Finally Friday Reads: A Woman’s Day

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1915, Women on a Street

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Misogyny is the word for the day. Two of the headlines deal with the egregious actions of Trump. Then, hold his beer because New Zealand lost an outstanding prime minister because she got tired of the same treatment the woman-hating press and right-wingers give women leaders here.  There is some really good news today from a U.S. court.

This is from the New York Times. “Judge Orders Trump and Lawyer to Pay Nearly $1 Million for Bogus Suit. In a scathing ruling, the judge said the suit against Hillary Clinton and dozens of the former president’s perceived political enemies was “brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”  It’s not a large sum of money, but it paints him as a loser and bringer of frivolous lawsuits. I do have to mention the bylines as Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman.

In a scathing ruling, a federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered Donald J. Trump and one of his lawyers together to pay nearly a million dollars in sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of Mr. Trump’s perceived political enemies, including Hillary Clinton and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey.

The ruling was a significant rebuke of Mr. Trump, who has rarely faced such consequences in his long history of using the courts as a weapon against business rivals and partners, as well as former employees and reporters.

And it was the latest setback for Mr. Trump as he faces a broad range of legal problems and criminal investigations. His lawyers are increasingly under scrutiny themselves for their actions in those cases, as well as divided in the advice they are offering him.

“This case should never have been brought,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page ruling. “Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”

While Mr. Trump has often blamed his lawyers for his problems, the judge, in his ruling on Thursday, addressed Mr. Trump’s history of using the courts as a cudgel, going back decades in his business career.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Tightrope Walk (1908-10)

Dan Mangan of CNBC also reports the story.  This is the first news day in some time where I honestly say it put a smile on my face.

Trump’s suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton and 30 other defendants of conspiring to “weave a false narrative” during the 2016 election that Trump and his campaign were colluding with Russia in their efforts to win the race.

Middlebrooks in his order Thursday noted that “Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“He knew full well the impact of his actions … As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”

Under the order, the Republican Trump and Habba, are jointly and severally liable for the total amount of sanctions the judge imposed to cover the defendants’ legal fees and costs : $937,989.39. That amount is about $120,000 less than what the defendants jointly requested for sanctions.
Clinton was awarded $171,631 in sanctions to be paid by Trump and Habba, with most of that money earmarked for Clinton’s attorneys’ fee.

That was the second largest amount awarded in Middlebrooks’ order, which gave the Democratic National Committee, its former chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and a related corporation $179,685.

“The amount of fees awarded in this case, while reasonable, is substantial,” Middlebrooks noted.

The judge in November had sanctioned Habba and other Trump lawyers $50,000 in favor of another defendant in the lawsuit, Charles Dolan.

He called the legal pleadings filed in the case by Habba “abusive litigation tactics,” and said the original lawsuit and a later, 186-page amended complaint “were drafted to advance political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant.”

“The Amended Complaint is a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“This is a deliberate attempt to harass; to tell a story without regard to facts.”

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Five Women on the Street, 1913

If you want to know how Trump’s mental acuity is doing these days, read this transcript of his Deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case released by Judge Kaplan. The weirdest moment was when Trump mistook a picture of Carroll for his former wife, Marla Maples. This is from MSNBC and Steve Benen. “Deposition transcript adds to Trump’s troubles in Carroll case. Why does it matter that Donald Trump confused a woman who has accused him of rape with one of his ex-wives? Because it might undermine his defense.”

It was about a week ago when the public first saw a partial transcript of Donald Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case. As we discussed soon after, it was not good news for the Republican: The former president not only lashed out at his accuser as a “nut job” and someone who’s “mentally sick,” he also falsely suggested that Carroll was on record enjoying sexual assault.

“She actually indicated that she loved it. OK?” Trump said in the deposition, mischaracterizing comments Carroll made on CNN four years ago. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

The plaintiff’s attorney asked, “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?” Trump responded, “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

As NBC News reported, the rest of the deposition is now also coming into focus in striking ways.

Former President Donald Trump confused E. Jean Carroll, the writer who has accused him of rape, with ex-wife Marla Maples in a photo he was shown during a deposition, newly unsealed court documents show. An excerpt of the October deposition released by U.S. District Court for Southern New York on Wednesday includes an exchange in which Trump was asked by Carroll’s lawyer about a black-and-white photograph that showed a small group of people, including Trump and Carroll.

Describing the image showing him and his accuser, Trump said, “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” referring to the second of his three spouses. At that point, the Republican’s lawyer intervened, correcting her client’s mistake.

“No, that’s Carroll,” lawyer Alina Habba said, according to the newly released transcript. 

At face value, this might seem like an embarrassing blunder in which the former president confused one of his former wives with a woman who accused him of attacking her. But there’s more to it than that: As NBC News’ report added, “Trump’s comments under oath threaten to undercut his repeated denials of Carroll’s allegations, claiming she’s ‘not my type.’”

Portrait of Emy, 1919. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced her plans to step down yesterday.  She was widely hailed as an effective and empathetic leader. Among her accomplishments was the impressive handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, which was considered one of the most effective in the world.  This is from NPR. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced her intent to step down in a shock move that rocked the country’s political landscape.

Speaking to her party’s annual caucus in the seaside town of Napier, 42-year-old Ardern said “it’s time” for her to move on and that she “no longer had enough in the tank” for her premiership. She also called for a general election on Oct. 14.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility,” Ardern told her audience. “The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern became the world’s youngest female leader in 2017 at the age of 37. Her last day in the office will be Feb. 7.

“This is not something we were expecting today,” said Geoffrey Miller, a geopolitical analyst with the Wellington-based nonprofit Democracy Project. “It was something that commentators had thought of and have been asking since the end of last year … and she quite convincingly said she was going to stay, and that she wasn’t going anywhere.”

The last six years have been busy for Ardern, managing disasters and tragedies that propelled her to global superstardom, Miller said. From the COVID-19 pandemic and a volcanic eruption to the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, he said Ardern has become much more well known than any New Zealand prime minister in the past.

“In many ways, she was the anti-Trump figure,” Miller said. “They both came into office in 2017 … but she went off to the United Nations and she decried isolationism, brandishing an image of being an internationalist or being a globalist.”

New Zealand’s relationship with China was probably her biggest foreign policy sticking point, Miller said, with Ardern always having to walk a line between souring relations with China and the fact that Beijing is Wellington’s largest trading partner.

“But she had to try and find a way forward,” Miller said. “And I think her consensus approach helped with this, but at the same time, she wasn’t immune to these bigger geopolitical trends.”

Four Ages in Life, 1920, Edvard Munch

This is from Monica Hesse, writing for the Washington Post. “Jacinda Ardern didn’t make working motherhood look easy. She made it look real. Five years ago, she became the second world leader to give birth while in office. Now the New Zealand prime minister plans to step down.”

A few weeks ago, while I watched Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) win admiration for caring for his infant on the House floor, I started to think about the last time I’d seen an elected official engage in such a public display of parenting. It was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, scraping herself together after a six-week maternity leave to simultaneously raise a human and run a country.

I don’t remember Ardern winning universal admiration for this balancing act. What I remember mostly was the debate that raged over her breastfeeding choices. Since baby Neve was still nursing when Ardern was expected at a Pacific islands summit, the prime minister had arranged to take a separate flight from other government officials, shortening her trip to avoid a prolonged absence from her newborn. The extra travel arrangements cost thousands of dollars in fuel. Was this a good use of taxpayer money? Should Ardern have taken a longer maternity leave or avoided pregnancy altogether?

“If I didn’t go, I imagine there would have been equal criticism,” she told the New Zealand Herald at the time, explaining the careful analysis that had gone into her decision. “Damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.”

So one lesson from Jacinda Ardern’s term was that mothers can’t win and that even in the highest levels of governing, a father who rearranges his work schedule for his kids is seen as dedicated and a mother who does the same is seen as disorganized. But if you prefer the optimistic take, the other lesson was that if citizens are willing to accept flexibility in how their leaders get the job done then they can have a leader like Jacinda Ardern.

They can have a leader who, after stepping into her role at the age of 37, went on to create one of the most diverse cabinets in the world: 40 percent women, 25 percent Maori, 15 percent LGBTQ — a group that, Arden said proudly, reflected “the New Zealand that elected them.”

They can have a leader who, less than a week after 50 New Zealanders were shot to death in a Christchurch mosque, helmed a nationwide ban of assault-style weapons without fuss or consternation: “Our history changed forever,” she said simply. “Now, our laws will too.”

The Mother leading two Children, 1901, Pablo Piccaso

Ardern cited burnout as her primary reason for resignation.  There was a surging right-wing movement in the nation and among the press that some of my friends felt was hell-bent on doing her in.  This is from the BBC.  “Why Jacinda Ardern’s star waned in New Zealand.”

She has been the subject of often-vile abuse by the anti-vax movement and other populist-inspired right-wing protest groups in New Zealand.

It was evident in her resignation remarks on Thursday that the pressure had had an impact and caused her to doubt whether she could lead her party into the election scheduled for October.

“This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year but another term because that is what this year requires; I have not been able to do that,” she said.

Now, for yet another insult to American Women. This is from Bloomberg. It’s written by Nancy Cook.  “GOP Quietly Plots What’s Next on Abortion in Nod to 2022 Failures. ”

  • Anti-abortion rally in DC highlights scattershot approach
  • Abortion rights energized women, young voters in midterms “

Republicans still haven’t solved the quandary of how to talk to voters about abortion, still stinging from their midterm losses and with the White House at stake in less than two years.

Conversations with a dozen GOP candidates, former White House aides, activists and lobbyists show the issue continues to bedevil the party even after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Conservatives who celebrated that ruling are weighing what is politically possible to restrict access to abortion without repelling key voters like suburban women, independents and young people.

The GOP ceded this ground in the 2022 midterms to Democrats, whose own furious base was galvanized following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to end 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion rights.

On the campaign trail, some Republicans avoided the topic entirely while some endorsed total bans, with no exceptions. The reality that hit them was that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

So with the 2024 race already on, Republicans’ strategy is to paint Democrats as the true extremists, try to put them on the defensive and avoid their own schisms from spilling out in public.

The GOP ceded this ground in the 2022 midterms to Democrats, whose own furious base was galvanized following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to end 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion rights.

On the campaign trail, some Republicans avoided the topic entirely while some endorsed total bans, with no exceptions. The reality that hit them was that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

So with the 2024 race already on, Republicans’ strategy is to paint Democrats as the true extremists, try to put them on the defensive and avoid their own schisms from spilling out in public.

“When you run from abortion and don’t talk about it, you forfeit the issue to the other side,” Marc Short, chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, said in an interview. “We have a responsibility, as a party, to explain our position and do it in a winsome way that is not judgmental.”

Winsome?  WTAF?

Well, that’s it for me today!  I hope you have a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Two Wannabe Tyrants and A Struggling One

Happy Caturday!!

079258366aa3aa1cb71e700f59e9028dHillary Clinton dared to speak the truth about Trump in an interview yesterday. Mary Papenfuss wrote about it at HuffPo: Hillary Clinton Compares Trump To Hitler In Disturbing Interview.

In a stinging interview Friday one-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, and his political rallies to Nazi gatherings.

She zeroed in on Trump’s rally last week in Youngstown, Ohio, where members of the crowd raised a stiff-armed, one-finger QAnon salute to the former president in a gesture chillingly reminiscent of the “heil Hitler” salute.

The QAnon gesture stands for WWG1WGA, or: “Where We Go One We Go All.”

“I remember as a young student, you know, trying to figure out how people get basically brought in by Hitler. How did that happen?” Clinton asked during an onstage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

“I’d watch newsreels and I’d see this guy standing up there ranting and raving, and people shouting and raising their arms. I thought, ‘What’s happened to these people?’” she added.

“You saw the rally in Ohio the other night,” Clinton noted. “Trump is there ranting and raving for more than an hour, and you have these rows of young men with their arms raised. What is going on?”

She added: “I think it is fair to say we’re in a struggle between democracy and autocracy.”

Trump had another rally in North Carolina yesterday. He did plenty of ranting and railing, but his security people stopped audience members who raised their arms in the “heil Hitler”-like gesture. Either Trump or his advisers must have been paying attention to the negative public reaction.

From Eric Garcia, reporter at The Independent, who attended the rally: QAnon, the Big Lie and misogyny: Inside Trump’s Wilmington rally. Trump was supposedly there to support Republican candidates; but, as usual, the rally was all about him and his many grievances.

Former president Donald Trump held a rally in Wilmington on Friday, his first since New York attorney general Letitia James announced her civil lawsuit against him, his three eldest children, his business associates, and the Trump organisation this week….

Indeed, before Mr Trump took the stage, the two monitors on the sides of the stage played a segment from Fox News’ host Jesse Watters comparing Mr Trump’s storage of documents with that of the previous four former presidents.

But the former president also used the rally to air his grievances against Ms James’s lawsuit against him, his family and his business organization, which she called “The Art of the Steal” at a Wednesday press conference.

GettyImages-987491478“There’s no better example of the chilling obsession with targeting political opponents than the baseless, abusive and depraved lawsuit against me, my family, my company, by the racist attorney general of New York state,” he said, giving her the moniker “Letitia ‘Peekaboo’ James.” [….]

Mr Trump’s dislike of female public figures who challenge him – be they Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Meryl Streep or Rosie O’Donnell – is well-known. But throughout his speech, he repeatedly ridiculed Ms James, a Black woman, in incredibly personal terms, saying that she is more focused on attacking him than focusing on violent crime.

“This raging maniac campaign for office ranting and raving about her goal – her only goal is, we got to get Donald Trump,” he said about Ms James. “In fact, I was watching it and I said ‘boy, that woman is angry, I don’t think she likes me too much.’”

Garcia on the QAnon salute:

During his rally in Ohio last week, Mr Trump and rally goers confused many when he played dramatic music while attendees pointed one finger in the air. Mr Trump repeated the practice this time, albeit it looked like fewer people raised their fingers in the air during the rally.

A few people who attended the rally had QAnon memorabilia, with some attendees wearing QAnon hats and one truck having an image of Mr Trump with John F Kennedy Jr and former president John F Kennedy, prominent figures in the QAnon conspiracy theories.

Gay Gaines said she approved of the use.

“I loved it, it was very emotional, very touching, very inspirational, very uplifting, and hopeful,” she said. “Good way to end it.”

ShortStack_265125897_1_Carol_Ramsey_MLeditTrump has been “retruthing” QAnon messages regularly on his imitation Twitter website, but yesterday he really outdid himself. Insider: Donald Trump shares Truth Social photo proclaiming him as second only to Jesus.

Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social account on Friday, declaring him as “second” only to Jesus.

The post by Truth Social user @austinnegrete said: “Jesus is the Greatest. President @realDonaldTrump is the second greatest.”

It accompanied an image of a painting of Jesus by artist Dan Wilson.

Trump “ReTruthed,” or reposted, the Jesus comparison to his 4.1 million Truth Social followers.

Of course this is ridiculous, as is the QAnon craziness; but we know from past experience that Trump’s ranting and his sway over his audiences is dangers. Mark Follman writes at Mother Jones: Trump Continues to Escalate His Dangerous Incitement.

As the ex-president faces advancing federal and state investigations ranging from Mar-a-Lago to New York to Georgia, he has escalated an insidious form of political incitement, behavior that seems to signal a growing desperation over his legal predicaments. As I first reported beginning two years ago, Trump has long honed a rhetorical method that security experts call “stochastic terrorism”: By continually demonizing his “enemies,” he stirs random violence from extremist supporters as a means to exert and try to maintain political power.

Investigation of the January 6 insurrection showed the consequences of this technique on a mass scale—and further revealed Trump’s explicit willingness to resort to it after attempts to overturn the 2020 election via Congress and the courts had failed. According to sworn testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide in the White House, Trump knowingly urged armed supporters to descend on the Capitol that day and had wanted to lead them there. Ever since, Trump has successfully spread the use of incitement among GOP leaders, as I documented recently.

Repetition across various media is key to the technique and increases the likelihood of violence, according to recently published research from threat assessment experts. Trump has delivered on that in recent weeks: He has continued to target various agencies and individuals using his Truth Social platform, speeches at political rallies, and interviews on Fox News and other more fringe media outlets.

ShortStack_265618904_1_Marguerite_Young_MLeditAnd he has used particularly grim rhetoric. At a Sept. 3 rally in Pennsylvania, Trump calledthe FBI and Justice Department “vicious monsters” and President Biden an “enemy of the state.” During an interview on a right-wing radio show on Sept. 15, he predicted there would be “big problems” in the country if he were to be charged by the Justice Department. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he told host Hugh Hewitt. On Truth Social, Trump promoted a QAnon meme featuring him as a heroic icon of the lunatic conspiracy-theory movement regarded by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat. Soon thereafter, Trump gave an apocalyptic speech at an Ohio rally where he used music evoking a QAnon theme song, prompting fascistic salutes from the crowd.

Trump hammered home similar messages again on Wednesday in a lengthy sit-down at Mar-a-Lago with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Asked by Hannity to comment on a new lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over alleged financial fraud by Trump, the ex-president laid into the state’s top lawyer and her staff: “They were demeaning me constantly, these people,” he said. “There’s something wrong with them. I really believe they hate our country.”

His effort specifically to provoke feelings of contempt among his supporters is no accident and furthers the risk for violence.

Read the rest at the link.

On MSNBC this morning, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had a few choice words for his former boss. Raw Story: Cornered Trump ‘doesn’t care if he burns the country down’: former adviser.

Speaking with host Ali Velshi, Cohen said the former president has big legal troubles coming at him from different directions and painting him into a corner.

He then predicted the former president won’t go down quietly.

“What stands out to you, what’s the thing you’re most thinking about right now?” host Velshi asked.

“There are so many investigations and you wouldn’t believe — if this was a television show you would turn around and say, ‘it’s too stupid! I can’t watch this, it’s stupid, it can never happen,'” Cohen exclaimed. “But it is happening in real-time in our lives.”

“Our democracy is in peril because of one man; one man who goes ahead and weaponizes the United States Department of Justice against his critics, against the country against anybody who was not one of his supporters, he is willing to go after.”

“He doesn’t care if he burns the country down in doing it,” Cohen

0b834e1e3ab544c08f19500a8ffeccb6Enough about Trump. Let’s turn to the Trump wannabe in Florida who is also a danger to democracy could end up running for president in 2024–Ron DeSantis. Could he be facing a serious backlash from Florida voters?

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Ugly new details about Ron DeSantis’s stunt point to a deeper scam.

Who paid for the migrants to be transported from Texas to Florida?

That question emerges from new revelations about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s vile stunt, in which he transported two planeloads of migrants from Texas to Florida and on to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The Florida Republican refuses to release the state contract that funded the flights. That suggests DeSantis is seeking to bury critical facts even as reporters fill in details about the flights — and their questionable legality.

This potentially points to a deeper scam. DeSantis — whose presidential ambitions emit a stench akin to Limburger rotting in an old sock — is gushing with own-the-libs bluster, vowing to keep shoving migrants in the faces of elite liberals everywhere. But the ones truly getting “owned” by this farce are right-wing voters and Florida taxpayers. The more information that comes out, the clearer this will become.

In a useful piece NBC News’s Marc Caputo reports that the outfit contracted to ship migrants — Vertol Systems Company Inc. — has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Florida GOP candidates. One funded Matt Gaetz, a right-wing media troll who moonlights as a congressman.

That company has been paid $1.6 million so far, per NBC, and the contract totals $12 million, supposedly to cover future shipments of migrants to other states. NBC also reports:

“But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to be flown from “this state” of Florida — not any other state — and Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized aliens” because they’re allowed to be in this country.”

So a big question is whether state funding of the transport of migrants from Texas to Florida violated that budgetary language. On this basis, a Democratic state senator filed a lawsuit Thursday to block further funding for the flights.

Read more at the WaPo.

bc848f30f3057dd0b612f28a08cce1c2Could DeSantis be facing serious backlash over his treatment of asylum-seekers? Check this out:

The Hill: DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing mounting scrutiny in his home state over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants to the elite resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

While the move was lauded by conservatives as a powerful protest of the Biden administration’s approach to border security, it has sparked a wave of criticism from Democrats and members of Florida’s vast Hispanic community, a politically influential force in the Sunshine State.

“With this move, this stunt, obviously he made his base very happy,” said Adelys Ferro, the executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus. “But there are many people more toward the middle and people who are independents that are very disgusted and that reject all of this.”

“We are Venezuelan Americans and we vote, and we’re going to vote in November,” she added. “And we’re never going to vote for somebody who does this.

DeSantis has been busy attacking teachers and mistreating immigrants, but will he be ready to deal with an approaching hurricane? CBS News: Tropical Storm Ian strengthens over Caribbean and could approach Florida as major hurricane.

Tropical Storm Ian strengthened as it moved over the Caribbean Saturday and could approach Florida early next week as a major hurricane, according to forecasters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday that Tropical Storm Ian was 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, moving west at 15 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

“Early next week, Ian is forecast to move near or over western Cuba as a strengthening hurricane and then approach the Florida peninsula at or near major hurricane strength, with the potential for significant impacts from storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties which could be in the storm’s path. The order also places the Florida National Guard on standby. DeSantis also put in a request for a federal “pre-landfall emergency declaration.”

Finally, what’ happening with Trump’s idol and mentor Vladimir Putin?

The Washington Post: As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.

4306128e4d89a0be73cdb541c5e153fdBut such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion, and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. Retaking it would be a major accomplishment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Focused on victory at all costs, Mr. Putin has become a more public face of the war as the Russian military appears increasingly in turmoil, forcing him to announce a call-up this week that could sweep 300,000 Russian civilians into military service. This month, Moscow has demonstrated it has too few troops to continue its offensive, suffers from shortages of high-tech precision weaponry and has been unable to gain dominance of Ukraine’s skies.

Read more at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Putin’s Draft Draws Resistance in Russia’s Far-Flung Regions.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise draft to reinforce his invasion of Ukraine ran into growing resistance across Russia on Friday as villagers, activists and even some elected officials asked why the conscription drive appeared to be hitting minority groups and rural areas harder than the big cities.

Some of the greatest anguish played out hundreds or thousands of miles away from the front line, in the Caucasus Mountains and the northeastern region of Yakutia, a sparsely populated expanse that straddles the Arctic Circle. Community leaders described remote villages where much of the working-age male population received conscription notices in recent days, leaving families that subsist off the land without men around to work ahead of the long winter.

“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen — we have so few of them anyway,” Vyacheslav Shadrin, the chairman of the council of elders for a small Indigenous group known as the Yukaghirs, said in a phone interview. “But they are the ones being drafted most of all.”

Mr. Putin announced the call-up on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” necessary to counter Ukraine and its Western backers, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he had long delayed making, even as supporters of the war clamored for a draft in order to allow Russia to intensify its assault.

Russia will mobilize about 300,000 civilians, defense officials said, focusing on men with military experience and special skills, though some Russian media that now operate outside the country reported that the number could be much higher.

But by Friday, even some of the hawkish commentators who had been urging a draft were criticizing the sweeping and uneven way it appeared to be rolling out.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind? What stories have you been following?


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I was hoping we might hear something from the DOJ this morning, but so far they haven’t responded publicly to Trump judge Aileen Cannon’s ridiculous decision yesterday. According to The Guardian,

Lawyers for Donald Trump are conferring with justice department counterparts to come up by Friday with a list of possible candidates to be the “special master” approved by a district court judge over the former president’s hoarding of classified documents.

So far, I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else.

However, Hillary Clinton did make a public statement today in a Twitter thread.

The Daily Beast has a piece on Trump’s judge shopping. It turns out this isn’t the first time he tried to get Judge Cannon on a case: Trump Went Judge Shopping and It Paid Off in Mar-a-Lago Case.

When former President Donald Trump summoned up years of bubbling resentment and sued Hillary Clinton and everyone else involved in Russiagate earlier this year, he naturally filed his lawsuit in South Florida—home to his oceanside estate.

And yet, when his attorneys formally filed the paperwork, they selected a tiny courthouse in the sprawling federal court district’s furthest northeast corner—a satellite location that’s 70 miles from Mar-a-Lago. They ignored the West Palm Beach federal courthouse that’s a 12-minute drive away.

The tactic failed, and Trump instead got a Clinton-era judge whom he promptly tried to disqualify for alleged bias. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks called him out in a snarky footnote.

“I note that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Fort Pierce division of this District, where only one federal judge sits: Judge Aileen Cannon, who Plaintiff appointed in 2020. Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead. And when Plaintiff is a litigant before a judge that he himself appointed, he does not tend to advance these same sorts of bias concerns,” Middlebrooks wrote in April.

This time Trump hit the jackpot.

Months later, Trump is once again suing in the Southern District of Florida, this time seeking to hamper the FBI investigation into the way he kept hundreds of classified records at Mar-a-Lago. Except this time, he got Cannon.

The strategy is already paying off.

On Monday afternoon, Cannon single-handedly hit the brakes on the most politically sensitive and consequential FBI investigation ever undertaken. Convinced by Team Trump’s legal arguments that the routine Justice Department methods for carefully handling seized documents aren’t good enough when investigating this particular former president, she ordered that a “special master” be tasked with playing referee to dictate what happens with classified documents that are evidence of a crime.

“The investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness,” she wrote in her order.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Deeply Problematic’: Experts Question Judge’s Intervention in Trump Inquiry.

A federal judge’s extraordinary decision on Monday to interject in the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents at his Florida residence showed unusual solicitude to him, legal specialists said….

Siding with Mr. Trump, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, ordered the appointment of an independent arbiter to review the more than 11,000 government records the F.B.I. seized in its search of Mar-a-Lago last month. She granted the arbiter, known as a special master, broad powers that extended beyond filtering materials that were potentially subject to attorney-client privilege to also include executive privilege.

Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also blocked federal prosecutors from further examining the seized materials for the investigation until the special master had completed a review.

In reaching that result, Judge Cannon took several steps that specialists said were vulnerable to being overturned if the government files an appeal, as most agreed was likely. Any appeal would be heard by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, where Mr. Trump appointed six of its 11 active judges.

Some of the expert reactions:

This was “an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas….

Paul Rosenzweig, a former homeland security official in the George W. Bush administration and prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, said it was egregious to block the Justice Department from steps like asking witnesses about government files, many marked as classified, that agents had already reviewed.

“This would seem to me to be a genuinely unprecedented decision by a judge,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “Enjoining the ongoing criminal investigation is simply untenable.” [….]

“Judge Cannon had a reasonable path she could have taken — to appoint a special master to review documents for attorney-client privilege and allow the criminal investigation to continue otherwise,” said Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor. “Instead, she chose a radical path.”

A specialist in separation of powers, Peter M. Shane, who is a legal scholar in residence at N.Y.U., said there was no basis for Judge Cannon to expand a special master’s authority to screen materials that were also potentially subject to executive privilege. That tool is normally thought of as protecting internal executive branch deliberations from disclosure to outsiders like Congress.

“The opinion seems oblivious to the nature of executive privilege,” he said.

The Justice Department is itself part of the executive branch, and a court has never held that a former president can invoke the privilege to keep records from his time in office away from the executive branch itself.

Read the whole thing at the NYT.

In other news . . .

From CNN this morning:

From the CNN article:

A Republican county official in Georgia escorted two operatives working with an attorney for former President Donald Trump into the county’s election offices on the same day a voting system there was breached, newly obtained video shows.

The breach is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is of interest to the Fulton County District Attorney, who is conducting a wider criminal probe of interference in the 2020 election.

The video sheds more light on how an effort spearheaded by lawyers and others around Trump to seek evidence of voter fraud was executed on the ground from Georgia to Michigan to Colorado, often with the assistance of sympathetic local officials.

In the surveillance video, which was obtained by CNN, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020, escorts a team of pro-Trump operatives to the county’s elections office on January 7, 2021, the same day a voting system there is known to have been breached.

The two men seen in the video with Latham, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, have acknowledged that they successfully gained access to a voting machine in Coffee County at the behest of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

Text messages, emails and witness testimony filed as part of a long-running civil suit into the security of Georgia’s voting systems show Latham communicated directly with the then-Coffee County elections supervisor about getting access to the office, both before and after the breach. One text message, according to the court document, shows Latham coordinating the arrival and whereabouts of a team “led by Paul Maggio” that traveled to Coffee County at the direction of Powell.

Three days after the breach, Latham texted the Coffee County elections supervisor, “Did you all finish with the scanner?” According to court documents, Latham testified she did not know what Hall was doing in Coffee County. But when confronted with her texts about the scanner, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights.

More from The Washington Post:

The new video adds to the picture of the alleged breach in Coffee County on Jan. 7, 2021, and reveals for the first time the later visits by Logan and Lenberg. It also provides further indications of links between various efforts to overturn the election, including what once appeared to be disparate attempts to access and copy election system data in the wake of Trump’s loss.

Experts have expressed concern that such efforts could expose details of voting systems’ hardware and software that are intended to be tightly controlled, potentially aiding hackers who might seek to alter the results of a future election. Data copied from elections systems in other states has been published online. Georgia state officials and voting-machine makers have downplayed the risk, pointing to safeguards that they say protect the systems from tampering.

The Post reported last month that a data forensics firm hired by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell copied software and data from the Dominion Voting Systems machines used by Coffee County. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating the matter.

Details of the Coffee County incident have come to light largely because of a flurry of subpoenas and depositions by plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit against Georgia authorities over the security of the state’s elections. Emails and other records they obtained from the data forensics firm, Atlanta-based Sullivan Strickler, showed that the Coffee episode was part of a coordinated multistate effort to access voting equipment in a hunt for evidence that the election was rigged….

The security footage shows only the exterior of the office’s entrance area, and it is not clear what the consultants Logan and Lenberg did inside….

David Cross, a lawyer who represents some of the plaintiffs in the civil case, said the additional visits raise questions about why the two men returned. “The biggest concern that we have is future elections,” said Cross, whose clients are pressing Georgia authorities to replace the state’s ballot-marking machines with hand-marked paper ballots.

Logan and Lenberg have played roles inthe multistate pursuit of voting machines by Trump supporters. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) has asked for a special prosecutor to decide whether to pursue charges against them and others for allegedly conspiring to unlawfully access elections equipment in three counties there last year. Logan and Lenberg also provided affidavits as expert witnesses in a post-election lawsuit in Antrim County, Mich., after a judge granted SullivanStrickler access to Dominion Voting Systems machines there.

Another election interference story from David Folkenflick at NPR:

NPR: Fox producer’s warning against Jeanine Pirro surfaces in Dominion defamation suit.

The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims.

The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him. The existence of the email, confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it, is first publicly disclosed by NPR in this story. Fox News declined comment.

Pirro was far from alone in broadcasting such false claims. In the weeks that followed Election Day 2020, other prominent Fox stars, commentators and their guests heavily promoted them.

A repeat target was Dominion Voting Systems, the election machine and technology company. Trump and his allies alleged on Fox that Dominion was engaged in a conscious effort to throw the 2020 race to Joe Biden. They implied and falsely asserted on Fox programs that Dominion’s machines and software either discarded Trump’s votes or transferred them to Biden. Dominion argues their false claims were frequently egged on by Fox’s own stars.

The producer’s email is among the voluminous correspondence acquired by Dominion’s attorneys as part of its discovery of evidence in a $1.6 billion defamation suit it filed against Fox News and its parent company. Dominion alleges it has been “irreparably harmed” by the lies, conspiracy theories and wild claims of election fraud that aired on Fox.

Pirro’s role remains under sharp scrutiny. She attended Trump’s belligerent address from the White House late on election night 2020 and advanced his arguments on the air.

Read more at NPR.

That’s it for me. I hope we’ll learn more about the DOJ’s response to Judge “Loose Cannon’s” decision during the course of the day. What other stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Francine van Hove, Plasirs du Matin, French, 1942

Francine van Hove, Plasirs du Matin, “Morning Pleasures,” French, 1942

There may be some movement in the Ukraine crisis. The AP reported this morning that some Russian troops are being pulled back and returned to their bases. Later the story was updated to report that Putin wants to negotiate: Putin: Russia ready to discuss confidence-building measures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow is ready for talks with the U.S. and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said the U.S. and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.

They agreed to discuss a range of security measures that Russia had previously proposed.

Putin said that Russia is ready to engage in talks on limits on the deployment of intermediate range missiles in Europe, transparency of drills and other confidence-building measures but emphasized the need for the West to heed Russia’s main demands.

The statement followed the Russian Defense Ministry’s announced a partial pullback of troops after military drills, adding to hopes that the Kremlin may not be planning to invade Ukraine imminently. The Russian military gave no details on where the troops were pulling back from, or how many.

From The Washington Post: Russia says some troops withdrawing from Ukraine’s border; NATO chief notes ‘cautious optimism’ but sees no de-escalation yet.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday he sees reason for “cautious optimism” after Moscow signaled willingness to continue talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, and Russia said some of its troops were returning to base. But the NATO chief noted no signs of Russian de-escalation “on the ground.”

“There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels ahead of meetings with NATO defense ministers Wednesday. “There are grounds for cautious optimism. So far, we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.”

After Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled Monday that he was open to diplomacy to resolve the crisis between Russia and NATO over Ukraine’s bid to join the alliance, Moscow sent a barrage of contradictory signals Tuesday — announcing that some Russian forces were being sent home after completing drills, even as major military exercises continued near Ukraine.

Putin met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Kremlin on Tuesday, the latest in a string of Western leaders urging the Russian president to de-escalate the most serious crisis in Russia’s relations with NATO since the end of the Cold War.

U.S. officials have warned that Putin has the final military pieces in position to launch a major attack within days if he chooses to do so.

“We have not seen any de-escalation on the ground, no signs of reduced Russian military presence on the border with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said Tuesday. He said NATO is looking for a “significant and enduring” withdrawal of Russian forces, troops and heavy equipment from areas bordering Ukraine as a sign of real de-escalation.

Coffee, by Edward Hopper

Coffee, by Edward Hopper

The big news yesterday was about the Trump’s accounting firm Mazars dumping him as a client. The New York Times: Accounting Firm Cuts Ties With Trump and Retracts Financial Statements.

Donald J. Trump’s longtime accounting firm cut ties with him and his family business last week, saying it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it prepared for the Trump Organization, court documents show.

The decision, which was disclosed to the company in a Feb. 9 letter from the accounting firm, comes amid criminal and civil investigations into whether Mr. Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets. The firm, Mazars USA, compiled the financial statements based on information the former president and his company provided.

The letter instructed the Trump Organization to essentially retract the documents, known as statements of financial condition, from 2011 to 2020. In the letter, Mazars noted that the firm had not “as a whole” found material discrepancies between the information the Trump Organization provided and the actual value of Mr. Trump’s assets. But given what it called “the totality of circumstances” — including Mazars’ own investigation — the letter directed the Trump Organization to notify anyone who received the statements that they should no longer rely on them.

The statements, which Mr. Trump used to secure loans, are at the center of the two law enforcement investigations into whether Mr. Trump exaggerated the value of his properties to defraud his lenders into providing him the best possible loan terms.

Mazars’ acknowledgment that the statements were fundamentally flawed was a potential blow to the Trump Organization as it attempts to fend off the long-running scrutiny of its finances. And for Mr. Trump, whose personal finances are intertwined with those of his family business and who has long faced questions about his taxes, Mazars is the latest in a long line of companies to break with him over the last year, following in the path of several banks, insurers and lawyers.

The disclosures about Mazars’ work for Mr. Trump appeared in new court documents filed by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who is seeking to question the former president and two of his adult children under oath as part of her civil investigation.

A couple of expert reactions to this story:

I’m sure you’ve heard about the legal filing by John Durham, the special counsel appointed by Bill Barr to investigate the Russia investigation, that implied some kind of sinister activity by the Clinton campaign in 2016. The right wing media has been going nuts over this, but it’s basically meaningless. Charlie Savage explains at The New York Times: Court Filing Started a Furor in Right-Wing Outlets, but Their Narrative Is Off Track.

When John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel investigating the inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election interference, filed a pretrial motion on Friday night, he slipped in a few extra sentences that set off a furor among right-wing outlets about purported spying on former President Donald J. Trump.

But the entire narrative appeared to be mostly wrong or old news — the latest example of the challenge created by a barrage of similar conspiracy theories from Mr. Trump and his allies.

Upon close inspection, these narratives are often based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation. They also tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time — raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such claims. Yet Trump allies portray the news media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.

The latest example began with the motion Mr. Durham filed in a case he has brought against Michael A. Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to the Democratic Party. The prosecutor has accused Mr. Sussmann of lying during a September 2016 meeting with an F.B.I. official about Mr. Trump’s possible links to Russia.

The filing was ostensibly about potential conflicts of interest. But it also recounted a meeting at which Mr. Sussmann had presented other suspicions to the government. In February 2017, Mr. Sussmann told the C.I.A. about odd internet data suggesting that someone using a Russian-made smartphone may have been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.

Mr. Sussmann had obtained that information from a client, a technology executive named Rodney Joffe. Another paragraph in the court filing said that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-related servers for the White House, and that he and his associates “exploited this arrangement” by mining certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump.

Mary Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed, 1897

Mary Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed, 1897

The right wingers are thrilled by this story, but it’s complete bullshit.

The conservative media also skewed what the filing said. For example, Mr. Durham’s filing never used the word “infiltrate.” And it never claimed that Mr. Joffe’s company was being paid by the Clinton campaign.

Most important, contrary to the reporting, the filing never said the White House data that came under scrutiny was from the Trump era. According to lawyers for David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist who helped develop the Yota analysis, the data — so-called DNS logs, which are records of when computers or smartphones have prepared to communicate with servers over the internet — came from Barack Obama’s presidency.

“What Trump and some news outlets are saying is wrong,” said Jody Westby and Mark Rasch, both lawyers for Mr. Dagon. “The cybersecurity researchers were investigating malware in the White House, not spying on the Trump campaign, and to our knowledge all of the data they used was nonprivate DNS data from before Trump took office.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr. Joffe said that “contrary to the allegations in this recent filing,” he was apolitical, did not work for any political party, and had lawful access under a contract to work with others to analyze DNS data — including from the White House — for the purpose of hunting for security breaches or threats.

Marcy Wheeler has been covering this story since the beginning. You can read what she has to say in these posts at her Emptywheel blog:

John Durham, Ask Not For Whom The Statute of Limitation Tolls…

John Durham Chose To Meet With John Ratcliffe Rather Than Witnesses Necessary To His Investigation.

Donald Trump Suggested Michael Sussmann Should Be Killed Because Rodney Joffee “Spied” On Barack Obama.

This is a horrific story about a possible hate crime from The New York Times: Screams That ‘Went Quiet’: Prosecutors’ Account of Chinatown Killing.

Police officers who responded to a 911 call about a disturbance in a Lower Manhattan building on Sunday heard a woman screaming when they reached the sixth floor, but the door to the apartment where the screams had come from was locked.

Morning Coffee, by Harry Roseland

Morning Coffee, by Harry Roseland

As police struggled with the door, at first they still heard her calls for help, but “then she went quiet,” a prosecutor, Dafna Yoran, said in a Manhattan Criminal Court hearing on Monday night. Another voice emerged, sounding like a woman and telling them, “‘We don’t need the police here — go away.’”

When a specialized police unit arrived and broke down the door, they found Christina Yuna Lee, 35, dead in her bathtub with more than 40 stab wounds. The second voice, Ms. Yoran said, was actually that of Assamad Nash, who had followed the victim into the building on Chrystie Street in Chinatown, forced his way into her home and stabbed her.

When officers broke into the apartment, the police found Mr. Nash hiding under a bed and the knife believed to be the murder weapon hidden behind a dresser, prosecutors said.

It’s not yet clear why Ms. Lee was targeted, but the Asian community in New York is terrified.

Mr. Nash, 25, whose last known address was a men’s homeless shelter in the Bowery, was arraigned on first-degree charges of murder, burglary and sexually motivated burglary. A judge ordered him held without bail, and prosecutors said he was facing a sentence of up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Though the authorities have not determined that Ms. Lee was targeted because of her ethnicity, her killing stoked fears in the city’s Asian community, which was already on edge after a rise in attacks during the pandemic.

Her killing also fit a pattern that has become an unsettlingly common feature of the pandemic in New York City: a seemingly unprovoked attack in which the person charged is a homeless man. In many neighborhoods in Manhattan, residents have expressed growing concern about homeless people, some of whom seem to be struggling with mental illness, menacing and harassing passers-by.

Ms. Lee, who graduated from Rutgers University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in art history, worked as a creative producer for Splice, an online music platform based in New York City. The company said in a statement that it was heartbroken over her “senseless” death.

Read the rest at the NYT.

One more story on the trucker blockade story from The Washington Post: ‘Freedom Convoy,’ police face off near U.S.-Canada border crossings as Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act.

Canadian police tried to clear protesters near crossings at the U.S.-Canada border, making arrests as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the country’s Emergencies Act on Monday.

The-Morning-Coffee, by Charles Hawthorne

The Morning Coffee, by Charles Hawthorne

Standoffs between police and protesters in Coutts, Alberta, and Surrey, B.C., persisted overnight after authorities had earlier reopened the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest land border crossing and a key trade artery connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit.

Trudeau on Monday became the first Canadian leader to invoke the act, under pressure to quell the chaos that has spiraled from the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations against vaccine mandates and coronavirus restrictions.

The law, passed in 1988, will give police “more tools” to bring order to areas where public assemblies “constitute illegal and dangerous activities,” he said. Financial institutions, meanwhile, will get sweeping powers to halt the flow of funding to the Freedom Convoy protests.

Critics of Trudeau’s move quickly spoke out against the Liberal government. The nonprofit Canadian Civil Liberties Association said using the law, which gives the federal government broad powers, such as the authority to freeze financial accounts without court orders, was unjustified. “Emergency legislation should not be normalized. It threatens our democracy and our civil liberties,” it said in a statement.

The protests that began with truckers in Ottawa in late January have rippled across the country, choking off several U.S.-Canada border crossings, and inspiring protests against pandemic restrictions across the world. The Ambassador Bridge blockade lasted nearly a week, disrupting U.S. supply chains and millions of dollars in trade.

There’s a lot happening in the news today. What stories have you been following?


Insane Thursday Reads, with Bunnies

Painting by Janie Olsen

Painting by Janie Olsen

Good Morning!!

Well, now we know why Trump was obsessed with low water toilets. It turns out he was trying to flush torn up documents in the White House bathrooms.

Axios: Haberman book: Flushed papers found clogging Trump WH toilet.

While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man.”

Why it matters: The revelation by Haberman, whose coverage as a New York Times White House correspondent was followed obsessively by Trump, adds a vivid new dimension to his lapses in preserving government documents. Axios was provided an exclusive first look at some of her reporting.

Haberman also revealed to Axios that Trump claims to be keeping in touch with one of his favorite dictators, Kim Jong Un. 

Haberman reports Trump has told people that since leaving office, he has remained in contact with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — whose “love letters,” as Trump once called them, were among documents the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

The book will be published in October. Read more about it at Axios.

More on Trump’s destruction of documents:

The Washington Post: National Archives asks Justice Dept. to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records.

The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Full Moon Hare, by Andrew Bailey

Full Moon Hare, by Andrew Bailey

The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department, the people familiar with the matter said.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive request. The two people said the discussions about the matter remained preliminary, and it was not yet clear whether the Justice Department would investigate. The department also might be interested in merely reclaiming classified materials. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The New York Times: Archives Found Possible Classified Material in Boxes Returned by Trump.

The National Archives and Records Administration discovered what it believed was classified information in documents Donald J. Trump had taken with him from the White House as he left office, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The discovery, which occurred after Mr. Trump returned 15 boxes of documents to the government last month, prompted the National Archives to reach out to the Justice Department for guidance, the person said. The department told the National Archives to have its inspector general examine the matter, the person said.

It is unclear what the inspector general has done since then, in particular, whether the inspector general has referred the matter to the Justice Department.

An inspector general is required to alert the Justice Department to the discovery of any classified materials that were found outside authorized government channels.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Documents weren’t the only things Trump tore up while in office.

Former president Donald Trump liked the feel of tearing things up — figuratively, as he did with laws and norms of public service; but also literally, as he did with documents that he was required to preserve under the Presidential Records Act. Having refused to give his elected successor a smooth and orderly transition, Mr. Trump then skulked away to Mar-a-Lago in Florida with 15 boxes of official documents and mementos that should have gone to the National Archives.

The Post reported this past weekend that Mr. Trump routinely destroyed briefing papers, schedules, articles, letters and memos, ripping them into quarters or smaller pieces, leaving the detritus on his desk in the Oval Office, in the trash can of his private West Wing study or on the floor of Air Force One. Mr. Trump’s aides were left to retrieve the pieces and piece them back together, sometimes hunting through special “burn bags” intended for classified material to find torn documents that needed to be reassembled and preserved. Recently, the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection received documents from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that appeared to have been torn apart and taped back together.

Mr. Trump broke the law. After President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, Congress passed a number of laws intended to preserve the integrity of documents and other materials from Nixon’s presidency, and made the laws applicable to all future presidents. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 ended the practice of records belonging to former presidents and declared that the United States shall “reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of presidential records.” The law requires a president to “take all such steps as may be necessary” to make sure the records are preserved — an important pillar of accountability in a democracy and also essential for historical understanding of the presidency….

Mr. Trump, who mercilessly attacked Hillary Clinton for using a private email server, turned out to be a slovenly steward of the people’s property. He regarded himself as above the law, but he was not. What’s left of the jigsawed and taped-up pages might not provide the thoroughgoing record of his presidency that the law demands, but they are a wrenching testament to his penchant for wanton destruction.

Wild Rabbit, photo by Julian Rad

Wild Rabbit, by wildlife photographer Julian Rad

Here’s another bonkers story that The Washington Post broke yesterday: Giuliani asked Michigan prosecutor to give voting machines to Trump team.

In the weeks after the 2020 election, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other legal advisers to President Donald Trump asked a Republican prosecutor in northern Michigan to get his county’s voting machines and pass them to Trump’s team, the prosecutor told The Washington Post.

Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter said in an interview that Giuliani and several colleagues made the request during a telephone call after the county initially misreported its election results. The inaccurate tallies meant that Joe Biden appeared to have beaten Trump by 3,000 votes in a Republican stronghold, an error that soon placed Antrim at the center of false claims by Trump that the election had been stolen.

Rossiter said he declined. “I said, ‘I can’t just say: give them here.’ We don’t have that magical power to just demand things as prosecutors. You need probable cause.” Even if he had had sufficient grounds to take the machines as evidence, Rossiter said, he could not have released them to outsiders or a party with an interest in the matter.

Legal scholars said it was unusual and inappropriate for a president’s representatives to make such a request of a local prosecutor. “I never expected in my life I’d get a call like this,” Rossiter said….

Giuliani’s team called Rossiter around Nov. 20, 2020, Rossiter said, as it worked to overturn Trump’s defeat to Biden. The direct appeal to a local law enforcement official was part of a broader effort by Trump’s allies to access voting machines in an attempt to prove that the election had been stolen. That effort extended to a recently disclosed draft executive order for Trump’s signature to have National Guard troops seize machines across the nation.

Jacqueline Alemeny, one of the reporters on the WaPo story, appeared on MSNBC yesterday.

Raw Story: ‘This story is fairly shocking’: WaPo reporter breaks down latest ‘bonkers’ reports on Trump’s final days as president.

Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter told the newspaper that Giuliani and others called him around Nov. 20, 2020, and pressed him to hand over the voting machines so they could be examined for fraud, as part of an ongoing scheme to undo Trump’s loss in Michigan, and journalist Jackie Alemany explained the significance of her colleagues’ findings to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Painting by Scott Gustafson

Painting by Scott Gustafson

“Well, it’s amazing, first of all, we are continuing to find so much new information that has yet to be uncovered, which is exactly what the Jan. 6 committee is doing,” Alemany said. “But this story especially is just fairly shocking because it shows them actually trying to implement some of their plans that we’ve seen sketched out in executive orders to seize voting machines. Here is a situation where they dialed in on a specific county and found a reason to do so despite it being obviously quite unconstitutional.”

“Even in the conversations I’ve had just in the past few months there are still a lot of people involved with this effort who believed that these voting machines needed to be seized to be protected so they could prove fraud,” she added. “These people are true believers.””That’s why those clips that were just played are so important for everyone to remember, especially when this investigation might potentially lead to whether or not this was negligence or actually intentional behavior,” Alemany said. “But it is clear that the former president knew exactly what was wrong with doing these things. He called up Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton on ripping up documents, taking classified information, accepting gifts, mischaracterizations because he knew it was politically damaging and gave the appearance of being corrupt. That’s what I think ultimately the DOJ is going to have to do if they decide ultimately to investigate the 15 boxes taken from Mar-A-Lago, which is what the archives has asked them to do according to our reporting yesterday.”

More on the Trumpist efforts to seize voting machines from Betsey Woodruff at Politico: Read the emails showing Trump allies’ connections to voting machine seizure push.

Leaked emails obtained by POLITICO reveal the connection of two outside Trump allies — Washington lawyer Katherine Friess and Texas entrepreneur Russell Ramsland — to the failed push to seize voting machines as part of a desperate bid to overturn the 2020 election.

The emails show then-President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and another former military officer workshopping the draft of a Trump executive order to seize voting machines. The emails between Flynn, retired Army Col. Phil Waldron and others provide new details about the events that preceded the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6.

It is unclear if the Capitol riot select committee has obtained the emails. POLITICO is publishing them here, solely redacting the senders’ and recipients’ email addresses. We are also publishing two draft versions of the executive order that would have directed authorities to seize voting equipment. CBS News previously reported on the contents of the emails and published one of the drafts.

All three emails were sent to multiple people, including Friess, who appears to have lobbied for a variety of clients, including groups linked to Puerto Rico and the telecommunications industry. Friess’ visibility into the efforts to overturn the election results on Trump’s behalf has drawn comparatively little scrutiny. She did not respond to requests for comment. Ramsland, Waldron, Flynn and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — also a central player in the election subversion effort — also did not respond to requests for comment.

Head over to Politico to read the emails.

Bunny Graces, by Belinda Cooper

Bunny Graces, by Belinda Cooper

At The Religion News Service, a report on how right win Christians and the January 6 insurrection: New report details the influence of Christian nationalism on the insurrection.

A team of scholars, faith leaders and advocates unveiled an exhaustive new report Wednesday (Feb. 9) that documents in painstaking detail the role Christian nationalism played in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and calling it an unsettling preview of things to come.

Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify and intensify the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” said Amanda Tyler, head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which sponsored the report along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Tyler’s group is behind an initiative called Christians Against Christian Nationalism.

The organizations touted the report as “the most comprehensive account to date of Christian nationalism and its role in the January 6 insurrection,” compiled using “videos, statements, and images from the attack and its precursor events.”

The report, written chiefly by Andrew L. Seidel, an author and director of strategic response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, details Christian nationalist rhetoric and symbols that cropped up at events that preceded the insurrection, such as the Million MAGA March and Jericho Marches that took place in Washington in Dec. 2020 and Jan. 2021.

Christian nationalist symbols and references, Seidel writes, were ubiquitous at those gatherings, as well as the insurrection itself: flags with superimposed American flags over Christian symbols; “An Appeal to Heaven” banners; prayers recited by members of the extremist group Proud Boys shortly before the attack or by others as they stormed the Capitol.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Seidel highlighted what he called the preponderance of “openly militant” rhetoric that conflated religion and violence. He pointed to William McCall Calhoun Jr., a Georgia lawyer who reportedly claimed on social media that he was among those who “kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door” on Jan. 6. (Calhoun later claimed in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he did not personally enter any office.)

What are your thoughts on all this insanity? What other stories are you following today?