We seem to have lost many of our regular commenters. I hope it wasn’t something I said or did. Maybe, like me, you’re just exhausted and burned out by the awful things that are happening in our country. I just want to say that I miss you all and hope to see you again soon.
I can’t stop doing my posts. It has become a habit and a way for me to sort through the daily shocking events in Trump world. Will we ever recover from his destructive attacks on the Constitution and on democracy itself? I really don’t know.
Today is the day of Trump’s super-spreader rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His deplorable supporters will travel from other states, stand or sit close together, and shout at the top of their lungs; and if they are infected, they’ll spread the virus to other people near them. And then the rallyers will travel back to their homes and spread the virus there. Trump is actively working to kill Americans.
Jonathan Swan at Axios: Trump: Expect “wild evening” in Tulsa, mask optional.
President Trump defended his decision to move ahead with a controversial large-scale Tulsa rally this weekend amid the pandemic, saying in an interview Friday with Axios that “we have to get back to living our lives” and “we’re going to have a wild evening tomorrow night at Oklahoma.”
Pressed on why he wasn’t using his presidential bully pulpitto encourage rally attendees to wear masks, Trump described masks as “a double-edged sword.” When asked if he recommended people wear them, he added: “I recommend people do what they want.”
Why it matters: Ahead of the rally expected to draw tens of thousands of supporters and protesters, the president’s comments underscore his skepticism of the effectiveness of strict enforcement of masks and social distancing to combat the virus that has killed more than 118,000 Americans and devastated the U.S. economy.
And his advice flies in the face of warnings from Trump’s own government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Later in the interview, talking about China’s renewed trouble with coronavirus, Trump said: “It’s hard to stop it. It’s the most contagious virus anyone’s ever seen. I could look at you, and all of a sudden you have the virus. Or vice versa.”
Trump doubled down on his tweeted threat against protesters.
The president stood by his tweet earlier Friday suggesting protesters in Tulsa should prepare to face physical force from Oklahoma law enforcement, saying, “That’s got to be the least controversial of my tweets.”
“Oklahoma’s much tougher on law and order” than some parts of the country, he said, and insisted that protests are packed with anarchists, agitators and looters. “They’re all together.”
He relished the lifting of a health and safety curfew in Tulsa for his supporters and said he has no intention of wearing a mask at the rally and that people should do what they want.
“I don’t feel that I’m in danger,” he said. “I’ve met a lot, a lot of people, and so far here I sit.” (Everyone who meets with Trump, including this reporter, is tested beforehand.)
That’s right. Around 9:30 last night, Barr tried to fire U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York. The New York Times: Barr Tries to Fire U.S. Attorney in Trump-Related Cases, but He Won’t Go.
Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday night abruptly tried to fire the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, who has investigated several of President Trump’s closest associates, but Mr. Berman said he would not leave.
The clash focused new attention on the efforts by Mr. Trump and his closest aides to rid the administration of officials whom the president views as insufficiently loyal. It also touched off a crisis within the Justice Department over one of its most prestigious jobs, at a time when the agency has already been roiled by questions over whether Mr. Barr has undercut its tradition of independence from political interference.
Mr. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his team have been at the forefront of corruption inquiries in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. They successfully prosecuted the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who went to prison, and have been investigating Mr. Trump’s current personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Mr. Berman said in a statement, adding that he had learned that he was “stepping down” from a Justice Department news release.
Meanwhile, the virus is continuing to spread, especially in Trump-supporting states. NPR: Coronavirus Spread Hits 1-Day High, World Health Organization Says.
The coronavirus pandemic reached a new one-day high Thursday with 150,000 new confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization.
“The world is in a new and dangerous phase,” Tedros said. “Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies, but the virus is still spreading fast. It is still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”
Tedros urged countries and organizations to continue to focus on the basics of prevention, including proper sanitation and social distancing. He also pointed to an increased concern about the spread of the coronavirus in refugee communities across the world as well as refugees’ precarious economic situations.
Trump just managed to destroy another U.S. institution–Voice of America. The Washington Post: How Trump’s obsessions with media and loyalty coalesced in a battle for Voice of America.
I would love to know who is leaking info about Michael Flynn. Apparently Flynn reached out to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz while he was supposedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
While he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted at least one member of Congress who was publicly criticizing the special counsel probe, according to messages obtained by CNN.
Flynn sent Twitter direct messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz, encouraging the Florida Republican to “keep the pressure on.” It’s not clear if Flynn sent additional messages to other lawmakers.
“You stay on top of what you’re doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now. Keep the pressure on,” Flynn wrote in an April 2018 message to Gaetz, which was obtained by CNN.
On the evening Flynn sent the message to Gaetz, the lawmaker had appeared on Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where he criticized the Mueller investigation.
“We’ve got to play a far stronger role in exposing the hypocrisy at the Department of Justice,” Gaetz said in the April 3, 2018, appearance. “With no evidence of collusion, with no evidence of any crime whatsoever, they unleashed Bob Mueller to go investigate things that happened before Donald Trump was even contemplating running for president.”
That same hour, Flynn sent Gaetz the direct message.
Gaetz also received a message in February of this year. On the day that Attorney General William Barr was confirmed, Flynn sent Gaetz GIFs of a bald eagle and an American flag, without any accompanying text.
Flynn is still “cooperating,” and he hasn’t been sentenced yet. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, new information has been revealed by order of the judge in Flynn’s case Emmet Sullivan. Did the DOJ leak the incriminating info about Flynn contacting Gaetz in response to the new Mueller report info to make Flynn look bad? I wonder what Judge Sullivan will have to say about this?
There’s also this Devin Nunes tweet from 2016:
Here’s another interesting story I missed from a couple of days ago. This one is about Felix Sater, who was involved with Trump for years and, along with Michael Cohen working on the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Judge confirms Trump associate gave feds Osama bin Laden’s number.
A federal judge has confirmed for the first time that Felix Sater, a former Donald Trump business associate who drove Trump Tower Moscow negotiations during the 2016 election, helped the U.S. government track down Osama bin Laden.
During a hearing on Thursday in the Eastern District of New York — held as part of a lawsuit brought by First Look Media to unseal records related to Sater’s longtime cooperation with the government on various national security issues — Judge I. Leo Glasser said the media group already knew all of the “very interesting and dangerous things” Sater had done through his decade as an FBI informant.
“He cooperated,” Glasser said. “And you know what he did over the 10, 11 years, because you told me that you know. He provided the telephone number of Osama bin Laden. He has done an awful lot of very interesting and dangerous things.”
The detail is just another bizarre side plot that has emerged over the two-plus years that federal investigators, lawmakers and journalists have tried to uncover every detail about possible interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 election. The probes have put spotlights on a cast of figures in Trump’s extended orbit, many of whom possess unusual backgrounds.
Trump’s “Roy Cohn” AKA Cover-Up General Bill Barr appeared on state TV on Friday to publicly trash the investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Barr Again Casts Doubt on Russia Inquiry’s Origins, Aligning With Trump’s Attacks.
When Attorney General William P. Barr described the early stages of the Russia investigation as “spying” on the Trump campaign, he prompted questions about whether he had used that word spontaneously — or whether he was deliberately fueling conspiracy theories.
That question flared anew on Friday after Mr. Barr went even further in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation in two interviews that, by design or coincidence, provided fresh ammunition for President Trump and allies to attack law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Mr. Barr told Fox News he had been asking whether “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in opening the Russia inquiry. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.
And he doubled down on the innuendo-laden formulation he used in congressional testimony last month, telling The Wall Street Journal, “Government power was used to spy on American citizens.”
The statements were the latest in a series of actions and comments by Mr. Barr expressing skepticism about how the F.B.I. began investigating during the 2016 presidential campaign whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference. The attorney general has appointed a federal prosecutor to review aspects of the investigation, rather than await the results of an independent inspector general inquiry due in the coming weeks, and he has invoked the term “spying” on multiple occasions.
Are we stuck with Joe Biden as the 2020 Democratic nominee for president? The media in general seems to believe he’s the anointed one. But anointed by whom? Obama hasn’t endorsed him. Who really wants this guy to be POTUS?
Jill Filipovic at The New York Times: Does Anyone Actually Want Joe Biden to Be President?
The most important requirement for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee? Electability. It matters more, we keep hearing, than nominating a candidate who has good policies. It matters more than nominating a candidate with a track record of passing progressive legislation. It certainly matters more than nominating a candidate who could be the first female president.
Unfortunately, very few people who say they are putting electability first seem to understand what “electability” means, or what today’s electorate actually looks like.
Case in point: In a field crowded with nearly two dozen candidates, no answer to the electability question is offered more regularly and with more conviction than “Joe Biden.”
Mr. Biden, whose campaign officially kicks of this Saturday in Philadelphia, is the kind of guy you could see sitting behind a big desk, acting as a wise custodian of our democracy without posing any threat of changing much. He is from one of those scrappy Rust Belt cities fetishized by so many pundits — people who believe that the imaginary working-class white voter who is going to deliver the White House to the Democrats wants Joe Biden, which is what, in turn, makes Joe Biden electable.
But what about the rest of us–Democrats who aren’t white males living in the rust belt? What about women who still dream of a women president in their lifetimes? We don’t count when it comes to “electability” supposedly. Read more at the NYT.
Now, with Obama’s blessing if not his formal endorsement, Biden has sought the presidency himself for the third time in 30 years, and this time, he’s enjoying a solid and in some case growing lead over a historically huge field of Democratic contenders. The backbone of his support comes from the most reliable and one of the most coveted Democratic primary voting blocs: African-Americans.
Most of the cable news commentary has approached this fact with the condescending assertion that Biden’s black support is mostly due to name recognition and his proximity to Obama. Some have suggested that older black voters, who are traditionally more moderate, may be attracted to his centrism.
But these hot takes overlook something less tangible and quantifiable: how much the sincere, integrated friendship of Biden and Obama (and their families) was cathartic and inspirational. It was the personification of the post-racial utopia some hoped Obama’s election victories would deliver but never did, and probably never could.
Their platonic bromance provided comfort during the confounding period when Obama’s popularity seemed to grow simultaneously with the rise and improbable election of a man who championed a racist campaign to discredit him.
Howard suggests that Biden could loose African American support as the campaign goes on. He doesn’t specifically address the attitudes of black women or provide any evidence for his arguments. The piece is based on his own personal opinions. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.
I’ll end with this article at The Washington Post on Nevada, where women are now in control of the legislature: Where women call the shots.
She didn’t plan to say it. Yvanna Cancela, a newly elected Democrat in the Nevada Senate, didn’t want to “sound crass.” But when a Republican colleague defended a century-old law requiring doctors to ask women seeking abortions whether they’re married, Cancela couldn’t help firing back.
“A man is not asked his marital status before he gets a vasectomy,” she countered — and the packed hearing room fell silent.
Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices.
Cancela, 32, is part of the wave of women elected by both parties in November, many of them younger than 40. Today, women hold the majority with 23 seats in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate, or a combined 52 percent.
No other legislature has achieved that milestone in U.S. history. Only Colorado comes close, with women constituting 47 percent of its legislators. In Congress, just one in four lawmakers is a woman. And in Alabama, which just enacted an almost complete ban on abortion, women make up just 15 percent of lawmakers.
The female majority is having a huge effect: More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders. Bills to ban child marriage and examine the causes of maternal mortality are also on the docket.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Another old white man joined the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today. Yes, Joe Biden is running, unfortunately. I won’t be turning my TV on today; I don’t want to listen to “savvy” pundits talk about how the Democrats’ savior is another old white man in his dotage. I’m already sick and tired of the 2020 campaign and the primaries are still 8 months away.
Some antidotes to the Biden media frenzy:
Truthdig: Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple.
Payday Report: Union-Busting Lawyer to Host Biden’s 1st Fundraiser Thursday.
And this from Twitter is laugh out loud material:
I watched Biden’s announcement video so you don’t have to. He talked about Charlottesville and Trump’s response the white supremacist march and the murder of “a brave young woman” Heather Heyer (he didn’t say her name). You’d think Biden would be worried that this will inspire reporters to bring up his questionable past on race issues. I was surprised that he never mentioned the threat Russia still poses to our elections and our democracy. You’d think that would be stronger issue for him since he was an insider when the Russian attacks took place in 2015-16.
I’m glad to see that even older white man Bernie Sanders is finally getting vetted by the mainstream media. The latest examples:
Bernie Sanders harshly criticized the wealth of US senators during his first campaign for office in 1971, calling it “immoral” that half the members of the Senate were millionaires.
Sanders’ decades-old comments, which were picked up in December 1971 by the Bennington Banner, a local Vermont newspaper, are resurfacing as the US senator from Vermont has acknowledged that he is now a millionaire in large part due to his 2016 best-selling book, “Our Revolution.” [….]
Sanders made the comments when he was running for US Senate at the time under the banner of the Liberty Union Party, a self-described “radical political party” that advocated nationalization of industries and redistribution of wealth to tackle inequality.
The senators serving at the time, Sanders said, advocated “the interests of corporations and big business —- their fellow millionaires.”
In the same article, Sanders proposed eliminating the annual salary of members of Congress (which was $42,500 in 1971) and instead replacing their pay with whatever the average income was in their home state. At the time, Sanders said it would amount to $7,600 for representatives from Vermont.
CNBC took a look at Sanders’ tax returns: Bernie Sanders draws mayoral pension while running for president — his campaign co-chair Rep. Ro Khanna once blasted such ‘double-dipping.’
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, for years has drawn a pension for his eight-year stint in the 1980s as mayor of Burlington even has he received a salary as a member of Congress.
Sanders, who earns $174,000 as a senator, received $5,241 from Burlington’s pension system in 2018, according to his federal income tax return.
His total income with his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, that year was $561,293, which was down from the more than $1 million they earned in the prior two years, largely as a result of his book about running for president in 2016.
Public financial disclosure records show that Sanders, who began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 and in the Senate in 2007, has received nearly $62,000 in Burlington pension payouts since 2005.
And, in case you missed it, Bernie didn’t do very well at yesterday’s She The People Presidential Forum.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders faced a skeptical audience of minority women in Texas Wednesday, a group that will be critical in deciding the Democratic presidential nominee from a racially diverse field of candidates and a record number of women.
Pressed by multiple questioners to address why women of color should support him, Sanders leaned heavily on his economic message, drawing audible expressions of frustration from some of the more than 1,500 people attending the She the People forum in Houston.
“Black women will be an integral part of what our campaign and our administration is about,” he said after being prompted by a moderator of the event, which brought together eight Democratic presidential candidates for separate discussions about issues affecting minority women.
That comment came at the end of his response to a question about how he would appeal to the black women who predominantly backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, to which Sanders offered a long answer about supporting whomever ends up being the party’s nominee.
As usual, Bernie didn’t answer the question.
The Daily Beast: Bernie Sanders Met With Boos After Name-Dropping Martin Luther King at She the People Summit.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was met with audible groans from the audience Wednesday night at the She the People Presidential Forum in Houston for his response to a question on the rise of white nationalism. Sanders, one of eight Democratic contenders for 2020 featured at the summit, which described itself as “the first-ever presidential candidate forum focused on women of color,” prompted boos from the crowd after defaulting to his usual talking points about immigration reform and mentioning his attendance at the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King when asked how he’d handle the issue of white-supremacist violence and what specifically he’d do for women of color. The questioner, former NYC Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Sayu Bhojwani, later tweeted that Sanders “had a rough time” with the question but “came around.” Others were less forgiving. “Bernie was asked important questions and he answered none of them,” tweeted disability-rights advocate Stephanie Olarte. “It is so sad that the moderators ask the questions in different forms to get an answer Y NADA.”
Click the link to read more reactions.
You probably read it already but The Washington Post published an op-ed by Hillary Clinton yesterday:
First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.
Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.
Clinton argues that we should follow the example of Watergate, in which public hearings led to “a formal impeachment inquiry.”
Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger….
Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential.
Now that’s leadership. If only she were president!
Some Mueller/Russia stories:
The Mueller report’s narrative of secret meetings between members of Donald Trump’s orbit and Russian operatives — contacts that occurred both before and after the 2016 election — portrays a political campaign that left itself open to a covert Russian influence operation, former intelligence officials and other experts say….
“The Russians came up against a group of people who were not intelligence savvy and who were predisposed not to listen to the intelligence and counterintelligence community,” said Luis Rueda, who spent 27 years as a CIA operations officer. “The Russians made a very bold and aggressive attempt to take advantage of that — to try to compromise people, to try to leverage their access.”
The FBI, as part of its counterintelligence mission, is continuing to investigate Russian attempts to influence the Trump administration and assess the national security damage from Russia’s 2016 effort, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News….
John Sipher, who served in Moscow and once helped run CIA spying operations against Russia, said, “It’s clear that the Russians had a pretty extensive full court press on this administration.” The full extent of how successful it was may never be known, he said.
“Being able to lock it down and prove in court? That only comes when you catch somebody red-handed, or when you have a source on the inside of your adversary who hands you documents.”
Good to know that the counterintelligence investigation is continuing.
The New York Times: Mueller Report Reveals Trump’s Fixation on Targeting Hillary Clinton.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a tenuous hold on his job when President Trump called him at home in the middle of 2017. The president had already blamed him for recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 election, sought his resignation and belittled him in private and on Twitter.
Now, Mr. Trump had another demand: He wanted Mr. Sessions to reverse his recusal and order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
“The ‘gist’ of the conversation,” according to the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, quoting Mr. Sessions, “was that the president wanted Sessions to unrecuse from ‘all of it.’”
Mr. Mueller’s report released last week brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation. But his request of Mr. Sessions — and two similar ones detailed in the report — stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken.
Read the rest at the NYT.
The New York Times: Trump Vows Stonewall of ‘All’ House Subpoenas, Setting Up Fight Over Powers.
The Trump administration escalated its defiance of Congress on Wednesday, as the Justice Department refused to let an official testify on Capitol Hill and President Trump vowed to fight what he called a “ridiculous” subpoena ordering a former top aide to appear before lawmakers.
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House. “These aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.” [….]
Mr. Trump’s flurry of moves this week to block multiple congressional investigations signaled a new phase of constitutional friction that could redefine long-murky boundaries of Congress’s power to conduct oversight of the executive branch — and the power of presidents to keep government affairs secret from lawmakers.
Are we in a Constitutional crisis yet?
So . . . what else is happening? What stories have you been following?
It’s another whirlwind of a Friday and I’m just going to put some odds and ends up before we get started on the Penultimate Mueller Friday
HBO and The Game of Thrones folks told Preziditz Kkkremlin Caligulia to stop using GOT memes (via The Verge).
I have an apt one for him
Fucked is coming.
HBO is asking President Donald Trump, again, to not use Game of Thrones memes on Twitter as a way of sending political messages.
Trump tweeted a meme about the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The main font featured in the image below is lifted directly from HBO’s most popular series. This isn’t the first time Trump has used a Game of Thrones meme to address a controversy he’s involved in, but HBO has issued a statement essentially asking the president to stop.
“Though we can understand the enthusiasm for Game of Thrones now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes,” an HBO spokesperson told Bloomberg.
Some brief good news from the roof top of Notre Dame de Paris:“Bees Kept on Notre Dame’s Roof Have SURVIVED The Fire!” This is from Bee Keeping Basics.
200.000 bees that were living on the roof of Notre Dame have survived the fire blaze! These three hives were put on the cathedral’s rooftop in 2013 for a biodiversity project by Nicolas Géant. He said that the bees were going in and out of their homes this morning. Each hive produces approximately 25 kg of honey each year which is sold to the Notre Dame staff.
Nicolas Géant was extremely happy to announce that his bees have survived the fire that was raging for over 12 hours on Monday. The fire destroyed the spire and almost all of the ornate centuries-old roof of Notre Dame.
He says: ‘Until this morning, I had had no news,’.
‘At first, I thought that the three hives had burned but I had no information after Monday’s fire. Then I saw from satellite images that this was not the case and then the cathedral spokesman told me that they were going in and out of the hives.’ – he adds.
Well, the Conway family are at it again:
I feel sorry for their kids. Dinner time conversations must be their own private hell realm.
So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice — in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
Still, the special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state.
That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be — and isn’t — whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.
The Constitution commands the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It requires him to affirm that he will “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” And as a result, by taking the presidential oath of office, a president assumes the duty not simply to obey the laws, civil and criminal, that all citizens must obey, but also to be subjected to higher duties — what some excellent recent legal scholarship has termed the “fiduciary obligations of the president.”
I’m not exactly sure what to say about the entire thing other than the Mueller Report appears to be a roadmap to Impeachment just like the report on Nixon. Will we make it there?
I do know there are always fascinating morality plays and narratives that come out of the inner turmoil that comes from being around a boss that knows nothing but personal ambition at any cost. Sean Spicer and the Huckabeast come off as individuals of bad moral character who lie for whatever purpose whenever asked. Don McGahn comes off as one of the most conflicted yet personally sure of where he has placed his boundaries. There are different narratives today about his role as White House Counsel with a POTUS demanding he behave like a consigliare and fixer. From CNN: “Don McGahn may have single-handedly saved Donald Trump’s presidency”. Trigger Warning: This is Chris Cillizza who frequently has specious opinions.
Here’s the delicious irony of Trump attacking his former top lawyer: McGahn’s refusal to heed the President’s directive to fire Mueller — or to tell the deputy attorney general to fire Mueller — very well may have saved Trump’s presidency.And, no, I am not exaggerating.Let’s go through this step-by-step — starting with how Mueller described Trump’s interaction with McGahn over the special counsel. Here’s the relevant passage (bolding is mine):“On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.“The “Saturday Night Massacre” refers to then-President Richard Nixon’s order — in October 1973 amid the Watergate probe — that Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order, as did deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork, yes, that Robert Bork, then fired Cox.That moment was seen as the beginning of the end for Nixon — a sign that as the walls of the Watergate investigation were closing in, he was panicking. (The spark for Cox’s removal was that he had requested Nixon turn over tapes of private White House conversations — and Nixon refused.)Later in the Mueller report comes this episode when, following The New York Times report in January 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to remove Mueller, the President tries to force McGahn into a denial. Here’s that (and again boding is mine):“The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.”McGahn’s two moments of refusal to accede to Trump’s wishes are massive pivot points in the presidency. If McGahn had made different decisions than he did — especially on that day in June 2017 –Trump’s time in the White House might be looking very, very different today.
Late in Don McGahn’s tenure as White House counsel, President Trump became so suspicious that he wondered aloud whether McGahn was wearing a wire, a source familiar with the president’s private conversations told Axios.
Why it matters: We have no evidence that Trump’s suspicions have any basis in reality. But they reveal the depth of his paranoia about his former counsel, who sat for many hours with Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors.
The episode raises the question of the obligations of a White House counsel when he realizes that he is the lawyer for a fundamentally dishonest president who is ready to violate the criminal law to achieve self-interested or political ends. The counsel in these circumstances may have to consider what it means for him to remain in this post for a president who considers him a “lying bastard” for refusing to follow an unlawful order.
Mr. McGahn perhaps stayed on in the belief that the larger objectives of the administration, like moving judicial nominations and achieving deregulation, were well worth pursuing. But that is a judgment more about the administration’s policy imperatives than the working conditions required for the maintenance of the rule of law in the presidency.
The choice Mr. McGahn faced was unprecedented. He was not, for example, in the position of John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, who did testify against the president in the Watergate affair but who was an original party to the wrongdoing that ended that presidency. There has never been a suggestion that Mr. McGahn ever encouraged or participated in unlawful activities.
In fact, Mr. McGahn acted appropriately and admirably to resist involvement in the president’s scheme to commit obstruction and cooperated truthfully and at length with Mr. Mueller’s investigation. The special counsel declared him a “credible” witness with no discernible motive to lie or exaggerate, and accepted his account over the president’s denials.
But should a future White House counsel have a clear obligation to alert the Department of Justice when the president attempts to obstruct justice? Federal law mandates that department and agency employees alert the attorney general to “any information” that relates to “violations of federal criminal law” involving government officers and employees. The code of ethics for government service requires reporting of “corruption” to the authorities. The application of these requirements to the president’s White House counsel poses unique and difficult issues, but they need to be confronted.
So, we will be talking about this a long time. You may want to read this thread from Norm Ornstein on his thoughts about what the Dems need to do next.
I wonder how much time we will have before this all continues to escalate beyond how status quo works in a not the least bit status quo presidency. When I say Fucked is Coming I somewhat worry that it while be the country. Interviews today on TV and crazy friends from high school dropping shitbombs on Facebook convince me that Trump’s cult is unmoved by any of this. And, the Election is Coming with the news that Biden is entering the race. If Biden and Sanders are the front runners and are careening towards the Trump Cult, then, we are fucked. Remember, Dems can always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
However, those hives of bees survived that catastrophic fire … so maybe that’s a lesson in there some where.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Well Sky Dancers, we made it to another week!
Right now, I’m watching CNN cover the catastrophic fire destroying Notre Dame de Paris. It’s been quite awhile since I visited this beautiful old Cathedral but I cannot imagine Paris without its spires. All I can think about is that incredible organ.
There is very little that appears to be going on to stop the fire. Its cause is unknown. Its spires look like bones eaten by the flames of bright red lava.
It is unlikely that the release of the Mueller Report Thursday will create the flames required to purify the stench of the Trump family crime syndicate from our Republic. We know that the new Attorney General is well skilled in burying constitutional scandals undertaken by lawless Presidents. We need look no farther than what we have learned about the Iran Contra Debacle and Barr’s role in suppressing justice, evidence, and the law. Ryan Goodman–writing for tJust Security-– has this headline: “Barr’s Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep’t Memo in 1989”.
On Friday the thirteenth October 1989, by happenstance the same day as the “Black Friday” market crash, news leaked of a legal memo authored by William Barr. He was then serving as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It is highly uncommon for any OLC memo to make headlines. This one did because it was issued in “unusual secrecy” and concluded that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries without the consent of the foreign state. The headline also noted the implication of the legal opinion at that moment in time. It appeared to pave the way for abducting Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega.
Members of Congress asked to see the full legal opinion. Barr refused, but said he would provide an account that “summarizes the principal conclusions.” Sound familiar? In March 2019, when Attorney General Barr was handed Robert Mueller’s final report, he wrote that he would “summarize the principal conclusions” of the special counsel’s report for the public.
When Barr withheld the full OLC opinion in 1989 and said to trust his summary of the principal conclusions, Yale law school professor Harold Koh wrote that Barr’s position was “particularly egregious.” Congress also had no appetite for Barr’s stance, and eventually issued a subpoena to successfully wrench the full OLC opinion out of the Department.
What’s different from that struggle and the current struggle over the Mueller report is that we know how the one in 1989 eventually turned out.
When the OLC opinion was finally made public long after Barr left office, it was clear that Barr’s summary had failed to fully disclose the opinion’s principal conclusions. It is better to think of Barr’s summary as a redacted version of the full OLC opinion. That’s because the “summary” took the form of 13 pages of written testimony. The document was replete with quotations from court cases, legal citations, and the language of the OLC opinion itself. Despite its highly detailed analysis, this 13-page version omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion. And there was evidently no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the public.
There was some scuttlebutt last night that the West Wing had seen at least some of the report and that KKKremlin Caligula was on a rampage. It’s really still unknown what will see what and it’s likely we’re in for some court time.
Since those findings were announced, congressional Democrats have been sharply critical of Barr’s handling of the Mueller report, accusing the attorney general of soft-pedaling the findings to protect the president.
The House Judiciary Committee is poised to issue a subpoena for the report’s redacted portions.
Barr has spent weeks redacting sensitive information from the report in preparation for its public release. Barr is shielding four specific categories of information: grand jury material, details whose public release could harm ongoing investigations, any information that would “potentially compromise sources and methods” in intelligence collection, and anything that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
That last category of redaction suggests Barr wants to keep secret any derogatory information gathered by investigators about figures who ended up not being central to Mueller’s investigation.
This analysis is from Darren Samuelsohn of Politic: “The Insiders’ Guide To the Mueller Report. How experts and political operatives are gearing up to read the juiciest Washington info dump in two decades.”
The 400-page Mueller report, expected to land this week, is the most anticipated political read since Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky and the stained blue dress—and potentially even juicier. But how do you wring that juice out of a behemoth of a legal document, full of redactions, at the speed of social media?
That’s what the tribes of American politics are gearing up to do this week.
From the moment it drops, the scramble will be on—to defend the president, to plan new lines of attack, or to put this whole big crazy story into the wider context of American history. So much material released all at once raises the question of how to dig in on something so dense, with so much buildup, where the feeding frenzy will be instant among the cable TV chattering classes and Twitter piranhas.
The capital has already evolved one model for processing a big tell-all book: “the Washington read,” where you scan the index (assuming there is one) to find everything it says about you, your boss and your enemies and then fake like you’ve read the rest. But this time that won’t be enough. The goods might not come easily. They might be buried in an obscure subsection. And there’s way more at stake than in the typical gossipy memoir.
The report by special counsel Robert Mueller could be the biggest oppo dump in history. It could be a fizzle. Although Mueller didn’t find enough evidence to charge President Donald Trump for conspiring with Russia to win the White House, and Attorney General William Barr has concluded that it doesn’t show Trump obstructed justice, the report itself is expected to be rich with details uncovered by the sweeping 22-month investigation.
We already know something about the way the report will look, courtesy of Barr. The attorney general last week told Congress that the document will be color-coded to explain why lawyers for Mueller and DOJ have redacted some of the most sensitive material. But he promised that, for all the gaps, the report won’t end up looking totally like Swiss cheese. “You will get more than the gist,” Barr told a Senate appropriations subcommittee.
So, of course, Trump is staging side shows to disrupt the news we may get from the release. Here are some headlines for that effort.
From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post: Just say it: Trump’s attacks on Ilhan Omar are designed to incite hatred
One cannot conclusively establish one way or the other whether Trump actively wants to see physical harm befall Omar. But here’s what we can say right now: Trump’s attacks absolutely are designed to incite hatred of Muslims, and the fact that this could have horrifying consequences does not weigh on him in the slightest.
We know these things, because Trump’s monumentally dishonest treatment of Omar’s quote, as well as his own long history, leave no doubt about them. Trump has used 9/11 to stir up hatred of Muslims before — relying on massively deceptive agitprop to do so — and he has repeatedly continued trafficking in various tropes even after they have been confirmed to potentially play some kind of role in inciting hate and even murder.
From Andrew Desiderio / Politico: Trump attorneys warn accounting firm not to hand over financial records.
President Donald Trump’s attorneys are warning of potential legal action if an accounting firm turns over a decade of the president’s financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Trump attorneys William S. Consovoy and Stefan Passantino are urging Mazars USA not to comply with a subpoena that Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) plans to issue on Monday for Trump’s financial documents, calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president.
“It is no secret that the Democrat Party has decided to use its new House majority to launch a flood of investigations into the president’s personal affairs in hopes of using anything they can find to damage him politically,” Consovoy and Passantino wrote to Jerry D. Bernstein, Mazars’ outside counsel.
The attorneys said they were formally putting Mazars ”on notice” — an implicit threat of legal action. They also urged Bernstein to hold off on providing the documents to Cummings until the subpoena can be litigated in court, suggesting that a protracted legal battle is likely to ensue.
“The Democrats’ fervor has only intensified after the special counsel squelched their ‘Russia collusion’ narrative,” the attorneys continued, outlining a series of legal precedents that they argue prevents Mazars from complying with Cummings’ subpoena.
Here are some headlines on the Democratic contenders for the nomination for candidate for President:
Chris D’Angelo / HuffPost:
Elizabeth Warren Lays Out ‘Climate Solution’ Vision For Public Lands
Jonathan Easley / The Hill: Secret tapes linger over Buttigieg’s meteoric rise
Also, Speaker Pelosi was interviewed by Lesley Stahl on Sixty MInutes last night. If you’re interested in what she said, you may follow this link.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: The Mueller report is about an attack on our elections by a foreign government. And we want to know about that. We wanna know about that in terms of being able to prevent it from happening again. So it’s bigger even than Donald Trump.
She says she doesn’t trust Attorney General William Barr.
Lesley Stahl: Do you think that the attorney general is covering anything up?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I have no idea. I have no idea. He may be whitewashing, but I don’t know if he’s covering anything up. There’s no use having that discussion. All we need to do is see the Mueller report.
Lesley Stahl: And asking for the president’s tax returns?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: It should not have taken this long for the president– he said he was under audit. When I was in a– I was going to a Martin Luther King breakfast in San Francisco and one of the waiters there said to me, “Madame Speaker, when the president says the Mueller report’s going on too long just tell him not as long as your audit.” (LAUGHTER) Everybody has released their returns and we will have legislation to say that everyone should– must, but for the moment he’s been hi– so what’s he hiding?
She’s just hit her 100th day as speaker. She recently called the president to ask for a meeting on infrastructure, but there’s no sign that the gridlock that has plagued Congress for years is easing.
Lesley Stahl: One of the complaints we’ve heard is that you don’t reach across the aisle because it seems like right now nothing is getting done. You pass things– whatever it is dies in the Senate.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Nothing died. Nothing’s died. We already put together 100 days, the fact that we even passed them in the House is a victory. Let’s figure out the places– figure out where we can find common ground. There’s always been bipartisan support for Dreamers, bipartisan support for gun safety, bipartisan support for infrastructure.
Lesley Stahl: But why doesn’t anything get done–
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: We just started.
Lesley Stahl: –with the Dreamers?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: We just started. We’re three months since we were in– in office.
Lesley Stahl: But you’re talking about 100 days. This president’s been in office for two years plus.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: And we’ve been here three months. Hey, may I introduce you to the idea of the spout– power of the speaker is to set the agenda. We didn’t have a speaker who would bring a gun bill to the floor. We didn’t have a speaker who would bring a Dreamers issue to the floor. We do now. And that’s a very big difference. The power of the speaker is awesome. Awesome.
But her becoming speaker was in doubt last December when a group in her caucus agitated for a change to someone younger. It was the president, of all people, who rescued her, in that now famous Oval Office meeting.
President Trump in Oval Office meeting: You know, Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.
That did not sit well with her.
Speaker Pelsoi in Oval Office meeting: Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength I bring to this meeting as a leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory…
Right after the meeting, she walked to the mics in her orange coat, with a whole new image, her ascendance to the speakership no longer in jeopardy.
Lesley Stahl: You seem to be one of the very, very few people who have stood up to him and won.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: No, people do. People do. It– it is–
Lesley Stahl: Maybe not so much in public the way– this was televised.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Well, that was his problem. In other words I tried to say let’s not have this conversation in the public domain because you’re saying things that we have to contradict because they’re not true. And he said, “Oh, I want the public to see it.” Well, you want them to see that you don’t– don’t know what you’re talking about? Really?
Lesley Stahl: Here’s what you’ve said. You’ve said, “If someone’s ripping your face off. You rip their face off.” (LAUGH)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Oh yeah, I would do that.
So, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine and my very brief spring break. Temple and I are going to walk down to the river and contemplate as much of nothing as possible. And, I will call wordpress about whatever these ads and problems are …
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Silent film version of Victor Hugo’s novel about a hunchbacked bellringer who is flogged for trying to kidnap a gypsy girl at the order of an archdeacon’s evil brother. He then saves her from being hung for a false murder charge. Stars whose parents were deaf, Lon Chaney Sr., Ernest Torrence, Patsy Ruth Miller, Brandon Hurst. Public domain film.