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.
Thursday Reads: Latest on the Stolen Government Docs and Other NewsPosted: October 6, 2022 Filed under: Donald Trump, morning reads | Tags: 11th Circuit appeals court, animal cruelty, DOJ, Dr. Oz, Judge Aileen Cannon, SCOTUS, stolen documents 20 Comments
I got the Omicron booster and a flu shot this morning. I was fortunate that the local Council on Aging came to my apartment building to give the vaccines. My town is really nice to us old folks.
Both of my arms hurt already, especially the left, where I got the Covid shot. I hope I won’t have a too many side effects. It hurts to type, so this won’t be a fancy post.
Before I get going on the latest news, I want to share this shocking story about Dr. Oz that Jezebel published on Monday: Dr. Oz’s Scientific Experiments Killed Over 300 Dogs, Entire Litter of Puppies.
…[A] review of 75 studies published by Mehmet Oz between 1989 and 2010 reveals the Republican Senate candidate’s research killed over 300 dogs and inflicted significant suffering on them and the other animals used in experiments.
Oz, the New Jersey resident who’s currently running for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, was a “principal investigator” at the Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine labs for years and assumed “full scientific, administrative, and fiscal responsibility for the conduct” of his studies. Over the course of 75 studies published in academic journals reviewed by Jezebel, Oz’s team conducted experiments on at least 1,027 live animal subjects that included dogs, pigs, calves, rabbits, and small rodents. Thirty-four of these experiments resulted in the deaths of at least 329 dogs, while two of his experiments killed 31 pigs, and 38 experiments killed 661 rabbits and rodents.
In the early 2000s, testimony from a whistleblower and veterinarian named Catherine Dell’Orto about Oz’s research detailed extensive suffering inflicted on his team’s canine test subjects, including multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimum standards of care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, and other animals in the possession of animal dealers and laboratories. The law specifically requires researchers and breeders to use pain-relieving drugs or euthanasia on the animals, and not use paralytics without anesthesia, or experiment multiple times on the same animal.
Dell’Orto testified that a dog experimented on by Oz’s team experienced lethargy, vomiting, paralysis, and kidney failure, but wasn’t euthanized for a full two days. She alleged other truly horrifying examples of gratuitously cruel treatment of dogs, including at least one dog who was kept alive for a month for continued experimentation despite her unstable, painful condition, despite how data from her continued experimentation was deemed unusable. According to Dell’Orto, one Oz-led study resulted in a litter of puppies being killed by intracardiac injection with syringes of expired drugs inserted in their hearts without any sedation. Upon being killed, the puppies were allegedly left in a garbage bag with living puppies who were their littermates. Dell’Orto’s allegations, made in 2003 and 2004, are detailed in letters from PETA to the university and USDA. In an interview with Billy Penn last month, she acknowledged PETA “is not a reliable source of information,” but said the organization’s letters honestly reflected what she told the organization and provided documentation for.
In May 2004, Columbia University was ordered by the USDA to pay a $2,000 penalty for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The fine paid by Columbia was the result of a settlement between the university and the USDA, based on the findings of Columbia’s internal investigation of Oz’s research. The USDA accepted these findings, but according to Dell’Orto, the review was faulty, and “had investigators on the committee that were also complicit in this type of poorly designed, cruel animal experimentation.” Dell’Orto also noted that while Oz wasn’t the one who euthanized the dogs and puppies himself, “When your name is on the experiment, and the way the experiment is designed inflicts such cruelty to these animals, by design, there’s a problem.”
Oz also opposes abortion, so he doesn’t have a problem with women dying either.
There’s quite a bit of news on the stolen government documents investigation, so I’m going to focus on that. I’ll add more news links at the end of the post.
Yesterday afternoon, the 11th Circuit appeals court undercut Trump’s SCOTUS appeal by granting the DOJ’s request for expedited consideration of their appeal of Judge Loose Cannon’s special master decision. Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Appeals court expedites DOJ challenge to Mar-a-Lago special master.
A federal appeals court agreed on Wednesday to expedite consideration of a Justice Department’s bid to shut down the external review process for the 11,000 documents seized by the FBI during its August raid of former President Donald Trump’s residence.
The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Wednesday morning setting tighter deadlines in the government’s appeal to remove what prosecutors contend is an unnecessary obstacle to their investigation into potentially illegal retention of classified information, theft of government records and obstruction of justice.
The schedule set by the appeals court for legal briefing on the issue is not quite as rapid as the Justice Department proposed, but is faster than Trump’s legal team urged. Under the new schedule, Trump’s lawyers would have to stake out their position in the dispute by Nov. 10 and briefing would be complete by Nov. 17.
“No extensions allowed,” Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote, indicating that he had consulted with Chief Judge William Pryor on the plan.
No date was set Wednesday for oral argument, but Adalberto’s order said a “special merits panel” would be assigned to the case.
The legal fight over the documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida has now proliferated into four arenas: the Florida courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who first approved the former president’s request for a special master; the Brooklyn courtroom of the special master she appointed, senior Judge Raymond Dearie; the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
Read more at the link.
A couple of days ago Bloomberg’s Zoe Tillman was able to download a court filing that was accidentally unsealed for a short time. The filing listed the documents that had been segregated from the FBI search results because they contained personal or potentially privileged material.
I can’t access her story, but here is an analysis from Philip Bump at The Washington Post: What the FBI took from Trump, according to an accidentally unsealed list.
The list includes two batches of documents, about five dozen in total. What’s included are about 520 pages of documents that the government believed should be screened for privilege by the special master assigned to the case. The government broke the documents into two groups. The first was material that related to Trump’s tenure as president, labeled Exhibit A. The second was material that appeared to be subject to attorney-client privilege. It’s marked Exhibit B.
Reviewing the list itself, though, we get a good sense of the breadth of information that was present at Mar-a-Lago. There are documents related to grants of clemency, to endorsements, to legal fights, to policy proposals. At times, the documents are cryptic. We’ve done our best to clarify where we can, but we might not have explained everything.
Read the document descriptions at the WaPo.
This is from Emptywheel yesterday: Judge Aileen Cannon Treated a Public Letter About Trump’s Health As More Sensitive Than America’s National Security.
As I have shown, had Judge Aileen Cannon left well enough alone, the government would have handed all Category B documents identified by the filter team back to Trump on September 1. Instead, she deliberately inflicted what she herself deemed to be further harm on Trump to justify intervening in the search of Trump’s beach resort.
And now she may have caused even more harm. That’s because, by means that are not yet clear (but are likely due to a fuck-up by one of Cannon’s own staffers), the inventories from both Category A (government documents that deal with a legal issue) and Category B (more personal documents) were briefly posted on the docket. (h/t Zoe Tillman, who snagged a copy)
Those inventories not only show Cannon’s claims of injury to Trump were even more hackish than I imagined. But it creates the possibility that DOJ’s filter team will attempt to retain some of the documents included in Category B, notably records pertaining to the Georgia fraud attempts and January 6, they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Start with the hackishness. The harm that Cannon sustained to justify intervening consisted of preventing DOJ from returning, “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information” to Trump, “depriv[ing Trump]of potentially significant personal documents.” Cannon made DOJ withhold such documents from Trump for a least two additional weeks and then used it to argue that Trump had a personal interest in what DOJ claims are mostly government documents and press clippings.
The single solitary medical document pertaining to Trump (there’s a Blue Cross explanation of benefits that appears to pertain to someone else) is this letter from Trump’s then-personal physician released during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Not only was it publicly released over six years ago, but details of medicines left off the report and Trump’s role in dictating an earlier version of the letter were widely reported in 2017.
Aileen Cannon held up a national security investigation into highly sensitive documents stored insecurely at a beach resort targeted by foreign intelligence services, in part, because the FBI seized a public letter than had been released as part of a political campaign six years ago.
She personally halted efforts to keep the United States safe, in part, to prevent leaks of a document that Trump released himself six years ago.
Read more at the link.
Jason Leopold and Jack Gillum at Bloomberg on who packed the boxes Trump sent to Mar-a-Lago: Trump Says US Agency Packed Top-Secret Documents. These Emails Suggest Otherwise.
Former President Donald Trump publicly said that one reason that the FBI found boxes of classified documents improperly stored at his Florida estate was that federal workers had packed up the White House after his 2020 defeat.
But documents obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest a different story. More than 100 pages of emails and shipping lists between White House and transition staff and the US General Services Administration describe the minutiae of moving the Trump White House from Washington, DC, to Florida, down to how many rolls of bubble wrap and tape, all within a plan signed by then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
One thing is clear: The boxes were packed when the movers got there.
While the records don’t specify what the boxes contained, they provide the most detailed account to date of how the GSA assisted the outgoing administration between January and September 2021.
After the FBI’s unprecedented Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the former president and his allies, including Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart News and former Trump defense official Kash Patel, have claimed that Trump can’t be held legally responsible for the dozens of boxes of highly classified documents found around Mar-a-Lago because the GSA — essentially the federal government’s office and property manager — was in charge of filling boxes and shipping them.
Apparently, those were all lies. Read the rest of the details at Bloomberg. A few days ago, The Washington Post reported that Trump himself packed the 15 boxes that he turned over the the National Archives in January. At the time, Alex Cannon, a Trump lawyer, refused to certify that all the documents had been returned, because he didn’t believe that was true. IMO, Trump probably packed the boxes that he took from the White House too.
More News, Links Only:
NBC News: FBI arrests pastor who wore his company jacket on Jan. 6 and pushed into police line.
David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report: House Rating Changes: Ten Races Shift, Mostly Towards Democrats.
NBC News: Cheney warns Arizona voters that the GOP nominees for governor and secretary of state are threats to democracy.
Politico: Abortion ‘has given Democrats a second look’ from GOP-leaning women.
The Washington Post: 14-year-old’s arthritis meds denied after Ariz. abortion ban, doctor says.
Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast: She Had an Abortion With Herschel Walker. She Also Had a Child With Him.
Secret Service news from Carol Leonnig at The Washington Post: VP was in car accident; Secret Service first called it ‘mechanical failure’
Timothy Snyder: How does the Russo-Ukrainian War end?
Financial Times: Vladimir Putin’s botched mobilisation triggers blame game in Russia.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: October 4, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, just because | Tags: "independent state legislature theory", DOJ, FBI, Mar-a-Lago, National Archives, nuclear weapons, Oath Keepers, Russia, SCOTUS, seditious conspiracy, stolen government documents, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 18 Comments
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.
So Cannon will be another witness against Trump if he’s ever brought to trial. There’s much more at the WaPo link.
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.
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 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.
Tuesday ReadsPosted: May 31, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because, U.S. Politics | Tags: gun laws, Jill Biden, Joe Biden, media, new civil war, SCOTUS, Senate, Uvalde school shooting, Watergate 9 Comments
The news continues to be bleak this morning. The Uvalde mass shooting is still at in the headlines, and so are multiple mass shootings that have followed it. Senators are arguing about gun control; and there is no possible solution, because the Senate is broken. Even if the Senate by some miracle passed a new laws on guns, the right-wing Supreme Court would likely overturn them. Meanwhile, President Biden is struggling to deal with so many serious problems while his approval ratings sink. I can’t address all those topics, but here are some stories to check out today.
Last week I wrote a post about the possibility that the U.S. is building up to a new civil war. Today Edward Luce addressed that question at Financial Times: Is America heading for civil war?
In the summer of 2015, America caught a glimpse of how its future could unfold. The US military conducted a routine exercise in the south that triggered a cascade of conspiracy theories, particularly in Texas. Some believed the manoeuvre was the precursor to a Chinese invasion; others thought it would coincide with a massive asteroid strike. The exercise, called Jade Helm 15, stood for “homeland eradication of local militants”, according to one of the right’s dark fantasy sites. Greg Abbot, Texas’s Republican governor, took these ravings seriously. He ensured that the 1,200 federal troops were closely monitored by the armed Texas National Guard. In that bizarre episode, which took place a year before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, we see the germs of an American break-up.
As with any warning of impending civil war, the very mention of another American one sounds impossibly alarmist — like persistent warnings from chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic series that the sky was about to fall on Gaulish heads. America’s dissolution has often been mispredicted.
Yet a clutch of recent books make an alarmingly persuasive case that the warning lights are flashing redder than at any point since 1861. The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As the University of California’s Barbara Walter shows in her bracing manual, How Civil Wars Start, US democracy today is checking all the wrong boxes.
Even before Trump triumphed in the 2016 presidential election, political analysts were warning about the erosion of democracy and drift towards autocracy. The paralysing divisions caused by Trump’s failed putsch of January 6, 2021, has sent it into dangerous new territory. Polls show that most Republicans believe, without evidence, that the election was stolen by Democrats backed by the so-called “deep state”, the Chinese government, rigged Venezuelan voting machines, or a feverish combination thereof.
In This Will Not Pass, a book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Joe Biden is quoted telling a senior Democrat: “I certainly hope [my presidency] works out. If it doesn’t I’m not sure we’re going to have a country.” That a US president could utter something so apocalyptic without raising too many eyebrows shows how routine such dread has become.
Read the rest at Financial Times.
The press is letting us down, writes Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: May 14, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: abortion rights, cats relaxing, caturday, Clarence Thomas, January 6 Committee, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Republicans, Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS, Ukraine, women's rights 26 Comments
My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:
The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.
With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.
A coalition of groups such as Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.
Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.
Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.
“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….
Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….
Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”
The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.
“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.
The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.
What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.
Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.
Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.
This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.
Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.
Read more at the WaPo.
Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.
The leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.
“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.
“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”
Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.
I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.
In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”
The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.
Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.
In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.
The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.
The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.
The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.
Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.
“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”
I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.
Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.
The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.
Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….
The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
— Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”
What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.
That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?
Lazy Caturday Reads: Mostly SCOTUS StuffPosted: March 26, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: caturday, Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, Harvard, Joe Biden, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Mark Meadows, Poland, SCOTUS, U.S. troops, Ukraine 33 Comments
Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice for the Democratic nomination in 2020; in fact, I didn’t want him to run at all. But I was wrong. He has been a good president so far, and his deep foreign policy knowledge and experience have been showcased during the Ukraine crisis. This morning Biden was in Poland meeting with U.S. troops at the Ukraine border. It appears he’s a hit as commander-in-chief.
Yesterday the majority of the Supreme Court acknowledged that Biden is in fact commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, but Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas disagreed. Ian Millhiser at Vox: The Supreme Court rules that Joe Biden is commander-in-chief. Three justices dissent.
The Supreme Court on Friday evening decided, no, it was not going to needlessly insert itself in the military chain of command above President Joe Biden.
The Court’s decision in Austin v. U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 largely halted a lower court order that permitted certain sailors to defy a direct order. A group of Navy special operations personnel sought an exemption from the Pentagon’s requirement that all active duty service members get vaccinated against Covid-19, claiming that they should receive a religious exemption.
A majority of the Court effectively ruled that, yes, in fact, troops do have to follow orders, including an order to take a vaccine.
The decision is undeniably a win for the balance of power between the executive branch and the judiciary that has prevailed for many decades. But the fact that the Court had to weigh in on this at all — not to mention that three justices, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, dissented from the majority — is a worrisome sign about America’s judiciary.
Brett Kavanagh explained why he sided with the majority:
…laying out why the lower court erred, this court “in effect inserted itself into the Navy’s chain of command, overriding military commanders’ professional military judgments.” Had the Court ruled the other way in SEALs, it would have effectively placed itself at the apex of the military’s chain of command, displacing Biden as commander-in-chief.
But as Kavanaugh correctly notes in his concurring opinion, there is a long line of Supreme Court precedents establishing that courts should be exceedingly reluctant to interfere with military affairs.
In Gilligan v. Morgan (1973), for example, the Court held that “the complex, subtle, and professional decisions as to the composition, training, equipping, and control of a military force are essentially professional military judgments,” and that “it is difficult to conceive of an area of governmental activity in which the courts have less competence.”
Nevertheless, Judge Reed O’Connor, a notoriously partisan judge in Texas who is best known for a failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ruled in favor of the service members who refused to follow a direct order. And the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused the Navy’s request to stay key parts of O’Connor’s order.
That left the responsibility of restoring the military’s proper chain of command to the Supreme Court. Though the Court’s order does not wipe out O’Connor’s decision in its entirety, it temporarily blocks that decision “insofar as it precludes the Navy from considering respondents’ vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.”
In other SCOTUS news, the Ginni Thomas story is still snowballing. Daknikat wrote quite a bit about Thomas yesterday; https://skydancingblog.com/2022/03/25/friday-reads-you-shouldnt-go-back-home/if you haven’t read her post, please check it out.
Scott Wong at NBC News: Ginni Thomas pressed for GOP lawmakers to protest 2020 election results.
Shortly after the 2020 election, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent an email to an aide to a prominent House conservative saying she would have nothing to do with his group until his members go “out in the streets,” a congressional source familiar with the exchange told NBC News.
Thomas told an aide to incoming Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Ind., that she was more aligned with the far-right House Freedom Caucus, whose leaders just two months later would lead the fight in Congress to overturn the results of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
The RSC was long representative of the most conservative House members, but in the past several years, it has been replaced by the tea party-driven Freedom Caucus.
Thomas wrote to the aide that Freedom Caucus members were tougher than RSC members, were in the fight and had then-President Donald Trump’s back, according to the source familiar with the email contents. Until she saw RSC members “out in the streets” and in the fight, she said, she would not help the RSC, the largest caucus of conservatives on Capitol Hill.
Her November 2020 email came in response to a request from the RSC to offer policy recommendations as Banks was set to take the helm of the group in early 2021. But when Thomas portrayed the RSC as soft in its support for Trump and told its members to take to the streets, the aide thanked her for her suggestions and moved on….
The email exchange suggests Thomas was pressuring Republicans in Congress to get more aggressive in fighting for Trump at a key moment when the lame-duck president and his inner circle were devising a strategy to overturn the results of the 2020 election and keep him in power.
Obviously Thomas has access to powerful politicians only because she is married to Clarence Thomas.
Conservative columnist Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast: If Ginni Thomas’ Big Lie Texts Don’t Shock You, Nothing Will.
“Biden and the Left [are] attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
“[The] Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators…are being arrested and…will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”
Oh yeah, and “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”
These aren’t the rantings of some obscure, tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic. These are just a few of the 29 text messages sent by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. These messages were sent in the wake of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory, as Mrs. Thomas sought to push Meadows to try to overturn the 2020 election results—sometimes quoting far-right websites to make her case.
In a world where more tenuous relationships than a spouse have sparked huge controversies (think Barack Obama’s relationships with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers), the level of this conflict of interest should be condemned by intellectually honest conservatives.
As one smart observer put it, “If you had a problem with Bill Clinton meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, you should probably have a problem with Ginni Thomas’s barrage of texts to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days preceding a legitimate self-coup attempt.”
Click the link to read the rest.
Another conservative take from David French at The Atlantic: The Worst Ginni Thomas Text Wasn’t From Ginni Thomas. Mark Meadows and the dangerous religious zeal of “Stop the Steal.”
After giving examples of Thomas’s text messages, French writes:
This is the kind of communication that would make you worry about a family member’s connection to reality. When it comes from the wife of a Supreme Court justice who enjoys direct access to the White House chief of staff, it’s not just disturbing; it’s damaging to the Supreme Court….
It is…understandable if ordinary Americans wonder whether she’s made an impact on her husband, and it’s important for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any future cases that could potentially involve additional disclosures of his wife’s communications with the White House or her involvement in the effort to overturn the election.
But the Ginni Thomas texts were not the most alarming aspect of Woodward and Costa’s story. There was a text in the chain that disturbed me more than anything Ginni Thomas wrote. It came from Meadows, and here’s what it said: This is a fight of good versus evil . . . Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.
One of the most dangerous aspects of the effort to overturn the election was the extent to which it was an explicitly religious cause. January 6 insurrectionists stampeded into the Senate chamber with prayers on their lips. Prominent religious leaders and leading Christian lawyers threw themselves into the effort to delay election certification or throw out the election results entirely. In the House and Senate, the congressional leaders of the effort to overturn the election included many of Congress’s most public evangelicals.
They didn’t just approach the election fight with religious zeal; they approached it with an absolute conviction that they enjoyed divine sanction. The merger of faith and partisanship was damaging enough, but the merger of faith with lawlessness and even outright delusion represented a profound perversion of the role of the Christian in the public square.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
More Ginni Thomas stories:
The Washington Post: Ethics experts see Ginni Thomas’s texts as a problem for Supreme Court.
The New York Times: Justice Thomas Ruled on Election Cases. Should His Wife’s Texts Have Stopped Him?
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Justice Thomas’s wife is a political extremist. This is now a problem for the court.
There are quite a few stories today that deal with the disrespectful treatment that Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson received from Republicans in her Senate confirmation hearings.
I really liked this one from Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe, because he trotted out an old saying that my Dad often used: You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.
One of life’s inexplicable wonders is how Harvard can produce someone as grounded and poised and principledas Ketanji Brown Jackson and also someoneas unmoored and annoying and unscrupulous as Ted Cruz.
Providing clear evidence of how pathetic my existence is, I watched Jackson’s confirmation hearing start to finish, a marathon of high drama and low farce.
Am I a loser? Yes, but nothing likethe preening senators who treated Jackson with appalling disrespect, with constant interruptions and cynical questions meant to gin up their base, not ascertain whether Jackson is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.
If you had to boil down the objections of Republicans to Jackson it is this: She’s a soft-on-crime, pedophile-coddling, racist-baby-kissing, terrorist-hugging Critical Race Theory nut job.
Other than that, they acknowledged, she seems nice enough.
It was hard to decide which senator combined rudeness and pandering to produce the greatest mix of condescension. Besides Cruz, Senators Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, and Tom Cotton – another Harvard man! – all covered themselves in something less than glory.
But when it comes unctuousness, Cruz takes the cake.
That he and Jackson served together on the Harvard Law Review didn’t spare Jackson from his unremitting bile.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin repeatedly told Cruz he was going over his allotted time and violating rules. Proving the old adage that you can always tell a Harvard man but you can’t tell him much, Cruz ignored Durbin.
Cruz was too busy yammering about racist babies and fake women and child pornographers to pay attention to something as inconsequential as rules.
When Cruz said, “Under the modern leftist sensibilities, if I decide right now that I’m a woman, then apparently I’m a woman,” I thought, “This guy went to Harvard Law School?”
Read the rest if you can use a laugh.
More follow up stories on the Jackson hearings:
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Ivy League Republicans’ phony rebellion against the ‘elites.’
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Forget advise and consent. This is smear and degrade.
The Independent: Hawley attacked Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ‘alarming’ record on sex offenders. He agreed to an abuser getting only probation.
Two articles on Wesley Hawkins, who was sentenced by Jackson as an 18-year-old and was the subject of much of the GOP screaming and yelling about child porn cases:
The New York Times: Who is Wesley Hawkins? Republicans zero in on Jackson’s sentencing of a teen in a child sex abuse case.
The Washington Post: Wesley Hawkins, talk of the Jackson hearings, describes life after pornography sentence.
Sorry this is so late. WordPress deleted my post in progress twice and I had to reconstruct it. Have a great weekend!