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?


Wednesday Reads: Phones and Pillows

Good morning…so this Brett Favre is even more of an asshole than I thought he was…

But he is not the only asshole in the news:

Cartoons from Cagle:

This is an open thread.


Sunday Reads: MALcontents

Good morning. Just going to dive into the cartoons, via Cagle:

Read this thread all the way through:

Fuck Herschel Walker.

This is all for now, it’s an open thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

It’s another big news day. We lost Madeline Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, paving the way for other women to meet with NATO allies and announce new sanctions on Russia. Afterwards, he will visit Poland and perhaps even go to the border of Ukraine. Today is the final day of the hearings on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Today will be dedicated to testimony from people who support or oppose her nomination. The Ukraine war continues, with reports of Ukrainian victories and numerous analyses of the failure of Putin’s efforts to subdue it’s neighbor. I’ll get to as much of this news as I can.

Madeline Albright

The Washington Post: Madeleine Albright, first female secretary of state, dies at 84.

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Madeline Albright

Madeleine K. Albright, who came to the United States as an 11-year-old political refu­gee from Czechoslovakia and decades later was an ardent and effective advocate against mass atrocities in Eastern Europe while serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the first female secretary of state, died March 23 in Washington. She was 84.

The cause was cancer, her family said in a statement.

Before Dr. Albright, the inner sanctum of U.S. foreign policymaking had been an almost exclusively male domain. In many ways, her politically fraught early life — enduring Nazi and communist repression — impelled her rise to the highest levels of international politics.

Her family, which was Jewish, narrowly avoided extermination at the hands of the Nazis. They fled to England shortly after Hitler’s tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Several of Dr. Albright’s relatives, including three grandparents, died in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. After the war, Dr. Albright’s father, a Czech diplomat wary of communism, feared he would be arrested following a 1948 coup by hard-line Stalinists in Prague. The family escaped once more, this time to the United States.

Before she died, Albright wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, published Feb 3: Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake.

In early 2000, I became the first senior U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin in his new capacity as acting president of Russia. We in the Clinton administration did not know much about him at the time — just that he had started his career in the K.G.B. I hoped the meeting would help me take the measure of the man and assess what his sudden elevation might mean for U.S.-Russia relations, which had deteriorated amid the war in Chechnya. Sitting across a small table from him in the Kremlin, I was immediately struck by the contrast between Mr. Putin and his bombastic predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

Obit Albright

FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright smiles as she shakes hands with Russian acting President Vladimir Putin, right, in Moscow’s Kremlin, on Feb. 2, 2000. 

Whereas Mr. Yeltsin had cajoled, blustered and flattered, Mr. Putin spoke unemotionally and without notes about his determination to resurrect Russia’s economy and quash Chechen rebels. Flying home, I recorded my impressions. “Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.”

I have been reminded in recent months of that nearly three-hour session with Mr. Putin as he has massed troops on the border with neighboring Ukraine. After calling Ukrainian statehood a fiction in a bizarre televised address, he issued a decree recognizing the independence of two separatist-held regions in Ukraine and sending troops there.

Mr. Putin’s revisionist and absurd assertion that Ukraine was “entirely created by Russia” and effectively robbed from the Russian empire is fully in keeping with his warped worldview. Most disturbing to me: It was his attempt to establish the pretext for a full-scale invasion.

Should he invade, it will be a historic error.

It sure looks like she was right. For more on Albright and Putin, check out this interview she gave to NPR’s All Things Considered in June, 2021: Madeleine Albright had a lot to say about Putin — and she didn’t mince words.

Biden in Europe

AP News: US to expand Russia sanctions, accept 100K Ukraine refugees.

BRUSSELS (AP) — The United States will expand its sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, targeting members of the country’s parliament and the central bank’s gold reserves, the White House announced Thursday.

At the same time, Washington will increase its humanitarian assistance by welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and providing an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

The White House announced the initiatives as U.S. President Joe Biden and world leaders gathered in Brussels for a trio of summits in response to the Russian invasion, seeking new ways to limit the economic and security fallout from the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the day’s first meeting, an emergency NATO summit, where he called for “military assistance without limitations.” He pleaded for anti-air and anti-ship weapons, asking “is it possible to survive in such a war without this?”

A U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Western nations are discussing the possibility of providing anti-ship weapons amid concerns that Russia will launch amphibious assaults along the Black Sea coast.

There should be a lot more news about Biden’s trip in the course of the day today.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Republicans boast they have not pulled a Kavanaugh. In fact, they’ve treated Jackson worse.

Throughout her Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been a model of composure, which is made all the more impressive by the egregious behavior of some on the Republican side.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson

During the hearings, Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) have congratulated themselves for declining to treat Judge Jackson the way Democrats handled the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh. In fact, by the most relevant measures, Mr. Graham and a handful of other Judiciary Committee Republicans have handled themselves worse.

A woman credibly accused Mr. Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Democrats rightly asked the committee to investigate. After a superficial FBI review, Republicans pressed forward his nomination. In the end, it was Mr. Kavanaugh who behaved intemperately, personally attacking Democratic senators and revealing partisan instincts that raised questions about his commitment to impartiality.

By contrast, Republicans have smeared Judge Jackson based on obvious distortions of her record and the law. Mr. Graham and others painted her as a friend of child pornographers, despite the fact that her sentences in their cases reflect the judicial mainstream. Even conservative outlets had debunked these accusations before the hearings began. The more Judge Jackson argued for rationality in criminal sentencing — or attempted to, as Mr. Graham continually interrupted her — the more Mr. Graham ranted about the evils of child pornography, which Judge Jackson had already condemned repeatedly and her record plainly shows she takes seriously.

graham-berates-jackson-over-kavanaughMr. Graham also attacked Judge Jackson for her work defending Guantánamo Bay detainees, acknowledging that no one should judge her for representing unpopular defendants or advocating zealously for her clients — and then proceeding to do just that.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) used much of her time assailing those concerned about transgender people. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attacked Judge Jackson for sitting on the board of Georgetown Day School, a D.C. private school, because he disapproves of its anti-racism curriculum, which Judge Jackson has never endorsed, let alone relied upon in a ruling. Similarly, several Republicans complained that outside pressure groups favored her nomination, even though she has no connection to them. These attacks by association underscored that they had little substance on which to criticize her.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Cory Booker Aside, Democrats Stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The third day of hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court came to a close on Wednesday following another 10-plus hours filled with character smears about child pornography from Republican senators and more phony umbrage about some out of context quotes. At this point, with just one more day of testimony from outside witnesses remaining, it is worth noting that this entire circus is being performed to try to pick off two or three Republican votes—and perhaps one Democratic vote—that will probably not come. One of the reasons Sen. Lindsey Graham is quite literally spitting and screaming about amicus briefs filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees two decades ago, is because having voted to confirm Judge Jackson to a federal appeals court less than a year ago, he must manufacture sufficient umbrage to vote against her now. Happily for Sen. Graham, time has gradually reduced him to a pile of free floating umbrage held together by hair.

If we can all agree that the purpose of this charade for Graham is to try to flip Sens. Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, and that for Sen. Ted Cruz, the purpose of this charade is to goose his own twitter mentions, and for Sen. Josh Hawley the purpose is to take what was a fringe “endangering our children” smear campaign last week and push it to the GOP mainstream today, it’s manifestly clear who the real pornographers are this week. But if we can all agree what the GOP agenda has been, I remain utterly mystified by the Democrats. They have the votes to confirm. They are about to irrevocably alter the course of American history. So what are they afraid of?

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Josh Hawley lectures Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

I wrote earlier this week about the utter failure on the part of Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to connect this hearing to what is going to be a catastrophic series of progressive losses at the Supreme Court this term, and the almost staggering inability to lay out any kind of theory for progressive jurisprudence, or even a coherent theory for the role of an unelected judiciary in a constitutional democracy. My colleague Mark Joseph Stern wrote today about a broadside attack on the whole idea of unenumerated rights, substantive due process, and the entire line of cases that protect Americans from penalties for using birth control, forced sterilization, indoctrination of their children, and afford them the right to marry who they want. More mysterious than this coordinated GOP project to undermine LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, contraception, and abortion—again, none of this is new or shocking—was the almost complete silence from Senate Democrats on these issues of substantive due process, privacy, and bodily autonomy. On the simplest level the hearing might have been an opportunity to explain why Roe v Wade is in fact the tip of the constitutional iceberg; that the same doctrinal underpinnings at risk in this term’s looming catastrophe of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could lead to existential losses of countless other freedoms. But the hearings were framed as if Republicans stand to lose the court, and the midterms, while the Democrats behaved as if the future of the courts, the Senate, and democracy itself has no bearing on what happened inside the Senate chamber.

Please read the rest at Slate.

More reads to check out on this topic:

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Ketanji Brown Jackson Hearings Show Marriage Equality Is the Next Target Once Roe Falls.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: GOP grandstanders aren’t the only reason Jackson’s confirmation hearings were so disgraceful.

Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post: These Trump judges failed Hawley’s sentencing test for Jackson.

The New York Times: QAnon Cheers Republican Attacks on Jackson. Democrats See a Signal.

The Washington Post: American Bar Association says Jackson is ‘A-plus’ on final day of confirmation hearings.

Ukraine War

CNN: Ukrainians claim to have destroyed large Russian warship in Berdyansk.

Lviv, Ukraine (CNN) Ukrainian armed forces said they destroyed a large Russian landing ship at the port of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine on Thursday.

The port, which had recently been occupied by Russian forces with several Russian warships in dock, was rocked by a series of heavy explosions soon after dawn.

Social media videos showed fires raging at the dockside, with a series of secondary explosions reverberating across the city.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said they had “destroyed a large landing ship,” which they named as the “Orsk”in a post on Facebook.

The Ukrainian armed forces said that besides destroying the Orsk, two more ships were damaged.

“A 3,000-ton fuel tank was also destroyed. The fire spread to the enemy’s ammunition depot. Details of the damage inflicted on the occupier are being clarified,” they said.

It’s not known what weapon was used to attack the port.

More Ukraine/Russia reads

CNN: The bodies of Russian soldiers are piling up in Ukraine, as Kremlin conceals true toll of war.

The Economist: The Stalinisation of Russia. As it sinks in that he cannot win in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is resorting to repression at home.

Douglas London at The Wall Street Journal: Spies Will Doom Putin. After invading Ukraine, he’s tightening the screws the way the Soviets did—and that will help the CIA recruit Russians.

Lawrence Freedman at Comment is Freed: Losing Wars and Saving Face.

I guess that’s enough to keep us busy. I hope Thursday goes well for you and yours.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trumpism Isn’t Over Yet

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, Paul Wonner

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, by Paul Wonner

Good Afternoon!!

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

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

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

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

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

Girl with a Cat, Franz Marke

Girl with a Cat, by Franz Marke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Gennari

Painting by Jennifer Gennari

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

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

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

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

Read more at the NYT link.

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

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

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

August Macke

Painting by August Macke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Wonner cat painting

Painting by Paul Wonner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Mackee

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Macke

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

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

A few more stories to check out:

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

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

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

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

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

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