Posted: November 12, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: & Wilmer, Department of Defense, Donald Trump, Fox News, intelligence agencies, Jones Day, Porter, Robert O'Brien, Trump tantrums, Wright Morris & Arthur
Prospects are not looking good for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do serious damage to the government in his remaining lame duck weeks. The biggest problem for the transition to a real president is that Trump’s staff and most GOP elected officials are living in fear of Trump’s tantrums.
The Daily Beast: Trump’s National Security Adviser Tells Staff: Don’t Even Mention Biden’s Name.
President Donald Trump continues to refuse to cede the election. His national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, is enabling the mayhem, four senior officials told The Daily Beast.
O’Brien—once viewed as a potential check on Trump’s erratic national security demands—endorsed the installation of a pair of Trumpists at the Pentagon’s highest levels, while a defense secretary O’Brien has long opposed was fired by tweet.
One official claimed that O’Brien has been supportive of a peaceful transfer of power, joking in a Monday event about Trump’s loss and directing his staff to begin drafting transition materials. But three other officials told The Daily Beast that O’Brien has emerged as one of Trump’s biggest enablers at a decisive moment, supporting the president’s bid to retain power even though it is being waged through a nationwide disinformation campaign….
This week, officials say, O’Brien supported the removal of several top officials at the Pentagon and favored Christopher Miller, a former NSC official who moved to the National Counterterrorism Center, to replace Esper as secretary of defense. He also approved of the installation of Kash Patel as Miller’s chief of staff, officials said. Patel worked previously under O’Brien at the National Security Council. One senior official described Miller and Patel as “O’Brien’s boys.” Patel is also said to be close with another former NSC colleague, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who is now the Pentagon’s senior intelligence official.
A bit more:
Other officials familiar with the matter noted that O’Brien has also pushed national security officials to publicly embrace the absurd Trump message that the election has not been certified and that there are still legal battles playing out across the country that could turn in the president’s favor.
“If you even mention Biden’s name… that’s a no-go, you’d be fired,” one national security official said. “Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the [Biden] transition.”
Asked if officials in the White House feel comfortable saying Biden’s name in the West Wing, one senior White House official said, half-jokingly, “Sure, you can say his name. If you’re talking about who lost the election to the president.”
Behind closed doors, one official claimed, O’Brien has been much more forthcoming about Trump’s loss and the need to prepare for a transition. The problem, the other officials said, is that O’Brien hasn’t made that known to the commander in chief.
There’s much more interesting gossip at the Daily Beast link.
On the other hand, some right wingers are speaking up, including John Yoo, Mike DeWine, and John Bolton.
The law firms representing Trump are also getting antsy. The New York Times: Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits.
Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm.
Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.
Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
Read more at the NYT.
Yesterday another large law firm withdrew from a case in Arizona. Westlaw Today: Snell & Wilmer withdraws from election lawsuit as Trump contests Arizona results.
(Reuters) – The largest law firm representing the Trump campaign or its allies in post-election litigation challenging votes in key states has withdrawn from an election lawsuit in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Associate Presiding Civil Judge Daniel Kiley on Tuesday granted Snell & Wilmer’s request to withdraw as counsel of record for the Republican National Committee. The RNC had teamed-up with the Trump campaign and the Arizona Republican Party in the case, which alleges that Maricopa County incorrectly rejected some votes cast on Election Day.
Snell & Wilmer partners Brett Johnson and Eric Spencer first moved to withdraw on Sunday, a day after the case was filed. Johnson and Spencer did not respond to requests for comment. Snell & Wilmer chairman Matthew Feeney said the firm doesn’t comment on its client work.
Two other large law firms that have represented the Trump campaign in election litigation, Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, have faced an onslaught of online criticism this week from critics who say the cases erode confidence in the democratic process, sparked by a Monday New York Times story focused on the firms’ roles.
This story at The Washington Post by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker suggests that Trump may be beginning to accept reality: Trump insists he’ll win, but aides say he has no real plan to overturn results and talks of 2024 run.
Trump aides, advisers and allies said there is no grand strategy to reverse the election results, which show President-elect Joe Biden with a majority of electoral college votes, as well as a 5 million-vote lead in the national popular vote.
Asked about Trump’s ultimate plan, one senior administration official chuckled and said, “You’re giving everybody way too much credit right now.”
Republican officials have scrambled nationwide to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud that could bolster the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, but no such evidence has surfaced. And Biden’s lead in several states targeted by the Trump campaign has expanded as late-counted votes are reported. In all-important Pennsylvania, the Democrat now leads by more than 50,000 votes….
Trump has been spending his days largely on the phone, calling advisers, allies and friends. The president has been “trying to find people who will give him good news,” one adviser said.
Still, Trump has indicated in some of these conversations that he understands Biden will take over the presidency on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. Rather than talking about a second term, Trump has been matter-of-factly discussing a possible 2024 campaign — an indication that he knows his time as president is coming to an end, at least for now.
“I’m just going to run in 2024. I’m just going to run again,” Trump has been saying, according to a senior administration official who has spoken with him this week.
In 2024, Trump will be 79 years old and his dementia will have gotten much worse. But he’ll likely try to continue making our lives a living hell after he leaves the White House.
According to Mike Allen at Axios, Trump plans to form his own media company: Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News.
President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios.
The state of play: Some Trump advisers think Fox News made a mistake with an early call (seconded by AP) of President-elect Biden’s win in Arizona. That enraged Trump, and gave him something tangible to use in his attacks on the network.
- “He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it,” said a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions…..
Here’s Trump’s plan, according to the source:
There’s been lots of speculation about Trump starting a cable channel. But getting carried on cable systems would be expensive and time-consuming.
Instead, Trump is considering a digital media channel that would stream online, which would be cheaper and quicker to start.
Trump’s digital offering would likely charge a monthly fee to MAGA fans. Many are Fox News viewers, and he’d aim to replace the network — and the $5.99-a-month Fox Nation streaming service, which has an 85% conversion rate from free trials to paid subscribers — as their top destination.
I’ll believe that when I see it. Everyone needs to remember that Trump is a terrible businessman. Besides, he will have to deal with his massive debts and likely criminal charges in New York.
In the meantime, Trump has decapitated the top leadership of the Department of Defense and he may soon finish his takeover of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure.
The New York Times: Trump Stacks the Pentagon and Intel Agencies With Loyalists. To What End?
President Trump’s abrupt installation of a group of hard-line loyalists into senior jobs at the Pentagon has elevated officials who have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran and for an imminent withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan over the objections of the military.
Mr. Trump made the appointments of four top Pentagon officials, including a new acting defense secretary, this week, leaving civilian and military officials to interpret whether this indicated a change in approach in the final two months of his presidency.
At the same time, Mr. Trump named Michael Ellis as a general counsel at the National Security Agency over the objections of the director, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone.
There is no evidence so far that these new appointees harbor a secret agenda on Iran or have taken up their posts with an action plan in hand. But their sudden appearance has been a purge of the Pentagon’s top civilian hierarchy without recent precedent.
Administration officials said the appointments were partly about Afghanistan, where the president has been frustrated by what he sees as a military moving too slowly to fulfill his promise that all American troops will be home by Christmas. The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and fierce proponent of ending American involvement in Afghanistan, would serve as a senior adviser.
Read the rest at the NYT.
I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comment thread. I hope everyone is doing OK. Please check in with us today if you have the time and inclination–we love to hear from you!
Posted: June 13, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Abraham Lincoln, caturday, Civil Rights, Civil War, Donald Trump, Fox News, Harris Faulkner, John F. Kennedy, Racism
On Thursday, June 11, Lawrence O’Donnell discussed the speech on Civil Rights that President John F. Kennedy gave from the Oval Office on that day in 1963. The purpose of the speech was to propose the Civil Rights bill that passed after Kennedy’s assassination. Fifty-seven years later, we’ve made some progress, but systemic racism still runs rampant in this country. I thought I’d share some excerpts from that long-ago speech today.
NPR: John F. Kennedy’s Address on Civil Rights.
On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation on the most pressing domestic issue of the day: the struggle to affirm civil rights for all Americans. His administration had sent National Guard troops to accompany the first black students admitted to the University of Mississippi and University of Alabama.
Excerpts selected by NPR:
…It ought to be possible… for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.
…It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.
Painting by Ekaterina Mateckaya
It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case….
…This is not a sectional issue…Nor is this a partisan issue…This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.
We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.
The heart of the question is — whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. Whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free….
…It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.
Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality…
You can watch the entire speech at C-Span. I watched it yesterday and it made me so sad. The comparison between Kennedy and the current occupant of the White House so so glaring. Not only was Kennedy capable of compassion and empathy, but he also spoke eloquently, in complete sentences and paragraphs. Today we have a fraudulent “president” who babbles nonsense, effortlessly lies about everything and has no idea how to do the job he holds even if he actually wanted to be a leader.
Cat in the window, by Joanna DeRitis
Speaking of Trump’s incoherent babbling, on Thursday he gave another strange Fox News interview with Harris Faulkner (who is black). For Fox, the questions were pretty tough. You can read the transcript and watch video excerpts at Factbase.
The most stunning moment in the interview was when Trump claimed to have done more for black Americans than any previous president, including Abraham Lincoln. Business Insider: Trump says Abraham Lincoln ‘did good’ for the Black community but that ‘the end result’ is ‘questionable.’
“So I think I’ve done more for the Black community than any other president, and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know, in other words, the end result —” Trump said before Faulkner interjected.
“Well, we are free, Mr. President, so I think he did pretty well,” she said, referring to Lincoln.
“We are free,” Trump said. “You understand what I mean.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Faulkner said.
This isn’t the first time Trump has claimed he’s done more for the Black community than his predecessors.
“This may well be the president’s most audacious claim ever,” Michael Fauntroy, a professor of political science at Howard University, told The New York Times earlier this month. “Not only has he not done more than anybody else, he’s done close to the least.”
Of course it’s not really clear what Trump was trying to say, because his speech is so incoherent. At Slate, Jeremy Stahl tries to make sense of Trump’s words: What Was Trump Trying to Say About Abraham Lincoln?
A lot of people saw the transcript of those words—and perhaps watched the clip—and interpreted Trump as having said that “the end result” of Lincoln’s presidency—i.e., winning the Civil War, preserving the union, and ending the atrocity of chattel slavery—was “always questionable.” [….]
By Utagawa Hiroshige
I would never definitively state that I believed Trump didn’t mean the most racist possible interpretation of one of his often hard-to-grasp word salads. Indeed, he has in the past questioned the fact that the Civil War needed to occur, stating in 2017 that had Andrew Jackson been president at the time he would have stopped the Civil War from happening because he would have realized “there’s no reason for this.”
“The Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask the question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” Trump said back then.
As my former colleague, Jamelle Bouie, wrote at the time, that statement—apparently that Jackson could have come up with a perfect “deal” to prevent the Civil War—was as dangerous as it was ahistorical.
Given that past remark, it’s certainly plausible that Trump’s brain is so rotted from his own racism that he would say that the end results of Lincoln’s presidency were “questionable.” Based on the context of the question, though, and more recent comments from Trump, I think that is unlikely.
I interpret this particular word salad to be an attempt by Trump to validate his recent tweet that his administration “has done more for the Black Community than any President since Abraham Lincoln.”
Trump was likely attempting to say that while “I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president,” he would ask that in such a ranking “let’s take a pass” on including Lincoln, because it’s an unfair comparison, but—even if he were to go head-to-head with Lincoln for the title of “best president for black people ever”—despite the fact that Lincoln “did good,” it would still be “always questionable” whether Trump was better, because you have to consider “the end result” of each man’s presidency.
Okay . . . I guess that’s as good an interpretation as any.
At Vox, Zach Beauchamp discusses another howler from the interview: Trump: “The concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect.”
When asked about police use of chokeholds on suspects like George Floyd, who was killed after a Minneapolis officer pinned him by the neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes, Trump initially told Faulkner that “I don’t like chokeholds,” even saying that “generally speaking, they should be ended.” But he contradicted that pretty quickly, saying that when you’ve got someone who is “a real bad person … what are you gonna do now — let go?”
He even went further, saying that “the concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect,” if a lone police officer is attempting to detain someone.
Deborah DeWitt, Birdwatching
His position, as far as I can tell, seems to be that maybe sometimes individual officers need to use chokeholds, but the more police there are, the less likely it is they’ll need to use one:
TRUMP: I think the concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect. And then you realize, if it’s a one-on-one. But if it’s two-on-one, that’s a little bit a different story. Depending on the toughness and strength — you know, we’re talking about toughness and strength. There’s a physical thing here too.
FAULKNER: If it’s a one-on-one for the [officer’s] life …
TRUMP: And that does happen, that does happen. You have to be careful.
The most relevant part here isn’t the president’s views on the details of self-defense tactics, but rather the lack of empathy in the way he talks about the issue. The only world in which police using chokeholds could sound “innocent” or “perfect” is a world in which you don’t think about what happens to people when they’re literally being choked — or one where you assume that it won’t happen to people like you.
A recent LA Times investigation found that 103 people were “seriously injured” by police using “carotid neck restraints” in California between 2016 and 2018. Black people, who make up 6.5 percent of the state’s population, were 23 percent of those injured in such holds.
Trump’s thinking seems so deeply shaped by his sense of generalized police innocence, his unwillingness to really process the fact of racial discrimination in police use of force, that he’s capable of saying out loud that chokeholds sound “innocent.”
What all this interpretation really boils down to is that Trump is disastrously incapable of doing the job of POTUS. And yet we’re stuck with him, so writers struggle to figure out what the hell he is talking about.
Stories to check out today
David Smith at The Guardian: ‘He just doesn’t get it’: has Trump been left behind by America’s awakening on racism?
The Washington Post: Trump says he’ll ‘go on and do other things’ if he loses in November.
Julian Borger at The Guardian: ‘Trump thought I was a secretary’: Fiona Hill on the president, Putin and populism.
The New York Times: Trump’s Actions Rattle the Military World: ‘I Can’t Support the Man’
NBC News: From ‘beautiful letters’ to ‘a dark nightmare’: How Trump’s North Korea gamble went bust.
The New York Times: Trump Moves Tulsa Rally Date ‘Out of Respect’ for Juneteenth.
The Daily Beast: Survivors of KKK’s Ax Handle Attack Appalled at Trump Speech.
The Washington Post: Republicans and Trump want a Jacksonville convention party. Some locals are worried about the area’s health.
The Daily Beast: A Black Man Was Found Hanging From a Tree—Residents Don’t Buy That It Was a Suicide.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Michael Flynn Writes Column Confirming He Is Definitely Insane.
The Atlantic: Coronavirus Researchers Tried to Warn Us. Before the pandemic hit, they struggled to get funding that might have helped us fight COVID-19.
USA Today: Fired Florida scientist builds coronavirus site showing far more cases than state reports.
Posted: July 27, 2019 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: #MoscowMitch, 2016 election, Baltimore, caturday, Donald Trump, election security, Elijah Cummings, Fox News, impeachment, John Brennan, Mitch McConnell, mpeachment inquiry, Racism, Rand Paul, Victor Blackwell
By Olga Kost
The occupant of the people’s White House began his morning with more racist attacks on people of color. This time it was Rep. Elijah Cummings and the people of Baltimore. I won’t subject you to the tweets, but he claimed that Cummings’ district in Maryland is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “very dangerous & filthy place” and that “no human being would want to live there.” He also called Cummings a “brutal bully” because he criticized Trump’s concentration camps.
Apparently the occupant was watching TV this morning before he heads out to play more golf.
Cummings also announced recently that he has subpoenaed the White House for employees’ emails sent on personal accounts. That would include Ivanka and Jared.
This morning, CNN’s Victor Blackwell gave an eloquent response to the occupant’s ugly tweets.
Of course the real source of Trump’s rage is the fact that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have opened an impeachment inquiry into his crimes.
Joshua Matz at The Washington Post: The House has already opened an impeachment investigation against Trump. (Matz is the co-author of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.
Has the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry? That question is starkly presented by a petition that the House Judiciary Committee filed in federal court on Friday. It is also answered by that petition. No matter what certain House Democratic leaders might say about the politics of the matter, there can now be no doubt that the committee is engaged in an investigation of whether to impeach President Trump.
Flora Merleau, Dear Alexander
Through its petition, the committee seeks access to portions of the report by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that were redacted to protect grand jury secrecy. The panel also seeks grand jury testimony bearing on Trump’s knowledge of criminal acts, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Russian connections to his campaign. Finally, the committee seeks grand jury testimony about actions taken by former White House counsel Donald McGahn; this last request probably anticipates the committee’s rumored plans to seek an order compelling McGahn to testify.
It is settled law that House committees can obtain grand jury materials as part of impeachment investigations. So the legal dispute will probably center on whether such an inquiry is underway.
The Constitution itself does not use phrases like “impeachment investigation” or “impeachment proceedings.” This has led some to mistakenly assume that the House is disregarding its impeachment power because it has not yet held a floor vote approving articles of impeachment (or expressly instructing the Judiciary Committee to deliberate on such articles).
But to those who specialize in these matters, that all-or-nothing vision of the impeachment power is mistaken. The Constitution’s text and structure — supported by judicial precedent and prior practice — show that impeachment is a process, not a single vote. And that process virtually always begins with an impeachment investigation in the judiciary committee, which is already occurring.
Here is the historic announcement made by Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
At The Atlantic, four members of the House of Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon, David Cicilline, Pramila Jayapal, and Veronica Escobar write: Why We’re Moving Forward With Impeachment.
Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees was a watershed moment. At this point, it is up to Congress to act on the evidence of multiple counts of obstruction of justice committed by the president, and to continue our investigation into whether he has committed other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Beryl Cook, The Great Cat
Despite assertions to the contrary by the president and his allies, the special counsel’s report and testimony are not the end of our investigations. We have now filed a petition in court to obtain the grand-jury documents referenced in the special counsel’s report. In that filing, we have made clear that we will utilize our Article I powers to obtain the additional underlying evidence, as well as enforce subpoenas for key witness testimony, and broaden our investigations to include conflicts of interest and financial misconduct.
While many people believe that beginning an impeachment investigation can begin only with a vote of the full House of Representatives, this is not true. Article I authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to begin this process.
As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we understand the gravity of this moment that we find ourselves in. We wake up every morning with the understanding of the oath that binds us as members of Congress, and the trust that our constituents placed in us to uphold that oath. We will move forward with the impeachment process. Our investigation will seriously examine all the evidence as we consider whether to bring articles of impeachment or other remedies under our Article I powers.
Our Constitution requires it. Our democracy depends on it.
An so finally, it is happening.
Yesterday, Mitch McConnell blocked two more election security bills in the Senate. Twitter responded by getting the hashtag #MoscowMitch trending. Newsweek:
The hashtag #MoscowMitch was trending on Twitter on Friday morning after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two election bills designed to deter interference by Russia and other states, claiming it was “partisan legislation” by the Democratic Party.
It followed special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday that Russia is still attempting to interfere in American democracy, further to its meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with a view to disrupting the 2020 contest.
Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Black Cat
Then on Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report detailing Russian interference dating back to at least 2014 through to 2017 that targeted U.S. election infrastructure with an “unprecedented level of activity.”
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough used the moniker “Moscow Mitch” in reference to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, multiple times during his MSNBC show on Friday, and tore into the congressional leader for several minutes.
Scarborough made reference to an effort in 2016 ahead of the election by President Barack Obama to sound the alarm to American voters about Russian interference by urging congressional leaders to sign a bipartisan statement condemning it publicly.
At the time, according to The Washington Post, McConnell rebuffed Obama’s suggestion, and said he would view the White House talking publicly about Russian interference before polling day as an act of partisanship designed to aid the then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
As everyone here knows, Sanctioned Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska has promised to pour millions into McConnell’s home state of Kentucky by opening a new aluminum plant there. In addition, Newsweek reports that Mitch McConnell received donations from voting maachine lobbyists before blocking election security bills.
This morning Dana Millbank went there at The Washington Post: Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.
Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.
This doesn’t mean he’s a spy, but neither is it a flip accusation. Russia attacked our country in 2016. It is attacking us today. Its attacks will intensify in 2020. Yet each time we try to raise our defenses to repel the attack, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, blocks us from defending ourselves.
By Mariana Kalacheva
Let’s call this what it is: unpatriotic. The Kentucky Republican is, arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.
Robert Mueller sat before Congress this week warning that the Russia threat “deserves the attention of every American.” He said “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious” challenges to American democracy he has ever seen. “They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” he warned, adding that “much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but others as well.”
Millbank provides specifics of McConnell’s unpatriotic behavior:
McConnell has blocked all such attempts [to protect our elections], including:
A bipartisan bill requiring Facebook, Google and other Internet companies to disclose purchasers of political ads, to identify foreign influence.
A bipartisan bill to ease cooperation between state election officials and federal intelligence agencies.
A bipartisan bill imposing sanctions on any entity that attacks a U.S. election.
A bipartisan bill with severe new sanctions on Russia for its cybercrimes.
McConnell has prevented them all from being considered — over and over again. This is the same McConnell who, in the summer of 2016, when briefed by the CIA along with other congressional leaders on Russia’s electoral attacks, questioned the validity of the intelligence and forced a watering down of a warning letter to state officials about the threat, omitting any mention of Russia.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
On Hardball yesterday, John Brennan discussed McConnell’s behavior in 2016.
This days, the GOP is filled with Russian assets like Trump’s suck-up golf buddy Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who tried to block funding to help 9/11 first responders but fights sanctions on a Russian pipeline. The Daily Beast:
Advocates for a massive Russian natural gas pipeline project have a powerful, quiet ally in Congress: Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and close friend of President Donald Trump. He has quietly worked against sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project, which would dramatically expand Russia’s shipments of natural gas to Germany. Critics say it would also dramatically expand Russia’s influence in Western Europe while harming Ukraine. The Trump administration has weighed sanctioning the project, but has yet to do so. And Trump himself has criticized it.
On Thursday, the senator postponed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s mark-up of legislation that would have put sanctions on the project, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the committee’s proceedings. And while Paul hasn’t publicized his opposition to the proposed sanctions, he sent Senate colleagues a letter before the mark-up explaining his stance. The letter, which The Daily Beast obtained, argues that the legislation in question—a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeanne Shaheen—doesn’t clearly state which entities would be sanctioned.
That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?
Posted: April 11, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Adam Schiff, Chelsea Manning, computer crimes, conspiracy theories, corruption, Fox News, Julian Assange, Maryanne Trump Barry, Richard Neal, Steven Mnuchin, Trump tax returns, William Barr
Painting by Karen Kinser
There’s way too much news this morning, but this is how we live now. Day after day the shocks come and it becomes more and more difficult to keep track of the corruption, the lawlessness, and the lack of ethics of this of this monstrous administration.
This morning Julian Assange was arrested and dragged kicking and screaming out the Equadorian embassy in London. The British courts will decide whether to extradite him to the U.S. to face charges of computer hacking and conspiracy. He is not charged in the U.S. with publishing stolen information, but for actively helping Chelsea Manning to discover the password that allowed him to break into U.S. State Department computers. More charges may be added in the future. Tweets from a British journalist.
The New York Times: Julian Assange Arrested on U.S. Extradition Warrant, London Police Say.
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who released reams of secret documents that embarrassed the United States government, was arrested by the British police on Thursday at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had lived since 2012, after Ecuador withdrew the asylum it had granted him.
The Metropolitan Police said that Mr. Assange had been detained partly in connection with an extradition warrant filed by the authorities in the United States, where he could face of a charge of computer hacking, according to an American official, if he is extradited.
President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador said on Twitter that his country had decided to stop sheltering Mr. Assange after “his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” a decision that cleared the way for the British authorities to detain him.
The relationship between Mr. Assange and Ecuador has been a rocky one, even as it offered him refuge and even citizenship, and WikiLeaks said last Friday that Ecuador “already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest” and predicted that Mr. Assange would be expelled from the embassy “within ‘hours to days.’ ”
Yesterday was also a huge news day. Cover-Up General Barr appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee and revealed himself to be not only a political hack and Trump lackey but also a Fox News-style conspiracy theorist when he announced that he thinks U.S. intelligence agencies “spied” on Trump’s campaign. I wonder if he thinks Seth Rich hacked the DNC too? In his testimony Barr never expressed any concern about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to help Trump. The New York Times reports:
With the Russia investigation complete, Mr. Barr said he was preparing to review “both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign,” including possible improper “spying” by American intelligence agencies.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Mr. Barr said, adding that he believed “spying did occur.” Mr. Trump and his allies have accused the F.B.I. and other government officials of abusing their power and cooking up the Russia investigation to sabotage the president.
“I am not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at them,” Mr. Barr said. Later he said he wanted to ensure that there was no “improper surveillance” — not suggesting there had been, but that the possibility warranted review.
It was not immediately clear what Mr. Barr was referring to, and he did not present evidence to back up his statement. The F.B.I. obtained a secret surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, after he left the campaign, and reports have suggested it used at least one confidential informer to collect information on campaign associates.
Mr. Barr said that he will work with the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, to examine the origins of the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, and that he would soon set up a team for that effort. He noted that Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general have already completed investigations of that matter, and that after reviewing those investigations he would be able to see whether there were any “remaining questions to be addressed.”
It’s pretty clear no to anyone with half a brain that Barr sees his job as acting as Trump’s personal lawyer and not the top law enforcement officer in the U.S. representing the American people.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Adam Schiff just issued a stark warning about William Barr.
“I’m shocked to hear the attorney general of the United States casually make the suggestion that the FBI or intelligence community was spying on the president’s campaign,” Schiff told me. “I’m sure it was very gratifying to Donald Trump.” [….]
Schiff pointed out that the bipartisan Gang of Eight — the leaders and intelligence committee chairs in both parties — were already briefed by the Justice Department after Trump made yet another version of the assertion. At the time, the Democrats issued a joint statement saying nothing they had been told supported the notion of untoward conduct.
“It’s unclear to me what Barr was referring to,” Schiff said. He noted that he was unaware that the statement he and other Democrats put out had ever been “contested by anyone on either side of the aisle.”
“All I can make of it is that he wanted to say something pleasing to the boss, and did so at the cost of our institutions,” Schiff said.
Asked if Schiff would seek another briefing from the Justice Department on Barr’s latest claim, Schiff said: “We’ll certainly try to get to the bottom of many of the things he has been saying over the last two days — his references to investigation into the president’s political opponents.”
“His testimony raises profound concern that the attorney general is doing what we urge emerging democracies not to do, and that is, seek to prosecute your political opponents after you win an election,” Schiff continued, in an apparent reference to Barr’s vow to examine the beginnings of the investigation, precisely as Trump has long demanded….
“The big picture is this,” Schiff said. “The post-Watergate reforms are being dismantled, one by one. The Trump precedent after only two years is that you can fire the FBI director who is running an investigation in which you may be implicated as president.”
Last night, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin intervened in House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal’s demand that the IRS turn over Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The law says that the decision to turn over tax returns fall on the head of the IRS and that Mnuchin must give 30 days notice before he can get involved. But no one in the Trump administration seems to care about those silly things called laws. Axios:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet House Democrats’ request to hand over 6 years of President Trump’s tax returns by the Wednesday’s deadline, stating he needs more time for review, but providing no details as to whether he will comply.
Details: Mnuchin said in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) that his agency has consulted with the Justice Department to review the lawfulness of the request. He said it “raises serious issues concerning the constitutional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens.”
Also last night, we got a timely reminder of why we need to see Trump’s taxes.
The New York Times: Retiring as a Judge, Trump’s Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges.
President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.
The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.
Judge Barry, now 82, has not heard cases in more than two years but was still listed as an inactive senior judge, one step short of full retirement. In a letter dated Feb. 1, a court official notified the four individuals who had filed the complaints that the investigation was “receiving the full attention” of a judicial conduct council. Ten days later, Judge Barry filed her retirement papers.
The status change rendered the investigation moot, since retired judges are not subject to the conduct rules. The people who filed the complaints were notified last week that the matter had been dropped without a finding on the merits of the allegations. The decision has not yet been made public, but copies were provided to The Times by two of the complainants. Both are involved in the legal profession.
The Trump crime family is so corrupt that it’s impossible to keep up with the daily revelations about them.
I’ll post some more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
Posted: March 7, 2019 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Axios, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, DNC, DOJ, EDVA, Fox News, Jane Mayer, Jared Kushner, John Kelly, JT Smith, Judge TS Ellis III, Margaret Sullivan, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, political scandals, primary debates 2019, Spiro Agnew, William Barr
By Maugham Casorati, born 1897 in London, UK died 1982 in Turin, Italy
I wish we could go back to the days when we weren’t overwhelmed with breaking news every single morning. I’ve got a mish-mash of articles for your this morning.
The biggest news today will probably be what happens at Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing at 3:30 this afternoon in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Courthouse News: Manafort Faces Decades in Prison at Virginia Sentencing.
Manafort, 69, faces up to 24 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. During his trial last August, spread over 12 rigorous days, prosecutors unfurled a complex web of fraud he coordinated in multiple countries with the help of his business associate, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and testified against Manafort as the star witness.
Accused of failing to report roughly $16.5 million in income from his political lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine and its onetime President Viktor Yanukovych, the jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud after four days of deliberations….
By Bego Tojo
Though none of the charges Manafort faced in Virginia directly involved any of his work on President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mueller’s underlying task – to unearth American activity connected to Russian meddling in the election – placed the spotlight firmly on the president’s onetime campaign chairman….
Manafort will go before Judge Ellis on Thursday afternoon for his sentencing.
Federal sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case suggest Manafort should serve 19 to 24 years in prison but Judge Ellis can impose any sentence he sees fit – including one well below the guidelines. Mueller has recommended Manafort be sentenced in the upper range of the guidelines.
As you probably recall, Judge Ellis is kind of eccentric and usually makes very blunt remarks. Remember, he asked prosecutors whether they had considered charging Mike Flynn with treason and told him “You sold your country out.” Read Ellis quotes at CNN: Baked Alaska and birthday cake: Memorable lines from the Manafort trial judge, T.S. Ellis.
I really dislike the conservative site Axios, but they have a good piece today: The biggest political scandal in American history.
Historians tell Axios that the only two scandals that come close to Trump-Russia are Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s, in which oil barons bribed a corrupt aide to President Warren Harding for petroleum leases.
Mueller has already delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in U.S. history, author Garrett Graff points out — up there with Aldrich Ames (a former CIA officer convicted in 1994 of being a KGB double agent), or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets).
By Guillermo Marti Ceballos (Barcelona 1958)
Watergate yielded more charges than Mueller has so far: A total of 69 people were charged in Watergate; 48 people and 20 corporations pleaded guilty. Mueller so far has indicted 27 people; seven have been convicted or pleaded guilty.
But historians say that both Watergate and Teapot Dome were more limited because a foreign power wasn’t a central player, and a much narrower band of potential offenses was under investigation.
A fourth notable scandal, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s — in which arms were traded for hostages held by Iran, with the money usRed to fund rebels in Nicaragua — also involved a more limited range of issues.
Read the rest at Axios. It’s actually quite a bit more comprehensive than most of their stories.
J.T. Smith, who was executive assistant to Attorney General Elliot Richardson under Nixon, has an op-ed at The New York Times today: What if the Mueller Report Demands Bold Action?
Most people take for granted that both Mr. Mueller and the new attorney general, William Barr, accept the current Justice Department legal position — reached in a 2000 opinion — that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In a June 2018 memo, Mr. Barr said that under “the Framers’ plan,” the “proper mechanism for policing the president’s” actions “is the political process — that is, the People, acting either directly, or through their elected representatives in Congress.”
Yet since 1973, the Justice Department has revisited its position five times on the question of indicting a sitting president and reached different conclusions. In fact, as executive assistant to President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, Elliot Richardson, I can speak to the circumstances that delivered that first opinion: The principal purpose of the 1973 Watergate-era legal opinion — which concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted — was to aid in removal from office of a criminally tainted vice president, who, the memo concluded, could be indicted.
But it was not intended to set an ironclad precedent that would forever shape how a president might be treated.
By Jerry Weiss
My experience makes me believe that Attorney General Barr should reconsider Justice Department policy. If the evidence gathered by the Mueller investigation on the actions of the president and his advisers indicates a crime, an indictment might be the proper course to hold the president accountable. Further, the indictment policy does not stand in isolation: It has repercussions for a Mueller report and access to it for Congress and the American public.
As Rachel Maddow reported recently, the 1973 policy was written when Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew was being investigated for “bribery, extortion and tax evasion.” (he was subsequently indicted and forced to resign). You can read more details about the history at the link. Smith’s conclusion:
Mr. Mueller’s investigation has brought us to face similar questions of institutional integrity and transparency for the American public. If Mr. Barr determines that Mr. Mueller’s findings compel legal action, he should reconsider the policy against indictment of a sitting president.
But if Mr. Barr holds to the view that a president’s actions should be policed by the political and not criminal process, it will be imperative that he share a Mueller report with Congress and, to the extent practicable, with the public, redacting only information that is classified or otherwise prohibited by statute.
In light of the gravity of our circumstances, it would be timely and appropriate for the Justice Department to reconsider the shaky policy regarding indictability of a sitting president and provide Congress and the public with the Mr. Mueller’s full findings and conclusions. Only through sunlight and transparency can we preserve confidence in our national institutions and leadership.
Yesterday the DNC announced that they will not hold a primary debate in conjunction with Fox News, citing Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article. This is nothing unusual; the Democrats have refused to work with Fox News since 2007, but mainstream journalists are criticizing the decision.
Now media critic Margaret Sullivan has weighed in at The Washington Post: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously.
Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.
By Dibujo de Eduardo Estrada
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.
The network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?
At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.
Fox, you might recall, was a welcoming haven for “birtherism” — the racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. For years, it has constantly, unfairly and inaccurately bashed Hillary Clinton.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Jared Kushner recently traveled to the Middle East and met privately with Saudi prince MBS. Now he won’t tell anyone what went on in his meetings. The Daily Beast: Embassy Staffers Say Jared Kushner Shut Them Out of Saudi Meetings.
Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.
By Henry McGrane
On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.
But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.
“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told The Daily Beast, adding that officials in the U.S. embassy in had insight into where Kushner was when in Saudi Arabia. “But that is normal for his past trips.”
Click the link to read the rest. A related article from the WaPo editorial board: Trump is covering up for MBS. The Senate must push for accountability.
New York Times gossip columnist Maggie Haberman relays former WH Chief of Staff John Kelly’s attempted cleanup of his mangled reputation following the revelations about Jared and Ivanka’s security clearances: John Kelly, Out of White House, Breaks With Trump Policies.
The former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, on Wednesday declined to answer questions about the existence of a memo he wrote saying that President Trump had ordered officials to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance in May 2018.
By Mario Tozzi 1920
Mr. Kelly also broke with Mr. Trump on key aspects of his approach to immigration and the NATO alliance, and said that his top concern about decisions made by the president was whether they were objectively right for the country when divorced from political concerns.
Mr. Kelly, who kept his voice level during a 90-minute question-and-answer session at Duke University, would not specifically address Mr. Kushner’s clearance being ordered by Mr. Trump, which The New York Times reported last week.
“I couldn’t — and I’m not dodging — I couldn’t comment on that for a couple of reasons,” Mr. Kelly said, citing clearances being among the things that he could not discuss, and that conversations with the president “at that level would certainly” be kept confidential under executive privilege.
Some of what Kelly did talk about:
Mr. Kelly, who left at the end of December, also made clear he did not consider himself working for Mr. Trump, but doing his civic duty to serve. If Hillary Clinton had won, he said, he probably would have worked for her as well.
Mr. Kelly defended the utility of the NATO alliance, which Mr. Trump has often criticized as an unfair financial drain on the United States.
On a wall at the border with Mexico, Mr. Kelly said that there were specific areas where it could be effective but constructing one “from sea to shining sea” was a “waste of money.”
The issuance of the zero-tolerance policy for border crossings that resulted in family separations “came as a surprise” to him and to other officials, Mr. Kelly said, defending his replacement as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, from criticism. He appeared to place most of the blame on the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy.
I have a few more links to share, but this post is getting long. I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?