Friday Reads: Disassembling the People’s Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Justice

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The Republicans are doing everything they can to appoint unqualified judges and agency and cabinet heads to ensure nothing  more than white, straight, “christian” hegemony with a radical right bend. Many appointments are political and strictly related to monetizing public goods for the very few.  What has gone on in the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and most of the other institutes of major importance should be criminal and quite possibly is.  Today, the headlines tell us we see the failure of our agencies and the failure of the Trumpist regime. However, isn’t this what they–under the influence of the likes of Steven Bannon– planned all along?  Wasn’t the destruction of our democratic institutions the plan and not the bug?

So much relies on the courts these days that it’s now quite apparent that Moscow Mitch’s wrangling to dominate SCOTUS may pay off big in the fall.  But today, we still see some good coming out of some Federal Judges and today’s news shows that Barr’s justice department may be headed for some trouble.  “Judge cites Barr’s ‘misleading’ statements in ordering review of Mueller report redactions” is the headline from WAPO.

A federal judge in Washington sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday for a “lack of candor,” questioning the truthfulness of the nation’s top law enforcement official in his handling of last year’s report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, overseeing a lawsuit brought by EPIC, a watchdog group, and BuzzFeed News, said he saw serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of that report detailing the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Because of those discrepancies, Walton ruled, the judge would conduct an independent review of Mueller’s full report to see whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate

“In the Court’s view, Attorney General Barr’s representation that the Mueller Report would be ‘subject only to those redactions required by law or by compelling law enforcement, national security, or personal privacy interests’ cannot be credited without the Court’s independent verification in light of Attorney General Barr’s conduct and misleading public statements about the findings in the Mueller Report,” Walton wrote.

It is highly unusual for a federal judge to publicly question the honesty of the attorney general, but Walton’s opinion comes amid growing rancor between the judicial branch of the government and the executive and legislative branches. Earlier on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he regretted comments he had made about two conservative Supreme Court justices — comments that drew a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. after many Republicans called them threatening. President Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly attacked federal judges, drawing condemnation from Democrats.

 

 

From the NYTimes’ Charlie Savage:

A federal judge on Thursday sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr’s handling of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, saying that Mr. Barr put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic.

Mr. Barr could not be trusted, Judge Reggie B. Walton said, citing “inconsistencies” between the attorney general’s statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to President Trump. Mr. Barr’s “lack of candor” called into question his “credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court, Judge Walton said.

The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were censored in the publicly released version so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the report.

Read Judge Walton’s ruling.

Image: In 1980, President Jimmy Carter met with members of the new National Association of Women Judges, many of whom he had appointed to the federal bench.

In 1979, 23 women were appointed to the federal bench—more than doubling the number of women appointed to life-tenured judgeships in the previous 190 year history of the United States. The doors they opened never swung shut again. Forty years later, women make up one-third of the courts’ full-time, active Article III judges

Here’s some further analysis from Marcie Wheeler of Empty Wheel.

Where this ruling may matter, though, is in four areas:

  • DOJ hid the circumstances of how both Trump and Don Jr managed to avoid testifying under a grand jury redaction. Walton may judge that these discussions were not truly grand jury materials.
  • DOJ is currently hiding details of people — like KT McFarland — who lied, but then cleaned up their story (Sam Clovis is another person this may be true of). There’s no reason someone as senior as McFarland should have her lies protected. All the more so, because DOJ is withholding some of the 302s that show her lies. So Walton may release some of this information.
  • Because Walton will have already read the Stone material — that part that most implicates Trump — by the time Judge Amy Berman Jackson releases the gag in that case, he will have a view on what would still need to be redacted. That may mean more of it will be released quickly than otherwise might happen.
  • In very short order, the two sides in this case will start arguing over DOJ’s withholding of 302s under very aggressive b5 claims. These claims, unlike most of the redactions in the Mueller Report, are substantively bogus and in many ways serve to cover up the details of Trump’s activities. While this won’t happen in the near term, I expect this ruling will serve as the basis for a similar in camera review on 302s down the road.

 

 

And we continue to learn that that the Trumpist response to the Coronoa Virus was doomed from the start.  This is from Time magazine.

 

“We have contained this. I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in a television interview on Feb. 25, echoing Trump’s tweeted declaration that the virus was “very much under control” in the United States.

But it wasn’t, and the administration’s rosy messaging was fundamentally at odds with a growing cacophony of alarm bells inside and outside the U.S. government. Since January, epidemiologists, former U.S. public health officials and experts have been warning, publicly and privately, that the administration’s insistence that containment was—and should remain—the primary way to confront an emerging infectious disease was a grave mistake.

In congressional testimony, in medical webcasts and in private discussions with health officials, they warned that the unique features of this flu-like virus made it impossible to control, and that the administration must use any time that containment measures might buy to prepare the country for an inevitable outbreak. The administration was using all its resources to blockade the doors, they warned, but the enemy was likely already in the house.

“The current U.S. policy to deny visas to travelers from China and to quarantine returning Americans is not the right approach,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and expert in disease outbreak detection and response at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, testified to Congress on February 5. “I am deeply concerned that these measures will make us less safe by diverting public health resources from higher priority disease mitigation approaches.”

Two days earlier, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb had warned “we have to assume it’s already here and circulating.”

When it finally became indisputable that an outbreak was underway in Washington state, the administration was slow to catch up. There were not enough COVID-19 testing kits, hotlines were overwhelmed, and hospitals and public health departments were hobbled by a lack of reliable statistics on the spread of the disease. Experts say the U.S. response is now likely weeks—if not months—behind schedule.

Taking the Political view point is this from WAPO: “The Trump administration’s greatest obstacle to sending a clear message on coronavirus may be Trump himself”.By  Toluse Olorunnipa 

As leading public health experts from across the government have tried to provide clear and consistent information about the deadly coronavirus, they have found their messages undercut, drowned out and muddled by President Trump’s push to downplay the outbreak with a mix of optimism, bombast and pseudoscience.

Speaking almost daily to the public about an outbreak that has spread across states and rocked the markets, Trump has promoted his opinions and at times contradicted the public health experts tasked with keeping Americans safe.

The president has repeatedly misstated the number of Americans who have tested positive for the virus and claimed it would “miraculously” disappear in the spring. He has given a false timeline for the development of a vaccine, publicly questioned whether vaccinations for the flu could be used to treat the novel coronavirus and dismissed the World Health Organization’s coronavirus death rate estimate, substituting a much lower figure and citing a “hunch.”

On Wednesday night, Trump made an uncritical reference to people who continue to go to work while infected with the coronavirus — placing himself at odds with doctors who have strongly urged those with even minor symptoms to stay home.

“If, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by sitting around, and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity in which he disputed the WHO fatality rate.

On Thursday morning, Trump said his comments were misconstrued and blamed the Democrats and the media. “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work,” he tweeted.

Why can’t he just shut up?

So that’s the two stories I’m following today.  I have to go have lunch with a colleague but I’ll be back to check the thread!

My photo choices today mostly come from the article “1979: The Year Women Changed the Judiciary” and is honor of our topic today and Women’s History month.

In 1979, the number of women serving as federal judges more than doubled. In this series, learn more about the trailblazers who reshaped the Judiciary.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Can American Democracy Survive Trump’s and Barr’s Assaults?

Good Afternoon!!

Are we in a Constitutional crisis yet? I think we are. Trump is acting as if he has dictatorial powers and it appears that some of our institutions are crumbling under his attacks.

The State Department and the Justice Department are going along with Trump’s undemocratic demands. Bill Barr has turned the DOJ into Trump’s private law firm. Trump is now attacking the judicial system, demanding that judges treat his cronies leniently and punish his enemies harshly.

The Defense Department has acquiesced to his taking funds appropriated for other purposes to build his idiotic border wall. The GOP-controlled Senate has refused to rein him in through his impeachment trial, and in the process they have damaged their own legislative and oversight powers.

Can we survive Trump’s attack on our democracy? It looks like our only hope is to defeat him in November, but Republicans in the Senate are doing their damnedest to prevent any attempts to protect election security. In acquitting him in the impeachment  “trial,” GOP Senators endorsed Trump’s efforts to get foreign governments to help in his reelection. Finally, Trump could very well win enough electoral votes to win even if he loses the popular vote again.

We definitely need massive protests in the streets. Will it happen? We also need the media to wake up and take this crisis seriously. Yes Trump is a moron and does all kinds of moronic things, but this is no laughing matter. Investigative reporters need to continue revealing Trump’s corruption and his power grabs and political reporters need to focus more on vetting the Democratic candidates and writing about their policy proposals and less on the horse race.

Stories to check out today

Michael Gerhardt at The Atlantic: Madison’s Nightmare Has Come to America.

The Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is over, ending with all but one Republican voting to acquit. But the effort to make sense of its constitutional ramifications is only beginning.

Almost a half century ago, President Richard Nixon’s resignation was thought to have proved that the constitutional system worked, with the House, the Senate, and a special prosecutor each having conducted long, painstaking investigations into his misconduct; the Supreme Court having directed President Nixon to comply with a judicial subpoena to turn over taped conversations; and the House Judiciary Committee having approved three articles of impeachment shortly before Nixon resigned.

In sharp contrast, few think that the acquittal of President Trump is a triumph for the Constitution. Instead, it reveals a different, disturbing lesson, about how the American political system—and the Constitution itself—might be fundamentally flawed.

Since the writing of the Constitution, three developments have substantially altered the effectiveness of impeachment as a check on presidential misconduct. The first is the rise of extreme partisanship, under which each party’s goal is frequently to vanquish the other and control as much of the federal government as possible. This aim is fundamentally incompatible with the system that James Madison designed, premised as it was on negotiation, compromise, and a variety of checking mechanisms to ensure that no branch or faction was beyond the reach of the Constitution or the law.

Read the rest at the link. It’s not very long.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: The President’s decision to expand his power post-trial has stunned Washington.

It’s time to stop asking whether President Donald Trump will learn lessons from the controversies he constantly stokes — of course he does. But far from stepping back or opting for contrition as his critics and appeasers hope, Trump draws darker political conclusions.

The result is that he expands his own power by confounding institutional restraints and opening a zone of presidential impunity — while at the same time delighting his political base.

Trump’s interference in the sentencing of his long-time associate Roger Stone and a post-impeachment retribution splurge reflect a lifetime’s lessons of a real estate baron turned public servant.

On Wednesday, Trump publicly praised the Justice Department for reversing its call for a stiff jail term for Stone after his own critical late night tweet that laid bare fears of blatant interference in bedrock US justice.

“I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn’t speak to them by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing,” the President told reporters.

He noted that the four prosecutors who quit the Stone case “hit the road,” raising the prospect that their protests failed to introduce accountability to the administration and only served to further hollow out the government and make it more pliable to the President.

Trump denied that he crossed a line. But his tweet left no doubt about what he wanted to happen. And his strategy, in this case and others, actually worked.

Just as he used US government power to smear Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, he succeeded in getting favorable treatment for a friend in the Stone case — though the final sentence will be up to a judge.

Chuck Rosenberg at The Washington Post: This is a revolting assault on the fragile rule of law.

Something extraordinary and deeply troubling happened at — and to — the Justice Department this week. Four federal prosecutors properly, and as a matter of conscience, withdrew from the Roger Stone case. They had shepherded that case through the criminal-justice system but in an alarming development were ordered to disavow a sentencing recommendation they filed with the federal judge overseeing the matter….

We all understand that the leadership at the top of the department is politically appointed, and we make peace with that (in addition to my work as a career federal prosecutor, I served in political positions under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama in the Justice Department and worked for thoughtful appointed leaders of both parties), but being asked by that leadership to allow politics to corrode our work is not remotely normal or permissible. And it is treacherous.

The rule of law is a construct. It was made by people — and is nurtured and preserved by people. It can also be destroyed by people. And unlike the law of gravity, which works everywhere and all the time (at least on this planet), the rule of law is precious and fragile. As citizens and prosecutors, we either safeguard it or we surrender it. That’s the choice. What political leadership did here — mandating a favor for a friend of the president in line with the president’s publicly expressed desire in the case — significantly damages the rule of law and the perception of Justice Department fairness.

Principled resignations by career federal prosecutors highlighted this dangerous stunt. I am proud of them for that.

But I find it revolting that they were pushed into that corner (one resigned his job; three others resigned from the case) and saddened by their sacrifice. This is not normal and it is not right,and it is dangerous territory for the rule of law.

Safeguard or surrender. You choose.

Bob Bauer at The New York Times: Trump and Barr Are Out of Control.

Jonathan Kravis

The resignation of a Justice Department prosecutor over the sentencing of Roger Stone is a major event. The prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, apparently concluded that he could not, in good conscience, remain in his post if the department leadership appeared to buckle under White House pressure to abandon a sentencing recommendation in the case of Mr. Stone, the associate of President Trump who was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Three of his colleagues quit the Stone case but remain with the department: Mr. Kravis left altogether. Even though the president for years has derided federal law enforcement officials, accusing them variously of conflicts of interest and criminality and weakness in not pursuing prosecution of his political opposition, Mr. Kravis’s is the first resignation in the face of these assaults.

Dramatically forceful responses to Mr. Trump’s assaults on rule-of-law norms have been all too rare. A resignation can set off an alarm bell for an institution whose failings an official might be unable to bring to light in no other way, or as effectively. It upholds rule of law norms in the very act of signaling that they are failing. It makes its point with power and transparency, and stands a chance of rallying support from those who remain in place and compelling other institutions like the press and Congress to take close notice.

The government official who resigns for these reasons is, paradoxically, doing his or her job by leaving it.

Read more at The NYT.

Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman at Politico: ‘Really shocking’: Trump’s meddling in Stone case stuns Washington.

President Donald Trump’s post-impeachment acquittal behavior is casting a chill in Washington, with Attorney General William Barr emerging as a key ally in the president’s quest for vengeance against the law enforcement and national security establishment that initiated the Russia and Ukraine investigations.

In perhaps the most tumultuous day yet for the Justice Department under Trump, four top prosecutors withdrew on Tuesday from a case involving the president’s longtime friend Roger Stone after senior department officials overrode their sentencing recommendation—a backpedaling that DOJ veterans and legal experts suspect was influenced by Trump’s own displeasure with the prosecutors’ judgment.

“With Bill Barr, on an amazing number of occasions … you can be almost 100 percent certain that there’s something improper going on,” said Donald Ayer, the former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

The president has only inflamed such suspicions, congratulating Barr on Wednesday for intervening in Stone’s case and teeing off hours later on the prosecutors, calling them “Mueller people” who treated Stone “very badly.”

The president said he had not spoken with Barr about the matter, but Ayer called the attorney general’s apparent intervention “really shocking,” because Barr “has now entered into the area of criminal sanction, which is the one area probably more than any other where it’s most important that the Justice Department’s conduct be above reproach and beyond suspicion.”

What will today bring? I haven’t turned on the TV yet, but I’m very fearful of what Trump will do next. Courage, Sky Dancers! This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: New Hampshire Primary and Barr’s Injustice Department

Je Suis Un Gourmand, by William Logsdail

Good Morning!!

Last night MSNBC reported on primary results in three small towns in New Hampshire where voting starts at midnight. Not that it means anything yet, but Amy Klobuchar came out on top.

WMUR: First results of 2020 New Hampshire Primary are in. Amy Klobuchar, Donald Trump lead.

Dixville Notch kicked off the primary festivities Tuesday as they have done for decades, and the result was described as “interesting.”

Michael Bloomberg got three write-in votes, one of which was a write-in vote in the Republican primary. It’s a rarity in Dixville Notch for write-in votes. Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders each got one vote….

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the popular choice in Hart’s Location, receiving six votes in the Democratic race. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in second with four votes. Andrew Yang and Sanders followed with three votes and two votes, respectively. Former vice president Joe Biden, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Steyer each received one vote….

Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Girl with doll

In Millsfield, Klobuchar took home the win in the Democratic race with two votes. Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders each got one vote. Trump received 16 votes from Millsfield. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld got one vote.

It’s not looking good for Joe Biden. Axios summarized the results of the latest Quinnipac poll:

“Biden no longer dominates on the key question of electability,” with 27% of national Democratic or Dem-leaning voters giving Biden the best chance of beating President Trump — a steep drop from 44% just two weeks ago.

  • Sanders was second with 24%. Bloomberg was third with 17% — up from 9% in late January, and ahead of Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar.
  • Among black primary voters, the poll found Biden’s lead has dropped to 27% from 51% in December, with Bloomberg jumping to the second spot, at 22%, slightly ahead of Sanders.

Meanwhile, the oddsmakers see Bloomberg in second among Democrats right now, behind Sanders.

Here are results of a Morning Consult poll of black voters:

Amy Klobuchar also got 1%.

Politico on the Quinnipac poll: Biden plummets in new national poll, ceding top spot to Bernie.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has plummeted in a new national poll out Monday that also shows Bernie Sanders with a clear lead among Democratic voters heading into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Andrei Petrovich Ryabushkin – Girl with doll, 1890s

The new Quinnipiac University poll, conducted after Sanders’ strong showing in the Iowa caucuses a week ago, has the Vermont senator boasting the support of 25 percent of Democratic voters, making an 8-point lead over Biden and a 4-point increase over the last national survey taken before the caucuses.

Biden dropped 9 points to 17 percent after his dismal performance in Iowa, followed close behind by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who rose 7 points to 15 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who dropped 1 point to 14 percent.

While former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg got a 4-point bump after appearing to narrowly edge Sanders out for first place in the Iowa state delegate count — results which Buttigieg and Sanders are both challenging — Buttigieg came in at fifth place nationally in the Quinnipiac poll, with 10 percent of the vote. Sen. Amy Klobuchar rounds out the top six with 4 percent, a drop of 3 points, while no other candidate broke 2 percent in the poll.

So it’s beginning to look like another primary crash and burn for Biden. A few more opinion pieces to check out:

Ryan Lizza at Politico: This Democratic field is so flawed that even Biden still has a chance.

Karen Tumulty at The Washington Post: There are two Joe Bidens. The wrong one is running for president.

Ben Terris at The Washington Post: On the trail with Joe Biden: What happens when the ‘electability candidate’ starts to lose?

It’s not looking good for Elizabeth Warren either. She’s from Massachusetts and she should be doing well in New Hampshire. I always assumed she would come in second to Bernie Sanders; but that’s not happening–at least according to the polls. She isn’t picking up enough of the black voter either.

Matt Flegenheimer at The New York Times: Elizabeth Warren Is Running Her Race. The Real One May Be Passing Her By.

Two days before a once-mission-critical primary in a state she neighbors, Senator Elizabeth Warren — typically exceptional at holding a room — had not finished speaking when something unusual happened: Dozens of voters began filtering out of the middle school gym she had reserved.

John White Alexander. Portrait of a Young Girl with Her Doll

Campaign staff strained to enlist prospective volunteers on their way to their cars. “Someone, anyone,” one organizer called out as departing guests stepped around him.

And when Ms. Warren wound toward her big finish, the go-out-and-get-’em kicker in these urgent final hours, her mind wandered accidentally to home.

“It’s up to you, Massachusetts, to decide what to do,” Ms. Warren instructed.

Supporters looked back at her, murmuring. She realized why. “And to the people of New Hampshire!” she amended.

On the eve of a contest she had hoped to win (and probably will not, according to polls) — one week removed from a caucus she had hoped to win (and certainly did not, according to Iowans) — Ms. Warren has arrived, almost imperceptibly, at a precarious stage.

In a primary adjoining her own state, it is Senator Bernie Sanders, another New Englander, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who are leading sin polls.

Warren’s campaign also appears to be struggling financially.

What about Amy Klobuchar? Is she really surging in New Hampshire? Stranger things have happened. New Hampshire voters have a tendency to pull off surprises.

Buzzfeed News: Amy Klobuchar’s New Hampshire Surge Might Really Be Happening.

Pundits have been predicting the moderate Minnesota senator’s rise in the Democratic primary since October, as she racked up supposed debate wins and endorsements and built a campaign on her own “electability” in the states Democrats desperately need in 2020. For months, though, there was little sign among voters of that surge. Polls remained stagnant, and small, quiet crowds often tailed her in Iowa.

But this time, after the latest Democratic debate and just before New Hampshire votes in the nation’s first primary, there’s serious evidence that the Klobuchar is becoming a threat to the other moderates in the race: record-sized crowds, impressive fundraising hauls, and polls that suddenly show her in third place, ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

Louis Adolphe Tessier (1858-1915) — Girl with Doll, 1901

Her delight at this fact, at a succession of diners and packed rallies across New Hampshire, is palpable.

“And by the way, I’ve got a plan for the Midwest — and we can include New Hampshire as well,” Klobuchar told Sunday’s middle school gym crowd. “We’re going to build a beautiful blue wall around these states, and we’re going to make Donald Trump pay for it.”

Click the Buzzfeed link to read the rest.

Vox: Klobmentum could be happening in New Hampshire.

string of strong polls over the weekend have shown the Minnesota senator overtaking Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden to reach third place in New Hampshire, which votes Tuesday. Over the weekend, her campaign reported $2.5 million in post-debate fundraising — an impressive two-day number in the context of the $11.4 million she raised in the last three months of 2019.

It’s a change for Klobuchar, whose national polling has been mired in the low single digits since she entered the race in February 2019. Nationally, she’s in sixth at 4.3 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average, 4 percentage points behind former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. But Biden’s weak performance in Iowa seems to have given Klobuchar, who came in just behind him in fifth place, an opening. And a strong performance in New Hampshire could bolster her candidacy going into Super Tuesday.

Like Buttigieg and Biden, Klobuchar has positioned herself as a moderate. On the debate stage, she has emphasized practicality, party unity, and a uniquely Midwestern case for electability: She’s mentioned repeatedly that she’s one of the only candidates who’s never lost a race — and that she outperformed Hillary Clinton in multiple Minnesota counties in 2016.

By framing her candidacy in this way, Klobuchar is targeting voters who may still be making up their minds — including some who are searching for a moderate alternative to the white male frontrunners. And recent polls indicate her message might be resonating in New Hampshire.

Read more at Vox.

The problem for both Warren and Klobuchar is that so far they are not winning the black vote. But I suppose that could change if one of them starts looking like she could beat Trump.

The Washington Post: Barr acknowledges Justice Dept. has created ‘intake process’ to vet Giuliani’s information on Bidens.

Jan Sluijters – Portrait of a girl, 1935

Attorney General William P. Barr acknowledged Monday that the Justice Department would evaluate material that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, had gathered from Ukrainian sources claiming to have damaging information about former vice president Joe Biden and his family — though Barr and other officials suggested Giuliani was being treated no differently than any tipster.

At a news conference on an unrelated case, Barr confirmed an assertion made Sunday by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that the Justice Department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”

Barr said he had established an “intake process in the field” so that the Justice Department and intelligence agencies could scrutinize information they were given.

“That is true for all information that comes to the department relating to the Ukraine, including anything Mr. Giuliani might provide,” Barr said. He did not provide any other specifics.

A Justice Department official said Giuliani had “recently” shared information with federal law enforcement officials through the process described by Barr. Two people familiar with the matter said the information is being routed to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh.

This could all be a waste of time for Trump and Barr if Biden’s campaign continues to go downhill. I wonder what foreign countries they will ask to help if the nominee is someone else? I guess they could get a lot from Russia on Bernie Sanders.

Raw Story: Barr declares war against sanctuary cities – expert says he’s targeting democratic jurisdictions.

Attorney General Bill Barr has launched an all-out attack against sanctuary cities, claiming they are endangering national security. The AG says he will allow the Dept. of Homeland Security to issue “federal subpoenas to access information about criminal aliens in the custody of uncooperative jurisdictions,” Fox News reports.

Barr says the DOJ is targeting the State of New Jersey and King County, Washington, and will be “reviewing the practices, policies, and laws of other jurisdictions across the country.  This includes assessing whether jurisdictions are complying with our criminal laws, in particular the criminal statute that prohibits the harboring or shielding of aliens in the United States.”

Miss Winifred Hudson as a Young Girl, 1888 — by Nicholas Chevalier (Australian, 1828-1902)

In addition to targeting certain state and local governments, Barr appears to be making the targeting personal, declaring, “we are meticulously reviewing the actions of certain district attorneys who have adopted policies of charging foreign nationals with lesser offenses for the express purpose of avoiding the federal immigration consequences of those nationals’ criminal conduct.  In pursuing their personal ambitions and misguided notions of equal justice, these district attorneys are systematically violating the rule of law and may even be unlawfully discriminating against American citizens.”

Read more at the link.

One more from The Daily Beast: The FBI Makes a Bizarre Claim About Pro-Choice Terrorism.

The FBI is expanding its focus on domestic terrorism, and that includes pro-choice violence—even though such violence is so vanishingly rare, it’s all but nonexistent.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray disclosed that the bureau has recently “changed our terminology as part of a broader reorganization of the way in which we categorize our domestic terrorism efforts.” It’s part of a much-heralded reinvigoration of the bureau’s domestic terrorism focus after a rising tide of mostly white-supremacist terrorism.

Among four broad categories of domestic terrorism that the FBI confronts, Wray said, is “abortion violent extremism.”

But Wray wasn’t only talking about the pro-life extremism that murders abortion providers in their churches, he hastened to add, but “people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic.”

His questioner, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), was puzzled at Wray’s seeming equivalence: “People on either side of that issue don’t commit violence.” In fact, the FBI pointed The Daily Beast to just one episode of pro-choice-inspired terrorism—one that did not involve an actual act of violence, but rather a threat in an online comments section.

I just don’t know what to say about all this. We are in big trouble as a country. Hang in there Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee this morning, but Trump and Pompeo ordered him not to do it.

The New York Times: Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry.

The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled interview in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment….

Robert Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland had been prepared and happy to testify, and would do so in the future if allowed.

Of course that is simply not true.

Background on Sondland from the Times article.

Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning scandal into how the president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. Although Ukraine is not in the union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a wealthy hotelier and campaign contributor — to take a lead in relations between the Trump administration and the country. Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired between the two countries.

Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky on the call to do him “a favor” and investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the statement, believing they needed pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.

Adam Schiff responded to the Trump administration’s illegal action.

Yesterday Newsweek talked to a member of the National Security Council who heard the call between Trump and Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan after which Trump ordered U.S. troops out of northern Syria: Exclusive: Official Who Heard Call Says Trump Got ‘Rolled’ By Turkey And ‘Has No Spike.’

In a scheduled phone call on Sunday afternoon between President Trump and President Erdogan, Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department “completely stunned,” said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.

“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.” [….]

According to the NSC official, who had first-hand knowledge of the phone call, Trump did not endorse any Turkish military operation against Kurdish Forces, but also did not threaten economic sanctions during the phone call if Turkey decided to undertake offensive operations.

Trump has also invited Erdogan to visit the White House next month.

Here’s a reminder what happened on a previous visit by Erdogan.

Yesterday, Trump threatened Turkey in a tweet that would cause any other person’s family to request a psychiatric evaluation:

Some outlets are reporting that Trump has been walking back the original order. We’ll see….

Meanwhile Turkey isn’t backing down. The Washington Post: Turkey rejects Trump’s threats amid conflicting U.S. signals over Syria offensive.

 Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.

“When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.

Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.

But there was no sign yet that Turkish troops were moving forward, as the United Nations and aid agencies warned of potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and as the Trump administration delivered confusing signals about how it views Turkey’s plans to attack a Syrian-Kurdish force that partnered with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State militant group.

A new poll shows that 59 percent of Americans support the impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post: Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

A majority of Americans say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and nearly half of all adults also say the House should take the additional step and recommend that the president be removed from office, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The findings indicate that public opinion has shifted quickly against the president and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been released about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian government officials to undertake an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 campaign rival, and Biden’s son Hunter.

Previous Post-Schar School or Post-ABC News polls taken at different points throughout this year found majorities of Americans opposing the start of an impeachment proceeding, with 37 percent to 41 percent saying they favored such a step. The recent revelations appear to have prompted many Americans to rethink their position.

The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical.

Read more at the WaPo.

Vanity Fair has a long piece on Bill Barr’s past history. Author Marie Brenner suggests that Barr’s relationship with his father could provide clues to Barr’s alignment with Trump: “I Had No Problem Being Poltically Different”: Young William Barr Among the Manhattan Liberals. A brief excerpt:

Who, then, is the real William Barr? I wanted to investigate that question through the prism of his growing up as a young conservative in the intellectually demanding and socially cosseted world of New York private schools—ironically, the same schools that educated Cohn. I wanted to understand how he might have been affected in the 1970s by the public scandal that consumed his father, Donald Barr, then the headmaster of the tony Dalton School and a respected voice in academics, on the right-wing opinion pages, and at the center of America’s calamitous culture wars.

Donny Montana: October 6, 2019

William Barr’s origin story is, in fact, a parable of how family, education, protest, and principle served to shape the era—and shape a young man who would become America’s chief law enforcement officer. At the same time, it is also a narrative about how a charismatic, domineering, and doctrinaire figure named Donald might have helped define the contours of his son’s formative years….

In the 1967 Horace Mann yearbook, Barr had already been tagged with his future persona: “a staunch conservative on political issues,” a master of “facial contortions,” and a brilliant mimic of his Catholic school priests. Often, he rode the subway home with another classmate, Barry Scheck, who would become an attorney and eventually cofound the Innocence Project, using DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted prisoners. “We would argue all the way down from school and all the way back,” Scheck said.

Barr and his three brothers revered their father, spending countless hours at the dinner table discussing philosophy, politics, and the issues of the day. Before attending Horace Mann, all four siblings had gone to Corpus Christi, a nearby parochial school where he was in class with many Irish, Hispanic, and black students. William Barr was the privileged son of an intellectual. In first grade, he made a speech in class supporting Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. At age eight, Barr told his parents that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipes. His father not only encouraged him but located a former Scottish pipes major in the British army and for years personally escorted his son up to 168th Street for Tuesday-night classes. At one point, the young Barr even declared to his Horace Mann adviser that when he grew up, he wanted to become head of the CIA.

Horace Mann was another environment entirely: completely secular, with a large Jewish contingent. A few who knew the Barr boys came to call them “the bully Barrs”; the siblings, these former classmates claimed, could be intimidating. The fact that his father was born Jewish was not a factor in Bill Barr’s upbringing. While he knew he had Jewish relatives, he never discussed the specifics with his father. “He had become more Catholic than the Catholics,” he said to those who asked.

The school was an enclave of conservative privilege that had educated New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, historian Robert A. Caro, and Si Newhouse Jr., the late owner of Condé Nast (the parent company of Vanity Fair). The head of the history department, Alfred Briggs, lectured on the evils of communism and Red China, and lavished praise on Horace Mann’s most notorious graduate, Roy Cohn. “We need more Roy Cohns in the world,” Briggs frequently said. “Roy was my best student of all time.”

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I plan to do it as soon as this post goes up.

One more by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: Do Barr, Pompeo and Giuliani share a death wish?

Atty. Gen. William Barr, who is deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, doesn’t care about his place in history. “I’m at the end of my career,” he told Jan Crawford of CBS in March. “Everyone dies.”

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s fixer, who is even more deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, is likewise indifferent. “I don’t care about my legacy,” he told the New Yorker last month. “I’ll be dead.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 55, who is especially embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, also has his eye on an End Times cleansing. “It is a never-ending struggle,” he told a Kansas church group, describing his work for the president. “Until the Rapture.”

Poets have envisioned death in thousands of ways. Clouds, worms, reunions, virgins and more. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo — each in the midst of a distinct moral crisis — may have a new one. Death as sweet, sweet liberation from congressional oversight.

Let me propose an epitaph, suitable for any of these men when the time comes: “He’s gone where subpoenas can lacerate his heart no more.”

But if these men are counting on death to end their sea of troubles, the House doesn’t intend to give them that chance. With every letter or subpoena, Congress is demanding that these men stop daydreaming about oblivion or ecstatic union with Jesus and do what’s right in the here and now.

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Tuesday Reads: Rats are Abandoning Trump’s Sinking Ship and Leaking Like Crazy

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was quite a day. In the afternoon, it became abundantly clear that the rats are jumping off Trump’s sinking ship, competing to see who can be the first to leak dirt on the Dotard and his gang of miscreants. Here’s summary from CBS News: New revelations shed light on Trump-Ukraine call — live updates.

A series of rapid-fire developments brought the House impeachment inquiry into clearer focus Monday afternoon, with Democrats issuing new demands for evidence and new revelations about the circumstances of the president’s call with Ukraine coming to light.

Just before 4 p.m., three House committees announced they had subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, for documents related to his work on behalf of President Trump to persuade Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. The committees also requested material about Giuliani’s work to secure Ukraine’s cooperation into a Justice Department review of the origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Shortly after the subpoena was announced, The Wall Street Journal reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the July 25 call between the president and the Ukrainian leader. CBS News has confirmed Pompeo was on the call.

The New York Times reported Mr. Trump had called the prime minister of Australia to request assistance in the Justice Department review. The call came at the behest of Attorney General William Barr.

A Justice Department official then told CBS News that Barr had asked Mr. Trump to reach out to a number of foreign officials to request their assistance in his review, which is being led by the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. A source familiar with the matter said Barr traveled to Italy as part of his effort, and The Washington Post reported he has also reached out to intelligence officials in the United Kingdom.

In the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Mr. Trump repeatedly asked him to work with Barr to pursue a fringe conspiracy theory about the origins of the 2016 U.S. counterintelligence investigation that would became the Mueller probe.

But it wasn’t just Australia. At about 8:30 last night, The Washington Post reported: Barr personally asked foreign officials to aid inquiry into CIA, FBI activities in 2016.

Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter….

The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath.

The attorney general’s active role also underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year-old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct.

So far, we’ve learned that Barr and Trump sought help to discredit their own intelligence community from Australia, the UK, and Italy. What other countries have been approached? I imagine we’ll learn more soon. Keep in mind that this entire criminal enterprise is designed to help Vladimir Putin by discrediting the Mueller investigation and removing sanctions on Russia.

Elliot Hannon at Slate: Trump Is Now Enlisting Foreign Leaders to Discredit Russian Election Meddling on His Behalf.

It’s now abundantly clear that President Trump is actively deploying the resources of the U.S. government explicitly to bolster his chances of reelection in 2020. The recent whistleblower complaint revealed one part of the two-pronged strategy: leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian government to dredge up old allegations on political rival Joe Biden. The second aspect of the Trump vindication-through-vilification reelection strategy has led Trump and his allies to investigate the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election to try to muddy the water sufficiently that Trump looks clean by comparison—or by confusion. That effort is also being propelled by the power vested in the highest offices of the U.S. government, including, of course, the presidency. Yet another example, the New York Times reports, is a recent phone call made by President Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking the foreign leader to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in the investigation of the Mueller investigation.

Will Trump get away with it? He is opening inciting violence against the whistleblower, Adam Schiff, and anyone else who tries to stand up to him. We don’t know yet what will happen, but history shows that politicians who mess with the CIA/FBI are playing with fire. I expect more drip drip drip revelations in the coming days.

Yesterday David Remnick at The New Yorker highlighted Trump’s unhinged attacks on anyone who tries to stand up to him:

Shortly after eight this morning, the President of the United States, making maximal use of his “executive time,” wielded his smartphone to issue a legal threat against the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It is worth reading the missive from @realDonaldTrump in full:

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”

Were the collective nerve endings of the electorate not so frayed and numbed by now, we might be even more alive to the ugliness of this message from the White House. One of the consequences of the Trump Presidency is the way  that it constantly diminishes our expectations of anything other than hideous rhetoric and action. But there are those who are intensely aware of the potential consequences of such a threat. Sources close to Schiff told The New Yorker today that Democrats in Congress are deeply worried about the President using Twitter to incite violence and to direct it at specific members.

The threat to Schiff via Twitter came just a few days after the President, speaking at the United States Mission to the United Nations, said that whoever provided information to the whistle-blower about his July 25th telephone call with the President of Ukraine was “close to a spy.” Trump went on to wax nostalgic about how spies were dealt with “in the old days”—with the death penalty, in other words. “As soon as I heard that, I thought, He has the soul and the mind of an authoritarian,” Nicholas Burns, a former high-ranking diplomat who has served in Republican and Democratic Administrations, told me. “What other President in American history would say that?”

As Remnick points out, Trump’s violent threats against his “enemies” are nothing new and they are likely to get worse as the impeachment investigation continues.

This could be an ominous sign for Trump. The Washington Post: McConnell says if House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to start a trial.

Should the impeachment spotlight turn to the Senate in the coming weeks, McConnell — who faces a reelection fight next year — will confront the dual pressures of minimizing political pain for his Senate majority and ensuring legitimacy and a sense of fairness for what would be only the third impeachment trial of a president in American history.

On Monday, McConnell said he was bound by existing Senate rules governing the impeachment and conviction process, amid speculation that he could simply ignore the specter of putting Trump on trial. Senior Republican aides had worked to try to tamp down that notion over the weekend.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell said during a CNBC interview. “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

The Kentucky Republican — who hasn’t hesitated in the past to revise Senate rules to benefit Republicans, specifically the president’s judicial nominees — stressed he would not change them to aid Trump. That move would require the support of 67 senators, almost certainly an insurmountable threshold.

I’m waiting with bated breath to see what breaks today in this massive scandal that has now engulfed Trump, his personal attorney, his White House lawyers, his Secretary of State, and his Attorney General.

And what about the second whistleblower complaint that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has been sitting on? Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: There’s another whistleblower complaint. It’s about Trump’s tax returns.

An unnamed civil servant is alleging serious interference in government business. If the allegations are true, they could be a game-changer. They might set in motion the release of lots of other secret documents showing that President Trump has abused his authority for his personal benefit.

Wait, you thought I meantthe whistleblower from the intelligence community?

Nope. I’m talking about a completely different whistleblower, whose claims have gotten significantly less attention but could prove no less consequential. This whistleblower alleges a whole different category of impropriety: that someone has been secretly meddling with the Internal Revenue Service’s audit of the president.

In defiance of a half-century norm, Trump has kept his tax returns secret.

We don’t know exactly what he might be hiding. His bizarre behavior, though, suggests it’s really bad.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More interesting reads, links only:

The New York Times Magazine: This Is the Moment Rachel Maddow Has Been Waiting For.

Miami Herald: ‘He conned us from day one’: Giuliani’s Ukraine ally leaves trail of South Florida debts.

David Enrich at The New York Times: Me and My Whistle-Blower.

Alex Pascal at The New York Times: Did the Trump White House Mishandle the Ukraine Call Memo?

Politico: Trump may have lied to Mueller, House Democrats say

The Los Angeles Times: Trump’s ‘favor’ and delay of U.S. aid weakened Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

Politico: Hillary Clinton says staying in her marriage was ‘gutsiest’ thing she’s ever done.

Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Tuesday!!


Tuesday Reads: Bad News and Bad Hair

Bad News, by Ethan Jack Harrington

Good Morning!!

Sorry for the possibly disturbing image–there was just something I liked about it. Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and two formerly great nations–the USA and Great Britain–are now led by doltish leaders with embarrassingly bad hair. Welcome to the 21st Century.

The Guardian: Boris Johnson elected new Tory leader.

Boris Johnson will become Britain’s next prime minister after winning a convincing victory over Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative party leadership race.

The former mayor of London, who has long cherished an ambition to lead his country, won 66% of the votes – 92,153, to Hunt’s 46,656. Turnout was 87.4% among 159,320 party members.

In a characteristically lighthearted acceptance speech, Johnson conceded that even some of his own supporters may “wonder quite what they have done”….

He reminded his audience of ministers and party staff of his campaign mantra: “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.”

Saying “some wag” had pointed out that this spelled “dud”, he joked that the final e – “E for energise” – had been left out. “I say to all the doubters: dude, we are going to energise the country!”

And Johnson said he would “get Brexit done by 31 October” with a “new spirit of can-do”.

“We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Remember Cesar Sayoc? He’s the rabid Trump fan who sent mail bombs to people Trump attacked publicly on Twitter or elsewhere. Sayoc is on trial right now.

Ryan J. Reilly at HuffPost: Lawyers For Trump ‘Super Fan’ Cesar Sayoc Say Trump’s Rhetoric Inspired Terrorist Plot On Democrats.

Cesar Sayoc, the fanatical Donald Trump fan who mailed package bombs to the president’s political opponents, is a cognitively limited sexual abuse survivor who thought of the now-president as a “surrogate father” and came to believe in an “alternative reality” fueled in part by Trump’s attacks on his political opponents, his attorneys told a federal court on Monday.

Sayoc has admitted to mailing pipe bombs to Democratic politicians, media figures and celebrities he perceived as Trump’s enemies last fall, and pleaded guilty to several federal crimes in March. He could face life in prison when he’s sentenced on August 5, but his federal public defenders said Monday he should serve 10 years in prison followed by community supervision (as well as mental health counseling and drug treatment).

Cesar Sayoc’s van plastered with anti-Hillary and pro-Trump images

Sayoc, his attorneys wrote in a sentencing memo filed in federal court in New York on Monday, was a Trump “super fan” and “began to consider Democrats as not just dangerous in theory, but imminently and seriously dangerous to his personal safety.”

“President Trump did nothing to dissuade this message,” they write. Their filing cites Trump’s Twitter attacks on the figures Sayoc targeted.

Sayoc was a Trump fan before the reality television host ran for president, and viewed him as “everything he wanted to be: self-made, successful, and a ‘playboy,’” his attorneys wrote.

But Sayoc “began watching Fox News religiously,” started following political news on Facebook and and “threw himself into” Trump’s campaign once he announced his candidacy because he “came to view Trump as a personal champion—someone who had helped him through the most difficult periods of his life and who could do the same for other people across the country.”

Click on the link to read the rest.

The Trump administration is proposing a frightening new immigration policy.

The Washington Post: Trump administration to expand its power to deport undocumented immigrants.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will significantly expand its power to quickly deport undocumented immigrants who have illegally entered the United States within the past two years, using a fast-track deportation process that bypasses immigration judges.

Officials are calling the new strategy, which will take effect immediately, a “necessary response” to the influx of Central Americans and others at the southern border. It will allow immigration authorities to quickly remove immigrants from anywhere they encounter them across the United States, and they expect the approach will help alleviate the nation’s immigration-court backlog and free up space in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails.

Trump HItler by Pegasus

The stated targets of the change are people who sneaked into the United States and do not have an asylum case or immigration-court date pending. Previously, the administration’s policy for “expedited removal” had been limited to migrants caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. The new rule would apply to immigrants anywhere in the United States who have been in the country for less than two years — adhering to a time limit included in the 1996 federal law that authorized the expedited process.

Immigrants apprehended in Iowa, Nebraska or other inland states would have to prove to immigration officials that they have been in the United States continuously for the past two years, or they could end up in an immigration jail facing quick deportation. And it could be relatively low-level immigration officers — not officers of a court — making the decisions.

What this means in reality is that anyone in the U.S. could be ordered by ICE/CBP to “show your papers.” From the article:

Immigrants’ advocates warned that the policy could ensnare longtime legal residents or even U.S. citizens who have been deported in error before. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said she fears the rule will lead to increased racial profiling and turn ICE into a “show-me-your-papers militia.”

“This new directive flows directly from the racist rhetoric that the president has been using for the last week and indeed months, but this new rule is going to terrorize communities of color,” said Gupta, who was head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama.

U.S. citizens could be rapidly deported on the word of an ICE agent, without a court hearing. Read this story in The Dallas Morning News: A Dallas-born citizen picked up by the Border Patrol has been detained for three weeks.

An 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen has been in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than three weeks, his attorney says.

Now his family fears he may be deported.

Bully Culprit, by Robbie Conal

Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias on June 27, said Claudia Galan, his attorney.

Galicia was traveling with his 17-year-old brother Marlon Galicia and a group of friends from Edinburg where they live to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event when they came upon a CBP checkpoint, said Sanjuana Galicia, his mother.

It was about 8 p.m. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and lacked legal status, had only been through a border checkpoint on school trips and had never been pressed to provide travel documents.

But this time was different, Marlon said. He had only a school ID. His brother was carrying only his Texas ID, which can only be obtained with a Social Security number.

“We were confident that we’d be able to pass. We were going to do something good for our futures,” he said. “I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family,” Marlon said by phone from Reynosa, Mexico, where he is staying with his grandmother.

After two days in detention, Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form.

“I signed because I wanted to talk with my mom. Now, we just have to wait and see and hope that they release my brother,” Marlon said.

Francisco Galicia told his mother, who lives in Edinburg, that he was detained because he didn’t have his U.S. passport. But she said he did present CBP with his Texas ID.

Read more at the link.

And of course Trump’s brown shirts are already torturing children in his concentration camps. NBC News reports: Abner, 17, describes 11 days of hunger and thirst at Yuma’s border station.

Abner, a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy, vividly recalls the first 48 hours he spent inside the U.S. Border Patrol station in Yuma, Arizona. He was awake for all of them because there was no space to lie down.

James Ostrer, Emotion Download

Packed into a cell with other migrant boys, Abner said the older children would give the 8, 9, and 10-year-olds space to lie down on the floor while they would try to sleep sitting or standing up. With nothing to cover him, Abner would tremble.

“I had to stay almost two days like this, standing. I didn’t sleep. And they didn’t treat me well because I would ask for at least food or water or something to cover myself with and they would deny it,” Abner told NBC News in Spanish.

Eventually, he learned to sleep on a pile of trash in the corner of the cell, said Abner, who does not want his full name or his face used out of fear he will be targeted for deportation….

In total Abner spent 11 days from late May to early June in the Yuma border station. He describes them as filled with hunger and thirst, extreme temperatures and fear of the guards manning the facility. They refused to give him food when he asked, mocked him if he asked what time it was, and, on one occasion, punched another boy in the stomach, Abner said.

Abner says the children were fed only twice a day.

The older boys in Abner’s cell learned to protect the younger children, whose cries would anger the guards.

“Sometimes, we would give one [hamburger] to the little ones. Because the little ones were the ones that wanted to eat more than others. At least, [the older kids could] stand the hunger a little more,” Abner said.

This is being done in our name, and the whole world is watching.

I haven’t yet said anything about Robert Mueller’s Congressional testimony tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve heard that what used to be called the Department of Justice but is now Donald Trump’s personal law firm is trying to put limits on what Mueller can say. Politico reports:

Justice Department officials have communicated to Robert Mueller that the department expects him to limit his congressional testimony this week to the public findings of his 448-page report, according to one current and one former U.S. official familiar with the preparations.

In extensive discussions since the former special counsel was subpoenaed on June 25 to testify, department officials have emphasized that they consider any evidence he gathered throughout the course of his investigation to be “presumptively privileged” and shielded from public disclosure.

Of course this is complete bullshit. Mueller is a private citizen now and doesn’t have to take orders from Bill Barr or Trump. Also from Politico: Nadler calls DOJ ‘incredibly arrogant’ for trying to limit Mueller’s testimony.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s Justice Department as “incredibly arrogant” for instructing Robert Mueller to limit the scope of his upcoming congressional testimony.

But the New York Democrat predicted that the Justice Department’s Monday directive would not affect Wednesday’s highly anticipated pair of hearings with the former special counsel.

“I don’t think it’s much of an impediment, simply because Bob Mueller had indicated repeatedly that he was going to do exactly that,” Nadler said on CNN. “I think it’s incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say. It’s a part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people, but I think that it’s not going to have a real impact.”

Here are some articles on Muller’s long-anticipated testimony:

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Here’s how Mueller’s testimony could damage Trump.

Carol Lee at NBC News: Among the questions for Mueller: Why wasn’t Donald Trump Jr. interviewed?

Neil Kaytal at The New York Times: With Three Simple Answers, Mueller Can Speak Volumes.

In June, Mimi Rocha wrote at NBC News Think: What Barr’s ongoing smear campaign against Robert Mueller is really about.

The Daily Beast: Can Mueller Cut Through Barr’s ‘Fog of Propaganda’?

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

It appears that Cover-Up General Bill Barr has struck again. He apparently ordered the Southern District of New York to end their investigation of campaign finance violations by Michael Cohen and Individual 1 (AKA Donald Trump).

The Washington Post: Prosecutors have ‘concluded’ Michael Cohen campaign finance probe, judge says.

Federal prosecutors have concluded the campaign finance investigation centered on President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or at least key aspects of it, a federal judge overseeing the case wrote Wednesday, suggesting prosecutors will not charge executives in the Trump Organization or any others who have been linked to the matter.

The good news is that Judge William H. Pauley ordered the public release of search warrants and other documents related to the case. Prosecutors asked Pauley to allow some redactions of the materials, but the judge said no dice. The materials should be available sometime this morning.

He [Pauley] wrote that the government disclosed in a secret filing Monday that it had “concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations.” He rejected their request to file the materials with redactions to protect “third-party privacy interests,” because, by his telling, the case is over and the public deserves to see everything.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley wrote. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.”

So Barr has made sure that the Trump Organization will no longer be in danger of prosecution. Will the investigations into Trump’s inauguration be axed next?

Rachel Maddow talked about this last night.

Folks, this is getting scarier with every passing day. Trump now controls the Department of Justice and apparently can order investigations stopped or opened. Republicans control the Senate, so nothing the Democrats pass will even be considered there, including impeachment. The only protection we have left is the courts, and Trump and the GOP are working overtime to stock them with Trump judges.

Last night Trump held another Nazi/KKK rally in North Carolina, during which he attacked has latest target Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and encouraged the crowd as they screamed “send her back!”

And in case you thought Trump was ad libbing, here’s the proof that the attack was orchestrated.

From The Charlotte Observer editorial board: ’Send her back’: A dark reminder of who we are.

It happened in the first half of Wednesday’s speech. Donald Trump, our president, began to talk about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic from Minnesota who was among the four women of color he had attacked Sunday in a racist tweet. Everyone knew Trump would speak about the women at some point to the Greenville, North Carolina crowd. Did we know what would come next?

“Send her back.”

The chant rose quickly from a handful of voices to a chorus of bigotry. It was a chilling moment. It was “lock her up” in a white hood. It was despicable.

It could have happened at any Donald Trump rally. It might have happened in any state, north or south. But it happened in Greenville, in our state, and it was one of North Carolina’s darkest moments.

“Send her back.”

Or perhaps not. Maybe the chant will be absorbed in the vortex that is Donald Trump. In a presidency of so many shameful moments, of so many new lows, the singularly awful ones tend to lose their significance. It’s possible that North Carolina might be forgotten when the chant inevitably spreads to the next rally. But North Carolina shouldn’t forget.

The Associated Press: Trump leans on issue of race in bid for a 2nd term in 2020.

President Donald Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term.

Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.

He intensified his attacks on Wednesday, blasting four young congresswomen of color during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina . The crowd responded by chanting, “Send her back!” echoing Trump’s weekend tweet in which he said the lawmakers, all American citizens, should “go back” to the countries from which they came.

“I do think I am winning the political fight,” Trump declared at the White House. “I think I am winning it by a lot.”

Not since George Wallace’s campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent president — put racial polarization at the center of his call to voters. Though Trump’s comments generated outrage and even a resolution of condemnation in the House, the president and his campaign believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.

The Irish Times: Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Read the rest at the link above.

Last night Trump also celebrated a meaningless vote in the house about impeachment. Politico suggests that he might actually think the vote has ended the threat.

IT BARELY TOOK THE PRESIDENT ANY TIME before he said this Wednesday evening at his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C.: “I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in: the resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment. I want to thank those Democrats because many of them voted for us, the vote was a totally lopsided 332-95-1.” … Upon arriving in North Carolina, President Donald Trump said the same thing: “We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment. And that’s the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work….

a few smart, seasoned people in the White House wondered to us Wednesday night if TRUMP actually believes this vote ended impeachment. Of course, it didn’t. This was a procedural vote that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are still nearly 90 Democrats who are now on record supporting an impeachment inquiry, and ROBERT MUELLER is coming to the Hill next week. There are Democrats who believe the impeachment caucus will swell as soon as he opens his mouth.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein writes: That Strange Impeachment Vote? It May Be a Big Deal.

Inflaming the base: July 16, 2019

Representative Al Green, a Democrat from Texas, has regularly introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Usually, when a regular bill or resolution has been introduced, it’s then referred to committee. If the majority party doesn’t want to consider the bill, it will die with no further action. Under House rules, however, any member can force an impeachment resolution onto the floor as pending business. That’s what Green did Wednesday.

This maneuver doesn’t mean that impeachment gets a final vote, or even debate. What it does get is a “motion to table,” which means that lawmakers can vote to either keep the resolution as pending business or kill it off. When Green did this in 2017, 58 Democrats voted to keep the impeachment measure alive. In 2018, 66 did so. This time, it was up to 95.

Of course, there are more Democrats in the current Congress than in the previous one. And we can’t assume that all the votes to table were necessarily votes against impeachment (pro-impeachment independent Justin Amash voted to table, for instance). Some legislators may have objected to bringing the resolution straight to the floor on procedural grounds, or thought that Green’s articles were poorly drafted. Still, the vote offers a decent proxy for where impeachment sentiment stands in the House: It divides Democrats and unites Republicans in opposition. For now.

What I found interesting was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said she opposes impeachment, apparently didn’t whip the vote. If that’s the case, what does it say about her real position? One interpretation is that she simply wanted to mollify pro-impeachment Democrats by giving them an easy opportunity to express their views. Another is that Pelosi isn’t as opposed to impeachment as she has let on, and was using this vote to gauge sentiment within the caucus – or even to demonstrate that support for ousting the president is growing.

(Emphasis added.)

I’ll end with this breaking news from The Miami Herald: Judge keeps Jeffrey Epstein in N.Y. jail as prosecutors build on sex trafficking case.

Wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will have to wait out a sex trafficking trial from a jail cell after a federal judge in New York ruled Thursday against his request for release on bail.

Epstein, 66, had offered to put up any collateral the judge wished from his self-estimated $559 million fortune. He said he would live in isolation in his Manhattan mansion, and pay for private security to ensure he remains inside and that no one enters unless authorized by the courts.

But with prosecutors warning that Epstein could easily flee or attempt to interfere with their witnesses, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ordered that Epstein remain at the Manhattan Correctional Institute as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seeks his conviction on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Berman, according to reporters covering the hearing in New York, cited concerns that Epstein is a “danger” to others.

Berman’s ruling is a major victory for Epstein’s accusers, who have grown by the dozens since he was first investigated on trafficking allegations in South Florida more than a dozen years ago. The wealthy financier was first arrested in Palm Beach County in the mid-2000s after police began to suspect that he was abusing underage girls.

I’ll post anything I find about the release of Cohen materials from SDNY. What stories are you following today?