC boss Phil Griffin outside the green room moments before the debate began. “Sen. Sanders stated, ‘Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change? . . . I hope you will do better.’ ”
The Democratic front-runner has been left seeing red over repeated slights against him by liberal MSNBC pundits and hosts, including Chris Matthews, who suggested the senator might cheer socialist executions in Central Park. And Chuck Todd — a moderator of Wednesday’s debate — even quoted a story that described Sanders supporters as a “digital brownshirt brigade.” Todd was also tackled by seething Sanders onstage after the debate: “I do not appreciate your comment about my supporters,” adding the Holocaust reference was “offensive.”
Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir has said that even Fox News has been “more fair than MSNBC . . . which . . . is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bernie is just a “socialist” mirror image of Trump. But Trump is actually president right now, and he’s undermining democracy in every way he and his thugs can think of. His latest efforts include a Stalinist-style purge of anyone who crosses him and a hostile takeover of the Intelligence community.
The Washington Post: Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates.
President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.
Maine Coon Cat Sitting On Chair, by Rosanne Olson.
Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.
“We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.
The New York Times: Richard Grenell Begins Overhauling Intelligence Office, Prompting Fears of Partisanship.
Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials.
Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him.
Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, and his deputy, Andrew P. Hallman, resigned on Friday. Mr. Grenell told Mr. Hallman, popular in the office’s Liberty Crossing headquarters, that his service was no longer needed, according to two officials. Mr. Hallman, who has worked in the office or at the C.I.A. for three decades, expressed confidence in his colleagues in a statement but also referred to the “uncertainties that come with change.”
The ouster of Mr. Hallman and exit of Mr. Maguire, who also oversaw the National Counterterrorism Center, allowed Mr. Grenell to install his own leadership team.
Much more at the WaPo link.
Finally, here’s a deep dive into Trump’s attack on our National Security by Garrett Graff at Wired: How Trump Hollowed Out US National Security.
While vacancies and acting officials have become commonplace in this administration, the moves by President Donald Trump this week represent a troubling and potentially profound new danger to the country. There will soon be no Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center, director of national intelligence, principal deputy director of national intelligence, homeland security secretary, deputy homeland security secretary, nor leaders of any of the three main border security and immigration agencies. Across the government, nearly 100,000 federal law enforcement agents, officers, and personnel are working today without permanent agency leaders, from Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
All the posts, and many more top security jobs, are unfilled or staffed with leaders who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Trump has done an end-around, installing loyalists without subjecting them to legally mandated vetting and approval by Congress.
Trump’s surprise ouster of Maguire, who took over as acting director of national intelligence last summer, came apparently in a tantrum over a congressional briefing that outlined how Russia is already trying to interfere with the 2020 election and help reelect Trump.
But understanding the true cost of Maguire’s firing requires understanding how the role first came to be. The director of national intelligence position was created after 9/11 specifically to coordinate the work of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies and help “connect the dots” on disparate data and threats, work that wasn’t done before September 11, 2001. DNI is an immensely challenging job that includes serving legally as the president’s top intelligence adviser, and traditionally involves giving the president’s daily briefing on potential threats.
Graff also address Trump’s destruction of the Department of Homeland Security–including FEMA. I hope you’ll read the whole article.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.
Posted: February 21, 2020 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Director of National Intelligence (DNA), political purges, presidential pardons
Good Day Sky Dancers!
What happens in an autocratic government when someone tells the Tin Pot Fattie something he doesn’t want to hear? Well, it’s something akin to off with his head Amerikkkan style. Heaven forbid we get to decide our own elections here without Russian or Saudi or Chinese or Israeli interference! Yeah, if we’re lucky Susan Collins might raise an eyebrow and Lindsey Graham might find one tiny pearl to clutch on Sunday’s news programs. But, it’s more like Moscow Mitch will keep them all in the pack like good little playing card soldiers.
Bye Bye National Security!
From The Daily Beast: “Russia Is Helping Elect Trump Again, Intel Official Says”.
Intelligence officials briefed House lawmakers last week that Russian actors were interfering in the 2020 elections, once more to the benefit of Donald Trump. The contents of the briefing, which was first reported by The New York Times, sparked a series of dramatic events that have further eroded relations between Hill Democrats and the White House, and prompted the president—it appears—to appoint a top political ally to oversee the nation’s national security apparatus.
The meeting, which took place on Feb. 13, was conducted for the House Intelligence Committee by an aide to the outgoing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. According to a legislator who was present, the aide, Shelby Pierson, Maguire’s election security chief, described a Russian elections-intrusion effort that never stopped from 2016.
“It continues with the same target, and the same purpose, and it’s clear that they [the Russians] favor one candidate over the other,” is how the lawmaker described it.
“The Republicans [on the committee] went nuts,” over Pierson’s presentation, the member told The Daily Beast. A second source familiar with the briefing said that Republicans didn’t understand why the Kremlin would try to boost Trump, since he had been so tough on Russia, in their view. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Will Hurd (R-TX) and Chris Stewart (R-UT)—who, according to The Times, has been a Trump favorite to replace Maguire—were particularly vocal in their skepticism, the member said. A spokesperson for Wenstrup said the congressman does not comment on classified or closed-door matters before the Intelligence Committee. Spokespersons for Stewart and Hurd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raise your hand if you learned in first or second grade why the Russians want our country in eternal and internal disarray. So now, The Tin Pot Fattie has replaced an experienced National Intelligence official with a Republican Politico operative that goes on Fox and twitter to stroke the orange snot blob’s bottomless need for adoration. This is from WAPO: “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected”. Yes he knows his electoral illegitimacy really knows no bounds!
Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.
A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.
After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks.
The official, Shelby Pierson, said several times during the briefing that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump, according to a U.S. official familiar with her comments. That conclusion was part of a broader discussion of election security that also touched on when the U.S. government should warn Democratic candidates if they are being targeted by foreign governments.
So, now what? He’s got help from the Russians and as usual, we’ve got the GOP trying to suppress the vote and minority participation in the US Census which sets up all kinds of political and funding priorities in the country. From the L.A. Times: “GOP is accused of sending misleading ‘census’ forms ahead of the actual count”
The Republican National Committee is sending documents labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” to people in California and across the country just weeks before the start of the official nationwide count of the country’s population.
Critics say the misleading mailers — in envelopes labeled “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” and including a lengthy questionnaire on blue-tinted paper similar to the type used by the real census — are designed to confuse people and possibly lower the response rate when the count begins in mid-March.
The top of the mailer states it is “commissioned by the Republican Party.” In smaller print on the second page, below a request for donations, is a notice that it is paid for by the Republican National Committee. Included in the envelope is a four-page letter from National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel asking for donations to the party and a promise to support Trump in 2020.
Unlike the official census form, the RNC survey is largely made up of political questions, such as whether the respondent supports using military force against Iran, thinks race relations in the country are getting worse and believes “political correctness” has gotten out of hand.
From the UK Daily Mail: “Russia is interfering AGAIN in 2020 election to help Donald Trump get a second term, intelligence officials secretly told Congress – prompting fury from president and Republicans” I’m pretty sure the fury is they’ve just been caught again and that’s about it.
One lawmaker told the Daily Beast that the officials briefed them that: ‘It continues with the same target, and the same purpose, and it’s clear that they [the Russians] favor one candidate over the other.
Trump was furious when he learned that Schiff had been briefed that intelligence officials believe Russia is trying to aid his re-election – and wrongly believed it was only the Democrat who had been briefed.
The president believed the information would be used against him, sources told the New York Times.
Schiff was the lead Democratic house manager at Trump’s impeachment trial, which ended in his acquittal earlier this month.
In the wake of learning that Schiff had been briefed, Trump had a furious confrontation with the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire.
Maguire was replaced Wednesday night by Rick Grenell, Trump’s ultra-loyal ambassador to Germany.
The New York Times reported that two Trump officials said the timing was a coincidence and not because of the row about the briefing.
The official who told lawmakers Russia was meddling was named as Maguire’s aide Shelby Pierson, who serves as the intelligence community’s top election security official.
Trump blew up at Maguire in the Oval Office last week over what the president perceived as staff disloyalty, citing Pierson’s briefing.
That ruined Maguire’s chance of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, sources told The Washington Post.
Trump incorrectly believed Pierson gave the information exclusively to Schiff and gave Maguire a ‘dressing down’ that left him ‘despondent,’ sources told the newspaper.
Pierson chairs the Election Executive and Leadership Board, which was created in July 2019 to specifically deal with election security matters.
She gave the closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday.
One of Trump’s Republican allies on the committee told him what she said, the Post reported.
Some of Trump’s biggest defenders during the House impeachment inquiry – including Reps. Devin Nunes and Elise Stefanik – sit on the intelligence panel.
So, the president is still a moron. This may not rival the Night of the Long Knives but combined with granting pardons to people who have abused their power in public positions and absconded with public treasure seems particularly relevant to the crime family occupying the Oval Office.
Guess who is in charge of that process now? This is from Salon: “Trump’s controversial pardons came after Kushner wrestled control from Justice Department: report. Kushner supported clemency for Rod Blagojevich even as White House officials allegedly “argued heavily against it”
I suppose after you’ve cribbed and stolen your plan for an Israeli Palestinian peace process off of a 40 year old book and it’s going nowhere you have to look for other hobbies.
President Donald Trump’s controversial pardons of numerous supporters convicted of corruption came after his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner wrestled control of the process from the Department of Justice, according to a new report.
While the Justice Department has traditionally overseen the pardon process and made recommendations to the White House, Kushner has taken “a leading role” as the Trump administration seeks to exert more control over clemency decisions, The Washington Post reported.
Trump, who granted clemency to 11 people on Tuesday, tasked Kushner and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who served on the president’s impeachment legal team, last year with revamping the pardon process, according to the report. All clemency applications must now be submitted directly to the White House Office of American Innovation, which is headed by Kushner. Trump’s son-in-law has also been tasked with solving Middle East peace, reforming the immigration system, building the border wall and re-electing the president, among a variety of other responsibilities.
Kushner has personally reviewed applications before presenting them to Trump for approval, two senior administration officials told the outlet.
So far, this is going really well for crooked elected officials and political appointees isn’t it? What’s next? Pardoning Jared’s Dad? Or Roger Stone? This is via CNN.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he won’t act to grant clemency to his friend and former associate Roger Stone right now, saying he wants the process to play out before making a decision.
“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that’s the best thing to do,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.”
The President didn’t rule out an eventual pardon or commutation, but said the process should play out first.
“At some point I’ll make a determination, but Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process,” Trump said.
Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison earlier Thursday. He was convicted last fall of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Meanwhile, meet the Acting DNI RIchard Grenell via TPM . Maybe Hope Hicks should have the job next.
Grenell, a vocal Trump loyalist who is currently the ambassador to Germany, brings to the job of acting Director of National Intelligence years of experience aggravating the German government coupled with a background in strategic communications.
The political operative’s appointment has raised questions of his fitness for the job. As director of national intelligence, Grenell will oversee the 17 constituent agencies of the country’s intelligence community, managing the flow of information gathered by the country’s spies to President Trump.
“It’s difficult to contemplate managing 17 different organizations without having any experience with the intelligence process overall,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a former director for Russia on the National Security Council and a former CIA intelligence analyst, told TPM. “I just think it’s quite dangerous in the sense that the right information might not get to the right people.”
Since DNI Dan Coats stepped down from the position in August 2019, the government has lacked a Senate-confirmed official in the job.
So, I’m depressed enough and still coughing way too much with this flu so I’ll end with these two things. But, please add more!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: February 20, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics
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.
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.
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!
Posted: February 18, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2020 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg
Just shoot me now. Could we really end up with a general election choice of Sanders vs. Trump? Please tell me this isn’t really happening. The latest NPR/PBS national poll came out this morning.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has opened up a double-digit lead in the Democratic nominating contest, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
Sanders has 31% support nationally, up 9 points since December, the last time the poll asked about Democratic voters’ preferences.
His next closest contender has 19%. But that second-place rival is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Many Americans have become familiar with Bloomberg lately in this race because of his ubiquitous TV ads. But now get ready to see him on the debate stage for the first time Wednesday. With this poll, Bloomberg has qualified for the Nevada debate, despite not being on the ballot there for Saturday’s caucuses.
You read that right. Joe Biden is now in third place, but he’s still running the strongest against Trump.
Third among Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents is former Vice President Joe Biden with 15%, down 9 points since December.
The debate Wednesday, as well as Biden’s performance in Nevada Saturday and South Carolina a week later, are critical to whether the former vice president has a real chance at the nomination after disappointing fourth- and fifth-place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively….
Following Biden is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 12%, also down from December — by 5 percentage points — after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Next is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 9%. She’s up from 4% in December after surprisingly good finishes in the first two contests, and she has leaped ahead of Pete Buttigieg in this national survey.
The former South Bend, Ind., mayor is at just 8%, down from 13% in December, not a good sign for the candidate after very solid finishes in the first two contests [in Iowa and New Hampshire].
Politico reports: Major Latino group backs Sanders on eve of Nevada caucus.
A prominent national Latino group is endorsing Bernie Sanders four days ahead of the caucuses in Nevada, a state with a significant Hispanic electorate.
Mijente, a grass-roots organization that mobilizes Latinx and Chicanx voters, decided to make its first-ever presidential endorsement in response to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies targeting Latinos. The endorsement adds to the growing collection of progressive groups coalescing around the Vermont senator, after earlier expectations they would be divided between him and Elizabeth Warren.
The organization will use its reach on social media, its roughly 1,000 dues-paying members and more than 300,000-person email list to mobilize Latinos to vote and hit the pavement for Sanders in Nevada and other states.
Marisa Franco, director and cofounder of Mijente, said the group’s members picked Sanders after a lengthy process that included sit-downs with multiple candidates. In January, its members voted on four options: endorsing Sanders, Warren, both of them, or no endorsement at all. In the end, 70 percent of its members voted to endorse Sanders.
Of course the powerful Culinary Workers Union in Nevada strongly opposes Sanders’ “Medicare for all” policy. And there’s this Telemundo poll:
Early voting is going on this week in Nevada and will continue until the caucus on Saturday.
Folks, we are in deep deep trouble. We can only hope that someone other than Bernie wins in South Carolina. Unfortunately, that someone could be Bloomberg if Black voters give up on Biden. This entire primary has been a disaster. Tom Perez should resign and slink off into the sunset.
The debate is tomorrow night, so Sanders and Bloomberg will have an opportunity to attack each other in person. I think I’ll skip watching it and just read about it on Thursday.
To give you a sense of how Trump would run against Bernie Sanders, read this piece by Never Trumper Tom Nichols in USA Today: Sanders was ridiculously naive about the Soviet Union. The Trump ads write themselves.
As a Soviet expert and a politically homeless Never Trump voter, I am certain of three things when it comes to Bernie and the Soviets. First, his comments about the USSR show that his judgment is terrible. Second, he will be unable to wave away his comments merely by appending “democratic” to his preferred version of Soviet ideology.
And third, the Republicans will weaponize his remarks, and this will likely cost him the election. Indeed, it would be professional malpractice if Trump’s campaign people passed up this chance. Were I still a Republican and hoping for a GOP win, I could write those ads myself.
…Sanders visited Yaroslavl and other cities — another coincidence, since that is a city I’ve visited as well — in 1988, when the Cold War was nearly over. By that point, Mikhail Gorbachev had been in power for three years and had welcomed Ronald Reagan to Moscow after they both had signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty.
Still, Sanders came back sounding like he had been bamboozled, like so many other credulous Westerners who visited the USSR and took what they were shown by their hosts at face value. Some of the juicier quotes, like the wince-inducing praise of Soviet youth organizations, are already floating around on social media.
Sanders was impressed with the Soviet Union’s government health care program. Nichols was actually part of a group that investigated it.
What we saw was grisly. Patients draining their wounds into open jars of pus. Post-operative infections worse than the problem that required surgery. Reusable metal hypodermics, dirty bedclothes, untended patients wandering about dimly lit hallways.
I saw an operating theater with windows — to the outside. As I looked at the trees and grass while standing next to the surgical table, I asked: “Do you open these? Ever?” When it gets hot, the Soviet doctors replied, nodding.
The American doctor was polite and professional, but at one point he leaned over to me and whispered that this was where American medicine was … in 1890.
The point here isn’t that Sanders should have known more about medicine. Rather, he should have known more about the Soviet Union. Maybe the Soviet health care system was behind by a decade in the best Kremlin hospitals. In the rest of the country, it was behind by a full century.
Of course the details are irrelevant. The Trump gang can just show all the videos of Sanders visiting and praising the Soviet Union.
No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, Trump will cheat again. Former Obama speechwriter Sarada Peri writes in the Atlantic: Trump Is Going to Cheat. How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?
Democratic primary voters care deeply about electability. What most want is simple: a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump in November. So they worry about whether former Vice President Joe Biden will inspire young people, and about whether Senator Bernie Sanders will scare away old people. They debate whether a political revolution is necessary to energize the base, or whether the revolution will dissuade independents. Will the historic candidacy of a woman or a gay man take off or implode?
But these concerns about policy and broad cultural appeal are secondary to the true “electability” crisis facing whichever Democrat wins the nomination: He or she will need to run against a president seemingly prepared, and empowered, to lie and cheat his way to reelection….
If past is prologue, Trump will say absolutely anything necessary to attract and maintain support, including patent untruths. His pathological lying has been well documented and yet never ceases to stun….
How can Democrats run against a candidate who will simply deny his unpopular positions and make up nonexistent accomplishments? No amount of fact-checking can counter his constant stream of mendacity, which has become white noise in our political culture.
Peri enumerates all the ways Trump will cheat, and he will probably find others. I kept reading to learn her recommendations for how to deal with this, and I didn’t find any. Here’s her concluding paragraph:
Electability, ultimately, cannot rest on the shoulders of whomever the party nominates, talented though that person may be. Electability does not depend, simply, on the nominee’s ability to earn the votes of a wide array of Americans in a few battleground states. It depends on all Americans’ willingness to demand an election that is, indeed, free and fair.
Good luck with that.
I’m sorry to sound so discouraged but all we need is another narcissistic screamer who has no clue how to accomplish anything through legislation. Would Bloomberg be better? I don’t know. I can’t stand to think about it anymore today.
Stories to check out, links only:
USA Today: Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone.
The Washington Post: Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion to fight climate change.
Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: Imagine If a Democrat Behaved Like Bill Barr. What would the attorney general say were a future administration to follow his lead?
Rebecca Traister at New York Magazine: The Immoderate Susan Collins: After a long career voting across the aisle, why did the Maine senator gamble her legacy on Trump?
AP: Homeland Security waives contracting laws for border wall.
Raw Story: Trump’s grab for border wall funds could backfire spectacularly in a key swing state.
Financial Times letter to the editor: George Soros: Remove Zuckerberg and Sandberg from their posts.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
Posted: February 17, 2020 Filed under: Afternoon Reads
A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
—James Madison, in a letter to W T Barry, Aug 4, 1822
Good Day Sky Dancers!
We’re deep in parade season down here in New Orleans which gives me a much needed escape from the reality of living in Trumpist America. I never quite know what to do with it, the Trump cult, and the surprised old Republicans who can’t believe all that race-baiting, gun fetishism, and radical religious right enabling they’ve done for their base has finally left the dreamland of ‘Give us your votes and we’ll talk a good story at you’ in trade for the cult of a mobster/monster that will do anything for money and attention.
Jennifer Rubin is an outspoken never-Trumper but fed the beast that now consumes the US Constitution when she thought it was simply tax cuts and lip service. Her op-ed today makes for interesting reading: “The descent of the GOP into authoritarian know-nothingism”.
I could have told you they were headed there back in the 1980s when I was in my 20s. But, anyway … she’s got its number now. I always thought Ronald Reagan was the smiley face version of ‘GOP authoritarian known knowthingism ‘ back then when Rubin was still thinking it was all fine and good. Trump talked about Mexicans as ‘criminals and rapists’ for his announcement while Reagan was all ‘welfare queens with Cadillacs.’ Come at me and tell me that you think both those sentiments don’t go at the same dark vision of the non-Anglo American. I can give you more quotes than that. We can talk policy. Anyway, more follows below.
It is not as if anti-intellectualism suddenly appeared with the election of President Trump. The habitual rejection of expertise on everything from climate change to the economic impact of immigration has been rampant in the Republican Party for some time. It is part and parcel of the invented victimization of mostly white, non-college-educated men who attribute their loss of prestige and status to “elites,” especially those in colleges and the media. Even right-wingers who should know better have felt compelled to pander to audiences that wear ignorance and anti-intellectualism as a badge of honor.
With Trump, the resort to lies, conspiracies and propaganda has become a matter of political survival for the ambitious right-wingers. Trump’s authoritarian contempt for truth sets the tone, forcing military hawks such as Cotton to remain mum when Trump dismisses traumatic brain injuries as “headaches” and former Cold Warriors such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to parrot Russian propaganda on Ukraine.
Their know-nothingism is sustained and hardened inside the right-wing media loop. Trump and his sycophants can repeat whatever falsehoods required to support Trump without fear of contradiction, let alone mockery, in the right-wing media world. It is only when Republicans venture out into legitimate media that refuses to play along with conspiracy theories that they run into trouble.
Trump has merged the know-nothingism of right-wing populism with a far more dangerous intellectual evolution from defense of limited-government conservatism, which was formerly at the heart of modern conservatism, to outright worship of authoritarianism. Now, far too many conservatives have reverence for executive power and reject constitutional government.
Attorney General William P. Barr and his cheerleaders from the Federalist Society embody this frightening development. Donald Ayer, former U.S. deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush, writes that Barr advocates “the need for a virtually autocratic executive who is not constrained by countervailing powers within our government under the constitutional system of checks and balances.” For Barr, limited government means limited checks on the president, the antithesis of the framers’ vision.
So, we’ve got Sen Tom Cotton spreading conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus. The entire party denies climate change and still believes wholesale tax cuts to the rich do something other than blow up the deficit and lead to problems with infrastructure and basic necessary services like dealing with the actual potential threat of the Coronavirus.
The only Republican news recently that I find really hard to believe that seems to be verifiably true is that Stephen Miller found a woman dumb enough to marry him and the spoils of the wedding went to a Trump hotel. See, there’s enough truth can be strange in that Party that you’d think they’d just thrive on that rather than baseless conspiracy theories. And he’s the embodiment of policy shaped by the vision of both Reagan’s ‘welfare queens’ and Trump’s ‘rapists and criminals’ that are still as odious as they day either were spoken.
In 1976, Reagan repeatedly invoked his own female bête noire as he barnstormed the country in a doomed bid to primary President Gerald Ford. There’s a woman in Chicago, Reagan told voters, who “used eighty names, thirty addresses, fifteen telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four non-existent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare.” And she wasn’t the only one. Reagan bemoaned a welfare system infested with fraud, although he kept returning to the woman in Chicago. She wore a fur coat. She drove a Cadillac. She paid for T-bone steaks with food stamps. He didn’t refer to her by name but by a sobriquet—one he didn’t invent, but which he repeated so often it metastasized into an ugly stereotype: She was the welfare queen.
We cannot be a more perfect union until the racist tropes of Trump and his Republican cronies are removed from the American political lexicon.
“Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”
—Benjamin Franklin in a letter written in November 1789, to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy,
So, another Trumpist “conspiracy” theory is how great the economy is doing. I shall point to the bar chart above to show you that Trump’s economy is quite average. It comes via Axios and statistics easily found at a FED or Department of Labor near you.
Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it’s especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.
Between the lines: Economists dispute how much credit presidents can take for a booming or sagging economy under their watch. There are factors that can boost or reduce growth outside of their policies.
Where it stands: Unlike other presidents, Trump inherited a steady economy that’s since entered the longest stretch of growth in history. Interest rates remain low. Growth picked up in the wake of the 2017 tax cuts, but now the pace has moderated.
What he’s saying: “Our economy is the best it has ever been,” Trump said earlier this month in his State of the Union speech.
But some aspects of the Trump economy, like wage growth and business investment, pale in comparison to other periods.
While solid, “this is not a gangbusters economy,” Nathan Sheets, who’s held roles at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, tells Axios.
There have been periods with “high growth, low inflation, rapid productivity, and the gains from growth were being broadly shared across society. That was gangbusters,” says Sheets.
By the numbers: Last year the economy grew at 2.3%, after year-over-year accelerations in 2017 and 2018 — marking he slowest annual growth rate since Trump took office. Growth under Trump has yet to hit his oft-promised 3% mark annually.
Economists say the effects of the tax are wearing off. Businesses were too unnerved by the trade war to spend money on new factories or equipment — a key driver of growth.
Yes, but: If history is any guide, an incumbent president isn’t going to have a great shot at re-election if the economy tips into a recession under their watch.
The press needs to really speak out on our average economy and all its underlying problems like farm bankruptcies and more loss of manufacturing and export related jobs and industry.
“For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”
—George Washington, in an address to the officers of the army on March 15, 1783
So, the Editors of New York Magazine ponder this dreadful thought “11 Months From Today. A second term for Trump seems more possible than ever. But what would it look like?” which I seem to wonder myself given that Bernie, Biden and Bloomberg seem to sucking in all the breathable fresh air these days and returning it to us toxic. So, what 19 alternative realities does Jonathan Chait and his panel of experts imagine? They all sound horrible and you may read them. This one is my for sure takeaway.
In the past four years, I saw people in my clinical practice experiencing a level of anxiety specific to the political climate that we really hadn’t seen before. It’s why I started writing about “Trump anxiety disorder.” The American Psychological Association does a “Stress in America” survey, and the 2019 one had 62 percent of American adults citing the current political climate as a source of stress, which has gone up since Trump took office. It’s not unlike a child living in a home that’s chaotic; we don’t have faith in the leaders we have historically put trust in, and that’s creating a lot of trauma. If Trump does get reelected, we’ll see a spike in this feeling of fear like we haven’t seen before. People will have to come to terms with the prospect of another four years of trying to keep up the fight. We can feel anxious for only so long, because anxiety is exhausting, and eventually that fatigue could transform into depression and leave us feeling really helpless. All of that could lead to more civil unrest or unhealthy behaviors such as drinking and emotional eating — people trying to deal with the stress in any way they can.
—Dr. Jennifer Panning
We may still have a hint of a Republic. Can we keep it? Or will the Democratic party hand it to Republicans to strangle this year?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?