Lazy Caturday Reads

lightning_cloud_by_chiakiro_dea7odg-pre

Lightning Cloud, by Chiakiro

Good Afternoon!!

Politico “Playbook” has a good brief summary of where things stand right now with the January 6 Committee investigation: The Jan. 6 committee drama gets serious. (I’ve added a few links to longer articles.)

JAN. 6 INVESTIGATION STEAMROLLS FORWARD — Over the last 24 hours, we’ve seen major developments in the ongoing investigation into the pro-Trump Jan. 6 riots that sought to overthrow democracy in America.

1) Executive privilege waived: “President JOE BIDEN will not invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of records from DONALD TRUMP’s White House that’s being sought by congressional investigators probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack,” report Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Meridith McGraw.

— What comes next: Trump has 30 days to challenge the decision in court, after which time, the National Archives will release the documents to the Jan. 6 panel. The former president is already asserting privilege over 45 specific documents requested from the committee, and indicated in a letter that he wants to bar the release of additional documents “potentially numbering in the millions.”

2) Committee subpoenas hit deadlines: The first wave of high-profile subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee have been served, and not all of the subjects are cooperating, as Nicholas, Kyle, Betsy and Meridith detail:

  • STEVE BANNON claims that Trump’s invocation of executive privilege means that he doesn’t have to participate. (That strikes legal experts as dubious, seeing as at the time of the 2020 election, Bannon hadn’t worked in the White House for several years.)
  • MARK MEADOWS is “engaging with the Select Committee,” per a statement from the panel.
  • KASH PATEL issued a statement Friday confirming that he “responded to the subpoena in a timely manner” and is engaging with the committee.
  • DAN SCAVINO was officially served with his subpoena on Friday.

— What comes next: In a statement from Jan. 6 Committee Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), the panel said it “will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.” If they’re serious, a criminal referral would require a full floor vote in the House.More from NYT’s Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater

— Something to watch:“Congress’ Jan. 6 investigators face an inevitable reckoning with their GOP colleagues,”by Kyle Cheney and Olivia Beavers

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By Ophelia Redpath, 1965

Also from Politico: Capitol Police whistleblower delivers scathing rebuke to two of its senior leaders on Jan. 6, by Daniel Lippman and Betsy Woodruff Swan.

A former high-ranking Capitol Police official with knowledge of the department’s response to the Jan. 6 attack has sent congressional leaders a scathing letter accusing two of its senior leaders of mishandling intelligence and failing to respond properly during the riot.

The whistleblower, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons and left the force months after the attack, sent the 16-page letter late last month to the top members of both parties in the House and Senate. His missive makes scorching allegations against Sean Gallagher, the Capitol Police’s acting chief of uniformed operations, and Yogananda Pittman, its assistant chief of police for protective and intelligence operations — who also served as its former acting chief.

The whistleblower accuses Gallagher and Pittman of deliberately choosing not to help officers under attack on Jan. 6 and alleges that Pittman lied to Congress about an intelligence report Capitol Police received before that day’s riot. After a lengthy career in the department, the whistleblower was a senior official on duty on Jan. 6.

The whistleblower’s criticism went beyond Capitol Police leaders to Congress. Without naming specific lawmakers, his letter accuses congressional leaders of having “purposefully failed” to tell the truth about the department’s failures.

POLITICO obtained the letter detailing the allegations, which is circulating among Capitol Police officers, and is publishing portions of it here. To protect the whistleblower’s identity, POLITICO is not publishing the letter in full.

Click the Politico link to read the rest.

Evelina Oliveira

By Evelina Oliveira

This morning the Washington Post Editorial Board posted this in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s report on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election at a meeting three days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol: Opinion: Without these changes, U.S. democracy will remain vulnerable to Trump and other bad actors.

The Senate report details how Mr. Trump tried persistently to enlist the Justice Department in his scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. His pressure campaign, after Attorney General William P. Barr resigned in December, featured calls and meetings with Mr. Rosen and other top Justice Department staff. It continued as Mr. Trump sent them a preposterous petition he wanted them to file with the Supreme Court asking the justices to void Joe Biden’s victory. It reached its zenith in a cockamamie plot to force Mr. Rosen to pressure state governments to cook the results or be replaced by Jeffrey Clark, a lower-ranking Justice official who would go along with the scheme.

Mr. Trump failed because Mr. Rosen and other officials in key positions refused to cooperate and threatened to resign. But they could not stop Mr. Trump from forcing the resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and replacing him with a lawyer the then-president thought would pursue the fraud investigations he wanted to see.

The editors argue:

The seriousness of Mr. Trump’s effort to nullify an election, his continuing lies about the results and the willingness of so many Republicans to indulge those lies call for several responses.

The investigations must continue. The House’s Jan. 6 committee should compel Mr. Clark, who did not cooperate with the Senate Judiciary panel, to testify. The House and the Justice Department must enforce the committee’s subpoenas, which several Trump confidantes appear prepared to flout on the former president’s say-so. The National Archives should turn over documents immediately. If courts are involved, judges must act with urgency….

Most urgently, Congress must reinforce elements of the nation’s democratic infrastructure vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors such as Mr. Trump. It should revamp the ancient Electoral Count Act to limit partisan interference in presidential vote tallying, and it should impose federal election standards that insulate state election officials from political pressure.

The Committee needs to get right to work on enforcing the subpoenas and Steve Bannon should immediately be arrested and jailed. I hope they do something quickly, but I’m not holding my breath.

After he backed down and allowed a vote to avert a U.S. default and a global financial crisis, Mitch McConnell is now threatening to let it happen in December. His excuse is that Chuck Schumer made an
“inappropriate” speech after the vote. Here’s the speech:

Behind Schumer, you can also see Joe Manchin having a hissy fit over the speech. He agrees with his pal McConnell, apparently.

The Guardian: Schumer ‘poisoned well’ over debt limit, McConnell says in insult-laden letter.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, sought to fight his way out of a corner on Friday by releasing an angry letter in which he blamed Democrats for the impasse over the debt ceiling he broke by ending a refusal to co-operate he had said was absolute.

In the letter to Joe Biden, McConnell complained about a speech in which the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, attacked Republicans for their behaviour.

Lamenting Schumer’s lack of civility – which prompted angry scenes in the Senate – McConnell levelled a string of insults at his opposite number.

paradise-cat-hans-ruettimann

Paradise Cat, by Hans Ruettimann

“Last night,” the minority leader wrote, late on Friday, “in a bizarre spectacle, Senator Schumer exploded in a rant that was so partisan, angry and corrosive that even Democratic senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him.

“This tantrum encapsulated and escalated a pattern of angry incompetence from Senator Schumer … this childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch. It has poisoned the well even further.”

Democrats argue it was McConnell who poisoned the well by refusing to co-operate with raising the debt limit, a step they took repeatedly with Donald Trump in power. Experts say a US default would be catastrophic for the global economy.

McConnell insisted: “In light of Senator Schumer’s hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement.”

Suddenly being partisan is a bad thing because a Democrat did it? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Finally, a little comic relief: it appears that the Q-Anon nuts have turned on Michael Flynn. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Michael Flynn to QAnon Believers: I’m Not a Satanist!

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been on a relentless media tour since his pardon last year, sitting for interviews with even the most obscure right-wing media outlets to promote the MAGA agenda.

But on Tuesday, Flynn appeared on a little-known YouTube channel called Truth Unveiled TV for a very different reason: rebutting the idea that he led a church congregation in a Satanic ritual borrowed from a nuclear doomsday cult.

In a video entitled “Some Have Said That General Flynn Prayed to Satan in a Recent Prayer,” host Paul Oebel gave Flynn a chance to rebut the growing right-wing controversy alleging he’s signed on with Lucifer.

Steampunk cat lady, by Jeff Haynie

Steampunk cat lady, by Jeff Haynie

“I even saw a show the other day saying ‘Michael’s flipped on the side of the devil,’” Oebel said. “Can you please explain what happened there?”

“All of these people that talk about turning to whatever…” Flynn said. “People need to stop overthinking what everybody is saying.”

The bizarre YouTube interview marked Flynn’s latest attempt in a weeks-long campaign to convince his one-time fans in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement that he isn’t a Satanist.

Prior to the unusual controversy, Flynn had embraced his position as a hero to supporters of QAnon, taking a QAnon oathraising money from QAnon believers, and selling QAnon T-shirts. In May, Flynn even appeared at a QAnon conference and endorsed the idea of a military coup.

But QAnon fame is a fickle thing. After promoting QAnon for more than a year, Flynn now finds himself on the business end of the conspiracy theory. Like QAnon targets before him, Flynn is now struggling to persuade angry QAnon believers that he isn’t a secret Satan-worshipper.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great weekend!


The Republican Witchhunt Against Attorney General Eric Holder

First, I want to state up front that I don’t understand the Republican obsession with “Operation Fast and Furious.” Frankly, I’ve paid almost no attention to the story until recently. But I guess if you watch Fox News it’s a huge story that is connected to Republican fears that President Obama is coming to take away their guns.

Republicans have been convinced that Obama wants to strip their Second Amendment rights since before the 2008 election–even though Obama has shown no interest at all in changing gun laws. He didn’t even propose any sort of gun control after the shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Of course Republicans never let facts get in the way of their beliefs.

“Fast and Furious” is part of a “gun walking” program begun by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) under the George W. Bush administration. Here is video in which radio talk show host Thom Hartman explains the program and the controversy.

Here’s a transcript of Hartman’s presentation:

Republicans live in an alternate universe. It’s a universe where Attorney General Eric Holder conspired with President Obama to sell a bunch of guns to Mexico in hopes that those guns would eventually make their way back to the United States – kill Americans – and create a crisis that gives the administration justification to then start confiscating everyone’s guns. I know this sounds like a tin foil hat conspiracy. But it’s how Republicans – in their alternate universe – have spun this so-called “Fast and Furious” program run out of the Department of Justice.

But for those who don’t watch Fox News and don’t know what Fast and Furious is – here are the facts. It was a program started by the Bush Administration – and it’s purpose was simple – though arguably misguided. Basically – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sold guns across the border in Mexico – in hopes that they could then track those guns as they made their way up to Mexico’s biggest drug cartels – to then bust up those big drug cartels. The plan didn’t work out too well – and in December of 2010 – a border patrol agent named Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with suspected undocumented immigrants along the Souther Border in Arizona. And it was later discovered that one of the guns that killed Agent Terry was traced back to the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun-running mission.

A month later – the ATF ended the Fast and Furious program. And the Republicans began their conspiracy-theory witch-hunt against Attorney General Eric Holder. Again – Attorney General Holder has handed over thousands of documents to comply with Chairman Darryl Issa’s investigation. The only documents he hasn’t handed over are ones that pertain to ongoing criminal investigations – which are not subject to Congressional subpoena. And Holder’s witchunt is even turning off other prominent Republicans. As Politico reported last month, “Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California have decided to slow Rep. Darrell Issa’s drive to hold the attorney general in contempt…Some within House GOP leadership circles would like Issa to abandon his plan for a committee and floor vote…They fear negative political fallout from citing the U.S. attorney general with contempt of Congress in an election year.” Yet next week – Republicans – stuck on their delusion and led by Darryl Issa – will vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress. They’ll do that rather than anything constructive – like trying to figure out what went wrong in the Fast and Furious program to begin with – or better yet – trying to figure out how to get Americans back to work.

It’s well known that Republicans plotted to commit treason on President Obama’s inauguration day – when the likes of Eric Cantor, John Kyl, and Newt Gingrich came together at a fancy steakhouse in Washington, DC and vowed to sabotage the economy to ruin the President’s first term. Voting no again and again to economic stimulus is just one part of the plan. The other is to carry out witchhunts – be it against Attorney General Holder – or Treasury Secretary Geithner – or President Obama’s so-called “czars” This isn’t about justice – this is about distractions, sabotage, and treason – led by people like Eric Cantor and executed by people like Darrell Issa. The only question is – who will hold these people to account when they succeed in crashing the economy and sentencing millions of Americans to poverty and desperation?

Yesterday, Attorney General Holder met with Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in a last ditch attempt to satisfy Issa’s unreasonable demands (He has been demanding records that Holder cannot legally release).

Issa’s committee is specifically seeking documents that show why the Department of Justice decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.

Holder said he offered to turn over some of the documents sought by Issa when they met Tuesday in a final effort to resolve the dispute before Wednesday’s hearing. Issa, however, said Holder put unreasonable conditions on his offer.

In a letter to Issa after Tuesday’s meeting, [Deputy Attorney General James] Cole reiterated Holder’s position that the documents would show Holder had nothing to hide about his role in Fast and Furious.
Cole noted that the lone point of dispute was whether the February 4, 2011, letter was part of a broader effort to obstruct a congressional investigation.

“The answer to that question is an emphatic ‘no’ and we have offered the committee the opportunity to satisfy itself that that is so,” Cole wrote.

Predictably, Rep. Issa was not satisfied. Today, the President asserted Executive Privilege to protect Holder in his refusal to release the documents.

This afternoon the House Oversight Committee voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt.

The 23-to-17 vote, which fell along party lines, came after President Obama invoked executive privilege to withhold the documents and communications among Justice Department officials last year as they grappled with the Congressional investigation into the case. As part of the operation, weapons bought in the United States were allowed to reach a Mexican drug cartel in an effort to build a bigger case….

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a letter to Mr. Issa that the president was claiming privilege over the documents, although he suggested that there might yet be a way to negotiate the release of some of the contested documents.

“We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious,” Mr. Cole said in the letter. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”

Here are a couple of primers for those of us who don’t watch Fox News and don’t think the President wants to take away everyone’s guns:

Think Progress: Five Things To Know About The Republican Witchhunt Against Attorney General Holder.

Wall Street Journal: The Fast and Furious Dispute: A Guide.

I’d also like to call your attention to a post I wrote about Rep. Darrell Issa back in January, 2011: New Chairman of House Oversight Committee Lacks Moral Gravitas (To Put It Mildly). I spent quite a bit of time researching Issa’s history of criminality and corruption, and wrote about it in this post after the Republicans took over the House.

The full House still has to vote on whether to cite Holder for contempt of Congress, but it sounds like “Fast and Furious” is the new “Whitewater.” There’s no there there, but Republicans will continue to pretend it’s a real controversy; and the media will continue writing and talking about it.