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.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
The historical floods of 1927 were so awesomely deadly and damaging that the Federal Government decided to try to tame the mighty Mississippi and all the tributaries that empty into the great river. It’s still called the “Great Flood” but this year might be the year it goes to second place. As is the case with most disasters, it struck the poorest and most disenfranchised the worst. I’m seeing that we shall continue taking it out on the poorest of us as is our National Heritage since three Republicans refuse to release Disaster Aid.
Mississippi River flood of 1927, also called Great Flood of 1927, flooding of the lower Mississippi River valley in April 1927, one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. More than 23,000 square miles (60,000 square km) of land was submerged, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, and around 250 people died.
After several months of heavy rain caused the Mississippi River to swell to unprecedented levels, the first levee broke on April 16, along the Illinois shore. Then, on April 21, the levee at Mounds Landing in Mississippi gave way. Over the next few weeks essentially the entire levee system along the river collapsed. In some places, residential areas were submerged in 30 feet (9 metres) of water. At least two months passed before the floodwater completely subsided.
In the aftermath, authorities were severely criticized for favouring the white population during rescue and relief operations. Thousands of plantation workers, most of them African Americans, had been forced to work, in deplorable conditions, shoring up the levees near Greenville, Miss. Then, as the waters rose, they were left stranded for days without food or drinking water, while white women and children were hauled to safety. African Americans gathered in relief camps also were forced to participate in relief efforts, while receiving inferior provisions for themselves, and to clean up flooded areas. At least one black man was shot, reportedly for refusing to work.
The flood brought about long-term social and political changes in the country. Over time, African Americans largely switched their loyalty from the historically antislavery Republican Party (the party of Pres. Calvin Coolidge, in office during the disaster) to the Democratic Party. In addition, the disaster contributed to the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to cities in the North. The flood also found its place in folklore, music, literature, and films. Popular songs about the event include Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks” (1929), reworked in 1971 by the English rock group Led Zeppelin, and Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” (1974).
None of this is usual. This is the third time in history the Morganza spillway will be opened but the second time this decade. At this writing, it will be opened on June 6th. It will join the second in one year historical opening of the Bonnet Carre spilway. Both of these are designed to take the pressure off of the levees up and down the Missippi but are quite damaging in their own way.
The Corps plans to open the Morganza Spillway, located west of Baton Rouge in Point Coupee Parish, on June 6, the agency said Thursday (May 30). It would be only the third time the structure west of Baton Rouge has ever been opened. The opening had been planned for Sunday, but was postponed because the river is rising more slowly than expected.
The delay will avoid putting additional water into the Atchafalaya Basin. In a May 27 statement, the Corps’ New Orleans District Commander Michael Clancy said opening the spillway would prevent the structure from overtopping and minimize stress on levees.
The White House on Thursday announced assistance will be available to those impacted in the following parishes: Assumption, Catahoula, Concordia, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Landry, St. Martin, Terrebonne and West Feliciana.
Again, the Mississippi River Flooding is the “longest-lasting in over 90 years, since ‘Great Flood’ of 1927.” I never enjoy being at the center of this kind of record breaking or history making event.
Flooding in at least 8 states along portions of the Mississippi River – due to relentless, record-breaking spring rainfall – is the longest-lasting since the “Great Flood” of 1927, the National Weather Service said.
The 1927 flood, which Weatherwise magazine called “perhaps the most underrated weather disaster of the century,” remains the benchmark flood event for the nation’s biggest river.
Anytime a modern flood can be mentioned in the same breath as the Great Flood is newsworthy: During that historic flood, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes as millions of acres of land and towns went underwater.
At one point in 1927, along the Tennessee border, the Mississippi rose an astonishing 56.5 feet above flood stage, and in Arkansas, the river ballooned to 80 miles wide, according to the book Extreme Weather by Christopher Burt.
Hundreds of people died in the flooding.
That flood “was the seminal event that led to the federal flood-control program and gave the Army Corps of Engineers the job of controlling the nation’s rivers via the erection of dams, dikes and other measures of flood abatement,” Burt wrote.
At the height of the disaster, some 750,000 refugees were under the care of the Red Cross.
While the scale of this year’s flood may not match the 1927 catastrophe, in terms of longevity, this year’s flood rivals that one: For example, In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river went above flood stage on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood ever since. The weather service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927.
This event, however, is not the only unusual set of Weather Events impacting our country. Vox explores this record breaker in “More than 200 tornadoes devastated the Midwest over 13 days. Why?’
Tornadoes have been tearing up huge swaths of the United States this week, leaving death and devastation in their wake. On Monday alone, about 55 tornadoes touched down, and at least 27 tornadoes were reported Tuesday. That made Tuesday the 12th consecutive day with at least eight reported tornadoes, beating the record set in 1980. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that 225 tornadoes have been confirmed since May 17.
Idaho, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and other states all saw massive twisters touch down over the past several days. Several people were killed, dozens injured, and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Walls of some buildings were ripped off, making them look like dollhouses.
Some of the most severe damage was reported near Dayton, Ohio on Monday, where repair crews had to use snowplows to clear debris. Tuesday evening, a mile-wide tornado landed near Lawrence, Kansas, about 40 miles west of Kansas City. It injured at least 12 people and damaged around 30 houses. In Kentucky, one person was killed Wednesday after a roof blew off.
While it’s not unusual to have tornadoes several days in a row during tornado season in late spring and early summer, the sheer number this spring stands out.
“We haven’t seen a pattern this productive and that remained so productive for many, many years,” said Anton Seimon, a research assistant professor at Appalachian State University who studies thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Today, I read this in the Smithsonian Magazine: “Record-Breaking Heat in Alaska Wreaks Havoc on Communities and Ecosystems. Abnormally high temperatures have led to unsafe travel conditions, uncertain ecological futures and even multiple deaths.”
I know that not every one finds weather to be as exciting as me. Shortly after I was born in a Tornado Alley Town in Oklahoma my family was hiding out in a shelter from a big one. I’ve been in a lot of big ones and they’re hair-raising and destructive. I’ve had friends homes flooded out and blown to pieces by acts of nature. I’ve seen garage doors fly over my house from the safety of a basement. I saw the feeder bands of Hurricane Katrina take aim at my city and home. This frequency, however, is astounding and it makes me seriously wonder why some people can’t see all this as an incredibly menacing pattern that says things are changing rapidly. It appears to be in my DNA as the progeny of Kansas and Oklahoma farmers.
Alaska in March is supposed to be cold. Along the north and west coasts, the ocean should be frozen farther than the eye can see. In the state’s interior, rivers should be locked in ice so thick that they double as roads for snowmobiles and trucks. And where I live, near Anchorage in south-central Alaska, the snowpack should be deep enough to support skiing for weeks to come. But this year, a record-breaking heatwave upended norms and had us basking in comfortable—but often unsettling—warmth.
Across Alaska, March temperatures averaged 11 degrees Celsius above normal. The deviation was most extreme in the Arctic where, on March 30, thermometers rose almost 22 degrees Celsius above normal—to 3 degrees. That still sounds cold, but it was comparatively hot.
“It’s hard to characterize that anomaly, it’s just pretty darn remarkable for that part of the world,” says Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy in Fairbanks. The state’s wave of warmth was part of a weeks-long weather pattern that shattered temperature records across our immense state, contributing to losses of both property and life. “When you have a slow grind of warming like that, lasting weeks or months, it affects people’s lives,” Thoman says.
On April 15, three people, including an 11-year-old girl, died after their snowmobiles plunged through thin ice on the Noatak River in far northwestern Alaska. Earlier in the winter, 700 kilometers south, on the lower Kuskokwim River, at least five people perished in separate incidents when their snowmobiles or four-wheelers broke through thin ice. There were close calls too, including the rescue of three miners who spent hours hopping between disintegrating ice floes in the Bering Sea near Nome. Farther south, people skating on the popular Portage Lake near Anchorage also fell through thin ice. Varying factors contributed to these and other mishaps, but abnormally thin ice was a common denominator
On May 13, Bill Nye the Science Guy gave a speech on HBO’s Last Week with John Oliver. “‘You idiots’: Bill Nye’s fiery message to leaders stalling on climate change (via WAPO).
Bill Nye frolicked in a ball pit to explain how the planet’s populations compete for resources. He took a chain saw to a loaf of bread, comparing it to Earth’s crust, and he was nearly blown away in a wind tunnel while shouting “science!”
But he’s talking about global warming now — and he’s in no mood to mess around.
“By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees,” Nye said, appearing on a segment of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Sunday.
The famously zany scientist and host of the PBS series “Bill Nye the Science Guy” then aimed a blowtorch at a globe to illustrate his argument: “What I’m saying is: The planet’s on fire,” Nye said, punctuating his point with some R-rated profanity.
As I look down the streets to huge gigantic Oil Tankers moving down the river way above the roof of my home I’d like to add that it’s also flooding. It’s a story of Fire and Water.
And this is the leadership show by Russian Potted Plant occupying the White House (via Wired). “TRUMP’S LATEST ATTACK ON FEDERAL CLIMATE SCIENCE MAY BACKFIRE.” May I suggest we cannot wait for this.
It’s “particularly ironic” that the Trump administration suggests that “worst-case scenario” forecasts, in which emissions continue increasing relatively unabated, are unrealistic, said Susan Joy Hassol, the former senior science writer on the National Climate Assessments that came out in 2000, 2009 and 2014.
“The people doing everything they can to keep us in a high-emissions scenario don’t want us to analyze the ramifications of being in a high-emissions scenario,” said Hassol, now the director of the North Carolina-based nonprofit Climate Communication.
Politicizing the report isn’t a new tactic. In 2000, the incoming George W. Bush administration tried to bury the first National Climate Assessment after scientists had already completed the report. The administration then delayed the second National Climate Assessment and tried to censor entire sections. The ensuing legal battle ended up delaying the release of the report until 2009.
Climate policy was an abstract concept largely limited to the federal sphere 15 years ago, but today, state and local officials are scrambling to enact regulations and laws to adapt to a hotter world and reduce emissions. If the National Climate Assessment, which includes detailed regional projections, becomes less credible, that would be a loss for those policymakers, said Bob Kopp, a climate scientist and policy scholar at Rutgers University.
“It’s valuable at a state and local level, areas that don’t have the resources to do that sort of work on their own,” Kopp said. “California has a pretty intensive climate assessment, but not every state does.”
So, my hair is pretty much on fire about this and a lot of things these days. We have attacks on voter rights, women’s rights, the rights of the GBLT community, the rights of asylum seekers, and all kinds of things. My idiot Governor just signed on to one of those heart beat laws which again, denies science. Six week old fetuses do not have hearts per se so they cannot have heart beats, but hell, if it serves the White Nationalist Christianist Agenda and their funders by all means, kills us all.
Right now, I’m hoping that the wildlife can get out of the way of the opening of the Morganza and that we can minimize the damage it will cause. We joke that Trump creates infrastructure week on a regular basis and then toddles off for some other spotlight but the entire situation along the Mississipi and its tributaries shows us the eminent danger in letting our infrastructure fail.
This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty-five years, done what many thought impossible—impose man’s will on the Mississippi River. Mark Twain, who captained a Mississippi river boat for many years, wrote in his book Life on the Mississippi, “ten thousand river commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or define it, cannot say to it ‘Go here,’ or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.” The great river wants to carve a new path to the Gulf of Mexico; only the Old River Control Structure keeps it at bay.
Failure of the Old River Control Structure and the resulting jump of the Mississippi to a new path to the Gulf would be a severe blow to America’s economy, robbing New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the critical industrial corridor between them of the fresh water needed to live and do business. Since a huge portion of our imports and exports ship along the Mississippi River, a closure would cost $295 million per day, said Gary LaGrange, executive director of the Port of New Orleans, during the great flood of 2011. An extended closure of the Lower Mississippi to shipping might cost tens of billions. Since barges on the Mississippi carry 60% of U.S. grain to market, a long closure of the river to barge traffic could cause a significant spike in global food prices, potentially resulting in political upheaval like the “Arab Spring” unrest in 2011, and the specter of famine in vulnerable food-insecure nations of the Third World.
Meanwhile, three Republicans do not want to come to the aid of fellow Americans in the path of destruction.
Another House Republican on Tuesday thwarted attempts to pass a bipartisan disaster aid package, further delaying $19 billion in emergency relief and frustrating lawmakers whose states were hit by devastating hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who objected to the bill’s passage during a voice vote, demanded that the vote be held after the House returns from recess next week — making it all but impossible that President Donald Trump can sign the package before early June
Another House Republican on Tuesday thwarted attempts to pass a bipartisan disaster aid package, further delaying $19 billion in emergency relief and frustrating lawmakers whose states were hit by devastating hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who objected to the bill’s passage during a voice vote, demanded that the vote be held after the House returns from recess next week — making it all but impossible that President Donald Trump can sign the package before early June
I guess the lives of protohumans are still more important than living, breathing human beings in the eyes of these monsters.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Today is Memorial Day Holiday where we remember those who died in service to our country during a time of War. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day when families and survivors of Civil War Dead took time to picnic and decorate their family cemeteries with special attention to those who fell in battle. It is thought to have been originated by slaves directly after the Civil War to celebrate emancipation and to remember those who had died fighting for it.
It’s the day when I remember learning that states like Mississippi still refuse to fully honor its intent. That is one of the reasons why I’ve been paying close attention to the goings on today and wondering why it is that the current Potted Plant in the White House is always out of the country instead of laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown solider which tends to be what actual Presidents do instead of searching for reasons for more ways to get the members of our Armed Forces killed in action.
The veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic issued the call to honor those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the recently concluded Civil War, “Let us at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flower of Spring time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor” and pledge to assist their widows and orphans. Since it came from the GAR, a disciplined organization of Union veterans with many local posts, the suggestion for May 30, 1868 was widely observed.
This ancient practice of floral decoration of burial places seemed to take hold spontaneously as the Civil War battlefields and prison camps yielded their massive casualties in many areas of the United States. Communities in Carbondale, Illinois, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Mississippi, Columbus, Georgia, Belle Isle in Richmond, Virginia, and Waterloo, New York all make legitimate claims to have begun the tradition a few years before 1868. We don’t attempt to weigh the various claims of origin here, but common in many of the early observances was the role of women in taking the initiative, gathering the flowers, and honoring both the Confederate and Federal war dead in their graveside tributes. Most recent research by Richard Gardiner and Daniel Bellware credibly trace the holiday’s origins to the “Confederate Memorial Day” observed in Columbus, Georgia beginning in April 1866. It is a suitable practice, the New York Telegram remarked in April 1869, “though it did originate in the South during the late war, and is one of the few of the rebel ideas that engrafted itself upon our blunted affections.”
The reporters present at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia that day in May 1868 reminded us that the graves occupied the grounds of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s manor. Several Union generals attended to hear one of their own, future President James A. Garfield, give the featured address. Ulysses Grant was there with his daughter, the newspapers noted, but, in keeping with the avoidance of partisanship, no mention was made that he had been nominated for president some ten days earlier. Unity was stressed, as the New York Tribune stated, “so Protestant and Catholic, Jew and Gentile, joined hand and hand [sic] above the mounds, and laid sweet offerings upon a common altar. All over the land from Maine to Florida, tears and flowers fell on the graves of heroes and martyrs.”
Meanwhile, we get this kind of leadership on Memorial Day Weekend. I’m old enough to remember over 54,000 Americans died during something called the Korean War and that North Korea is still a rogue state under murderous and cruel Dictatorship.
Only KKKremlin Caligula good make me feel some sympathy for Joe Biden. I’m sure it will pass quickly. I also remember a time when we all agreed that Fascists were bad.
But, now we see they walk among us …
Nolan Brewer, 21, said he and his wife were in contact with a white nationalist over Discord, read Breitbart and Nazi propaganda site Stormfront, and became members of Identity Evropa.’
In July 2018, Brewer and his then-17-year-old wife, Kiyomi Brewer, drove 50 miles from their home to the synagogue, spray painted a Nazi flag and iron crosses on a Dumpster enclosure, and lit a fire on the ground. Prosecutors said they originally planned to break into the synagogue and destroy it with homemade bombs and napalm they brought along, but they got scared.
In an interview with FBI agents, Brewer said they wanted to send a message to Jews as a race. He cited bogus statistics, aiming to back up the racist conspiracy theory that Jews have undue political influence.
“I guess it’s just …. back down or something like that,” Brewer told the FBI, describing the message of the vandalism. He also said he wanted to make news headlines, and was proud word of the attack reached Vice President Mike Pence, who condemned it.
Brewer told FBI agents he wanted to “scare the hell out of them,” prosecutors said, and send “a message of like, get out I guess.”
His defense attorneys acknowledged that Brewer had latched onto pseudointellectual arguments for white supremacy. Evidence submitted to the court included racist memes he had shared and selfies in which he wore the iron cross associated with Nazi Germany. His phone wallpaper was an image of a swastika.
“It is clear that he has adopted beliefs based on ‘alt-right’ or white nationalist propaganda,” the defense attorneys said.
The details were first reported by data scientist Emily Gorcenski, who does extensive research on the far-right.
As his attorneys sought a lighter sentence, they outlined how a young man from a small town, who’d recently graduated from community college, and had no history of criminal or behavioral issues became radicalized.
They blamed his teenage wife, who they said had a troubled upbringing and would spend hours chatting on Discord, an app that had become popular among white supremacists. She then shared articles with her husband.
“According to Nolan, she began with rightwing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News. She then moved on to writing by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and anti-Semititc propaganda site Stormfront.”
It sounds like they should be blaming Fox News and not a gullible young woman. And, btw, where is Steve Bannon today?
Today, our city has a woman of color–LaToya Cantrell–as its mayor.
But in 1894, when Douglass spoke at Rochester, New York’s Decoration Day ceremonies, the Jim Crow era had taken root. 1 It had been over twenty years since racist conservative legislatures had been re-established all across the South – complete with former Confederates taking back their former seats of power. It had been over a decade since the Supreme Court had overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875, deeming it unconstitutional.Mississippi, in 1890, had rewritten its own constitution, legally disfranchising black voters, and many other states were about to follow suit. By 1894, lynchings of black Americans were skyrocketing – there would be 134 the year Douglass spoke in Rochester. 2The Lost Cause had been firmly implanted in the South for a full generation. Its mythos was now seeping northward, infecting and changing the memory of the war and its causes. This naturally led to a false reconciliation, with Blue & Gray gatherings happening more frequently. The focus shifted from the reasons the Civil War was fought to simply leaving the past in the past. The shared experience between soldiers of both sides was the bonding agent, and while this is understandable, the black soldiers were largely left out. 3He saw, of course, the importance of holidays such as Decoration Days, and wished for it to not become a “heartless unthinking custom.” This was why he thought it of utmost importance to remember not only the soldiers who fought in the Civil War, but also the causes for which they fought. After all, he warned, “What has happened once may happen again.”Douglass allowed that this Decoration Day “shall share the fate of other great days,” and be slowly forgotten, replaced by “some other day more nearly allied with the wants and events” of some uncertain future. However, he was certain that the sentiments that brought them together annually “will live, flourish and bear similar fruit, forever.”He noted the two opposing views on how the war should be remembered. The first, he said, was to treat the Southern people as if they were “always loyal and true to the government.” They had, in the estimation of many honorable men, “repented their folly, and have accepted in good faith the results of the war, and that now we should forget and forgive the past, and turn our attention entirely to the future.”
I think today it’s important we that we look at the states that are blocking the votes of People of Color and limiting the rights of women as well as finding obscene ways to cage the children of asylum seekers and deport people whose only crime is to come to a country with extremely broken immigration laws to become part of its economy and future.
Did we fight these wars against slavery and fascism sacrificing the lives of so many to go turn the clock back to oppression?
Today is the day we honor the people that fought to make us a more perfect union. Our fallen include folks of all faiths, colors, birthplaces, and gender identifications. I want a country that truly honors their supreme sacrifice by recognizing that civil and constitutional rights are everyone’s heritage. I want us to stay on the path to the more Perfect Union by respecting our rule of law and its inclusiveness.
Let us truly remember the reason for this day.
“I am not indifferent to the claims of a generous forgetfulness, but whatever else I may forget, I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery; between those who fought to save the Republic and those who fought to destroy it.”
Douglass’ entire speech can be read here.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Every day we become more aware of ways that the rule of law is being threatened in our country by today’s Republican Party and its leaders. There is so much slipping away from the ordinary people in this country that it’s difficult to keep track of it all.
This study by the FED shows how the recently rising economy is doing anything but bringing every one with it It’s deeply troubling as all leading indicators now point to a recession on the horizon and all Trump policies point to a huge push over the edge.
Amid what is likely to become the longest period of sustained economic growth on record, a new report shows that millions of middle-class and low-income Americans still aren’t on solid enough ground to weather a sustained downturn.
Since the Federal Reserve’s annual report on household well-being began in 2013, the survey (most recently of more than 11,000 Americans) has become a key measure of whether the benefits of the recovery have reached beyond the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum.
Although this year’s report painted a positive picture overall, officials said, it identified underlying fragility and exposed pockets of distress. In line after line, the report lays out the everyday concerns that plague U.S. households.
Almost four in 10 people (39 percent) said they wouldn’t be able to scrape together the cash to meet a $400 emergency expense. Even without any sudden expense, about 17 percent of adults said they would miss a payment on at least one bill during the month surveyed.
More than 6 in 10 said losing their job would mean they couldn’t cover three months of expenses, even if they took out loans, sold assets or borrowed from friends and relatives.
Only 36 percent said their retirement savings are on track.
Almost a quarter of Americans skipped some form of medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it. Separately, 1 in 5 faced major, unexpected medical bills. About 4 in 10 of those folks were still carrying debt related to those bills.
The survey covers 2018, when the unemployment rate averaged 3.9 percent, the lowest since 1969, and the economy grew 2.9 percent, matching its post-Great Recession high. Average hourly earnings grew 3 percent, easily the fastest rate since the recession’s end. But those figures are broad national averages — if gains are going disproportionately to the wealthy few, trends among the majority of U.S. workers could be missed.
This is going on while the checked flag of recessions indicators is waving madly (via CNBC): “US manufacturing activity dives to more than 9-year low on trade war worries, survey shows”. The only silver lining in this is it’s likely to take a huge bit of wind out of any Trump re-election sail.
U.S. manufacturer growth hit a multiyear low in May, the latest sign that the trade war may be slowing the economy.
The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers index) was 50.6 in May, the lowest level since September 2009, according to results from financial data firm IHS Markit released Thursday.
“Growth of business activity slowed sharply in May as trade war worries and increased uncertainty dealt a further blow to order book growth and business confidence,” said Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief business economist.
U.S. overall business activity growth also faltered to a three-year low as the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index dropped to 50.9 in May, indicating the slowest expansion since May 2016.
“The slowdown has been led by manufacturing, but shows increasing signs of spreading to services…Trade wars remained top of the list of concerns among manufacturers, alongside signs of slower sales and weaker economic growth both at home and in key export markets,” Williamson said.
And then, there’s just general lawlessness and ignorance of the law going on right and left these days. Here’s some of these headlines.
Obama banned adoption and foster-care agencies from receiving federal funding if they refused to work with same-sex couples. Religious organizations have consistently bristled at that policy, arguing that they’re being forced to contradict their beliefs.
- Administration officials said the White House is weighing two options: either rescinding those rules altogether, or adding an explicit exemption for religious organizations.
- The debate is mainly about which approach would hold up better in court, the officials said. A religious exemption seems to have the upper hand for now, but that could change
President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials.
In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.
Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.
President Donald Trump’s bet that it’ll take years to resolve a coming court fight over his tax returns could be wrong.
Federal courts are already ruling quickly against Trump in his other attempts to block Congress. The Supreme Court could also be a dead end if the case doesn’t present new legal issues or divide appellate courts. That means there’s a decent chance the White House could lose the fight and be forced to hand over Trump’s tax records before the election.
“He’s gambling,” said Michael Stern, a former senior counsel in the House of Representatives’ Office of General Counsel. “I don’t think anyone would say that it’s impossible for there to be a final order for him to produce the tax returns by the middle of next year.”
That could potentially be disastrous for Trump and other Republicans by focusing public attention on the long-running mystery of what’s in his returns just as voters are heading to the polls — and would likely leave the GOP wishing Trump had ripped off the tax-return Band-Aid sooner.
It would also be ironic because Trump once criticized former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for releasing his own tax returns too close to the 2012 elections.
Pete Williams / NBC News: Trump doesn’t seem to understand what ‘treason’ means
Once again on Thursday, President Donald Trump used the T-word, this time saying that former FBI officials who were involved in investigating his campaign committed treason.
Asked at a White House event which of his adversaries he had in mind when he accused them of treason, he said, “A number of people. They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.” He then specified former FBI director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
“That’s treason. They couldn’t win the election, and that’s what happened.”
But that isn’t what the Constitution says treason is. It doesn’t mean being disloyal to the president. And it certainly would not apply to any actions against a private citizen, which Donald Trump was as a candidate for president
Remember the War Criminals that Trump Wants to Pardon?
An attorney for Navy SEAL chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher also represents the Trump Organization, CNN has learned, just days after reports surfaced indicating the President is considering pardoning Gallagher of charges that could constitute war crimes.
Gallagher faces a slew of accusations connected to violations of military law while he was deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017, including premeditated murder in the stabbing death of an injured person in Iraq. He has pleaded not guilty.
Trump Organization lawyer Marc Mukasey started working on the case in recent months, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a former business partner of Trump ally and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also is helping with Gallagher’s case. Kerik, who once served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to officials, was nominated as homeland security secretary by President George W. Bush but withdrew from consideration due to potential tax violations.
He has regularly appeared on Fox News as a surrogate for the President.
The Trump administration is preparing to circumvent Congress to allow the export to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of billions of dollars of munitions that are now on hold, according to current and former American officials and legislators familiar with the plan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some political appointees in the State Department are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion. The transactions, which include precision-guided munitions and combat aircraft, would infuriate lawmakers in both parties.
They would also further inflame tensions between the United States and Iran, which views Saudi Arabia as its main rival and has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen in their campaign against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates.
American legislators from both parties remain incensed by the Trump administration’s equivocal response to the grisly killing last October by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident. They are also frustrated by the administration’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, a four-year conflict that the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians killed and millions suffering from famine.
President Trump took extraordinary steps on Thursday to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were investigated, significantly escalating the administration’s efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny.
In a directive, Mr. Trump ordered the C.I.A. and the country’s 15 other intelligence agencies to cooperate with the review and granted Mr. Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify their documents. The move — which occurred just hours after the president again declared that those who led the investigation committed treason — gave Mr. Barr immense leverage over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.
The order is a change for Mr. Trump, who last year dropped a plan to release documentsrelated to the Russia investigation amid concerns from Justice Department officials who said making them public could damage national security. At the time, the president was being encouraged by a group of Republican Congress members to declassify the information.
Mr. Barr, who has used the word “spying” to describe how the Trump campaign was investigated, has been deeply involved in the department’s review of how intelligence was collected on the campaign. Mr. Barr has told Congress that he personally authorized the review. While he has asked John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, to spearhead it, a Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr has personally met with the heads of the intelligence agencies to discuss the review and that the project was a top priority after the release last month of the special counsel’s report.
Are we winning yet?
Have a good weekend Sky Dancers! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
“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
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.
I expect there will be more news breaking today. What stories have you been following?