I don’t know what to think this morning. I’m still suspicious that AG Bill Barr may have ended the Mueller investigation prematurely. I guess we’ll learn more over the weekend. Reportedly, Barr is in his office today and CNN says we could get an update sometime today.
I’m reserving judgment for now, but I can help but be disappointed that Mueller didn’t charge anyone in Trump’s inner circle. Of course there are still multiple other investigations going on, but it looks like the Russia probe will now have be pursued in the House committees.
Some media reactions to check out:
Natasha Bertrand: What Mueller Leaves Behind.
After one year, 10 months, and six days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to the attorney general, signaling the end of his investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Mueller’s pace has been breakneck, legal experts tell me—especially for a complicated criminal investigation that involves foreign nationals and the Kremlin, an adversarial government. The next-shortest special-counsel inquiry was the three-and-a-half-year investigation of the Plame affair, under President George W. Bush; the longest looked into the Iran-Contra scandal, under President Ronald Reagan, which lasted nearly seven years. Still, former FBI agents have expressed surprise that Mueller ended his probe without ever personally interviewing its central target: Donald Trump.
The content of the special counsel’s report is still unknown—Mueller delivered it to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, and now it’s up to Barr to write his own summary of the findings, which will then go to Congress.
While aspects of the central pieces of Mueller’s investigation—conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and kompromat, the Russians’ practice of collecting damaging information about public figures to blackmail them with—have been revealed publicly through indictments and press-friendly witnesses, the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and Mueller’s own legacy, still hang in the balance. Did Trump’s campaign knowingly work with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton and win the election? And how much was Mueller actually able to uncover?
Bertrand breaks down the knowns and unknowns in each of the three categories above. Read it all at The Atlantic.
Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: After Mueller: An Off-Ramp on Russia for the Venal Fucks.
We don’t know what the Mueller report says, though given William Barr’s promise to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and follow it with a public summary, it’s not likely to be that damning to Trump. But I can think of five mutually non-exclusive possibilities for the report:
- Mueller ultimately found there was little fire behind the considerable amounts of smoke generated by Trump’s paranoia
- The report will be very damning — showing a great deal of corruption — which nevertheless doesn’t amount to criminal behavior
- Evidence that Manafort and Stone conspired with Russia to affect the election, but Mueller decided not to prosecute conspiracy itself because they’re both on the hook for the same prison sentence a conspiracy would net anyway, with far less evidentiary exposure
- There’s evidence that others entered into a conspiracy with Russia to affect the election, but that couldn’t be charged because of evidentiary reasons that include classification concerns and presidential prerogatives over foreign policy, pardons, and firing employees
- Mueller found strong evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, but Corsi, Manafort, and Stone’s lies (and Trump’s limited cooperation) prevented charging it
As many people have pointed out, this doesn’t mean Trump and his kin are out of jeopardy. This NYT piecesummarizes a breathtaking number of known investigations, spanning at least four US Attorneys offices plus New York state, but I believe even it is not comprehensive.
Read the rest at the link.
The New York Times: As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York.
Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.
Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business….
At this point, it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with a crime. Some of the investigations involve allegations that may be too old to be prosecuted. Yet taken together, the investigations show that the prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.
“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has finally completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, handing off his highly anticipated report to the attorney general on Friday. But legal experts warn that even though Mueller’s probe has stopped, there are still plenty more legal woes facing President Donald Trump.
“The Mueller investigation is but a fraction of the president’s troubles. If anything, it’s just the beginning,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek….
“I think that [the Mueller report] certainly is not the end-all, be-all for legal problems and ethics problems for the president,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Newsweek.
“There’s just a lot of really problematic conduct that is being investigated, and that’s not to say that what special counsel Mueller found is not going to be incredibly important…but there’s some danger to looking at whatever he produces as the definitive statement on whether or not this president did anything wrong,” he said.
Bookbinder added that Mueller has a “very narrow mandate” as the special counsel, but “there’s a whole lot more out there.”
Read more at Newsweek.
The Washington Post: At the center of Mueller’s inquiry, a campaign that appeared to welcome Russia’s help.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.
But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.
When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.
When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.
Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.
The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.
Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back.
But the mentions of “brief” and “confidential” in the regulations and accompanying commentary were just general guidelines for each type of report. The text of the regulations never required the attorney general’s report to Congress to be short or nonpublic. Rather, that text expressly included a key provision saying the “Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest,” even if the public release may deviate from ordinary Justice Department protocols.
Read the rest at The Washington Post.
That’s all I’ve got. I just hope we learn more soon, because I’m not feeling good about this sudden end to the investigation. I’ve heard that the report is extensive, so that may be a good sign. We’ll just have to wait for more information.
Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers! Hang in there. This is an open thread.
I’ve never been a fan of Joe Biden, so maybe I’ve just ignored his stance on reproductive rights. I did not know Biden was wobbly on the issue. I had even forgotten that Biden is a Catholic.
I couldn’t find anything recent on Biden’s abortion stance, except this piece at HuffPost from March 6: Biden In 1974: Women Don’t Have Sole Right To Say What Should Happen To Their Bodies.
When former Vice President Joe Biden was a freshman senator he said in a 1974 interview with Washingtonian that he believed the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling clearing the way for legal first-trimester abortions “went too far,” and that he didn’t “think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
In the interview, which took place just two years after Biden’s wife and two-year-old were killed in a car accident, Biden — then the youngest senator in U.S. history — said his anti-abortion views were part of his “socially conservative” outlook.
“My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known,” he said. “When it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother.”
Biden claims his remarks were “taken out of context.”
But Biden didn’t limit his anti-abortion views to rhetoric. He also advanced legislation on the subject.
In 1981, for example, Biden proposed the Foreign Assistance Act, which barred U.S. aid from being used for any medical research on abortion. It’s still in effect to this day. He has also voted in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion procedures.
He also supported former President Ronald Reagan’s “Global Gag Rule,” which prohibits the U.S. funding any nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on reproductive health care if they also offer abortion. President Trump was quick to revive it in 2017.
Biden’s approval rating from the pro-choice activist group NARAL has fluctuated throughout his career. In the 1990s, his score wavered between 34 and 46 percent ― a pretty abysmal scorecard for a Democrat. In recent years, however, it’s shot up to 100 percent.
Two articles on Biden and abortion from 2015:
In an exclusive interview with America released at the beginning of this week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. affirmed that pro-life people “absolutely, positively” are welcome in the Democratic party and that he believes, as a Catholic, that “abortion is always wrong.” His comments, very different from most contributions to the political conversation about abortion, are blurring some long-established lines in the culture wars and generating significant interest in the media and among commentators….
“It has been hard…I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God-fearing [and] non-God-fearing people that have a different view,” Biden said. He continued, “Abortion is always wrong…But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].” (See the exchange, which begins at the 13:30 mark, in the full interview embedded at the bottom of this post.)
Fr. Malone also asked Mr. Biden if there was room for people who are pro-life in the Democratic party. The Vice President responded resolutely: “Absolutely. Absolutely, positively. And that’s been my position for as long as I’ve been engaged.”
No. Just no. Anyone who is “pro-life” in the sense of opposing women’s reproductive rights should not be welcome in the Democratic Party.
Biden has been an inconsistent supporter of reproductive rights, sometimes backing the legal right of women to choose how to handle a pregnancy, while often hewing to his Catholic faith and moralizing against all abortions. Even today, when he and Clinton would most likely agree on most of the policy substance of ensuring access to abortion clinics, Biden sticks to a pro-life view in his personal politics.
During the early part of his career, abortion rights groups griped about Biden as an unreliable ally. “Joe Biden moans a lot and then usually votes against us,” a Planned Parenthood official said in 1986.
When he first entered national politics, Biden was willing to stand alongside politicians who wanted to make abortion illegal. In a Washingtonian profilepublished the year after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion, Biden unequivocally criticized the ruling. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion,” he said. “I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
He put that view into practice in 1982, voting in the Judiciary Committee for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned Roe v. Wade by declaring that the Constitution offered women no inherent right to abortion, and that the federal government and states would be free to regulate or ban abortion as they pleased. Under that amendment, state laws that restricted abortions would have superseded more permissive federal laws.
Read the rest at Mother Jones.
As Biden continues to agonize about getting into the 2020 presidential race, this is something that needs to be spread far and wide among Democrats. With Roe v. Wade likely to be overturned soon, Women cannot accept a candidate who doesn’t wholeheartedly support women’s right to control their own bodies.
The Kushners and the Trumps
I’m reading the new book by Vicky Ward, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. I can tell you that the Kushner family can definitely compete with the Trump’s in terms of corruption. Until now I had no idea just how much of a monster Charles Kushner is. No wonder Trump likes Jared so much. Ward was interviewed on Democracy Now this morning.
The New York Times has a story on the Kushners this morning: The Kingdom and the Kushners: Jared Went to Riyadh. So Did His Brother.
In late October 2017, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, dropped into Saudi Arabia for an unannounced visit to the desert retreat of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in the process of consolidating his power. The two men talked privately late into the night.
Just a day earlier, Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, then 32, was flying out of the kingdom.
Jared came to talk policy, but Josh was there on business.
The founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm, Josh Kushner had spent the three days before his brother’s arrival at an investor conference, where Prince Mohammed had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia.
As others sat through speeches in a gilded conference hall, several participants said, the younger Mr. Kushner frequently ducked out for more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials.
Some government ethics lawyers say those conversations — never hidden, but not previously reported — create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. Although Jared Kushner severed his ties with his brother’s company and divested his interest in his brother’s funds around the time he entered the White House, he was nonetheless discussing American policy with the rulers of the kingdom at virtually the same time that his brother was talking business with their top aides.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Mike Pence and Russia?
Check out this creepy scoop from Think Progress: Why was Franklin Graham schmoozing with a sanctioned Russian official this month?
Franklin Graham, America’s most prominent evangelical leader, says Vice President Mike Pence signed off on his trip to Russia earlier this month. While there, Graham met with sanctioned Kremlin officials — even as U.S. investigations ramped up into Moscow’s election interference efforts. One official Russian governmental social media account touted the meeting as a way to “[intensify] contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”
In an interview with RIA Novosti, a major Russian state-run outlet, Graham said he called Pence directly to tell him of the trip. “He was very happy to hear the news,” Graham said. “And he admitted that he fully supported my decision.”
Neither Pence’s office nor the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association responded to ThinkProgress’s requests for comment.
According to interviews in Russian media and photos on his own social media accounts, Graham, currently the chair of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, traveled to Moscow earlier this month to meet with a number of prominent Russian figures. Most notably, Graham had a sit-down meeting with Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and who has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Click on the link to read the rest.
More stories to check out, links only:
The New Republic: Nihilist In Chief: The Banal, Evil, All-Destructive Reign of Mitch McConnell.
The New York Times: Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras.
Trump Inc: Trump’s Moscow Tower Problem.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
Here we are on the first day of Spring 2019, and a madman is still “president.” He’s getting crazier and crazier with each passing day. Here’s proof, in case you need it:
What a fucking moron!
Then there are the moronic “B-boys.” There are four of them: Biden, Beto, Bernie, and now Buttigieg, the latest Democrat to dump on Hillary.
Hey Pete, Hillary’s slogan was “Stronger Together.” Are you sure you want to attack her millions of supporters who collectively said, “I’m with her?” Too late, you already did.
Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Beto, Biden and Bernie: The B-Boys and the media’s dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy.
As amorous embraces go, few could be more ardent than the one Beto O’Rourke got this month from Vanity Fair magazine.
The perfectly timed cover treatment was the full monty: Rugged-glam photo by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, the former Texas congressman’s earnest Kennedy-esque gaze, and the ripe-for-parody headline including this immortal quote: “I’m just born to be in it.”
Most Americans wouldn’t see the magazine itself, of course, but the rest of the news media — including network evening news — helped spread the image around as they gave over-the-top coverage to O’Rourke’s kickoff….
Somehow, despite a remarkably diverse Democratic field — which includes a record number of women, a gay man and several people of color — the B-Boys (that is, Beto, Biden and Bernie) — were off and running.
The news media undoubtedly was part of the equation. With more than 18 months to go before the 2020 election, the love and attention was not being dished out in equal measure.
As author Rebecca Traister described it, she woke up one morning this week thinking about the flawed notion that being a white man is actually a disadvantage, given this diverse field.
The reality is quite the opposite, she wrote on Twitter: “Early metrics would show it to be an extremely powerful polling & fundraising boon, as it has always, always been.”
And now we can add another B-boy to the list of white men getting all the attention.
I’m already sick and tired of the 2020 election campaign and it’s still early 2019.
More suggested reads and then some cartoons.
Barbara McQuade at USA Today:The bread crumb papers: Why Cohen document dump should worry Donald Trump and others.
Robin Marty at Politico: I Am an Abortion Rights Activist. I Hope the Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Centrists Have Great Bullshit Radar (in Sweden, Anyway).
Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: The Enigmatic Russian Paying Maria Butina’s Legal Bills.
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Everyone thinks they’re going to sell”: Hellfire at Fox as Hannity mulls leaving and Lachlan goes full Donna Brazile on Trump.
Even the cartoons aren’t funny anymore. Sad.
Some interesting news broke from the Justice Department this morning.
I wonder what it means? Check out this Twitter thread from Clint Watts:
Read the whole thing on Twitter. Here’s the conclusion:
Watts thinks it’s possible Barr already has the report, which isn’t going to be long review of everything Mueller found. As Marcy Wheeler long been arguing, Mueller is speaking through his court filings.
Before I get to the rest of today’s news, here’s the back story on the amazing photo at the top of this post.
When Lincoln, Maine-based photographer Roger Stevens Jr. was reviewing photos of a staredown between a squirrel and a bald eagle he took last Monday, he thought they looked “pretty sharp,” so he decided to share one on his Facebook page.
“I didn’t give it much of a thought after that,” Stevens said in an interview with Boston.com on Monday.
But it turns out Stevens had unknowingly struck viral gold.
The shares from the photo began to surge, which he thought was “kind of odd.” He sent the photo on to a contact at the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, which ran a story a couple days later, and to a local news station, as he sometimes does.
Stevens got calls about the photo from around the world. Here the background:
The fateful day began just like any other, Stevens described. He and his dog, Rosie, got up, had breakfast, and then headed out — Stevens says he “always” has his camera.
Stevens was looking for eagles specifically, he said. He’s published photo books on various animals before, and this is his latest project. He saw the eagle sitting in the tree next to the Rite Aid in the middle of Lincoln.
“It was kind of a gray day,” Stevens recalled. “Not a great day to film the eagle.”[….]
“The squirrel literally came from I don’t know where,” he said. “It raced up the tree and started just kind of like playing hide-and-seek with this eagle. And then it got really bold and stuck its neck out there in the picture that everybody sees. And I thought this is kind of odd, but I didn’t really think that much about it at the time.”
What Stevens had captured was an interaction between predator and prey — bald eagles eat squirrels and other small mammals, according to the National Eagle Center in Minnesota.
For those wondering what happened after the photo was taken, things didn’t end badly for the bold squirrel, according to Stevens. The eagle flew away after about 10 minutes.
The other big news this morning is the release of information about the Special Counsel’s investigation of Michael Cohen and the background to the FBI raid on Cohen’s offices.
The New York Times: Michael Cohen’s Emails Were Sought by Special Counsel in July 2017, Documents Show.
Federal authorities began investigating the email accounts of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, as early as July 2017, only months after Mr. Trump took office, according to documents unsealed on Tuesday.
The emails, dating back to January 2016, were sought by the office of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel conducting the Russia investigation, the documents show. The records show that Mr. Cohen’s business dealings had already been the subject of an extensive investigation by the time F.B.I. agents conducted a highly public raid on his home and office last April.
The records, including search warrants and materials related to the April raid, were among hundreds of pages of documents released in response to a request by The New York Times and other news organizations.
The materials that were unsealed on Tuesday came from F.B.I. searches last April on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment, hotel room and a safe deposit box.
The April 8, 2018, search warrant said that the F.B.I. and Manhattan federal prosecutors were investigating Mr. Cohen for a range of crimes, including defrauding several banks dating back to 2016 and a scheme “to make an illegal campaign contribution in October 2016 to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The warrant also indicated they were investigating him for wire fraud and conspiracy.
More stories on the Cohen documents:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators were allowed by a federal judge to review years of Michael Cohen’s emails and other online data from the time he worked under Donald Trump, according to newly unsealed warrants used in his case in Manhattan federal court.
In all, the prosecutors and FBI received permission from a Washington, DC-based federal judge to execute four search warrants on Cohen’s two Gmail accounts and for stored data in his Apple iCloud account in July, August and November 2017 — long before Cohen’s office was raided in April 2018 and he pleaded guilty in an illegal campaign contribution and tax prosecution led by Manhattan federal prosecutors.
Mueller also received approval on two separate occasions to track the numbers of Cohen’s incoming and outgoing calls.
The revelation gives new illumination to Mueller’s work throughout 2017 — before he had brought the bulk of his open criminal cases against defendants like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a host of Russians for interfering in the election — and shows how extensively Mueller had tracked computer data of those close to then-candidate Trump in the early days of his presidency.
The search warrants released Tuesday say that the special counsel’s office referred “certain aspects” of its investigation into Cohen to the New York-based US Attorney’s Office.
I wonder if this news explains Trump’s Twitter meltdown over the weekend? I’m sure we’ll being learning much more about what’s in these documents in the course of today. Marcy Wheeler has been tweeting about them; I look forward to her detailed analysis when she publishes it.
Interesting Mueller report speculation at Politico: Preet Bharara Expects a ‘Lengthy, Detailed’ Mueller Report.
[Bharara] thinks Robert Mueller, the special counsel brought in to investigate that allegedly tainted election after Trump fired Comey, will want to explain himself, at least privately. Bharara predicts Mueller will deliver a robust report to Attorney General William Barr that will lay out precisely why and how he decided to prosecute — or not — various individuals swept up in the Russia probe, including the president.
“He could give something bare-bones to the AG, because he’s said what he was going to say in publicly filed documents and indictments,” Bharara said in an interview. “Or, I think it’s slightly more likely — a hunch I have — that he’ll write a very lengthy, detailed document that goes into the prosecutions and the declinations at great length, with a lot of supporting exhibits as well.”
Then, he says, Barr will face an excruciating dilemma: how much of the report to reveal to Congress and to the public. Disclose too much, and he’ll anger his boss in the White House. Disclose too little, and Democrats will howl. With stakes this high, Americans’ confidence (or lack thereof) that Mueller’s inquiry has been rigorously impartial has become a proxy for our wheezing collective confidence in the justice system and even democracy itself, a subject that concerns Bharara greatly.
In leaky Washington, the broad outlines of such an explosive report likely wouldn’t stay hidden for long, Bharara predicts. “And once it is known that it’s” — he picks a number out of thin air — “a 480-page document, then let the games begin.”
Bharara argues that, unlike Clinton — or, say, a businessman suspected of defrauding a bank, but not ultimately charged with a crime — the president of the United States isn’t entitled to prosecutors’ silence. So even if Americans never find out why minor Russiagate figures such as Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner weren’t charged, Congress should be told what, if any, role the president played in Russia’s efforts to elect him, along with what he did to cover it up.
At the Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff scored an interview with Ukranian oligarch Dmytro Firtash: Indicted Oligarch Dmytro Firtash Praises Paul Manafort, Says Trump Has Third-Grade Smarts.
VIENNA, Austria—An indicted Ukrainian oligarch who faces years in an American prison joked about President Donald Trump’s intellect and distanced himself from Paul Manafort’s business dealings in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast at his palatial corporate offices in Vienna.
Dmytro Firtash is a Ukrainian oligarch-in-exile who controls much of the country’s natural gas distribution. He also befriended Manafort, did business with Russia’s state-owned gas behemoth, and became a target of Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He’s been a constant presence in the background of the story of Russian influence in the American elections—but now, he says American influence on Ukraine is the real story.
Read the whole article to learn more about Firtash’s background. Here’s the meat of the story:
Because of his work in the gas industry, Firtash also met a man who would become one of the globe’s most notorious thugs: Semion Mogilevich, a Russian mob boss who has spent years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Before he was poisoned in the U.K., ex-Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko claimed Putin and Mogilevich had a “good relationship,” as Business Insiderdetailed.
“Half of the Soviet Union knows him, everyone knows him,” Firtash said. “He’s from Ukraine. Everyone knows him, I’m not the only one who knows him. As I remember, we met in one gas company, but I don’t want to name it.” [….]
Firtash’s acquaintance with Mogilevich drew public interest in 2010, when WikiLeaks posted a tranche of stolen State Department cables. One cable, from the American embassy in Kiev, detailed a conversation Firtash had with then-Ambassador Bill Taylor. According to the cable, Firtash claimed that he’d needed Mogilevich’s approval to get started in the gas trade. According to Firtash, the cable was a lie.
Mogilevich is known as the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mob and he’s on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Read more about him and Firtash at the link above.
One more Russia-related story from Politico: Nadler: ‘Tens of thousands’ of documents delivered in Trump obstruction probe.
The House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it received responses from a “large number” of the 81 individuals and entities who were asked to provide documents as part of the panel’s wide-ranging investigation into obstruction of justice allegations against President Donald Trump — but the committee was mum on details about who complied.
“I am encouraged by the responses we have received since sending these initial letters two weeks ago,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Monday, the deadline for document requests the committee sent on March 4.
“It is my hope that we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list, and will be working to find an appropriate accommodation with any individual who may be reluctant to cooperate with our investigation,” added Nadler.
The broad request for information came as the Judiciary Committee — the panel that has the power to launch impeachment proceedings against the president — kicked off its sweeping probe into allegations of corruption, abuses of power, and obstruction of justice against Trump.
Read the rest at Politico.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories have you been following?
I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.
I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.
Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.
But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.
A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]
On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”
Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.
Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”
In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”
Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.
In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.
There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.
President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.
On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.
“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.
That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”
It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.
Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:
David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.
More interesting reads to check out
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.
WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….
That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.
Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….
Among the new details revealed by the documents:
• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;
• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;
• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;
• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;
• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”
Read many more details at the link.
The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:
While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.
The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.
Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.
There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.
“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.
Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.
“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”
O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.
“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Are you ready to vote for a young white man with minimal experience who couldn’t carrry his home state and declares, “I’m just born to do this” about running for president? I guess I’m just too old and cynical to see the appeal of this guy. Joe Hagen has a profile of Beto O’Rourke at Vanity Fair. Here’s an excerpt:
Settling into an armchair in his living room, he tries to make sense of his rise. “I honestly don’t know how much of it was me,” he says. “But there is something abnormal, super-normal, or I don’t know what the hell to call it, that we both experience when we’re out on the campaign trail.”
O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, an educator nine years his junior, both describe the moment they first witnessed the power of O’Rourke’s gift. It was in Houston, the third stop on O’Rourke’s two-year Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. “Every seat was taken, every wall, every space in the room was filled with probably a thousand people,” recalls Amy O’Rourke. “You could feel the floor moving almost. It was not totally clear that Beto was what everybody was looking for, but just like that people were so ready for something. So that was totally shocking. I mean, like, took-my-breath-away shocking.”
For O’Rourke, what followed was a near-mystical experience. “I don’t ever prepare a speech,” he says. “I don’t write out what I’m going to say. I remember driving to that, I was, like, ‘What do I say? Maybe I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll take questions.’ I got in there, and I don’t know if it’s a speech or not, but it felt amazing. Because every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?
“There’s something that happens to me,” he says, “or that I get to be a part of in those rooms, that is not like normal life. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me before. I don’t know if that would happen again.”
“My sense is, following some success that I had in Congress, and working with Republicans to actually get things signed into law, including both President Obama and President Trump’s administrations, that I may have an ability to work with people who think differently than I do, come to a different conclusion that I’ve come to on a given issue, and yet find enough common ground to do something better than what we have right now.”
A few days before Trump arrives, while meeting with students at the University of Texas at El Paso, O’Rourke compares the battle against Trump to “every epic movie that you’ve ever seen, from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings. This is the moment where we’re going to win or lose everything.” O’Rourke likes to think in such mythic terms. As he quipped on the campaign trail, he named his son Ulysses because “I didn’t have the balls to call him Odysseus.” But in a private meeting with Barack Obama last November, the former president had asked Beto O’Rourke to consider if he had a clear path to the White House. Could he deliver Texas?
Michigan? Pennsylvania? Wisconsin?
“I don’t have a team counting delegates,” O’Rourke says, again invoking a politics not readily accessible by reason. “Almost no one thought there was a path in Texas, and I just knew it. I just felt it. I knew it was there, and I knew that with enough work and enough creativity and enough amazing people, if I’m able to meet them and bring them in, then we can do it.
“That’s how I feel about this,” he says. “It’s probably not the most professional thing you’ve ever heard about this, but I just feel it.”
But he lost in Texas. I guess there’s something wrong with me, but I just don’t get it. The stuff this guy says about himself makes me want to throw up.
Josh Voorhees at Slate: Beto 2020 Has No Reason to Exist: Of all the major candidates, he brings the least to the Democratic primary.
Beto O’Rourke is finally ready to end the suspense. The former Texas congressman is expected to formally kick off his presidential campaign Thursday, one day after tipping his hand to a local TV station in Texas. “I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke told KTSM El Paso via text. “It’s a big part of why I’m running.” His apparent confirmation came on the heels of a new Vanity Fair cover story—complete with glossy photo shoot—in which he told the magazine that he wanted to run. “I want to be in it,” he said, after describing our current political moment as an existential fight. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.” [….]
Beto is missing one important thing, though: an actual reason to run.
O’Rourke would enter the race as a man without a clear political ideology, a signature legislative achievement, a major policy issue, or a concrete agenda for the country. Those in the know tell the Atlantic that Beto is planning to run as a candidate “offering hope that America can be better than its current partisan and hate-filled politics, and that the country can come together,” but that—brace yourself—he hasn’t yet “landed on how he’ll propose to actually make that happen.” That’s more of the same empty words Beto’s been offering in public since his loss to Cruz. “I don’t know where I am on a [political] spectrum, and I almost could care less,” he said at a recent stop in Wisconsin. “I just want to get to better things for this country.”
“Beto 2020: Better Things” would not be the worst campaign slogan I’ve ever heard, but it’s nowhere near a fully formed vision of why O’Rourke thinks he should be president, or why Democrats of any stripe should want him to be. It’s possible that he’d be able to ride to the nomination on the force of his personality alone—it’s gotten him this far—but that would be a particular shame considering he’ll face one of the deepest and most diverse primary fields. If Democrats are in the market for soaring rhetoric about bridging the partisan divide, they can get that from Joe Biden, Cory Booker, or Amy Klobuchar—all of whom can offer their own specific cases for what that bipartisanship can produce, unlike O’Rourke.
A couple more Beto reads to check out:
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Beto O’Rourke Has a Good Reason He’s Running. He Just Can’t Say It.
Meanwhile, yesterday Paul Manafort got his second sentence in federal court and shortly thereafter, he was hit with state charges in New York. I love this headline from Vanity Fair: New York Prosecutors Knee Manafort in the Balls while He’s Doubled Over Coughing up Blood, by Beth Levin.
On Wednesday morning in a D.C. courtroom, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort engaged in what we assume was, for him, a deeply humiliating act: he expressed remorse, presumably for the first time in his 69 years on earth. Or, at least, he tried to. “I am sorry for what I’ve done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” he told Judge Amy Berman Jackson, claiming that he shouldn’t get more jail time for the copious federal crimes he committed because he is his adult wife’s “primary caretaker,” and the two of them need each other. “I know that it was my conduct that brought me here today,” Manafort added. “For that, I am remorseful. While I cannot undo the past, I can ensure that the future will be very different. . . . I can say to you with conviction that my behavior in the future will be very different.”
While that reasoning might have worked on Judge T.S. Ellis, who strangely argued last week that Manafort had led a “blameless life” outside of all the crime, Jackson wasn’t having it, sentencing him to an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges, and letting him know she saw right through his act: “Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency.” And, somehow, it’s unlikely that that was the worst part of Manafort’s day! Because literal minutes later, this happened:
New York prosecutors Wednesday announced criminal charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, only minutes after his sentencing in a federal case. The indictment, unveiled by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, charges Manafort with 16 counts related to mortgage fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records. . . . Crucially, Trump does not have pardon power for state charges.
The indictment from New York prosecutors alleges a yearlong scheme in which Manafort doctored business records to obtain millions in loans, and reportedly grew out of an investigation that started in 2017 when prosecutors started looking into loans Manafort had received from two banks. Last week, a grand jury moved to charge the guy who ran the president’s campaign with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, and a handful of other crimes. If he’s convicted of the most serious charges, he could spend up to a quarter of a century in prison. (The Times could not immediately reach Manafort’s legal team for comment.)
I love that headline. Read the rest at Vanity Fair.
This morning, Roger Stone will face Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He should be shaking in his boots after the tongue-lashing Jackson gave to Manafort and his attorneys yesterday.
That should be interesting. I’ll post update as I get them.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Is there some way I can just resign from the human race? I don’t want to live in the hell that the Trump gang has turned this country into. I’m also getting sick and tired of a lot of the people who supposedly want to get rid of Trump, but are working in opposition to that goal–not only people like Bernie Sanders and his followers obviously, but also a lot of other Democrats.
Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi made what I considered to be a strategic statement about impeachment, and suddenly a lot of people who claimed to like the way she has been handling Trump are now attacking her.
The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi on Impeaching Trump: ‘He’s Just Not Worth It.’
Pelosi began the interview by sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln that is etched into a plaque in her office: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”
It was public sentiment, Pelosi says, that convinced her President Trump would back down in the standoff over funding a border wall that partially shut down the government for 35 days earlier this year. And it is public sentiment, she says, that will guide her as she leads the House Democrats and seeks to use their powers as a check on a president she believes disregards the Constitution.
When she was asked about impeachment, Pelosi said:
I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
This is being reported by many so-called journalists as “taking impeachment off the table.” But that isn’t what Pelosi said. Back in 2005, she did say exactly that about George W. Bush. This time, she’s clearly saying that she needs “compelling and overwhelming” evidence and “bipartisan” support before she’ll call for impeachment. She’s not telling committee chairs to stop investigating Trump, because it is exactly those investigations that will lead to the “public sentiment” necessary to impeach and convict him.
That’s my take too. We need public committee hearings in which the American people will be educated as to the level of corruption and criminality that is going on in the Trump administration. And when public opinion shifts, Pelosi will say that she has been convinced by the evidence and she will call for impeachment.
Pelosi also managed to work in a dig that will get under Trump’s skin–“he’s not worth it.” In addition she said this in the interview:
You said earlier you don’t feel it’s worth it to pursue impeachment. Do you believe he’s fit to be president?
Are we talking ethically? Intellectually? Politically? What are we talking here? [….]
All of the above. No. No. I don’t think he is. I mean, ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States. And that’s up to us to make the contrast to show that this president — while he may be appealing to you on your insecurity and therefore your xenophobia, whether it’s globalization or immigrants — is fighting clean air for your children to breathe, clean water for them to drink, food safety, every good thing that we should be doing that people can’t do for themselves. You know, I have five kids, and I think I can do everything for them, but I can’t control the air they breathe, the water that they drink. You depend on the public sector to do certain things for the health and well-being of your family, and he is counter to that.
I’m confident that when the time comes, Pelosi will call for impeachment.
Another thing Democrats are doing that has me ready to scream and pull my hair out is the calls for Joe Biden to run for president and the claims that only he can win back the rust belt. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he can do that and, in any case, I don’t think the rust belt is going to be as important this time.
The person who wins the nomination in 2020 is going to have to carry the black vote–especially the votes of black women–and I don’t think Biden can do that once all his baggage comes out. In 2020, California will vote on Super Tuesday, so whoever wins there is going to be in a powerful position. I don’t think Biden can beat Kamala Harris there, since she has already tied up endorsements from so many public officials there.
Some of Biden’s baggage: 1) he is 76 year old; 2) he has already run for president twice and lost decisively; 3) he helped put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court by minimizing Anita Hill’s testimony about Thomas’ sexual harassment of her and refusing to allow testimony by other women abused by Thomas. 4) his horrible criminal justice record; his support of and vote for the bankruptcy bill; his opposition to integration through busing, which was basically just opposition to integration period; his plagarism scandals; his groping of women; and his constant, embarrassing gaffes.
I’m sure there is more baggage, but those are the things I can think of off the top of my head.
Here’s Jamelle Bouie on Biden and busing: The Trouble With Biden.
As they begin their search for a nominee, most Democrats — more than half, according to a February poll from Monmouth University — prize electability above all else. They want a sure thing, someone who will beat President Trump.
But beating Trump isn’t the same as beating Trumpism. Unseating the president won’t automatically undermine the white resentment and racial chauvinism that drive his movement. That will depend on the nature of the campaign against him and whether it challenges the assumptions of his ideology or affirms them in the name of electoral pragmatism.
The possibility of defeating Trump without defeating Trumpism looms over Joe Biden’s possible run for the 2020 Democratic nomination. The former vice president’s not-yet-candidacy centers on his appeal to the white, blue-collar workers who rejected Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump. He believes he could have won them in 2016, and he thinks he can win them now. This isn’t just about Biden’s working-class affect. As a senator from Delaware, Biden understood himself as a staunch defender of Middle American interests.
But those interests were racialized, which is how a younger Biden could at once be a committed liberal and an ardent opponent of busing to desegregate his state’s public schools. As an article in The Washington Post last week demonstrated, Biden was at the forefront of opposition to busing in Delaware. The rhetoric he deployed in defense of his position channeled the visceral hostility of suburban (and urban) whites whose children were bused or whose schools took in bused children.
“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’” Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. “I don’t buy that.”
Biden made his argument using language that is still common to opponents of efforts to rectify racial inequality: “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
Read the rest at the New York Times.
Politico has an interesting article about the “yearslong feud” between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they’d been feuding over for years: the country’s bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying “to sell out women” by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face.
Warren, Biden allowed, had made “a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument” about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn’t pay. But Biden had what he called a “philosophic question,” according to the Congressional Record’s transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?
Warren blamed the lenders. Many credit card companies charged so much in fees and interest that they weren’t losing money when some of their customers went bankrupt, she said. “That is, they have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid down principal,” Warren said.
Biden parried. “Maybe we should talk about usury rates, then,” he replied. “Maybe that is what we should be talking about, not bankruptcy.”
“Senator, I will be the first. Invite me.”
“I know you will, but let’s call a spade a spade,” Biden said. “Your problem with credit card companies is usury rates from your position. It is not about the bankruptcy bill.”
Read the rest at Politico.
One more from Josh Voorhees at Slate, who worries that Biden could win the nomination: The Old, White Giant.
The one major constant throughout [the 2020 Democratic race so far]: the looming presence of Joe Biden, who has been teasing a presidential run more or less since the day after the 2016 election. Biden would face many hurdles if he gets into the race—his age and his record chief among them—but it’s far from certain any are the deal breakers that some pundits and prognosticators have suggested.
To be clear, I do not think Biden should win the Democratic nomination; I simply fear that he will. Despite a record that looks conservative in hindsight, a worldview that is troubling in the present, and an identity that does little for the future, Biden appears to be too well-known, well-liked, and well-connected to be denied the nomination.
Let’s begin with the polls. Biden has led nearly every hypothetical field in almost every single major survey taken since Election Day 2016, notwithstanding the usual caveats about polls. Polls can’t predict the future, but they can tell us plenty about the present—and the present looks mighty good for Uncle Joe. He sits just shy of 30 percent in RealClearPolitics’ rolling average, roughly 10 points clear of a crowded field in which all but Sanders and Harris remain mired in single digits. More telling than the size of Biden’s lead is the consistency of his support, which has not wavered even as a bevy of credible and compelling contenders has taken turns introducing themselves to the nation.
The common refrain this far out from the early nominating contests is that polling performances are driven largely by name recognition, which is true. But last I checked, name recognition is a requirement for electoral success, especially in a crowded field. Any candidate would love to be in Biden’s position, which allows him to take press coverage as a given and would help him overcome his lack of a small-donor network. And more crucial than being well-known is being well-liked, and no one in the field is more beloved than Uncle Joe, even when you account for his national profile. According to the latest data from Morning Consult, which has been in the field daily since early January, a whopping 79 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the former veep, compared with just 11 percent of Democrats who do not. That’s largely why Biden was also the most common answer when fans of Sanders, Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke were asked for their second choice.
Read the rest at Slate. I disagree; I think Biden will screw up again if he runs, but I would much rather he just didn’t run.
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.