Lazy Caturday Reads

Arsen Kurbanov

Painting by Arsen Kurbanov

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.

The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.

The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.

Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.

The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij - Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij, by Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.

“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.

“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.

President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.

The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.

White-Cat-with-Crescent-Moon-Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

White Cat with Crescent Moon, Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”

A bit more:

The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.

After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.

The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.

leonard tsuguharu foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.

…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)

In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.

“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.

All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.

If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.

Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Raw Story: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”

On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”

He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]

As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:

“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”

Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.

Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Raw Story: Mike Lindell is now hoping Supreme Court allows a do-over election: ‘Maybe that’s a thing.’

On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.

“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”

Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.

He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.

Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Cat on a flowery Meadow, Bruno Liljefors

Cat on a Flowery Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I wrote about the latest revelations from some of the many Trump books that have been hitting the shelves, as well as an upcoming one by Susan Glasser and her husband NYT reporter Peter Baker. Yesterday Glasser spoke to CNN’s Jack Tapper. From Raw Story: ‘Most terrified I’ve ever been’: Reporter describes learning ‘extremely alarming’ details of Trump’s final days.

Reporter Susan Glasser on Friday told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she felt personally unnerved while reporting out details of former President Donald Trump’s final days.

While discussing her most recent article in the New Yorker about Trump’s fights with General Mark Milley in the waning weeks of his administration, Glasser explained to Tapper that it was unprecedented for American military leaders to view the sitting commander-in-chief as a potential national security threat.

“You know, when I first learned about the level of alarm that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had through the election and all the way into January, I have to say it was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been as a reporter in several decades,” said Glasser, who has also reported from American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said she was relieved to see that Milley and other top military commanders had done their best to hold Trump in check, but still found it frightening just how far the twice-impeached former president was willing to go.

The question arises: why are we just now learning about these horrific events and those reported in other books? From The Washington Post: The media scramble at the heart of Trump Book Summer.

The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come last Wednesday, when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books.

Around 3 p.m. that day, New York magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of “I Alone Can Fix It,” one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release.

The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power — was so hot that it in turn triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, written by no less than five reporters. Which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget — which was kind of ironic considering the book that produced the scoop was written by two Post reporters and had already generated a prominent excerpt in the paper, with a second to come days later.

wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

Wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

The media-on-media scramble, a kind of Russian nesting doll of reportage, attested to both the profound import of the Milley anecdote and the cultural heat of the new syllabus of Trump books. On the same day, “I Alone,” written by The Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, was the best-selling book on Amazon, which includes preorders for not-yet-released books. The third and fourth bestsellers were also dishy Trump titles, “Landslide,” by the independent journalist Michael Wolff, and “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, respectively. A fourth book, “Nightmare Scenario,” about Trump’s handling of the pandemic by two other Post reporters, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, had climbed up the lists the week before….

This spurt doesn’t include another dozen or so Trump books that will be released over the next few months, including one co-authored by Washington Post veteran Bob Woodward, who has already written two Trump tomes, including last September’s predictably best-selling “Rage.”

So why is it OK for these reporters to keep shocking news to themselves so they can use it to sell their books later on? The answer is that newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times allow their reporters to go on leave while writing their books and their research is “walled off from from their daily beat responsibilities,” according to editor Sally Buzbee. 

“Basically, when staffers go on unpaid book leaves, which is the case here, there is an understanding that the reporting they are doing is for the book,” she said. “The Post typically publishes the book’s first excerpt, which gives our readers the first cut at the news. This is our long-standing practice and has served readers of The Post and the reporters well.”

Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

Painting by Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

New York Times editor Dean Baquet said he encourages his reporters to “keep in touch” with editors at the paper when they’re working on books, and to alert them when they come up with something worthy of daily publication.

“Sometimes we make the judgment that it is okay to hold [a big scoop], or at least to hold until we publish an excerpt,” he said. Book-writing and daily news reporting aren’t “church and state,” said Baquet, whose star White House reporter Maggie Haberman is at work on a Trump book, “and I do hope reporters break their big news in the Times.”

Rucker noted another constraint on real-time reporting of the news he and Leonnig uncovered: “Many of the officials we interviewed for ‘I Alone Can Fix It’ agreed to speak with us about these events only after Trump had left office and only for the purposes of this deeper history,” he said.

OK then. I have to admit I can’t resist reading these books, even though I’m troubled by reporters keeping these secrets. 

In other news, a Texas judge ruled that DACA is illegal. The Washington Post: U.S. judge blocks new applicants to program that protects undocumented ‘dreamers’ who arrived as children.

A federal judge in Texas has largely halted an Obama administration initiative that grants work permits and reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — calling the program “unlawful” even as he allowed the more than 600,000 young people already in it to keep their protected status.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sided with Texas and other states in his ruling that President Barack Obama overstepped his executive authority when he created the program.

Hanen’s ruling called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.”

He prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications, issued a permanent injunction vacating the memo that created DACA in 2012 — when President Biden was vice president — and remanded the issue to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reconsideration.

Oskar Kokoschka

Painting by Oskar Kokoschka

President Biden said the DOJ will appeal the decision. The White House: Statement by President Joe Biden on DACA and Legislation for Dreamers.

In 2012, the Obama-Biden Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work in our communities. Nine years later, Congress has not acted to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing. While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.

But only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve. I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.

Thanks to all the misinformation Trump and his fans have spread about the Covid-19 and vaccines that prevent infections, we now appear to be entering a fourth wave of the deadly virus. USA Today: The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK’s fate? It’s too soon to know, by Karen Weintraub.

A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Beaver Meadow, Paul Sample

Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“Since the majority of our population is now immune, it’s unlikely that we’re going to return to the massive nationwide waves we saw back in January,” Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a Wednesday webinar with media.

But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We’re going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that’s vaccinated and the world that’s unvaccinated,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky,  chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, have all been shown to be highly effective against variants of the virus, including Delta, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S.

It’s a long article, so click the link to learn more.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: Delta Is Driving a Wedge Through Missouri. For America as a whole, the pandemic might be fading. For some communities, this year will be worse than last.

The summer wasn’t meant to be like this. By April, Greene County, in southwestern Missouri, seemed to be past the worst of the pandemic. Intensive-care units that once overflowed had emptied. Vaccinations were rising. Health-care workers who had been fighting the coronavirus for months felt relieved—perhaps even hopeful. Then, in late May, cases started ticking up again. By July, the surge was so pronounced that “it took the wind out of everyone,” Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital Springfield, told me. “How did we end up back here again?”

Alice Neel

Painting by Alice Neel

The hospital is now busier than at any previous point during the pandemic. In just five weeks, it took in as many COVID-19 patients as it did over five months last year. Ten minutes away, another big hospital, Cox Medical Center South, has been inundated just as quickly. “We only get beds available when someone dies, which happens several times a day,” Terrence Coulter, the critical-care medical director at CoxHealth, told me.

Last week, Katie Towns, the acting director of the Springfield–Greene County Health Department, was concerned that the county’s daily cases were topping 250. On Wednesday, the daily count hit 405. This dramatic surge is the work of the super-contagious Delta variant, which now accounts for 95 percent of Greene County’s new cases, according to Towns. It is spreading easily because people have ditched their masks, crowded into indoor spaces, resumed travel, and resisted vaccinations. Just 40 percent of people in Greene County are fully vaccinated. In some nearby counties, less than 20 percent of people are.

Many experts have argued that, even with Delta, the United States is unlikely to revisit the horrors of last winter. Even now, the country’s hospitalizations are one-seventh as high as they were in mid-January. But national optimism glosses over local reality. For many communities, this year will be worse than last. Springfield’s health-care workers and public-health specialists are experiencing the same ordeals they thought they had left behind. “But it feels worse this time because we’ve seen it before,” Amelia Montgomery, a nurse at CoxHealth, told me. “Walking back into the COVID ICU was demoralizing.”

Those ICUs are also filling with younger patients, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, including many with no underlying health problems. In part, that’s because elderly people have been more likely to get vaccinated, leaving Delta with a younger pool of vulnerable hosts. While experts are still uncertain if Delta is deadlier than the original coronavirus, every physician and nurse in Missouri whom I spoke with told me that the 30- and 40-something COVID-19 patients they’re now seeing are much sicker than those they saw last year.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Mostly Good News and Military Cats

sailors of the HMS Hermione in 1941 surrounding their sleeping cat, Convoy.

Sailors of the HMS Hermione in 1941 surrounding their sleeping cat, Convoy.

Good Afternoon!!

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

Binx, the cat who was trapped on the ninth floor of the collapsed Mami condo has been found! 

The Miami Herald: Cat that lived in collapsed Surfside condo tower is found safe, reunited with family.

Binx, a cat that lived on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South condo, was found safe two weeks after the building collapsed and has been reunited with his family.

The black cat was found near the rubble and was taken to Kitty Campus, an organization that cares for community cats in Miami Beach.

A volunteer feeding cats in the area was the one who found him, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference late Friday. Binx was reunited with his family Friday.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the life of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” Levine Cava said.

Here’s another feel-good story from the Boston area. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman dog went missing after being frightened by fireworks on the Fourth of July; but now, days later, he has been returned to her. WCVB ABC 5: After nearly a week missing, Massachusetts Olympic hero Aly Raisman finds her dog.

After nearly a week missing, Massachusetts native and two-time Olympian Aly Raisman says her missing dog has been found….

Raisman tweeted last Saturday night that her dog, Mylo, was terrified of the fireworks and ran off in the area of the Seaport District. She says the dog had a tag on, as well as a leash.

Raisman asked people not to actively search for Mylo — yelling his name or running around looking for him — because the organization Missing Dogs Mass advised her that scared dogs will make bad decisions if they are pressured.

The Needham native was a member of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics teams, both of which won the gold medal. With two team and four individual Olympic medals, Raisman is the second-most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history.

A bit more good news on the political front. Social Security activists have been pushing Biden to fire the two horrible men that Trump put in charge of the Social Security administration, and he has finally done it.

The Washington Post: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration, a Trump holdover who drew the ire of Democrats.

President Biden on Friday fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, a holdover from the Trump administration who had alienated crucial Democratic constituencies with policies designed to clamp down benefits and an uncompromising anti-union stance.

Saul was fired after refusing a request to resign, White House officials said. His deputy, David Black, who served as the agency’s top lawyer before his appointment by former president Donald Trump, resigned Friday upon request.

Biden named Kilolo Kijakazi, the current deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting commissioner until the White House identifies a permanent nominee to lead the agency.

As the head of an independent agency whose leadership does not normally change with a new administration, Saul’s six-year term was supposed to last until January 2025.

The White House said a recent Supreme Court ruling, followed by a Justice Department memo on Thursday affirming the president’s authority “to remove the SSA Commissioner at will,” gave the president power to treat the position like that of other traditional political appointments.

Making friends with the locals in Afghanistan

Making friends with the locals in Afghanistan

Saul says he plans to keep doing his job as if nothing has changed.

But Saul said in an interview Friday afternoon that he would not leave his post, challenging the legality of the White House move to oust him.

“I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” he said, adding that he plans to be back at work on Monday morning, signing in remotely from his New Yorkhome. He called his ouster a “Friday Night Massacre.”

What a dick! I hope someone will lock him out of the system ASAP. More about Saul from Yahoo News:

Saul, a Trump appointee, had triggered fierce criticism from Democrats and advocates, who said he gummed up the speedy distribution of $1,400 stimulus checks to disabled Americans and applied union-busting tactics with labor unions representing federal employees….

Saul is a former GOP donor who served on the board of a conservative think-tank that advocated for cuts to Social Security benefits. Advocates said the Social Security Administration delayed releasing information to the IRS for stimulus checks earlier this year.

They also argued the SSA under Saul made it much more burdensome for disabled people to reestablish their eligibility for benefits.

Congressional Democrats and activists cheered Friday’s firings. Alex Lawson, president of Social Security Works, told Insider it was “great news” Saul and Black are no longer in charge of the agency.

“They were put in place by former President Trump to sabotage Social Security and no one but Wall Street is sad to see them go,” he said. “Their attacks on seniors and people with disabilities will be their shameful legacy.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio also praised the move. The Banking committee chair said in a statement Saul “tried to systematically dismantle Social Security as we know it from within.”

“Social Security is the bedrock of our middle class that Americans earn and count on, and they need a Social Security Commissioner who will honor that promise to seniors, survivors, and people with disabilities now and for decades to come,” Brown said.

I’m one of the people who had to wait weeks for a stimulus check. I’m celebrating these firings.

The CATS program originated during World War II and was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.

The CATS program originated during World War II and was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.

Before I move on the bad news, here’s a laugh-out-loud piece from Raw Story: GOP’s Madison Cawthorn: Biden may use door-to-door vaccine program to ‘take your Bibles’

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced “door-to-door outreach” in communities that have low rates of vaccination.

“It’s a year of hard-fought progress. We can’t get complacent now. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family and the people you care about the most is get vaccinated,” Biden said.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) panicked over the efforts to protect Americans from the pandemic during an interview conducted by Right Side Broadcast Network at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering in Texas.

Despite the fact the federal government goes door-to-door during the Census, Cawthorn painted a dystopian vision of what could happen if the government knocked on doors to tell Americans about the COVID vaccines, which have proven safe and effective.

“The thing about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing — and then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could then go door-to-door to take your Bibles,” he argued.

LOL! The U.S. Post Office also goes door to door, and I don’t think they have ever taken anyone’s bibles away.

Now for the bad news of day.

Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist: Western states face possible all-time heat records this weekend.

Over 30 million people are under heat alerts across western states as temperatures are forecast to soar well into the triple digits this weekend.

Nearly the entire state of California will be impacted by this heat wave, in addition to major metro areas in the Southwest. Numerous daily temperature records will be broken and some all-time records may also be in jeopardy.

Simon, the ship's cat about the HMS Amethyst, with Dickin Medal, awarded for catching rats in wartime.

Simon, the ship’s cat on the HMS Amethyst, with Dickin Medal, awarded for catching rats in wartime.

“High pressure will continue to dominate the southern Great Basin and Mojave Desert, producing a major heat wave into early next week,” the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Las Vegas said. “All-time record high temperatures will be rivaled or exceeded in some areas.”

While the Southwest may be known for its hot temperatures, these numbers are extreme.

A “Very High” heat risk, the highest level (4 of 4), has been issued for much of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. This includes cities such as Sacramento, Bakersfield and Palm Springs, California, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

“Very High” simply means that the entire population, not just elderly or people who are ill, will be at a very high risk of heat-related illness due to the long duration of heat and the lack of overnight relief.

Utah’s current state temperature record is 117 degrees. The town of St George may meet or exceed that record on Saturday.

Las Vegas has the potential to set a new all-time high temperature record this weekend. The current all-time high is 117 degrees and the National Weather Service is forecasting at least that temperature for Saturday and Sunday.

Sacramento also has the chance to break their all-time high temperature of 114 degrees this weekend.

Death Valley, California, hit a high of 130 degrees on Friday, coming close to the hottest temperature ever recorded on the globe — 134 degrees at the same location in 1913.

The New York Times: Like in ‘Postapocalyptic Movies’: Heat Wave Killed Marine Wildlife en Masse.

Dead mussels and clams coated rocks in the Pacific Northwest, their shells gaping open as if they’d been boiled. Sea stars were baked to death. Sockeye salmon swam sluggishly in an overheated Washington river, prompting wildlife officials to truck them to cooler areas.

The combination of extraordinary heat and drought that hit the Western United States and Canada over the past two weeks has killed hundreds of millions of marine animals and continues to threaten untold species in freshwater, according to a preliminary estimate and interviews with scientists.

“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” said Christopher Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia who studies the effects of climate change on coastal marine ecosystems.

To calculate the death toll, Dr. Harley first looked at how many blue mussels live on a particular shoreline, how much of the area is good habitat for mussels and what fraction of the mussels he observed died. He estimated losses for the mussels alone in the hundreds of millions. Factoring in the other creatures that live in the mussel beds and on the shore — barnacles, hermit crabs and other crustaceans, various worms, tiny sea cucumbers — puts the deaths at easily over a billion, he said.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Afghanistan 2009

Afghanistan 2009

The Washington Post: The Trump administration used an early, unreported program to separate migrant families along a remote stretch of the border.

The Trump administration began separating migrant families along a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border months earlier than has been previously reported — part of a little known program coming into view only now as the Biden administration examines government data.

In May 2017, Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Ariz., began implementing a program known as the Criminal Consequence Initiative, which allowed for the prosecution of first-time border crossers, including parents who entered the United States with their children and were separated from them.

From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, 234 families were separated in Yuma, according to newly released data from the Department of Homeland Security, almost exactly the same number as were separated in a now well known pilot program in El Paso that year. Because the Yuma program began in May, and the existing data on family separations begins only in July, the number of separations there was likely higher than 234, a prospect the Biden administration is now investigating.

Some of the parents separated under the Yuma program still remain apart from their children four years later. Others are missing — lawyers and advocates have been unable to locate them since they were deported alone. The children separated in Yuma in 2017 were as young as 10 months old, according to government data.

One more from The Atlantic: The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election, by Steven Livitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

The greatest threat to American democracy today is not a repeat of January 6, but the possibility of a stolen presidential election. Contemporary democracies that die meet their end at the ballot box, through measures that are nominally constitutional. The looming danger is not that the mob will return; it’s that mainstream Republicans will “legally” overturn an election.

In 2018, when we wrote How Democracies Die, we knew that Donald Trump was an authoritarian figure, and we held the Republican Party responsible for abdicating its role as democratic gatekeeper. But we did not consider the GOP to be an antidemocratic party. Four years later, however, the bulk of the Republican Party is behaving in an antidemocratic manner. Solving this problem requires that we address both the acute crisis and the underlying long-term conditions that give rise to it….

HMS Warspite asleep with the ship's mascot kitten in its hammock, 1944.

HMS Warspite asleep with the ship’s mascot kitten in its hammock, 1944.

Last year, for the first time in U.S. history, a sitting president refused to accept defeat and attempted to overturn election results. Rather than oppose this attempted coup, leading Republicans either cooperated with it or enabled it by refusing to publicly acknowledge Trump’s defeat. In the run-up to January 6, most top GOP officials refused to denounce extremist groups that were spreading conspiracy theories, calling for armed insurrection and assassinations, and ultimately implicated in the Capitol assault. Few Republicans broke with Trump after his incitement of the insurrection, and those who did were censured by their state parties.

From November 2020 to January 2021, then, a significant portion of the Republican Party refused to unambiguously accept electoral defeat, eschew violence, or break with extremist groups—the three principles that define prodemocracy parties….

As we argued in How Democracies Die, our constitutional system relies heavily on forbearance. Whether it is the filibuster, funding the government, impeachment, or judicial nominations, our system of checks and balances works best when politicians on both sides of the aisle deploy their institutional prerogatives with restraint. In other words, when they avoid applying the letter of the law in ways contrary to the spirit of the law—what’s sometimes called constitutional hardball. When contemporary democracies die, they usually do so via constitutional hardball. Democracy’s primary assailants today are not generals or armed revolutionaries, but rather politicians—Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—who eviscerate democracy’s substance behind a carefully crafted veneer of legality and constitutionality.

This is precisely what could happen in the next U.S. presidential race. Elections require forbearance. For elections to be democratic, all adult citizens must be equally able to cast a ballot and have that vote count. Using the letter of the law to violate the spirit of this principle is strikingly easy. 

I hope you’ll head over to The Atlantic and read the whole thing.

This is getting way too long, so I’ll sign off for now. I hope you all have a great weekend!


Lazy Caturday Reads: Lots of News and Bookstore Cats

Kat's Book Nook, Bemidji, MN

Kat’s Book Nook, Bemidji, MN

Good Morning!!

Today is a pretty busy news day for a Saturday. The building collapse in Florida is looking worse the more we learn about it. The Delta variant is still in the news and looking more dangerous by the day. Trump will begin holding his revenge rallies tonight in Ohio and then continue his pity party in Florida over the Fourth of July Weekend. The Trump Organization may be criminally charged in New York next week. But the scariest news was broken last night in The New York Times by Trump whisperers Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman: Trump Aides Prepared Insurrection Act Order During Debate Over Protests

Responding to interest from President Donald J. Trump, White House aides drafted a proclamation last year to invoke the Insurrection Act in case Mr. Trump moved to take the extraordinary step of deploying active-duty troops in Washington to quell the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, two senior Trump administration officials said.

The aides drafted the proclamation on June 1, 2020, during a heated debate inside the administration over how to respond to the protests. Mr. Trump, enraged by the demonstrations, had told the attorney general, William P. Barr, the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, that he wanted thousands of active-duty troops on the streets of the nation’s capital, one of the officials said.

Mr. Trump was talked out of the plan by the three officials. But a separate group of White House staff members wanted to leave open the option for Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to call in the military to patrol the streets of the capital.

They decided it would be prudent to have the necessary document vetted and ready in case the unrest in Washington worsened or the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, declined to take measures such as a citywide curfew, which she ultimately put in place….

the new details about internal White House deliberations on a pivotal day in his presidency underscore the intensity of Mr. Trump’s instinct to call on the active-duty military to deal with a domestic issue. And they help to flesh out the sequence of events that would culminate later in the day with Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church so he could pose in front of it holding a Bible, a move that coincided with a spasm of violence between law enforcement and protesters camped near the White House.

Dragon's Lair Comics and Fantasy, Austin, TX

Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy, Austin, TX

More details from the story:

…invoking the Insurrection Act, a rarely used authority allowing presidents to use active duty military for law-enforcement purposes, would have been a dramatic escalation. The act has only been invoked twice in the past 40 years — once to quell unrest after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and once during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“We look weak,” Mr. Trump said, according to one of the officials. He complained about having been taken to the bunker below the White House on the night of May 29 when the barricade outside the Treasury Department was pierced. The New York Times had reported the bunker visit a day earlier, infuriating Mr. Trump….

Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Barr, Mr. Esper and Mr. Milley was marked by his rage at being embarrassed on the world stage, according to two of the officials.

Mr. Trump grudgingly went along with their counsel not to deploy active-duty troops, according to the officials. Immediately after the meeting, Mr. Trump joined a call with governors around the country, some of whom were seeing protests increase in their states. Mr. Trump urged them to “dominate” the protesters, as he said the National Guard in Minnesota had.

Mr. Esper told associates that he was so concerned that Mr. Trump would deploy active-duty troops that he echoed the need for them to get control of their states, hoping he could encourage governors to deploy the National Guard to head off federal action. Using Pentagon terminology that he later told associates he regretted, Mr. Esper told the governors to “dominate the battle space,” a sentiment stemming from concern about Mr. Trump’s intentions.

On the upcoming Trump rallies, Asawin Suebsaeng writes at The Daily Beast: Trump’s Underlying Rally Message Is Clear: Fear Me.

Early this month, as Donald Trump delivered his keynote address to the North Carolina Republican Party’s annual convention, the former U.S. president noticed something: His greatest crowd-pleaser of the night didn’t come when he attacked President Joe Biden, trashed Dr. Anthony Fauci, or repeated his lies about the 2020 election being stolen from him. It came when he railed against critical race theory, declaring that it should be banned from being taught to schoolchildren and government staff….

otis-clementines-books-coffee Halifax, Nova Scotia where you can adopt a kitten

Clementine’s Books and Coffee, Halifax, Nova Scotia, where you can adopt a kitten

The coming days and months should prove no different, with Trump planning on delivering yet another red-meat-hurling speech on Saturday evening, with plenty of time devoted to dumping accelerant on the flames of the culture wars and asserting his continuedsolidified sway over the GOP.

But his return to the rally circuit also serves another purpose: scaring off potential competition for holding dominant power over the Republican Party, and keeping himself positioned as the 2024 GOP frontrunner.

“In [recent] conversations that I’ve had with him, he has said that he wants to be everywhere to remind people, not just Republicans, that he’s still in charge,” a person close to the former president said, paraphrasing Trump. “The message is a pretty straightforward one: I am still leading this party, and if you want to try to challenge me for that, it will get ugly.”

More details at the link.

The condo collapse in Florida looks to be a horrific tragedy, as rescue workers are found no survivors yesterday. The New York Times: Frustration Mounts in Search for Survivors of Condo Collapse Near Miami.

After an initial two rescues, only bodies had been recovered, three of them overnight. The number of people unaccounted for rose to more than 150 — dozens more than officials had estimated a day earlier — and their families were losing their last threads of hope.

Family members of the missing were asked to provide DNA swabs in case they were needed to identify remains. President Biden said federal mortuary services would be available if needed.

Underneath the parking garage of the exposed building at 8777 Collins Ave., search-and-rescue teams drilled through concrete and inserted probes with cameras to peer through the rubble. Specialized hearing devices alerted them to any sounds that could indicate a person was waiting for help — tapping, scratching, falling debris, twisting metal.

On Thursday, crews briefly heard the voice of a woman trapped somewhere under the wreckage, but it went silent before they could find anyone. On Friday, crews were still using dogs trained to sniff out the scent of a living person; the dogs that come later find cadavers.

From the outside, in the stifling humidity and amid intermittent thunderstorms, little of the tunneling work going on below could be seen. Heavy machinery arrived at the site on Thursday night, but some of the families of the missing wondered why they could not see more action atop the mountain of rubble.

“We’re frustrated because we feel as if they are alive,” said Toby Fried, a family friend of Harry Rosenberg, a man missing from Unit 212. “We offered to bring more manpower — professional searchers. There’s nobody to talk to. We are waiting. We want to help out.”

Jack at Copperfield's, Sonoma County, CA

Jack at Copperfield’s, Sonoma County, CA

More stories on this topic:

The New York Times: Engineer Warned of ‘Major Structural Damage’ at Florida Condo Complex.

The Washington Post: Before condo collapse, rising seas long pressured Miami coastal properties.

Could the Trump Organization really be indicted soon? CNN: Trump Organization could face criminal charges in New York as soon as next week.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed lawyers for the Trump Organization that it could face criminal charges in connection with benefits it has provided to company employees, a Trump attorney confirmed Friday.

The charges, which could come as soon as next week, would likely involve allegations of a company effort to avoid paying payroll taxes on compensation it provided to employees, including rent-free apartments, cars and other benefits, a person familiar with the matter said….

Prosecutors are also likely to announce charges against Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization chief financial officer, as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter said.

Weisselberg’s lawyers recently informed prosecutors that he would not cooperate in the investigation, the people said, although that could change in the future.

Weisselberg is under scrutiny for benefits he received, including a company-funded apartment and car. Prosecutors are also looking into similar benefits given to Matthew Calamari, the chief operating officer of the company. One source familiar with the matter said it’s possible he could also face charges.

Finally, the Delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading rapidly, and WHO recommends that fully vaccinated people should continue wearing masks to protect against it. CNBC: WHO urges fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks as delta Covid variant spreads.

The World Health Organization on Friday urged fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, social distance and practice other Covid-19 pandemic safety measures as the highly contagious delta variant spreads rapidly across the globe.

Isabel, Crescent City Books, New Orleans, LA“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said during a news briefing from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

“Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” Simao added. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene … the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”

The health organization’s comments come as some countries, including the United States, have largely done away with masks and pandemic-related restrictions as the Covid vaccines have helped drive down the number of new infections and deaths.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trumpism Isn’t Over Yet

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, Paul Wonner

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, by Paul Wonner

Good Afternoon!!

It’s great to finally have a normal president who actually cares about the American people and isn’t completely focused on his own needs. But it’s going to take a long time for the country to recover from four years of Trump. For one thing, Trumpism still controls the Republican Party. There is also the aftermath of Trump’s immigration and tax policies as well as his destructive influence on nearly every aspect of the Federal government, including the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security and the intelligence community, as well as his efforts to corrupt U.S. elections. And of course Trump had a dramatic impact on the Supreme Court that will likely last for decades. In this post, I’m going to highlight some of the continuing influences of Trumpism in our politics and our justice system.

Trump loves the death penalty, and his first SCOTUS appointee Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote that led the execution of an innocent man in Arkansas in 2017.

The New York Times: 4 Years After an Execution, a Different Man’s DNA Is Found on the Murder Weapon. Lawyers’ request to conduct additional DNA testing before Ledell Lee was executed had been denied.

For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

Girl with a Cat, Franz Marke

Girl with a Cat, by Franz Marke

Four years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern on the Gorsuch vote, April 21, 2017

On Thursday night, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee—the state’s first execution in 12 years. Lee is one of eight men whom Arkansas originally planned to kill over 11 days before one drug in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail expires. Four of these men have received stays of execution, but Lee’s final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected by a 5–4 vote. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote allowing Lee to die. It was his first recorded vote cast as a justice of the court….

with Gorsuch’s vote, the court’s conservatives were able to ignore their four liberal colleagues and permit the execution. Lee was given midazolam, then a drug to paralyze and suffocate him—which may have been purchased under false pretenses. Finally, the state administered a chemical to stop his heart. Lee was declared dead shortly before midnight, Central Time. Had one more justice voted in his favor, Lee would still be alive today.

Lisa Lerer at The New York Times on Trump continued control of his party: Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans.

Locked out of Facebook, marooned in Mar-a-Lago and mocked for an amateurish new website, Donald J. Trump remained largely out of public sight this week. Yet the Republican Party’s capitulation to the former president became clearer than ever, as did the damage to American politics he has caused with his lie that the election was stolen from him.

Jennifer Gennari

Painting by Jennifer Gennari

In Washington, Republicans moved to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her House leadership position, a punishment for denouncing Mr. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud as a threat to democracy. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas advanced sweeping new measures that would curtail voting, echoing the fictional narrative from Mr. Trump and his allies that the electoral system was rigged against him. And in Arizona, the state Republican Party started a bizarre re-examination of the November election results that involved searching for traces of bamboo in last year’s ballots.

The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an unprecedented assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation’s elections are legitimate.

They also provided stark evidence that the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has also persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy, health care and other issues.

“We’ve just gotten so far afield from any sane construction,” said Barbara Comstock, a longtime party official who was swept out of her suburban Virginia congressional seat in the 2018 midterm backlash to Mr. Trump. “It’s a real sickness that is infecting the party at every level. We’re just going to say that black is white now.”

Read more at the NYT link.

From the Editorial Board of the Financial Times: Republicans drift ever further into Trumpism. The right must find ways to head off disaster for party and country.

Six months after Trump was defeated in the US presidential election, no Republican can dispute his claim that Joe Biden stole it and expect to prosper among their peers. Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump’s account came after he had egged on the mob that assaulted Capitol Hill on January 6 in what was the most serious threat to American democracy since the civil war. Since then, Trump’s language has only grown more ominous. Republicans who think they can keep their head down and wait out the Trump era are probably deluding themselves. Trump is only consolidating his hold over their party — and shows every sign of planning a 2024 presidential run.

What should principled conservatives do? One option is to follow the example of Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, who correctly reminds her colleagues that last year’s election was legitimate and the assault on Congress was sedition. She will almost certainly be removed from her position next week.

August Macke

Painting by August Macke

This is nothing to do with ideology. Cheney is among the most conservative figures in the House. Elise Stefanik, who is set to replace her, is more moderate. Stefanik, however, has an unblemished record of echoing whatever Trump says, including that America’s voting is rigged. Like any revolution, the demands on its children grow more outlandish. The more preposterous the conspiracy theory, the greater the demonstration of loyalty from those who embrace it. The downsides to Cheney’s act of courage are obvious. She will lose her influence and ultimately even her Wyoming district to a Trump loyalist. Others among the principled holdouts, including Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, are also at risk.

A parallel line of attack would be to point out that Trump is already jeopardising his party’s hopes of regaining control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections, and the White House two years later. Trump lost the presidency, but his party did far better in non-presidential races. Millions of voters who endorsed Biden switched to Republicans down ballot. Not once in four years did Trump’s approval rating exceed 50 per cent. Biden’s has not yet fallen below that. 

Trump can keep the party united through fear of defenestration but his grip will make the party less appealing to the larger electorate. Sadly, there is little hope right now of severing Trump’s bonds to a party that is now largely his — 70 per cent of its voters say the election was stolen. 

Liz Cheney is getting a great deal of attention right now, and although I probably disagree with her on every political issue, I have to admire her principled stand against Trumpism. And now the GOP Trump cult is trying to excommunicate her.

The Washington Post: Liz Cheney’s months-long effort to turn Republicans from Trump threatens her reelection and ambitions. She says it’s only beginning.

Rep. Liz Cheney had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Paul Wonner cat painting

Painting by Paul Wonner

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican.\At issue: Should the Republican Party continue to defend Trump’s actions and parrot his falsehoods, given his overwhelming support among GOP voters? Or does the party and its leaders need to directly confront the damage he has done?

I think we all know how that is going to turn out.

On the corruption of the Justice Department, Devlin Barrett broke this startling news yesterday at The Washington Post: Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Post reporters’ phone records.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Mackee

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Macke

News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference.

It is rare for the Justice Department to use subpoenas to get records of reporters in leak investigations, and such moves must be approved by the attorney general. The letters do not say precisely when the reporters’ records were taken and reviewed, but a department spokesman said the decision to do so came in 2020, during the Trump administration. William P. Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general for nearly all of that year, before departing Dec. 23, declined to comment.

A few more stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution against foes, commanding the spotlight and total domination of GOP.

Joyce Vance at NBC News: Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s Barr rebuke opens the door to DOJ accountability.

CBS News: The Arizona GOP’s Maricopa County audit: What to know about it.

NBC News: Sen. Lindsey Graham says the GOP can’t move forward without Trump.

Brad Bannon at The Hill: GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories.

Have a great weekend everyone!! As always, this is an open thread.