Fresh Hell Friday Reads

GOOD MORNING AMERICA – Internet sensation Grumpy Cat appears on “Good Morning America,” 3/22/13, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images) GRUMPY CAT

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s no wonder that Mitch McConnell is stacking the judiciary with the likes of dingbat Wendy Vitter who is probably one of the most uniquely unqualified Federal judges to ever sit on the bench. It appears to be the only way they can get their conspiracy theories and pet religious fantasies into law.

This is from Vanity Fair and the keyboard of Bess Levin: “TRUMP JUDGE WHO ENDORSED THEORY ABORTION CAUSES CANCER CONFIRMED BY SENATE.  Wendy Vitter, who promoted a brochure that links birth control to “violent death,” just got a lifetime seat on the federal bench,.”

The president has installed a whopping 106 judges since his inauguration, and, on Thursday, the Senate confirmed what might be his craziest nominee yet.

That would be Wendy Vitter. Trump nominated her nearly a year and a half ago, and on Thursday, the Senate officially voted to give her a lifetime seat on the federal bench. So, what’s so bad about Vitter that Susan “This Kavanaugh guy totally deserves a seat on the Supreme Court” Collins broke ranks to oppose her? Where to start?

Probably with the fact that Vitter, who has been general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012, seemingly believes that abortion causes breast cancer. At a conference in 2013, Vitter referred to a brochure that linked abortions to breast cancer, and told the audience, “Go to Dr. Angela’s Web site, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, download it, and, at your next physical, you walk into your pro-life doctor and say, ‘Have you thought about putting these facts or this brochure in your waiting room?’ Each one of you can be the pro-life advocate to take that next step. That’s what you do with it.” That same brochure that Vitter appeared to endorse claimed that taking birth control can lead to cervical and liver cancers, and “violent death,” because “women who take oral contraceptives prefer men with similar DNA, and that women in these partnerships have fewer sexual relations, leading to more adultery, and ‘understandably . . . violence.’” Separately, Vitter appeared at an anti-Planned Parenthood rally, where she accused the group of “kill[ing] over 150,000 females a year.” Naturally, she left these activities off her disclosure form to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The latest conspiracy theory concerns Trump’s and apparently AG Barr’s concept that Trump was ‘spied on’ by his political enemies.  This enters the conversation while we find out the FBI is telling Governors that their election databases were hacked by Russians in 2016 while swearing them to secrecy that prevents them from doing anything about it in 2020.  I’m beginning to think more and more that Trump knows his election is illegitimate and that his campaign knows which swing states the Russians flipped for him.  Well, one of the two hacked counties in Florida has been revealed.

The voter registration database of a small county in the Florida panhandle was breached by Russian government hackers in 2016, according to two U.S. officials.

The Russian military spy agency, the GRU, was responsible for the penetration of Washington County’s database, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The county has a population of about 25,000.

Carol F. Rudd, county elections supervisor, declined to comment on the breach but said it’s important for federal, state and local officials to be able to communicate confidentially. “If each agency gets suspicious of the other’s ability to follow the rules of confidentiality, then those tenuous lines of communication quickly break down,” she said in an email. “That would set our security capabilities back years and severely compromise our ability to protect our elections. THAT would be a big win for the Russians going into 2020.”

I’m still not convinced that the Russians didn’t play around with things while they were in there.  So which Florida County was the second?  And what about the other states?

Lawmakers confirmed on Wednesday, however, that the Russian hackers did gain adequate access to be able to change voter registration data if they’d wanted, although there is no evidence that they did so.

The systems used to tabulate results are not connected to the registration systems.

“What the FBI has come forward with is that they have no evidence that the voter database was tampered with,” Waltz said. “But their level of confidence was unclear.”

This isn’t a conspiracy theory since we’ve got some facts here to show there was an actual hack. The damned spying thing however …

In his first television interview, Attorney General William Barr said his initial review of the origins of the Russia probe has produced more questions than adequate answers.

“It wasn’t handled in the ordinary way that investigations or counter intelligence activities are conducted. It was sort of an ad hoc small group. Most of these people are no longer with the FBI or the CIA, or the other agencies involved,” Barr told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer in the interview that aired Friday morning.

Notice Barr appeared on the State Propaganda Chanel.

Barr told Congress last month he believed “spying did occur.”

“I don’t want to speculate,” Barr said. “What I will say is I’ve been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and I have also found that some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together. In a sense I have more questions today than I did when I first started,” he continued.

“The fact of the matter is [special counsel] Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities. He was looking t whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. He was not going back and looking at the counter intelligence program.,” Barr said. “And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it. The main one being the office of inspector general that’s looking at the FISA warrants. But as far as I’m aware, no one has really looked across the whole waterfront,” he continued.

So, whatever did happen to that counter intelligence probe?  as asked by Phillip Bump writing for WAP

Where that investigation stands now, though, is a mystery — even to congressional leaders. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) spoke with The Washington Post by phone Tuesday and explained how he and his colleagues have been stymied in their efforts to learn how and if the probe is moving forward. The interview has been edited for clarity.

The Post: What, as you understand it, is the current status of that investigation into the president?

Schiff: The short answer is: We don’t know. Just as a reminder, this all began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. So it began as a counterintelligence investigation, not as a criminal investigation. Now obviously a criminal case — many criminal cases — were spun off of this but we don’t know what happened to the counterintelligence investigation that James Comey opened.

We would get briefed, predominantly at a Gang of Eight level, up until Comey was fired. And, after that point, while we continued to get quarterly — although often they missed the quarterly nature of it — counterintelligence briefings, they excluded the most important counterintelligence investigation then going on, that involving Donald Trump.

There is a reference in the Mueller report to counterintelligence FBI personnel who were embedded in Mueller’s team [Volume One, p. 13] which then reports back to headquarters, although those reports may have dealt with counterintelligence issues that the special counsel felt were beyond his scope. But we don’t know whether the Mueller team itself or others in the Mueller team or others outside the Mueller team continued the counterintelligence investigation after the criminal probe was opened or whether at some point it was closed.

The Post: Is there any reason to believe that the counterintelligence investigation has been closed?

Schiff: You know, I have not been able to get clarity on that. We have been seeking to get it, to get an answer from the Justice Department, from the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and we don’t have clarity, which is concerning.

So, the news of the day relates to Judge Emmet Sullivan ordering the DOJ to unredact portions of the Mueller Report.  The Flynn part is truly amazing.  This is also from WAPO.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

In related news,  the WSJ reports that Mueller’s testimony is being held up as related to “executive privilege”.  I have no idea why an investigation of the President could be suppressed as executive privilege but they’re obviously trying every angle and probably judge shopping.

A long read you may want to check out at The Atlantic as Jeff Stein interviews a Watergate figure: “The Watergate Editor on How Trump “Leads the Press Around by the Nose”. Barry Sussman, who edited Woodward and Bernstein at The Washington Post, discusses the president, Putin, and what the media must fix.”

Jeff Stein: What’s your take on the press coverage of Trump, starting with the first allegations about his associates’ contacts with the Russians, up to the Mueller report? How has the press been doing?

Barry Sussman: The problem is the media have allowed Trump to set the agenda. When he changes the subject, they change the subject. They follow him wherever he goes. He leads the press around by the nose. That was even true on the Russia investigation. How many weeks did we go, months, where there were front-page stories questioning whether Trump would even testify? Imbeciles like Giuliani were getting press attention as though they had something to say, when all they were doing was trying to stretch things out and humiliate the press. That’s my main difficulty, not only with the Russia investigation but with everything else.

So, rest in peace sweet 7 year old Grumpy Cat.  Her face was  every where via NPR.

Grumpy Cat — the blue-eyed cat with the withering stare and permafrown that suggested perpetual irritation — has died, her family announced early Friday. She was 7.

The scowling kitty died of complications from a urinary tract infection, her owners said.

“Some days are grumpier than others,” Tabatha Bundesen wrote, announcing her cat’s death.

Born in 2012, Grumpy Cat became a darling of memes, cat fanciers and anyone who needed to be reminded that somewhere out there, there was a cat who looked as grumpy as they felt.

“Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world — even when times were tough,” Bundesen wrote, in a note from her and the rest of Grumpy Cat’s family.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Constitutional Crisis

Mice Factory from The Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem.

Good Afternoon!!

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 New York Times: House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report.

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.

Brambly Hedge illustration, by Jill Marklem

“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.

CNN: Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas Donald Trump Jr.

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.

Jill Barklem illustration

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.

From Autumn Story, by Jill Barklem

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.

By Jill Barklem

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.

NBC News: Suzanne Garment AG Barr’s contempt charge won’t force Trump to give House Democrats what they want. Here’s what might. A brief excerpt:

The Palace of the Old Oak, by Jill Barklem

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.

Vox: “The Republican Congress created Trump”: Harry Reid’s thoughts on a fallen Senate.

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?


Monday Reads: This is Crazy! This is Crazy!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I give you exhibit one (see the twitter below) demonstrating that White Nationalist Christianity is a threat to this country.  There is absolutely nothing normal, usual, or whatever about this suggestion or response given by the Russian Potted Plant occupying the White House.  Jerry Falwell Jr. is a monster.  Read on.

How do we explain all this?  White Nationalist Christians want to revive the same brutality they inflicted on Black Americans and Indigenous Americans and Trump is their vehicle. They want him in office for as long as possible and the Wisdom Beings know he wants to be there until death sweeps him into the darkness.

This is from Gideon Rachman writing for the Financial Times:  Donald Trump is updating America’s historic ruthlessness. Promising US voters ‘greatness’ has led the president to celebrate a brutal past”

 

Donald Trump says so many strange and outrageous things that it is impossible to remember them all. But one Trumpian remark that has stuck with me is the US president’s repeated insistence that, after conquering Iraq, “we should have kept the oil”. To the ears of the Washington establishment, this was yet another Trump gaffe. Even Dick Cheney, the former vice-president and most hawkish of hawks, had never portrayed Iraq as a war of conquest. But Mr Trump’s deliberately provocative remark was an insight into both his philosophy and his appeal to voters. When many Americans feel frightened that both US power and their own living standards are in decline, Mr Trump is making an appeal to American ruthlessness. The US president says to voters that the country cannot afford to be “politically correct” any more. The way to Make America Great Again, in the words of his slogan, is to rediscover the ruthless instincts that made America great in the first place. In a nod to past American ruthlessness, Mr Trump has hung the portrait of Andrew Jackson, US president from 1829-1837, on the wall of the Oval Office. Jackson was once seen as one of the great builders of the American nation and his statue stands in Lafayette Square, opposite the White House. But a more recent generation of historians has accused Jackson of complicity in genocide for ordering the forced removal of Native Americans from their land — a policy that led to the “trail of tears” in which thousands died. By honouring Jackson, whom he praised as a “very tough person”, Mr Trump is honouring the brutal policies that allowed the US to conquer the west.

This is completely insane and ignores the rule of law and our constitutionally defined government institutions. I think Nancy Pelosi is right …. if he’s thrown out of office he will not leave either by ballot or impeachment. From WAPO this morning: “Claiming two years of his presidency were ‘stolen,’ Trump suggests he’s owed overtime”.

President Trump on Sunday seemed to warm to the idea of reparations — for himself, and in the form of an unconstitutional, two-year addition to his first term in the White House.

He retweeted a proposal offered by Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, that he be granted another two years in office as recompense for time lost to the Russia investigation. Half of his first term, Trump wrote in a Twitter dispatch of his own, had been “stolen.”

The argument was perhaps tongue-in-cheek, leading some legal experts to dismiss the comments as bravado. Others, however, saw the president’s apparent longing to overstay his four-year term in office as an assault on the rule of law. That it was raised playfully, they said, was small comfort, especially given Trump’s playful refusal, in the fall of 2016, to say that he would accept the outcome of an election that polling suggested he was destined to lose.

“I will keep you in suspense,” he said at the time.

None of this is normal. All of this is crazy.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they will vote Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress after Barr missed a deadline to produce a complete version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

The panel had set a deadline of 9 a.m. Monday for Barr to provide the unredacted version of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It announced the planned vote in a statement Monday.

“Although the Committee has attempted to engage in accommodations with Attorney General Barr for several months, it can no longer afford to delay, and must resort to contempt proceedings,” reads the text of a contempt report released by Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “The Committee urgently requires access to the full, unredacted Mueller Report and to the investigatory and evidentiary materials cited in the Report.”

The only good news is that Mueller has firmed up his commitment to address a hearing.  In response, we have a Trumpf Twitter Meltdown:. This is via TBogg at Raw Story.

Reacting to news that special counsel Robert Mueller has made “tentative” plans to appear before a House Committee, President Donald Trump went on a furious Twitter rampage demanding Mueller not show up.

On Twitter, Trump ranted, “After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents – all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION – why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller” before adding, …”to testify. Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”

And to that we remind Trumpf and all his minions of a simple definition that bit Nixon in the ass too. Barr can read up on Nixon’s jailed and disgraced AG John Mitchell.

I doubt any one as old as me will forget the day they actually arrested a US AG.

I was dreaming of my first year in college and just trying to wait out high school during this.  Now, we’re living the nightmare again.

On March 2, 1974, a federal grand jury indicted Mitchell on six counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, false statements to the F.B.I., false statements to the grand jury and perjury. The charges stem from testimony in which he denied having any knowledge of Nixon’s efforts to spy on his Democratic political rivals.

Eleven months later, Mitchell was convicted on five counts and received sentences “from 20 months to five years on the conspiracy and obstruction counts, to run concurrently; to be followed by three concurrent terms of 10 months to three years for the three counts of lying under oath, for a total of 30 months as a minimum, after which Mr. Mitchell would be eligible for parole, and eight years as a maximum,” the New York Times reported at the time.

Mitchell was also slapped with a $10,000 fine.

Barr may face a similar fate. Democrats in Congress have begun demanding that Barr resign or face impeachment after a letter from Mueller to Barr was released on Tuesday.

In it, Mueller “expressed a frustration over the lack of context” in Barr’s summary of Russian election interference, contacts between Russians and members of Trump’s campaign, and Trump’s efforts to sabotage the investigation.

Barr’s four-page memo to Congress was fuzzy, Mueller wrote, because it downplayed the significance of the evidence Mueller collected, specifically on whether Trump obstructed justice.

“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller said.

Barr took it upon himself to clear Trump of any wrongdoing, however, Mueller was clear in his report that Trump is not innocent and that he can and should face impeachment and/or criminal charges upon leaving office.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Instead, Barr made a surprising excuse for Trump. The president, he said, was upset about the investigation, and his alleged attempts to thwart the probe should be viewed as emotional and without criminal intent.

“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” he said.

But the fact that Mueller had informed Barr of his misgivings about how the report was presented to the public conflicts with testimony Barr gave to the Senate last month.

During a hearing on April 10, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked Barr if Mueller “supported his conclusion” about Trump’s criminal culpability.

“I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr replied.

Mueller’s letter is proof that Barr was not being truthful, and Beschloss’s hat tip to the past has struck a nerve.

I’m going back to the beginning of the year and an article from The New Yorker that might put some perspective on this creature who is determined to out-Nixon Nixon.  This is from Sarah Larson: “Slow Burn”: What Can Watergate Teach Us?  You should read it.  I may have to strart listening to podcasts more and “Slow Burn” seems like a good place to start.

“I’m going to start with a story that you’ve probably never heard,” Neyfakh says at the beginning of the first episode. It’s the story of “the mouth of the South,” Martha Mitchell, whose husband, John Mitchell, is a former U.S. Attorney General and, at the time of the Watergate break-in, in charge of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Martha Mitchell, Neyfakh says, enjoyed snooping on her husband and talking to the press, and was “treated by Nixon’s men as someone who knew too much.” First, Neyfakh says, “she was kept against her will in a California hotel for days. Then she was forcibly tranquilized while being held down in her bed. Later, when she went public, Nixon loyalists tried to discredit her in the press as an unreliable alcoholic.” She was called crazy; she seemed crazy. “But it turned out that she was onto something.”

Imagine John Mitchell’s conundrum, Neyfakh says: “You’re the President’s closest confidant, and you’re in charge of all kinds of political skullduggery. Meanwhile, your wife is famous for listening in on your meetings, getting hammered on whiskey, and blabbing to reporters.“ When John Mitchell heard of the break-in arrests, he and Martha were in California. He didn’t want Martha to learn the identity of one of the burglars, because she knew him: James W. McCord, a former C.I.A. officer who had worked in security for the Mitchells. “So when he left for D.C., Mitchell put a former F.B.I. agent named Steve King in charge of Martha, and he told him to keep her away from newspapers, TV, news, any coverage of the burglary,” Neyfakh says. She was “literally held a prisoner within four walls,” we hear Martha telling David Frost, in her languid Southern accent. She managed to get a copy of the L.A. Timesand call her friend Helen Thomas, the longtime White House correspondent; midway through the call, Thomas says, she heard Mitchell say “Get away! Get away!” We hear Mitchell say that King “rushes in and jerked out the telephone”—tore the cord out of the wall. Later, Neyfakh says, Martha and King got in a scuffle and she put her hand through a plate-glass door. King, now the Ambassador to the Czech Republic, appointed by Donald Trump, did not respond to Neyfakh’s request for comments.

Everybody knew about Martha Mitchell at the time, but if you weren’t of news-consuming age in the early seventies, it’s fascinating to meet her now. Remembering such figures and anecdotes, Neyfakh says on the show, helps us get a feel for the moment to moment, life in the time as it was lived. Martha Mitchell reminds him of Anthony Scaramucci: they are florid, larger-than-life characters who reveal much about the political moment and then are quickly forgotten. Watergate, he says, has “dozens of Scaramucci-level stories.” He goes on, “I think that’s why hearing Martha Mitchell’s story gives me such a vivid sense of what it was like to live through Watergate. It lets me inhabit that moment when no one knew what was going to happen, when the people involved didn’t know, the reporters covering it didn’t know. Nixon himself certainly had no idea.” Most of us listening are hoping that our unknowns will be resolved as definitively as Watergate’s did.

These days, “We’re living through this crazy time when we wake up in the morning dreading the alerts on our phones, and we have no idea how this is going to end,” Neyfakh told me. “And the last time we can remember it happening on this scale was during Watergate. Did it feel the way we feel now?” In some ways, yes; in others, no. A significant difference, I pointed out, was that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Russia scandal, while gravely serious, are also seen as a possible savior from the greater disaster of Trump himself, whereas Nixon, while loathed by seventies liberals, was a more run-of-the-mill politician, feared by few. The stakes are higher now. Considering that idea, Neyfakh stuck up for the craziness of Nixon. “I have the impression that people didn’t quite realize the depth of Richard Nixon’s paranoia, emotional instability, anger, and taste for vengeance until after the tapes came out publicly,” he said. In public, “he was very practiced, and he presented as a President in a way that Trump has no interest in doing.” People were more unnerved about Nixon when they learned what he was really like—a problem we really don’t have. He mentioned a moment that I had found chilling in the episode, in which Feldbaum describes watching Nixon’s post-Saturday Night Massacre speech on TV and thinking, This guy is not well. At that moment, he feared where Presidential emotional instability would lead: What might an unstable Commander-in-Chief do? We’ve all wondered that, too. But Trump, in his hubris, often goofs up, and so did Nixon. Nixon’s particular portfolio of eccentricities, of course, included recording himself, not managing to avoid surrendering the tapes to the authorities, and incriminating himself. Neyfakh and I laughed about this, in amazement.

“It’s truly, in the language of the modern Internet, a great self-own,” Neyfakh said.

All of this is rolling on in front of us in one media platform after another.  If Nixon’s tremendous hubris and personality disorders brought him down, I cannot help but believe the same will be done for Trump. It’s just watching this all reach new levels of craziness and lawlessness is not easy.  It’s good to remember that we have been through some of these feelings before.   It’s just that omnipresent media coverage amps up the assaults and insults.

It’s exhausting. Isn’t it?  It is also important to remind ourselves that eventually, Trump never had the support Nixon had at one time. He may fall quicker than we think. However, Nixon loved just enough of the country to leave peacefully when the writing was on the wall.  I worry about this with Trump

Remember Martha?  She was the woman nobody believed.  I don’t believe that Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress or the folks that worked for him or any other number of Trump whistle blowers that were sent to Martha Land will be silenced by history. That is why Congressional hearings on all of this need to speak louder than the evil likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr. We need to up the volume.  

We have to move public opinion. The only way to do that is with the same kinds of hearings we had with Watergate.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Cover-Up General Barr Commits Crimes for Mob Boss Trump

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I hardly know where to begin. Yesterday Cover-Up General Barr made a complete ass of himself during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here’s a good summary of what happened from NBC News:

Just to put all of the news of Barr’s Senate testimony yesterday into one place, here are our seven highlights:

1. He said a president could replace an independent counsel if he thought in the investigation was unfair: “If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents, and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel,” Barr said.

2. He admitted he didn’t review the underlying evidence in the Mueller report on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice: “We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record,” Barr said in an exchange with Kamala Harris. “We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted as accurate.

3. He indicated he didn’t read the full Mueller report or even its executive summaries: “Polling data was shared, sir,” said Cory Booker. “It’s in the report; I can cite you the page.” Barr responded, “With who?” (Answer: Paul Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik – revealed on page 7 of Mueller’s executive summary of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.)

4. He dodged Kamala Harris’ question on whether the president or anyone at the White House asked him or suggested to him to open an investigation into anyone: “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that… they have not asked me to open an investigation,” he said.

5. He said the Mueller report was his “baby” after Mueller submitted it: “At that point, it was my baby… It was my decision how and when to make it public.”

6. He said Mueller’s concern to him about his March 24 summary was inaccurate media reporting: “And I called Bob and said, you know, what’s the issue here? Are you — and I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate, and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate.” (But here’s Mueller’s letter complaining about Barr’s summary: It “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

7. And/but he called Mueller’s letter “snitty”: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was written by one of his staff people.”

Afterward, he announced that he would refuse to attend a scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today.

Kamala Harris was the star of the show. Here’s her full examination of Barr in which she got him to stammer and stumble and finally admit he never looked at the evidence of Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation.

As noted in the NBC list, Cory Booker got Barr to admit that he didn’t know that Paul Manafort had shared internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik–who is connected to Russian intelligence services–indicating that Barr didn’t even read Mueller’s report or even the executive summaries! In fact, in his exchange with Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, it appeared that Barr did not even know who Oleg Deripaska is!

Here’s Twitter thread from David Rothkopf on the long-term implications of Cover-Up Barr’s claims about presidential power.

I don’t think we fully realize the profundity of Barr’s assertions yesterday. The ideas that a president can determine whether or not he ought to be investigated or that a president is incapable of committing obstruction are not just outrageous assaults on Constitutional values.

Taken in the context of this administration’s systematic rejection of the oversight role of Congress and of the law–whether it is the emoluments clause of Constitution or the obligation of the IRS to hand over tax returns to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee–what we are seeing is nothing less than a coup, to use a word the president has grown fond of. Trump and Barr are seeking to eliminate the checks and balances that are a hallmark of our system and to effectively render the Congress subservient to the presidency.

Combine this with the efforts of the Senate to load the courts with judicial candidates loyal to the president and the implication of McConnell, Graham & Co. that they will not fulfill their own Constitutional obligations, and you see a devastating picture.

Please click on the link and read the rest.

Some reactions to yesterday’s horror show

Neal Kaytal: Why Barr Can’t Whitewash the Mueller Report.

Many who watched Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed the revelation that the special counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr’s characterization of his report, are despairing about the rule of law. I am not among them. I think the system is working, and inching, however slowly, toward justice.

When it comes to investigating a president, the special counsel regulations I had the privilege of drafting in 1998-99 say that such inquiries have one ultimate destination: Congress. That is where this process is going, and has to go. We are in the fifth inning, and we should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president….

The underappreciated story right now is that we’ve not only learned that it was Mr. Barr — and pointedly not Mr. Mueller — who decided to clear President Trump of the obstruction charges, but also discovered the reasoning behind Mr. Barr’s decision. The American public and Congress now have the facts and evidence before them. The sunlight the regulations sought is shining.

Mr. Barr tried to spin these facts. He hid Mr. Mueller’s complaints, which were delivered to him in writing more than a month ago, even when Congress asked in a previous hearing about complaints by members of the special counsel’s team. And the four-page letter that Mr. Barr issued in March and supposedly described the Mueller report omitted the two key factors driving the special counsel’s decision (which were hard to miss, as they were on the first two pages of the report’s volume about obstruction): First, that he could not indict a sitting president, so it would be unfair to accuse Mr. Trump of crimes even if he were guilty as sin; and second, Mr. Mueller could and would clear a sitting president, but he did not believe the facts cleared the president.

These two items came out because the special counsel regulations allowed for public release of this information (and not, as Mr. Barr testified on Wednesday, because he “overrode” the regulations to give the information to the public). The attorney general was misleading through and through, not just about the investigation, but about the special counsel regulations themselves.

Read the rest at The New York Times. I hope Kaytal is right; I’m having a little trouble being optimistic right now.

Greg Sargent: William Barr is helping to cover up Trump’s biggest crime of all.

As the political world struggles to digest the enormity of Attorney General William P. Barr’s profound corruption of his role on President Trump’s behalf, it’s worth stepping back and surveying a distilled version of what we know, now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report has been released:

  • Russia launched a massive attack on our political system, undermining the integrity of our elections, to elect Donald Trump president.
  • U.S. law enforcement launched an investigation primarily aimed at getting to the bottom of that attack so that we could fully reckon with what happened and ensure the integrity of future elections.
  • Trump tried in multiple ways to derail that accounting of this massive attack on our political system — and then tried to bury the truth about that derailment effort — in a manner that was at best corrupt, and at worst criminal.

The simplest way to understand much of what Barr has done — and what Trumpworld will be doing to impede inquiries going forward — is that it’s mainly aimed at obscuring the broad contours of that larger story.

The point here is not that everything they’re doing is deliberately aimed at this end. It’s that this bigger story is at the center of everything — and by “biggest crime of all,” I mean Trump’s most monstrous wrong — and thus efforts to keep smaller truths from coming out will inevitably be about obscuring that larger story.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Politico: Pelosi: Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress, blasting him in a closed-door meeting and later at a news conference.

“We saw [Barr] commit a crime when he answered your question,” Pelosi told Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) during a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, according to two sources present for the gathering.

“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress,” Pelosi said soon after at a news conference. “And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.“

Pelosi’s comments were an apparent reference to Barr’s response to Crist last month during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, during which the attorney generals aid he was not aware of any concerns that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team might have expressed about his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings.

More reactions, links only

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton: ‘China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns?’

Jamie Bouie at The New York Times: Bill Barr’s Perverse Theory of Justice.

Aaron Blake at The Washingotn Post: William Barr’s ‘snitty’ slip-up gives away his game.

EJ Dionne at the Washington Post: William Barr has shamelessly corrupted the debate over the Mueller report.

Amanda Marcotte at Salon: Bill Barr runs from House Judiciary hearing — will Democrats let him hide?

Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr.

Jennifer Rubin: Barr’s testimony was a low point in Justice Department history.

ABC News: Hillary Clinton: Barr is acting as Trump’s ‘defense lawyer.’

I expect there will be more news breaking today. What stories have you been following?

 


Monday Reads: Yeah, it’s Monday all Right

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

A girl is traumatized.

I’m in the middle of a major plumbing meltdown. I’m still traumatized by last night’s Game of Throne’s Battle of Winterfell. I really really don’t want to look at the news either because our version of the Army of the Dead is still walking around the Halls of Congress. Oh, and the President told his cult that good OB/GYNs like my daughter basically will murder babies when they actually fit the definition of a living, breathing, sentient human being and not a cluster of cells or a miscarriage in process or whatever of a million things can happen or go wrong in the entire gestation process.

There is nothing pleasant that comes out of a Trump Rally.  So, why does the media normalize anything that happens there?  There is nothing normal about him, his cult, or anything any of them do.  In the Vox Article ” Coverage of Trump’s latest rally shows how major media outlets normalize his worst excesses”, Aaron Rupar writes ” Lying is still being recast as “reviv[ing] an inaccurate refrain.”

Here is exhibit One from Toronto Star’s Fact Checker.

Rupar writes:

The New York Times did attempt to fact-check Trump’s lie about Democrats and abortion— Trump accused Democrats of supporting doctors who “wrap the baby beautifully” before they get together with the mother and “determine whether or not they will execute the baby” — but in so doing, the outlet demonstrated it doesn’t really have a vocabulary to adequately deal with Trump.

Instead of calling Trump’s lie a lie, the Times used the euphemism “revived an inaccurate refrain” in a tweet that was widely mocked. The accompanying article goes out of its way to avoid accusing Trump of lying, instead describing him as “reviv[ing] on Saturday night what is fast becoming a standard, and inaccurate, refrain about doctors ‘executing babies.’”

Major media outlets have long struggled with how exactly to cover Trump, with the Times famously coming to the word “lie” in a headline late, something the paper’s own public editor criticized it for. This effort to find euphemisms for the word “lie” is actually normalizing his worst excesses. Coverage of this sort makes him seem like any other politician.

The irony is that on Saturday night, as always, the media was one of Trump’s foremost targets of abuse — yet the very outlets Trump demeans continue to bend over backward to cover him in the most favorable possible light.

No doctor does that.  They would be arrested for murder immediately and it would be a violation of everything they’ve worked and studied and are paid to do.   There is no such thing as a “partial birth abortion” either even though Republicans pass laws to ban an imaginary procedure. Trump has made this equivocation before.

If that sounds a bit flippant, that’s because, as Jen Gunter, an OBGYN who trained in late-term abortions, pointed out on Twitter, “There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion.” Those who seek late-term abortions are seeking them before a pregnancy reaches full term but often and unfortunately after they have discovered in the second or third trimester some problem with the fetus or danger to the mother.

But the inaccuracies started before Trump even responded: Wallace’s question was problematic right out of the gate because of the term he used. “Partial birth” is a political, not medical, term, and it does not refer to all late-term abortions. It refers to a very specific and rare procedure called dilation and extraction*, in which a fetus is partially pulled through the birth canal and then aborted, nearly always when the fetus cannot live outside the womb and typically when the mother’s health is in danger, the fetus has a serious abnormality, or both. Such a procedure is not conducted lightly: the fetus has a fatal defect and will not survive, or the mother is at risk of death herself.

As this NPR article notes about a partial-birth abortion ban passed in 2003, “when some members of Congress tried to amend the bill to ban only those procedures that take place after viability, abortion opponents complained that would leave most of the procedures legal.” And the Supreme Court ultimately declined to strike down the ban anyway. Further, most states don’t allow late-term abortions: just eight states and Washington, D.C., have no restrictions on abortion timing, and the rest have restrictions and other regulations in place.

As noted, these types of abortions are extremely rare. Although both the rate and number of abortions have steadily fallen in the U.S., an estimated 1 million procedures are performed each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These procedures remain very safe, considerably more so than pregnancy and birth, in fact. Of these abortions, 91.4% are performed in the first trimester, less than 14 weeks into pregnancy. Just 1.3% of abortions are performed at or after 21 weeks, and an estimated 0.2% of all abortions involve the dilation and evacuation procedure. And why would women seek them in the first place?

After viability, every effort is made to save the infant–when possible–who is fully outside the womb, breathing and considered as human as you and me.

Good News every one! It appears a huge portion of the population does not want to vote for Trump.  This means he’ll be looking for Russian, Saudi, Chinese, etc help again.  The Republicans will go full metal voter suppression.  AND we need a hero … I’m borrowing Arya from the Game of Thrones Realm because she was definitely there with mad battle skills when every one most needs it.

“And what do we say to the God of Death?

Not Today.”

No memes.  Just Arya warrior woman photos for us today.

Politico suggests that folks are saying Joe is a front runner in name only.  Ah, Joe, it’s so!!!

Even with Biden in the race, several more prospects — among them, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) — are still looking to get in. And while Biden begins from a commanding position in the polls, it’s unclear how much of that support will remain adhered to him. Rival campaigns expect it to erode.

TV crews still follow the hordes of candidates running under 10 percent in the polls, any number of whom have good reason to believe that with far lower name recognition than Biden and the other behemoth in the race, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), their own campaigns have time to grow.

The key milepost, nearly every campaign agrees, is the first official debate in June.

“Between now and the debates, polls are going to be all over the place, and then even post the debates, polls are going to be all over the place,” said Robert Wolf, a venture capitalist and influential Democratic donor who raised money for and advised former President Barack Obama.

Predicting the Democratic field would not narrow to a “true top 5” until the fall, Wolf said, “In 2007-2008 it was really a choice between Obama, Edwards and Clinton. In 2016, it was a choice between Bernie and Hillary … Today, you could argue no one’s north of 25 percent, and you know, it doesn’t feel like that many people are picking one [candidate] versus the other.”

Three of the nation’s most influential activists are launching an organization that aims to harness the political power of women to influence elections and shape local and national policy priorities.

Dubbed Supermajority, the organization is the creation of Cecile Richards, the former head of Planned Parenthood; Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; and Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The group, which describes itself as multiracial and intergenerational, has a goal of training and mobilizing 2 million women over the next year to become organizers and political leaders in their communities.

The effort comes at a moment when women have emerged as perhaps the most powerful force in politics.

Millions of women marched in cities across America to protest President Donald Trump’s election. Women also comprise the majority of the electorate in the 2018 midterm elections, sending a historic number of female candidates to Congress and helping Democrats retake control of the House. A record number of women are also seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, including four senators.

Richards, who has long been a force in Democratic politics, said women “feel newly empowered and frankly motivated to take action, including so many women who never thought themselves as an activist before.”

Richards, Garza and Poo spent the past year traveling the country talking to women about how to harness their activism. They found that despite increased energy, many women find getting involved in politics intimidating and are unclear about how to do more than just march or protest.

“Women are mad as hell and we’ve been in resistance mode for two years,” Garza said. “Now it’s time to equip people.”


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

We’re living in crazy world now. It’s the weekend, and Trump is golfing, so maybe we’ll have a little peace for a couple of days. Maybe. I’ve been looking at the latest news for hours now, and I’m at a loss to know what to write about today. There’s just too much crazy.

So, before I get to political news, I want to call your attention to with fascinating story about recent advances in crime solving that were long ignored because they were discovered and championed by older women.

The New York Times: Sooner or Later Your Cousin’s DNA Is Going to Solve a Murder, by Heather Murphy. [Emphasis added]

In the year since the arrest of the man believed to be the notorious Golden State Killer, the world of criminal investigation has been radically transformed.

Using an unconventional technique that relies on DNA submitted to online genealogy sites, investigators have solved dozens of violent crimes, in many cases decades after they hit dead ends. Experts believe the technique could be used to revive investigations into a vast number of cases that have gone cold across the country, including at least 100,000 unsolved major violent crimes and 40,000 unidentified bodies.

Many have called it a revolutionary new technology. But credit for this method largely belongs to a number of mostly female, mostly retired family history lovers who tried for years to persuade law enforcement officials that their techniques could be used for more than locating the biological parents of adoptees.

These women were ignored by law enforcement, probably because they were older women. What could they possibly know about finding murderers and rapists?

One was Diane Harman Hoog, the 78-year-old director of education at DNA Adoption, who realized in 2013 that she could apply the techniques she was using to identify two bodies she’d read about in a Seattle newspaper. “This is too complicated,” she said she was told when she reached out to a detective. Four years later, Margaret Press, a 72-year-old retired computer programmer and skilled family tree builder in California, tried to help her local sheriff with a similar case. No one would return her calls.

Fast forward to April 25, 2018, the day that a gaggle of California prosecutors announced that an “innovative DNA technology” had been used in the Golden State Killer case.

The innovator was Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, a genetic genealogist who had uploaded crime scene DNA to GEDMatch.com, a low-key genealogical research site run out of a little yellow house in Florida. Dr. Rae-Venter, 70, and her team soon found a suspect by using the genetic and family tree data provided by his cousins.

And that was how a former police officer, Joseph DeAngelo, came to be charged with 26 counts of murder and kidnapping in connection with scores of rapes and murders that were committed across California in the 1970s and ’80s. In interview after interview, Paul Holes, a determined investigator who had spent decades chasing false leads, rejoiced in his decision to involve Dr. Rae-Venter.

“Barbara really braved the pass,” said CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who was also among the first to see the potential in the technique. Within a few weeks of the announcement, she began working with Parabon, a forensic consulting firm.

Practically every week now, there are news reports of cold cases being solved, including famous cases that have long been the subjects of popular speculation and conspiracy theories.

In rapid succession, Parabon’s work led to 49 genetic identifications, reopening a number of cold cases: the 1987 double murder of a young Canadian couple, six rapes in North Carolina and the slaying of a Stanford University graduate 46 years ago. The technique resulted in at least 17 arrests, including people who had never been under any suspicion, such as a well-established party D.J. and children’s entertainer in Pennsylvania. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is revisiting about 700 cases involving unidentified children’s remains and has identified about 15 in the past year.

An additional 300 cases are in the works: old murders, serial sexual assaults, and unidentified bodies, according to estimates by various genealogists and investigators.

Thanks to women in their 60s and 70s, who were long ignored and discounted. Isn’t that amazing? We live in a culture that diminishes women’s accomplishments.

We have a similar situation in politics. Women’s voices and talents are overlooked in favor of anyone with a penis. If you’re white and have a penis, you’re never to old to run for president; but if you’re an accomplished woman with specific plans to make life better for Americans, you’ll never be good enough to draw attention from the white male media.

Yesterday, the latest ancient white male savior appeared on The View. He was challenged about his refusal to apologize either to Anita Hill or to women he manhandled.

The Daily Beast: Biden Gives Bumbling Apology as ‘The View’ Confronts Him on Creepy Touching, Anita Hill.

In his first television interview since announcing his run for president, former Vice President Joe Biden found himself sputtering a bit Friday when confronted by The View over multiple allegations of inappropriate touching and his treatment of Anita Hill.

Biden was initially greeted by The View hosts with a very warm welcome by the panel and extremely friendly audience. But the tone shifted halfway through the chat when co-host Sunny Hostin brought up recent accusations from multiple women that he invaded their personal space and made them feel “gross.”

The former veep replied that “everybody has to be more away of the private space of men and women” before awkwardly asking the all-woman panel if he can hug them, noting that he wasn’t sure what to do when he walked out….

Biden then rambled a bit about how it is his responsibility to be “more aware” and how he needs to better read when “this is space no one wants me to invade.” He made sure to note that no one has categorized the allegations as having anything “to do with harassment.”

“They have said that,” Hostin replied. “They have also said they would like an apology.”

“Look, I’m really sorry if what I did is talk to them and trying to console that they took it a different way,” the former vice president replied. “It’s my responsibility to make sure that I bend over backwards to try to understand how not to do that.”

On Anita Hill:

Biden claimed he did everything he could to defeat Thomas’ confirmation while adding that he “believed her from the beginning,” causing the panel to grill him on whether he wanted to “clean this up right now” and directly apologize to her.

Asked why he didn’t reach out to Hill earlier, considering the hearings occurred 28 years ago, Biden said: “Since I had publicly apologized for the way she was treated… I didn’t want to, quote, invade her space.”

“I think she wants you to say I’m sorry for the way I treated you, not for the way you were treated,” Behar shot back. “That might be a littler closer.”

Biden, still unable to unequivocally apologize for his actions, answered: “But I’m sorry the way she got treated. I never heard—if you go back and look at what I said and I didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly. I took on her opposition.”

This clueless old guy is the supposed savior that white men–and all the Never Trumpers apparently–thinks can defeat Trump in 2020. How will he do that if he doesn’t reach out to women and people of color? He has to win the nomination first, right?

I got in a ridiculous argument about this on Twitter last night, and I was stunned to learn how many people don’t understand that in order to run against Trump, Biden will need to get votes from the base of the Democratic Party–not just working class white men.

One more Biden article from Slate: Joe Biden Wants Women to Vote for Him. He doesn’t want to earn their votes, by Christina Cauterucci.

On Thursday, soon after Biden announced his entrance into the race with a tweeted video, the New York Times published Anita Hill’s account of a phone call he’d made to her a few weeks earlier. Ostensibly, the point of the call was to make amends with the woman he’d famously failed as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when Hill testified that then–Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed her.

But according to both Hill and Biden’s team, the former vice president didn’t apologize for asking Hill skeptical questions about her alleged harassment or for failing to call three witnesses who were willing to echo or back up Hill’s allegations. He didn’t apologize for allowing Republicans on the committee to badger her with accusations that she suffered from “erotomania,” a condition characterized by delusions that a higher-ranking person has the hots for them. Biden didn’t even apologize for telling Hill she’d get to testify first, then, without notifying her, allowing Thomas to go first instead….

Over the past couple of years, as Biden has been mulling a presidential run, he’s occasionally expressed sympathy for Hill in public. Every time, he’s refused to put any blame on his own shoulders. “I’m so sorry that she had to go through what she went through,” he told Glamour in 2017. Later that year, he gave an interview to Teen Vogue. “My one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends,” he said. “I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology.” And when Biden appeared on The View on Friday, in his first sit-down interview since launching his campaign, he again declined to take any responsibility. “I’m sorry for the way [Hill] got treated,” he told the show’s panel of women. “I don’t think I treated her badly.”

The fact that he gave these dutiful half-apologies to outlets and shows that are designed to appeal to women is typical of the Biden approach to gender: more concerned with where and how he appears than what he says and does….

The message Biden is sending is that he cares about women as a political bloc but not as individuals whose perspectives merit concerted empathy. He either thinks female voters will be satisfied by a pat on the head accompanied by a roll of the eyes, or he believes his strong support among older Democrats—many of whom share his eye-rolling impulse when it comes to gender issues—will be enough to win a contested primary without getting the buy-in of progressive feminists.

Read the rest at Slate.

And there’s the even more ancient white male “savior,” Bernie Sanders.

Honestly, at this point I’m ready to throw up my hands and give up. The Iowa caucuses are more than 8 months away and the election is a year and a half away!

There’s much more news out there. Here are some stories to check out.

The Washington Post: ‘I can land the plane’: How Rosenstein tried to mollify Trump, protect Mueller and save his job.

The New York Times: Donald Trump Shows a New Level of Contempt for Congress.

The Washington Post: In Trump’s world, FBI agents are traitors and Robert E. Lee isn’t.

Slate: A New Obstruction Case Against a Judge Proves William Barr’s DOJ Is Now Just an Arm of President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard officer accused of terror plot remains in custody, but judge will consider terms of a release.

HuffPost: Exposed: Military Investigating 4 More Servicemen For Ties To White Nationalist Group.

Buzzfeed: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince’s New Company Is Operating In Iraq.

The New York Times: F.B.I. Warns of Russian Interference in 2020 Race and Boosts Counterintelligence Operations.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories have you been following?

 


Thursday Reads

Spring Tree, Georgia O’Keeffe

Good Morning!!

Another old white man joined the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today. Yes, Joe Biden is running, unfortunately. I won’t be turning my TV on today; I don’t want to listen to “savvy” pundits talk about how the Democrats’ savior is another old white man in his dotage. I’m already sick and tired of the 2020 campaign and the primaries are still 8 months away.

Some antidotes to the Biden media frenzy:

Truthdig: Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple.

Harper’s: No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy.

Payday Report: Union-Busting Lawyer to Host Biden’s 1st Fundraiser Thursday.

And this from Twitter is laugh out loud material:

I watched Biden’s announcement video so you don’t have to. He talked about Charlottesville and Trump’s response the white supremacist march and the murder of “a brave young woman” Heather Heyer (he didn’t say her name). You’d think Biden would be worried that this will inspire reporters to bring up his questionable past on race issues. I was surprised that he never mentioned the threat Russia still poses to our elections and our democracy. You’d think that would be stronger issue for him since he was an insider when the Russian attacks took place in 2015-16.

I’m glad to see that even older white man Bernie Sanders is finally getting vetted by the mainstream media. The latest examples:

CNN Politics: Bernie Sanders in 1970s Senate race called millionaire senators ‘immoral.’

Bernie Sanders harshly criticized the wealth of US senators during his first campaign for office in 1971, calling it “immoral” that half the members of the Senate were millionaires.

Sanders’ decades-old comments, which were picked up in December 1971 by the Bennington Banner, a local Vermont newspaper, are resurfacing as the US senator from Vermont has acknowledged that he is now a millionaire in large part due to his 2016 best-selling book, “Our Revolution.” [….]

A Walk in the Meadows at Argenteil, Claude Monet

Sanders made the comments when he was running for US Senate at the time under the banner of the Liberty Union Party, a self-described “radical political party” that advocated nationalization of industries and redistribution of wealth to tackle inequality.
The senators serving at the time, Sanders said, advocated “the interests of corporations and big business —- their fellow millionaires.”

In the same article, Sanders proposed eliminating the annual salary of members of Congress (which was $42,500 in 1971) and instead replacing their pay with whatever the average income was in their home state. At the time, Sanders said it would amount to $7,600 for representatives from Vermont.

CNBC took a look at Sanders’ tax returns: Bernie Sanders draws mayoral pension while running for president — his campaign co-chair Rep. Ro Khanna once blasted such ‘double-dipping.’

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, for years has drawn a pension for his eight-year stint in the 1980s as mayor of Burlington even has he received a salary as a member of Congress.

Sanders, who earns $174,000 as a senator, received $5,241 from Burlington’s pension system in 2018, according to his federal income tax return.

His total income with his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, that year was $561,293, which was down from the more than $1 million they earned in the prior two years, largely as a result of his book about running for president in 2016.

Public financial disclosure records show that Sanders, who began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 and in the Senate in 2007, has received nearly $62,000 in Burlington pension payouts since 2005.

Olive Trees at Collioure, Henri Matisse

And, in case you missed it, Bernie didn’t do very well at yesterday’s She The People Presidential Forum.

Bloomberg: Bernie Sanders Faces Skeptical Audience at Forum for Minority Women.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders faced a skeptical audience of minority women in Texas Wednesday, a group that will be critical in deciding the Democratic presidential nominee from a racially diverse field of candidates and a record number of women.

Pressed by multiple questioners to address why women of color should support him, Sanders leaned heavily on his economic message, drawing audible expressions of frustration from some of the more than 1,500 people attending the She the People forum in Houston.

“Black women will be an integral part of what our campaign and our administration is about,” he said after being prompted by a moderator of the event, which brought together eight Democratic presidential candidates for separate discussions about issues affecting minority women.

That comment came at the end of his response to a question about how he would appeal to the black women who predominantly backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, to which Sanders offered a long answer about supporting whomever ends up being the party’s nominee.

As usual, Bernie didn’t answer the question.

The Daily Beast: Bernie Sanders Met With Boos After Name-Dropping Martin Luther King at She the People Summit.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was met with audible groans from the audience Wednesday night at the She the People Presidential Forum in Houston for his response to a question on the rise of white nationalism. Sanders, one of eight Democratic contenders for 2020 featured at the summit, which described itself as “the first-ever presidential candidate forum focused on women of color,” prompted boos from the crowd after defaulting to his usual talking points about immigration reform and mentioning his attendance at the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King when asked how he’d handle the issue of white-supremacist violence and what specifically he’d do for women of color. The questioner, former NYC Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Sayu Bhojwani, later tweeted that Sanders “had a rough time” with the question but “came around.” Others were less forgiving. “Bernie was asked important questions and he answered none of them,” tweeted disability-rights advocate Stephanie Olarte. “It is so sad that the moderators ask the questions in different forms to get an answer Y NADA.”

Click the link to read more reactions.

Pink Peach Trees, Vincent Van Gogh

You probably read it already but The Washington Post published an op-ed by Hillary Clinton yesterday:

Hillary Clinton: Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans. Here’s how to respond.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Clinton argues that we should follow the example of Watergate, in which public hearings led to “a formal impeachment inquiry.”

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger….

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential.

Now that’s leadership. If only she were president!

Some Mueller/Russia stories:

NBC News: Mueller report shows Trump campaign left itself wide open to Russians, officials say.

Alfred Sisley, The Small Meadows in Spring, 1880-1

The Mueller report’s narrative of secret meetings between members of Donald Trump’s orbit and Russian operatives — contacts that occurred both before and after the 2016 election — portrays a political campaign that left itself open to a covert Russian influence operation, former intelligence officials and other experts say….

“The Russians came up against a group of people who were not intelligence savvy and who were predisposed not to listen to the intelligence and counterintelligence community,” said Luis Rueda, who spent 27 years as a CIA operations officer. “The Russians made a very bold and aggressive attempt to take advantage of that — to try to compromise people, to try to leverage their access.”

The FBI, as part of its counterintelligence mission, is continuing to investigate Russian attempts to influence the Trump administration and assess the national security damage from Russia’s 2016 effort, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News….

John Sipher, who served in Moscow and once helped run CIA spying operations against Russia, said, “It’s clear that the Russians had a pretty extensive full court press on this administration.” The full extent of how successful it was may never be known, he said.

“Being able to lock it down and prove in court? That only comes when you catch somebody red-handed, or when you have a source on the inside of your adversary who hands you documents.”

Good to know that the counterintelligence investigation is continuing.

The New York Times: Mueller Report Reveals Trump’s Fixation on Targeting Hillary Clinton.

Spring, Pablo Picasso, 1956

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a tenuous hold on his job when President Trump called him at home in the middle of 2017. The president had already blamed him for recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 election, sought his resignation and belittled him in private and on Twitter.

Now, Mr. Trump had another demand: He wanted Mr. Sessions to reverse his recusal and order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

“The ‘gist’ of the conversation,” according to the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, quoting Mr. Sessions, “was that the president wanted Sessions to unrecuse from ‘all of it.’”

Mr. Mueller’s report released last week brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation. But his request of Mr. Sessions — and two similar ones detailed in the report — stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken.

Read the rest at the NYT.

The New York Times: Trump Vows Stonewall of ‘All’ House Subpoenas, Setting Up Fight Over Powers.

The Trump administration escalated its defiance of Congress on Wednesday, as the Justice Department refused to let an official testify on Capitol Hill and President Trump vowed to fight what he called a “ridiculous” subpoena ordering a former top aide to appear before lawmakers.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House. “These aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.” [….]

Mr. Trump’s flurry of moves this week to block multiple congressional investigations signaled a new phase of constitutional friction that could redefine long-murky boundaries of Congress’s power to conduct oversight of the executive branch — and the power of presidents to keep government affairs secret from lawmakers.

Are we in a Constitutional crisis yet?

So . . . what else is happening? What stories have you been following?