Posted: July 21, 2018 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics
Once again, I’ve hit a wall. I simply can’t take it anymore. Has this been the worst week in the Trump administration? I don’t know. Every week is horrible. I don’t think I can write anything coherent today, so I’ll just share some random stories that caught my attention this morning.
The Wall Street Journal describes White House staff efforts to get Trump to act like a president of the U.S instead of a dupe of the Russian government.
For much of the White House, Mr. Trump’s conduct at the news conference with Mr. Putin on Monday was wholly unexpected. Administration officials ahead of the summit had crafted a plan for Mr. Trump to confront Mr. Putin on Russia’s electoral interference, officials said.
Before the summit, Mr. Trump had authorized the Justice Department to release an indictment of 12 Russians who allegedly hacked into Democratic computers during the 2016 campaign, agreeing it would strengthen his hand when he raised the issue of election interference, a White House official said.
Afternoon in the garden-Diane Leonard
In preparatory meetings, Mr. Trump and his aides discussed using the indictment to forcefully make the case. The plan was for Mr. Trump to invoke the indictment both in private meetings and in the public news conference afterward, a White House official said. The idea, the official said, was to “shove it in Putin’s face and look strong doing it,” depicting it as hard evidence of Russian crimes against America’s electoral process.
“He did the exact opposite,” the official said. During the news conference, Mr. Trump appeared to side with Mr. Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies, saying he saw no reason why Russia would have interfered in the election. On Tuesday, he said he meant to say he saw no reason why Russia wouldn’t have interfered….
“It was a well laid-out plan. Unfortunately, he didn’t execute on it,” the official said.
Mr. Trump’s performance at the summit and afterward complicates plans for the midterm elections, a White House official said.
White House aides had begun preparations to make Mr. Trump the public face of planned efforts by the administration to stop election interference in the midterms. Mr. Trump would be shown presiding over meetings and making announcements about an administration-wide commitment to safeguard the 2018 elections. In the wake of the Putin summit, Mr. Trump may struggle to credibly make the case that he is spearheading the effort to protect U.S. election systems, the official said.
These people are either lying or delusional.
The Washington Post: Russia continues to shape narrative of Helsinki summit.
Russia provided additional details Friday of what it said were agreements made at the presidential summit in Helsinki this week, shaping a narrative of the meeting with no confirmation or alternative account from the Trump administration.
Not surprisingly, the Russian story line tended to favor the Kremlin’s own policy prescriptions, at times contradicting stated administration strategy.
Lucy Hessel Reading – Edouard Vuillard, 1924
Russia already has sent formal proposals to Washington for joint U.S.-Russia efforts to fund reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria and facilitate the return home of millions of Syrians who fled the country, following “agreements reached” by President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the three-star head of the Russian National Defense Management Center, said Friday.
Mizintsev, speaking in Moscow at a joint session of planners from the Defense and Foreign Ministries, said that Russia had already begun work I gon the ground in both areas but that additional resources and international coordination are needed.
Russia’s U.S. ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, said separately that Syria had been the primary topic in the Trump-Putin conversations, along with “the removal of the concerns that the United States has regarding the well-known claims about alleged interference in the elections.” [….]
Asked about Russian claims that agreements had been reached, a National Security Council spokesman said: “As President Trump stated, the two sides agreed that their national security council staffs will follow up on the presidents’ meetings, and these discussions are underway. There were no commitments to undertake any concrete action, beyond agreement that both sides should continue discussions.”
I guess Trump is still refusing to tell anyone what happened in the meeting. Maybe he can’t remember?
Vanity Fair: There Is A Reason We Tried To Kill This: After Helsinki, The Deep State Fears Trump Cannot Be Saved.
As much as official Washington has become numb to the daily offenses of Donald Trump, there was something uniquely disturbing about the president’s transgressions in Helsinki. After months of combating Trump’s attempts to align himself with Vladimir Putin, the president was alone and unguarded with the man he had long sought to meet. National Security Adviser John Bolton, among other Russia hawks, had traveled with Trump to Finland in preparation for the summit. But when Trump and Putin entered the gilded Hall of State at the Presidential Palace for a joint press conference, the result was a shocking display of servility. Repudiating the hardline positions of his aides and advisers, Trump exonerated Putin for hacking the 2016 election—and put the blame on “foolish” Americans for driving the United States and Russia apart.
Albrecht Samuel Anker
Days later, insiders who know Bolton are still struggling to explain how the man who’s advocated violent regime change in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea could have allowed his boss to bend the knee before one of America’s greatest geopolitical adversaries. “I’m stumped,” said a former high-ranking State Department official. “The John Bolton I remember from the past was a strong hawk. So either he’s changed, or the president isn’t listening to him or taking his advice on how to deal with Russia.” A second erstwhile colleague, also a former senior State Department official, concurred. “The John Bolton I know would have been more horrified than I am over what happened,” this person told me. “I mean, he must just be pulling his forelock practically out of his head in order to maintain the ‘Oh you’re so great’ and ‘Mr. President, oh you’re the best.’ That’s the only thing that works with this birdbrain, and he must be doing it over and over and over again.”
“Birdbrain.” I haven’t seen that synonym for “moron” lately.
Bolton isn’t the only senior Trump adviser who has been sidelined or subordinated. Defense Secretary James Mattis, an outspoken critic of Moscow, has not appeared in public or made any comments since Monday’s press conference, and the Pentagon has been unable to answer questions about the summit….
As the post-summit fallout continues, however, these foot soldiers of the Deep State are coming to a chilling realization: nobody has any control over Trump—including Trump himself. For the legion of national-security, diplomatic, and military officials trying to smile while white-knuckling through the Trump presidency, Helsinki was a wake-up call. As a current administration official explained, Trump seems to believe that he alone can sit down with dictators and strongmen like Putin and Kim Jong Un to remake the world order—and experts and advisers will only slow him down.
Hey, he told us at the GOP convention: he believes that he alone can fix it.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: The entire Republican Party is becoming a Russian asset.
In the past few days, President Trump has given at least some Republicans reason to express displeasure over his relationship with Russia. First he performed a pathetic ritual of subservience before Vladimir Putin, standing beside the Russian leader — after a private meeting between the two, which no aides were permitted to attend — and dismissing the copious evidence of a Russian attack on the 2016 election in deference to Putin’s word.
Asta Nørregaard (1853-1933) Woman Reading, 1889
Then we learned that Putin had suggested that we make Americans available to the Kremlin for questioning, including Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, in exchange for allowing us to question some of the agents who carried out the cyberattack. Trump had called it “an incredible offer,” and the White House said he was considering it, before finally backing down after the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the idea.
But look past the modest number of Republicans saying that Trump has gone a bit too far here or there, and you see a very different picture. The truth is that the entire GOP is well on its way to becoming a Russian asset.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Trump sees dead people. And they talk.
A few weeks ago, while posthumously honoring a World War II hero, Trump gave the man’s family a report on their departed loved one. He was “looking down from Heaven, proud of this incredible honor, but even prouder of the legacy that lives on in each of you. So true.”
A few weeks before that, at what was billed as a celebration of patriotism at the White House, Trump reported to the crowd that fallen soldiers are pleased with his economic policies and increases in the stock market. “Many of them are looking down right now at our country, and they are proud,” he said.
Sometimes, Trump pinpoints the location of the deceased, using some psychic GPS. At an outdoor Medal of Honor ceremony in May for soldiers lost at a battle in Afghanistan, Trump pointed at a location in the sky and said, “They are looking down right now.” A week before that, outside the Capitol, Trump pointed to a point in the sky over his head and told the family of a slain police detective: “So she’s right now, right there. And she’s looking down.”
Occasionally, something must get lost in the cloud and Trump receives a heavenly miscommunication. Speaking to a steelworker at the White House in March, Trump informed the man: “Your father, Herman, he’s looking down, and he’s very proud of you right now.”
“Oh, he’s still alive,” the steelworker said.
“Then he’s even more proud of you,” Trump said.
More examples at the WaPo link.
At The New York Times, Maggie Haberman whines about all the nasty people on Twitter who make her feel bad about herself.
I woke up last Sunday morning feeling anxiety in my chest as I checked the Twitter app on my phone, scrolling down to refresh, refresh, refresh. There was a comment I started to engage with — I opened a new post, tapped out some words, then thought better of it and deleted the tweet. The same thing happened repeatedly for the next two hours.
The evening before, I had complained to a close friend that I hated being on Twitter.It was distorting discourse, I said. I couldn’t turn off the noise. She asked what was the worst that could happen if I stepped away from it.
There was nothing I could think of. And so just after 6 p.m. last Sunday, I did.
After nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me. I will re-engage eventually, but in a different way.
I really hope she just stays away. Haberman represents everything that is negative about the mainstream media and access “journalism.” I’ll keep right on ignoring her inane gossip columns whether she “reengages” or not.
That’s all I’ve got. I hope you all have a relaxing weekend.
Posted: July 19, 2018 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin
Baby reading for an apple, Mary Cassatt
I’m not too with it this morning. My mother is in the hospital and we still don’t know what is wrong with her. A few days ago, she started feeling weak and tired and she suddenly was unable to tie her shoes. Her blood pressure has been too high and her oxygen levels are too low. At the hospital the physical therapist found that her left hand wasn’t working properly, so that might explain the shoe-tying problem.
Whatever is wrong, it doesn’t seem to be life-threatening, because she has had all kinds of tests that have so far shown nothing wrong. She had an MRI yesterday and today they are going to check for blockage in her carotid artery she will work more with the physical therapist. A neurologist told my sister and my niece that she doesn’t think it’s serious, but they still don’t understand why her blood pressure is so high.
Anyway, I’ve been very anxious about Mom, and between that and the Trump madness. I can’t really think straight.
So what’s happening in the news today?
Mother and child, by Mitra Shadfar
I’m sure you’ve heard about the shocking story that broke in The New York Times last night: From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered.
Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.
The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.
Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.
So Trump saw specific information proving that Vladimir Putin ordered the interference into our election to help him win, and he has spent his entire administration so far attempting to cover up for what his buddy Putin did.
The Jan. 6, 2017, meeting, held at Trump Tower, was a prime example. He was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command.
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was also there; after the formal briefing, he privately told Mr. Trump about the “Steele dossier.” That report, by a former British intelligence officer, included uncorroborated salacious stories of Mr. Trump’s activities during a visit to Moscow, which he denied.
The briefing revealed that a highly sensitive source close to Putin had provided information.
Mother and child, Pablo Picasso, 1901
According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.
They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.
And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role.
That included one particularly valuable source, who was considered so sensitive that Mr. Brennan had declined to refer to it in any way in the Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration, as the Russia investigation intensified.
Instead, to keep the information from being shared widely, Mr. Brennan sent reports from the source to Mr. Obama and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security.
Mr. Trump and his aides were also given other reasons during the briefing to believe that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hacks.
I was exhausted last night and fell asleep early. I woke up about 3:30AM and check Twitter. A number of people were saying that this story was likely leaked to the NYT in response to Trump’s performance in Helsinki and afterwards and that the highly placed source must have been burned–possibly by Trump–or the story would not have been leaked.
No one except the interpreters knows what Trump gave away to Putin during their more than two hour meeting in Helsinki, and now Russia is claiming Trump and Putin made a number of deals.
The Washington Post: As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity.
Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.
Delfina Flores Y Su Sobrina Modesta, Diego Rivera
“Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said that Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.
But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.
At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.
This is interesting:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.
One thing Trump and Putin apparently discussed was allowing Russia to question 11 American citizens, including former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
The Washington Post: Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.
At this week’s summit in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed what President Trump described as an “incredible offer” — the Kremlin would give special counsel Robert S. Mueller III access to interviews with Russians who were indicted after they allegedly hacked Democrats in 2016. In return, Russia would be allowed to question certain U.S. officials it suspects of interfering in Russian affairs.
One of those U.S. officials is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, a nemesis of the Kremlin because of his criticisms of Russia’s human rights record.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out the Kremlin’s request to question McFaul and other Americans. Asked during the daily press briefing whether Trump is open to the idea of having McFaul questioned by Russia, Sanders said President Trump is “going to meet with his team” to discuss the offer.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
The Daily Beast: U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout.
Sunshine Mother And Child, by Shijun Munns
Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.
One serving diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was “at a fucking loss” over comments that can be expected to chill American diplomacy in hostile or authoritarian countries – a comment echoed by former State Department officials as well.
“It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,” the U.S. diplomat told The Daily Beast.
During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.
Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.
I’ll end with this piece by David Frump at The Atlantic: The Crisis Facing America. The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has.
Mother with children by Dattatraya Thombare
We still do not know what hold Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump, but the whole world has now witnessed the power of its grip.
Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating Russian intervention in the U.S. election—and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees….
The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior—whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else—remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process—and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process—is video-recorded fact.
And it’s a fact that has to be seen in the larger context of his actions in office: denouncing the European Union as a “foe,” threatening to break up nato, wrecking the U.S.-led world trading system, intervening in both U.K. and German politics in support of extremist and pro-Russian forces, and continually refusing to act to protect the integrity of U.S. voting systems—it all adds up to a political indictment, whether or not it quite qualifies as a criminal one.
America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing about whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.
Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!
Posted: July 17, 2018 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics
Yesterday the illegitimate “president” of the U.S. betrayed our country while standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin in on the world stage. The Republicans in Congress so far have refused to do anything to provide oversight over this “president.” Will they finally take action now? Probably not. (NOTE: the rest of the images in this post are what I hope are calming paintings.)
At this point, our only hope is Robert Mueller’s investigation, which seems to be moving along pretty rapidly. Mueller recently indicted 12 Russian GRU military officers for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, and Clinton campaign email accounts. Then yesterday, a Russian woman, Maria Butina, was indicted for being a spy.
The Washington Post: Maria Butina, Russian gun-rights advocate who sought to build ties with NRA, charged with acting as a covert Russian agent.
A Russian woman with ties to a senior Russian government official was charged in Washington on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, including by building ties to the leadership of the National Rifle Association and other conservative political organizations.
Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.
by Mo Nong
Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.
Read more details at The Daily Beast: Russia-NRA Arrest: This Is as Close as It Gets to Collusion.
It’s also possible that Paul Manafort could be working on a plea deal.
Law and Crime: Legal Experts Say Manafort Could Be Cutting Plea Deal as Judge Suddenly Delays Proceedings.
The judge overseeing Paul Manafort‘s federal court case on charges of tax evasion and bank fraud in Virginia delayed proceedings in a surprise move on Monday afternoon. According to legal experts familiar with the federal court system, this could be an indication that Manafort is about to cut a plea deal….
The delay may or may not have caught the prosecution and defense off guard–but was certainly a shock to those watching the events unfold from a distance. According to the publicly-accessible court docket, no party had submitted a request for such a delay and there was also no indication of an official court notice being filed as of late Monday afternoon.
Many legal observers noted that this was a strange turn of events with the trial fast approaching; several even indicated that this last-minute interruption could signal Manafort’s last-minute willingness to flip.
Read the rest at the link.
Wilhelm Wetlesen, Ung kvinne med katt (Young woman with cat), 1908
Yesterday was a day that will certainly go down in history. We saw an American “president” stand next to the Russian dictator and completely surrender our country’s values. And this followed on a disastrous trip in which the “president” horribly damaged our relations with our traditional European allies. Reactions:
Josh Marshall at TPM: The Worst Case Scenario Has Been Obvious for a While.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m pretty cautious in my arguments, cautious on a lot of fronts. I can be aggressive in how I frame those arguments. I sometimes speak in hyperbole. But in basic judgments I’m quite cautious. Something is fundamentally wrong here. There is no reasonable explanation for the simple facts we see other than that Russia has some kind of hold over President Trump.
I know that sounds wild and I have a very hard time sometimes quite believing it myself. But it’s so overwhelmingly obvious that we need to get real with ourselves and recognize what is happening. I don’t know what the specific details are. I don’t know whether Russia has some compromising information on the President, whether they have enticed him with personal enrichment. I truly don’t know. But none of the standard explanations – truculence, trolling, anger over questioning the legitimacy of his election – none of them remotely add up as an explanation. In the future, when we know more details, we will have a difficult time explaining how any serious people continued to think there could be an innocent explanation.
Brian Buetler at Crooked Media: Trump and Putin Colluded in Public.
President Trump hosted a bilateral press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday and colluded with him on a global stage.
Zhang Yaowu – Girl with cat
In examining such a varied and unhinged performance, it’s important to filter out background noise, which tells us nothing new, and isolate new and specific signs of corruption that can’t arguably be characterized as twisted forms of statecraft.
Trump has left a key under the mat for Putin to meddle in future elections on behalf of Republicans, and continued to welcome more interference today, with Putin standing by his side, but this time he hinted that he’d be willing to reciprocate for such illegal assistance by allowing Putin to breach American intelligence.
The press conference went fully off the rails near the end, when rather than defend the U.S. election system against Russian meddling, Trump spouted anti-Democratic conspiracy theories, and cut the legs out from under his intelligence chiefs—particularly Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats—by accepting Putin’s election-sabotage denials over their conclusions.
Coats, et al, “said they think it’s Russia,” Trump noted. “I have President Putin,Cl he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Because Trump humiliated his own cabinet, he has revived questions about whether his comments will prompt resignations, or whether his aides and allies will remain complicit in Russian cyberattacks on the American political system. But our predicament is actually bleaker than that, and the fact that Republicans in Congress will almost certainly do nothing about what just happened effectively guarantees that Trump and Putin will soon consummate a new corrupt bargain to further subvert American democracy.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey.
No matter how low your expectations for the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Monday, it was hard not to be staggered by the American president’s slavish and toadying performance.
An Old Woman with a Cat, Max Liebermann
On Friday, the Justice Department indicted 12 members of Russia’s military intelligence service for a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The same day, Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, gave a speech about America’s vulnerability to cyberattacks, particularly from Russia. “I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again,” he said, comparing the threat to the one that preceded Sept. 11.
But standing beside Putin in Helsinki on Monday, Trump sided with the Russian president against American intelligence agencies while spewing lies and conspiracy theories. “He just said it’s not Russia,” he said of Putin’s denials. “I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Continuing in a free-associative fugue, he asked, “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the D.N.C.?” referring to a debunked right-wing claim about a former Democratic I.T. staffer. “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.”
Perhaps the most sinister part of the news conference was Trump’s seeming openness to a deal in which F.B.I. investigators could question people in Russia in exchange for letting Russians question Putin critics in America. Putin referred specifically to associates of his arch-nemesis Bill Browder, a businessman (and British citizen) who has succeeded in getting seven countries, including the United States, to pass laws punishing Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption. (The Russians who met with members of the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in June 2016 wanted to discuss this law, the Magnitsky Act.)
Read more at the NYT.
Mark Lander at the New York Times: Trump Sheds All Notions of How a President Should Conduct Himself Abroad.
President Trump, who gleefully defies the norms of presidential behavior, went somewhere in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday where none of his predecessors have ever gone: He accepted the explanation of a hostile foreign leader over the findings of his own intelligence agencies.
The woman with the cat, 1900, Pablo Picasso
Mr. Trump’s declaration that he saw no reason not to believe President Vladimir V. Putin when he said the Russians did not try to fix the 2016 election was extraordinary enough. But it was only one of several statements the likes of which no other president has uttered while on foreign soil.
He condemned the Justice Department’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our country.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”
In the fiery, disruptive, rules-breaking arc of Mr. Trump’s statecraft, his assertions during a news conference with Mr. Putin marked a new milestone, the foreign policy equivalent of Charlottesville.
More at the link.
A few more reads, links only:
Max Boot at The Washington Post: We just watched a U.S. president acting on behalf of a hostile power.
The Washington Post: ‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin.
Axios: Trump officials embarrassed by Putin show.
The Daily Beast: The Republican Party Is Now the Blame America Party.
MSNBC just reported that Trump’s daily intelligence briefing has been cancelled. I’m not sure what that means.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread below.
Posted: July 14, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Foreign Affairs, U.S. Politics | Tags: bum's rush, children separated from parents, Donald Trump, Greenpeace, GRU, immigration, indictment of 12 Russian military officers, Queen Elizabeth, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Scotland, Turnberry
Trump in Scotland
Trump is at his golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, and protesters are out in force there as they were in England. The Guardian:
Trump and his wife Melania arrived in Scotland on board Air Force One on Friday evening, before travelling by motorcade to his Trump Turnberry resort in Ayrshire.
By lunchtime, about 50 protesters had congregated on Turnberry beach. Just before 2pm, the US president appeared on the golf course and waved at the gathering on the beach, to be met with booing and chants of “no Trump, no racist USA”. Meanwhile, close to 10,000 marchers were streaming through the streets of Edinburgh, ending up in the Meadows park to the south of the city centre, where families sat in the sunshine and enjoyed picnics, music and speeches from local activists….
Towards the back of the crowd, the six-metre Trump baby balloon was straining against its tethers in the wind. Organiser Leo Murray described how a crew of “babysitters” had travelled up from London overnight on the sleeper train to fly the blimp at Saturday’s protest.
Murray had originally hoped to fly the balloon, which depicts Trump as an angry baby wearing a nappy, at his Turnberry course, but Police Scotland denied permission on security grounds.
Nevertheless, a Greenpeace protester managed to breach the no-fly zone on a hang glider with a sign reading ““Trump: well below par #resist” (see photo at the top of this post). Thank you to the people of Scotland for standing in solidarity with the U.S. resistance. I’m proud of my Scottish heritage today.
And while we’re talking about Trump’s Scottish golf course, be sure to check out this piece by Adam Davidson at The New Yorker: Where Did Donald Trump Get Two Hundred Million Dollars to Buy His Money-Losing Scottish Golf Club?
Between meeting the Queen of England and Vladimir Putin, President Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry. This property has not received the attention it deserves. It is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. It is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.
No doubt, the President will be excited to visit. After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016. The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low—about $1.5 million per month—that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses….
President Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when Jonathan O’Connell, David A. Fahrenthold, and Jack Gillum revealed in a Washington Post story in May that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects. In the nine years before he ran for President, the Post reported, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In fifteen years, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Trump meets Queen Elizabeth
Yesterday, just as Rod Rosenstein was preparing to announce indictments of the 12 Russians who were responsible for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign email servers and disseminating embarrassing information designed to hurt Hillary and help Trump during the 2016 election, Donald Trump was meeting with the Queen of England. And he managed to turn that into a clusterfuck just as he has everything else on his disastrous European trip.
The Washington Post: ‘Did Donald Trump just WALK IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN?’
It’s generally quite difficult to upstage the queen of England, but President Trump might have managed to do so.
Trump and Queen Elizabeth II met Friday as part of his working visit to the United Kingdom….
Trump’s walk with the queen during an inspection of guardsmen quickly became a hot topic.
Described as “cringeworthy” and “uncomfortable” viewing on social media, footage of their walk together came under intense scrutiny. While touring the castle grounds, Trump maintained a relatively brisk walk, which saw the queen, at times, fall behind him as he led the way.
At one point, the queen can be seen gesturing to Trump, although it’s unclear what exactly she may have been referring to. On social media, some speculated that Trump was being instructed on which side of her he should walk.
If that was the case, the president didn’t grasp the message.
The Trumps also arrived late for tea, making the Queen wait, and they did not bow or curtsy when they met her. That’s considered optional, but most people don’t opt to simply shake hands as the Trumps did. At least Trump didn’t do his vise grip and pull handshake with her. Then the Queen gave the Trumps the bum’s rush, ending the meeting after about half an hour.
Trump is a crude, crass, and classless pig. What an embarrassment that he is “president.” The Russians got exactly what they wanted. By contrast, the Obama’s got the full royal treatment.
Two great reads on the Mueller indictment released yesterday
Dan Friedman at Mother Jones: Mueller’s Indictment of 12 Russian Spies is Very Bad for Trump.
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday obtained an indictment of 12 members of a Russian military intelligence agency for hacking Democratic party emails during the 2016 election—a rebuke to President Trump, who has refused to fully acknowledge Russia’s election interference, just three days before his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.
The indictment, announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will probably not lead to immediate prosecutions—it doesn’t accuse any Americans of crimes, as the White House was quick to point out, and it’s unlikely that Russia will allow extradition of its own officials—but the charges are still a big deal in the Trump-Russia investigation and they offer extensive new details on how the Russian hacking effort actually worked.
Click on the link to read the “key takeaways.”
Emptywheel: The Russian Hack.
Mueller’s team just announced (and announced the transfer, as I predicted) of the Russian hack indictment, naming 12 GRU officers for the hack of the Hillary campaign, the DNC, and the DCCC. This will be a working thread.
Rod Rosenstein, as he did with the Internet Research Agency, made clear there are no Americans named in this indictment (and that those who interacted with Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks did not know they were interacting with Russians). That said, here are some of the interesting nods in it.
Again, click on the link to read the “interesting nods.” and Emptywheel’s timeline.
Trump’s Immigration Mess
Foreign Policy: White House Official Who Advocated for Refugees Sacked and Escorted From Office.
Jennifer Arrangio (center)
A senior White House official, Jennifer Arangio, was fired Thursday and escorted from her office, ending a turbulent tenure that saw her clashing with President Donald Trump’s most hard-line advisors over human rights and refugee issues, according to several current and former U.S. officials.
The officials said Arangio, a senior director for international organizations and alliances at the National Security Council, had fallen out of favor with Trump aide Stephen Miller over the number of refugees who should be allowed to enter the United States.
She had also sparred with Miller over continuing U.S. participation in international negotiations on a global migration compact, insisting that the United States could better shape international policies on migration from inside the tent.
She lost the argument, but Miller remained embittered by the rift, the officials said. When Arangio sought his endorsement for a position in the State Department, he refused to take a meeting with her.
Adding to the tension, Arangio had defended the State Department’s embattled refugee bureau amid campaigns by other top Trump aides to dismantle or defund it — efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by Congress.
“This is a disaster for the bureau,” one State Department official said. “She is really a good ally.”
Have your handkerchiefs ready for this one at The New York Times: Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention.
Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.
Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.
Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.
“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala.
Small, slight and with long black hair, Leticia was separated from her mother after they illegally crossed the border in late May. She was sent to a shelter in South Texas — one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup. They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10.
The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.
Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.
This is a must read, even though the stories of these children are heartbreaking. Trump and his minions must be held accountable for this outrage.
Posted: July 12, 2018 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics
Activists inflate a giant balloon depicting US President Donald Trump as an orange baby in north London…ahead of a demonstration in London to coincide with the visit of the US president. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images)
As expected, Trump made a complete fool of himself at the NATO meeting, embarrassing his aides, attacking our allies, lying repeatedly, and generally throwing his weight around in a sustained tantrum. Then at a ridiculous impromptu press conference he once again referred to himself as “a very stable genius.”
The Washington Post: Trump says NATO nations make major new defense spending commitments after he upends summit.
BRUSSELS — President Trump reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO on Thursday, after he upended a summit here to admonish leaders and demand that they quickly increase their defense spending.
Trump’s ambush jolted the transatlantic alliance, and some diplomats perceived his comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared in a news conference, “I believe in NATO,” and, as he prepared to depart Brussels, he reiterated that the United States is committed to its Western allies.
“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels never thought of before.”
NATO member nations committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. It was not immediately clear what specific new commitments had been made. Trump said that leaders responded to his demands by agreeing to reach that goal soon.
“It was not immediately clear” because Trump was lying as usual.
Trump’s focus on defense spending rocked the NATO summit on its final day. He used a morning meeting to discuss Georgia and Ukraine, two countries with tense relations with Russia to trumpet his spending concerns and rail against European countries, including Germany and Spain, for failing to contribute more to their defenses and for relying too heavily on the largesse of the United States. The moment sent “everyone into a tailspin,” according to one diplomat briefed on the morning’s events. Trump came armed with facts and figures, and it appeared to be a well-planned attack.
In the closed-door session, Trump told his counterparts that if they did not meet their defense spending targets of 2 percent of gross domestic product by January, the United States would go it alone, according to two officials briefed on the meeting. The officials said Trump threatened to “do his own thing.” [….]
Another official who was in the room said that Trump read out the spending figures for every single NATO nation, sometimes telling leaders: “My friend, you’re so nice to me. I’m sorry you’re spending so little.”
Trump then held an impromptu news conference, where he was asked whether he could withdraw the United States from NATO without congressional approval. The president replied, “I think I probably can, but that’s unnecessary.” He added: “The people have stepped up today” as they never have before. “Everyone in the room thanked me. There was a great collegial spirit in that room. . . . Very unified, very strong. No problem.”
At a breakfast meeting yesterday, Trump embarrassed his aides with a diatribe against Germany. USA Today: Power breakfast: How Trump lambasted Germany over eggs and fruit salad.
BRUSSELS – President Donald Trump aired his grievances against one of America’s closest and most powerful allies on Wednesday, deepening the growing rifts on the North Atlantic alliance and setting a contentious tone for a summit of NATO leaders who have pledged to defend each other in the event of an attack from Russia….
“Good morning to the media – the legitimate media and the fake-news media,” Trump began. With cameras whirring in unison, a reporter asked Trump which countries he thought should be paying more for the collective defense of NATO.
“Just look at the chart. Take a look at the chart. It’s public. And many countries are not paying what they should,” Trump said. “So something has to be done, and the Secretary General has been working on it very hard.” [….]
Soon, Trump was no longer addressing the media but looking directly at Stoltenberg, using him as a stand-in for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He complained about a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany that the German government approved.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” Trump complained.
You’ve probably seen the video of the breakfast tantrum by now. If not, you can watch it at the Washington Post: When Trump attacked Germany in Brussels, his aides pursed their lips and glanced away.
Angela Merkel gives Russia “captive” Trump the side-eye.
Trump begins by citing German imports of Russian gas as evidence that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg remains stoic as Trump lays out his complaint, but U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly look uncomfortable. Hutchison appears to avert her gaze from her NATO colleagues sitting across from her, while Kelly looks down, then shifts his body and glances away, lips pursed tightly.
Of course, it’s impossible to say exactly what was going through the minds of Trump’s aides.
In a statement to The Post, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.”
Except, according to the USA Today article, they had eggs and fruit salad for breakfast. Good old Sarah Sanders, pathologically lying again.
Patrick Stewart, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, said Kelly’s facial reaction at that moment can be described as a combination of a “chin-raiser” and a “lip-corner dimpler,” both of which are associated with annoyance. “He’s expressing with his lower face that he’s displeased, maybe irritated,” said Stewart, who is certified in the Facial Action Coding System used by experts to break down human facial movement. “It’s not really hardcore anger.”
Mary Civiello, an executive communications coach with 15 years of experience studying body language, agreed. She noted that Kelly rarely looked directly at Trump, suggesting that he is “not completely synced up” with what the president is saying.
Typically, when people are “involved in a persuasive effort together,” those in nonspeaking roles will gaze at the person who is talking, occasionally nod to reinforce what they are saying and then look at those on the opposite side of the table to convey a sense of unity, Civiello said. In contrast, she said, Kelly looks away from the table and at the ceiling but rarely at Trump or at the NATO representatives across from him.
“Kelly looks like he wants to be anywhere but where he is,” Civiello said.
Read more body language analysis at the the WaPo. In summary, the entire Trump performance was a complete clusterfuck.
Now Trump is off to the UK to embarrass us further. I hope he’ll see at least some of the demonstrations against his visit. There is currently an effort to fly the Trump baby balloon over one of his golf courses in Scotland while he’s there.
Politico: Call for giant baby-Trump balloon to fly over Scottish golf course.
A petition has been started calling for a giant inflatable of Donald Trump as an angry baby to be flown over the Scottish golf course where the U.S president is expected to play Saturday.
The inflatable — which portrays Trump as a baby with a diaper, combover and smartphone — has already been given permission to fly near the parliament in London during Trump’s visit on Friday, after a petition called “Let Trump Baby Fly” garnered over 10,000 signatures….
More than 6,100 people had signed the petition for the balloon to be flown in Scotland as of Thursday lunchtime. It calls on the acting head of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, to authorise the flying of the six-metre high balloon near the Turnberry golfing resort on the west coast of Scotland, which is owned by Trump and where he is anticipated to spend the private leg of his British trip.
The other big story is Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I want to highlight a story about his that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention so far.
Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars: Brett Kavanaugh May Have A Jim Jordan Problem.
Reach back into your memory to December, 2017, when 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski abruptly “retired” amid a cascade of accusations about how he harassed his clerks and others.
Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, and then served alongside him to screen clerks for Anthony Kennedy.
Heidi Bond, a former clerk of Kozinski’s and now a romance novelist writing as Courtney Milan, wrote a wrenching first-person account of what it was like to work with him. In her account, she describes Kozinski pulling up pornographic photos and asking her opinion of them. But worse — far worse — than that was his constant abuse of power and bullying.
As an example, one day, my judge found out I had been reading romance novels over my dinner break. He called me (he was in San Francisco for hearings; I had stayed in the office in Pasadena) when one of my co-clerks idly mentioned it to him as an amusing aside. Romance novels, he said, were a terrible addiction, like drugs, and something like porn for women, and he didn’t want me to read them any more. He told me he wanted me to promise to never read them again.
“But it’s on my dinner break,” I protested.
He laid down the law—I was not to read them anymore. “I control what you read,” he said, “what you write, when you eat. You don’t sleep if I say so. You don’t shit unless I say so. Do you understand?”
There was nothing to say but this: “Yes, Judge.”
This sort of diatribe was a regular occurrence. The judge had incredibly high standards, and when we failed to meet them, we were raked over the coals. I do not think a week passed without at least one such outburst; during bad times, they were a daily occurrence.
Kozinski’s despicable treatment of women was an open secret according to Alexandra Brodsky. “In law school, everyone knew, and women didn’t apply to clerk for Judge Kosinski despite his prestige and connections to the Supreme Court,” she wrote on Twitter. That meant more openings for men — openings that would lead to a clerkship on the Supreme Court for the rest of them.
Kavanaugh had to know about Kosinki’s behavior. So far the story has only appeared in one major outlet, McClatchy: Opponents of Brett Kavanaugh hope a MeToo link will derail Trump’s high court pick. There’s also a piece at Above the Law: Did Brett Kavanaugh Know About Alex Kozinski? Will anybody ASK him?
Another good read on Kavanaugh by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Brett Kavanaugh Was a Mistake.
Over what I believe to be a surprisingly authentic warning from Mitch McConnell not to select Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left by Anthony Kennedy, the president chose the guy who had the most to say about imperial presidents. This is not a surprise. Beyond the fact that Kennedy doubtless approved of Trump’s selection—Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, clerked for Kennedy—the single greatest selling point for Kavanaugh had to have been the much-reported line from his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which he wrote, “Even in the absence of congressionally conferred immunity, a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” A President Trump seeking justification to immunize himself from prosecution needed to look no farther than Kavanaugh’s caution in that same article that the indictment and trial of a president “would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.” [….]
But the problem for Trump is that Kavanaugh has been extraordinarily transparent—perhaps too transparent—about his affinity for broad constructions of executive power. Nevertheless, the president—whose administration is currently the subject of a wide-ranging criminal investigation—somehow chose the judge who’s most likely to endorse the Trumpian view that this is all a massive witch hunt, this despite the gamble that Kavanaugh’s selection makes him look guilty. Pro tip: It makes him look guilty.
To be sure, as Jed Shugerman notes, Kavanaugh’s law-review article doesn’t promise presidential immunity so much as suggest that Congress can and should confer such immunity. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh’s lengthy and complicated record with respect to presidential investigations (ranging from his work on Vince Foster’s suicide to his zealous pursuit of Bill Clinton in the Whitewater probe) will require the review of a massive trove of documents from his time at the White House and working for Ken Starr, an endeavor that will consume huge amounts of time. And Kavanaugh’s record will include emails on so many questions connected to the Mueller probe—including issues that Trump himself has raised such as the nature of presidential obstruction and presidential immunity—that a deep dive into that record will ensure (as if it needed ensuring) that the Mueller probe stays in the headlines in the runup to the midterm elections.
Read the rest at Slate. It’s very interesting.
So . . . What stories are you following today?
Posted: July 10, 2018 Filed under: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, court rulings, Criminal Justice System, morning reads, SCOTUS, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights | Tags: abortion, Anthony Kennedy, Birth Control, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, same-sex marriage, U.S. Supreme Court
The Four Justices, Nelson Shanks, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Last night thug “president” Trump did his ridiculous PT Barnum act with his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to replace Anthony Kennedy. Supposedly, Trump was deciding among about four candidates, but it turns out the fix may have been in all along.
Has any other president made a deal with a Supreme Court Justice to appoint a chosen replacement?
From Politico: How a private meeting with Kennedy helped Trump get to ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh.
After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk….
So even as Trump dispatched his top lawyers to comb though Kavanaugh’s rulings and quizzed allies about whether he was too close to the Bush family, potentially a fatal flaw, the president was always leaning toward accepting Kennedy’s partiality for Kavanaugh while preserving the secret until his formal announcement, sources with knowledge of his thinking told POLITICO.
I’m sure we’ll be learning more about this, and I hope Democrats respond aggressively.
Basic background on Kavenaugh
NBC News: Who is Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?
President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick is no stranger to partisan politics: Before becoming a judge, he was helping make the case for the impeachment of Bill Clinton and later for the election of George W. Bush.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh
Twenty years ago, Kavanaugh’s story starts amid the highly politicized independent counsel investigation into Clinton. He worked for Starr as a young Yale Law graduate, first when Kenneth Starr was solicitor general and later in the Office of the Independent Counsel, where Kavanaugh was a key player in the slew of investigations into the Clintons, including the Whitewater scandal, the suicide of White House counsel Vincent Foster and Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
The Starr Report to Congress laid out the details of Clinton and Lewinsky’s affair and findings of potential wrongdoing by the president. Kavanaugh was the primary author of the section on the grounds for possible impeachment, Starr would reportedly later say,because “that needed to be very carefully crafted, so I was looking to one of the office’s most talented lawyers — of superb and balanced judgment — to take the lead in drafting.” [….]
He was a member of the GOP legal team fighting to stop the recount in Florida to clear the way for Bush’s election against Al Gore in 2000, later taking a job in the Bush White House in 2001, where he’d serve for five years as counsel and later staff secretary until his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006.
The Washington Post: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, has sided with broad views of presidential powers.
Brett M. Kavanaugh, the federal judge nominated by President Trump on Monday to the Supreme Court, has endorsed robust views of the powers of the president, consistently siding with arguments in favor of broad executive authority during his 12 years on the bench in Washington.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
He has called for restructuring the government’s consumer watchdog agency so the president could remove the director and has been a leading defender of the government’s position when it comes to using military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects.
Kavanaugh is “an unrelenting, unapologetic defender of presidential power” who believes courts can and should actively seek to rein in “large swaths of the current administrative state,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck, who closely follows the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Kavanaugh’s record suggests that if he is confirmed, he would be more to the right than the man he would replace, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom he clerked. Kavanaugh has staked out conservative positions in cases involving gun rights, abortion and the separation of powers.
Read more details at both of those links.
What Kavanaugh Would Likely Do on the Court
Slate: How Brett Kavanaugh Will Gut Roe v. Wade
Kavanaugh is an obvious choice for Trump. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, he has maintained staunchly conservative credentials without earning a reputation for being a bomb-thrower. Unless Republican Sen. Susan Collins grows a spine, which she won’t, he has a clear path to Senate confirmation. During his hearings, Kavanaugh will claim he cannot reveal his true feelings about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion access. But there is little doubt that Kavanaugh will gut Roe at the first opportunity. Indeed, he has already provided a road map that shows precisely how he’ll do it.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Kavanaugh was forced to confront the abortion question in 2017 after the Trump administration barred an undocumented minor, known as Jane Doe, from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on Doe’s behalf, and the dispute came before a three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit. Kavanaugh was joined on the panel by Judge Karen L. Henderson, an arch-conservative, and Judge Patricia Millett, a moderate liberal. Doe, who was being held in a federally funded Texas shelter, had already obtained the necessary judicial bypass to get an abortion. But the Trump administration refused to let her see an abortion provider, instead sending her to an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center.”
By that point, Doe would be about 18 weeks pregnant. Texas bans abortion after 20 weeks, and the procedure becomes more dangerous as the pregnancy advances. Moreover, the process of finding and verifying a sponsor for an undocumented minor frequently takes weeks or months. And Doe’s lawyers had already searched for a possible sponsor, to no avail. Kavanaugh’s ostensible compromise, then, was nothing of the sort. At best, it would force Doe to suffer through her unwanted pregnancy for at least two more weeks, increasing the odds of complications when she was finally able to obtain an abortion. At worst, it meant the government could run down the clock to the point that an abortion would become illegal.
Luckily for Doe, the full D.C. Circuit swiftly reversed Kavanaugh’s decision and allowed her to terminate her pregnancy, which she did. This move prompted Kavanaugh to write a bitter dissent explaining why the government’s bar on Doe’s abortion was not, in fact, an undue burden.
Read the rest at Slate.
The Daily Beast: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Pick, Is Probably the End of Abortion Rights and Same-Sex Marriage.
When President Trump Monday nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he probably doomed the right to abortion, same-sex marriage, and maybe even contraception….
Future justice Elena Kagan arging a campaign finance reform case before SCOTUS
…while Kavanaugh’s record on women’s and LGBT rights is sparse, it gives good reason to suspect that he could be the swing vote to strike down Roe v. Wade, the abortion-rights case. This, after all, is what Trump promised in 2016: that Roe would be “automatically” be overturned should he be elected. And Kavanaugh has been praised by numerous right-wing organizations.
In the case of Garza v. Hargan, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that an undocumented teenage immigrant was entitled to obtain an abortion without having to obtain familial consent (as is required in several states).
Kavanaugh vigorously dissented, asking, “Is it really absurd for the United States to think that the minor should be transferred to her immigration sponsor ― ordinarily a family member, relative, or friend ― before she makes that decision?”
Those are strong words, endorsing not only parental consent rules but enforcing them in extreme circumstances. If you are looking for signals that a Justice Kavanaugh would limit or overturn Roe, Garza is a giant red flare.
There’s also a possibility that Kavenaugh might not be right wing enough to satisfy some Republicans.
Kavanaugh may not be conservative enough to survive the confirmation process. There is even talk that conservatives might revolt against Kavanaugh, as they did in 2005 against George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers. The reason? Many conservatives wanted Kavanaugh to cast doubt on the teenager’s right to get an abortion at all, which another dissenting judge did.
Neal K. Katyal for respondents, Travel Ban case
Legally speaking, that objection is absurd. Not unlike “judicial minimalist” Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanaugh was discussing the case at issue, not some hypothetical issue. And he was responding to the circuit court’s holding, not writing an essay.
But there’s more. Some conservatives have pointed to dicta in another Kavanaugh opinion, a dissent in Priests for Life v. HHS, a case similar to Hobby Lobby involving the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement. While dissenting in favor of the Catholic religious organization objecting to the requirement, Kavanaugh wrote that the “the Government has a compelling interest in facilitating women’s access to contraception” because of a variety of factors, such as “reducing the number of unintended pregnancies would further women’s health, advance women’s personal and professional opportunities, reduce the number of abortions, and help break a cycle of poverty.”
Kavanaugh is writing here about the state’s interest in access to contraception, not whether an individual has a constitutional right to access it. Those are totally different questions. But Kavanaugh’s opinion doesn’t question the constitutional right either, which rests on the same foundations (substantive due process, privacy, family) as the right to obtain an abortion.
This one is a must read–lots of details on Kavenaugh’s record. Head over to The Daily Beast to read the rest.
Read more about Kavenaugh and abortion here:
One more from The New York Times editorial board: There’s So Much You Don’t Know About Brett Kavanaugh. And you probably won’t until it’s too late.
First, the awful lot: Judge Kavanaugh would shift the balance of constitutional jurisprudence to the right, creating a solid right-wing majority on the court possibly until the second half of the 21st century. While the somewhat unpredictable Justice Anthony Kennedy once served as the fulcrum for the court, that role will now go to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., a far more ideological conservative.
Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia, has been a fixture in conservative politics and is widely respected by the Republican elite. Before becoming a judge, he clerked for Justice Kennedy and worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, and later in the George W. Bush White House. He successfully portrayed himself in his remarks at the White House as a nice guy who coaches girls in basketball, feeds the homeless and believes in the Constitution.
What Americans can’t know about Judge Kavanaugh: pretty much anything else. That’s thanks to the perversion of the Supreme Court confirmation process, which once provided the Senate and the public with useful information about a potential justice’s views on the Constitution, but which has, ever since the bitter battle over President Ronald Reagan’s failed nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, devolved into a second-rate Samuel Beckett play starring an earnest legal scholar who sits for days at a microphone and labors to sound thoughtful while saying almost nothing.
Read the rest at the NYT.
I know there’s plenty of other news, but this is the biggie for today. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and try to have a good day despite the horrors all around us.
Posted: July 7, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Foreign Affairs, U.S. Politics
Henri Matisse, The three sisters, 1916-17
First a bunch of Republicans spend the Fourth of July in Russia sucking up to Russian government leaders in order to “smooth the way” for the upcoming July 16 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki; now Glenn Greenwald is over there defending Trump on RT. A couple of lowlights of the interview:
RT: Glenn, you are now in Russia. Going to Russia is seen in the West as almost treason now, even worse than during the times of the Soviet Union. Why do you think that is?
G.G: There is an obsession in the United States with viewing Russia not just as an adversary, but as an actual enemy. It’s permeated by both political parties. There is actual talk a lot now about how what they regards as the interference in the 2016 election is similar to Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked the United States during World War II, or Al Qaeda and 9/11. And there is the sense that Russia is now an enemy on par with Al Qaeda or the Japanese during WWII.
Of course Glenn doesn’t believe Trump is involved in a conspiracy with Russia.
RT: Have the last two years of inquiries and reports convinced you that Trump colluded with Russia?
G.G: No, if anything, it’s convinced me that it’s more unlikely than ever. There are factions within the intelligence community of the United States, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI that hate Donald Trump and will do anything to destroy him, including leaking classified information against him. I believe that if there were evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russian government, when it comes to the hacking of the DNC or the John Podesta emails, we would have seen in by now. We have not seen it by now.
Even people, who hate Donald Trump in the CIA, have tried to warn the Democrats: don’t expect there to be evidence of it; we don’t have evidence of it. But it’s like a religious belief to other people in the United States. And of course as we know religion doesn’t require evidence.
I don’t say it didn’t happen, because it could have happened. All I say is until there is evidence of it I don’t think we should believe it happened. And so far there is no evidence.
Glenn also sees little difference between Obama and Trump. You’d think as a gay man, he might be concerned about Trump’s hateful policies, but then Glenn doesn’t live in the U.S., so he probably doesn’t care what happens to our LGBT community. Read the rest at RT.
Just how much time has Trump spent talking to Putin? According to The Washington Post, he has given out his personal cell phone number to “a handful” of foreign leaders. Is Putin one of them? Are Trump and Putin talking during Trump’s “executive time” or when he snuggled under the covers in his private bedroom?
Some White House officials worry that Putin, who has held several calls with Trump, plays on the president’s inexperience and lack of detailed knowledge about issues while stoking Trump’s grievances.
The Russian president complains to Trump about “fake news” and laments that the U.S. foreign policy establishment — the “deep state,” in Putin’s words — is conspiring against them, the first senior U.S. official said.
“It’s not us,” Putin has told Trump, the official summarized. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”
In conversations with Trudeau, May and Merkel, Trump is sometimes assertive, brash and even bullying on issues he feels strongly about, such as trade, according to senior U.S. officials. He drives the conversation and isn’t shy about cutting off the allies mid-sentence to make his point, the officials said.
With Putin, Trump takes a more conciliatory approach, often treating the Russian leader as a confidant.
“So what do you think I should do about North Korea?” he asked Putin in their November 2017 telephone call, according to U.S. officials. Some of those officials saw the request for advice as naive — a sign that Trump believes the two countries are partners in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Other officials described Trump’s query as a savvy effort to flatter and win over the Russian leader, whose country borders North Korea and has long been involved in diplomacy over its nuclear program.
Click on the link above to read the whole scary article.
Secretary of State Mike Pomeo has been over in North Korea trying to clean up the mess Trump made at his summit with Kim Jong Un.
The Washington Post: North Korea calls U.S. attitude toward talks ‘regrettable,’ rejecting Pompeo’s claim meetings were ‘productive.’
Just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed North Korea after two days of nuclear negotiations, North Korea sharply criticized the U.S. team’s attitude as “regrettable,” and accused the U.S. of making unilateral demands of denuclearization.
The remarks from North Korea’s foreign ministry directly contradicted statements made by Pompeo that the visit made “progress on almost all of the central issues” and involved “good-faith negotiations.”
The Foreign Ministry statement, issued by an unnamed spokesman, said the U.S. violated the spirit of the June 12 Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The mixed messages followed a visit in which Pompeo did not meet with the North Korean leader while in the country and did not secure a breakthrough in forging a shared understanding of denuclearization.
Pompeo has come under increasing pressure to produce tangible results from the summit that President Trump quickly touted as a game-changing moment that eliminated North Korea’s nuclear threat.
But analysts said the reality is now sinking in that any final accord between the two nations to eliminate Pyongyang’s sophisticated nuclear and missile arsenal will be a long slog with no guarantee of success.
Gee, no kidding. Who could have predicted that?
The horror stories of immigrant children separated from their parents are coming thick and fast now. Dakinikat posted this PBS link yesterday, but I’m posting it again for anyone who missed it. It consists of
“powerful personal testimonies from parents, children and other family members who were directly impacted by the Trump policy. It also included declarations from the state attorneys general offices, elected representatives, advocates and child and immigration experts who have dealt with families separated at the border.”
Two new stories:
Reveal: Defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building.
A major U.S. defense contractor quietly detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets during three weeks of the Trump administration’s family separation effort, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.
Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led – one so young she was carried – into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate “shelters or any other type of housing” for children.
Defending the administration’s policy to separate families at the border in a May interview with NPR, White House chief of staff John Kelly promised: “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”
Whether or not these children were taken from their parents, that “whatever” for them was the vacant building tucked away in a midtown Phoenix neighborhood. It is not listed among shelters operating through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or on the state child care licensing website.
There are new cameras on the building, extra locks on the doors and a paper shredder bin directly outside the building’s side door. Neighbor Lianna Dunlap’s videos show workers pulling up in white vans and leading dazed children into the building. When she asked questions, she said the workers responded with silence or terse answers.
“There’s been times where I drive by and I just start crying because, you know, it’s right behind my house,” said Dunlap, her voice wavering. “I don’t know and I think that’s the worst part – not knowing what’s actually going on in there and just hoping that they’re OK.”
It’s horrifying, but please read the whole thing.
The Texas Tribune: The Trump administration is not keeping its promises to asylum seekers who come to ports of entry.
In the weeks since President Donald Trump’s now-rescinded family separation policy created chaos and confusion across the country, the messages from his administration and prominent Republican members of Congress have been clear: Seek asylum legally at official ports of entry and you won’t lose your kids. There may be armed Customs and Border Protection agents standing at the halfway points of bridges — but simply wait a few days, declare to them that you are seeking asylum, and you’ll get a fair shake.
A recent Department of Homeland Security news release says it’s a “myth” that the agency “separates families who entered at the ports of entry and who are seeking asylum – even though they have not broken the law.” The release also says the agency “is [not] turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry.”
Reading by the Oven (1961). Oksana Dmitrievna..
But there’s ample evidence to suggest otherwise. Court records and individual cases discovered by The Texas Tribune indicate that a number of asylum seekers who came to international bridges in Texas and California were separated from their children anyway — or were not able to cross the bridge at all after encountering armed Customs and Border Protection agents on the bridge. And experts argue there’s no basis to the government’s claim that there aren’t enough resources to process asylum seekers.
On top of that, experts say a quirk of U.S. immigration law might actually put people who try to seek asylum at the official ports of entry at a disadvantage to those who cross the border in other ways — such as wading across the Rio Grande. That’s because unlike people who cross the border illegally, asylum seekers who come to ports of entry are not eligible to be bonded out of immigration detention by a judge; instead, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have total discretion over whether they can be released.
Read the rest at the Texas Tribune.
One more from Huffington Post: Friday’s Hearing Gave Us a Glimpse of How Many Kids Might Be Orphaned by Family Separation. The article calls attention to the possibility that a number of separated kids may never be reunited with their parents.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the hearing on Friday was the number of parents who the government has been unable to find after taking their very young children.
The Department of Justice attorney, Sarah Fabian, said the government had identified 101 children younger than 5 who might fall within the judge’s order. Two parents of those children, the government argues, have criminal records that render them unfit to be reunited with their children. Fabian said 19 parents had been released from custody into the United States and 19 had been deported. The government does not know where at least some of these parents are.
The Courthouse News Service reported that there are “86 parents who have been in contact with 83 children under 5 who are in federal custody.” These numbers indicate that roughly 16 children have not had contact with their parents, who may be missing following deportations or release into the United States.
This raises the terrifying possibility that 16 children younger than 5 may never see their parents again because of Trump’s unconstitutional child separation practices. The ACLU has promised to do everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen, but that outcome will depend greatly on how adept the administration is at undoing some of the damage it has already done.
On that awful note, I need to wind this up. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.