Posted: November 19, 2022 Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: Dobbs decision, DOJ, Elon Musk, Hobby Lobby decision, Jack Smith, January 6 investigation of Trump, Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, Merrick Garland, obstruction of justice, Special Counsel, Supreme Court, Twitter
By surrealist artist Ophelia Redpath, 1965
I wish I had kept a record of my sleep patterns and accompanying political events over the past 7 years. I know I rarely slept through the night during the first couple of years of Trump’s “presidency.” I would stay up late, sleep a couple of hours and wake up at 3AM to obsessively check twitter for news, and still get up early the next day. Now I’m going through a period of time when I can’t get to sleep until very late–around 1:00-2:00AM–and then sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00AM. I’m also getting old–I’ll be 75 soon–and it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. Anyway, I slept until 10:00 today, so I’m once again very late in posting. If only we knew what is going to happen with the Trump investigations, maybe I would be able to go back to sleeping like a normal person.
As everyone knows by now, yesterday Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether to indict Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection cases–including whether Trump has obstructed justice.
CNN: DOJ announces special counsel for Trump-related Mar-a-Lago and January 6 criminal investigations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.
Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations….
The prosecutions of those who physically breached the US Capitol have been the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and those will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses close to the former president for documents and testimony in the probe.
White Cat by Igor Galanin
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.” [….]
According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.
Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.
Most of the TV/Twitter legal experts are saying this was a good decision by Garland. One dissenter is Neal Kaytal, who says it is a big mistake.
From Raw Story: Legal experts: Special counsel investigating Trump will move very quickly.
Former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann believes that newly-appointed special counsel Jack Smith will move with haste in his investigations of former President Donald Trump.
Speaking with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, after the host said Smith may become the “most important prosecutor in human history,” Weissmann discussed his history with the new special prosecutor.
“So I’ve known Jack for decades,” Weissman said.
“I was the chief of the criminal division when he started in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he explained.
“And Jack, as you noted, has had all sorts of positions that make him really perfect for this job in the sense of his experience, he’s a career prosecutor, he’s completely apolitical — in public integrity, they prosecuted Democrats and Republicans,” Weissmann said. “They don’t care, if you committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you’re in no party.”
He noted he learned from Robert Mueller that “you can’t slow things down to use as an excuse not to move forward.”
“For people who are worried about this slowing down, I have the exact opposite reaction.”
Marcy Wheeler suggested another reason why Garland might have taken the step of appointing a special counsel:
I think that makes sense. Of course Trump and Republicans will still claim the investigations are political, and I’m pretty sure Garland knows that. This morning at Politico Playbook, Rachel Bade summarized the political reactions so far: A new special counsel sets Washington ablaze.
Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND’s decision to name a special counsel to helm DONALD TRUMP-related probes at the Justice Department roiled the political world on Friday.
In an afternoon statement delivered before cameras at Main Justice, Garland argued the appointment of veteran DOJ hand JACK SMITH was necessary given that Trump and JOE BIDEN could be facing off for the presidency in 2024. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said.
Some good it did him. On cue, Republicans called foul — and rushed forward to defend an ex-president who had appeared to be losing his grip on the GOP following the party’s disappointing election performance.
By François Batet
AT MAR-A-LAGO … After 10 days of midterm recriminations, the announcement put Trump back in his most comfortable posture: portraying himself as the victim of his corrupt enemies. During a fancy black-tie affair at his Florida resort, Trump told Fox News’ Brooke Singman that he won’t participate in the probe and blasted the DOJ for the “worst politicization” of the department ever.
— “I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel ROBERT] MUELLER who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?” Trump told them. “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”
ON CAPITOL HILL … Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) tweeted that Republicans should “IMPEACH MERRICK GARLAND!” and insisted her party “refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee.”
— The latter is particularly noteworthy: It sets up a new and explosive spending clash that could easily prompt a government shutdown in the next Congress. Why? MTG and likeminded Trump loyalists will press KEVIN McCARTHY (or whoever else manages to become speaker) to toe a hard line while Democrats will absolutely refuse to defund the investigations. Watch this space.
IN LAS VEGAS … Even former Vice President MIKE PENCE blasted the special counsel appointment as “very troubling” during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, according to another good-get interview by Fox’s Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser.
— “No one is above the law, but I am not sure it’s against the law to take bad advice from your lawyers,” he said. Pence went on to suggest that the DOJ has been politicized by Democrats and and to knock the FBI for conducting a raid on Mar-a-Lago to fish out classified information Trump had taken to his post-presidency residence. (Note that Smith won’t only be managing the documents probe, but Jan. 6-related matters as well.).
Bade notes that Republicans were all in on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents while she was running for president. You can also read a bit of background on Jack Smith at The New York Times.
One more on the Smith appointment from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Merrick Garland was right to appoint a special counsel.
Advocates of swift action against Trump no doubt will be alarmed by the announcement, but there is less here than meets the eye. For starters, Smith needs no introduction to the Justice Department. He was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in February 2015. Before that, he worked as head of the department’s Public Integrity Section and as investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He also worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.
Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen
Most important, the attorney general announced that the career staff who have been working on these cases will continue in their roles. That, Garland suggested, will mean the query will “not slow down.” Smith will make a recommendation to Garland on whether to prosecute Trump. Until then, Garland will have no direct supervision over Smith.
Did Garland need to wait until Trump’s campaign launch to make the appointment? Perhaps not, but so long as Trump was not an active candidate, there was little reason for Garland to step aside. Now that Trump is a potential opponent to Biden, Garland believes it is essential to add a layer of separation between himself and the line prosecutors.
Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “Looking over Jack Smith’s decades of prosecutorial experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to hit the ground running and to sew together whatever loose ends remain as he puts together a comprehensive prosecution of the leaders of the attempted coup, with the former president at its center, as well as a powerful prosecution of the former president for his theft of top secret documents as he absconded to Mar-a-Lago.” He adds that, while he previously “publicly urged that there was no need to appoint a special counsel, my principal concern was the need to avoid delay, and it appears that this appointment will solve that problem.”
Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel to the House impeachment managers during Trump’s first impeachment, agrees. “I have no concern that a special counsel will shy away from charging, and Jack Smith has outstanding experience,” he tells me. Eisen also thinks the move will not cause much of a delay. He observes: “Mr. Smith should move with alacrity. Here, where any other American who had removed the even one classified document would be subject to likely prosecution, and where the former president took dozens, the rule of law demands fast action.”
In other news, The New York Times has an important story about a Supreme Court leak that–like the recent leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade–involves Justice Sam Alito: Former Anti-Abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach.
As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.
In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.
Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates….
Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat
The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.
Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”
The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.
Read the rest at the New York Times.
From Georgia–NBC News reports that: In win for Democrats, Georgia judge allows early voting in Senate runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving.
A Fulton County judge ruled Friday that the Georgia Secretary of State cannot prohibit counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a victory for the state Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.
The order comes after a brief legal battle between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and the Democratic Party of Georgia over the Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
Raffensperger, a Republican, had maintained that changes to Georgia voting laws meant that there could be no early voting on Nov. 26, the only Saturday when it would have been possible for Georgians to cast an early vote in the hotly contested race.
Democrats and Warnock’s campaign filed suit challenging Raffensperger’s determination, and Judge Thomas A. Cox agreed with their arguments in a ruling late Friday afternoon. “The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” the judge wrote.
By Glenn Harrington
Raffensberger’s office will appeal the decision.
The dispute centers on a provision of Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, which stipulates early in-person voting must end the Friday before the runoff. This year, that would be Friday, Dec. 2.
The law also stipulates early in-person voting not be held on any Saturday that follows a “public or legal holiday” on the preceding Thursday or Friday. Raffensperger contended that meant there would be no early in-person voting on Nov. 26, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. (It could not be held this weekend because the general election vote is not being certified until Nov. 21.)
Attorneys for the Democrats and Warnock argued the section of the law Raffensperger cited applies to primaries and general elections, but not to runoffs. Cox agreed.
Of course there is tons of news about Twitter and Musk. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:
Yoel Roth at the New York Times: I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.
The Guardian: How Elon Musk’s Twitter reign magnified his brutal management style.
The Washington Post: Musk summons engineers to Twitter HQ as millions await platform’s collapse.
The New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave.
What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?
Posted: August 13, 2022 Filed under: cat art, caturday | Tags: DOJ, Donald Trump, Espionage Act, FBI, FBI search of Mar-a-Laago, Inflation Reduction Act, Merrick Garland, obstruction of justice, Salmon Rushdie
What a week this has been!
Norman Catwell, by Lucia Heffernan
On Monday, the FBI executed a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and took 27 boxes that contained above top secret documents. Trump’s Republican allies viciously attacked the FBI and DOJ.
Predictably, on Thursday one of Trump’s fans entered an FBI office in Cincinnati, fired a nail gun, and pulled out an AR-15 style rifle. He then fled and was eventually shot and killed during a standoff in a cornfield.
While the standoff was in progress, Attorney General Merrick Garland made a public statement about the Mar-a-Lago search. He said that he had personally signed of on the search warrant, which was then approved by a federal magistrate judge in Florida based on probable cause that a crime had been committed. He also said he was requesting the release of the search warrant and the list of items taken in the search as long as Trump did not object.
On Friday Trump released the warrant and receipt for items taken to Breitbart, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal about an hour before the court approved the public release. Trump did not hide the names of the agents listed in the warrant. Breitbart published the names, opening the agents to terroristic threats and violence from Trump fans. They were also threatening the judge.
Finally, we learned that the 45th president of the united states is being investigated for violating the espionage act as well as obstruction of justice. Read the full warrant and receipt at The Daily Beast. You can also read a timeline of events over many months that led up to the Mar-a-Lago search at USA Today.
While all this was happening, Democrats in the Senate and House passed Biden’s massive inflation reduction/health care/climate change bill.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, author Salmon Rushdie was attacked and badly injured at an event in upstate New York.
The latest on the Trump espionage investigation:
The Washington Post: Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court filing shows.
The FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this week found four sets of top-secret documents and seven other sets of classified information, according to a list of items seized in the high-profile raid and unsealed by a federal magistrate judge on Friday.
Cat art by Rudi Hurzlmeier
The written inventory — a document provided by investigators after a search — says the FBI took about 20 boxes of items from the Mar-a-Lago Club on Monday, including photo binders, information about the president of France, and a variety of classified material.
One set of documents is listed as “Various classified TS/SCI documents,” areference to top secret/sensitive compartmented information, a highly classified category of government secrets, in addition to the four sets of top-secret papers. Agents also took three sets of documents classified as secret, and three sets of papers classified as confidential — the lowest level of classification.
The list of seized material doesn’t further describe the subject matter of any of the classified documents.
“Some of what was in Trump’s possession is mind-boggling,” said Javed Ali, a senior official at the National Security Council during the Trump administration who now teaches at the University of Michigan. “Whenever you leave government — including probably a former president — you can’t just take it with you.”
More details from CNN: FBI took 11 sets of classified material from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home while investigating possible Espionage Act violations.
The search warrant identifies three federal crimes that the Justice Department is looking at as part of its investigation: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. The inclusion of the crimes indicates the Justice Department has probable cause to investigate those offenses as it was gathering evidence in the search. No one has been charged with a crime at this time….
While details about the documents themselves remain scarce, the laws cited in the warrant offer new insight into what the FBI was looking for when it searched Trump’s home, an unprecedented step that has prompted a firestorm of criticism from the former President’s closest allies.
Kim Haskins, psychedelic cat painting
The laws cover “destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations” and the unlawful removal of government records, according to the search warrant released Friday.
Also among the laws listed is one known as the Espionage Act, which relates to the “retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material.”
All three criminal laws cited in the warrant are from Title 18 of the United States Code. None of them solely hinge on whether information was deemed to be unclassified.
That last fact–that the items don’t have to be classified in order for a crime to have been committed–is going to short-circuit the excuses that Trump and his allies have been putting forward.
Here’s the claim from the Trump camp as reported by Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC last night.
Insider: Trump’s latest defense for Mar-a-Lago documents is everyone ‘brings home their work from time to time’ and the files were automatically declassified.
Former President Donald Trump said that everyone takes work home sometimes, as he sought to develop a new line to explain why top secret government documents were stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
“As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different,” said the statement from Trump’s office on Friday night read out on Fox News.
Trump further claimed that he had a “standing order” to declassify documents “the moment” they left the Oval Office.
“President Trump, in order to prepare for work the next day, often took documents, including classified documents, from the Oval Office to the residence. He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them,” the statement said.
This new defense – portraying Trump as just another hard-working American – contradicts previous statements by Trump and his lawyers that baselessly claimed the FBI could have planted evidence while on site.
Cat art by Sofia Struk
While the president has the authority to declassify documents, legal experts say they must follow a defined procedure. It is not clear if Trump ever did.
“He can’t just wave a wand and say it’s declassified,” Richard Immerman, a historian and an assistant deputy director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, told NBC News. “There has to be a formal process. That’s the only way the system can work.”
Immerman noted that declassified documents are marked with the date they were declassified. It is not the case with some of the documents returned from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives this year, per NBC.
When reports of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago emerged in May, former Trump administration official Kash Patel claimed that Trump had declassified the files shortly before leaving office but that the classified markings had not been removed.
But none of this matters, because the espionage act charges do not hinge on whether documents are classified or not.
The Inflation reduction/health care/climate bill
The New York Times: A Detailed Picture of What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Health Bill.
Democrats in Congress have had to scale back their legislative ambitions since last year, but the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the House on Friday and sent to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his signature, is still a substantial piece of legislation, which will make big investments in the environment and health care, and increase taxes on some key groups.
The bill includes policies lowering the prices of prescription drugs; increasing the generosity of Medicare benefits; and encouraging the development of renewable energy and reducing the impact of climate change.
It would also raise taxes on some corporations and bolster the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on wealthy tax evaders. It would lower the federal deficit, though modestly.
The bill includes last-minute changes requested by Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, the final holdout among her party’s 50 senators. Democratic leaders agreed to remove a tax on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives, and to include $4 billion in drought funding for her state.
Head over to the NYT link to see charts and a detailed list of everything in the bill.
A shocking attack on famed novelist Salmon Rushdie
The Washington Post: Salman Rushdie hospitalized after attack onstage in New York state.
Salman Rushdie, the renowned novelist whose work made him the subject of death threats, was attacked at an event in Chautauqua, N.Y., on Friday by a man who stormed the stage and stabbed the writer in the neck and abdomen, police said.
By Rudi Hurzlmeier
Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital. His agent, Andrew Wylie, told the Associated Press that the writer was on a ventilator, with damage to his liver and nerves in an arm. He also said Rushdie will likely lose an eye.
Police identified Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey as the suspect in the attack. They have not yet determined a motive, Maj. Eugene Staniszewski of the New York State Police said, and are working with the local district attorney to decide which criminal charges will be filed. The FBI is also involved in the investigation.
In an instant Friday morning, a literary event in a lakeside town in western New York was transformed into a scene of potentially deadly violence, drawing gasps from the audience gathered in an open-air amphitheater.
Read more at the WaPo.
NewYork4: Who Is Hadi Matar? NJ Man Suspected in Salman Rushdie Attack Had Shia Extremist Sympathies.
Police are learning more information about the suspect who allegedly stormed onto a New York stage and stabbed author Salman Rushdie in the neck on Friday.
The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was born in California, but recently moved to New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. His last listed address was in Fairview, a Bergen County borough just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. FBI officials were seen going into the home of Matar Friday evening.
Sources said that Matar also had a fake New Jersey driver’s license on him.
State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said the motive for the stabbing was unclear. A preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts shows he is sympathetic to Shia extremism and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps causes, a law enforcement person with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News. There are no definitive links to the IRGC but the initial assessment indicates he is sympathetic to the Iranian government group, the official says.
A bit more from ABC News: Suspect charged with attempted murder in on-stage attack of author Salman Rushdie.
Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News that “a preliminary investigation into the suspected perpetrator’s probable social media presence indicates a likely adherence or sympathy towards Shi’a extremism and sympathies to the Iranian regime/Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
The officials say investigators found photos on Matar’s phone of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Iraq’s pro-Iranian militia movement, who were killed by U.S. forces in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, 2020.
Police believe the suspect acted alone and were in the process Friday of obtaining search warrants for items including electronics and a backpack found at the scene that they believe belong to the suspect, Staniszewski said.
The FBI is also assisting with the investigation, he said.
The suspect had a pass to access the event, officials said.
It’s been an unbelievable news week, and I expect we’ll be learning more about these three big stories over the weekend. What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following?
Posted: April 5, 2019 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Bill Barr, End of the Filibuster, Meuller Report, nuclear option, obstruction of justice, Senate Rule Changes, Trump's Taxes
It’s been 2 Fridays since our Last Mueller Friday (March 22nd).
Where’s the damned report?
Every day we don’t see the report represents an obstruction of justice. But then, that’s what Bill Barr was hired to do, right? From The Guardian: “Barr invited to meet DoJ officials on day he submitted memo critical of Mueller. Revealed: The attorney general, then a private lawyer, called the special counsel’s obstruction of justice inquiry into Trump ‘fatally misconceived’”
William Barr was invited to meet justice department officials last summer, on the same day he submitted an “unsolicited” memo that heavily criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.
Barr, who was a private attorney at the time, met the officials for lunch three weeks later and was then nominated to serve as Trump’s attorney general about six months later.
The revelation about the meeting, which was arranged by Steve Engel, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, and which has not previously been publicly disclosed, raises new questions about whether the White House’s decision to hire Barr was influenced by private discussions he had about his legal views on Mueller’s investigation.
None of this surprises me. I’m sure the right. chair of the right committee–most likely oversight and Rep. Elijah Cummings–will get to the bottom of this. Every appointment Trump makes to anything just drips of cronyism.
Today, a Federal Court of Appeals court shortened the time that a decision will be made by the judiciary. This is via Politico and Josh Gerstein: “Appeals court narrows path for disclosure of grand jury info in Mueller report. Court splits, 2-1, in a closely watched case that could affect the release of the special counsel’s review.”
A Federal appeals court on Friday tossed an obstacle in the way of grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report being released directly to the public, but the decision may not slow disclosure of that material to Congress.
The decision from a divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals did not directly address Mueller’s report, but involved a grand jury investigation more than six decades ago into the disappearance of a Columbia University professor and political activist, Jesús Galíndez.
In the new ruling, the panel majority concluded that federal district court judges lack the authority to order the release of typically secret grand jury material except in situations specially authorized in a federal court rule.
While there is no exception that covers cases of intense political or historical interest, courts have repeatedly held that they have “inherent authority” to make such disclosures in unusual cases.
However, the D.C. Circuit decision Friday sided with a long-standing Justice Department position that those rulings were mistaken and a formal change to the grand jury secrecy rule would be needed to give judges that power.
“We agree with the Government’s understanding of the Rule,” Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote, joined by Judge Greg Katsas. “The contrary reading … which would allow the district court to create such new exceptions as it thinks make good public policy — would render the detailed list of exceptions merely precatory and impermissibly enable the court to ‘circumvent’ or ‘disregard’ a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure.”
The impact of the new decision in the current battle over disclosure of the Mueller report could be limited, however, because the Democrat-controlled House is already demanding the special counsel’s full submission including grand jury information.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution authorizing Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to subpoena the full report and all supporting materials. Such a subpoena may be sufficient to give the House access to grand jury information under an existing exception covering material sought in connection with “judicial proceedings.”
I wanted to make sure we had a good look and discussion about the various ways that Mitch McConnell is changing the SOP of the Senate. To no one’s real surprise, the Senate did go Nuclear somewhat quietly on Wednesday on a 51-48 vote. ABC and other media outlets covered it but not to the extent that it deserved.
The Senate has gone “nuclear,” voting 51-48 Wednesday afternoon to change its own rules and slash debate time for some nominees from 30 hours to two hours, paving the way to fast-track certain Trump picks. Republicans — led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have long lamented what they have termed Democratic obstruction of the president’s nominations, particularly judicial nominations.
All Republicans vote for the rule change except Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Susan Collins, who voted with Democrats, and no Democrats voted with Republicans.
This is what Senator Elizabeth Warren has to say about that even though she her last vote did not reflect this discussion. It’s something to thing on. I really appreciate Warren’s bringing the beef to the hamburger. It’s the women that are discussing actual policy and it’s time they all get some air time and ink.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is expected to issue the strongest indictment of the Senate filibuster of her campaign for president thus far during a speech at the National Action Network convention on Friday morning.
“Last year the Senate passed a bill that would make lynching a federal crime,” Warren will say, according to prepared remarks viewed by The Daily Beast. “Last year. In 2018. Do you know when the first bill to make lynching a federal crime was introduced? 1918. One hundred years ago. And it nearly became the law back then. It passed the House in 1922. But it got killed in the Senate—by a filibuster. And then it got killed again. And again. And again. More than 200 times. An entire century of obstruction because a small group of racists stopped the entire nation from doing what was right.”
Warren goes on to say that the filibuster has been used in recent years “by the far right as a tool to block progress on everything.”
“I’ve only served one term in the Senate—but I’ve seen what’s happening,” she says, according to the remarks. “We all saw what they did to President Obama. I’ve watched Republicans abuse the rules when they’re out of power, then turn around and blow off the rules when they’re in power.”
Democrats running for president in 2020 have been debating Senate rules for months, as activists push for a change that would not necessitate a 60-vote supermajority to pass sought-after legislation like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, both of which have been endorsed by a large share of the Democratic candidates currently running. But many of the same candidates, including the senators in the race, have been resistant to institutional changes. The one candidate who has affirmatively campaigned on its elimination in order to address climate change is Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Many others, like Warren before Friday, had said they’d consider it, and she previously said “all the options are on the table.”
Schumer believes other wise. This is from CSPAN. “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell debate the GOP’s decision to make a change to rules reducing the length of post-Cloture debate time of federal district court judges and sub-Cabinet nominations from 30 hours to two hours. ” It happened on April 3rd, the day of the vote.
From Vox and Li Zhou: “Senate Republicans have officially gone “nuclear” in order to confirm more Trump judges.
It’s a win for Republicans in the short term, but Democrats could also capitalize on the change in the future.”
Senate Republicans have officially gone nuclear again this week.
Once more, they’ve changed Senate rules so they can confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees more expeditiously — a string of actions first kicked off by Democratic leader Harry Reid in 2013. It marks the third time in less than a decade that the Senate majority has used the so-called “nuclear option” — a term used for parliamentary procedure that sets a new precedent with only a simple majority of lawmaker votes.
This time, Republicans have amended Senate rules in order to further limit the amount of time lower-level nominees could be debated on the floor. Previously, if lawmakers voted to limit debate on a nominee, that back-and-forth would still be able to continue for 30 hours. Practically speaking, because there is only so much time the Senate is in session, this meant that there were a finite number of nominees that Republicans could get through — and that’s something they wanted to change.
Republicans argued that this rules change is necessary because Democrats have gone out of their way to slow-walk consideration of Trump’s nominees. Democrats, meanwhile, say that Republicans have gutted other processes, like “blue slips,” that would enable them to otherwise vocalize their concern with different nominees.
“Senate Democrats spent the first two years of the Trump administration dragging out the confirmation process to not only deny the president his team, but also to waste hours of floor time that should have been spent focusing on the American people’s priorities,” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said in a statement. “This has been nothing more than obstruction for the sake of obstruction and it is outrageous.”
That assertion, however, is laughable to many Democrats, who have noted that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s supposed outrage over the way Democrats have blocked Republican nominees is hypocritical, given the lengths he went to in order to prevent President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland from even getting considered for a Supreme Court seat.
Nancy Pelosi threw some serious shade at a reporter who evidently wasn’t aware that there is a law that says the IRS will hand over tax returns of whoever certain chairs of congress request.
Donald Trump is doing his usual hold it up routine. “All the way to the Supreme Court, Alice!!!”
And, I’m giving the last word today to my “I’m just a country lawyer” Senator who just can’t seem to keep the folksy routine sounding sane.
With that, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: February 14, 2019 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: abortion, Andrew McCabe, corruption, Donald Trump, ethics, FBI, FinCEN, Fox News, Jamal Kashoggi, James Comey, Jeff Sessions, Maria Ressa, Mary Daly, narcissists, Nazis, obstruction of justice, Paul Manafort, rape, Richard Burr, Richard Nixon, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Ryan Adams, Saudi Arabia, Spiro Agnew, Tom Barrack, Tyler McGaughey, Walter Shaub, White House Counsel's office, William Barr
Les Pivoines 1907 par Henri Matisse
Happy Valentine’s Day, Sky Dancers!!
Andrew McCabe’s book The Threat: on Tuesday, and he will be interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. This might be one 60 Minutes I decide to watch.
McCabe was deputy director of the FBI under James Comey and he became acting director after Trump fired Comey. Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly, and eventually succeeded in driving him out of office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe one day before he could have retired with his full pension.
Today The Atlantic published an article adapted from McCabe’s book: Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.
Bouquet on a Bamboo Table (1903) Henri Matisse
A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.
The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”
The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?
He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?
McCabe describes the reaction of FBI employees as one of shock and dismay. Trump then said he wanted to come to the FBI and “show all my FBI people how much I love them.” McCabe thought that was a terrible idea, but agreed to meet with Trump about it. Next, Trump:
Flowers and Fruit by Henri Matisse
…began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.
I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.
I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.
The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.
After that Trump taunted McCabe about his wife’s losing campaign for the Virginia Senate, asking McCabe, “How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?” and later saying “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”
I once had a boss who was a monstrous whack job like Trump. It was crazy-making. The entire department under this man functioned like an alcoholic family with an unpredictable, out-of-control father. You never knew what horrible thing would happen next. It was total chaos, as the White House seems to be. I’m glad McCabe is telling the truth about what he experienced.
Two more articles based on the McCabe book:
CBS News 60 Minutes: McCabe Says He Ordered the Obstruction of Justice Probe of President Trump.
The New York Times: McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office.
Bouquet of Flowers in a White Vase, 1909, by Henri Matisse
I expect Trump will be ranting about McCabe on Twitter and in the Oval Office, but he can’t do anything to shut McCabe up anymore.
Soon we’ll have a new U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, and already the corruption surrounding him has a very bad odor. CNN reports that Barr’s daughter and son-in-law are leaving the Justice Department for new jobs at FinCEN and the White House Counsel’s office respectively.
Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.
Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said.
It’s not clear if McGaughey’s switch is a result of Barr’s pending new role, and the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly’s husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department’s National Security Division for now.
Henri Matisse: Les Anemones
The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them “a good idea” to “avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him.”
However, Shaub added that McGaughey’s detail to the White House counsel’s office was “concerning.”
“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub said.
Read more at the CNN link.
If you listened to Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Spiro Agnew (or even if you didn’t) you should read this op-ed at The Washington Post by three attorneys who were involved in that corruption case: We should demand high standards from William Barr. Spiro Agnew’s case shows why, by Barnet D. Skolnik, Russell T. Baker Jr., and Ronald S. Liebman.
In the winter of 1973, 46 years ago, the three of us were assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore starting a federal grand jury investigation of a corrupt Democratic county chief executive in Maryland. That investigation ultimately led to the prosecution of his corrupt Republican predecessor — the man who went on to become the state’s governor and then President Richard M. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro T. Agnew.
On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew entered a plea to a criminal tax felony for failure to report the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’d received in bribes and kickbacks as county executive, governor and even vice president. All paid in cash, $100 bills delivered in white envelopes.
And he resigned.
Henri Matisse. Vase of Irises. 1912
From the beginning of our investigation, months before we had seen any indication that he had taken kickbacks, Agnew, along with top White House and administration officials and even Nixon himself, repeatedly tried to impede, obstruct and terminate the investigation in nefarious ways. Some of those efforts were unknown to us then and have come to light only now thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her “Bagman” podcast.
When newspapers began to report that he was under criminal investigation in the summer of 1973, Agnew aroused his base by screaming “witch hunt” and launching a vicious assault on the “lying” press, the “partisan” Justice Department, and the “biased” and “liberal Democrat” prosecutors in Baltimore.
If Agnew and Nixon had succeeded in derailing our investigation, the most corrupt man ever to sit a heartbeat away might have become the president of our country when Nixon was forced to resign less than a year later. But our investigation was protected — first, by our staunch and courageous boss, the late George Beall, the U.S. attorney for Maryland and a prominent Maryland Republican, and second, by the man who had become the new U.S. attorney general that spring, Elliot L. Richardson.
The authors then go on to explain why Barr should not be confirmed unless he commits to releasing Robert Mueller’s findings to the public. Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There is so much more news! Here are some links to check out:
Flowers by Henri Matisse
Just Security: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe. (This is an incredibly important story. Corruption is all around us.)
NBC News: ‘Whistleblower’ seeks protection after sounding alarm over White House security clearances.
Politico: Judge rules Manafort lied to Mueller about contacts with Russian.
The New York Times: House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen.
Gulf News: Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Post: Trump confidant Thomas Barrack apologizes for saying U.S. has committed ‘equal or worse’ atrocities to killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The New York Times: Maria Ressa, Philippine Journalist Critical of Rodrigo Duterte, Is Released After Arrest.
HuffPost: I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter. (Trigger warning for rape description)
Vice: Being Raised by Two Narcissists Taught Me How to Deal with Trump.
The New York Times: Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.
Contemptor: Fox News Rejects Commercial for Documentary that Says Nazis are Bad.
So . . . what stories have you been following?
Posted: August 18, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: abuse of power, corruption, Donald Trump, John Brennan, obstruction of justice, Robert Mueller, Russia investigation, security clearances, Vian Risanto, witness tampering
Blue Iris, Vian Risanto
It has been another disastrous week in Trumpland. The “president” seems to be losing what control he ever had. He spends his days watching TV, throwing tantrums on Twitter, and dreaming up ways to punish his many “enemies.” He’s Nixon on steroids, and the Republicans continue to refuse to do anything to check his corruption and abuses of power.
On Wednesday, Trump unilaterally revoked the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan, and despite condemnations by former members of the intelligence community, he plans to keep revoking the clearances of anyone who dares to criticize him or who may have been in some way involved with the Russia investigation.
The Washington Post: White House drafts more clearance cancellations demanded by Trump.
The White House has drafted documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials whom President Trump has demanded be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to senior administration officials.
Trump wants to sign “most if not all” of them, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bill Shine, the newly named deputy chief of staff, have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles.
Cocktail dress, Vian Risanto
Yes, they admit these will be used to distract the public on bad news days for Trump!
Some presidential aides echoed concerns raised by outside critics that the threatened revocations smack of a Nixonian enemies list, with little or no substantive national security justification. Particular worry has been expressed inside the White House about Trump’s statement Friday that he intends “very quickly” to strip the clearance of current Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations….
It was unclear what the argument would be for revoking Ohr’s clearance, since Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, while not specifying Ohr’s current job, has said he has had no involvement in the Mueller investigation, begun last year.
But Ohr knew Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who was hired in 2016 by Fusion GPS, then working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Ohr’s wife also worked for Fusion GPS. According to news reports and congressional testimony, the two men discussed Trump before the election. Ohr later reported the conversation to the FBI.
Ohr is the only current official on the White House list of clearances Trump wants to lift. The others are former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.; former CIA director Michael V. Hayden; former FBI director James B. Comey; Obama national security adviser Susan E. Rice; former FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok; and former acting attorney general Sally Yates. Several of them have said they no longer have clearances.
It’s difficult to believe that Trump’s actions could not be seen as obstruction of justice and witness tampering, since many of those on the “enemies list” are potential witnesses in Robert Mueller’s investigation. Yesterday, The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake addressed the issue: How Trump’s security-clearance gambit could actually get him in deeper trouble with Mueller.
Green chair, Vian Risanto
I was on an MSNBC panel Thursday night with Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, who suggested Trump’s revocation of security clearances could be construed as retaliation against witnesses. “It’s a federal crime — §1513 if anyone wants to look it up — to retaliate against someone for providing truthful information to law enforcement,” he said. “So he’s getting closer and closer to really dangerous ground here.”
Here’s the text of Section 1513(e):
Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
Honig explained to me Friday that he didn’t necessarily think Trump’s revocation of Brennan’s security clearance would be a violation, given Brennan isn’t a major figure on the probe’s key events. But if he presses on and does it with others, Honig argued, it could.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Last night Rachel Maddow interviewed John Brennan. Talking Point Memo: Brennan On Revoked Clearance: ‘This Country Is More Important Than Mr. Trump.’
Former CIA Director John Brennan was defiant Friday night in response to President Donald Trump’s revocation of his security clearance, and to Trump’s threatening to revoke the clearances of several other former intelligence and national security officials who’ve become harsh critics of his.
“I think this is an egregious act that it flies in the face of traditional practice, as well as common sense, as well as national security,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “I think that’s why there’s been such an outcry from many intelligence professionals.”
Brennan told Maddow that he is thinking about taking legal action.
“A number of lawyers have reached out to say that there is a very strong case here, not so much to reclaim [my clearance] but to prevent this from happening in the future,” Brennan told Maddow, asked if he was considering legal action against the administration.
Some groups, including the ACLU, have alleged that revoking Brennan’s clearance in retaliation for his criticism of Trump, as the White House said was the case, was a violation of the former CIA director’s First Amendment rights.
Brennan repeated his accusation that Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir was “nothing short of treasonous.”
And he said a Washington Post report that his clearance revocation had been timed “to divert attention from nonstop coverage of a critical book released by fired Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman” was “just another demonstration of [Trump’s] irresponsibility.”
“The fact that he’s using a security clearance of a former CIA director as a pawn in his public relations strategy, I think, is just so reflective of somebody who, quite frankly — I don’t want to use this term, maybe — but he’s drunk on power.”
Three reactions to Trump’s latest power grab to check out:
A night out, Vian Risanto
Tim Weiner at The New York Times: Trump Is Not a King.
In times of crisis, the leaders of the military and intelligence communities try to put aside their differences, often many and sundry, and work together for the good of the country. That’s what’s happening today with a remarkable group of retired generals, admirals and spymasters who have signed up for the resistance, telling the president of the United States, in so many words, that he is not a king.
Thirteen former leaders of the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. have signed an open letter standing foursquare against President Trump, in favor of freedom of speech and, crucially, for the administration of justice. They have served presidents going back to Richard M. Nixon mostly without publicly criticizing the political conduct of a sitting commander in chief — until now.
They rebuked Mr. Trump for revoking the security clearance of John Brennan, the C.I.A. director under President Obama, in retaliation for his scalding condemnations and, ominously, for his role in “the rigged witch hunt” — the investigation into Russia’s attempt to fix the 2016 election, now in the hands of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. The president’s latest attempt to punish or silence everyone connected with the case, along with his fiercest critics in political life, will not be his last….
The president aims to rid the government and the airwaves of his real and imagined enemies, especially anyone connected with the Russia investigation. Somewhere Richard Nixon may be looking up and smiling. But aboveground, the special counsel is taking notes.
Lily, Vian Risanto
The list of the signatories to the open letter defending Mr. Brennan is striking for the length and breadth of their experience. I never expected to see William H. Webster — he’s 95 years old, served nine years as F. B.I. director under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, then four more as C.I.A. director under Reagan and President George H. W. Bush — sign a political petition like this. The same with Robert M. Gates, who entered the C.I.A. under President Lyndon Johnson, ran it under George H. W. Bush and served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. These are not the kind of men who march on Washington. These are men who were marched upon.
Read more at the NYT.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump Is Making the Department of Justice Into His Own Private Goon Squad.
One morning earlier this week during executive time, President Trump tweeted out his assessment of the Russia investigation. “The Rigged Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on as the ‘originators and founders’ of this scam continue to be fired and demoted for their corrupt and illegal activity,” he raged. “All credibility is gone from this terrible Hoax, and much more will be lost as it proceeds. No Collusion!”
Amid this torrent of lies, the president had identified one important truth. There has in fact been a series of firings and demotions of law-enforcement officials. The casualties include FBI director James Comey, deputy director Andrew McCabe, general counsel James Baker, and, most recently, agent Peter Strzok. Robert Mueller is probing the circumstances surrounding Trump’s firing of Comey for a possible obstruction-of-justice charge. But for Trump, obstruction of justice is not so much a discrete act as a way of life.
The slowly unfolding purge, one of the most vivid expressions of Trump’s governing ethos, has served several purposes for the president. First, it has removed from direct authority a number of figures Trump suspects would fail to provide him the personal loyalty he demanded from Comey and expects from all officials in the federal government. Second, it supplies evidence for Trump’s claim that he is being hounded by trumped-up charges — just look at all the crooked officials who have been fired! Third, it intimidates remaining officials with the threat of firing and public humiliation if they take any actions contrary to Trump’s interests. Simply carrying out the law now requires a measure of personal bravery.
Trump has driven home this last factor through a series of taunts directed at his vanquished foes. After McCabe enraged Trump by approving a flight home for Comey after his firing last May, the president told him to ask his wife (who had run for state legislature, unsuccessfully) how it felt to be a loser. This March, Trump fired McCabe and has since tweeted that Comey and McCabe are “clowns and losers.” The delight Trump takes in tormenting his victims, frequently calling attention to Strzok’s extramarital affair — as if Trump actually cared about fidelity! — underscores his determination to strip his targets of their dignity.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Bob Bauer at Lawfare: Richard Nixon, Donald Trump and the ‘Breach of Faith.’
Red couch, Vian Risanto
Journalist and presidential historian Theodore H. White thought of Richard Nixon’s downfall as the consequence of a “breach of faith.” Perhaps it was a “myth,” but an important one, that “is responsibility,” White wrote. But it was important nonetheless that Americans believe that this office, conferring extraordinary power, would “burn the dross from [the president’s] character; his duties would, by their very weight, make him a superior man, fit to sustain the burden of the law, wise and enduring enough to resist the clash of all selfish interests.”
A president who frustrates this expectation, failing to exhibit the transformative effects of oath and office, will have broken faith with the American public. And yet, White believed that Nixon’s presidency had been an aberration. “[M]any stupid, hypocritical and limited men had reached that office,” he wrote. “But all, when publicly summoned to give witness, chose to honor the legends” of what the office required of a president’s behavior in office.
White’s understanding of what constitutes a “breach of faith” is well worth recalling in considering the presidency of Donald Trump. As White understood it, the term encompassed more than illegal conduct or participation in its cover-up. It was a quality of leadership—or more to the point, the absence of critical qualities—that defined a president’s “betrayal” of his office. What elevated Nixon’s misdeeds to a fatal constitutional flaw, forcing him to surrender his presidency, was the breaking of faith with the American people. Nixon brushed the legal and ethical limits on pursuing his own political and personal welfare. He held grudges and was vindictive; he looked to destroy his enemies rather than simply prevailing over them in hard, clean fights. He lied repeatedly to spare himself the costs of truth-telling.
All of this may be said of Donald Trump, but for a key difference: Nixon was anxious to conceal much of this behavior from public view.
Much has been said and written about Trump’s leadership style: the chronic resort to false claims; the incessant tweeting of taunts and personal attacks on his adversaries; the open undermining of members of his own administration; the abandonment of norms; the refusal to credit, respect or support the impartial administration of justice where his personal or political interests are stake; and the use of office to promote his personal business enterprises. By now, almost two years into his administration, it is clear that this is who he is.
Like Nixon, Trump seems to believe that his behavior is justified by the extraordinary and ruthless opposition of an “establishment”—comprised mainly of the media, the opposition party, and intellectuals—to his election and his politics.
Please go read the rest at Lawfare.
That’s all I have for you today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.