Tuesday Reads: Prosecutors Get Their Hands On Trump’s Tax Returns

CtHnyTzVIAEIzboGood Morning!!

As you know, yesterday the Supreme Court refused to keep Trump’s tax records secret any longer; they will finally be turned over to New York prosecutors who are investigation Trump and his businesses. The New York Times: Supreme Court Denies Trump’s Final Bid to Block Release of Tax Returns.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order that ended Mr. Trump’s bitter 18-month battle to stop prosecutors in Manhattan from poring over his tax returns as they investigate possible financial crimes.

The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Mr. Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret, taking his case to the Supreme Court twice. There were no dissents noted.

From the start, Mr. Trump’s battle to keep his returns under wraps had tested the scope and limits of presidential power. Last summer, the justices rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that state prosecutors cannot investigate a sitting president, ruling that no citizen was above “the common duty to produce evidence.” This time, the court denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block a subpoena for his records, effectively ending the case.

The ruling is also a big victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. He will now have access to eight years’ worth of Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, as well as other financial records that Mr. Vance’s investigators view as vital to their inquiry into whether the former president and his company manipulated property values to obtain bank loans and tax benefits….

Prosecutors in Manhattan now face a monumental task. Dozens of investigators and forensic accountants will have to sift through millions of pages of financial documents. Mr. Vance has brought in an outside consulting firm and a former federal prosecutor with significant experience in white-collar and organized crime cases to drill down into the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.

The Supreme Court’s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president. At a minimum, the ruling wrests from Mr. Trump control of his most closely held financial records and the power to decide when, if ever, they would be made available for public inspection.

byrnestaxesBut the tax returns are not all prosecutors will get their hands on. Mike McIntire at The New York Times: Trump’s Tax Returns Aren’t the Only Crucial Records Prosecutors Will Get.

The New York Times last year provided more or less a preview of what awaits Mr. Vance, when it obtained and analyzed decades of income tax data for Mr. Trump and his companies. The tax records provide an unprecedented and highly detailed look at the byzantine world of Mr. Trump’s finances, which for years he has simultaneously bragged about and sought to keep secret.

The Times’s examination showed that the former president reported hundreds of millions of dollars in business losses, went years without paying federal income taxes and faces an Internal Revenue Service audit of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed a decade ago.

Among other things, the records revealed that Mr. Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in his first year as president and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. They also showed he had written off $26 million in “consulting fees” as a business expense between 2010 and 2018, some of which appear to have been paid to his older daughter, Ivanka Trump, while she was a salaried employee of the Trump Organization.

The legitimacy of the fees, which reduced Mr. Trump’s taxable income, has since become a subject of Mr. Vance’s investigation, as well as a separate civil inquiry by Letitia James, the New York attorney general….

The tax returns represent a self-reported accounting of revenues and expenses, and often lack the specificity required to know, for instance, if legal costs related to hush-money payments were claimed as a tax write-off, or if money from Russia ever moved through Mr. Trump’s bank accounts. The absence of that level of detail underscores the potential value of other records that Mr. Vance won access to with Monday’s Supreme Court decision.

In addition to the tax returns, Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, must also produce business records on which those returns are based and communications with the Trump Organization. Such material could provide important context and background to decisions that Mr. Trump or his accountants made when preparing to file taxes.

John D. Fort, a former chief of the I.R.S. criminal investigation division, said tax returns were a useful tool for uncovering leads, but could only be fully understood with additional financial information obtained elsewhere.

“It’s a very key personal financial document, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Mr. Fort, a C.P.A. and the director of investigations with Kostelanetz & Fink in Washington. “What you find in the return will need to be followed up on with interviews and subpoenas.”

NYT investigative reporter Suzanne Craig posted a thread with links to more stories about possible criminal activities by the Trump crime family. 

Trump is not happy. He released a statement, which you can read here

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Lashes Out At Supreme Court Tax Returns Call Like A Man Who Knows Prison Is In His Future

In a statement on “The Continuing Political Persecution of President Donald J. Trump,” Trump rants that he is the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” Referring to the case the court ruled on, which concerns a subpoena of Trump’s accountants by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, who has opened a criminal investigation into the ex-president, Trump says, “This is something which has never happened to a President before,” naturally failing to mention the fact that, among past POTUSes, only Trump has a reputation as a notorious con man. Nevertheless, he incomprehensibly continues:

“[This] is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!

The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it. In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump. I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”

So, just to reiterate, Trump—a person who incited a violent riot in the hopes of overturning the election—believes that crimes have been committed against him, and, despite the fact that he literally tried to use the Justice Department to investigate enemies, that he is the victim of political “persecution.”

cg57f32916bd5e0Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Is Extremely Mad Prosecutors Will See His Tax Returns.

Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.

Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points. Trump’s position on the tax returns rests on a series of assertions, ranging from his false claim that Robert Mueller found “No Collusion” to his insistence that he actually won the 2020 election to his extremely ironic complaint that prosecutors targeting their political opponents is “fascism, not justice.” (Trump, of course, spent his presidency publicly demanding his Attorneys General investigate his political rivals.)

The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: “This is something which has never happened to a president before.” That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused….

His outpouring of rage that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance will finally have access to his financial documents suggests the only plausible reason for Trump’s evident dismay: He is very scared of being charged with crimes.

Here’s a little comedy interlude:

More stories to check out today:

Axios: Hillary Clinton to publish political thriller with author Louise Penny.

Raw Story: George Clooney to produce docuseries about abuse scandal that Jim Jordan was accused of covering up.

Politico: ‘A double standard going on’: Democrats accuse GOP and Manchin of bias on Biden nominations.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Now Republicans are offended by mean tweets?

Axios: Scoop: Biden’s OMB Plan B.

CBS News: Biden commemorates 500,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID-19.

Slate: Clarence Thomas Promotes Trump’s Voter Fraud Lies in Alarming Dissent.

Politico: Congress finally gets first chance for answers about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The New York Times: Bipartisan Senate Inquiry on Capitol Riot Will Begin With Scrutiny of Security Failures.

The Washington Post: At stake in Senate hearing Tuesday: The story of the Capitol riot, and who is responsible.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following? Are you watching the Senate hearing on the Capitol riot?


Monday Reads: Rule of Law! What a Concept!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’ve been watching the Merrick Garland confirmation and have been just so overwhelmed with wonky joyness over the discussion between Senator Amy Klobucher from Minnesota and the Judge up for the AG position.  I’ve been hearing basic American Economic liberty concepts like tougher Merger & Analysis scrutiny and trust law enforcement for huge, monopolistic companies including all the usual suspects in social media.

Then, I  watched him worddance with glee around some Republican Senator obsessed that their gun fetish and penis enhancer opportunities would be stolen in the name of protecting citizens from armed terrorists and criminals.  He waltzed around them like a professional ballroom dancer.

I feel ready to bring out my Nina Simone again!   It’s a new dawn! It’s a new day! 

Merrick Garland: “I would not have taken this job if I thought that politics would have any influence over prosecutions and investigations.”

More on that in a minute.  Here’s a bit of good news via the Supreme Court with the exception of Uncle Clarence Thomas who still is looking to convince every one he’s just a melatonin-capable version of wipipo.  They did, however, reject Stormy Daniel’s appeal of her defamation of character suit against Trump.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by adult film star Stormy Daniels in a defamation suit she brought against former President Trump.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in 2018 after he suggested on Twitter that Daniels had lied about being threatened by an unknown man in 2011 in relation to her alleged affair with the former president.

Daniels appealed to the Supreme Court after her case was dismissed in the lower courts. The justices on Monday denied her petition without comment.

Oh,  and I’m not quite done with Ted Cruz memes either.  I think JJ, BB, and I have all had a lot of fun with them this week but not quite enough.  But anyway, here’s the other SCOTUS decision for NYC.

More  from Scotus Blog from Amy Howe: “Justices will not block New York grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records.”

The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for a New York grand jury to obtain former President Donald Trump’s financial records. Over four months after Trump asked them to intervene, the justices turned down a request by the former president to stay a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that permits Cyrus Vance, the district attorney for Manhattan, to enforce a subpoena to Mazars USA, the president’s longtime accountant. Monday’s order means that Vance and the grand jury likely will finally acquire eight years of Trump’s tax returns and other related records, although grand jury secrecy laws may preclude them from becoming public.

The court’s order came in a dispute that began in 2019, when Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars as part of a state grand jury’s investigation into criminal violations of New York law. The investigation includes a probe into hush-money payments that were made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. A federal district court in New York and the 2nd Circuit rebuffed the president’s request to quash that subpoena, prompting Trump to appeal to the Supreme Court. The justices ruled in July that the president is not categorically immune from state criminal subpoenas, but they sent the case back to the lower courts to allow the president to challenge the subpoena on other grounds.

When the case returned to the district court, the president again asked the judge to quash the subpoena, arguing that it was a “fishing expedition” issued in “bad faith” to harass him. But the judge rejected the president’s contention and granted Vance’s motion to dismiss the president’s claims, prompting the president to appeal to the 2nd Circuit, which upheld that ruling.

So, this is where the Trump family crime syndicate gets its fortunes, freedom, and time ate up by courts, lawyers, and fees.  And this is where he looks to use Republicans again for fundraising and personal gain.  From Axios and Mike Allen: “Scoop: Trump to claim total control of GOP.”  Couldn’t happen to a better group of insurrection enablers.

In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans’ “presumptive 2024 nominee” with a vise grip on the party’s base, top Trump allies tell Axios.

What to watch: A longtime adviser called Trump’s speech a “show of force,” and said the message will be: “I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I’m still in charge.” Payback is his chief obsession.

Axios has learned that Trump advisers will meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the machinery for kingmaking in the 2022 midterms.

  • Trump is expected to stoke primary challenges for some of those who have crossed him, and shower money and endorsements on the Trumpiest candidates.
  • State-level officials, fresh off censuring Trump critics, stand ready to back him up.

Why it matters: Trump’s speech Sunday at CPAC in Orlando is designed to show that he controls the party, whether or not he runs in 2024.

  • His advisers argue that his power within the GOP runs deeper and broader than ever, and that no force can temper him.
  • “Trump effectively is the Republican Party,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told me. “The only chasm is between Beltway insiders and grassroots Republicans around the country. When you attack President Trump, you’re attacking the Republican grassroots.”

The big picture: The few Republicans who have spoken ill of Trump since the election — including House members who voted to impeach him, and senators who voted to convict — have found themselves censured, challenged and vilified by the parties in their home states.

What’s next: Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, has $75 million on hand, and he has a database of tens of millions of names.

The long game: Many Trump confidants think he’ll pretend to run but ultimately pass. He knows the possibility — or threat — gives him leverage and attention.

A Trump source said some Republicans have told him: “If you endorse me, I’ll run.”

Hope he keeps their nuts in cracker for a few years at least a few years. So, back to the Merrick.  Garland Hearing and Senator Klobucher whom I still love from the presidential primaries.

This is the sort of thing economists live for …  And of course the Republican think he’s going to make the DOJ a hotbed of political activism and gunhating.  They’re just the part of white outrage and hypocrisy any more with Tax Cuts for the rich thrown in.

Additionally, there was a strong statement on the current state of Domestic Terrorism which is probably why the gun nut senators were out in force today.  From Chris Strohm at Bloomberg:

“We are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City,” said Garland, who led the prosecution of the worst domestic attack in the U.S., the truck bombing of the federal building there in 1995.

Garland, who’s now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, appears headed for a bipartisan vote of approval in the Senate. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, called Garland “a good pick to lead the Department of Justice,” and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he’s “very inclined” to support him.

As the Justice Department pursues criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot, Garland pledged to lead the effort. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” he said.

Garland also signaled he’ll make decisions independently from Biden. “The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer — not for any individual, but for the people of the United States,” he said.

All of this is still very much breaking news as the hearing continues/

So, I’ll let us continue the discussion down thread as we continue to learn more about Garland and his views.  Sen. Lindsey Graham  asked Judge Merrick Garland the single most idiotic question I’ve seen so far .

“Do you promise to defend the Portland courthouse against anarchists?”

Next he’ll be asking to check the Biden Dog Beds for hidden communists I suppose.

So, hope everything is okay with y’all and you’re up for the vaccine or done with them by now!  It’s warming up down here so I’m feeling much better just with that!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Trump is Delusional and Republicans Are Enabling His Madness.

http://www.art-vangogh.com/

Vincent van Gogh, Winter scene with Arles in the background

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know how to think or write about what Trump is doing right now. He has somehow convince 17 state attorney generals to join a stupid lawsuit that asks the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election. The man behind the suit is Texas AG Ken Paxton, who is currently under investigation by the FBI.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Texas AG Ken Paxton, Under FBI Investigation, Asks SCOTUS to Overturn the Election.

On Tuesday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Supreme Court to effectively declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Paxton’s lawsuit falsely accuses Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin of counting invalid votes in violation of the Constitution. It asks the justices to remedy this alleged misconduct by forcing all four states’ legislatures to throw out every vote and appoint electors who support Trump. Many Republican lawmakers have already endorsed such a scheme, but Paxton is the first to ask SCOTUS to facilitate it. If the Supreme Court took up his invitation, it would commit the single biggest act of vote nullification in American history, voiding millions of ballots to hand Trump an unearned second term.

The Supreme Court, however, is not going to take up Paxton’s invitation. It has asked for a response from the four defendant states by 3 p.m. on Thursday; in light of the court’s hasty disposition of similarly laughable complaints, we can safely assume that the justices intend to dispatch this case promptly. Paxton’s suit is shot through with conspiracy theories and constitutional claims with no basis in law. Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins, who typically authors the office’s lawsuits, did not sign on to this one, nor did his deputies; instead, Paxton brought in a “special counsel” from outside the agency. His suit is so ridiculous that it led some commentators to wonder whether the attorney general might have another motive for filing it. Paxton, after all, is reportedly under investigation by the FBI for alleged bribery and abuse of office. Trump, meanwhile, has been distributing pardons to his allies like candy. Paxton’s suit makes more sense as pardon-bait than it does as a legal document. And he may need presidential clemency to escape the federal criminal charges that could be imminent.

So this may just be an attempt by Paxton to get a pardon from Trump, but 17 other Republican-controlled states are going along with this assault on the democracy. In the article, Stern enumerates Paxton’s long history of criminal conduct and corruption. Read about it at the link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Trump has also joined the lawsuit. CNN: Trump asks Supreme Court to invalidate millions of votes in battleground states.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to block millions of votes from four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump’s request came in a filing with the court asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate millions of votes cast in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The President is being represented by a new attorney, John Eastman, who is known for recently pushing a racist conspiracy theory questioning whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was eligible for the role because her parents were immigrants….

“Our Country is deeply divided in ways that it arguably has not been seen since the election of 1860,” the petition states. “There is a high level of distrust between the opposing sides, compounded by the fact that, in the election just held, election officials in key swing states, for apparently partisan advantage, failed to conduct their state elections in compliance with state election law.”

Echoing arguments made by Texas, Trump says the battleground states used the pandemic “as an excuse” and “ignored or suspended the operation of numerous state laws designed to protect the integrity of the ballot.”

He asks the court to block the states from using “constitutionally infirm 2020 election results” unless the legislatures of the states “review the 2020 election results.”

Instead of actually doing the job of POTUS in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic and economic disaster, Trump is spending all of his time claiming he actually won the election that he lost and trying to convince judges and lawmakers to help him with execute a coup and turn the U.S. into an authoritarian state.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

The Washington Post: On record day for covid-19 deaths, Trump falsely proclaims at packed Hanukkah party, ‘We’re going to win this election.’

At the end of the nation’s deadliest day so far during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump on Wednesday night emerged at an indoor Hanukkah party to speak with a crowd mostly wearing masks but not adhering to social distancing in the East Room of the White House.

Then, the president falsely said again that he won the election, boasting that victory was on the horizon in the form of long-shot legal efforts that have been repeatedly defeated in multiple states.

“All I ask for is people with wisdom and with courage, that’s all,” Trump told the crowd, according to a video of the event shared by Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “Because if certain very important people, if they have wisdom and if they have courage, we’re going to win this election in a landslide.”

The crowd responded by breaking into a chant of, “Four more years!”

The moment highlighted a consistent theme of Trump’s actions in the past month, as he has declined to address a dramatically worsening pandemic while focusing instead on his thus-far failed efforts to overturn the election results.

Wednesday’s White House holiday party came on the same day that 3,140 people died of covid-19 in the United States, a single-day record for deaths, according to a Washington Post analysis. Nationwide, 106,000 people were hospitalized with covid, another record.

The Hanukkah party was among at least 25 indoor parties planned in a packed holiday season at the White House, which ignored warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health experts to avoid large groups and limit travel.

Also from The Washington Post: Trump pressures congressional Republicans to help in his fight to overturn the election.

President Trump is shifting his focus to Congress after the courts roundly rejected his bid to overturn the results of the election, pressuring congressional Republicans into taking a final stand to keep him in power.

Trump’s push is part of a multipronged approach as he also seeks to lobby state and federal lawmakers to give him cover for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, as well as rally support for a last-gasp legal challenge in the Supreme Court that election law experts almost universally dismiss.

The president has been calling Republicans, imploring them to keep fighting and more loudly proclaim the election was stolen while pressing them on what they plan to do. He spoke to Arizona GOP Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, on Wednesday, and is expected to meet Thursday at the White House with several state attorneys general. Meanwhile, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and point man in the legal fight, has been making similar calls from the hospital, where he is being treated for covid-19.

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

The president also has enlisted Vice President Pence to reach out to governors and other party leaders in key states to see what else can be done to help the president. A person familiar with the calls said Pence has not exerted pressure on lawmakers to take specific actions and sees them as “checking in.” [….]

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Trump’s conservative allies in the House have been privately buttonholing GOP senators, seeking to enlist one to join in objecting to slates of electors on Jan. 6, according to multiple people familiar with their effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their plans.

On that day, Congress will meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes and declare Joe Biden as the 46th president — with Pence presiding. But if a member of the House and a member of the Senate challenge a state’s results, the whole Congress would vote — and the GOP plotting all but assures the routine process could take a dramatic turn, forcing Republicans to choose between accepting the election results or Trump’s bid to overturn the outcome.

Unbelievable. Read much more about the Republican efforts to support Trump’s power grab. 

I can’t understand why journalists are not writing that Trump’s behavior is simply insane. He is insane, and that needs to be discussed publicly. 

According to CNN’s Manu Raju, GOP senators ready to acknowledge Biden won but struggle with Trump’s refusal to concede.

A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to publicly acknowledge what’s been widely known for weeks but what they’ve refused to say: Joe Biden won the presidency and will be sworn in on January 20.

What they’re less certain about: What President Donald Trump will do after the Electoral College votes on Monday and how they plan to respond if he won’t concede after Biden is the official winner.

“Trump’s going to do what Trump is going to do,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has asserted that Biden will be the President-elect once the Electoral College votes on Monday, but told CNN that it’s Trump’s call on conceding the race. “That’s the only answer I’m going to give you.”

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

For weeks, Republicans in the House and Senate have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory, arguing that Trump has a right to pursue his case in court and staying mostly silent as the President wages a rhetorical assault on a foundation of democracy by arguing baselessly that the election was “stolen” and “rigged.”

And after interviews with more than two dozen Republican senators, many of them have pointed to December 14 as the defining moment — when electors meet in their state capitals to make the results official. Yet they are also confronting a new reality: Biden will officially clinch the necessary electoral votes to assume the presidency and the President is showing no signs of letting up.

Many Republicans won’t say if they’ll acknowledge the electoral reality next week. But others are ready to move on and acknowledge Biden won.

Finally, The Washington Post Editorial Board warns that Trump’s behavior could encourage his delusional supporters to act out violently: The danger is growing that Trump’s lies about the election will lead to violence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S lying about the election has become dangerous — and not just in the sense that it damages democratic norms. It also increasingly threatens to spur physical violence against Americans who have done their duty to oversee a free and fair vote.

Officials in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin have reported receiving threats or harassment. The Arizona Republican Party asked its Twitter followers Tuesday if they were willing to give their lives to overturn the election and “die for something.”

Armed “protesters” menaced Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and her family in their home over the weekend. “Someone’s going to get killed,” said Gabriel Sterling, a senior Georgia election official, as he detailed last week the death threats he and others have received. Yet, Mr. Trump continues to pour gasoline on the fire, tweeting Wednesday that “We will soon be learning about the word ‘courage’, and saving our Country.” Kim Ward, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania state Senate, told the New York Times that if she refused to cooperate with efforts to challenge the election result, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.” [….]

…passions are not dissipating; they are exploding. Republicans across the country, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) down to county GOP chairs, are inflaming them with their encouragement or their acquiescence. Violence seems ever more possible when President-elect Joe Biden’s victory becomes official — if not before. Short of that, Mr. Trump is creating a new playbook for failed candidates: Rile the base; delegitimize your opponent’s victory; pressure state officials to flip the results. This strategy could be far more potent in a closer election. It threatens the foundations of U.S. democracy.

There’s plenty of other news, so please use the comments to share the stories you are following today.


Tuesday Reads

sb111720dapr

Good Morning!!

We have to survive 57 more days of Trump insanity–along with the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic–between now and January 20, 2021. At least Trump finally agreed to let the official presidential transition begin–but he’s still refusing to give Joe Biden access to the government’s vaccine plans.

The New York Times: Trump Administration Approves Start of Formal Transition to Biden.

President Trump’s government on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the president’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end.

Mr. Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless. But the president said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to allow a transition to proceed.

In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the handoff to Mr. Biden “in the best interest of our country,” even though he had spent weeks trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud. Hours later, he tried to play down the significance of Ms. Murphy’s action, tweeting that it was simply “preliminarily work with the Dems” that would not stop efforts to change the election results.

Still, Ms. Murphy’s designation of Mr. Biden as the apparent victor provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and clears the way for the president-elect’s advisers to coordinate with Trump administration officials.

cbr111320daprTrump had to be talked into allowing the transition to begin.

Mr. Trump had been resisting any move toward a transition. But in conversations in recent days that intensified Monday morning, top aides — including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel; and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — told the president the transition needed to begin. He did not need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to multiple people briefed on the discussions….

Some of the advisers drafted a statement for the president to issue. In the end, Mr. Trump did not put one out, but aides said the tone was similar to his tweets in the evening, in which he appeared to take credit for Ms. Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to begin.

“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

This morning, NBC News published an op-ed by Sen. Chris Murphy: As Trump’s GSA begins election transition, Biden needs access to Covid-19 vaccine plans.

At the very moment President-elect Joe Biden will take the reins of government, the federal government will be in the early stages of implementing the most complicated, most expensive and most important mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. On Monday, General Services Administration signaled that it is ready to begin the formal transition process. There is not a moment to lose….

cbr111220dapr…vaccines don’t protect people; vaccinations do. And the effort to make sure that every person in America, as soon as possible, gets vaccinated, is a logistical project on par with than anything the American health care system has ever accomplished. Trump’s teams at Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have begun to develop and implement this system, but it will be barely up and running by Jan. 20. That means that there must be an errorless transition of responsibility from Trump’s team to Biden’s team. And yet for weeks, Trump’s team refused to allow Biden’s transition team access to the plan. Hopefully, the GSA’s announcement means this will change. But we cannot just assume it will happen.

As leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the coalition of federal agencies overseeing the plan for vaccine distribution, told the Senate last week, Trump had been blocking them from communicating at all with the Biden-Harris transition team. Why? Because of Trump’s petulant crusade against reality. Indeed, Trump is still refusing to accept the election results, hoping that desperate lawsuits and the bullying of local elections officials will somehow allow him to remain in office despite the fact that he lost the election convincingly.

Murphy believes the Trump plans are inadequate and Biden will need to make changes. Read Murphy’s detailed recommendations at NBC News.

Trump may have been talked into allowing the formal transition to begin, but he’s still obsessed with proving the election was fraudulent. Now that his many lawsuits have been thrown out of court for lack of evidence, he is becoming concerned that his crazy legal team is making him look bad. As if he hadn’t already done that to himself.

NBC News: Behind the scenes, Trump frustrated with his legal team’s maneuvers.

While President Donald Trump has publicly praised his legal team’s efforts, he has privately expressed frustration with the slapdash nature of his election defense fight, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

20201121edhan-aThe president has been complaining to aides and allies about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and recently-removed lawyer Sidney Powell’s over-the-top performances at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters last week, these people said. Both Giuliani and Powell have continued to make conspiratorial and baseless claims about widespread voter fraud, for which they have provided no evidence.

The president is concerned his team is comprised of “fools that are making him look bad,” said one source familiar with the thinking. Asked why he would not fire them, this person replied, in essence, who knows?

The president grew less impressed with Powell over the weekend, as she continued to make outlandish comments, including falsely accusing Georgia’s Republican governor and its secretary of state of being part of a scheme to alter votes.

That ultimately led to the terse statement the Trump campaign put out Sunday night on behalf of Giuliani and senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity,” it read.

Trump was also not pleased with the optics of the brown substance, presumed to be hair dye or a makeup product, dripping down Giuliani’s face during the nearly two-hour news conference Thursday, according to one of the sources familiar with the president’s reaction.

Even Rush Limbaugh is complaining about the “legal team.” Earth to Trump: you chose these morons. Only the best people, right?

Elie Honig at CNN: Trump’s bizarro-world ‘elite strike force’ legal challenge is about to implode.

20201120edhoc-aJust moments after a federal judge issued a blistering rebuke of their evidence-free, legally-confused effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump’s legal team flailed to spin the crushing loss as some sort of bizarro-world victory. Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis claimed in a statement that the dismissal “turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court.”

But if the Trump campaign’s legal team is counting on the Supreme Court to save them, they’re delusional. In this case, and in the larger effort to contest the outcome of the 2020 election, Trump’s team is just about out of runway.

In a news conference laden with false statements and incomprehensible legal claims, Ellis labeled Trump’s legal team an “elite strike force.” But their utter failure to uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud, or to articulate a coherent legal theory, suggests otherwise. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a staunch Trump political ally — more aptly called Trump’s legal team a “national embarrassment.” The Trump team later distanced itself from Sidney Powell, an attorney on Trump’s legal team, after she spread conspiracy theories about the election.

Indeed, Saturday’s ruling by federal judge Matthew Brann — an appointee of President Barack Obama who previously held various positions in Pennsylvania’s Republican party — is one of the harshest rebukes I’ve ever seen from any judge. Brann heaped scorn on the Trump campaign’s “strained legal arguments” which, he noted, are “without merit … and unsupported by evidence.” He ridiculed one of the Trump team’s primary constitutional claims as a “Frankenstein monster.” And Brann noted that the Trump campaign position, if adopted, would “disenfranchise almost seven million voters.”

There’s much more at the CNN link. I seriously doubt that even the most extreme SCOTUS justices are going to want to touch the Trump cases with a ten-foot pole.

And then there’s Trump’s crazy pal Roger Stone. The Daily Beast: Roger Stone-Tied Group Threatens GOP: If Trump Goes Down, So Does Your Senate Majority.

sbr112020daprConservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.

The most aggressive call to boycott or cast protest ballots in the two runoff races has, so far, come from a dormant pro-Trump super PAC with ties to Stone, which unveiled a new initiative to retaliate against the Republican Party’s supposed turncoats by handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

The group, dubbed the Committee for American Sovereignty, unveiled a new website encouraging Georgia Republicans to write in Trump’s name in both of the upcoming Senate runoff elections, which could determine the party that controls the upper chamber during President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office. The PAC argued that doing so will show support for the president in addition to forcing Republicans to address the wild election-fraud conspiracy theories floated by Trump supporters and members of his own legal team.

“If we can do this, we have a real chance at getting these RINO senators to act on the illegitimate and corrupt election presided over by a Democrat party that is invested in the Communist takeover of Our Great Nation,” the group wrote on its new website, writeintrumpforgeorgiasenate.com. “We will not stop fighting for you, the American Patriot, against the evils of Socialism and inferior Religions.”

The effort is representative of a broader push among some of President Trump’s most devoted supporters to withhold support for the two Georgia Republican senators facing competitive runoff challenges, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in the hope of leveraging the party’s fear of losing the U.S. Senate to get more establishment backing for their drive to change the result of the election. The goal, those operatives say, is to expose a supposed vast election fraud conspiracy abetted by high-level Republicans in Georgia’s state government, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Can we survive 57 more days of this insanity? I guess if we got through four years of it, we can hang on a bit longer–but it won’t be easy.

Take care, Sky Dancers! Enjoy your Tuesday in whatever way works best for you. I plan to read a novel and take a nap this afternoon. Please check in with us in the comments if you have the time and inclination. 


Thursday Reads

Birch Grove, Isaac Levitan, 1885=89

Birch Grove, Isaac Levitan, 1885-89

Good Morning!!

My brain is mush this morning. I stayed up all night on Tuesday, fell asleep very early yesterday, and woke up this morning at 3:00. I’m too old for this. I wonder when we’ll know something definitive about the election results. At least we know that Biden is the winner; we just don’t know which state will put him over the top.

The best outcome would be for Pennsylvania to be called for Biden. Here’s Senator Bob Casey explaining where vote counting stands in his state as of this morning:

John Wagner has  live election updates on the state of the race at The Washington Post: Biden closes in on electoral college victory; race narrows in Arizona, Georgia.

The latest …
  • Arizona: Biden’s lead narrowed to about 68,000 votes early Thursday as Maricopa County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, released the tallies of more ballots it had counted. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said her state has just under 450,000 ballots left to count.
  • Georgia: Fulton County, home to Atlanta, continued counting ballots overnight. Trump’s lead had narrowed to about 18,500 votes as of early Thursday. Fulton County elections chief Rick Barron said officials will release more vote totals around 11 a.m.
  • Nevada: Updated vote totals will be released around noon Eastern time Thursday, officials said.
  • North Carolina: As of late Wednesday, officials were still counting provisional and absentee ballots. Trump was ahead, but officials said it is likely that the winner will not be known for days.
  • Pennsylvania: Trump maintained a lead of about 164,000 votes, but that was expected to shrink as more ballots were counted in heavily Democratic areas.

Trump is supposedly filing lawsuits to stop vote counting in states that look bad for him, but it seems unlikely his efforts will come to anything. 

Claude Monet - (1840 - 1926) Ulivi nel giardino Moreno 1884

Claude Monet – (1840 – 1926) Ulivi nel giardino Moreno 1884

The New York Times: With His Path to Re-election Narrowing, Trump Turns to the Courts.

With his political path narrowing, President Trump turned to the courts and procedural maneuvers on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to stave off defeat in the handful of states that will decide the outcome of the bitterly fought election.

The president’s campaign intervened at the Supreme Court in a case challenging Pennsylvania’s plan to count ballots received for up to three days after Election Day. The campaign said it would also file suit in Michigan to halt the counting there while it pursues its demands for better access for the observers it sent to monitor elections boards for signs of malfeasance in tallying ballots, modeled on a similar suit it was pursuing in Nevada.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump’s team added Georgia to its list of legal targets, seeking a court order enforcing strict deadlines in Chatham County in the wake of allegations by a Republican poll observer that a small number of ineligible ballots might be counted in one location.

In Wisconsin, which along with Michigan was called on Wednesday for his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the president’s campaign announced it would request a recount.

I think the best outcome we can hope for today is that Pennsylvania will get enough votes counted for the state to be called for Biden. That would put him over 270, and make Trump’s claims in other states irrelevant. Here’s Senator Bob Casey explaining where the Pennsylvania vote counting stands this morning.

The moves signaled Mr. Trump’s determination to make good on his longstanding threats to carry out an aggressive post-Election Day campaign to upend any result not in his favor and pursue his baseless allegations that the outcome was rigged.

But it was not clear how much effect any of his efforts would have. In Georgia, the suit is about 53 ballots, and another case in Pennsylvania is about fewer than 100.

The Road Under the Trees, Maurice de Vlaminck

The Road Under the Trees, Maurice de Vlaminck

The Biden camp is ready to fight back, according to Politico: Biden campaign gears up for legal warfare as he nears 270.

In a Zoom call with donors Wednesday, the aides told the group that Joe Biden was on pace to reach 270 electoral votes in short order, beaming over victories in the Midwestern states that Donald Trump flipped four years ago….

The campaign had good reason to project confidence: On Wednesday evening, Biden was on the cusp of clinching 270 electoral votes and the presidency after Michigan and Wisconsin were called in his favor.

At the same time, President Donald Trump was making specious claims of victory, cranking up unfounded grievances about stolen votes and filing lawsuits to challenge vote counts. Biden advisers moved to reassure anxious supporters as Trump declared himself the winner in states such as Pennsylvania, where hundreds of thousands of votes had yet to be tallied.

Biden’s team activated teams of attorneys in Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan in preparation for court battles, and blasted out requests for donations to combat myriad legal challenges.

Canale a Bruges by Alfred Joseph Auguste Van Neste (1874-1969)The problem for Trump is that he would have to provide actual evidence of the “fraud” he is claiming. ProPublica: If Trump Tries to Sue His Way to Election Victory, Here’s What Happens.

A hearing on Wednesday in an election case captured in miniature the challenge for the Trump campaign as it gears up for what could become an all-out legal assault on presidential election results in key swing states: It’s easy enough to file a lawsuit claiming improprieties — in this case, that Pennsylvania had violated the law by allowing voters whose mail-in ballots were defective to correct them — but a lot harder to provide evidence of wrongdoing or a convincing legal argument. “I don’t understand how the integrity of the election was affected,” said U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage, something he repeated several times during the hearing. (However the judge rules, the case is unlikely to have a significant effect; only 93 ballots are at issue, a county election official said.)

“A lawsuit without provable facts showing a statutory or constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Levitt said judges by and large have ignored the noise of the race and the bluster of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. “They’ve actually demanded facts and haven’t been ruling on all-caps claims of fraud or suppression,” Levitt said. “They haven’t confused public relations with the predicate for litigation, and I would expect that to continue.”

If Levitt is right, that may augur poorly for the legal challenges to the presidential election. Either way, the number of cases is starting to rapidly increase. But lawsuits will do little good unless, as in the 2000 presidential election, the race winds up being so close that it comes down to a very thin margin of votes in one or more must-win states.

Read the rest at ProPublica.

Lane at alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin, 1888

Lane at alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin, 1888

Trump seems to think that he can just call on “his” Supreme Court justices to overturn the results of the election. But he can’t actually do that. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Supreme Court To Fight Election Results. Here’s What Would Need To Happen To End Up There.

In the early hours of Wednesday, with many states still going through the lawful process of tallying votes, President Donald Trump declared: “We will be going to the Supreme Court.”

That’s not how the courts work, though. With rare exceptions that don’t apply to the election, no one can simply bring a case to the US Supreme Court. Trump’s rhetoric created an appearance of legal uncertainty around the election results that doesn’t exist yet — by Wednesday evening, there were a handful of lawsuits pending, but none involved the kind of consequential fights over final vote tallies that would decide the outcome of the race.

That could change, of course. Trump’s campaign said they’ll seek a recount in Wisconsin after former vice president Joe Biden was declared the winner, and could try to go to court to challenge the results if he still lost after that. Decision Desk HQ called Wisconsin for Biden outright on Wednesday.

There’s already a case pending before the Supreme Court about whether Pennsylvania can count absentee ballots that arrive between Nov. 4 and Nov. 6, but that would only be a vehicle for deciding the election if the race came down to Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes — and if those as-yet-unknown number of post–Election Day ballots would change the outcome.

Regardless of whether the Trump campaign’s lawsuits succeed in stopping any ballots from being counted, they’ve underscored Trump and his campaign’s efforts to falsely question the lawfulness of ballot counting that extends beyond Election Day — something that happens in every election.