Fabulous Friday Reads

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Portrait of a woman reading in bed, Nicoline Tuxon, Danish painter

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

Steve Bannon is in court for his sentencing hearing right now. I’m keeping an eye out for the final decision, but so far Judge Carl Nichols has said he will have to serve at least a month in prison because that is the mandatory minimum sentence for contempt of Congress. The maximum is 2 years. According to CNN, the judge has called a short recess, after which he will announce the sentence. Bannon declined to speak, saying that his lawyers had spoken for him. I’ll update the post as soon as I learn Judge Nichols’ final decision.

UPDATE: Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison. Obviously, he will appeal his conviction. From Yahoo News: Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for criminal contempt of Congress.

WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, ex-White House strategist and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in federal prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols sentenced Bannon to four months each on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, but the prison terms will be served concurrently.

A jury found Bannon guilty of the charges in July of two counts of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear for a deposition before the panel and the other for refusing to produce requested documents. Each count carries a minimum potential sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of $100 to $1,000.

Federal prosecutors sought six months in jail, while Bannon’s attorneys asked the court for probation.

Trump’s legal problems continue to escalate. Down in Georgia, former White House Counsel Pat Cippolone, and form George Senator Kelly Loeffler have each testified to the grand jury in the election interference case, and Lindsey Graham has been ordered to testify as well. And Trump crony Kash Patel has testified to the grand jury in stolen documents case.

CNN: Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler testify to grand jury in Georgia investigating 2020 election interference.

Prosecutors in Georgia have secured grand jury testimony from two prominent witnesses – former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – in their investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Laurits Tuxon, Portrait of his daughter looking at some drawings

Their grand jury appearances in recent months, which have not been previously reported, highlight the wide-ranging investigation underway as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis probes efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to try to keep him in power.

Cipollone was the top White House lawyer at the end of the Trump administration and attended some of the meetings where Trump and his allies discussed ways to subvert the election results. He was among the former President’s advisers who pushed back along with the Justice Department, which found no evidence to support the claims of widespread fraud.

Cipollone has provided testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, as well as to a federal grand jury in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation, where he invoked Trump’s privilege claims to decline to answer some questions. He declined to comment on questions about the grand jury.

The revelation that Loeffler testified before the grand jury comes as hundreds of Loeffler’s text messages have surfaced, revealing new details about the Georgia Republican’s correspondence about efforts to challenge the election in the months leading up to and immediately following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

More details at the CNN link.

The Washington Post: Lindsey Graham must testify in 2020 election investigation, court rules.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) must appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by President Donald Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

Graham’s lawyers had asked the court to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), claiming that a sitting senator is shielded from such investigations. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied Graham’s request and upheld a lower-court ruling narrowing the range of questions prosecutors can ask.

“Senator Graham has failed to demonstrate that this approach will violate his rights under the Speech and Debate Clause,” the order states, referring to the constitutional provision that protects lawmakers from being questioned about legislative activity.

Graham can ask the full appeals court to reconsider the order or ask the Supreme Court to intervene….

Willis wants to question Graham about calls he made to Georgia election officials soon after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Graham has “unique knowledge” about the Trump campaign and the “multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results” of the 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.

Graham’s legal team has said in court filings that his actions were legitimate legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate clause.”

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, The schoolgirl reading by lamplight

CNN: Trump adviser Kash Patel has appeared before grand jury in Mar-a-Lago document probe.

Kash Patel, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump who has been deeply involved in disputes over classified records Trump kept from his presidency, appeared recently before the federal grand jury looking into the handling of documents at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Patel spent several hours throughout the morning of October 13 before a grand jury at the US courthouse in Washington, DC. But it’s not clear if Patel answered the grand jury’s questions or declined to respond citing his Fifth Amendment protections, which is within his rights.

He is one of a handful of advisers around Donald Trump after his presidency who could have legal risk related to the Mar-a-Lago situation, according to court records and the sources, though it’s unclear if he is a target of the Justice Department probe. Patel served as a national security and defense official during the administration, and this summer became one of Trump’s designees to interact with the National Archives and the Justice Department as both agencies have tried to repossess classified records Trump kept from his presidency.

He has claimed in media interviews he personally witnessed Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency, and has argued he should be able to release classified information….

CNN spotted Patel walking the halls of the federal courthouse mid-morning last Thursday, remaining in the grand jury area for several hours until about 1 p.m. One of his attorneys, Stanley Woodward, ducked out of the ongoing Oath Keepers trial where he is a defense attorney for another defense client to escort Patel, wearing a bold red plaid jacket, down from the grand jury meeting area and out of the building. When asked at the courthouse by CNN, Woodward refused to say what Patel’s matter was about, and only confirmed that he represented the Trump adviser.

Read more at CNN.

Amanda Marcotte has a good article at Salon about the mainstream media’s election coverage: Please, media, stop pitting abortion against inflation — Republicans suck on both issues.

Cable news in the weeks before an election is the ninth circle of hell. For proof, look no further than the way MSNBC subjected Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to an interview by 79-year-old white guy plagiarist and organized crime apologist Mike Barnicle. Abrams, whose only crime is being a “Star Trek” nerd who wants Georgia to suck less, was subjected to this crotchety fraud demanding she stop talking about abortion rights so much, arguing that what voters supposedly care about is “the cost of gas, food, bread, milk, things like that.” Because, as all old men who have never changed a diaper know, having and raising babies is totally free, unlike a gallon of gasoline.

ruby-ring-thomas-linker

The Ruby Ring, by Thomas Linker

Abrams handled the question as well as she could, pointing out that you “can’t divorce being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy from the economic realities of having a child.” She went on to outline her plans to help Georgians with rising housing prices and other economic problems. But as much as it’s fun to kick around Barnicle for being out of touch, the sad truth is the false premise of his question is endemic throughout the mainstream media coverage of the 2022 midterm elections. Everywhere you turn, pundits and reporters are treating this election as if it’s a choice between fighting inflation and protecting abortion rights.

This is, and it cannot be stressed enough, total hooey. When it comes to the ballot box, there is absolutely no trade-off between reproductive rights and the economy. Either way, voting Republican is bad: Bad for the economy, bad for abortion rights. Pretending otherwise is misleading to the point of outright dishonesty. 

To say Republicans have no plan to fight inflation if they retake Congress is really an understatement. They have nothing concrete to offer about the issue beyond using it as a stick to beat Democrats with. The second polls close on Election Day, all GOP interest in relieving Americans’ economic woes will dry up.

We know this because Republicans aren’t even being subtle about their future plans, which most definitely do not involve giving a fig about inflation. As Heather “Digby” Parton wrote for Salon on Wednesday, Republicans are largely plotting to gin up fake scandals to demonize President Joe Biden. And that’s the best-case scenario.

Read the whole thing at Salon. It’s excellent.

President Joe Biden made the same point yesterday. Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Joe Biden’s Walk-and-Chew-Gum Campaign.

For most of President Joe Biden’s tenure, Fox News’s Peter Doocy has played the role of pressroom scourge. A barbed question so nettled Biden back in January that the President was caught on a live microphone calling him a “stupid son of a bitch,” for which he quickly called Doocy to apologize. That specific query is the same one that still haunts Biden’s Presidency and his party today: “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?” The answer, then and now, can be nothing other than the blindingly obvious: yes.

Doocy, at the tail end of a White House photo opportunity. With less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, the President was signing an order to release fifteen million more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “It’s not politically motivated at all,” Biden insisted, though even the most diehard Democrat would have a hard time seeing the move as anything other than a last-ditch effort to stop gas prices at the pump from rising further before the vote. Republicans were quick to pounce: Was this the kind of strategic use for which the stockpile was intended?

As Biden stood to leave, Doocy shouted a question. “Top domestic issue: Inflation or abortion?” he asked.

“They’re all important. Unlike you, there’s no one thing,” Biden retorted. “We oughta be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

In The Book Store Painting Irina Sztukowski

In The Book Store, by Irina Sztukowski

Finally, The Washington Post has an exclusive on Elon Musk’s plans to destroy Twitter if he manages to buy it: Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce.

Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk: Musk’s $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippledthe service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.

The impact of such layoffs would likely be immediately felt by millions of users, said Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics and now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI. He said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed,the cuts Musk proposed were “unimaginable” and would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and exposure to offensive material such as child pornography.

“It would be a cascading effect,” he said, “where you’d have services going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves.”

Twitter is where I go to get the very latest breaking news, but I guess the days of being able to do that are numbered.

What are your thoughts on these stories? What else is on your mind today?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.

Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a  special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.

 

DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts

The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.

“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.

“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.

In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.

DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida. 

More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.

The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.

The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.

“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.

About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.

This story is still developing.

Multiple Trump Investigations

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

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Letitia James

The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.

Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.

A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.

Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.

Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”

 — Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.

 — “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.

In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.

“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.

Judge Loose Cannon

U.S. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.

The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.

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Judge Aileen Cannon

The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.

“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”

As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.

Justice Elena Kagan Speaks

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.

“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.

Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….

Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”

Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.

“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.

Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).

To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.

Read more at the NYT.

Links to revelations from the book:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads

117e788ba6a99375d6d826a17311ce9aHappy Caturday!!

It’s a busy news day for a Saturday, and multiple outlets are breaking January 6 investigation scoops.

Last night the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti and Carol Leonig posted a new story on the missing Secret Service text messages and the so-called investigation by Trump-appointed IG Joseph Cuffari: Homeland Security watchdog halted plan to recover Secret Service texts, records show.

The Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog scrapped its investigative team’s effort to collect agency phones to try to recover deleted Secret Service texts this year, according to four people with knowledge of the decision and internal records reviewed by The Washington Post.

In early February, after learning that the Secret Service’s text messages had been erased as part of a migration to new devices, staff at Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s office planned to contact all DHS agencies offering to have data specialists help retrieve messages from their phones, according to two government whistleblowers who provided reports to Congress.

But later that month, Cuffari’s office decided it would not collect or review any agency phones,according to three people briefed on the decision.

The latest revelation comes as Democratic lawmakers have accused Cuffari’s office of failing to aggressively investigate the agency’s actions in response to the violent attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.

Cuffari wrote a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security committees this month saying the Secret Service’s text messages from the time of the attack had been “erased.” But he did not immediately disclose that his office first discovered that deletion in December and failed to alert lawmakers or examine the phones. Nor did he alert Congress that other text messages were missing, including those of the two top Trump appointees running the Department of Homeland Security during the final days of the administration.

Why is this guy still in his job? It might be a good idea for Biden to get rid of all Trump appointees ASAP.

03b6ba8a9311154d078acef7df2111c3It gets worse day by day. This is from CNN: Exclusive: DHS inspector general knew of missing Secret Service texts months earlier than previously known.

The embattled inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security first learned of missing Secret Service text messages in May 2021 — months earlier than previously known and more than a year before he alerted the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, that potentially crucial information may have been erased, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Earlier this month, Secret Service officials told congressional committees that DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, the department’s independent watchdog, was aware that texts had been erased in December 2021. But sources tell CNN, the Secret Service had notified Cuffari’s office of missing text messages in May 2021, seven months earlier.

The Secret Service now says the texts were lost as a result of a previously scheduled data migration of its agents’ cell phones that began on January 27, 2021, exactly three weeks after the attack on the US Capitol. After the data migration was completed, in May 2021 the Secret Service told Cuffari’s office that they tried to contact a cellular provider to retrieve the texts when they realized they were lost, a source told CNN.

The source added that key Secret Service personnel didn’t realize data was permanently lost until after the data migration was completed, and erroneously believed the data was backed up. In July 2021, inspector general investigators told DHS they were no longer seeking Secret Service text messages, according to two sources. Cuffari’s office then restarted its probe in December 2021.

These new details come as Cuffari faces mounting pressure from key Democrats to hand off his investigation into the missing messages. They also come amid revelations that text messages for the two top DHS officials under former President Donald Trump, acting Secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli, are missing for a key period leading up to the January 6 attack.

The Washington Post first reported the missing Wolf and Cuccinelli texts, which were lost in a “reset” of their government phones when they left their jobs in January 2021 in preparation for the new Biden administration, according to the Post.

333d896c0c3719dee962e151aa76649bFrom Raw Story: Trump admin official reveals she went public because she did not trust DHS inspector general.

The scandal over the Jan. 6 evidence that was deleted by the Department of Homeland Security is being investigated by a public official that can’t be trusted, a CNN panel explained on Friday….

For analysis, former Trump homeland security advisor Olivia Troye was interviewed by CNN’s Jim Sciutto alongside former CIA agent Phil Mudd and government ethics expert Norm Eisen.

“When you work at senior levels in the Trump administration you kind of know where people’s loyalties lie,” Troye said. “There is a reason that I went very public with my concerns about the Trump administration rather than going through the traditional whistle-blower process, which would have led me to the inspector general’s office at DHS. And I’ll just say that. There’s a level of trust there that you understand.”

But Troye suggested there may not be text messages to recover.

“The other part of it is I’ve got to tell you, being a Trump admin person, most of the administration communicated on encrypted signal apps,” she revealed. “A lot of the time these messages were likely disappearing.”

Mudd said that Cuffari needs to go.

“This is beyond incompetence,” he said. “Any inspector general, whether CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, doesn’t work for, say, the head of Homeland Security, they work in essence for the Congress.”

So why does Cuffari still have a job?

Yesterday afternoon The Washington Post published a story based on interviews with cybersecurity experts: Secret Service’s ‘ludicrous’ deletion of Jan. 6 phone data baffles experts.

Cybersecurity experts and former government leaders are stunned by how poorly the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security handled the preservation of officials’ text messages and other data from around Jan. 6, 2021, saying the top agencies entrusted with fighting cybercrime should never have bungled the simple task of backing up agents’ phones.

00146d940a6a2c96813fbb5480c6d59cExperts are divided over whether the disappearance of phone data from around the time of the insurrection is a sign of incompetence, an intentional coverupor some murkier middle ground. But the failure has raised suspicions about the disposition of records that could provide intimate details about what happened on that chaotic day, and whose preservation was mandated by federal law.

“This was the most singularly stressful day for the Secret Service since the attempted assassination of [Ronald] Reagan,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior policy official at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration who’s now a cybersecurity consultant in Washington. “Why apparently was there no interest in preserving records for the purposes of doing an after-action review? It’s like we have a 9/11 attack and air traffic control wipes its records.”

Rosenzweig said he polled 11 of his friends with cybersecurity backgrounds, including information-security chiefs at federal agencies, on whether any of them had ever done a migration without a plan for backing up data and restoring it. None of them had. “There’s a relatively high degree of skepticism about [the Secret Service] in the group,” he said.

The experts said that backing up the data on the phones would have been ridiculously easy.

If the Secret Service had truly wanted to preserve agents’ messages, experts said, it should have been almost trivially easy to do so. Backups and exports are a basic feature of nearly every messaging service, and federal law requires such records to be safeguarded and submitted to the National Archives.

Several experts were critical of the Secret Service’s explanation that it had asked agents to upload their own phone data to an agency drive before their phones were wiped. Cybersecurity professionals said that policy was “highly unusual,” “ludicrous,” a “failure of management” and “not something any other organization would ever do.”

The error is especially notable because of the Secret Service’s vaunted role in the federal bureaucracy. Besides protecting America’s most powerful people, the agency leads some of the government’s most technically sophisticated investigations of financial fraud, ransomware and cybercrime.

I’m no expert, but I smell a coverup.

A couple more January 6 stories:

Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico: The RNC ‘election integrity’ official appearing in DOJ’s Jan. 6 subpoenas.

In addition to a group of former President Donald Trump’s top lawyers, the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe is also seeking communications to and from a Republican National Committee staffer in a sensitive role.

da268b94c8995a615cdcda7b987a185cAt least three witnesses in DOJ’s investigation of so-called alternate electors in the 2020 election — two in Arizona and another in Georgia — have received subpoenas demanding communications to and from Joshua Findlay, who is now the RNC’s national director for election integrity.

POLITICO reviewed the subpoena sent to the Georgia witness afterthe Washington Postpublished copies of two Arizona subpoenas. Findlay’s appearance in the documents means the Justice Department has taken interest in his communications as part of its probe related to pro-Trump GOP officials and activists who presented themselves as legitimate electors from states where Joe Biden won.

Findlay worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign in multiple capacities. In January 2019, the campaign announced he was joining the team that would handle the 2020 Republican National Convention. After the convention, he worked as an attorney on the Trump campaign’s legal team.

The three subpoenas order the witnesses to share all documents and communications from October 2020 on, “[t]o, from, with, or including” a list of people, including Findlay.

While Findlay is not a central figure in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, the head of the Trump campaign’s legal team, Matt Morgan, mentioned him in testimony to the panel. At a hearing on June 21, the panel played a video clip where one of its investigators, Casey Lucier, said some Trump campaign lawyers “became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.”

Read the rest at Politico.

Lisa Rubin at Maddowblog: Why an unnamed ‘White House employee’ could be a pivotal Jan. 6 witness.

With the revelation that several senior Trump administration officials and Cabinet secretaries have testified or will soon testify before the House Jan. 6 committee, the political press is abuzz about what that could mean for the congressional fact-finding mission — and for the Justice Department’s criminal investigation. After all, as Politico reported Thursday, the DOJ and the Jan. 6 committee finally have reached a “general agreement” over evidence sharing that could grant federal investigators access to more than 1,000 transcripts of witness testimony.

50362e7c46f16929020bba5999c56ce4That the DOJ soon will have a vehicle for obtaining evidence from the Jan. 6 committee has me thinking about a wholly different witness, however, and one whose name I don’t even know. Based on former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s prior testimony and committee members’ own statements at the hearings to date, an as-yet-unnamed White House employee or employees could be among the most significant witnesses to then-President Donald Trump’s words, actions and inaction on and around Jan. 6.

Specifically, at the so-called season finale of the committee’s hearings last week, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., highlighted that “within 15 minutes of leaving the stage” at the Ellipse rally, Trump was informed about the attack on the Capitol by a person she described only as “a White House employee” who encountered Trump “as soon as he returned to the Oval [Office].” From there, Luria said, Trump went to the private dining room off the Oval Office at 1:25 p.m.

Later in the hearing, her colleague Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., returned to that unnamed White House employee, noting that Trump left the dining room on Jan. 6 for the White House residence at 6:27 p.m. Kinzinger added:

“As he was gathering his things in the dining room to leave, President Trump reflected on the day’s events with a White House employee. This was the same employee who had met President Trump in the Oval Office after he returned from the Ellipse. President Trump said nothing to the employee about the attack. He said only quote, ‘Mike Pence let me down.”

Rubin suggests that the person who overheard this remark could be a White House valet, and that person could have witnessed interactions between Trump and other officials and heard more remarks from Trump during the time that Trump was watching the violence at the Capitol. Read more at the link.

More stories to check out, links only:

The New York Times: Russian National Charged With Spreading Propaganda Through U.S. Groups.

NBC News: Combat vet ‘fuming’ over lawmakers’ failure to pass two bipartisan measures that could have helped millions.

Slate: When Can Dying Patients Get a Lifesaving Abortion? These Hospital Panels Will Now Decide.

The New York Times: Fox News, Once Home to Trump, Now Often Ignores Him.

NBC News: New York Gov. Hochul declares state disaster emergency over monkeypox.

Axios: Sinema indicates she may want to change Schumer-Manchin deal.

The Washington Post: Hot mic captured Gaetz assuring Stone of pardon, discussing Mueller redactions.


Lazy Caturday Reads

1969.181.3_1.tif

Jacques Hnizdovsky, born Pylypcze, Ukraine 1915-died New York City 1985

Good Afternoon!!

There’s quite a bit of January 6 investigation news today, but before I get to that I want to call your attention to two long reads on abortion. Some of us here are old enough to remember the days before Roe v. Wade declared that women had a right to make decisions about our own bodies. Now that right has been taken away.

This is a very good essay by short story author and poet Grace Paley about the days when abortion was a crime and getting access to birth control was extremely difficult, republished in 2017 at The Literary Hub: Women Died All the Time: Grace Paley on Illegal Abortions.

It was the late 30s, and we all knew that birth control existed, but we also knew it was impossible to get. You had to be older and married. You couldn’t get anything in drugstores, unless you were terribly sick and had to buy a diaphragm because your womb was falling out. The general embarrassment and misery around getting birth control were real.

There was Margaret Sanger at that time, and she had a clinic right here in Manhattan in a beautiful house on Sixteenth Street; I still walk past and look at it. As brave as the Margaret Sanger people were, they were under very tough strictures. It was scary to go there. I was 18, and it was 1940 when I tiptoed in to get a diaphragm. I said I was married….

Most of my friends married early. I married when I was 19; then my husband went overseas during the Second World War. I would have loved it if I had had a child when he went overseas, but we had decided against it.

When he came back, I was in my late 20s, and in the next couple of years, I had two children. When the children were one and a half and three, I got pregnant again. I don’t remember if my birth control failed . . . I wasn’t the most careful person in the world. Something in me did want to have more children, but since I had never gotten pregnant until I really wanted to—I was 26 and a half when I had my first child—I had assumed that the general mode would continue.

I knew I couldn’t have another child. I was exhausted with these two tiny little kids; it was just about all I could do to take care of them. As a child, I had been sick a lot, and people were always thinking I was anemic . . . I was having bouts of that kind. I was just very tired, all the time. I knew something was wrong because my whole idea in my heart had always been to have five, six children—I loved the idea of having children—but I knew I couldn’t have this kid.

Please go read the rest. It’s well worth your time. I also recommend this series of reactions to the loss of abortion rights at the London Review of Books: Prejudice Rules LRB contributors on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I haven’t read them all yet, but I plan to.

More abortion stories:

The Guardian: Daughter of doctor who gave 10-year-old an abortion faced kidnapping threat. Caitlin Bernard of Indiana is named on an extreme anti-abortion website linked to Amy Coney Barrett.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified last year, in a case involving abortion restrictions in Indiana, that she was forced to stop providing first-trimester abortions at a clinic in South Bend. She stopped the procedures after she was alerted by Planned Parenthood – who in turn had been alerted by the FBI – that a kidnapping threat had been made against her daughter.

the_black_cat__stretch_by_chocolatefrizz89_deviant art

The Black Cat Stretch, by chocolatefrizz89 at deviant art

The Guardian reported in January that the names of six abortion providers, as well as their educational backgrounds and places of work, were listed on the website of an extreme anti-abortion group called Right to Life Michiana, in a section of the website titled “Local Abortion Threat”. Bernard was among the list of doctors named on the extremist website.

Barrett, who voted to overturn Roe v Wade last month, signed a two-page advertisement published by the group in 2006, while she was working as a professor at Notre Dame. It stated that those who signed “oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death”. The second page of the ad called Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion, “barbaric”. The advertisement was published in the South Bend Tribune by St Joseph County Right to Life, which merged with Right to Life Michiana in 2020.

Bernard said in sworn testimony that she had started to travel to South Bend once a month – beginning in 2020 – in order to perform first trimester abortions, but stopped making the 2.5-hour trip once she learned of the threat against her daughter.

It’s time for Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from cases involving abortion.

The Washington Post: Confusion post-Roe spurs delays, denials for some lifesaving pregnancy care.

A woman with a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy sought emergency care at the University of Michigan Hospital after a doctor in her home state worried that the presence of a fetal heartbeat meant treatingher might run afoul of new restrictions on abortion.

At one Kansas City, Mo., hospital,administrators temporarily required “pharmacist approval” before dispensing medications used to stop postpartum hemorrhages, because they can also be also used for abortions.

And in Wisconsin, a woman bled formore than 10 days from an incomplete miscarriage after emergency room staffwould not remove the fetal tissueamid a confusing legal landscape that has roiled obstetric care.

Robert Smithson, American, b. Passaic, New Jersey, 1938–1973

Robert Smithson, American, b. Passaic, New Jersey, 1938–1973

In the three weeks of turmoil since the Supreme Court overturnedthe constitutional right to abortion, many physicians and patients have been navigating a new reality in which the standard of care for incomplete miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and other common complications is being scrutinized, delayed — even denied — jeopardizing maternal health, according to the accounts of doctors in multiple states where new laws have gone into effect.

While state abortion bans typically carve out exceptions when a woman’s life is endangered, the laws can be murky, prompting some obstetricians to consult lawyers and hospital ethics committees on decisions around routine care. 

And it’s going to get a lot worse. We’re going back to the dark ages. See also this piece at The Texas Tribune: Texas hospitals are putting pregnant patients at risk by denying care out of fear of abortion laws, medical group says.

Now for some January 6 investigation news:

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department Steps Up Jan. 6 Probe of Those in Trump’s Orbit.

The Justice Department is adding prosecutors and resources to its investigation into the actions of former President Donald Trump’s allies to overturn the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the matter, as the related congressional hearings have turbocharged interest in Mr. Trump’s own role in that effort.

A Justice Department team focusing on elements of the investigation beyond the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has in recent weeks been given more personnel, office space and an expanded mandate, the people said….

As the Justice Department began in late 2021 to develop cases alleging complex conspiracies and investigate sources of funding, it assigned an experienced prosecutor from Maryland, Thomas Windom, to focus on those efforts.

Mr. Windom previously met with some skepticism within the department when he pushed to explore the activities of several members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, the people said, with some officials believing prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to pursue those paths. But the hearings have revealed new details of Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, that legal experts have said could put the former president in greater legal jeopardy for charges such as fraud, inciting a riot or obstructing the election’s certification.

the-cat-pablo-picasso

The Cat, by Pablo Picasso

The testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in particular—including her allegation that Mr. Trump knew some of the protesters were armed but wanted them at his rally and at the Capitol anyway—has broadened some Justice Department officials’ view of the potential scope of the probe, the people said, though officials said the testimony didn’t prompt any change in investigative strategy.

Ms. Hutchinson told the committee on June 28 that Mr. Trump was concerned that magnetometers were keeping supporters from attending his speech at the Ellipse earlier in the day on Jan. 6. She said she overheard him saying something to the effect of, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags away. Let the people in, they can march to the Capitol from here.”

Former prosecutors have identified that testimony as the first to speak to Mr. Trump’s intent as tension escalated that day, and said it suggests he knew some of the protesters were armed and urged them toward the Capitol anyway as lawmakers were certifying President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Prosecutors would need to prove that Mr. Trump knew his actions would result in violence to pursue a related criminal case against the former president.

Read more at the WSJ. I didn’t encounter a paywall when I click on the link at Memeorandum.

Politico: Trump campaign operative who delivered Jan. 6 false elector lists is identified.

A little-known Donald Trump campaign operative delivered lists of false electors to Capitol Hill in a bid to get them to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, according to two people familiar with the episode.

Mike Roman, then Trump’s 2020 director of Election Day operations, delivered those false elector certificates — signed by pro-Trump activists in Michigan and Wisconsin — to Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Pa.) chief of staff at the time, both people told POLITICO. Kelly was a Trump ally in the effort to overturn the 2020 election, and his then-top aide received the documents from Roman before deputizing a colleague to disseminate copies on Capitol Hill, according to both people.

Cat Gathering (Night) by Inagaki Tomoo, 1957, color woodcut

Cat Gathering (Night) by Inagaki Tomoo, 1957, color woodcut

Roman’s role in the effort to deliver those slates of electors directly to Pence has not previously been reported. The onetime Trump White House researcher and former aide to the conservative Koch network, who was subpoenaed in February by the Jan. 6 select committee, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

The origin of the false elector lists, which never got to Pence before he presided over certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, has become an enduring subplot in the select panel’s investigation of the Capitol attack designed to disrupt that day. After the committee revealed the role of a top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in the episode during a hearing last month, Johnson said the false elector lists came from Kelly — who has repeatedly denied any involvement by his office in their distribution.

More at the link.

Politico: Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Secret Service amid text message controversy.

The Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service following a string of conflicts with the agency and revelations that a large swath of text messages sent by agents on the day of the Capitol attack have been erased.

The move marks the first time the select committee has publicly announced the subpoena of an Executive Branch agency and comes the same day the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general privately briefed committee members on the discovery of the missing text messages.

The subpoena, directed at agency director James Murray — who is retiring later this month — demands the production of records by July 19.

“The Select Committee seeks the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports that have been issued in any and all divisions of the USSS pertaining or relating in any way to the events of January 6, 2021,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a letter accompanying the subpoena.

Committee members emerging from the DHS briefing said they were awaiting details about whether the inspector general will be able to obtain any of the missing messages.

“We’re interested in getting the texts from the Secret Service that happened on the fifth and sixth and we want to get the IG’s perspective on what he thought was going on,” Thompson told reporters Friday.

One more from Politico: Justice Dept. backs House over Jan. 6 subpoena to Meadows.

The Justice Department declared Friday that the Jan. 6 select committee has adequately justified its subpoena for testimony and documents from Mark Meadows, a former chief of staff in Donald Trump’s White House.

Cat Named Sam, Andy Warhol

A Cat Named Sam, Andy Warhol

That conclusion came as part of a landmark filing taking a position for the first time that former advisers to presidents who have left office are not “absolutely immune” from congressional subpoenas.

DOJ filed the brief Friday evening in a civil suit Meadows filed in December against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee’s members in a bid to quash subpoenas the former Trump aide received from the House panel.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols asked the Justice Department to weigh in on what immunity, if any, Meadows is entitled to in the dispute.

“When a congressional committee demands testimony from an immediate presidential adviser after the President’s term of office has ended, the relevant constitutional concerns are lessened. Accordingly, the Department does not believe that the absolute testimonial immunity applicable to such an adviser continues after the President leaves office. But the constitutional concerns continue to have force,” the department argues in the new brief, signed by DOJ Civil Division attorney Elizabeth Shapiro and endorsed by other top officials.

Finally, a preview of Thursday’s prime-time January 6 Committee hearing by Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Jan. 6 Panel to Dissect Trump’s 187 Minutes of Inaction During Riot.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is planning to return to prime time on Thursday for what could be the finale of its summer hearing schedule: a session focused on former President Donald J. Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as a mob of his supporters assaulted Congress.

The hearing, scheduled for 8 p.m. on July 21, is expected to give a detailed account of how Mr. Trump resisted multiple entreaties from staffers, lawyers and even his own family to call off the attack, which raged for hours in the early afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021.

Representatives Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia, and Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, are expected to play leading roles in the hearing.

One witness the panel could hear from is Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide who resigned in the aftermath of Jan. 6. She has told the committee that a tweet Mr. Trump sent attacking Vice President Mike Pence while the riot was underway was like “pouring gasoline on the fire.” [….]

The committee is also likely to play clips of the testimony of other witnesses who attempted to intervene with Mr. Trump during those more than three hours, including Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. The committee has also said it received testimony from Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who was Mr. Pence’s national security adviser, about Mr. Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence as the mob engulfed the Capitol.

Mr. Kellogg said Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter, urged her father at least twice to call off the violence, as did Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads

summer-porch-by-childe-hassam-1904-m-g-whittingham

Summer Porch, by Childe Hassam

Good Afternoon!!

I’m feeling kind of blue today. Partly it’s just the inevitable losses that come with my advanced age, and of course I’m sad about what’s happening to our country. In the past 7 years, we were forced to deal with an evil and incompetent man as presidential candidate and then president, and a still-ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans. No wonder so many of us are exhausted. I got this in an e-mail from political writer Jared Yates Sexton this morning. He describes our situation better than I ever could.

There are nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It might be presumptuous, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this you are not counted among them.

The last time I checked, there was one President, one hundred members of the Senate and 435 representatives in the House. Though there are individuals in the White House and Congress who read this newsletter, their ability to effectively pass legislation or break up the intentional logjam at the federal level is somewhat negligible.

Meanwhile, our political and economic systems have been largely corrupted and co-opted by an increasingly wealthy group of power brokers hellbent on growing their wealth and power at any cost, including the destruction of the Earth and total dismantling of liberal democracy. Chances are, considering the math, you are probably not a member of this historically wealthy class of individuals, but if you are, feel free to get a hold of me. I’ve got some ideas should you want to make a difference.

All of it is overwhelming. To watch detestable actions like the overthrow of Roe V. Wade, followed by a yawning lack of response by those charged with protecting us, leaves a person feeling desperate and, over time, isolated and demoralized. The system, after all, is designed with this in mind. The founding of the United States was predicated on neutralizing the power of the masses in favor of rule by a tiny group of wealthy white men. Almost everything that has happened since then has been to either shore up that rule or battle attempts to trouble it.

To be clear, it feels as if the deck is stacked against you because it is. The flow of history is the story of how the powerful have continually protected themselves from situations where the fate of the masses is weighed more heavily than their own self-interest.

This newsletter appears to be a promo for Sexton’s upcoming book, and it doesn’t offer solutions; but it sure does paint a picture of where we are as a country right now. Sexton says, “we are not alone and we are not powerless.” I guess he’ll explain that in the book.

There isn’t that much I can do at my age, but I keep posting on this blog; somehow that gives me a sense of being a small part of the resistance to authoritarianism. At least I’m paying close attention to daily events and what is being written about them. We’ve been posting to this blog for many years now, and we’ve seen people come and go. If you’re still coming here, I’m very grateful for your presence. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts with us.

A Ten-Year-Old Pregnant Rape Victim and Clueless Male Journalists

Last week a story broke about a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated. The Guardian:

The case of a 10-year-old child rape victim in Ohio who was six weeks pregnant, ineligible for an abortion in her own state, and forced to travel to Indiana for the procedure has spotlighted the shocking impact of the US supreme court ruling on abortion.

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

Breakfast Porch, William James Glackens, 1925

The story of the girl came to light three days after the court overturned a nationwide right to terminate pregnancy, and Ohio’s six-week “trigger ban” came into effect.

Dr Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, said she had received a call from a colleague doctor in Ohio who treats child abuse victims and asked for help….

Abortion providers like Bernard say they are receiving a sharp increase in the number of patients coming to their clinics for abortion from the neighboring states where such procedures are now restricted or banned.

“It’s hard to imagine that in just a few short weeks we will have no ability to provide that care,” Bernard told the Columbus Dispatch.

You’d think since the story mentioned a doctor by name, people would accept that the story was legitimate. Bernard even appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word to talk about the case. But Republicans in Ohio claimed the story was fabricated, and that triggered claims that the story was fake on Fox News and social media. Even the Washington Post fact checker got involved.

But yesterday we learned that the perpetrator of the rape has been arrested. CNN: A man was charged in the rape of a 10-year-old who traveled to Indiana for an abortion.

A Columbus man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old Ohio girl who then had to travel to Indiana seeking an abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to court proceedings CNN obtained through affiliate WBNS.

Rumors of the case garnered national and international attention, with some US political leaders referencing it in conversations about abortion bans.

Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested Tuesday, according to Columbus police and court documents. He has been charged with felony rape of a minor under age 13, according to the Franklin County Municipal Court. His first court appearance was Wednesday.

Fuentes is being held on $2 million bond, according to the court. CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment.

Fuentes admitted to authorities he raped the young girl on at least two occasions, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday at Fuentes’ arraignment.

Police first were alerted to the child’s pregnancy in late June through a referral by a local children services department that was made by the 10-year-old’s mother, Huhn testified.

The girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, the detective testified. DNA from the Indianapolis clinic was being tested against samples from Fuentes and the child’s siblings, Huhn said.

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was still pretending the story was false last night.

At Neiman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen writes: Unimaginable abortion stories will become more common. Is American journalism ready?

As more states restrict or ban abortion, more girls who are raped will face a choice between crossing state lines for care or having babies while they are still in elementary school.

Andrew Wyeth

House with a porch, by Andrew Wyeth

I wish that this weren’t true. But events this week make it very clear that if you can’t bear to believe it — even if it seems so impossible that it needs a heartily skeptical fact-checking treatment — it is going to happen.

And reporters who want to tell these stories (and the news organizations those reporters work for) may have to abandon some conventional journalism wisdom in order to give the stories the attention they deserve….

The two-byline story — written by Shari Rudavsky and Rachel Fradette — made headlines around the world. But the first reaction of mainly right-leaning news organizations — despite the fact that the doctor who performed the abortion was on the record saying this happened — was to try to debunk it. Why? I mean, in part because it’s horrible and we don’t want to believe a 10-year-old could get raped and pregnant, because 10-year-olds are babies themselves. (By the way, Covid appears to have increased early-onset puberty around the world. Getting your period “early” now means getting it when you’re younger than 8. People for whom a pregnant 10-year-old strains credulity should keep this in mind.)

The debate over the story’s veracity started with a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column. In “A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral,”

You can read the quotes at Neiman Lab, but lets just say Kessler was extremely skeptical.

“An abortion by a 10-year-old is pretty rare,” Kessler notes. (Oh, that “by.”) “The Columbus Dispatch reported that in 2020, 52 people under the age of 15 received an abortion in Ohio.” Definitions of “rare” may vary, but if 52 under-15-year-olds got abortions in Ohio in 2020, that’s one a week — and it’s just abortions that were reported, during a pandemic when a lot of abortion clinics were closed.

The Post column opened the door to worse takes. “Every day that goes by, the more likely that this is a fabrication. I know the cops and prosecutors in this state. There’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him,” Ohio attorney general Dave Yost told USA Today’s Ohio Network bureau on Tuesday. Picking up on Kessler’s “single source” criticism, Yost added, “Shame on the Indianapolis paper that ran this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called the episode “An abortion story too good to confirm,” as if there was something particularly juicy and delicious about this one (hint: It’s her age!)

We’re going to be seeing many more horror stories now that the Extreme Court has returned women and girls to second-class citizen status. And no, male journalists will not be ready to deal with the onslaught.

January 6 Committee News

CNN: Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff talking with January 6 committee, sources say.

Former President Donald Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was talking to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The support staffer was not someone who routinely communicated with the former President and was concerned about the contact, according to the sources, and informed their attorney.

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

Women Taking Tea on the Porch, Albert Lynch

The call was made after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly to the committee. The White House staffer was in a position to corroborate part of what Hutchinson had said under oath, according to the sources.

CNN was told the position of the witness Trump tried to call, but not the person’s name. Details about the witness Trump tried to contact have not been previously reported.

The initial revelation about Trump’s phone call was made in a dramatic moment at the end of this week’s hearing by committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, revealed that Trump “tried to call” an unnamed witness in the committee’s investigation. She said that witness “declined to answer or respond” to Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer. The committee has since supplied that information to the Department of Justice….

Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat who serves on the committee, told CNN on Tuesday that the individual Trump tried to call has been speaking with the panel.

“Trump himself had called someone who has been talking with us,” Aguilar said.

A source familiar with the panel’s investigation added that the committee has spoken to the person Trump tried to call, but not as part of a deposition.

Trump’s crimes just keep on piling up. When will he pay a price? No one outside the DOJ knows.

Donald Ayer, Stuart Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut at The Atlantic: January 6 Was Trump’s Project All Along. And The Department of Justice Has More Than Enough Evidence To Prosecute Him For It.

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Edward Hopper

By Edward Hopper

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump.

Read the rest of the argument at The Atlantic.

The New York Times: Jan. 6 Panel Will Turn Over Evidence on Fake Electors to the Justice Dept.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol for evidence it has accumulated about the scheme by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies to put forward false slates of pro-Trump electors in battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, disclosed the request to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and a person familiar with the panel’s work said discussions with the Justice Department about the false elector scheme were ongoing. Those talks suggest that the department is sharpening its focus on that aspect of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, one with a direct line to the former president.

Mr. Thompson said the committee was working with federal prosecutors to allow them to review the transcripts of interviews the panel has done with people who served as so-called alternate electors for Mr. Trump. Mr. Thompson said the Justice Department’s investigation into “fraudulent electors” was the only specific topic the agency had broached with the committee.

A Justice Department official said the agency maintained its position that it was requesting copies of all transcripts of witness interviews.

More details at the NYT.

CNBC reports that the next hearing is scheduled for next Thursday at 8PM. and will focus on “Trump’s hourslong failure to stop the Capitol riot.”

NBC News says there may be more hearings in August: The Jan. 6 committee won’t rule out more hearings this summer.

Have an enjoyable Thursday everyone!!