Tuesday Reads

Solitude (Lonliness), Paul Delvaux, 1956

Solitude (Loneliness), Paul Delvaux, 1956

Good Morning!!

As Daknikat wrote yesterday, it looks as if Republicans will win enough seats to control the House with a very small majority. But they won’t be able to do much. I suppose they’ll spend their time and energy investigating Hunter Biden and any other crackpot problem they can dream up. The good news is than Lauren Bobert’s seat is still undecided for now.

AP News: California wins leave GOP poised to seize US House control.

Two threatened U.S. House Republicans in California triumphed over Democratic challengers Monday, helping move the GOP within a seat of seizing control of the chamber while a string of congressional races in the state remained in play.

In a bitter fight southeast of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeated Democrat Jay Chen in a district that was specifically drawn to give Asian Americans, who comprise the largest group in the district, a stronger voice on Capitol Hill. It includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese community.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert notched a win over Democrat Will Rollins. With 80% of the votes tallied, Calvert, the longest serving Republican in the California congressional delegation, established a nearly 5,500-vote edge in the contest.

Ten races in the state remained undecided as vote-counting continued, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to break either way.

It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans have locked down 217 seats so far, with Democrats claiming 205.

Should Democrats fail to protect their fragile majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would be in line to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

Read about the remaining undecided races at the link.

The Independent: Lauren Boebert – live: Republican under fire for ‘embarrassing’ tweet as she leads race by just 1,200 votes.

Lauren Boebert has taken aim at Nancy Pelosi and called for the House Speaker’s ousting while her own future in politics continues to hang in the balance.

“Waiting this long for election results is going to make firing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House that much sweeter,” she wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Automat, Edward Hopper

Automat, Edward Hopper

Republicans are just one seat away from control of the House of Representatives, with the balance of power potentially hinging on th eoutcome of Ms Boebert’s race among serveral others that have not yet been decided.

Ms Boebert’s race is still too close to call and it is unlikely that the outcome will be known until the end of the week – at the soonest.

The far-right Republican is currently leading Democratic challenger Adam Frisch by just 1,122 votes in what has shaped up to be an unexpectedly close race. The race could be headed for an automatic recount if neither candidate fails to win by a margin of more than 0.5 per cent.

If only she would lose! This is from Newsweek yesterday: Lauren Boebert in Danger as Rejected Mail-in Ballot Checks Could Help Rival.

The race for Colorado’s third congressional district remains too close to be called, as Trump-endorsed Rep. Lauren Boebert is currently only slightly ahead of her rival, Democrat Adam Frisch.

But the incumbent congresswoman’s narrow lead could once again be overturned if thousands of likely rejected votes in favor of her challenger were to be “cured”, as a recount looms over the Colorado race.

Every year in Colorado, thousands of ballots are reportedly rejected for issues related to signature verification, such as a missing signature or a discrepancy in the signature. Local officials then alert voters of the issue, giving them a week to fix the problem and make their vote count. The process, which is done in 23 other state besides Colorado, is called “ballot curing.”

Boebert was widely projected to win the midterms, with polling website FiveThirtyEight giving her a 97 in 100 chance of victory in the days ahead of the vote.

As of November 14 and with nearly all of the ballots being counted, Boebert is leading with 50.1 percent of the vote (162,040 votes) against Frisch’s 49.8 percent (160,918 votes).

A recount could be called if the final margin between Boebert and Frisch is less than or equal to 0.5 percent of the leading candidate’s vote total. At the moment, the gap between the two candidates is 0.38 percent.

Frisch could still oust the Republican incumbent, an election denier and one of Donald Trump‘s most ardent supporters, if thousands of votes likely rejected for signature verification were cast in support of the Democratic nominee.

So it’s still up in the air.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs finally triumphed in the race for governor. AZ Central: Katie Hobbs elected Arizona’s 5th female governor, defeating election denier Kari Lake.

Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic election chief who built a national profile by standing up to false claims about the 2020 presidential election, has won the state’s race for governor.

The Associated Press, NBC News and CNN called the race for Hobbs shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, following a nail-biter week of election returns that highlighted the competitiveness of politics in the state.

the-lonely-ones-1935, edvard Munch

The Lonely Ones, by Edvard Munch, 1935

“Democracy is worth the wait,” Hobbs posted on social media before issuing a statement thanking her family, volunteers and staff for their work.

“This was not just about an election — it was about moving this state forward and facing the challenges of our generation,” the statement read, ending: “Let’s get to work.”

Late-in-the-race polling showed her Republican opponent Kari Lake, the former television news anchor, with the momentum as Nov. 8 neared. Instead, voters offered a stunning rebuke of Lake, who was one of the nation’s most prominent election deniers.

With Hobbs’ win, Arizonans followed voters in other battleground states who rejected gubernatorial candidates who pushed false claims about election results.

As Arizona’s 24th governor, Hobbs will be the fifth female to hold the top elected office, more than in any other state.

That’s amazing. We just finally got our first female governor here in Massachusetts.

Donald Trump is supposedly announcing that he’s running for president today, and The New York Times and Washington Post can hardly wait. The NYT even hired another “Trump whisperer” to go along with their star access journalist Maggie Haberman. This is from Emptywheel: In the Wake of Trump’s Third Electoral Failure, NY Times Boasts of Hiring a Third Trump Whisperer.

…Jonathan Swan is a good reporter. Indeed, his move to the NYT, which frees him to write like a human being rather than a McKinsey consultant (AKA Axios style), will likely be a significant improvement on his coverage of DC politics.

But it is downright insane that, at a time the GOP and Fox News are at least making noise about ditching Trump, the NYT pitched this hire — and their own political reporting — in terms of Trump.

Our insightful, authoritative and addictive coverage of the election this year drove home an essential truth: The Times’s political team is simply the best in the business.

Take our coverage of Republicans and Donald J. Trump.

We have Maggie Haberman, the dominant reporter of the Trump era, whose prolific, revealing and exclusive coverage has become indispensable to millions of readers. We have Michael Bender, whom Maggie admired as her “fierce competitor” from his days at The Wall Street Journal, and who has delivered exclusives on everything from the former president’s plans to buy Greenland to examinations of how Trumpism remade the Republican party.

And today we are thrilled to tell you that Jonathan Swan, a gifted, dogged and high-impact reporter, will be joining The Times. Jonathan, a national political reporter at Axios, is one of the biggest news breakers and best-sourced reporters in Washington.

Even if you have never met Jonathan, you know his stories. He first reported that Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate deal, that Steve Bannon would be fired and that Paul Ryan would retire from Congress.

Or perhaps you watched his riveting interview with then-President Trump in 2020, which won Jonathan an Emmy (and made his facial expressions famous.) Ben Smith, the former media columnist for The Times, wrote at the time that it was “perhaps the best interview of Mr. Trump’s term.’’

Jonathan’s nine-part written series on the final days of the Trump administration won broad acclaim, and the podcast on which it was based rose to No. 1 on the Apple charts. [my emphasis]

Alan_Parry_ Weekend Retreat

Weekend Retreat, by Alan Parry

Again, I think the Swan hire is a net good for reporting — but aside from the degree to which Swan is an improvement over Jonathan Martin, who just moved to become Politico’s Politics Bureau Chief — that has nothing to do with the NYT.

Particularly accompanied as it is by Maggie’s multiple efforts to suggest Trump is still The One, the pitch of Swan as a Trump-whisperer — rather than simply as a very good reporter of right wing politics — this announcement commits to keeping Trump (as a politician, rather than, for example, a criminal suspect, something none of these three are very good at reporting) the center of attention.

The Washington Post article hyping Trump’s announcement–two years ahead of the 2024 election–of courses features gossip reporters Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: Trump campaign operation takes shape ahead of expected 2024 announcement.

Really, who the hell cares? Why don’t these newspapers cover President Biden, who is actually accomplishing plenty, while Trump is likely to be indicted before 2024? Or they could cover the fact that Russia is still working to influence our elections, which CNN reported this morning: CNN Exclusive: US intelligence suggests Russia put off announcing Kherson retreat until after midterm elections.

The US has intelligence that Russia may have delayed announcing its withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Kherson in part to avoid giving the Biden administration a political win ahead of the midterm elections, according to four people familiar with the intelligence.

Senior Russian officials discussed the US midterms as a factor during deliberations about the withdrawal announcement, one person familiar with the intelligence said. Waiting until after the US election was always a “pre-planned condition” of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, a second person familiar with the intelligence told CNN.

Still, the election was far from the only consideration in Russia’s retreat, officials said. Military analysts say Russia had few other operational options and had been preparing to pull back for weeks, leading US officials to wonder when the Russians would officially acknowledge the withdrawal.

While the intelligence is not a formal assessment of Russia’s intentions, it is a sign that Russia has a continued interest in influencing the US political landscape — although the sources said Russia probably miscalculated the impact such an announcement would actually have on the elections.

“I doubt Americans would really have noticed,” said another source familiar with western intelligence.

President Joe Biden last week appeared to hint that the US believed that the timing of Russia’s announcement was more than mere coincidence.

“I find it interesting they waited until after the election to make that judgement, which we knew for some time they were going to be doing, and it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems – the Russian military,” Biden said at a press conference last Wednesday.

Carl_Gustav_Carus_-_Woman_on_the_Balcony_-_Google_Art_Project

Carl Gustav Carus, Woman on the Balcony

I’m going to end with this shocking story from The New York Times about Iran: Stymied by Protests, Iran Unleashes Its Wrath on Its Youth.

One girl, a 14-year-old, was incarcerated in an adult prison alongside drug offenders. A 16-year-old boy had his nose broken in detention after a beating by security officers. A 13-year-old girl was physically attacked by plainclothes militia who raided her school.

A brutal crackdown by the authorities in Iran trying to halt protests calling for social freedom and political change that have convulsed the country for the past two months has exacted a terrible toll on the nation’s youth, according to lawyers in Iran and rights activists familiar with the cases.

Young people, including teenage girls and boys, have been at the center of the demonstrations and clashes with security forces on the streets and university campuses and at high schools. Iranian officials have said the average age of protesters is 15.

Some have been beaten and detained, others have been shot and killed on the streets, or beaten in the custody of security services, and the lives of countless others have been disrupted as the authorities raid schools in an effort to crack down on dissent.

The authorities are targeting thousands of minors, under the age of 18, for participating in the protests, according to interviews with two dozen people, including lawyers in Iran involved in cases and rights activists, as well as parents, relatives and teenagers living in the country. Rights groups say that at least 50 minors have been killed.

The lawyers and many of the individuals interviewed for this article asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

The targeting of young people comes amid a broader crackdown on protesters in which 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations. On Sunday, state media said an unidentified person had been sentenced to death for setting fire to a government building.

There’s much more at the link. Sorry to hit you with this horrifying story, but I thought it was urgent. What can the U.S. do about this? The U.N.?

Please share your thoughts and any other stories that interest you in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

Vincent Van Gogh, Grapes

Vincent Van Gogh, Grapes

Good Afternoon!!

We are fast approaching the day of decision: November 8, 2022 is only 3 weeks away. Democracy is on the ballot, but according to the New York Times’ interpretation of a new poll, voters aren’t that concerned about a fascist takeover by Republicans.

The New York Times: Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority.

Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.

The doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.

Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.

Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.

The entire article is trademark both-sidesing, of course–it’s The New York Times! The authors dug up a Democrat who is worried about “divisiveness” on “both sides.”

“I do agree that the biggest threat is survival of our democracy, but it’s the divisiveness that is creating this threat,” said Ben Johnson, 33, a filmmaker from New Orleans and a Democrat. “It feels like on both sides, people aren’t agreeing on facts anymore. We can’t meet in the middle if we can’t agree on simple facts. You’re not going to be able to move forward and continue as a country if you can’t agree on facts.”

The poll showed that voters filtered their faith in democracy through a deeply partisan lens. A majority of voters in both parties identified the opposing party as a “major threat to democracy.”

Most Republicans said the dangers included President Biden, the mainstream media, the federal government and voting by mail. Most Democrats named Donald J. Trump, while large shares of the party’s voters also said the Supreme Court and the Electoral College were threats to democracy.

Seventy-one percent of all voters said democracy was at risk — but just 7 percent identified that as the most important problem facing the country.

But why don’t we agree on “facts?” The poll suggests the media has something to do with that, but the NYT doesn’t include that in their analysis.

The NYT also doesn’t emphasize that it’s mostly Republicans who don’t care about saving democracy.

The polls have been so untrustworthy in the past few elections that I don’t know how much to trust them; but I do know I can’t trust the NYT to analyze the results honestly.

Meanwhile, Republicans seem so confident about taking over the House, that they are showing their cards ahead of the election.

The Washington Post: GOP to use debt limit to force spending cuts, McCarthy says.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that if Republicans win control of the House the GOP will use raising the debt limit as leverage to force spending cuts — which could include cuts to Medicare and Social Security — and limit additional funding to Ukraine.

“You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” the California Republican told Punchbowl News in a recent interview. “And if people want to make a debt ceiling [for a longer period of time], just like anything else, there comes a point in time where, okay, we’ll provide you more money, but you got to change your current behavior.”

Autumn landscape, 1889, Danish Peder Mørk Mønsted

Danish painter Peder Mørk Mønsted – An Autumn Landscape. Date: 1889.

“We’re not just going to keep lifting your credit card limit, right,” he added. “And we should seriously sit together and [figure out] where can we eliminate some waste? Where can we make the economy grow stronger?”

Pressed on whether changes to the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security were part of the debt ceiling discussions, McCarthy said he would not “predetermine” anything.

The debt limit — the country’s borrowing cap — will need to be lifted next year to protect the country’s credit score and to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt. But McCarthy suggested that his party would be willing to hold the debt limit up for policy changes

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salari.es, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments. The debt limit is not new spending but rather allows the government to finance existing legal obligations.

Republicans are getting ready to do Putin’s bidding if they take over the House.

The Daily Beast: Ukraine Aid Could Be on the Chopping Block in a GOP-Controlled House.

Democrats and Republicans have both been backing Ukraine aid for months now. But there’s a growing sense of unease on Capitol Hill that something could soon happen to disrupt that financial support: Republicans could win the House in November.

“I’m absolutely not supporting any further funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Daily Beast last week….

Throughout Congress, Republican support for providing Ukraine aid has swung in multiple directions since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war earlier this year. Several GOP lawmakers have told The Daily Beast they think President Joe Biden is being far too “weak” on Russia and not sending enough weapons to help Ukrainians fight back.

But there’s also been a strong and steady resistance to sending billions of dollars to Ukraine, even as Putin wages war. Some Republicans have tried to blame the war on Biden and have said they would rather focus on domestic priorities—from inflation to the southern border—and want to condition Ukraine aid on other issues, whatever the consequences may be in withholding aid from Ukraine.

Dozens of Republican members of the House have already sought to throw up roadblocks to Ukraine aid packages. Fifty-seven Republicans tried blocking $40 billion in aid to Ukraine earlier this year, in addition to 11 Republican Senators. Not a single Democrat tried to stand in the way.

Amherst Campus no.1 (1969) Fairfield Porter. Parrish Art Museum, New York.

Amherst Campus (MA) no.1 (1969) Fairfield Porter. Parrish Art Museum, New York.

In other Ukraine aid news, Elon Musk’s has threatened to stop supporting Starlink in the country. Starlink is the Musk-owned satellite system that supports internet communication in the Ukraine. He has wavered on this decision, but the Biden administration doesn’t trust him. Politico: Pentagon eyes locking in Starlink funding for Ukraine.

The Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network — which has been a lifeline for Ukraine — from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.

The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is designed to provide enduring support for the Ukrainian military by financing contracts with American firms for weapons and equipment that would be delivered in months or even years….

The discussion comes after CNN reported that SpaceX warned the Pentagon last month that it would no longer be able to finance the satellite terminals and communications services, which has already cost it over $80 million and could cost hundreds of millions more over the next year….

The company donated the use of Starlink terminals after Russia invaded Ukraine in February amid fears that the country would be cut off from the outside world. SpaceX’s philanthropic efforts drew widespread plaudits.

The Defense Department said on Friday that it was continuing discussions with SpaceX about a way forward. But it also said it is considering other alternatives for commercial satellite communications.

Elon Musk has shown his cards recently, offering a suggestion for negotiated peace in Ukraine that would favor Russia’s interests. Insider: Elon Musk’s pro-Russian peace deal is ‘classic Putin,’ and there’s a clue of the Russian leader’s role, Fiona Hill argues.

Elon Musk’s recent efforts to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine have almost certainly been puppeteered by Vladimir Putin, according to top Russia expert Fiona Hill.

“Putin plays the egos of big men — gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill told Politico this week, noting that the Tesla billionaire has tipped his hand in an obvious display of Putin’s influence.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a proposed peace plan he suggested could end the war in Ukraine that parroted Russian demands and echoed Kremlin talking points.

Autumn Leaves, Lake George (1924) Georgia O'Keeffe. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

Autumn Leaves, Lake George (1924) Georgia O’Keeffe. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

Ian Bremmer, a prominent political analyst, later reported that Musk spoke privately with Putin before drafting his proposition — an allegation that Musk denied.

While it was his October 3 tweets that garnered buzz around the globe, Musk was publicly evoking Putin’s desires even earlier.

Hill cited Musk’s September appearance at a conference in Aspen, during which he suggested a similar path forward through the war, encouraging Ukraine to “seek peace” by allowing Crimea — a territory which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — to be recognized as Russian.

Musk also reportedly told attendees that the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine ought to be up for grabs. Russia annexed four occupied Ukrainian territories just days later, including the two mentioned by Musk.

You can also check out an interesting interview with Fiona Hill at Politico: Fiona Hill: ‘Elon Musk Is Transmitting a Message for Putin.’’

Some Democrats have been getting wishy-washy about promoting abortion as a top tier issue in the upcoming elections, but Joe Biden still seems to think it’s important. Politico: Biden to pledge legalizing abortion on Roe anniversary if Dems expand majorities.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will promise that the first bill he’ll send to the next Congress will be legislation to reinstate the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade, according to a Democratic official previewing the president’s remarks.

In a speech at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, Biden will also pledge to sign that bill into law around the anniversary of the original Roe ruling in late January.

Biden’s plans are contingent on Democrats holding the House and increasing their majority in the Senate, a factor acknowledged by the official previewing the remarks. As such, it is a vow that appears aimed at energizing Democrats to turn out in force in the upcoming midterm elections where the party is struggling to keep its slim majorities, as polls show early outrage over the fall of Roe v. Wade this June has been outstripped by economic concerns.

Biden has increasingly escalated his attacks on Republicans over abortion rights since the high court’s ruling this summer overturning Roe. He’s repeatedly predicted that there will be a massive surge of voter activity in the midterms pushing back against the decision — particularly from women voters. Biden also has argued that abortion will be just the start of GOP attempts to dial back rights, warning that protections for contraception and same-sex marriage could be next.

“Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women,” he told a gathering of Democrats recently. “Let me tell you something: They’re about to find out.”

golden-autumn-1888, by Ivan Shishkin, Russian

Golden Autumn, 1888, by Ivan Shishkin, Russian painter

Meanwhile, women in red states are still dealing with the GOP’s efforts to take control of their bodies. Caroline Kitchener at The Washington Post: Desperate pleas and smuggled pills: A covert abortion network rises after Roe.

Monica had never used Reddit before. But sitting at her desk one afternoon in July — at least 10 weeks into an unwanted pregnancy in a state that had banned abortion — she didn’t know where else to turn.

“I need advice I am not prepared to have a child,” the 25-year-old wrote from her office, once everyone else had left for the day. She titled her post, “PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!”

Within hours, she got a private message from an anonymous Reddit user. If Monica sent her address, the person promised, they would mail abortion pills “asap for free.

Monica didn’t know it at the time, but her Reddit post connected her to a new facet of the battle for abortion access: the rise of a covert, international network delivering tens of thousands of abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down Roe v. Wade.

The emerging network — fueled by the widespread availability of medication abortion — has made the illegal abortions of today simpler and safer than those of the pre-Roe era, remembered for its back alleys and coat hangers. Distinct from services that sell pills to patients on the internet, a growing army of community-based distributors is reaching pregnant women through word of mouth or social media to supply pills for free — though typically without the safeguards of medical oversight.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind? What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads

1-the-first-animals-franz-marc

The First Animals, by Franz Marc

Good Afternoon!!

We have gone through about 7 years of insanity with Donald Trump, first as a candidate, then as “president,” and now former “president.” At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’ll never be rid of him until he “shuffles off this mortal coil.”

During those years, I always turned to Twitter for the latest news and commentary from journalists and just plain folks. Trump made Twitter occasionally irritating, but now we face what could be an even great threat to the social media platform–a takeover by Elon Musk. And what’s coming could be even worse than I expected.

Musk plans to bring Trump back, and then there this even worse news from Vice: Elon Musk Spoke to Putin Before Tweeting Ukraine Peace Plan: Report.

Elon Musk spoke directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin before tweeting a proposal to end the war in Ukraine that would have seen territory permanently ceded to Russia, it has been claimed.

In a mailout sent to Eurasia Group subscribers, Ian Bremmer wrote that Tesla CEO Musk told him that Putin was “prepared to negotiate,” but only if Crimea remained Russian, if Ukraine accepted a form of permanent neutrality, and Ukraine recognised Russia’s annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

According to Bremmer, Musk said Putin told him these goals would be accomplished “no matter what,” including the potential of a nuclear strike if Ukraine invaded Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Bremmer wrote that Musk told him that “everything needed to be done to avoid that outcome.”

Last week, Musk posted essentially the same points on Twitter, although he suggested that the referendums in the annexed territories slammed as sham votes by Ukraine and the West be redone under supervision by the United Nations….

The Ukrainian response to Musk’s Twitter peace proposal was succinct – one diplomat told him to “fuck off,” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted his own Twitter poll.

Meanwhile the Kremlin welcomed Musk’s “positive” proposal to end the war, while his tweets were also cited by Russian state media.

Not only will we never be rid of Trump; The new owner of Twitter apparently be channeling Putin. Terrific.

Yesterday, Russia escalated its attacks on civilians following Ukraine’s damage to a bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. The Kyiv Independent: What’s behind Russia’s unusually big missile attack on Ukraine?

Russia lashed out on Oct. 10, striking many Ukrainian cities with 84 missiles and 24 exploding drones.

The places they hit were all civilian — multiple power plants but also a children’s playground in the center of Kyiv. Most strikes seemed to be timed to the Monday morning rush hour, as if trying to kill as many commuters as possible. 

From a human rights point of view, the attacks were inexcusable and will likely be ruled as war crimes. From the battlefield perspective, the Russian armed forces just dropped hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve basically nothing….

Why has Russia chosen to do this? What was it trying to accomplish? And how long can it keep it up?

Edward Landseer's Monarch of the Glen

Edward Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen

The facile answer is that Russia was retaliating for the partial destruction of the Kerch Strait bridge on Oct. 8. But that’s just not true. It’s been hitting civilian targets since Feb. 24. Ukraine’s intelligence said that the missile strikes had been planned since the start of October.

“Strategic and long-range aviation units received orders to prepare for massive missile attacks,” the General Intelligence Directorate said in a statement. “The targets were objects of critical civilian infrastructure and the central regions of densely populated Ukrainian cities.”

The goal was to sow panic among Ukrainians. But that wasn’t the only reason. Putin also needed to appease the angry hardliners who want Russia to win the war. The war hawks demanded a massive strike just like this, in response to Russia’s humiliating losses over the past two months, to which the bridge was the exclamation point. Some of these hardliners are driven more by emotion than sense. And they will want a repeat performance.

Read the rest at the link.

Karen De Young at The Washington Post: Ukraine war at a turning point with rapid escalation of conflict.

In little more than a month, the war in Ukraine has turned abruptly from a grueling, largely static artillery battle expected to last into the winter, to a rapidly escalating, multilevel conflict that has challenged the strategies of the United States, Ukraine and Russia.

Russia’s launch of massive strikes on civilian infrastructure Monday in about a dozen Ukrainian cities far from the front lines brought shock and outrage. The strikes, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken described as “wave after wave of missiles” struck “children’s playgrounds and public parks,” left at least 14 killed and nearly 100 wounded, and cut electricity and water in much of the country….

The attacks were the latest of many head-spinning events — from Ukrainian victories on the ground to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat of nuclear weapons use — that have changed the nature and tempo of the war in recent weeks, and raised questions about whether the United States and its partners may have to move beyond the concept of helping Ukraine defend itself, and instead more forcefully facilitate a Ukrainian victory.

So far, the U.S. supply effort has been deliberative and process-oriented in the kinds of weapons it provides, and the speed at which it provides them, so as not to undercut its highest priority of avoiding a direct clash between Russia and the West. That strategy is likely to be part of the agenda at Tuesday’s emergency meeting of G7 leaders, and a gathering of NATO defense ministers later in the week.

U.S. officials continue to express caution about precipitous moves. “Turning points in war are usually points of danger,” said a senior Biden administration official, one of several U.S. and Ukrainian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy deliberations. “You can’t predict what’s around the corner.”

Russian leaders have cited their own turning point. Viktor Bondarev, head of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament wrote in a Telegram post on Monday that the strikes were the beginning of “a new phase” of what the Kremlin calls its“special military operation” in Ukraine, with more “resolute” action to come.

Two Owls by Gustave Doré (1870)

Two Owls by Gustave Doré (1870)

Max Fisher at The New York Times: Bombing Kyiv Into Submission? History Says It Won’t Work.

Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, follows a long line of wartime leaders who have sought to cow their adversaries by bombing enemy capitals.

Ever since Nazi Germany’s bombardment of London in World War II, enabled by the first long-range missiles and warplanes, nearly every major war has featured similar attacks.

The goal is almost always the same: to coerce the targeted country’s leaders into scaling back their war effort or suing for peace.

It typically aims to achieve this by forcing those leaders to ask whether the capital’s cultural landmarks and economic functioning are worth putting on the line — and also, especially, by terrorizing the country’s population into moderating their support for the war.

But for as long as leaders have pursued this tactic, they have watched it repeatedly fail.

More than that, such strikes tend to backfire, deepening the political and public resolve for war that they are meant to erode — even galvanizing the attacked country into stepping up its war aims.

The victorious allies in World War II did emphasize a strategy of heavily bombing cities, which is part of why countries have come to repeat this so many times since. Cities including Dresden and Tokyo were devastated, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and forcing millions into homelessness.

Still, historians generally now argue that, even if that did play some role in exhausting those countries, it was largely because of damage to German and Japanese industrial output rather than the terror it caused. Axis countries were also aggressive in bombing enemy cities, casting further doubt on notions that the strategy could be a decisive factor on its own.

Read the rest at the NYT if you’re interested.

With the January 6 Committee hearing coming up on Thursday, this story on the Secret Service phones by NBC’s Julia Ainsley is interesting: Secret Service agents were denied when they tried to learn what Jan. 6 info was seized from their personal cellphones.

Secret Service agents asked the agency for a record of all of the communications seized from their personal cellphones as part of investigations into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, but were rebuffed, according to a document reviewed by NBC News.

The Secret Service’s office that handles such requests, the Freedom of Information Act Program, denied the request, in which agents invoked the Privacy Act to demand more information about what had been shared from their personal devices.

The request was made in early August, just after news came to light that both Congress and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were interested in obtaining text messages of Secret Service agents that had been erased as part of what the agency said was a planned upgrade.

“This letter is the final response to your Privacy Act inquiry submitted on Aug. 4, 2022, for information pertaining to the release of personal cell phone information and/or other personal identifiable information (PII) by the U.S. Secret Service,” said the letter, dated last Wednesday.

“The agency has determined that regulation does not require a records disclosure accounting to be made in connection with your request,” the letter continued.

The agents’ effort to find out through an FOIA request what records were seized and the subsequent denial of the request underscore a tension between rank-and-file Secret Service agents and the agency’s leadership over what communications should be shared with investigators.

Whistlejacket, by George Stubbs

Whistlejacket, by George Stubbs

At The Washington Post, Mariana Sotomayor writes about a another new book on the Trump impeachments: New book details how McCarthy came to support Trump after Jan. 6.

In the weeks after the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of a charge related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was seething.

Frustrated that Trump would not talk to him, stressed that his chance to become House speaker could be in jeopardy and furiousthat a trusted confidante had publicly disclosed a tense call between him and Trump, McCarthy snapped.

“I alone am taking all the heat to protect people from Trump! I alone am holding the party together!” he yelled at Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) during a previously undisclosed meeting in McCarthy’s office on Feb. 25, 2021. “I have been working with Trump to keep him from going after Republicans like you and blowing up the party and destroying all our work!”

Stunned by McCarthy’s anger, Herrera Beutler began to cry. Through tears, she apologized for not telling him ahead of time that she had confirmed to the media details of a call McCarthy made to Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, urging him to tell his supporters to leave the U.S. Capitol.

“You should have come to me!” McCarthy said. “Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!”

“What did you want me to do? Lie?” Herrera Beutler shot back. “I did what I thought was right.”

The tense meeting between Republican lawmakers is detailed in the new book “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump,” by Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian and Politico reporter Rachael Bade, a copy of which The Post obtained ahead of its release next week. Several excerpts detail McCarthy’s state of mind from Election Day 2020 to the origination of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“McCarthy’s tirade against Herrera Beutler was just the start of what would become a GOP-wide campaign to whitewash the details of what happened on January 6 in the aftermath of the second impeachment,” the authors write.

There are more revelations about McCarthy in the WaPo story. Basically, McCarthy’s dream is to to become Speaker of the House and in pursuit of that goal he will suck up to Trump as much has he has to.

Lastly, at The Atlantic, Franklin Foer writes about why Merrick Garland will indict Trump: The Inevitable Indictment of Donald Trump.

Foer writes that, although Garland is a cautious, methodical person, he (Foer) is convinced that Trump will be indicted. Here’s why he thinks that. You’ll need to read the whole thing, but here’s an introduction to the arguments.

I have been observing Garland closely for months. I’ve talked with his closest friends and most loyal former clerks and deputies. I’ve carefully studied his record. I’ve interviewed Garland himself. And I’ve reached the conclusion that his devotion to procedure, his belief in the rule of law, and in particular his reverence for the duties, responsibilities, and traditions of the U.S. Department of Justice will cause him to make the most monumental decision an attorney general can make….

The_Kongouro_from_New_Holland_(Kangaroo) George Stubbs

The Kongouro from New Holland, by _(Kangaroo) George Stubbs

Before I lay out the reasons I believe I am correct in this assessment, I want to discuss why it is entirely possible I am not. The main reason to disbelieve the argument that Garland is preparing to indict is simple: To bring criminal charges against a former president from an opposing political party would be the ultimate test of a system that aspires to impartiality, and Garland, by disposition, is repelled by drama, and doesn’t believe the department should be subjected to unnecessary stress tests. This unprecedented act would inevitably be used to justify a cycle of reprisals, and risks turning the Justice Department into an instrument of never-ending political warfare.

And an indictment, of course, would merely be the first step—a prelude to a trial unlike any this country has ever seen. The defendant wouldn’t just be an ex-president; in all likelihood, he’d be a candidate actively campaigning to return to the White House. Fairness dictates that the system regard Trump as it does every other defendant. But doing so would lead to the impression that he’s being deliberately hamstrung—and humiliated—by his political rivals.

Garland is surely aware that this essential problem would be evident at the first hearing. If the Justice Department is intent on proving that nobody is above the law, it could impose the same constraints on Trump that it would on any criminal defendant accused of serious crimes, including limiting his travel. Such a restriction would deprive Trump of one of his most important political advantages: his ability to whip up his followers at far-flung rallies.

In any event, once the trial began, Trump would be stuck in court, likely in Florida (if he’s charged in connection with the Mar-a-Lago documents matter) or in Washington, D.C. (if he’s charged for his involvement in the events of January 6). The site of a Washington trial would be the Prettyman Courthouse, on Constitution Avenue, just a short walk from the Capitol. This fact terrified the former prosecutors and other experts I talked with about how the trial might play out. Right-wing politicians, including Trump himself, have intimated violence if he is indicted.

Trump would of course attempt to make the proceedings a carnival of grievance, a venue for broadcasting conspiracy theories about his enemies. The trial could thus supply a climactic flash point for an era of political violence. Like the Capitol on January 6, the courthouse could become a magnet for paramilitaries. With protesters and counterprotesters descending on the same locale, the occasion would tempt street warfare.

Head over the Atlantic to read the rest.

What are your thoughts on these stories? What other news are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

Happy Caturday!!

Even though we are heading into a 3-day weekend, there is a surprising amount of news today. I’m going to focus on the following stories: Ukraine’s destruction of a bridge that is vital to Russian supply routes;  New developments in the Trump stolen documents saga; and someshocking news on that Russian-speaking Ukrainian woman who infiltrated Mar-a-Lago awhile back.

Ukraine War News

CNN: Massive blast cripples parts of Crimea-Russia bridge, in blow to Putin’s war effort.

In a major blow for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a huge explosion has severely damaged the only bridge connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland, paralyzing a key supply route for Moscow’s faltering war in Ukraine.

The blast early Saturday caused parts of the Kerch Strait road and rail bridge – opened by Putin himself in 2018 – to collapse, images and video from the scene showed. At least three people were killed in the explosion, Russian officials said, citing preliminary information.

The exact cause of the blast at Europe’s longest bridge is yet to be confirmed. Russian officials said a truck exploded, causing Crimea-bound sections ofthe bridge’s road portion to collapse. A subsequent fire engulfed a train of fuel tanks on a separate, adjacent rail portion of the bridge.

Putin ordered a “government commission” to examine the Kerch bridge “emergency” in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported.

An official in Crimea blamed “Ukrainian vandals” for the explosion. Some Ukrainian officials gloated over the incident without directly claiming responsibility – even announcing commemorative stamps will be made. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “the reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure testifies to its terrorist nature.”

On the strategic importance of the bridge:

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

The damage to the road bridge appears to be severe, with the part of the bridge that carries westbound road traffic crippled in at least two places. The damage to the rail link where fuel tanks caught fire is unclear.

The bridge is strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 in a move condemned by the international community.

It is a critical artery for supplying Crimea with both its daily needs and supplies for the military. Over the last few months, dozens of Russian military convoys have used the bridge, carrying vehicles, armor and fuel.

If the Russian military can’t use the bridge, its supply lines to forces in southern Ukraine would become more tenuous, especially when combined with Ukrainian advances southwards into Kherson region, north of Crimea.

Trump Stolen Documents News

Rolling Stone: Justice Department Asking if Trump Stashed Documents in Trump Tower.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE asked multiple witnesses if they knew whether Donald Trump had stashed any highly sensitive government documents at Trump Tower in Manhattan or at his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a person familiar with the matter and another source briefed on the situation tell Rolling Stone.

The FBI, according to these sources, had also asked in recent months whether the ex-president had a habit of transporting classified documents from his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago to the other Trump properties. The feds specifically discussed both the New York City and Bedminster locations with certain witnesses.

“It was obvious they wanted to know if this went beyond just Mar-a-Lago,” the first source says….

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department informed Trump’s legal team it believes the former president may have taken more documents than the ones the FBI returned to the National Archives after its August Mar-a-Lago search. Trump attorney Christopher Kise reportedly suggested that the former president voluntarily conduct a search for any further missing documents at another unnamed Trump property, according to the Times.

The FBI has been quietly interviewing a number of former Trump associates as part of its inquiry into his retention of classified documents….

The increased law enforcement scrutiny since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago has prompted Trump to wonder aloud who in his circle could be helping the Justice Department’s investigation. In exchange with associates, Trump has asked whether anyone in MAGA world could be “wearing a wire” or if his phones are “tapped.” In private, associates of the former president told Rolling Stone that Trump remains focused on getting back “all” of the documents — even classified ones — taken by the FBI back, referring to them as “mine.”

Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt at The New York Times: How Trump Deflected Demands for Documents, Enmeshing Aides.

Late last year, as the National Archives ratcheted up the pressure on former President Donald J. Trump to return boxes of records he had taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago club, he came up with an idea to resolve the looming showdown: cut a deal.

By Li Gui Jun

By Li Gui Jun

Mr. Trump, still determined to show he had been wronged by the F.B.I. investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, was angry with the National Archives and Records Administration for its unwillingness to hand over a batch of sensitive documents that he thought proved his claims.

In exchange for those documents, Mr. Trump told advisers, he would return to the National Archives the boxes of material he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump’s aides never pursued the idea. But the episode is one in a series that demonstrates how Mr. Trump spent a year and a half deflecting, delaying and sometimes leading aides to dissemble when it came to demands from the National Archives and ultimately the Justice Department to return the material he had taken, interviews and documents show.

That pattern was strikingly similar to how Mr. Trump confronted inquiries into his conduct while in office: entertain or promote outlandish ideas, eschew the advice of lawyers and mislead them, then push lawyers and aides to impede investigators.

In the process, some of his lawyers have increased their own legal exposure and had to hire lawyers themselves. And Mr. Trump has ended up in the middle of an investigation into his handling of the documents that has led the Justice Department to seek evidence of obstruction.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Levine and Kathrine Faulders at ABC News: On Trump’s last day in office, why were sensitive documents allegedly in such disarray?

At the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, his team returned a large batch of classified FBI documents and other government records to the Justice Department in such disarray that a year later — in a letter to lawmakers — the department said it still couldn’t tell which of the documents were the classified ones.

The documents came from the FBI’s controversial probe in 2016 looking at alleged links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump tried to make the documents public the night before he left office, issuing a “declassification” memo and secretly meeting with conservative writer John Solomon, who was allowed to review the documents, Solomon told ABC News this past week.

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

But for reasons that are still not clear – and to the great frustration of Trump and his political allies – none of the documents were ever officially released, and the Justice Department said Thursday it’s still working to determine which documents can be disclosed….

Much of what happened with the documents in those last days of the Trump administration — and ever since — remains shrouded in mystery because current and former government officials involved have refused to speak about it, especially now that the FBI is pursuing its investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of a separate cache of classified documents.

The story that still emerges, though, from pieces of public statements and Solomon’s own accounts is one that sheds further light on how Trump’s White House treated certain government secrets. And it helps explain how – in the midst of the FBI probe – Solomon became one of Trump’s official “representatives” to the National Archives.

There’s much more at the ABC link.

Yahoo News: A rift has opened in Trump’s legal team, with a lawyer frozen out for wanting to cooperate with the DOJ: NYT.

A rift has opened in Donald Trump’s legal team over how to respond to Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the rift was prompted by the Department of Justice telling Trump’s team it believes he still possesses government records, even after the FBI raid in August which seized hundreds of files from his home.

Two sources told The Times that attorney Christopher Kise put himself at odds wth Trump by advocating creating a “forensics team” of independent investigators to meticulously inspect whether Trump has any further records.

Per The Times, Trump was initially open to the idea, the report said, but was later persuaded by other attorneys to take a more aggressive approach, leading to Kise being sidelined.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Donald Trump seeks to withhold two folders seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump is seeking to withhold from the justice department two folders marked as containing correspondence with the National Archives and signing sheets that the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to court filings in the special master review of the confiscated documents.

The former US president’s privilege assertions over the folders, which appear to have direct relevance to the criminal investigation into whether he retained national defense information and obstructed justice, are significant as they represent an effort to exclude the items from the inquiry and keep them confidential.

Barbara Perrine Chu Woman with Two Cats

Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Two Cats

Most notably, Trump asserted privilege over the contents of one red folder marked as containing “NARA letters and other copies” and a second, manilla folder marked as containing “NARA letters one top sheet + 3 signing sheets”, a review of the court filings indicated.

The former president also asserted privilege over 35 pages of documents titled “The President’s Calls” that included the presidential seal in the upper left corner and contained handwritten names, numbers, notes about messages and four blank pages of miscellaneous notes, the filings showed.

Trump additionally also did the same over an unsigned 2017 letter concerning former special counsel Robert Mueller, pages of an email about election fraud lawsuits in Fulton County, Georgia, and deliberations about clemency to a certain “MB”, Ted Suhl and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The documents the former president is attempting to withhold from the criminal investigation by asserting some sort of privilege – it was not clear whether he asserted executive or attorney-client privilege over the two folders, for instance – became clear after a Friday ruling by the special master.

Lowell figured out which documents Trump was claiming privilege on by comparing the document numbers in the latest filing with another filing that was briefly unsealed and obtained by Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg News.

News Related to Mysterious Woman Who Infiltrated Mar-a-Lago

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Valeriy Tarasenko, associate of fake heiress who wandered Mar-a-Lago and posed with Donald Trump, shot outside Canadian resort.

A close associate of a woman who posed as a member of a famous banking family and spent days at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was shot Friday in a brazen attack outside a lakeside resort northwest of Montreal, the Canadian paper LaPresse reported.

Quebec provincial police have launched a search for the shooter and other accomplices behind the midday shooting of Valeriy Tarasenko, 44, in the upscale community of Esterel, according to LaPresse. Police said he suffered “significant injuries” but was expected to survive.

Mr. Tarasenko was a former business partner of Inna Yashchyshyn, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant who gained recent notoriety after an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in August revealed that she masqueraded as a member of the Rothschild family and went to Mar-a-Lago, where she made inroads in the former president’s inner circle.

In prior interviews with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Tarasenko said that he met with the FBI and turned over a host of documents and photos tied to an investigation into Ms. Yashchyshyn, her trips to the former president’s estate, and businesses she formed – two with Mr. Tarasenko – over the past seven years.

A bit more:

Holly Warburton

By Holly Warburton

Quebec police said they were trying to “shed some light on the circumstances that led to the injuries of the victim.” But for now, “to protect the investigation, no other detail can be shared.”

Mr. Tarasenko, who was born in Ukraine and raised in Moscow, told the Post-Gazette and OCCRP that he had hired Ms. Yaschyshyn in 2014 to live in his Midtown Miami condo and watch his two daughters while he traveled on business.

But over the past year, the pair had a falling out, with Mr. Tarasenko accusing Ms. Yashchyshyn of abusing his children — allegations that she has vehemently denied.

The shooting is expected to widen the ongoing FBI investigation that includes several interviews with witnesses about a highly suspicious Miami charity, United Hearts of Mercy.

This seems like a significant story that isn’t getting that much attention in the U.S. media yet. Here are a two Canadian articles–rendered in English by Google Translate–and another at The New York Post.

Le Devoir: A man with a troubled past targeted by an armed attack in Estérel.

Radio Canada: One person injured in shooting at Estérel

The New York Post: Fake Ukrainian heiress: ‘My ex-lover forced me to become Anna de Rothschild’

Could this have anything to do with the stolen documents?

What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows Inga Moore

Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows, illustration by Inga Moore

Good Afternoon!!

My posts are getting later and later. I look around at what’s happening in the world on my blogging days and somehow it takes me a long time to get going. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old, or maybe it’s because I’m traumatized by seven years of reading about Trump and the horrors he has inflicted on our country–or maybe both. I don’t know why I ever thought he would go away once he was out of office. Back when he was ranting on Twitter all the time, I used to wish he would go away and leave us alone. Now I realize he will never go away until he dies, and even then we’ll be reading about the damage he has done–if we survive as a country with freedom of speech and press, that is.

The latest on Trump’s legal problems and crimes

The Washington Post: Trump’s lawyer refused his request in February to say all documents returned.

Former president Donald Trump asked one of his lawyers to tell the National Archives and Records Administration in early 2022 that Trump had returned all materials requested by the agency, but the lawyer declined because he was not sure the statement was true, according to people familiar with the matter.

As it turned out, thousands more government documents — including some highly classified secrets — remained at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club….

Alex Cannon, an attorney for Trump, had facilitated the January transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives, after archives officials agitated for more than a year to get “all original presidential records” back, which they are required by law to do. Following months of stonewalling by Trump’s representatives, archives officials threatened to get the Justice Department or Congress involved.

Trump himself eventually packed the boxes that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president seemed determined in February to declare that all material sought by the archives had been handed over, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Around the same time The Washington Post reported that the archives had retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago, the people said, Trump asked his team to release a statement he had dictated. The statement said Trump had returned “everything” the archives had requested. Trump asked Cannon to send a similar message to archives officials, the people said. In addition, the former president told his aides that the documents in the boxes were “newspaper clippings” and not relevant to the archives, two of these people said, and complained that the agency charged with tracking government records was being persnickety about securing the materials from his Florida club.

But Cannon, a former Trump Organization lawyer who worked for the campaign and for Trump after the presidency, told Trump he could not tell the archives all the requested material had been returned. He told others he was not sure if other documents were still at the club and would be uncomfortable making such a claim, the people familiar with the matter said. Other Trump advisers also encouraged Cannon not to make such a definitive statement, people familiar with the matter said.

The Feb. 7 statement Trump dictated was never released over concerns by some of his team that it was not accurate, people familiar with the matter said. A different statement issued three days later said Trump had given boxes of materials to the archives in a “friendly” manner. It did not say that all of the materials were handed over.

So Cannon will be another witness against Trump if he’s ever brought to trial. There’s much more at the WaPo link.

bilbo_comes_to_the_huts_of_the_raft-elves__the_tolkien_estate_limited_1937

Bilbo comes to the huts of the raft elves, by JRR Tolkien

From J. Michael Luttig at The Atlantic on the upcoming SCOTUS case based on Trump’s efforts to get Republican state legislators to create fake sets of electors in order to overturn his 2020 election loss: There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory.

The Supreme Court will decide before next summer the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding.

In Moore v. Harper, the Court will finally resolve whether there is a doctrine of constitutional interpretation known as the “independent state legislature.” If the Court concludes that there is such a doctrine, it would confer on state legislatures plenary, exclusive, and judicially unreviewable power both to redraw congressional districts for federal elections and to appoint state electors who quadrennially cast the votes for president and vice president on behalf of the voters of the states. It would mean that the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts by state legislatures would not be reviewable by the state courts—including the states’ highest court—under their state constitutions.

The independent-state-legislature theory gained traction as the centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In the Supreme Court, allies of the former president argued that the theory, as applied to the electors clause, enabled the state legislatures to appoint electors who would cast their votes for the former president, even though the lawfully certified electors were bound by state law to cast their votes for Joe Biden because he won the popular vote in those states. The Supreme Court declined to decide the question in December 2020. The former president and his allies continued thereafter to urge the state legislatures, and even self-appointed Trump supporters, to transmit to Congress alternative, uncertified electoral slates to be counted by Congress on January 6.

That as many as six justices on the Supreme Court have flirted with the independent-state-legislature theory over the past 20 years is baffling. There is literally no support in the Constitution, the pre-ratification debates, or the history from the time of our nation’s founding or the Constitution’s framing for a theory of an independent state legislature that would foreclose state judicial review of state legislatures’ redistricting decisions. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that the Constitution contemplates and provides for such judicial review.

To the extent that advocates of the independent-state-legislature theory have any evidence at all to support the theory, it is exceedingly thin. Their textual argument is that the total disempowerment of state courts necessarily follows from the fact that the elections clause empowers the state legislatures to prescribe the “manner” of holding congressional elections.

But there is neither more nor less significance to the fact that the Constitution assigns this quintessential legislative power to the state legislatures than that the Constitution assigns federal lawmaking to Congress, rather than to the executive or the judiciary. And yet, the Constitution provides for judicial review of the actions of both.

It’s long, of course, so read the rest at The Atlantic if you’re so inclined.

And then there’s Trump’s mentor, Putin. Will he ever go away?

This is by Walter Russell Mead at The Wall Street Journal–I didn’t encounter a paywall: Putin’s Nuclear Threat Is Real. The conflict isn’t only about Ukraine. He’s waging a global war on the U.S.-led order.

Even as poorly trained, poorly led and poorly supplied Russian forces retreat on the battlefield, the danger that the war in Ukraine will erupt into a wider conflict continues to grow. Vladimir Putin has responded to the weakening of his military position by “annexing” four contested regions inside Ukraine, declaring that the conflict in Ukraine is a war for the survival of Russia, and raising the specter of a nuclear strike. The West is taking note of these moves and the sabotage of Baltic pipelines connecting European consumers to Russian gas. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned Russia that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences for Russian forces, and Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, repeated that message Sunday morning.

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

As the Biden administration scrambles to manage the most dangerous international confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it must see the world through Mr. Putin’s eyes. Only then can officials know how seriously to take the nuclear saber-rattling and develop an appropriate response.

While American presidents going back to George W. Bush have failed to appreciate the depth and passion of Mr. Putin’s hostility to the U.S., the Russian president isn’t that hard to read. Like a movie supervillain who can’t resist sharing the details of his plans for world conquest with the captured hero, Mr. Putin makes no secret of his agenda. At Friday’s ceremony marking Russia’s illegal and invalid “annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, he laid out his worldview and ambitions in a chilling and extraordinary speech that every American policy maker should read.

Mr. Putin sees global politics today as a struggle between a rapacious and domineering West and the rest of the world bent on resisting our arrogance and exploitation. The West is cynical and hypocritical, and its professed devotion to “liberal values” is a sham. The West is not a coalition of equals; it represents the domination of the “evil Anglo-Saxons” over the Europeans and Japan. Mr. Putin sees this American-led world system as the successor to the British Empire, and he blames the Anglo-Saxon or English-speaking powers for a host of evils, from the Atlantic slave trade to European imperialism to the use of nuclear weapons in World War II.

This attack on “Anglo-Saxon” greed, brutality and hypocrisy is not original to Mr. Putin. He is reading from a script developed by opponents of British and American liberal capitalism and geopolitical power over hundreds of years. Napoleon could have delivered large swathes of this speech. Very different figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler as well as Joseph Stalin, Imperial Japanese leaders like Hideki Tojo, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden shared much of Mr. Putin’s critique. One can hear versions of it on many college campuses, and it plays a significant role in the intellectual and cultural life of many postcolonial countries and movements around the world.

Again, this is a long read, so I hope you will also be able to do so without hitting a paywall. If it helps, I clicked on a link from Memeorandum.

The latest Ukraine news from The Washington Post: Ukraine hammers Russian forces into retreat on east and south fronts.

Ukrainian troops on Tuesday accelerated their military advances on two fronts, pushing Russian forces into retreat in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the east and Kherson region to the south.

The gains showed Kyiv continuing to recapture occupied territory on the same day that President Vladimir Putin and his rubber-stamp parliament sought to formalize their increasingly far-fetched annexation claims of four Ukrainian regions.

“The Ukrainian armed forces commanders in the south and east are throwing problems at the Russian chain of command faster than the Russians can effectively respond,” said a Western official who requested anonymity to brief reporters about sensitive security information. “And this is compounding the existing dysfunction within the Russian invasion force.”

Ukraine has been pushing to take back as much of its occupied territory as it can before Russia potentially sends hundreds of thousands of reinforcements to the battlefield, following a recent mobilization effort.

the-story-of-doctor-dolittle, illustrated by Angel Dominguezr

The Story of Dr. Dolittle, illustrated by Angel Dominguez

The Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had moved far more slowly in the south compared to the lightning push through the northeast Kharkiv region in September, has suddenly picked up speed, with Russian units retreating in recent days from a large swath of territory along the west bank of the Dnieper River.

Ukrainian forces pushed ahead dozens of miles into the southern Kherson region, liberating towns and villages and recreating scenes from mid-September when they swept into Kharkiv and were greeted by joyful residents who had spent many months under Russian occupation.

On Monday, the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that “superior tank units” of Ukraine had “wedged in the depth of our defense line” near the villages of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka in the Kherson region.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Yesterday was day one of the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial:

CNN: Takeaways from the dramatic first day and opening statements of the Oath Keepers trial.

With the historic case that they had brought against Oath Keepers accused of plotting to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, prosecutors framed up how the jury should think about the allegations with an hour-plus opening statement that kicked off the trial in earnest.

Five alleged members of the far-right militia, including its leader Stewart Rhodes, are on trial in Washington DC’s federal courthouse. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy, a charge rarely brought by the Justice Department, and other charges.

The Justice Department’s opening statement featured messages and other communications among the defendants that prosecutors say show the Oath Keepers’ unlawful plotting to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win. As the prosecutors sought to use the words of the defendants against them, they also played video capturing the Oath Keepers’ actions in the Capitol and displayed maps and charts to help the jury follow along. Each juror has their own screen to see evidence.

“They said out loud and in writing what they planned to do,” Jeffrey Nestler, an assistant US Attorney, told the jury. “When the opportunity finally presented itself … they sprang into action.”

A lawyer for Rhodes, the first defense attorney to deliver an opening statement told the jurors that they will see evidence that will show that the defendants “had no part in the bulk” of the violence that occurred on January 6.

“You may not like what you see and hear our defendants did,” attorney Phillip Linder said, “but the evidence will show that they didn’t do anything illegal that day.”

That’s the introduction to the story. Read the takeaways at CNN. Again, it’s a long read.

The Washington Post: U.S.: Oath Keepers, Rhodes attacked ‘bedrock of democracy’ on Jan. 6.

Members of the extremist group Oath Keepers led by Stewart Rhodes planned for an armed rebellion “to shatter a bedrock of American democracy” — the peaceful transfer of presidential power — culminating in their role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a prosecutor told a jury Monday in the firstseditious conspiracy trialof the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation.

Rhodes and four co-defendants that day staged an “arsenal” of firearms in nearby Virginia and several forcibly breached the Capitol with a mob to prevent Congress from confirming President Biden’s 2020 election victory, thwarting the will of U.S. voters and elected representatives, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during opening statements in federal court.

where-the-wild-things-are Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

“That was their goal — to stop by whatever means necessary the lawful transfer of presidential power, including by taking up arms against the United States government,” Nestler said. Descending on Washington “to attack not just the Capitol, not just Congress, not just our government — but our country itself.”

Rhodes’s defense decried the prosecution as “government mischaracterization and government overreach.” Oath Keepers came to Washington as “peacekeeping” security guards who “had no part in the bulk of the violence that occurred on January 6th,” attorney Phillip Linder said, believing that President Donald Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize private militias, put down riots and remain in power.

“That is why he did what he did,” Linder said, adding that Rhodes would testify in his own defense. “You’re going to hear from Stewart Rhodes himself about who he is, about the Oath Keepers, what their role is and what their role was on January 6th.”

The clashing views of democracy, patriotism and violence at the seat of the U.S. government during the handoff from Trump to Biden played out in the most-anticipated trial to arise from the Jan. 6. 2021, Capitol siege. Held at a federal courthouse blocks from the Capitol where events unfolded 21 months ago, the trial of Rhodes — a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law graduate who has become one of the most visible figures of the far-right anti-government movement — poses a major legal and political test of the Biden administration’s pledge to combat domestic terrorism, as well as the law and the courts.

Read more at the WaPo.

Yes, there’s a lot going on and I haven’t even touched on the reporting on the midterm races. What are your thoughts, and what stories are of most interest to you today?