Today I’m announcing several critical actions that my administration is taking to confront a problem that we have right here at home. We fight wars that are 6,000 miles away, wars that we should have never been in, in many cases, but we don’t control our own border. So we are going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border. And we’re going to do it one way or the other. We have to do it — not because it was a campaign promise, which it is.
I preordered the Andrew McCabe book, and I plan to read it today; but it appears that what he talks about in his interviews may turn out to be more revealing than anything in the book. I wonder if that’s because the FBI wouldn’t let him include some things (any book by an FBI agent has to be approved by the agency before publication) and, as Marcy Wheeler tweeted this morning, he just doesn’t give a fuck anymore? He didn’t include the fact that Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire in the White House or discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office even though we learned about it awhile ago.
Knox was referring to McCabe’s revelation that he briefed Congress’s gang of eight on why he opened a counterintelligence investigation of Trump. Natasha Bertrand says he did put that in the book though, so the FBI was apparently OK with it.
Wow! And not one of those eight people had the guts to speak out. And what about Mitch McConnell’s refusal in 2016 to allow a bipartisan announcement about the Russian interference in the election.Why didn’t Obama make the announcement anyway? Why didn’t the Democratic leadership speak out either before the election or afterwards when they were briefed about the FBI investigations in 2917? We deserve answers.
Trump has been following Putin’s orders and tearing down our country from within and destroying the Western alliance for two years and not one of these “leaders” has been willing to risk his or her career to let us know.
Here’s McCabe on the Today Show this morning:
Click this link to watch more of the Today interview.
Natasha Bertrand writes at The Atlantic: Andrew McCabe Couldn’t Believe the Things Trump Said About Putin.
In the months before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, FBI counterintelligence agents investigating Russian election interference were also collecting evidence suggesting that Trump could be compromised by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who oversaw the bureau’s Russia investigation, told me in an interview conducted late last week that concerns about Trump had been building “for some time”—and that he was convinced the FBI would have been justified in opening a case against the president.
“We felt like we had credible, articulable facts to indicate that a threat to national security may exist,” McCabe told me. And FBI officials felt this way, he said, even before Trump fired Comey. That firing set off a chain of events that, as McCabe put it, turned the world “upside down.” McCabe wrote contemporaneous memos describing “key” conversations he had during that chaotic period—with the president, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others—that are now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
McCabe’s new book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, is not generally overstated in its approach to Trump. This reflects either an aversion to exaggeration on McCabe’s part—his self-image, it seems, is that of a just-the-facts-ma’am G-man—or an awareness that the Justice Department’s inspector general has, for all intents and purposes, branded him a fabulist, a charge he finds particularly wounding. McCabe, who was fired in March 2018, told me he’ll be filing a lawsuit against the Justice Department that will challenge the circumstances of his termination, which was ostensibly based on the inspector general’s findings that he had leaked information to the media without permission. In person, McCabe still seems awed by the “series of head-scratching, completely shocking events” that he witnessed two years ago.
You can read the interview at The Atlantic; here’s a brief excerpt:
Bertrand: Before Robert Mueller was appointed, Trump met with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office, where he disclosed classified information. How did you react when you found out about that conversation?
McCabe: It was the latest in a string of head-scratching, completely shocking events. For counterintelligence investigators, the idea that the American president would have a Russian foreign minister and his media into the Oval Office and that he would make a comment like that—a comment that so clearly undermined the effectiveness of his chief law-enforcement and intelligence agency—was just confounding.
Bertrand: That reminds me of a passage that jumped out at me in your book: “He thought North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so … the president said he believed Putin despite the PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing] briefer telling him that this was not consistent with any of the intelligence that the US possessed.” How do you explain that?
McCabe: It’s inexplicable. You have to put yourself in context. So I am in the director’s chair as acting director. My senior executive who had accompanied the briefer to that briefing, who sat in the room with the president and others, and heard the comments, comes back to the Hoover Building to tell me how the briefing went. And he sat at the conference table, and he just looked down at the table with his hands out in front of him. I was like, “How did it go?” And he just—he couldn’t find words to characterize it. We just sat back and said, “What do we do with this now?” How do you effectively convey intelligence to the American president who chooses to believe the Russians over his own intelligence services? And then tells them that to their faces?
McCabe will be in studio with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tonight.
In other news, Trump’s fake “national emergency” is accumulating lawsuits. The latest, from The New York Times: 16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall.
WASHINGTON — A coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall.
The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute.
The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending….
The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., says that the plaintiff states are going to court to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests. “Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the lawsuit says.
Today is day four of the “emergency,” and Trump has spent those four days golfing in Florida and sending out angry tweets about Andrew McCabe and the Russia investigation.
This is also happening.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Roger Stone after he posted a threatening message about the judge in his case yesterday. Buzzfeed News: Roger Stone Posted A Photo Of The Judge Presiding Over His Case Next To Crosshairs.
The post comes days after the judge, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, rejected Stone’s effort to get his case reassigned to a new judge.T
Jackson also previously ruled that Stone couldn’t talk to news outlets in front of her courthouse.
Stone, 66, took to Instagram to bring attention to special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he used “legal trickery” to place his case in front of Jackson, a US district judge in the District of Columbia. Stone’s case is being prosecuted jointly by Mueller’s office and the US attorney’s office in Washington.
“Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson , an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again [sic] Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime,” Stone wrote in the caption to the photo, including the hashtag #fixisin….
The photograph — a version of which appeared earlier on a site pushing false conspiracy theories — featured a target symbol near the judge’s head. The symbol is also associated with the Zodiac killer.
That was completely irresponsible and could easily lead one of the Trump crazies to attack Judge Jackson. She will likely need protection from Federal marshals now. I hope she throws Stone in jail.
No word from the “president” on this as yet.
I’m sure you seen the embarrassing videos of Mike Pence’s appearance in Munich last week in which he was greeted with stony silence when he mentioned Trump and called for European countries to withdraw from the Iran deal. Well, the White House is claiming he did too get applause.
Maybe they meant to type “(Crickets)”?
The White House has posted online the remarks made by Vice President Mike Pence last Friday at the Munich Security Conference, but there’s a glaring error. In the beginning of his address, Pence said it was his “great honor” to speak “on behalf of a champion of freedom and a champion of a strong national defense, the 45th president of the United States, President Donald Trump.” In the transcript, it says this was followed by “(Applause).” In reality, it was followed by (Silence).
As video from the event shows, Pence expected to be met with some sort of a reaction, as he paused, awkwardly, before moving on. The White House hasn’t said why it inserted this fabrication, or why they didn’t go with something more exciting, like (Audience starts chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” while twirling star-spangled rally towels) or (German Chancellor Angela Merkel dons a MAGA cap, initiates The Wave)
Nancy Pelosi had a different message for our allies. Politico:Nancy Pelosi to Europe: Trump is not the boss.
Pelosi and a delegation of U.S. lawmakers were in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday to reassure European partners at a time when transatlantic relations have been deeply fractured by Trump’s criticism of allies and his unpredictability in policymaking.
Among the messages that Pelosi said she brought to the EU capital was that the U.S. president is not all-powerful. Of course, it was a lesson Europeans watched her teach Trump in the standoff over a recent government shutdown — where she forced the president to back down.
“We’re not a parliamentary government even though we’re parliamentarians,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “We have Article 1, the legislative branch, the first branch of government, coequal to the other branches and we have asserted ourselves in that way.”
Pelosi said that one European colleague had asked why the House of Representatives had only recently adopted a resolution in support of NATO. She said that she explained it was because she and the Democrats had only retaken control of the majority at the start of the year.
“I said because we just got the majority and then we can control, we can manage what goes on to the floor,” Pelosi said. “But once the Republican colleagues had the opportunity to vote on this, H.R. 676 NATO Support Act — what was it? 357 to 22 no’s. I think that that sends a very clear message.”
One more bit of news: Unfortunately Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president, and he’s already attacking “identity politics.”
Good luck with that, Bernie. Goddess I hate that man.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
I didn’t watch Trump’s insane speech yesterday; I only saw excerpts on Twitter and T.V. Now I’m reading the transcript, and once again I’m wondering how this befuddled man can actually be “president.”
Trump went to the WH Rose Garden to declare a “national emergency” on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but he began the speech rambling claims about trade deals with China and the UK and then moved on to Syria, ISIS, and his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and then he vomited out this odd bit of word salad:
China’s been helping us and Russia’s been helping us. And South Korea, I think you can say, has been — we’ve been working very closely with South Korea, with Japan. But China, Russia on the border have really been at least partially living up to what they’re supposed to be doing, and that’s OK, as per the United Nations.
Does anyone know what that means? What border? What are they “partially living up to,” and why is it OK? He followed that with another long digression about North Korea that makes even less sense. Why is this person not in a straight jacket being taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation?
After this irrelevant rambling, Trump finally seemed about to get to the point:
But then he goes off on another long rambling digression, bragging about his so-called accomplishments before seeming to get to the point once again. He begins talking about walls and how well they supposedly work. There’s an even longer digression about walls, his rally in El Paso, “angel moms,” caravans, and his claims that human traffickers bring women across the border tied up with tape over their mouths so they can’t possibly go through a port of entry, and drugs don’t go through ports of entry either–these traffickers and “drug lords” “go around the walls.”
Nowhere in this hour of verbal diarrhea does Trump provide any real evidence that we are confronting an actual “emergency.” In fact, at one point he says:
I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster. And I don’t have to do it for the election; I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election 2020. And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election, because they want to try and win an election which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do.
And this is one of the ways they think they can possibly win is by obstruction and a lot of other nonsense. And I think that I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.
On top of that, Trump left for Mar-a-Lago and long weekend of golf after signing the declaration! Some emergency.
I won’t bore you and further with this, but I encourage you to read the transcript. Trump went on for about an hour just rambling, saying anything that came into his head. Even reading it is exhausting, because it makes almost so sense. Trying to follow what Trump spewed out yesterday is just crazy making. How can this person be “president?” We are in big trouble.
Here’s what people are saying about Trump’s emergency declaration.
Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Emergency Declaration Shows He Is Unfit for Office.
At worst, President Trump’s claim of emergency powers that would allow him to expand barriers on the southern border is a gross violation of democratic norms. At best, it is a craven ploy to cover his own blundering. Either way, it is a devastating indictment of his capacity to handle his job.
Begin with the worst-case scenario. As a matter of principle, the Constitution establishes a system that requires the House, Senate, and the president to approve new laws. In some cases, expediency requires the president to act unilaterally. Those rare cases are not defined as emergencies because they’re important — lots of policy is important, even life-threatening. The emergencies are cases where the executive needs to act in an especially urgent way, and where congressional involvement may not be practical.
Most of the uses of emergency powers involve foreign policy, an area where Congress has (for better or worse) ceded most of its authority to the president anyway. Presidents have not been able to use emergency powers to simply roll over congressional opposition. Bill Clinton considered health-care reform an extremely vital problem with literal life-and-death consequences — and he was right — but he never contemplated using some form of emergency powers to impose the reforms he couldn’t get Congress to enact.
Trump has of course tried to portray his power grab as just such an emergency. But illegal immigration is nothing like the kind of sudden crisis that justifies rapid action. It is a decades-long policy dispute, with border crossings now at levels well below that of a decade ago. The closest thing to a crisis is a recent surge in migrants seeking asylum, a process that entails crossing the border legally, and for which a wall is completely irrelevant. What’s more, Trump’s non-solution would take years to complete. The president’s lack of urgency to address the alleged border crisis during his first two years, when he had unified control of government, attests to his disingenuousness.
Trump’s extemporaneous commentary defending his emergency decision repeatedly gave away his own rationale. He admitted he could have passed border funding through Congress during his first year and a half, but he was “too new to politics,” and his fellow Republicans “didn’t step up.” He framed the border wall as a gambit for his campaign (“I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election — 2020.”). And he admitted the emergency declaration was a luxury rather than an emergency (“I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”). He is clumsily undermining his already-shaky legal case, while making it plain his ploy is to claim Executive powers to override an area of control for Congress.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Presidents Have Declared Dozens of Emergencies, but None Like Trump’s.
None of the times emergency powers have been invoked since 1976, the year Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act, involved a president making an end run around lawmakers to spend money on a project they had decided against funding. Mr. Trump, by contrast, is challenging the bedrock principle that the legislative branch controls the government’s purse.
“On the surface, this ‘Oh, other presidents do this, too’ line seems logical,” said Chris Edelson, an American University government professor and author of a 2013 book, “Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror.” “But there is no example where a president asked for funding for something from Congress, Congress said, ‘No,’ and the president said, ‘I’ll use emergency powers to do it anyway.’” [….]
Trump tried to argue that previous presidents have declared national emergencies and it has been uncontroversial.
But a list of about 59 previous times when presidents since the Carter administration have invoked emergency powers, compiled for a recent study of presidential emergency powers for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, shows none that look like Mr. Trump’s declaration in crucial respects.
The overwhelming majority of those instances were moves by presidents to impose sanctions on various foreign officials and groups — freezing their assets and making it illegal for Americans to do business with them — for wrongdoing like human rights violations, terrorism or transnational narcotics trafficking. They attracted no controversy because Congress has wanted the executive branch to operate that way.
Congress has also enacted a statute that gave presidents, in a declared emergency “that requires use of the armed forces,” the power to redirect military construction funds to build projects related to that use. It is that statute that Mr. Trump is relying upon, and his administration argues that this means he is exercising authority that lawmakers wanted the presidency to be able to wield.
But Elizabeth Goitein, who oversaw the Brennan Center study, pointed to the widespread dispute over whether, as a matter of empirical reality, there exists a true emergency on the border that would be resolved by a wall, as well as to the fact that Congress already made clear it did not intend to spend extra billions of dollars on Mr. Trump’s wall.
What’s at stake in this battle is a simple dilemma: Can the president declare a national emergency, and appropriate all the powers that this confers on him, when there isn’t any national emergency?
“That is the fundamental question,” Elizabeth Goitein, who has extensively researched national emergency law for the Brennan Center for Justice, told me….
The basic problem we face right now in this regard was created by Congress. The post-Watergate National Emergencies Act, or NEA, places various constraints on the powers the president has when he declares a national emergency. For instance, it requires the president to say which other statute he is relying on to exercise the particular authority he plans to employ under his declared emergency.
The NEA also creates a mechanism by which Congress can terminate the emergency by passing a resolution through both houses doing that. The House is likely to pass such a resolution, but it’s unclear whether the Senate will do so. Even if the Senate did pass it, Trump would veto it anyway, though the House still should try this to get GOP senators on the record.
But the NEA doesn’t define what an emergency is, giving the president tremendous discretion to do that himself. The core question we now face is whether that discretion is limitless.
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Trump Isn’t Just Defying the Constitution. He’s Undermining SCOTUS.
Legal scholars have done superb work laying out the complicated interplay between the National Emergencies Act of 1976 and the 1952 Supreme Court ruling in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. Justice Jackson, writing in a landmark concurrence in Youngstown, established three categories of presidential power: one in which the president acts pursuant to both his Article II authority and the authority granted by Congress; the next, a “zone of twilight” in which the president acts while Congress remains silent; and the third, which he deemed the “lowest ebb” of presidential authority, where the president acts over the objections of Congress. The Emergencies Act, however, is broad and vague. Noah Feldman says declaring an emergency when none exists is clearly unconstitutional. Elizabeth Goitein argues that the courts may give Trump the green light under the broad statutory authority of the National Emergencies Act. David French says the declaration is illegal. The truth is, of course, that what legal experts and academics think is much less relevant than what actual judges will do. And the president was absolutely clear in his announcement that he has that part in the bag.
Having conceded that he’s only declaring an emergency because he “wanted to get it done faster,” Trump assured the crowd assembled in the Rose Garden that “I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office, and we will have a national emergency. We will then be sued and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there. We will possibly get a bad ruling, we’ll get another bad ruling, and we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court. Just like they did on the ban, and we lost and we went to the Supreme Court and we won.”
A few more relevant links to check out:
The Washington Post: Words are a president’s strongest weapon. Trump is terrible at words.
The New York Times: Trump’s Emergency Declaration Is the First Since 9/11 to Authorize Military Action.
LA Times: President Trump is the national emergency.
My head is spinning from trying to make sense of something that will never make sense. We need to get rid of Trump. I don’t think we can wait for Robert Mueller to solve this problem. Congress should be holding impeachment hearings. Everyone but the most deluded Trumpers can see that the emperor has no clothes.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sky Dancers!!
Andrew McCabe’s book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump will be released on Tuesday, and he will be interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. This might be one 60 Minutes I decide to watch.
McCabe was deputy director of the FBI under James Comey and he became acting director after Trump fired Comey. Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly, and eventually succeeded in driving him out of office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe one day before he could have retired with his full pension.
Today The Atlantic published an article adapted from McCabe’s book: Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.
A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.
The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”
The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?
He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?
McCabe describes the reaction of FBI employees as one of shock and dismay. Trump then said he wanted to come to the FBI and “show all my FBI people how much I love them.” McCabe thought that was a terrible idea, but agreed to meet with Trump about it. Next, Trump:
…began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.
I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.
I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.
The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.
After that Trump taunted McCabe about his wife’s losing campaign for the Virginia Senate, asking McCabe, “How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?” and later saying “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”
I once had a boss who was a monstrous whack job like Trump. It was crazy-making. The entire department under this man functioned like an alcoholic family with an unpredictable, out-of-control father. You never knew what horrible thing would happen next. It was total chaos, as the White House seems to be. I’m glad McCabe is telling the truth about what he experienced.
Two more articles based on the McCabe book:
CBS News 60 Minutes: McCabe Says He Ordered the Obstruction of Justice Probe of President Trump.
The New York Times: McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office.
I expect Trump will be ranting about McCabe on Twitter and in the Oval Office, but he can’t do anything to shut McCabe up anymore.
Soon we’ll have a new U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, and already the corruption surrounding him has a very bad odor. CNN reports that Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are leaving the Justice Department for new jobs at FinCEN and the White House Counsel’s office respectively.
Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.
Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said.
It’s not clear if McGaughey’s switch is a result of Barr’s pending new role, and the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly’s husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department’s National Security Division for now.
The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them “a good idea” to “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him.”
However, Shaub added that McGaughey’s detail to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”
“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub said.
Read more at the CNN link.
If you listened to Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Spiro Agnew (or even if you didn’t) you should read this op-ed at The Washington Post by three attorneys who were involved in that corruption case: We should demand high standards from William Barr. Spiro Agnew’s case shows why, by Barnet D. Skolnik, Russell T. Baker Jr., and Ronald S. Liebman.
In the winter of 1973, 46 years ago, the three of us were assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore starting a federal grand jury investigation of a corrupt Democratic county chief executive in Maryland. That investigation ultimately led to the prosecution of his corrupt Republican predecessor — the man who went on to become the state’s governor and then President Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew.
On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew entered a plea to a criminal tax felony for failure to report the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d received in bribes and kickbacks as county executive, governor and even vice president. All paid in cash, $100 bills delivered in white envelopes.
And he resigned.
From the beginning of our investigation, months before we had seen any indication that he had taken kickbacks, Agnew, along with top White House and administration officials and even Nixon himself, repeatedly tried to impede, obstruct and terminate the investigation in nefarious ways. Some of those efforts were unknown to us then and have come to light only now thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her “Bagman” podcast.
When newspapers began to report that he was under criminal investigation in the summer of 1973, Agnew aroused his base by screaming “witch hunt” and launching a vicious assault on the “lying” press, the “partisan” Justice Department, and the “biased” and “liberal Democrat” prosecutors in Baltimore.
If Agnew and Nixon had succeeded in derailing our investigation, the most corrupt man ever to sit a heartbeat away might have become the president of our country when Nixon was forced to resign less than a year later. But our investigation was protected — first, by our staunch and courageous boss, the late George Beall, the U.S. attorney for Maryland and a prominent Maryland Republican, and second, by the man who had become the new U.S. attorney general that spring, Elliot L. Richardson.
The authors then go on to explain why Barr should not be confirmed unless he commits to releasing Robert Mueller’s findings to the public. Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There is so much more news! Here are some links to check out:
Just Security: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe. (This is an incredibly important story. Corruption is all around us.)
The New York Times: House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen.
Gulf News: Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia.
HuffPost: I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter. (Trigger warning for rape description)
The New York Times: Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.
So . . . what stories have you been following?
Trump’s lies are getting worse. It’s difficult to believe, I know; but it’s true. Here are just two of the outrageous claims Trump made at his El Paso hate rally last night.
As usual, Trump told fantastic lies about the number of cult followers he attracted to his hate rally.
During his rally at the El Paso County Coliseum, Trump touted his base supporters, saying “there has never been anything like this in the history of our country.”
“If you would say as an example that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here,” he said. “Now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, fire department. Appreciate it.”
The El Paso Fire Department, however, said Trump’s statement was untrue.
Fire public information officer Enrique Aguilar told the El Paso Times on Monday that Trump did not receive any special permission to exceed the limit and confirmed that there were 6,500 people inside the building during the president’s rally. The coliseum holds about 6,500 people. There were also thousands more watching Trump’s speech on big screens outside the facility.
Aguilar added that “it might be 10,000 with the people outside,” but said that the fire department didn’t specifically track the number of people outside of the coliseum, the El Paso Times reported.
During the rally, Trump repeatedly attacked the media, and one supporter physically attacked them.
A man wearing a Make America Great Again hat barreled into the press pit at Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas, Monday night and started shoving reporters, knocking over their equipment, and yelled “fuck the media,” minutes after the president had lashed out at journalists.
About half way through his lengthy, campaign-style speech, Trump ridiculed the media for “refusing to acknowledge” his administration’s successes, invoking loud boos and jeers from the crowd.
“I guess 93% of the stories are negative. No matter what we do, they figure out a way to make it that,” the president said, rattling off topics, such as North Korea, the economy, and manufacturing, which he feels that the media has unfairly skewed.
As Trump went on touting how his successes, a man in a red MAGA hat suddenly burst toward the group of reporters and photographers who were covering the speech, pushing them over, knocking their cameras and tripods, and repeatedly yelling, “fuck the media.”
Trump saw the attack and asked if everyone was OK before going back to his blatant lying. But who made sure there was no protection for reporters and camera people at the hate rally? More from the Buzzfeed story:
Several reporters told BuzzFeed News that there were no security guards or police officers near the press arena until “after the photographer got shoved.”
“I am calling bullshit on the way that and the way he got escorted out,” said Jorge Salgado, a photographer who captured part of the incident. “He was violent. He was pro-trump and wearing a ‘Fund the Wall’ shirt’ and he came out of nowhere.”
For a moment, Rene Delgadillo, a producer with Telemundo 48 in El Paso, said she thought the man “was going to hit us.”
She and a reporter were taking notes when she said heard a man scream and then start pushing other reporters down as he “made his way through the space designated for media.”
“People went crazy during that moment,” she said of the crowd around them.
Howard Dean tweeted about the rally this morning.
I think Trump has sounded like Hitler for a very long time, but it’s still good to see someone like Dean calling attention to it.
Shortly after the incident in the press pen, Trump again attacked the media. From Vox:
Trump’s speech on Monday was his first at a rally in 2019. He set the tone by attacking the media just seconds into it, saying, “Look at all the press back there, can you believe that? This is like the Academy Awards used to be. They’ve gone down a long way since they started hitting us a little bit, right? That was a long fall, but there they are.”
The crowd responded with loud boos.
About 10 minutes after Skeans was attacked, Trump laid into the media again while deflecting from the notion that his campaign colluded with Russia.
“There’s also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news, right here,” he said, prompting more “CNN sucks!” chants….
As was the case both during his presidential campaign and the recent midterm cycle, attacking the media was one of Trump’s central themes on Monday night. At one point, he called fact-checkers “some of the most dishonest people in media.” He also mockingly mimickedreporters who try to cover him.
Responding Trump’s lies about abortion (see video above) Vox’s Anna North writes that we’d better pay attention to the way Trump and his gang are lying about abortion: Trump’s misleading comments about Gov. Ralph Northam and infanticide…may be part of a broader strategy.
At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, President Donald Trump accused Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, of supporting infanticide.
“The governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world,” Trump told the crowd, “and wrap the baby, and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother and talk to the father and then execute the baby. Execute the baby!”
Unfortunately Northam and a VA lawmaker contributed to the confusion around a VA bill.
The controversy started when Del. Kathy Tran, the bill’s sponsor, was asked in a committee hearing if the bill would allow an abortion when a woman is showing signs of labor.
“My bill would allow that,” Tran said.
Tran later said that she “misspoke” in the committee hearing, and that “I should have said: ‘Clearly, no, because infanticide is not allowed in Virginia, and what would have happened in that moment would be a live birth.’”
But the controversy had already begun. On January 30, Gov. Northam was asked on the Virginia radio station WTOP to give his thoughts on Tran’s response.
“Do you support her measure?” reporter Julie Carey asked. “Explain her answer.”
“This is why decisions such as this should be made by providers, physicians, and the mothers and fathers that are involved,” Northam said. “When we talk about third-trimester abortions,” he went on, “it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable.”
“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” he added. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Obviously, the point is that some babies are born with no chance of survival. Doctors and parents will decide how to handle these tragic cases. No one supports “executing” babies. The bill has now been tabled, but Trump and the GOP will keep hammering this lie indefinitely.
I don’t really understand the Beto O’Rourke craze; maybe I’m just too old and jaded to get excited about another great white hope. I’ve tried watching his speeches and they leave me cold. But he did try to fight back against Trump last night.
EL PASO, Texas — The showdown between Donald Trump and Beto O’Rourke Monday night over the president’s border wall unfolded at competing rallies with thousands of people in venues barely a block apart.
But the events practically took place in parallel universes: One with rowdy MAGA-gear wearing Trump backers chanting “USA, USA!”; the other serenaded by a mariachi band before O’Rourke took the stage for a lengthy takedown — at times in Spanish — of the president’s signature project….
O’Rourke was mobbed by thousands of supporters as they marched to a baseball field so close to Trump’s rally that the loud speakers from Trump’s event could be heard at O’Rourke’s.
“With the eyes of the country upon us, all of us together are going to make our stand, here in one of the safest cities in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “Safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls. Secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect.”
He said, “We are the example that the United States of America needs right now.”
Read more details at the link above.
I’ll end with something truly unbelievable–the GOP has stolen Hillary’s 2016 slogan! And she noticed.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
There are four Democratic women running for president and the media is working overtime to take them all down. Meanwhile, elderly white males Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders get kid glove treatment.
Let me see if I can get this straight: Elizabeth Warren believed her family when they told her she had a Native American ancestor. Kamala Harris was a prosecutor (horrors!), she dated an older black man but married a white man. Amy Klobuchar is mean to her staff. Kirsten Gillibrand is “too transparently opportunistic.”
Each one of these women has now been assigned a “her emails” story that will dominate her campaign if reporters are successful. But two elderly white men with problematic political records and a younger man with few qualifications (Beto O’Rourke) are treated as viable candidates.
Sigh . . . Will I live to see a woman president? I’m still hoping.
In other news, Trump had his physical and surprise! He’s in perfect health!
The Washington Post: Trump’s doctor says he is in ‘very good health’ after exam by 11 specialists.
President Trump is “in very good health” and is expected to remain healthy for “the duration of his Presidency, and beyond,” the president’s doctor reported Friday after a physical exam that lasted nearly four hours and included 11 specialists.
The White House did not release details of the exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and did not say whether more details would be released.
Trump was seen by a “panel of 11 different board certified specialists,” Sean P. Conley wrote in a brief memorandum released by the White House.
The memo did not include the disciplines of any of the specialists. Typically, a physical exam includes checks of height, weight, blood pressure and other standard measures. Trump said last year that he takes a statin drug to manage his cholesterol.
Trump did not undergo any procedures requiring sedation or anesthesia, Conley reported.
I wonder if he is still 6’3 and 239 pounds? The doctor doesn’t say. Maybe his height increased again–so rare for a 72 year old man, but possible for a wannabe dictator.
Let’s see, what else is happening?
The New York Times: Trump Defies Congressional Deadline on Khashoggi Report.
President Trump refused to provide Congress a report on Friday determining who killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, defying a demand by lawmakers intent on establishing whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was behind the grisly assassination.
Mr. Trump effectively bypassed a deadline set by law as his administration argued that Congress could not impose its will on the president. Critics charged that he was seeking to cover up Saudi complicity in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post.
“Consistent with the previous administration’s position and the constitutional separation of powers, the president maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,” the Trump administration said in a statement. The statement said the administration had taken action against the killers and would consult with Congress.
But Democrats said Mr. Trump was violating a law known as the Magnitsky Act. It required him to respond 120 days after a request submitted in the fall by committee leaders — including Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a period that expired Friday.
The illegitimate “president” of the U.S. is protecting a foreign despot who ordered the brutal murder of a Washington Post journalist. And there are suggestions that the “president” used Saudi Arabia and his pals at The National Enquirer to get revenge on Jeff Bezos, who owns the Post.
Jeff Bezos’ stunning accusation that the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him mentioned the close ties between the paper’s publisher, David Pecker, and President Donald Trump — and a second, less well-known connection.
Bezos flagged the link between the New York tabloid’s parent company, American Media, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, returning to it several times.
While Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir denied any connection between his country and AMI to CNN, Bezos said in his Thursday statement that the link between the Kingdom and the media company is not yet fully understood. He carefully laid out a web of connections.
The trigger for Bezos’ post was his decision to hire a respected investigator to find out how texts to his girlfriend were obtained and published by the National Enquirer — and to determine why the paper and Pecker, the AMI chairman, had made him a target.
“Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation,” Bezos wrote. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” he continued.
A couple of articles on the National Enquier story to check out:
The illegitimate “president’s” fake attorney general made an ass of himself in front of the Congressional committee and the world yesterday and the “president” is very pleased. Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: Matthew Whitaker Plays to an Audience of One.
It took about five minutes of questioning for the acting attorney general to provoke gasps and jeers in the congressional hearing room. “Your five minutes are up,” Matthew Whitaker, an ex-U.S. Attorney-turned toilet salesman, told the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman Jerry Nadler. Nadler cracked a smile, but from that point on the rules of engagement seemed clear: Whitaker, just days remaining in his legally dubious role as the interim head of the Justice Department, appeared to be playing to an audience of one…..
Despite the lingering questions about his resume and suspicions about why he was appointed over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who would have been Sessions’s natural replacement, Whitaker presented himself to Nadler, a 13-term congressman, with the same aloofness and disdain for tradition that often seems typical of the Trump White House. And that may have been on purpose. Whitaker, whose tenure ends when Bill Barr is confirmed as attorney general next week, will need a new job. He has reportedly been considered for the role of Trump’s chief of staff. And though he testified under oath that he had “not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation,” he repeatedly declined to contradict Trump’s claims that Mueller is on a “witch hunt.”
Chuck Rosenberg, a former senior Justice Department official who resigned in 2017, said it would have been “easy” for Whitaker to say that Mueller’s investigation is legitimate, as Barr did during his recent confirmation hearings. “I don’t know how somebody could be that cowardly,” he added. But doing so would have undermined what is arguably his boss’s most important talking point—and that would not have been a good move for Whitaker if he was, in fact, auditioning for his next position.
Instead, Whitaker had a boilerplate response prepared for the myriad of questions posed by Democrats about the Mueller probe: “It would be inappropriate for me to talk about an ongoing investigation,” he said. Democrats, though, found that disingenuous—Whitaker had discussed the probe publicly earlier this month, going as far as to speculate that it would be wrapping up soon.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
Here’s a Trump/Whitaker/Russia scandal that is new to me. Raw Story:
Taking to Twitter on Friday night, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) hinted that there will be an investigation into a donor who gifted the Judicial Network with $18 million to steal the Supreme Court seat belonging to Merrick Garland.
As part of his observations on the Matt Whitaker hearing where he was confronted about a mysterious $1.2 million donation that funded his salary, Whitehouse said Democrats shouldn’t stop there.
‘Whitaker did political hit work for a front group called FACT that does not reveal its donors. Today he admitted that its donor was Donors Trust, an entity that hides the identity of right-wing donors. That means the unknown real donor hid behind two entities,” Whitehouse tweeted….
Whitehouse then put conservatives on notice that he expects an investigation into the dark money that was used to fund a campaign to keep Judge Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing — only to see his seat go to conservative Neil Gorsuch after Donald Trump was elected.
I found this on Twitter.
Could this be true? I don’t know, but I hope Whitehouse finds out. At this point, nothing about Trump, Republicans, and Russia would surprise me.
I’ll end with something more hopeful from The New York Times: John Dingell: My last words for America.
John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.
One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.
In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.
And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.
My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.
Click on the link to read Dingell’s final thoughts. How amazing that he chose to speak out publicly from his deathbed. He was a true public servant.
That’s all I have for today. I hope you all enjoy the weekend in spite of the insanity that surrounds us.
I’m getting a slow start this morning. Maybe it’s because I spent yesterday in bed with a stomach virus, but I’m feeling particularly hopeless today. I’ve been just sitting here wondering whether there will ever be a day that I get up and find that the news isn’t depressing as hell. Trump is still “president” and it feels like we’ve been cursed as a country. I really think it’s time for men to take a back seat and let women run things; but it’s not going to be easy to get men to sit down and listen to us for a change. We’re going to need to take over the media too, because misogynist “reporters” won’t stop trying to take down women candidates for office.
Is there any man in Virginia who doesn’t have skeletons in his closet? First we learned that Gov. Ralph Northam dressed in blackface when he was in medical school in 1984, then he denied it, but confessed that he wore blackface on a different occasion.
Northam is still refusing to resign, and in the meantime we learned that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been credibly accused of a sexual assault (frankly, it was rape) by Professor Vanessa Tyson of Scripps College in California. The third person in line for the governorship is Attorney General Mark Herring, who came forward and admitted that he too had dressed in blackface in the 1980s. Next in line is Kirk Cox, a Republican.
It took Kirk Cox almost 30 years to rise from a freshman GOP member of the Virginia House of Delegates to the legislative body’s speaker.
He could jump to the governorship in a matter of weeks as the state’s top three officials, Democrats all, stagger under the weight of scandals.
First, Gov. Ralph Northam admitted wearing blackface in the 1980s. Then Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault, which he adamantly denies, stemming from a 2004 encounter. Finally, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he, too, donned blackface in the 1980s.
Shouldn’t someone check to make sure Cox doesn’t have skeletons in his closet too?
Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says that, if Northam does exit, he would be the state’s first governor since the Civil War not to complete his term.
But Sabato doesn’t see all three Democrats walking away.
“Speculation that all 3 statewide VA Dem officeholders will resign is overwrought,” Sabato said on Twitter. “One or more will survive. VA Dems won in an anti-Trump landslide in 2017. They’re not going to turn government over to a pro-Trump GOP House Speaker.”
Read more at USA Today.
It’s difficult to see how Fairfax survives, but then Kavanaugh got away with attempted rape so who knows?
The New York Times: Vanessa Tyson, Accuser of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Describes Assault.
The woman identified herself on Wednesday as Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson, an associate professor of politics and expert in black history at Scripps College in California. She has also spent years advocating for victims of sexual assault and has spoken openly about being molested by her father when she was a child.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Dr. Tyson wrote, describing her encounter in a hotel room with the future lieutenant governor. “Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis.”
The Times didn’t finish the story but they posted the full statement. Here’s the rest:
He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again.
Read the rest of the statement at the link. Tyson never told anyone about the assault until about a year ago. One of the people she told was Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, who has called for Ralph Northam to resign.
Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott was made aware of allegations of sexual assault against now-Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax over a year ago by the alleged victim herself, ABC News has learned.
Scott learned of the allegations directly from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who on Wednesday released a statement detailing the alleged 2004 assault, which took place at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax vehemently denies the assault claim.
In a statement given to ABC News on Wednesday, Scott wrote, “Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. I have known Professor Tyson for approximately a decade and she is a friend. She deserves the opportunity to have her story heard.”
Apparently, Scott never confronted Fairfax with the allegation. And there’s this:
Scott himself was previously accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, who said he touched her inappropriately when she was working in his Washington office in 2013. He denied the claim.
Sigh . . . can you see why I’m so depressed reading about this?
One more story from Virginia at The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Capitol Police sergeant placed on leave after antifa group posts allegation about him.
Virginia Capitol Police announced Wednesday that it had placed a sergeant on leave after local activists published allegations that he “has an affinity” for symbols associated with white supremacists.
In a news release, the Virginia Division of Capitol Police said Sgt. Robert A. Stamm is on paid administrative leave pending a review of possible violation of department policy…..
The activists on the blog post said Stamm’s social media activity suggests he follows the Asatru Folk Assembly. The blog says Stamm is friends with people who claim to be associated with the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “hate group” blending Northern European paganism and ethnocentrism….
On its blog Tuesday, Antifascists of the Seven Hills, a leftist self-described “militant” group, posted Stamm’s name, links to social media accounts in his name and a description of his tattoos and interests listed under those accounts.
So, we’ll see what happens with that; but, honestly, I’ve reached the point that I don’t care who becomes Governor of Virginia after all the dust settles. I just wish there were a woman in the line of succession.
There’s a lot more depressing news out there, but I’d rather focus on tomorrow’s big story: Acting AG Matt Whitaker’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
It appears acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker allowed an important deadline to pass on the eve of his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), as chair, had directed Whitaker to inform the committee “no later than” 48 hours before Friday’s hearing whether President Donald Trump planned to assert executive privilege over a range of topics. This letter is among a series of somewhat unusual steps — including formal committee consideration of a subpoena authorization — taken by Nadler in advance of the Whitaker hearing to prepare the battlefield and short-circuit potential executive branch efforts to evade testimony about Whitaker’s communications with Trump and other White House officials.
Nadler had to threaten a subpoena in order to obtain Whitaker’s commitment to testify. On Jan. 15, Nadler sent a letter reiterating the committee’s demandfor Whitaker’s Feb. 8 appearance, after Department of Justice handlers suggested that the government shutdown might delay their boss’s testimony. In the letter, Nadler emphasized that the committee expected Whitaker to “provide direct answers to questions posed by members of both parties.” And he planted a seed: “If you plan to invoke executive privilege in an attempt to avoid answering any particular question, I ask that you consult with the White House well in advance of the hearing.”
In its first two years, the Trump administration has avoided having to formally invoke executive privilege, because the Republican-led congressional committees did not issue subpoenas or threaten contempt in the face of stonewalling. I have written about some of those early skirmishes — and the failure to enforce congressional prerogatives – in the cases of Steve Bannon, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Sally Yates as former acting attorney general. That pattern will change now under a Democratic House majority.
A week after his letter repeating the committee’s demand, Nadler on Jan. 22 sent another, reiterating the committee’s expectation that Whitaker specifically testify about White House contacts with the DoJ. It was an effort by Nadler to preempt fancy footwork over executive privilege at the hearing.
Read the rest at the link.
And from The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff: ‘They Hate This Guy’: Matt Whitaker Braces for Showdown With Dems.
The Justice Department is bracing for impact. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is set to testify before Congress on Friday, and in the Department’s sprawling Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, dozens of officials have been working to get him ready. The hearing will be the first blockbuster showdown between the Trump administration and oversight-antsy Hill Democrats who just recently secured the power to force the president’s allies to testify.
“They hate this guy so much,” the source said.
Whitaker has gone through multiple practice committee hearings––known as moots––where Justice Department officials pepper him with questions that committee Democrats may lob, according to multiple DOJ officials involved in his preparation. They have tried to prepare him for lengthy statements, harsh tones, and leading questions. Dozens of department officials have helped him prepare, those officials told The Daily Beast, working through the government shutdown to brief him and get him ready. And they’re gearing up for questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, according to one source familiar with Whitaker’s preparation, including whether he had input on the investigation’s resources. On top of that, they’re braced for legal sparring if Democrats try to force Whitaker to testify about his conversations with the president.
“We don’t know what we’re up against with the House Judiciary Committee,” that source said. “We have no idea.”
Read the rest at the The Daily Beast.
More reads, links only:
The Washington Post: The Mueller investigation has sprouted. Therein lies the jeopardy for Trump, by Joyce White Vance and Matthew Miller.
Garrett Graff at Wired: What Robert Mueller Knows–and Isn’t Telling Us.
The Washington Post: The Energy 202: Ocasio-Cortez, Markey unveil Green New Deal with backing of four presidential candidates.
Bloomberg: The Battle Over Trump’s Tax Return Begins.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America.
What stories are you following today?
Tonight Trump will give his state of the union address in the midst of multiple criminal and counterintelligence investigations into his campaign, his business, his inaugural fundraising, his violations of the emoluments clause, and his efforts to interfere with and obstruct investigations–have I left anything out?
As he prepares for his big moment, shocking news keeps breaking about his behavior in office and involvement with Russia during the campaign and transition. Here’s the latest.
Buzzfeed News releases Trump Org. documents on the Trump Tower Moscow project: Secret Files Show How Trump Moscow Talks Unfolded While Trump Heaped Praise On Putin.
As a candidate, Donald Trump had a lot of praise for Vladimir Putin — and no business, he kept insisting, in Russia. These documents tell a different story.
When Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and longtime fixer, testifies before Congress this week, one topic that is likely to be front and center is his work on Trump Moscow, the over-the-top luxury real estate venture he helped spearhead leading up to the election.
“The development, which was never built, has already become a focus for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 campaign. And when Cohen was convicted last November of lying to Congress, it was over his false testimony that the deal had fizzled in January 2016, well before Trump emerged as the Republican nominee.
BuzzFeed News is today publishing a cache of internal Trump Organization documents that lay bare the secret negotiations that continued long after Cohen claimed the deal had been abandoned. The documents, many of which have been exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News, reveal that — despite Trump’s claim that the development was never more than a passing notion — the effort to get the tower built was long-running, detail-oriented and directly entwined with the ups and downs of his campaign.
As Trump went from rally to rally, vociferously denying any dealings in Russia, his representatives, Michael Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, worked with Trump Organization lawyers and even Ivanka Trump to push forward negotiations to build a 100-story edifice just miles from the Kremlin. The fixers believed they needed Putin’s support to pull off the lucrative deal, and they planned to use Trump’s public praise for him to help secure it. At the same time, they plotted to persuade Putin to openly declare his support for Trump’s candidacy. “If he says it we own this election,” Sater wrote to Cohen….
This large trove of nonbinding business agreements, architectural renderings, texts, emails, and plans for Trump to travel to Russia to meet Putin offer an unprecedented glimpse inside the negotiations to build the tallest tower in Europe — a deal Trump’s fixers hoped would “help world peace and make a lot of money.”
Read the documents at Buzzfeed.
Emptywheel wrote about one exchange between Cohen and Slater: The WaPo Scoop on the DNC Hack (Temporarily) Killed the Trump Tower Deal.
A Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter.
Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The lobbyist also received a large payment that bank investigators deemed suspicious from Denis Katsyv, whose company Prevezon Holdings was accused by the US Justice Department of laundering the proceeds of a $230 million Russian tax fraud.
The Trump Tower meeting and those who attended it have become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. As part of that inquiry, banks were asked to pull financial information on the meeting attendees, and investigators at Wells Fargo handed over documents on Akhmetshin to the US RTreasury in 2017. Those records were passed to Mueller’s team, but Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the special counsel, declined to say whether the transactions are under investigation. Congressional investigators also requested the financial information from the Treasury Department.
Read the rest at the link above.
A wide-ranging subpoena served on the inaugural committee Monday seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.
Only U.S. citizens and legal residents can legally donate to a committee established to finance presidential inaugural festivities….
The subpoena — issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York — indicates that prosecutors are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering.
The subpoena also specifically seeks all communications with one donor, Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi, as well as the firm with which he is affiliated, Avenue Ventures. The company donated $900,000 to the inaugural committee, records show.
Read more at the WaPo.
We are getting closer to seeing Trump’s taxes. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: We may finally see Trump’s tax returns, and Republicans are panicking.
Though they haven’t done it yet, Democrats are planning to utilize a law allowing the House Ways and Means committee to obtain any Americans’ tax returns to demand that the IRS turn them over. Once they have them, the committee can vote to release them to the entire House….
Legal experts make clear that the law is not ambiguous and the president can’t simply order the Treasury Department to keep his returns secret. So the administration’s plan seems to be to wage a PR battle while keeping the matter slogging through the courts for as long as possible — say, past November 2020.
While Trump’s refusal to release his returns — something every party nominee and president has done for the last half century — has been controversial since 2016, once Democrats demand the returns it will become an intense controversy playing out on television and the front pages of newspapers. That means that Republican officeholders will be forced to take a position, which they haven’t really had to do before. And they’ll be expected to defend the president’s refusal to allow the public to know where he’s getting money from, who he owes money to, and how far his financial interests extend.
According to Nancy Cook at Politico, the Trumpists have a plan to keep his tax information secret.
Trump’s Treasury Department is readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump’s past tax filings, which he has closely guarded, into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments.
At the same time, officials intend to publicly cast the request as a nakedly partisan exercise. The two-pronged scheme was developed by a handful of top political appointees and lawyers inside the department — with the ultimate goal of keeping the president’s past returns private, according to four people familiar with the administration’s approach.
The strategy will hinge on an argument that politically motivated Democrats will inevitably leak Trump’s tax information — a felony in and of itself — if the IRS hands over the documents. So because Democrats can’t be trusted to keep the documents private, they shouldn’t get them in the first place, officials will insist. Treasury officials have been waiting since early January for a top Democrat to make the request.
The battle between Treasury and the Democrats could plunge the country into yet another norm-breaking moment for the Trump presidency — with the fight stretching on for months and well into the 2020 campaign.
“What happens if the Treasury secretary just doesn’t answer or sends back a note saying we refuse to do what you are saying?” said George Yin, a former chief of staff on the House Joint Committee on Taxation, one of the three congressional committees involved in major tax issues on Capitol Hill. “To my knowledge, that has never happened. … We are essentially in uncharted territory if he refuses.”
It’s going to get ugly. Will all this take place with the 2020 election as background? That wouldn’t be good for Trump either.
Two more moves by House Democrats:
As for the speech tonight, Trump supposedly plans to call for “comity.” The Washington Post: Trump to call for ‘comity’ in State of the Union, but rivals scoff amid heightened political warfare.
Facing growing political head winds, President Trump on Tuesday will try to convince the nation that his presidency remains strong and viable in a State of the Union address that aides described as a sincere appeal to broaden his governing coalition.
But Trump is also expected to reaffirm his demand for Congress to support his hard-line immigration agenda and offer a robust defense of foreign policy initiatives that have engendered fierce criticism from Democrats who have asserted newfound power to try to blunt his agenda.
The dynamic suggests that any attempt from the usually truculent president to proffer a nod to bipartisanship and cooperation during his prime-time remarks is almost certain to be short-lived and viewed as duplicitous by his critics.
Trump “thrives on inflaming, and when he does otherwise, it seems inauthentic and unpersuasive,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Obviously, no one–even Republicans–will buy anything Trump has to say about national unity. I expect the speech to be pathetic and embarrassing, in contrast to many previous presidents’ SOTU speeches.
Now . . . what stories have you been following?