Another day, another Trump tantrum. Poor Donald. He just can’t handle Nancy Pelosi. What is it about her that gets under his notoriously thin skin?
The Washington Post: A Trump Twitter-style diatribe — live from the Rose Garden.
Trump, ever the director and star of his own White House movie, staged his outburst in two acts.
Act 1: Blow up a White House meeting with Democratic lawmakers that was over before the first handshake. Bye-bye, Infrastructure Day.
Act 2: Stride to a podium at a hastily arranged Rose Garden news conference to say he won’t work with Democrats on infrastructure or anything else while they pursue the “investigation track.”
What set the president off was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying earlier Wednesday that Trump has engaged in a “coverup” related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and other probes.
“I don’t do coverups,” Trump angrily told reporters who had been hustled outside with little notice and less information.
Trump — who with his allies is actively working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats — called himself “the most transparent president, probably, in the history of this country,” and said he had been ready to discuss infrastructure and other priorities before Pelosi’s remark.
White House stenographer Peter Baker and his colleagues provide background on why Trump flipped out:
Mr. Trump and Democratic leaders were to meet on Wednesday morning to develop a $2 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure. But Ms. Pelosi first met with Democrats on Capitol Hill to deflect pressure on impeachment, which she has opposed. Emerging from that meeting, she sought to signal sympathy with Democrats angry at the president’s efforts to block their investigations, declaring that “the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
Mr. Trump saw the comments and did not hide his fury when she and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, arrived at the White House. The president walked into the Cabinet Room and did not shake anyone’s hand or sit down, according to people in the room. He said that he wanted to advance legislation on infrastructure, trade and other matters, but that Ms. Pelosi had said something “terrible” by accusing him of a cover-up.
After about three minutes, the president stalked out before anyone else could speak. From there, he headed to the Rose Garden, where a lectern had been set up with a preprinted sign that said “No Collusion, No Obstruction” along with statistics intended to show that the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was more than thorough.
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t do cover-ups.”
“I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi: ‘I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I’d be really good at that, that’s what I do. But you know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,’” he said….
“He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” Ms. Pelosi said. “In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.”
Mr. Schumer expressed shock at the outcome. “To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop,” he said.
Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump’s eruption was hardly spontaneous, noting the preprinted sign on the lectern. Instead, he suggested that the president had staged it because he had not come up with a way to pay for such an enormous spending package.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Dana Millbank: Trump seems to be transparently mad.
This is not the work of an orderly mind.
President Trump stormed into the Cabinet Room 15 minutes late Wednesday morning and immediately proceeded to blow up a long-planned meeting with Democratic leaders about an infrastructure bill. He raged against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the terrible, horrible things she has said about him, and he vowed not to work on any legislation until Democrats stop investigating his administration. He stomped out of the room before Democrats had a chance to reply, then marched into the Rose Garden for an unscheduled news conference — or, more accurately, a 12-minute parade of paranoia.
Positively everybody was out to get him. They were out to get him in the third person: “They hated President Trump. They hated him with a passion,” he said. They were out to get him in the first-person plural: “These people were out to get us, the Republican Party and President Trump. They were out to get us.” What’s more, they have been after him “pretty much from the time we came down the escalator in Trump Tower.” And now they probably will impeach him because they “do whatever they have to do.”
He raged on. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has “been an enemy of mine for many years.” The “whole thing was a takedown attempt.” The assembled press “ought to be ashamed of yourselves for the way you report it so dishonestly.” And, even though he was the one who blew up the infrastructure meeting, he just knew that Democrats were “not really thinking they wanted to do infrastructure or anything else other than investigate.”
He ricocheted randomly among inchoate thought fragments: Infrastructure. WITCH HUNT! Unemployment. NO COLLUSION! Drug prices. HOAX! A special election in Pennsylvania. ONE-SIDED HORRIBLE THING! Tax cuts. DON JR. HAS GONE THROUGH HELL! I love the American people. IMPEACHMENT! Regulations. A DISGRACE! ABUSE!
Read more at the WaPo.
INTERLUDE: Trump is a textbook case of malignant narcissism. It’s as if we’re all attending a psychiatric case conference. From Wikipedia:
On 11 May 1968, the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg presented his paper Factors in the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personalities, from the work of the Psychotherapy Research Project of The Menninger Foundation, at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in Boston. Kernberg’s paper was first published in hard copy on 1 January 1970. In Kernberg’s 1968 paper, first published in 1970 in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA), the word ‘malignant’ does not appear once, while ‘pathological’ or ‘pathologically’ appears 25 times.
Developing these ideas further, Kernberg pointed out that the antisocial personality was fundamentally narcissistic and without morality.Malignant narcissism includes a sadistic element creating, in essence, a sadistic psychopath. In his article, “malignant narcissism” and psychopathy are employed interchangeably. Kernberg first proposed malignant narcissism as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1984, but so far it has not been accepted in any of the medical manuals, such as the ICD-10 or the DSM-5.
Kernberg described malignant narcissism as a syndrome characterized by a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial features, paranoid traits, and egosyntonic aggression. Other symptoms may include an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and a sense of importance (grandiosity). Pollock wrote: “The malignant narcissist is presented as pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism“.
At Politico, John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett discuss: Why Pelosi is so good at infuriating Trump.
On Wednesday, for the third time in barely six months, a meeting between the president, the speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blew up in spectacular fashion.
And in each case, Trump handed Pelosi a huge gift, a priceless moment that helped unify the Democratic Caucus behind her at a crucial time.
“She’s smarter than him, and she’s tougher than him, and I think that bothers him,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Pelosi ally. “It’s hard to get inside that head of his and figure out what drives him, other than an oversized ego and an undersized sense of ethics.”
Trump doesn’t have a condescending nickname for the speaker as he does for other Democrats. He even appears to have a grudging respect for Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker. He treats her as a peer who commands her chamber with a firm hand, and he knows she can deliver on votes, and that she is willing to call any bluff at any time….
“Guess what? He behaves like a child. This is what we have in the White House now,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who served under Pelosi in the House. “I’m used to it. I’m not expecting a grown-up any longer. I’m not expecting him to grow into the role.”
And for Pelosi, the timing is perfect. As the drumbeat for impeachment grows within her caucus, she can argue that what they’re doing is already working. Trump clearly doesn’t know how to respond to the barrage of Democratic investigations; they’re winning in the courts and he’s throwing fits. So why bother with impeachment, especially when Democrats know that a GOP-run Senate isn’t going to remove him from office?
Meanwhile, the Trump-Pelosi confrontations are getting to be recurring spectacles, and even Republicans know it hurts the president’s image.
“It’s a disaster,” said a senior Republican who requested anonymity. “It plays right into her hands.”
And on top of being smarter and tougher, she’s a woman. And her strategy of encouraging investigations while supposedly “tamping down” talk of impeachment is working. All those impatient Democrats on Twitter are too dumb to see what Pelosi is up to. It’s obvious that impeachment is very much on the table. Check out this assessment from a Republican political strategist.
Rich Wilson at The Daily Beast: Pelosi’s Strategy Is Working, and Trump Is One Step Closer to Being F*cked.
I’ve been a deep skeptic of impeachment as a political strategy, putting me solidly in the Nancy Pelosi go-slow camp. I’ve argued time and again that the smart play is IIABN: Impeachment in All but Name, but the great beast of Washington shambles ever forward, its ponderous, inexorable tread leading it toward the inevitable impeachment proceedings against Donald John Trump, 45th president of the United States.
Are you there yet politically? Nope.
For my Democratic friends, I know how frustrating this seems to you. This week, forward progress on a number of fronts will help move the nation into the mental and political frame where impeachment could lead to the conviction of Trump, not just what he’ll view as a wrist-slap and a campaign motivation point for his base. You cannot shame the shameless. You cannot make a man who is without a single ethical standard change the behavior that allowed him to grift his way into office and to monetize the presidency….
For all that, the Democrats chomping at the bit to hold Trump to account are having a good week already, whether they know it or not. It’s so good, they’d be fools not to keep doing the things that are starting to work—the exercise of congressional power, the use of the courts to uphold the law, and the momentum building in the public mind for an accounting of Trump’s full-spectrum lawbreaking, contempt, obstruction, and corruption.
The Pelosi-Nadler strategy is starting to shift that political battlefield, and the legal landscape is breaking in their favor. The judicial branch isn’t yet a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump, Inc. Yet. Trump’s own mistakes are helping move the investigation strategy forward and are beginning to ensure that when Congress does start getting testimony and documents from the White House and Department of Justice, Trump will have painted himself into a corner he can’t tweet his way out of.
More interesting reads, links only.
The New Republic: Trump v. The “I” Word.
Kurt Bardella at NBC News: Trump’s House investigations tantrum proves Pelosi and Democrats are gaining momentum.
The New York Times: Trump’s Financial Secrets Move Closer to Disclosure.
The Washington Post: Putin out-prepared Trump in key meeting, Rex Tillerson told House panel.
Dakinikat has lost her electricity again, so I’m filling in. Sorry to be so late. This Bunday post is dedicated to Dephyne and Luna.
Despite Trump’s efforts to stonewall Congress on everything, especially his financial dealings, the media is still finding stuff out.
David Enrich at The New York Times: Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts.
Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.
The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.
But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government….
Real estate developers like Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner sometimes do large, all-cash deals, including with people outside the United States, any of which can prompt anti-money laundering reviews….former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money laundering laws. The employees — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve their ability to work in the industry — said it was part of a pattern of the bank’s executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients.
Tammy McFadden, the whistleblower who came forward with this information was terminated by the bank after she expressed her concerns. Read the rest at the NYT.
Grant Stern summarizes the dirty details about Kushner’s dealings with Deutsche Bank at Washington Press: A whistleblower just revealed Deutsche Bank covered up 2016 Kushner money transfers with Russia.
David Enrich tweeted after Trump complained about his NYT piece.
Here’s another article he wrote in March, also at the NYT: A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank.
As President Trump delivered his inaugural address in 2017, a slight woman with feathered gray hair sat listening, bundled in a hooded white parka in a fenced-off V.I.P. section. Her name was Rosemary T. Vrablic. She was a managing director at Deutsche Bank and one of the reasons Mr. Trump had just taken the oath of office.
It was a moment of celebration — and a moment of worry for Ms. Vrablic’s employer.
Mr. Trump and Deutsche Bank were deeply entwined, their symbiotic bond born of necessity and ambition on both sides: a real estate mogul made toxic by polarizing rhetoric and a pattern of defaults, and a bank with intractable financial problems and a history of misconduct.
The relationship had paid off. Mr. Trump used loans from Deutsche Bank to finance skyscrapers and other high-end properties, and repeatedly cited his relationship with the bank to deflect political attacks on his business acumen. Deutsche Bank used Mr. Trump’s projects to build its investment-banking business, reaped fees from the assets he put in its custody and leveraged his celebrity to lure clients.
Then Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, and the German bank shifted into damage-control mode, bracing for an onslaught of public scrutiny, according to several people involved in the internal response.
In the weeks before Ms. Vrablic attended his swearing-in, the bank commissioned reports to figure out how it had gotten in so deep with Mr. Trump. It issued an unusual edict to its Wall Street employees: Do not publicly utter the word “Trump.”
The president* and his son-in-law, who has anywhere between three and 81 jobs in the administration*, were shuffling money around in such a funky fashion that money-laundering experts—at the only bank in the world from which the president* can get more than a souvenir calendar—felt compelled to raise an alarm. Putting the words “money laundering” and “president” in the same sentence used to be enough for network news to throw up one of those scarifying “BULLETIN” graphics. Putting the word “Russian” in there, too, used to be enough to get Walter Cronkite to sail his sloop all the way from the Vineyard to Black Rock.
In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser. Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.
Apparently, according to the people interviewed by the Times, DB functioned as an all-purpose international laundromat for various people who needed money cleaned. Of course, the stakes rise considerably when one of the folks waiting for the spin cycle to finish is the president* of the United States.
Read the rest at Esquire.
Trump has nominated another lunatic to the Federal Reserve Board. Pedro Nickolaci da Cost at Forbes: Trump Fed Nominee Backs Policies That Would Crash The Economy.
Donald Trump is really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to his remaining Federal Reserve nominees—and he doesn’t seem to understand what their individual views on monetary policy actually mean.
Take his latest pick, Judy Shelton, chosen after the attempted appointment of Stephen Moore collapsed following footage of him making incredibly misogynistic and racist comments.
Shelton’s views on interest policy and currencies aren’t just arcane, destructive and out of the mainstream. They also run directly counter to Trump’s own calls for the Fed not to raise interest rates and, most recently, for them to reduce borrowing costs to boost growth and help the administration achieve its elusive 3% growth target.
And they contradict Trump’s nationalist approach to economic relations by calling for a new international treaty on currencies that would essentially take drag the world economy back into some kind of gold standard, effectively shoving it totally needlessly into deep depression.
Read details about Shelton’s crazy ideas at the link.
You’ve probably heard that Trump is planning to pardon a number of accused or convicted war criminals. From Saturday’s New York Times: Trump May Be Preparing Pardons for Servicemen Accused of War Crimes.
President Trump has indicated that he is considering pardons for several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes, including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse, according to two United States officials.
The officials said that the Trump administration had made expedited requests this week for paperwork needed to pardon the troops on or around Memorial Day.
One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.
The others are believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.
And yes, Trump wants to pardon war criminals on Memorial Day. More from New York Magazine: Trump Wants to Make War Criminals Great Again.
Trump has already publicly signaled his support for both Gallagher and Golsteyn, at least in part owing to the advocacy of Fox & Friends co-anchor Pete Hegseth, who has been lobbying the president on behalf of the men both on and off the air. In March, Trump announced that he would be transferring Gallagher to “less restrictive confinement” while he awaits his upcoming trial, and back in December, Trump tweeted that he would be reviewing Golsteyn’s case. He referred to Golsteyn as a “U.S. military hero.”
Trump has not mentioned the Marine Scout Snipers who were court-martialed for urinating on dead Taliban fighters, but Task and Purpose reports that Trump’s former attorney, John Dowd, had worked to clear the Marines’ records in 2017, and a lawyer for one of the Marines said he had requested a pardon from Trump after he took office but never heard back. The president has also never mentioned Slatten, the Blackwater contractor, but Trump has well-known links to Blackwater via its founder, the Trump-boosting, truth-challenged Erik Prince, and his sister, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The paperwork requests also come less than two weeks after President Trump pardoned another convicted war criminal, former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who, while deployed in Iraq in 2008, disobeyed orders, drove an Iraqi prisoner into the desert, stripped him naked, and shot him in the chest and the head. Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder a year later and was already serving a reduced sentence when Trump pardoned him.
Trump is (or has been) convinced that these men are victims of injustice, rather than perpetrators of it. And it’s not hard to imagine how war criminals could seem like war heroes to a president who fetishizes strength and power over the powerless….
Whatever Trump believes, he has already made it clear that when it comes to helping his friends and perceived allies, he has no problem wielding pardons and revoking justice at an unprecedented scale. Considering all these factors, there should be little doubt that Trump will proceed with the pardons, as well as think that Memorial Day would be the best day to grant them, rather than the absolute worst day imaginable — since it would malign the honorable service and sacrifice of countless other Americans.
You can read more examples of Gallagher’s war crimes from this long Twitter thread by Scott Hechinger.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Bunday!
I would love to know who is leaking info about Michael Flynn. Apparently Flynn reached out to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz while he was supposedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
While he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted at least one member of Congress who was publicly criticizing the special counsel probe, according to messages obtained by CNN.
Flynn sent Twitter direct messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz, encouraging the Florida Republican to “keep the pressure on.” It’s not clear if Flynn sent additional messages to other lawmakers.
“You stay on top of what you’re doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now. Keep the pressure on,” Flynn wrote in an April 2018 message to Gaetz, which was obtained by CNN.
On the evening Flynn sent the message to Gaetz, the lawmaker had appeared on Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where he criticized the Mueller investigation.
“We’ve got to play a far stronger role in exposing the hypocrisy at the Department of Justice,” Gaetz said in the April 3, 2018, appearance. “With no evidence of collusion, with no evidence of any crime whatsoever, they unleashed Bob Mueller to go investigate things that happened before Donald Trump was even contemplating running for president.”
That same hour, Flynn sent Gaetz the direct message.
Gaetz also received a message in February of this year. On the day that Attorney General William Barr was confirmed, Flynn sent Gaetz GIFs of a bald eagle and an American flag, without any accompanying text.
Flynn is still “cooperating,” and he hasn’t been sentenced yet. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, new information has been revealed by order of the judge in Flynn’s case Emmet Sullivan. Did the DOJ leak the incriminating info about Flynn contacting Gaetz in response to the new Mueller report info to make Flynn look bad? I wonder what Judge Sullivan will have to say about this?
There’s also this Devin Nunes tweet from 2016:
Here’s another interesting story I missed from a couple of days ago. This one is about Felix Sater, who was involved with Trump for years and, along with Michael Cohen working on the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Judge confirms Trump associate gave feds Osama bin Laden’s number.
A federal judge has confirmed for the first time that Felix Sater, a former Donald Trump business associate who drove Trump Tower Moscow negotiations during the 2016 election, helped the U.S. government track down Osama bin Laden.
During a hearing on Thursday in the Eastern District of New York — held as part of a lawsuit brought by First Look Media to unseal records related to Sater’s longtime cooperation with the government on various national security issues — Judge I. Leo Glasser said the media group already knew all of the “very interesting and dangerous things” Sater had done through his decade as an FBI informant.
“He cooperated,” Glasser said. “And you know what he did over the 10, 11 years, because you told me that you know. He provided the telephone number of Osama bin Laden. He has done an awful lot of very interesting and dangerous things.”
The detail is just another bizarre side plot that has emerged over the two-plus years that federal investigators, lawmakers and journalists have tried to uncover every detail about possible interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 election. The probes have put spotlights on a cast of figures in Trump’s extended orbit, many of whom possess unusual backgrounds.
Trump’s “Roy Cohn” AKA Cover-Up General Bill Barr appeared on state TV on Friday to publicly trash the investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Barr Again Casts Doubt on Russia Inquiry’s Origins, Aligning With Trump’s Attacks.
When Attorney General William P. Barr described the early stages of the Russia investigation as “spying” on the Trump campaign, he prompted questions about whether he had used that word spontaneously — or whether he was deliberately fueling conspiracy theories.
That question flared anew on Friday after Mr. Barr went even further in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation in two interviews that, by design or coincidence, provided fresh ammunition for President Trump and allies to attack law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Mr. Barr told Fox News he had been asking whether “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in opening the Russia inquiry. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.
And he doubled down on the innuendo-laden formulation he used in congressional testimony last month, telling The Wall Street Journal, “Government power was used to spy on American citizens.”
The statements were the latest in a series of actions and comments by Mr. Barr expressing skepticism about how the F.B.I. began investigating during the 2016 presidential campaign whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference. The attorney general has appointed a federal prosecutor to review aspects of the investigation, rather than await the results of an independent inspector general inquiry due in the coming weeks, and he has invoked the term “spying” on multiple occasions.
Are we stuck with Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic nominee for president? The media in general seems to believe he’s the anointed one. But anointed by whom? Obama hasn’t endorsed him. Who really wants this guy to be POTUS?
Jill Filipovic at The New York Times: Does Anyone Actually Want Joe Biden to Be President?
The most important requirement for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee? Electability. It matters more, we keep hearing, than nominating a candidate who has good policies. It matters more than nominating a candidate with a track record of passing progressive legislation. It certainly matters more than nominating a candidate who could be the first female president.
Unfortunately, very few people who say they are putting electability first seem to understand what “electability” means, or what today’s electorate actually looks like.
Case in point: In a field crowded with nearly two dozen candidates, no answer to the electability question is offered more regularly and with more conviction than “Joe Biden.”
Mr. Biden, whose campaign officially kicks of this Saturday in Philadelphia, is the kind of guy you could see sitting behind a big desk, acting as a wise custodian of our democracy without posing any threat of changing much. He is from one of those scrappy Rust Belt cities fetishized by so many pundits — people who believe that the imaginary working-class white voter who is going to deliver the White House to the Democrats wants Joe Biden, which is what, in turn, makes Joe Biden electable.
But what about the rest of us–Democrats who aren’t white males living in the rust belt? What about women who still dream of a women president in their lifetimes? We don’t count when it comes to “electability” supposedly. Read more at the NYT.
Now, with Obama’s blessing if not his formal endorsement, Biden has sought the presidency himself for the third time in 30 years, and this time, he’s enjoying a solid and in some case growing lead over a historically huge field of Democratic contenders. The backbone of his support comes from the most reliable and one of the most coveted Democratic primary voting blocs: African-Americans.
Most of the cable news commentary has approached this fact with the condescending assertion that Biden’s black support is mostly due to name recognition and his proximity to Obama. Some have suggested that older black voters, who are traditionally more moderate, may be attracted to his centrism.
But these hot takes overlook something less tangible and quantifiable: how much the sincere, integrated friendship of Biden and Obama (and their families) was cathartic and inspirational. It was the personification of the post-racial utopia some hoped Obama’s election victories would deliver but never did, and probably never could.
Their platonic bromance provided comfort during the confounding period when Obama’s popularity seemed to grow simultaneously with the rise and improbable election of a man who championed a racist campaign to discredit him.
Howard suggests that Biden could loose African American support as the campaign goes on. He doesn’t specifically address the attitudes of black women or provide any evidence for his arguments. The piece is based on his own personal opinions. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.
I’ll end with this article at The Washington Post on Nevada, where women are now in control of the legislature: Where women call the shots.
She didn’t plan to say it. Yvanna Cancela, a newly elected Democrat in the Nevada Senate, didn’t want to “sound crass.” But when a Republican colleague defended a century-old law requiring doctors to ask women seeking abortions whether they’re married, Cancela couldn’t help firing back.
“A man is not asked his marital status before he gets a vasectomy,” she countered — and the packed hearing room fell silent.
Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices.
Cancela, 32, is part of the wave of women elected by both parties in November, many of them younger than 40. Today, women hold the majority with 23 seats in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate, or a combined 52 percent.
No other legislature has achieved that milestone in U.S. history. Only Colorado comes close, with women constituting 47 percent of its legislators. In Congress, just one in four lawmakers is a woman. And in Alabama, which just enacted an almost complete ban on abortion, women make up just 15 percent of lawmakers.
The female majority is having a huge effect: More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders. Bills to ban child marriage and examine the causes of maternal mortality are also on the docket.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Even as we worry about Trump and Bolton starting a war with Iran and about the Democrats refusing to follow the Impeachment road map provided by Robert Mueller, American women must face the fact that our very personhood is being attacked.
Personally, I have decided that I will not vote for any man for president. The right of women to make decisions about our own bodies is too important.
Here’s the latest on the War on Women:
Missouri’s Senate has passed what its authors call one of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion bills, which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-led Senate passed the bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, by a margin of 24 to 10 early Thursday morning….
Missouri’s move comes hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that would introduce a near-total abortion ban in that state. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.
Louisiana is following suit with its own “heartbeat” abortion ban, which was approved unopposed by the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.
Abortion right activists are mobilizing in Alabama. The Washington Post: Governor signs Alabama abortion ban, which has galvanized support on both sides, setting up a lengthy fight.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As a crop duster with a banner saying “Abortion is okay” hummed above the capitol, circling back and forth around the governor’s mansion, a group of women below let out a cheer.
“Just another day in Alabama,” said Mia Raven, director of People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) House. “We knew this would pass and we got ready.”
Amanda Reyes, who works with an abortion fund, was wearing an “I’m on the pill” T-shirt, complete with instructions printed on the back detailing how to get a medical abortion. She also looked skyward: “Here it comes again! That’s just the coolest thing.”
Hours after the Alabama Senate voted late Tuesday to ban abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest — women’s rights activists and abortion rights advocates said the decision to approve the nation’s strictest abortion measure has energized them. Knowing that the bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, they are gearing up for the fight.
The Washington Post: Louisiana ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban nearing final passage.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal to ban abortions in Louisiana as early as the sixth week of pregnancy continued to speed through the state legislature Wednesday, the same day Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive law against the procedure.
Without objection, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in several conservative states that are aimed at challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Louisiana’s ban, however, only would take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.
Louisiana’s so-called fetal “heartbeat bill” is sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich, one of several measures that lawmakers are advancing to add new restrictions on abortion. Senators already have supported the bill, which will next receive full House consideration, one step from final passage. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.
The New York Times sums up the current abortion landscape: ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It.
States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America….
The national race to pass new legislation began last fall, after President Trump chose Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, adding what some predicted would be a fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. Red states rushed to pass more restrictions and blue states to pass protections.
Now, as state legislative sessions draw to a close in many places, experts count about 30 abortion laws that have passed so far.
That is not necessarily more than in past years, said Elizabeth Nash, a legal expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.
What’s different is the laws themselves, which have gone further than ever to frontally challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortion.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Interestingly, these extreme laws could be interfering with right wing plans to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Even Pat Robertson thinks the Alabama law is too “extreme.” The Washington Post: Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama’s abortion ban is ‘extreme’ and has ‘gone too far.’
Longtime televangelist Pat Robertson decried Alabama’s new abortion ban as “extreme,” saying on his show on Wednesday that the state legislature has “gone too far.”
Alabama’s law, which has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions and has no exceptions for rape or incest, Robertson noted on his show.
“They want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is I don’t think that’s the case I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose,” Robertson told viewers of CBN’s “The 700 Club” on Wednesday.
David G. Savage at The Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not soon.
The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.
The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state’s ban into law on Wednesday.
Lawmakers in those states have said they approved the bans in an effort to force the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling, however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.
Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.
At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick makes a similar argument: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan.
One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.
There are easy and near invisible ways for the high court to end Roe. That has always been, and remains, the logical trajectory. As Mark Joseph Stern has shown, when Brett Kavanaugh came onto the court, with his dog whistles and signaling around reproductive rights, it became clear that he would guide the court to simply allow states to erect more and more barriers to abortion access (dolphin-skin window coverings on every clinic!). The five justices in the majority would do it all while finding ways to say that such regulations were not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The courts and state legislatures could continue their lilting love songs to the need for the states to protect maternal health and to help confused mommies make good choices, and nobody need dirty their hands by acknowledging that the real goal of three decades’ worth of cumbersome clinic regulations and admitting privileges laws were just pretexts for closing clinics and ending abortion altogether.
Read the rest at Slate.
(Mostly) male legislators are ignoring the realities of actual women’s lives.
When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”
He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”
Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.
This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.
There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera.
Shannon Dingle at USA Today: I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.
I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida….She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.
I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.
It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.
It wasn’t….I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.
Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.
Women and girls in the U.S. are in real danger. For me this is the number one issue for women in the upcoming presidential election.
As always, this is an open thread.
There’s plenty of news today and none of it is good as far as I can see. Here are some stories that caught my eye this morning.
Following up on Dakinikat’s post yesterday, a couple of useful articles on Trump’s insane tarriffs:
Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg: Don’t Go Searching for Strategy in Trump’s Tariffs.
As China and the U.S. dig in for what may become a protracted and possibly very painful trade war, a lot of time is being wasted trying to divine whether President Donald Trump has a strategy.
If we’re defining “strategy” as a cohesive, premeditated plan designed with clear goals in mind – goals that go beyond “gotcha!” – then no, the president doesn’t. “I’m going to teach China a lesson” isn’t a strategy. Slapping rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports is punitive, of course, and may ultimately convince the country’s leaders to open their markets and stop stealing intellectual property from the U.S. It’s unlikely to convince them to significantly reshape what has thus far proven to be a wildly successful, government-brokered industrial policy that has turned China into an economic powerhouse.
Meanwhile, Trump has been tweeting a series of bonkers and factually-challenged insights recently about what he thinks the impact of his tariffs will be and how U.S. consumers will respond to the likelihood of tariff-induced higher prices. None of this is knitted into a broader geopolitical argument about how best to deal with China on the world stage and challenge it militarily on the high seas and elsewhere.
Don’t expect most of that to change in a meaningful way. The president doesn’t have a sophisticated trade strategy any more than he has a thoughtful immigration strategy or a wily political strategy. What he has are resentments – resentments that are so deeply felt that much of Trump’s fuming can come across at times as the words and bile of someone who has been personally affronted. Trump’s fear and resentment of “the other” is profound and ubiquitous and speaks to sentiments he’s been harboring for much of his life.
From the article, an example of Trump’s strategic thinking:
“I’ve read hundreds of books about China over the decades,” Trump said in “The Art of the Deal,” his nonfiction work of fiction. “I know the Chinese. I’ve made a lot of money with the Chinese. I understand the Chinese mind.”
He’s not really sure about that though, and sometimes his insecurity is transparent. “China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain,” Trump said last fall.
This moron is president of the U.S.!
The Dow Jones industrial average on Monday plunged 618 points, or roughly 2.7 percent, after a flurry of belligerent tweets from President Trump — and quick retaliation from China in the form of new tariffs — threw gut punches at hopes for a deal between the two nations.
The sell-off framed a central conflict inside the White House — and seemingly within the president’s own mind. Trump loves a booming stock market, which he tracks obsessively, and views it as an indicator of success on par with his approval rating. At the same time, he loves his power to unilaterally impose tariffs, and sees winning tough concessions from China as key to his 2020 reelection bid.
But those two political imperatives are once again at odds. And Wall Street traders and economists say that if Trump doesn’t make a deal, and moves forward with a threat to slap 25 percent tariffs on everything China exports to the U.S., he could further rattle markets, tip the economy toward recession and lose his best ticket to re-election.
Click the link to read the rest.
Also following up on Dakinikat’s Monday post, Irin Carmon at The Cut on the GOP war on women and Justice Breyer’s dire warning: We Have No Idea How Scary Our Abortion Future Will Get.
No one used to take Janet Porter seriously. The Ohio activist who pioneered so-called “heartbeat” six-week abortion bans was mostly known for the gags — a YouTube video with a tinny voice singing “Have a heart, don’t let them kill / Help us pass the heartbeat bill” sung to the tune of “99 Red Balloons,” or having two fetuses “testify” via ultrasound at a committee hearing. Radical as her goals were, she didn’t seem in danger of having them come true, since mainstream anti-abortion activists and elected officials long believed in going slowly to forestall political and legal backlash.
As Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis, who convinced John Kasich to veto Ohio’s heartbeat bill in 2016, put it to me then, “When you overreach, you lose. The courts can be very vicious to you.” Establishment anti-choicers also worry about waking up voters who think of abortion rights as basically secure, and prefer chipping away at Roe v. Wade, using tendentious and inaccurate phrases like “taxpayer-funded abortion” and “fetal pain,” and falsely comparing later abortions to “infanticide.” The anti-choice split is about speed, not goals. “If the court was 7-2 pro-life I would say, let’s do a ban at conception,” Gonidakis said. “I know everyone is swept up in Trump mania, but we have to be realistic.”
But just because that’s been abortion’s past doesn’t mean Porter is wrong about its future. Kasich is gone, and so is Justice Anthony Kennedy. Heartbeat bans are suddenly in place, if not in effect, in Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky. On Monday, the normally plodding and passionless Justice Stephen Breyer issued a Cassandra-like warning in a dissent joined by the other liberal justices, calling the majority’s overruling of a states’ rights precedent “dangerous” and adding ominously, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” If that wasn’t clear enough, he twice mentioned the court’s major abortion precedent when he didn’t have to. Only running down the court steps shrieking would have been less subtle.
The Handmaid’s Tale could become reality for American women.
In other news:
Cover-Up General Bill Barr is following Trump’s orders to investigate the investigators.
The New York Times: Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to Review Origins of Russia Inquiry.
Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful.
John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.’s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees.
His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russia’s election interference and Trump associates….
Mr. Durham, who was nominated by Mr. Trump in 2017 and has been a Justice Department lawyer since 1982, has conducted special investigations under administrations of both parties. Attorney General Janet Reno asked Mr. Durham in 1999 to investigate the F.B.I.’s handling of a notorious informant: the organized crime leader James (Whitey) Bulger.
In 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned Mr. Durham to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes in 2005 showing the torture of terrorism suspects. A year later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded Mr. Durham’s mandate to also examine whether the agency broke any laws in its abuses of detainees in its custody.
According to Fox News, Durham has already been conducting this investigation “for weeks.”
The Guardian is reporting an incident that didn’t make it into the Mueller Report: Steve Bannon sought alliance with FBI in 2017 White House meeting.
Steve Bannon urged two senior FBI officials to put their differences with the White House “behind them” at a meeting in 2017, on the day after Donald Trump asked James Comey, the then head of the FBI, to pledge his loyalty to the president.
The exchange, which occurred on 28 January 2017 and has never been publicly disclosed, offers new insights into the ways in which senior White House officials, including Bannon, Trump’s closest adviser at the time, sought to ensure the FBI saw itself as an ally of the White House.
It also raises questions about why the incident was not included in the report by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian influence during the 2016 election, which contained detailed allegations of the ways in which Trump sought to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into the president and his campaign.
Bannon made the remarks to Andrew McCabe, who was then serving as deputy director of the FBI, and Bill Priestap, who was serving as the FBI’s assistant director of counter-intelligence. They were written up in a memo by McCabe and later raised when Bannon was questioned by US special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to people familiar with the matter.
Read more at The Guardian.
From Politico, Judge set to rule on Trump’s subpoena challenge.
President Donald Trump’s strategy of outright resistance to House subpoenas will face its first test in federal court on Tuesday, setting up a ruling that could boost Democrats’ efforts to investigate the president’s business dealings.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta is set to rule on the Democrat-led House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of Trump’s financial records. The committee’s demand is part of its investigation into alleged financial crimes committed by Trump.
Trump filed suit seeking to invalidate the subpoena three weeks ago — the first of two lawsuits aimed at hobbling House Democrats’ investigations targeting his administration, presidential campaign and business empire.
Mehta’s ruling will represent a flashpoint in the myriad disputes between the White House and Congress — marking the first time the judiciary weighs in on Trump’s blanket strategy of refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and oversight requests from House Democrats.
That should be interesting.
As you probably know, Trump met with Hungary’s wannabe dictator and anti-Semite Victor Orban at the White House yesterday and praised him profusely. The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Anne Applebaum asks: It’s clear why Trump likes autocrats. But why are American conservatives following him?
…it isn’t necessary to be a left-wing Chavista to misunderstand a foreign country and celebrate its ugly ideas. Intellectuals of the right are just as susceptible to the lure of exotic ideologies, and equally prone to admire foreign authoritarians who seem to achieve things that democracies, with their boring coalition politics and their tedious rule of law, cannot.
On Monday, President Trump hosted one of these exotic foreign ideologues at the White House. Viktor Orban, prime minister of a country with just under 10 million inhabitants — less than the population of North Carolina — has set out to persuade British and American intellectuals to join his war against liberal democracy. At embassy dinners in London and at Washington events sponsored by Hungarian government foundations, elegantly dressed Hungarian officials expound the values of their corrupt, authoritarian state — and now some U.S. conservatives, perhaps frustrated because they can’t vanquish their own opponents so easily, have come to believe them. Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation imagines that other Europeans dislike Orban because Hungarians are “constantly reminding their neighbors not to be embarrassed by Europe’s history.” Christopher Caldwell, writing recently in the Claremont Review of Books, admires Orban’s attack on “neutral social structures and a level playing field,” presuming that the Hungarian leader derives these policies from some mystical need for organic community.
In fact, European anger at Orban has nothing do with being reminded of history, and everything to do with Orban’s all-out assault on his country’s legal and judicial institutions, on independent media, on academia and on culture. And the purpose of this assault has nothing to do with mystical organic communities: The reason the ruling party has undermined judicial independence and expelled the country’s leading university is because it wants to maintain its monopoly on power and continue accumulating wealth. No large business can operate in Hungary without ruling-party approval; many in Orban’s inner circle have mysteriously managed to make fortunes; independent businesspeople who do not toe the line are quietly threatened until they leave the country.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories have you been following?
It’s getting more and more difficult for me to see a way out the mess we’re in with Trump. Perhaps the House will eventually impeach, but Republicans seem happy to accept election help from Russia and other foreign sources. Will any of them ever stand up to Trump?
And can we hope to win the election in 2020 with creepy old white guy Joe Biden when we’ve done nothing to protect the integrity of our elections from Russia’s interference? In 2020, will Trump have help from other countries like China, Israel, and Saudi Arabia?
Here are today’s disturbing reads:
Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker: The Constitutional System Is Not Built to Resist Trump’s Defiance of Congress.
Our constitutional system never contemplated a President like Donald Trump. The Framers anticipated friction among the three branches of government, which has been a constant throughout our history, but the Trump White House has now established a complete blockade against the legislative branch, thwarting any meaningful oversight. The system, it appears, may simply be incapable of responding to this kind of challenge.
The President has been candid about his plans for responding to investigations from the House of Representatives, which has been controlled by the Democrats since January. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said, last month, and the pace of his defiant actions has since quickened. The President and his Administration have defied congressional inquiries about security clearances, access to the full Mueller report, the President’s bank records, his tax returns, and the continuing investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. (This week, it was revealed that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed the President’s oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., to testify before it again.) No White House documents have been produced to Congress; after the Attorney General, William Barr, made a contentious appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week, no other Administration officials have agreed to testify.
The fight between Trump and Congress will end up in the courts, but Toobin says the courts’ tendency to deal with these issues on “a case-by-case basis” instead of examining the overall problem of Trump’s blanket stonewalling may all Trump to keep stalling indefinitely.
But this approach by the courts—adjudicating one Administration claim of defiance at a time—will miss the point in the current era. There has never been a President who directed an open campaign of total defiance against another branch of government. It is simply misleading to consider these claims in isolation from one another, because the President has acknowledged that they are part of a coördinated campaign. The law has no clear mechanism for adjudicating these claims together—but they belong together. Trump is leading a political campaign, and it calls for a political, not just judicial, response.
Toobin thinks this could even interfere with the process of impeachment. I guess we are going to find out eventually.
The New York Times: White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice.
White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald F. McGahn II, to say publicly that he never believed the president obstructed justice, according to two people briefed on the requests.
Mr. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to Mr. McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel, one of the people said. Mr. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed that Mr. McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.
The White House made one of the requests to Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, before the Mueller report was released publicly but after the Justice Department gave a copy to Mr. Trump’s lawyers in the preceding days. Reading the report, the president’s lawyers saw that Mr. Mueller left out that Mr. McGahn had told investigators that he believed the president never obstructed justice. Mr. Burck had told them months earlier about his client’s belief on the matter and that he had shared it with investigators.
Mr. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. “We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,” Mr. Burck said in a statement. “It was a request, professionally and cordially made.” A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment.
But after the report was released, detailing the range of actions Mr. Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, Mr. McGahn decided to pass on putting out a statement supportive of the president. The report also revealed that Mr. Trump told aides he believed Mr. McGahn had leaked to the news media to make himself look good.
President Donald Trump told POLITICO on Friday that it would be “appropriate” for him to speak to Attorney General Bill Barr about launching an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, or his son, Hunter.
The question of whether Trump could pressure Barr to probe Biden is coming under scrutiny after Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said he would be traveling to Ukraine to urge the incoming government there to look at Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company that has reportedly been in prosecutors’ crosshairs. The efforts appear to be part of a broader campaign by Trump’s allies to damage the former Democratic vice president’s White House campaign and have raised questions about whether Trump’s team is trying to enlist a foreign government to aid the president’s re-election bid.
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him about, but I have not done that as of yet. … It could be a very big situation,” Trump said in a 15-minute telephone interview on Friday afternoon, which stemmed from POLITICO’s inquiries for a separate story.
That should be mind-boggling, but statements like that from the “president” no longer surprise anyone. Trump acts like the dictator of a banana republic, and no one is shocked anymore.
Here’s more evidence from Trump’s belief that he’s a tin-pot dictator. The Washington Post: Trump takes over Fourth of July celebration, changing its location and inserting himself into the program.
President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.
The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.
Fireworks on the Mall, which the National Park Service has orchestrated for more than half a century, draw hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and mark one of the highlights of the city’s tourist season. The event has been broadcast live on television since 1947 and since 1981 has been accompanied by a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol featuring high-profile musicians and a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra….
The revised Independence Day celebration is the culmination of two years of attempts by Trump to create a major patriotic event centered on him and his supporters, including failed efforts to mount a military parade modeled on the Bastille Day celebration in France. The new event has become a top priority for new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whom Trump tasked with the job three months ago, officials said.
The president has received regular briefings on the effort in the Oval Office and has gotten involved in the minutiae of the planning — even discussing whether the fireworks should be launched from a barge in the Potomac River, administration aides said. The president has shown interest in the event that he often does not exhibit for other administration priorities, the aides added.
Because Trump is so incompetent that he mostly focuses on minutia–and that’s also what he apparently did in his business career, according to Trump ghostwriter Charles Leerhsen, in an essay for Yahoo News: Exclusive: Trump, the billion-dollar loser — I was his ghostwriter and saw it happen.
On Tuesday, the New York Times scooped the world on the news that from 1985 to 1994, Donald Trump incurred the biggest business losses of any single taxpayer in American history. What was it like for him to lose more than $1 billion in a decade? Was he perpetually ashen-faced with fear? Or smirking at the thought of outwitting the IRS “for sport,” as he said in a Wednesday morning tweet?
I happen to know, because from late 1988 to 1990, I was his ghostwriter, working on a book that would be called “Surviving at the Top.” Right in the middle of this period, I can tell you that the answer is that he was neither. Except for an occasional passing look of queasiness, or anger, when someone came into his Trump Tower office and whispered the daily win/loss numbers at his Atlantic City casinos, he seemed to be bored out of his mind.
According to Leerhsen Trump spent most of his time looking at fabric swatches.
Trump’s portfolio did not jibe with what I saw each day — which to a surprisingly large extent was him looking at fabric swatches. Indeed, flipping through fabric swatches seemed at times to be his main occupation. Some days he would do it for hours, then take me in what he always called his “French military helicopter” to Atlantic City — where he looked at more fabric swatches or sometimes small samples of wood paneling. It was true that the carpets and drapes at his properties needed to be refreshed frequently, and the seats on the renamed Trump Shuttle required occasional reupholstering. But the main thing about fabric swatches was that they were within his comfort zone — whereas, for example, the management of hotels and airlines clearly wasn’t. One of his aides once told me that every room at the Plaza could be filled at the “rack rate” (list price) every night, and the revenue still wouldn’t cover the monthly payment of the loan he’d taken out to buy the place. In other words, he’d made a ridiculous deal. Neither he nor the banks had done the math beforehand. Or perhaps Trump knew it because someone had told him, but didn’t want to think about it. The one thing he is above-average at is compartmentalization.
On days when there were no broadlooms or chenilles to ponder, we would sit around his office and shoot the breeze while (as we now know) out there someplace in the real world, his businesses were hemorrhaging cash. He’d talk about the Yankees, show me pictures of Marla Maples (whom he was then romancing while still married to Ivana) and tell me obviously made-up stories, such as how he had just the other day seen a beautiful, completely naked woman on the street. “Put that in the book!” he’d say, and I’d pretend to write it down.
Please go read the whole thing. It’s hilarious until you realize that Trump is probably doing the same thing in the Oval Office when he isn’t trying to start investigations into his political enemies.
I’ll end there. I know there is lots of other news for us to discuss. Please share your own thoughts and links in the comment thread below.
Wednesday was one of those huge news days that would have been shocking if any other president had been in charge. But with Trump in the White House, it was just another incredible day among hundreds of other incredible days since November 8, 2016.
Wednesday’s Breaking News Events
The biggest news of the day: The House Judiciary Committee voted to find Cover-Up General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress.
The committee’s 24-to-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the standoff over the Mueller report. The Justice Department denounced the move as unnecessary and intended to stoke a fight.
After the vote, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, swatted away questions about possible impeachment, but added, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”
The contempt vote raised the stakes in the battle over evidence and witnesses as Democrats investigate Mr. Trump over behavior detailed by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in his report into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice. By the day’s end, it seemed all but inevitable that the competing claims would have to be settled in the nation’s courts rather than on Capitol Hill.
CNN posted House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s grave remarks following the contempt vote.
In addition, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff subpoenaed Barr and the DOJ. Politico: Schiff subpoenas DOJ for unredacted Mueller report and counterintel info.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued a subpoena to the Justice Department on Wednesday for the unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in addition to all of the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information collected during the 22-month investigation.
The subpoena comes after Schiff (D-Calif.) and his Republican counterpart, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, made a rare joint request for the documents. Schiff said the Justice Department had yet to respond to the committee’s request, prompting him to issue a subpoena.
“The department has repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony, and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities,” Schiff said in a statement.
“The department repeatedly pays lip service to the importance of a meaningful accommodation process, but it has only responded to our efforts with silence or outright defiance,” Schiff added. “Today, we have no choice but to issue a subpoena to compel their compliance.
Somewhat surprisingly, it was revealed (leaked by Don Jr.?) that The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify about contradictions in his previous testimony. There have been suggestions that Republican Chairman Richard Burr may just want to give Junior an opportunity to clean up his previous lies to the committee.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. for him to return and testify again, and the committee is now at a standoff with President Donald Trump’s eldest son, according to sources familiar with the matter.
One option Trump Jr. is considering in response to the subpoena is to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, and another is just to not appear at all, according to one source. The subpoena from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence panel is believed to be the first issued to one of Trump’s family members.
Discussions for Trump Jr.’s testimony began several weeks ago before special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released, the sources say. Trump Jr.’s team resisted giving testimony, in part, because the findings of the Mueller report were still not known.
During the negotiations, the idea to use written questions and answers was floated, and at another time it was proposed that Trump Jr. sit for an untranscribed interview, according to one source.
The subpoena was issued more than two weeks ago, according to a source familiar with the matter, and it compelled Trump Jr. to testify before the committee, the source said.
The White House is escalating its war on the press. The Washington Post: White House imposes new rules on reporters’ credentials, raising concerns about access.
The White House has implemented new rules that it says will cut down on the number of journalists that hold “hard” passes, the credentials that allow reporters and technicians to enter the grounds without seeking daily permission.
The new policy has been met with some confusion and even worry among journalists, some of whom suspect that the ultimate aim is to keep critics in the press away from the White House and President Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explicitly denied that, saying the changes were prompted by security concerns, not to punish journalists. “No one’s access is being limited,” she said Wednesday night.
Fact Check: Sanders is a notorious liar. Dana Millbank’s press pass has been permanently revoked.
And yes, yesterday there was another school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, not far from Columbine HS. And last night, Trump held another hate rally in the Florida Panhandle, at which he joked and laughed when an audience member said immigrants should be shot.
Reactions to the Constitutional Crisis
The Guardian: #ConstitutionalCrisis? Trump’s battle with Congress comes to a head, by David Smith.
Police this week arrested an alleged arsonist who started a fire outside the National Archives building in Washington, claiming that voices told him to “burn buildings down”. The archives display a four-page handwritten document to countless tourists and schoolchildren: the US constitution.
While the physical object remains fragile but secure, the political framework it represents is facing one of the severest threats in its 232-year history. The arsonist is Donald Trump and he is getting ever closer with his tiki torch.
On Wednesday, the House judiciary committee voted to hold Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress. It was a seminal moment in Democrats’ legal battle with the White House over access to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on how Russia helped Trump win the 2016 election….
“We are now in a constitutional crisis,” Nadler told reporters after the hearing. “Now is the time of testing whether we can keep our republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government. We must resist this.”
Hyperbole? I don’t think so. A bit more from The Guardian:
Alarm bells not heard before are ringing. Not because Trump has got worse – he doesn’t – but because events have forced the matter to a head. Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in last November’s midterm elections, obliging them to wheel out a “subpoena cannon” and end the Trump honeymoon in Washington. Then Mueller produced his long-awaited report, chronicling 10 incidents in which the president may have attempted to obstruct justice but stopping short of indictment, an unsatisfactory conclusion that made all-out political war inevitable.
Dismayingly, Barr has behaved like a political stooge, the sort of apologist one would expect in a slow-moving coup. Now Trump’s assertion of executive privilege – a move normally designed to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process – to hide part of the report and its underlying evidence seems baseless, intended only to trigger a long court battle and run down the clock to election day in November 2020.
Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, says: “This is more than minor fireworks. It’s a fundamental challenge to the structure of checks and balances. In particular, the president’s wholesale, blunderbuss assertion of executive privilege over the entirety of the Mueller report is legally groundless to the point of being preposterous.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Trump’s contempt for Congress is dangerous and self-serving.
After special counsel Robert S. Mueller III filed his report on his investigation into possible ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, the president hailed the report as a “total exoneration.” His attorney general has since released a redacted version of the document, which elicited a similar reaction from Trump. But now that Democrats in Congress are seeking to gain a fuller understanding of Mueller’s reasoning — including why the special counsel reached no decision about whether Trump obstructed justice — the White House is stonewalling.
On Wednesday, hours before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Atty. Gen. William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller’s report, Trump, following Barr’s advice, asserted “protective” executive privilege in connection with the report and its underlying evidence. The administration already had moved to prevent former White House counsel Don McGahn from fully cooperating with the committee. And earlier, Trump tweeted that “Bob Mueller should not testify” before Congress.
The invocation of executive privilege, even on a preliminary basis, is hard to justify. By allowing McGahn to talk to Mueller’s investigators, Trump in effect waived any privilege. Congress should be free not only to question McGahn about what he told Mueller (including his sensational assertion that Trump directed him to have Mueller removed), but also to seek documents from him.
Read the rest at the LA Times.
The most straightforward procedural suggestion for addressing executive branch noncooperation is to subpoena documents and testimony and, if they aren’t produced, hold the responsible individuals in contempt of Congress. This, it turns out, is not such a great idea.
For one thing, a congressional contempt citation like the one the House Judiciary Committee issued for Barr on Wednesday is evanescent. The process is almost comically inefficient, and requires the contempt citation to be eventually approved by the full House. The citation also expires at the end of the Congress that issued it. When a new Congress is seated, it can start again. In contrast, the executive branch marches on as an enterprise, legally speaking, from one presidency to the next. In a power struggle between president and Congress, this is a big advantage for the executive.
Then, there’s the enforcement dilemma. Criminal enforcement of a congressional contempt citation falls to the Justice Department. If you’re asking the current Department of Justice to move against executive branch officials, good luck to you. (This goes double for Barr himself, who of course leads the Justice Department.)
Read suggested solutions at the link above.
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks Republicans have been seduced by President Donald Trump and forgotten the whole point of the US Senate.
Sitting at his desk in his old Senate chair with his name engraved on the back, Reid complained that the Republican-led upper chamber has become too subservient to the president under current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“I can’t imagine how the Republicans are being so compliant on everything [Trump] wants,” Reid told me during a recent interview in his Las Vegas office. “What’s the Senate all about?”
It’s not because Trump is an aberration, he cautions: “Trump did not create the Republican Congress; the Republican Congress created Trump.”
Read the whole thing at Vox.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?