Thursday Reads: “Get Rid of the Ballots” — Donald Trump

Good Morning!!

The U.S. may finally have reached peak banana republic status. Can it possibly get any worse? Probably.

Axios: Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

President Trump repeatedly refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election to Joe Biden, saying at a press briefing: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

The big picture: Trump has baselessly claimed on a number of occasions that the only way he will lose the election is if it’s “rigged,” claiming — without evidence — that mail-in ballots will result in widespread fraud. Earlier on Wednesday, the president said he wants to quickly confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because he believes the Supreme Court may have to decide the result of the election.

The exchange:

REPORTER: “Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the election? There has been rioting in Louisville, there has been rioting in many cities across the country. Your so-called red and blue states. Will you commit to make sure there’s a peaceful transferral of power after the election? ”
TRUMP: “We’re going to have to see what happens, you know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are disaster.”

REPORTER: “I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to make sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?”
TRUMP: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

Go deeper: Trump says he wants 9 justices in case Supreme Court must decide 2020 election

Fine. But what is the FEC going to do about it? Hasn’t Trump already neutered them?

Yesterday people were talking about a startling article in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman: The Election That Could Break America. If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?

There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

This is what Trump is counting on–that there will be an extended period of confusion and chaos during which we won’t know for sure who has won the presidential election. We already saw something like this in 2000; but in that case, Al Gore conceded and allowed a peaceful transfer of power to George W. Bush. Trump is stating clearly that he will respond differently. Here is what Lindsey Graham told Fox News today:

Returning to the Atlantic article:

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

A lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

According to Gellman, the Trump campaign is already working to convince state legislators in battleground states to ignore the popular vote.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

“We are not prepared for this at all,” Julian Zelizer, a Prince­ton professor of history and public affairs, told me. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”

Please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. People on Twitter yesterday were calling Gellman’s piece ridiculous scaremongering, but then yesterday evening Trump came right out and said it on national TV.

NewsPressNow.com: A list of the times Trump has said he won’t accept the election results or leave office if he loses. Read the whole list at the link, here’s what he said earlier yesterday:

September 23 Oval Office: “But in terms of time, we go to January 20th. But I think it’s better if you go before the election because I think this — this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that.”

He has made it clear that he expects the Supreme Court to decide the election in his favor, regardless of the how Americans vote.

This from Slate is by Richard Hasan, who is quoted in the Atlantic article:

The Trump strategy of fighting the expansion of mail-in balloting appears to be twofold. To begin with, the campaign appears to have made the calculation that lower turnout will help the president win reelection. This may explain why Pennsylvania Republicans are planning on going to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against a state Supreme Court ruling allowing the counting of ballots arriving soon after Election Day without a legible postmark. They argue that doing so unconstitutionally extends Election Day beyond Nov. 3 and takes power away from the Pennsylvania Legislature to choose presidential electors.

The first argument is not a particularly strong one: A decision to accept ballots soon after Election Day without a legible postmark does not extend Election Day as much as it implements how election officials determine if a mailed ballot was timely mailed. It recognizes the reality that many ballots have been arriving without postmarks and uses proximity to the election as a proxy for timely voting. Virginia and Nevada recently adopted similar rules, in light of pandemic-related mail delays. The Trump-allied Honest Elections Project is fighting a consent decree over a similar extension in Minnesota.

The argument about the state Supreme Court’s ruling usurping legislative power to set federal election rules echoes a parallel claim that was made during the disputed election in 2000. The question is whether a state supreme court usurps legislative power when it interprets election rules in line with both state statutes and the state constitution. The argument that a state supreme court applying a state constitution in a voting case usurps legislative power is weak to me, but it was convincing enough for the more conservative members of the Supreme Court that decided Bush v. Gore.

The idea is to throw so much muck into the process and cast so much doubt on who is the actual winner in one of those swing states because of supposed massive voter fraud and uncertainty about the rules for absentee ballots that some other actor besides the voter will decide the winner of the election….Indeed, on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement needs to be seated, possibly without so much as a hearing, in order to decide “election issues [that] may come before the Supreme Court in the days following the election,” including questions involving “universal unsolicited mail” and states “extending the deadline” for ballot receipt.

Read more at Slate.

Joe Biden is clearly growing tired of his daily task of having to think up responses to President Donald Trump’s increasingly erratic comments. Asked about Trump’s latest threat, when he blatantly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election fair and square, Biden rolled his eyes and sighed. Muffled behind his face mask, he said: “What country are we in?” Biden then briefly lowered his mask to say more clearly to the gathered reporters: “I’m being facetious—what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know to say.” During a White House briefing Thursday, Trump was asked if he has any intention of peacefully handing over power if he loses. The president ominously responded: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

Let’s hope the Democrats and Biden figure out a more substantive response.

Of course we also will have to deal with Trump’s cultish supporters. Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump’s comments send a signal to his supporters about how to react if Biden prevails.

The President’s comments risked not only dealing another blow to an election in which he has been trailing and has incessantly tarnished, but could send a signal to his supporters about how to react if the Democratic nominee prevails in 41 days. That possibility is especially dangerous given this past summer’s racial and social unrest — which burst forth again on Wednesday evening after police said two officers were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, amid protests about the failure to charge officers in the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman.

Trump’s near simultaneous warning on Wednesday that he thinks the election will end up being decided by the Supreme Court also raises the risk of a constitutional imbroglio likely to be worse than the disputed 2000 election.

His rhetoric escalated as he yet again politicized the effort to quell the pandemic by threatening to override regulators on the question of whether a newly developed vaccine would be safe in a highly irregular move. Taken together, his anti-democratic instincts and prioritization of his own political goals amid a national emergency show he plans to allow nothing — not the health of Americans, the sanctity of US elections or the reputation of the Supreme Court — to prevent him from winning a second term.

And his comments poured gasoline on an already inflamed nominating battle to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg while threatening to drag the court further into politics in a way that could shred its legitimacy among millions of Americans.

Trump’s latest attempts to create uproar came amid new efforts to subvert the traditional mechanisms of government for his own gain — in what has become an almost daily ritual.

Obviously, there is much more news out there, including the situation in Louisville over the murder of Breonna Taylor. Please feel free to discuss any issue of importance to you in the comment thread. Take care, and I hope you’ll check in sometime today.


Wednesday Reads: #TattletalesfromTanqueray

For this Wednesday, we have a series of stories for you…from Humans of New York:

Tattletales From Tanqueray

Be sure you read each of these Instagram post in full before you move on to the next one. That is extremely important…because you don’t want to miss anything! So click each link, that way you will be certain to get the full caption for each thread.

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“My mom threw me out of the house at seventeen for getting pregnant, then had me arrested when I tried to get my clothes. Then she fucked the head of parole to try to keep me in jail. She was some prime pussy back then. But the warden did some tests on me and found out I was smart, so I got a scholarship to go anywhere in New York. I chose the Fashion Institute of Technology, which I hated. But by that time I was already getting work making costumes for the strippers and porn stars in Times Square. All my friends were gay people, because they never judged me. All I did was gay bars: drag queen contests, Crisco Disco, I loved the whole scene. And I couldn’t get enough of the costumes. My friend Paris used to sit at the bar and sell stolen clothes from Bergdorf and Lord and Taylors, back before they had sensor tags. So I had the best wardrobe: mink coats, 5 inch heels, stockings with seams up the back. I looked like a drag queen, honey. One night a Hasidic rabbi tried to pick me up because he thought I was a tranny. I had to tell him: ‘Baby, this is real fish!”

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“My stripper name was Tanqueray. Back in the seventies I was the only black girl making white girl money. I danced in so many mob clubs that I learned Italian. Black girls weren’t even allowed in some of these places. Nothing but guidos with their pinky rings and the one long fingernail they used for cocaine. I even did a full twenty minutes in the place they filmed Saturday Night Fever. But I made my real money on the road. Three grand on some trips. Every time Fort Dix had their pay day, they’d bring me in as a feature and call me ‘Ms. Black Universe’ or some shit like that. I had this magic trick where I’d put baby bottle tops on my nipples and squirt real milk, then I’d pull a cherry out of my G-string and feed it to the guy in the front row. But I never used dildos on stage or any shit like that. Never fucked the booking agents. Never fucked the clients. In fact, one night after a show, I caught another dancer sneaking off to the Tate Hotel with our biggest tipper. Not allowed. So the next night we put a little itching powder in her G-string. Boy did she put on a show that night. Didn’t see her again until ‘The Longest Yard’ with Burt Reynolds. So I guess she finally fucked the right one.”

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“The scene was different back then. All the adult clubs were mob controlled. It all flowed up to some guy named Matty The Horse. Honestly the mob guys never bothered me. They were cool, and I liked how they dressed. They wore custom made suits. And they went to hair stylists, not barbers. These guys wouldn’t even let you touch their hair when you were fucking them. Not that I ever fucked them. Because I never turned tricks. Well, except for one time. I took a job from this woman named Madame Blanche. She controlled all the high dollar prostitutes back then. She was like the Internet– could get you anything you wanted. And all the powerful men came to her because she never talked. She set me up with a department store magnate who wanted a black girl dressed like a maid. I thought I could do it. But when I got to his hotel room, he wanted to spank me with a real belt. So that was it for me. I was done. But Madame Blanche set my best friend Vicki up with The President every time he came to New York. And don’t you dare write his name cause I can’t afford the lawyers. But he’d always spend an hour with her. He’d send a car to pick her up, bring her to his hotel room, put a Secret Service agent in front of the door, and get this: all he ever did was eat her pussy!”

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Hmmm, a President that only ate pussy?

I wonder which President she is talking about….my uncle and I had a laugh, imagining the possibilities…

So…

MEET THE ULTIMATE ‘HUMAN FROM NEW YORK’, FORMER STRIPPER TANQUERAY

Every now and then, Humans of New Yorkproduces a story that moves us with its humanity. One such story is that of a former stripper, Tanqueray. If you’re not familiar, Humans of New York is an ongoing portrait series by photographer Brandon Stanton and he’s been working on it for nearly a decade. Posting the project on Facebook and Instagram, some stories are filled with humor while others are gut-wrenching. But few stories are as captivating as this one.

Kicked out of her home by her mother after becoming pregnant at 17 years old, Tanqueray rose from the ashes and went on to study fashion at FIT. She would later make costumes for strippers and porn stars. A regular in NYC’s drag scene, she hung out with the most fashionable gays and queens in all of New York. Back in the seventies, she was the only Black dancer making “white girl money.” She danced in clubs frequented by so many mobsters that she started learning Italian. She fed cherries she pulled from her g-string to paying customers. She was a badass and you wish you were that cool.

And with that…the legendary Tanqueray became a hit on Humans of New York, and social media.

This week, there was an update of sorts:

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Many of you will remember this young lady. Tanqueray caused quite a stir a few months ago when she dropped some truth bombs on us, while wearing a hand-beaded faux mink coat that she made herself. What you don’t know is what happened afterward. Tanqueray—whose real name is Stephanie—sat for a series of twenty interviews with me, during which time I transcribed her entire life story. And whoa boy, what a story. Stephanie is a born performer, so we were initially going to make a podcast out of it. But unfortunate circumstances have required a change in plans. Stephanie’s health has taken a bad turn, and she’s in a really tough spot. So I’m going to tell her story right here, right now. It’s the most ambitious storytelling I’ve ever attempted on the blog. It will unfold over the course of 32 posts. But if there’s anyone who can hold an audience for an entire week—it’s Tanqueray. As her story is shared, we will be raising money to ensure that Stephanie can live the rest of her life in comfort and dignity. Stephanie has a lot of urgent needs, so her care will be expensive. But her story is priceless. If the series adds any value to your life over the next seven days, please consider making a contribution to our fundraiser through the link in bio. ‘Tattletales From Tanqueray’ will begin tomorrow.

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Brandon Stanton has started a fundraiser for Stephanie:

The Tanqueray Trust

As you can see, the amount raised has been substantial. The whole story, including the tales told…are truly amazing.

So kick back and check out…

The Tattletales From Tanqueray

You can follow the tales via Twitter:

Or via Instagram:

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(1/32) “Tanqueray, Tanqueray, Tanqueray. When this photo was taken, ten thousand men in New York City knew that name. My signature meant something to them. They’d line up around the block whenever I was dancing in Times Square, just so I could sign the cover of their nudie magazine. I’d always write: ‘You were the best I ever had.’ Or some stupid shit like that. Something to make them smile for a second. Something to make them feel like they’d gotten to know me. Then they’d pay their twenty bucks, and go sit in the dark, and wait for the show to start. They’d roll that magazine up tight and think about their wives, or their work, or some of their other problems. And they’d wait for the lights to come up. Wait for Tanqueray to step out on stage and take it all away for eighteen minutes. Eighteen minutes. That’s how long you’ve got to hold ‘em. For eighteen minutes you’ve got to make them forget that they’re getting older. And that they aren’t where they want to be in life. And that it’s probably too late to do much about it. It’s only eighteen minutes. Not long at all. But there’s a way to make it seem like forever. I always danced to the blues. Cause it’s funky and you don’t have to move fast. You can really zero in on a guy. So that it seems like you’re dancing just for him. You look him right in the eyes. Smile at him. Wink. Put a finger in your mouth and lick it a little bit. Make sure you wear plenty of lip gloss so your lips are very, very shiny. If you’re doing it right, you can make him think: ‘Wow, she’s dancing just for me.’ You can make him think he’s doing something to your insides. You can make him fall in love. Then when the music stops, you step off the stage, and beat it back to the dressing room.”

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I prefer the Instagram, because you can see the pictures better, but Twitter is an easier option for some.

At the time I wrote this post last night, there was already 10 post up…so please go to the links below to catch up on all the stories. And remember to scroll through all the pictures!

The main accounts are as follows:

https://twitter.com/humansofny

https://instagram.com/humansofny

I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I have been and that you consider sending a contribution to the Tanqueray Trust.

Someone should get together with Stephanie and Brandon and make a movie of these Tattletales. Fabulous stuff!


Tuesday Reads: Two Valuable New Books on Trump and Russia

Good Morning!!

The Trump books just keep on coming. This week and next week we’re getting two very significant releases. A new book by Tim Weiner came out today. Weiner is a historian of both the FBI and CIA. His latest is The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945–2020. The Washington Post published an op-ed by Weiner yesterday: The unanswered question of our time: Is Trump an agent of Russia?

The FBI faced a national security nightmare three years ago: It suspected that the new president of the United States was, in some unknown way, in the sway of Russia.

Was an agent of a foreign power in the White House? Should they investigate Donald Trump? “I can’t tell you how ominous and stressful those days were,” Peter Strzok, then the No. 2 man in FBI counterintelligence, told me. “Similar to the Cuban missile crisis, in a domestic counterintelligence sense.”

But the Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days — and it had a happy ending. This crisis has no end in sight. Despite the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, despite the work of congressional intelligence committees and inspectors general — and despite impeachment — we still don’t know why the president kowtows to Vladimir Putin, broadcasts Russian disinformation, bends foreign policy to suit the Kremlin and brushes off reports of Russians bounty-hunting American soldiers. We still don’t know whether Putin has something on him. And we need to know the answers — urgently. Knowing could be devastating. Not knowing is far worse. Not knowing is a threat to a functioning democracy.

Tim Weiner

The FBI’s counterintelligence agents wondered: Why did Trump invite the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister into the Oval Office on the day after he keelhauled FBI Director James B. Comey — and brag about it? “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told them in confidence. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Like the rest of America, the FBI learned about that conversation only from a Russian government readout. But then Trump went on television and said he had fired Comey over the FBI’s probe into ties between Team Trump and Team Putin during and after the 2016 election.

Unfortunately the counterintelligence investigation seems to have been short-circuited by the firing of Andrew McCabe and the failure of Robert Mueller to seriously investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Here’s Weiner’s chilling conclusion:

There’s a classic story about an American agent of influence that predates the Cold War — and might presage the strange case of Donald Trump, if these questions about his relationship with Russia go dormant. Samuel Dickstein was a member of Congress from Manhattan, elected in 1922, and chairman of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee in the 1930s. He walked into the Soviet Embassy in 1937 and offered the ambassador his services for $25,000 a year — three times his congressional salary. In exchange, he sold fake passports to Soviet spies. And he held headline-grabbing public hearings investigating Joseph Stalin’s enemies in the United States. Dickstein served 11 terms in Congress. His file lay locked up in the KGB archives for 60 years. Today, if you go down to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to the intersection of Pitt and Grand streets, you’ll be standing in Samuel Dickstein Plaza. He got away with it.

A related opinion piece from today’s Washington Post by Josh Rogin: Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.

On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI, based on several dozen pieces of information gleaned from public, unclassified and classified intelligence sources. The assessment includes details of the CIA’s analysis of the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach to disseminate disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.

Andriy Derkach

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Treasury Department have identified Derkach as a Russian agent, but it has not been publicly reported that the CIA, NSA and FBI believed Putin may be personally directing the campaign. Derkach has denied working on behalf of Moscow.

The CIA assessment described Derkach’s efforts in detail and said that his activities have included working through lobbyists, members of Congress and U.S. media organizations to disseminate and amplify his anti-Biden information. Though it refers to Derkach’s interactions with a “prominent” person connected to the Trump campaign, the analysis does not identify the person. Giuliani, who has been working with Derkach publicly for several months, is not named in the assessment.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Another book that is getting much more attention than Weiner’s is Andrew Weissmann’s inside account of the Mueller investigation, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The book will be released next Tuesday.

George Packer interviewed Weissmann at The Atlantic: The Inside Story of the Mueller Probe’s Mistakes.

Andrew Weissmann was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the special counsel’s investigation of the 2016 election, and he’s about to publish the first insider account, called Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The title comes from an adapted quote by the philosopher John Locke that’s inscribed on the façade of the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C.: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”

Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a “lawless” president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.” But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel’s Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability.

“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” Weissmann told me in a recent interview. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He pointed out that the special counsel’s report never arrived at the clear legal conclusions expected from an internal Justice Department document. At the same time, it lacked the explanatory power of last month’s bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election. “Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” Weissmann said of the Senate report. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.’”

Andrew Weissmann

The Mueller inquiry was the greatest potential check on Trump’s abuse of power. The press gives the president fits, but almost half the country chooses not to believe the news. Congress will protect Trump as long as his party controls at least one chamber. Local prosecutors and civil plaintiffs are severely limited in pursuing justice against a sitting president. Public opinion is immovably split and powerless until the next election. Only the Special Counsel’s Office—burrowing into the criminal matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and the president’s subsequent attempts to block an investigation—offered the prospect of accountability for Trump. Mueller couldn’t try the president in court, let alone send him to prison, but he could fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing for a future prosecutor, using the enforceable power of a grand jury subpoena. The whole constitutional superstructure of checks and balances rested on Mueller and his team. As their work dragged on through 2017 and 2018, with flurries of indictments and plea deals but otherwise in utter silence, many Americans invested the inquiry with the outsized expectation that it would somehow bring Trump down.

Read the rest at the Atlantic link.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Mueller’s Team Should Have Done More to Investigate Trump-Russia Links, Top Aide Says.

The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away from steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in the first insider account of the inquiry.

“Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” wrote the former prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, in a new book, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.”

The team took elaborate steps to protect its files of evidence from the risk that the Justice Department might destroy them if Mr. Trump fired them and worked to keep reporters and the public from learning what they were up to, Mr. Weissmann wrote in “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation,” which Random House will publish next week.

While he speaks reverently of Mr. Mueller, he also says his boss’s diffidence made him ill-suited for aspects of shepherding the politically charged investigation. He saw Mr. Mueller and his deputy, Aaron M. Zebley, as overly cautious.

Mr. Weissmann also defended against accusations by the president and his allies that he and other investigators were politically biased “angry Democrats”; Mr. Weissmann said his personal views had no bearing on the crimes that Russian operatives and Trump aides committed.

And he elevates particular details — for example, emphasizing that the same business account that sent hush payments to an adult film star who alleged an extramarital affair with Mr. Trump had also received “payments linked to a Russian oligarch.” The president has denied the affair; his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen controlled the account. Mr. Mueller transferred the Cohen matter to prosecutors in New York.

More Reads, links only:

The Washington Post: Mueller prosecutor says special counsel ‘could have done more’ to hold Trump accountable.

Book review by Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: A Prosecutor’s Backstage Tour of the Mueller Investigation.

The American Independent: Trump says coronavirus ‘affects virtually nobody’ as death toll reaches 200,000.

The Washington Post: Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor.

NBC News: ‘He’s not actually looking out for you’: Ex-Pence aide Olivia Troye assails Trump’s coronavirus response.

The New York Times: Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time.

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, Turned Whistle-Blower.

CNBC: Powell pledges the Fed’s economic aid ‘for as long as it takes.’

Brian Karem at The Bulwark: The Absentee President. Donald Trump rarely shows up to the West Wing—and when he does, he is too incompetent to effectively fulfill his oath of office.

 


Monday Reads: Peace of Mind

Henri Matisse “Madame Matisse(The Green Line),” 1905

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Trump and his Death Cult seem to thrive on anger and chaos. We couldn’t even mourn the great legal mind and contributions to civil rights of our second woman on SCOTUS without Trump and the cult jumping into offer the usual platter of women that hate themselves to replace her. We’re supposed to get the pick on Friday or Saturday and I hope the Democrats go nuclear. I’ve been fighting these same damned battles for too long and I didn’t expect to hand my daughters more church control of their bodies sanctioned by the US Government.

There are two women that appear on Trump’s short list and they are both appalling religionists. One is definitely a member of a cult and a bit of an offshoot of Catholicism. The other is one of those Catholics that the court is stacked with already which is the subcult of Opus Dei. WTF is this? Are we reversing the entire Age of Enlightenment and Reason and the Renaissance? How far back into the Dark Ages must we be thrown before they’re satisfied?

and … Where do all these nuts keep coming from? Only monsters could raise monsters like these!

I’ve switched to Fauvism for awhile and peak Beatles during the psychedelics’ period because we all can see the wild and I’d rather have the artistic version of it than the political.

So first up on the crazy list is the literal crazy and definite cult member. This woman is basically Aunt Lydia. Her church was the basis of Hand Maid’s Tale. “What is People of Praise? A look inside Amy Coney Barrett’s church that inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'” She’s on the short list but there are “safer” alternatives if you want to call them that because either way were fucked because most of the Republicans who said they’d never vote for a SCOTUS nomination so close to elections have folded like cheap deckchairs on the Titanic.

So, catch this:

Apart from being an attorney, Barrett and her family are members of a controversial church called People of Praise. The church asks members to take a “lifetime loyalty ‘covenant’, encourages female submission to their husbands”, as reported by Daily Mail. The church also inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, a show that gained popularity when it first made its debut in 2017. The church was formed as part of the Catholic revitalization movement in 1971, and at least 10 members from Barrett’s family are part of it. Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, is part of the board of members of the church. They are believed to be the “highest authority”.

The website of the church calls themselves “a charismatic Christian community. We admire the first Christians who were led by the Holy Spirit to form a community”. Those early believers put their lives and their possessions in common, and “there were no needy persons among them”. Each member of the church is allotted a “personal adviser” who helps them with the “decisions on marriage, career, and other life choices”. Apart from this, the members are also asked to give out other information, such as sins committed by them, their financial information. While they are being called advisors, previously these people were known as “heads” for males and “handmaids” for females. The outlet further reports that the church believes the husband has authority over his wife. While members of the church had to make a lifelong commitment, they were given time to think about their decision.

Self-Portrait with a Hat - Andre Derain

Self-Portrait with a Hat – Andre Derain

(e.g. It’s a cult) OR we get the choice of all the Republican Whackados in Florida pushing this one because, well every one wants to win Florida in November. Plus, she’s Cubano and is one of those that carefully hides what she wants to do which seems to appeal to Susan Collins. From Politico: “Florida Republicans: Nominating Lagoa could clinch state for Trump. Top GOP leaders in the nation’s largest swing state say the Cuban-American federal judge could win Hispanic votes and shield vulnerable members of Congress.”

But it’s Lagoa’s background as a Florida Cuban-American that could have the most salience for Trump. His reelection hinges on the too-close-to-call battleground state, where his campaign has made outreach to Hispanic voters a top issue, worrying some Democrats.

“If the president picks Barbara Lagoa, they will be dancing salsa with joy in Hialeah well past November,” said Gaetz, referring to Lagoa’s home town, a blue-collar majority Cuban-American city that borders Miami and leans Republican.

Lagoa, a 52-year-old Columbia Law School graduate and mother of three children, emerged this weekend as a leading contender to take the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the liberal stalwart who died Friday at the age of 87.

Lagoa is no lock for the post, however. She’s a relative unknown compared to the favorite of Washington’s conservative establishment anti-abortion groups, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who became a darling of the religious right after her bruising federal confirmation fight in 2017. Barrett and Lagoa are both high on the president’s short list for the post, officials with knowledge of the process told POLITICO.

In contrast, Lagoa’s views on abortion are little known. She had no high-profile rulings on the matter in the nearly 500 decisions she wrote as a state appeals court judge or in other decisions during her brief time on the Florida Supreme Court justice and, since late last year, a judge on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Portrait of a Woman Maurice de Vlaminck

The ever location of both siderisms–The NYT–reports this today: “Trump and Democrats Brace for Showdown Over Supreme Court Seat. The president’s determination to confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election set lawmakers on a collision course as Congress deals with other major issues.” This is written by the dynamic duo of both-siderisms: Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. S0, here’s Joe Biden’s side.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential challenger, on Sunday denounced Mr. Trump’s decision to move ahead with a nomination and appealed to the handful of moderate Senate Republicans to stop the president from making a lifetime appointment that would shift the balance of power on the nation’s highest court without waiting to see the results of the election.

“To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Philadelphia, noting that Republicans refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nominee after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, citing the coming election. “I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it. President Trump has already made it clear this is about power, pure and simple.”

If Mr. Trump wins the race, Mr. Biden added, then the Senate should consider his choice. “But if I win the election, President Trump’s nomination should be withdrawn,” said Mr. Biden, who has promised to make his first appointment to the Supreme Court an African-American woman. “As the new president, I should be the one who nominates Justice Ginsburg’s successor, a nominee who should get a fair hearing in the Senate before a confirmation vote.”

So, it is exactly as Mary Ziegler describes it.

The Supreme Court seems strangely immune to the bitterness that plagues our politics. Even now, when Americans can no longer agree on basic facts, the Court’s relative popularity has endured. Following Donald Trump’s 2016 election, the Court has what may be its most conservative majority in decades. And yet this August, the Supreme Court recorded its highest approval rating since 2009.

But there are so many ways that the current moment could turn out very badly for the Court. First off, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems ready to test just how much damage the Court’s institutional integrity can take. In 2016, McConnell refused to hold hearings for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, because the next election was too close. Then, within hours of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, McConnell vowed to replace her before the next election.

Ginsburg, of course, was no ordinary justice. She was a hero to many. McConnell’s speed in replacing her comes across as not merely unseemly; to many who admired the late justice, it will also be a declaration of war.

Regardless of what McConnell does, the Court now looks far more conservative than the electorate. That too doesn’t bode well for the Court’s legitimacy, especially when the justices could once again decide the result of a presidential election. The Court may have to wade into one of the hundreds of voting-rights lawsuits triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have followed fights about whether the president has deliberately crippled the U.S. Postal Service to make it harder to vote. Republicans have claimed (without evidence) that mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud and have sued to stop it.

Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau (Donna con cappello), 1905

I’m not so certain that matters to the theocrats the Republicans spent decades placing carefully on the court to punish women, religious minorities, people of color and the GLBT for daring to think they could be equal to White Christianist Men.

So, want some new crazy by a White Christianist Man in charge of the DOJ? And straight from the DOJ: “Department Of Justice Identifies New York City, Portland And Seattle As Jurisdictions Permitting Violence And Destruction Of Property

Identification is Response to Presidential Memorandum Reviewing Federal Funding to State and Local Governments that are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities ”

Self-Portrait, 2014 Leudy Marquez – Fauvism Collages

This WAPO analysis was written by Devlin Barrett.

The Justice Department labeled the cities of Portland, Ore., New York and Seattle on Monday as jurisdictions “that have permitted violence and destruction of property,” targeting them for possible cuts in federal funding.

Following a memorandum that President Trump issued earlier this month, the Justice Department published a list of cities that the White House wants to get more aggressive on civil unrest in the wake of police shootings and killings.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement. “It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”

The Trump administration was unsuccessful in a similar funding-cut move against New York and other cities over their immigration policies. A federal appeals court ruled that the move violated the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution.

So, I would like a little peace and quiet and boring ol’ Joe Biden sounds better all the time. But, we also need to concentrate on getting rid of this asshole: Mitch McConnell is the apex predator of U.S. politics” by Howard Fineman.

Historian Rick Perlstein has long described this chapter in the American story as “Nixonland,” a jagged terrain of White racial fear and populist resentment of the federal authority that began in the mid-1960s. But while GOP presidents from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have tilled that soil when it suited their purposes, McConnell has been, over the years, its most constant gardener, mixing arcane, cynically hypocritical legislative procedure and judicial appointments to turn emotion into lasting policy.

He has jammed hundreds of conservative judges onto the federal bench, making it younger, Whiter and more male — and far more partisan — in the process. In concert with the Federalist Society, McConnell is transforming the federal judiciary from sometimes-defenders of the poor, immigrants and people of color into the Praetorian Guard of corporations, the wealthy, and those whose cultural and racial privileges make them, at best, oblivious to their collective responsibility to all Americans. At the same time, McConnell is standing in the schoolhouse door of dozens if not hundreds of pieces of needed legislation, rendering the “world’s greatest deliberative body” an empty pantomime of itself.

And if he succeeds in forcing another pliable justice onto the Supreme Court, he may prove responsible for undercutting whatever legitimacy a possibly disputed presidential election might have if, as many suspect, it must be settled by that court. One reason to move fast and give the court a 6-3 conservative majority? To take the relatively independent (and therefore unreliable) Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. out of the equation.

McConnell has been around so long people think they know him. But they don’t, and that is by design. When you are the apex predator of U.S. politics, you don’t really care what anyone thinks. In Kentucky, where I worked for six years as McConnell was beginning his rise, he is not so much loved as endured. People talk about him like the rainy Ohio River Valley weather: It’s a pain, but it waters the crops. He retains an iron grip on state politics, has been elected statewide six times and is likely to win a seventh term in November. Democrats are pouring millions into defeating him. It’s not a great bet.

Image may contain: text that says 'CRIMINAL INDICTMENTS BY ADMINISTRATION 76 26 215 16 Donald Trump Richard Nixon Ronald Reagan George W. Bush Bill Clinton George H.W. Bush Jimmy Carter Gerald Ford Barack Obama 2 1 1 1 0 50 100 150 200 250'

My best strategy offer is to get him out of the Senate Majority Seat. We need to make sure Republicans go down where we can make them go down and Susan Collins and Martha McSally are at the top of my list. Which brings me back to the idea of why so many white women sell the rest of the women of the world out?

Oh, well, I close here before I have to go curl up in a ball and suck my thumb.

Be safe and stay home if you can as much as possible! Be kind to yourself and others! Check in and let us know you’re safe because we care!

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Ruth St.

It is just too upsetting, so today we have a group of tributes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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I ❤️ NY “Ruth Street” by @plannedalism

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg NOTORIOUS R.B.G. Mar 1933 / Sept 2020 . I'm still dissenting… . . . #ruthbaderginsburg #notoriousrbg #notoriousrbg👑 #caricature #caricatura #portrait #ilustracion #illustration #feminism #feminist #equality #freedom #usa #supreme #supremecourt #justice #cuba #cubanart #cubanartist

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Until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, women could be fired from their job simply because they were pregnant. Now it’s up to all of us to continue #RBG’s fight 💪 Thank you for sharing, @sairarahman

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Quick stencil sketch. We all process and grieve differently. I get through it with blades and spray paint. Please remember that you are not alone.

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Thank you, Ruth. May her memory be a blessing. May her memory be a revolution. #ruthbaderginsburg #rbg #notoriousrbg #rip #mayhermemorybeablessing #mayhermemorybearevolution #rbgornament #beadsofparadise

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I've been fortunate, having painted you, a few years ago…RIP “Real change, lasting change, happens step by step." -RBG. #lisarte13 @lisarte13 #painting #art #ruthbaderginsberg @ruthbaderg #arte #artwork #tampaartist #tampaart #losangelesart #californiaart #miamiart #newyorkart #northcarolineart #justice #peace #equality #rbg #cubanart #outsiderart #acrylicpainting #acrylic #acryliconcanvas #acrylicart #abstract #abstractart #abstractpainting #abstracto #love

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Photo by Lynsey Addario @lynseyaddario / Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers in the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC on July 27, 2012. The Supreme Court Justice died on Sept. 18, 2020 due to metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87. I remember when I was assigned to do this shoot (for Glamour Magazine), and I was so excited, though very intimidated to be photographing such an icon of feminism, of justice, integrity, and equality. Suddenly I felt my life was completely inconsequential in the face of a woman who had changed the course of history for so many of us, with her lifelong fight for all the right things. When she entered the room, she seemed so physically small compared to her professional stature. I photographed her in the Supreme Court Building, and then asked to go with her to her chambers. We went in, and she removed her robe to reveal a lemon-colored dress and matching shoes. She immediately started reading documents on her desk. I asked her to pose briefly, but I didn’t want to take her away from her work for too long. All I really wanted to do was spend the afternoon with her, listening to her stories. I didn’t say anything, though, because I knew the nation, and her family, needed every ounce of her time.

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🌺REST IN POWER 🌺• • • • • •#ripruthbaderginsburg #rbg #notoriousrbg #ruthbaderginsburg #feminism #feminist #art #illustration #feministart #feministartist

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“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks,” Rest in power RBG 💖

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"People ask me sometimes, ‘When will there be enough women on the court?' And my answer is, 'When there are nine.' People are shocked, but there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that." Rest in Power, RBG.

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Photo by @mattmcclainphoto — A visitor places flowers near a mural of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday September 19, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

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In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Women's rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy." We honor her legacy by continuing the fight for women’s rights and gender equality today. 📸: @allisonshelley

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I wanted to end with this latest ad from Biden: