Tuesday Reads

Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows Inga Moore

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

Good Afternoon!!

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

The latest on Trump’s legal problems and crimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bilbo_comes_to_the_huts_of_the_raft-elves__the_tolkien_estate_limited_1937

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

Inga Moore, The Secret Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of Dr. Dolittle, illustrated by Angel Dominguez

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

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

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

Read the rest at the WaPo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

where-the-wild-things-are Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

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

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

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

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

Read more at the WaPo.

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


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

early-september-green-mountains-frank-wilson

Early September Green Mountains (Vermont), by Frank Wilson

There’s a lot happening in the news today that isn’t about the British royal family; but you probably won’t see much about it on the cable channels–at least until the nighttime shows come on. Among other things, Ukraine is still winning the battle to get Russia to stop destroying their country; the Department of Justice is running multiple investigations of Trump and the January 6 conspiracies; the House January 6 Committee is getting up to speed for more hearings; and other Congressional investigations are cropping up.

Ukraine War

The Washington Post: ‘The Russians are in trouble,’ U.S. official says of latest war analysis.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian forces into a hasty retreat could mark a turning point in the war and raise pressure on Moscow to call up additional forces if it hopes to prevent further Ukrainian advances, U.S. and Western officials said Monday.

Whether the gains are permanent depends on Russia’s next moves, especially whether President Vladimir Putin implements a military draft or orders reinforcements from elsewhere to offset heavy losses in Ukraine, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share recent intelligence analyses.

In mere days, Ukrainian military forces have retaken nearly all of the Kharkiv region that Russian forces occupied since the opening of the war. The rapidity of the pullback appears to have stunned Russian military troops and commanders, officials said.

“The Russians are in trouble,” one U.S. official said bluntly. “The question will be how the Russians will react, but their weaknesses have been exposed and they don’t have great manpower reserves or equipment reserves.”

Ukrainian forces appeared to be moving ahead carefully and consolidating their gains, another official said, noting that Russian forces seem to have recognized that they lacked the weapons and manpower to hold newly liberated towns and villages in the northeast of the country. Some Russian forces abandoned tanks, armored vehicles and ammunition as they fled.

Read more at the WaPo.

The New York Times: The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance.

The strategy behind Ukraine’s rapid military gains in recent days began to take shape months ago during a series of intense conversations between Ukrainian and U.S. officials about the way forward in the war against Russia, according to American officials.

the-apple-gatherers-frederick-morgan

The Apple Gatherers, Frederick Morgan

The counteroffensive — revised this summer from its original form after urgent discussions between senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials — has succeeded beyond most predictions. Ukrainian forces have devastated Russian command and control, and appear poised to capitalize on their advances in the northeast of the country and in another campaign in the south.

The work began soon after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told his generals he wanted to make a dramatic move to demonstrate that his country could push back on the Russian invasion. Under his orders, the Ukrainian military devised a plan to launch a broad assault across the south to reclaim Kherson and cut off Mariupol from the Russian force in the east.

The Ukrainian generals and American officials believed that such a large-scale attack would incur immense casualties and fail to quickly retake large amounts of territory. The Ukrainians were already suffering hundreds of casualties a day in what had become a grinding conflict. The Russian forces were experiencing similar losses but were still inching forward, laying waste to Ukrainian towns in the eastern region of Donbas.

Long reluctant to share details of their plans, the Ukrainian commanders started opening up more to American and British intelligence officials and seeking advice.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, spoke multiple times about the planning for the counteroffensive, according to a senior administration official. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior Ukrainian military leaders regularly discussed intelligence and military support.

The gist is that Americans helped the Ukrainians plan a strategy, and the Ukrainian army succeeded in carrying it out–beyond all expectations. Read more details at the NYT.

David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: What Happens to Russia After It Loses?

With reports of Russian troops fleeing like “Olympic sprinters,” leaving behind weapons, crashing their tanks into trees, and turning over more than 3,000 square kilometers of previously held territory to Ukraine, it is only natural to ask: How bad can it get for Russia?

Experts with whom I spoke all agreed that the war will have long-lasting implications for Russia and, as a consequence, for geopolitics. At the very least it puts to rest for the foreseeable future Putin’s notion that he will oversee the rebirth of Russian greatness, of a new Russian empire. At worst, it means that Russia’s decades-long slide that led to its Cold War collapse (and its struggles ever since) will be accelerated, and the country will be consigned by its floundering dictator to a period of greatly diminished global influence.

at-the-market-1895. Felix Vallotton

At the Market, 1985, by Felix Valloton

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder described the stakes trenchantly: “Russia ceased being a great power a long time ago. It never really recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union, itself the product of a decaying ideology and system.” Daalder said Putin came to power when “Russia was in a state of deep dysfunction” and that he subsequently “set out to build a deeply kleptocratic system that benefited him and his cronies at the expense of the entire society.” This, according to Daalder, has manifested itself with “a military that is unable to engage in modern warfare of maneuver, which after six months still hasn’t established air superiority.” [….]

Stephen Sestanovich, who served during the Clinton administration as ambassador at large for the newly independent states of the former USSR and is currently a professor at Columbia University, offered a different analogy to a second-tier European state, “Russia’s claim to be a great power has long been tenuous, resting on nukes, land mass, and a UN veto. The revival of economic growth in Putin’s first decade helped restore a little luster to the claim. But he’s been largely on the ropes since 2014, and this absurd campaign to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine has put his entire effort at risk. He wanted to make himself an equal of Catherine and Peter. Now it’s going to take quite a comeback to be more than [former Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević with missiles.”

Angela Stent, a Putin biographer and senior adviser at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, echoed that analysis, “After the war is over, Russia will still be the largest country in the world (assuming it does not disintegrate) and it will still have nukes, oil, and gas. But it is deglobalizing and returning to greater autarky.” Stent says that despite maintaining strong ties with many countries in the global south, “its relations with the collective West, which represents the lion’s share of global GDP, have largely collapsed.” Stent adds: “Putin came to power wanting to restore Russia’s role as a great power and have a seat on the global board of directors. He has now lost that. Russia will emerge from this demodernized and diminished in global stature.”

There’s still more expert opinion reported at the Daily Beast link.

Department of Justice Investigations

The New York Times: Justice Dept. Issues 40 Subpoenas in a Week, Expanding Its Jan. 6 Inquiry.

Justice Department officials have seized the phones of two top advisers to former President Donald J. Trump and blanketed his aides with about 40 subpoenas in a substantial escalation of the investigation into his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, people familiar with the inquiry said on Monday.

The seizure of the phones, coupled with a widening effort to obtain information from those around Mr. Trump after the 2020 election, represent some of the most aggressive steps the department has taken thus far in its criminal investigation into the actions that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The extent of the investigation has come into focus in recent days, even though it has often been overshadowed by the government’s legal clash with Mr. Trump and his lawyers over a separate inquiry into the handling of presidential records, including highly classified materials, the former president kept at his residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago.

Federal agents with court-authorized search warrants took phones last week from at least two people: Boris Epshteyn, an in-house counsel who helps coordinate Mr. Trump’s legal efforts, and Mike Roman, a campaign strategist who was the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign in 2020, people familiar with the investigation said.

Mr. Epshteyn and Mr. Roman have been linked to a critical element of Mr. Trump’s bid to hold onto power: the effort to name slates of electors pledged to Mr. Trump from swing states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020 as part of a plan to block or delay congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory.

On others who got subpoenas:

The names of those receiving the latest round of subpoenas in the investigation related to Jan. 6 have dribbled out gradually, with investigators casting a wide net on a range of issues, including Mr. Trump’s postelection fund-raising and the so-called fake electors scheme.

Indigo Dreams, Adrian Paul Allinson

Indigo Dreams, Adrian Paul Allinson

One of the recipients, people familiar with the case said, was Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s former social media director who rose from working at a Trump-owned golf course to become one of his most loyal West Wing aides, and has remained an adviser since Mr. Trump left office. Stanley Woodward, one of Mr. Scavino’s lawyers, declined to comment.

Another was Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. Mr. Kerik, who promoted claims of voter fraud alongside his friend Rudolph W. Giuliani, was issued a subpoena by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, his lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said on Monday. Mr. Parlatore said his client had initially offered to grant an interview voluntarily.

The subpoenas seek information in connection with the fake electors plan.

For months, associates of Mr. Trump have received subpoenas related to other aspects of the investigations into his efforts to cling to power. But in a new line of inquiry, some of the latest subpoenas focus on the activities of the Save America political action committee, the main political fund-raising conduit for Mr. Trump since he left office.

The fact that the Justice Department is now seeking information related to fund-raising comes as the House committee examining the Jan. 6 attack has raised questions about money Mr. Trump solicited under the premise of fighting election fraud.

The January 6 Committee Investigation

CNN: January 6 committee set to meet in person on Tuesday as it debates whether to invite Trump and Pence to appear.

As the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack nears its final chapter, members plan to meet in person on Tuesday and one of the most pressing questions they’ll address is whether the committee should formally request that former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence appear before them.

Such appearances are exceedingly rare in US history. According to multiple sources, the committee does not expect either man to testify, but some members and staff believe the invitations should be extended for the record.

“How do you create a historic record without including formal requests for the two top witnesses,” said one source familiar to the committee’s work.

Members of the committee, including Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, have consistently said they’d like to hear from Pence and would welcome Trump’s testimony should he offer it on their terms but internal discussions about formally reaching out to both men has intensified in recent weeks now that the panel’s investigation will soon come to an end, the sources said….

A source close to Pence’s team told CNN that there have been intermittent conversations between the committee and legal counsel for Pence, but nothing has changed, meaning it’s unlikely he would testify.

Whether the panel decides to call Trump or Pence could prove to be an important data point should the committee ultimately opt to submit a criminal referral for Trump – something members of the panel say they expect to seriously consider, while such a move would be largely symbolic in nature.

Red Sun, Arthur C. Dove

Red Sun, Arthur C. Dove

Insider: Jan. 6 committee believes former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato was responsible for attempts to discredit Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, CNN reported.

Members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot believe former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato was personally involved in efforts to discredit former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, according to a report from CNN.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republican members of Congress on the committee, told the outlet this week that representatives on the panel think Ornato led the charge in contradicting parts of Hutchinson’s public testimony earlier this year while he was still at the agency and additional, unnamed agents then backed his claims.

The longtime Secret Service agent who ran former President Donald Trump’s security detail left the agency last month, saying in a statement that he retired in order to pursue a career in the private sector.

Ornato emerged as a key figure in Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony before the committee in June.

Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her Trump had tried to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle he was traveling in and lunged at a Secret Service agent while demanding to be taken to the Capitol during the chaos of January 6, 2021, as he said, “I’m the effing president!”

In the aftermath of Hutchinson’s testimony, anonymous sources began to reject her version of events in the press. Several media outlets reported that Secret Service agents were willing to testify that Trump did not try to lunge at them or take control of the vehicle on January 6 — though none have done so publicly.

Now, Kinzinger is accusing Ornato of being one of the anonymous culprits behind the backlash.

Other Congressional Investigations

The New York Times: Archives Is Unsure Whether Trump Surrendered All Records, Panel Says.

The National Archives has informed congressional aides that it is still unsure whether former President Donald J. Trump has surrendered all the presidential records he removed from the White House, even after months of negotiations, a subpoena and a search of his Florida property, according to the House Oversight Committee.

The archives staff “recently informed the committee that the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the committee, wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Debra Steidel Wall, the acting national archivist.

Ms. Maloney said the archives staff had informed the committee staff during a call in late August of its uncertainty about the status of the material, which Mr. Trump was required by law to return.

autumn-on-the-seine-at-argenteuil.jpg!Large

Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil, by Claude Monet

In her letter, Ms. Maloney requested a formal assessment from the archives of what presidential records, if any, removed from the White House by Mr. Trump remained unaccounted for and whether the archives believed they were potentially still in his possession.

The committee is requesting that the agency “conduct an urgent review of presidential records from the Trump administration to identify any presidential records or categories of presidential records, whether textual or electronic, that NARA has reason to believe may still be outside of the agency’s custody and control,” Ms. Maloney wrote, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration. “Please also assess any other limitations on the completeness, accuracy and accessibility of presidential records provided to NARA by the Trump administration.”

The letter asked the archives to complete an initial assessment and provide its findings to the committee by Sept. 27.

Ms. Maloney also requested that the archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”

The New York Times: Senate to Investigate Charge That Trump Meddled in Prosecutor’s Office.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate allegations that the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump sought to use the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to support Mr. Trump politically and pursue his critics, the committee’s chairman said on Monday.

The allegations are in a new book by Geoffrey S. Berman, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2018 through June 2020, when he was fired by Mr. Trump.

The chairman, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, made the announcement in a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland, which cited a New York Times report on Thursday detailing the book’s allegations.

Mr. Berman’s book portrays Trump Justice Department officials as motivated by partisan concerns as they tried to initiate criminal investigations or block them, The Times reported.

The book, “Holding the Line,” was obtained by The Times in advance of its scheduled publication on Tuesday.

Mr. Durbin said in his letter, “These reported claims indicate astonishing and unacceptable deviations from the department’s mission to pursue impartial justice, which requires that its prosecutorial decisions be free from political influence.”

He added that the allegations “also compound the already serious concerns” raised by then-Attorney General William P. Barr’s efforts in 2020 “to replace Mr. Berman with a Trump loyalist.”

Wow! This post got really long, so take what you want and leave the rest. I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday!!


Lazy Caturday Reads

cats-on-strike-leah-saulnier-the-painting-maniac

Cats on Strike, by Leah Saulnier the painting maniac

Happy Caturday, Sky Dancers!!

As if we didn’t have enough bad news, we are now dealing with another global health emergency. Monkeypox is spreading rapidly around the world and here in the U.S. Cases have been reported in multiple states, including Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Washington, DC, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and California. As of two days ago, there were already nearly 2,000 reported cases in the U.S.

Apoorva Mandavilli at The New York Times: W.H.O. Declares Monkeypox Spread a Global Health Emergency.

For the second time in two years, the World Health Organization has taken the extraordinary step of declaring a global emergency. This time the cause is monkeypox, which has spread in just a few weeks to dozens of countries and infected tens of thousands of people.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, on Saturday overruled a panel of advisers, who could not come to a consensus, and declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” a designation the W.H.O. currently uses to describe only two other diseases, Covid-19 and polio.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria” for a public health emergency, Dr. Tedros told reporters….

The W.H.O.’s declaration signals a public health risk requiring a coordinated international response. The designation can lead member countries to invest significant resources in controlling an outbreak, draw more funding to the response, and encourage nations to share vaccines, treatments and other key resources for containing the outbreak.

It is the seventh public health emergency since 2007; the Covid pandemic, of course, was the most recent. 

The article discusses the controversy over how W.H.O. decides when to declare a health emergency. Some experts already think the agency waited too long on monkeypox.

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: Largest monkeypox study to date highlights new symptoms.

Many of the people infected in an international monkeypox outbreak experienced a single lesion or sore in their mouth or on their genitals, a departure from typical symptoms of the virus that could lead to clinicians to misdiagnose monkeypox as another sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Coffee with Henry 4, by Kazui Whitemoon

Coffee with Henry #4, by Kazui Whitemoon

That’s one of the main takeaways from the New England Journal of Medicine‘s (NEJM‘s) new international study of the current outbreak, which is the largest case-study on the virus.

“This truly global case series has enabled doctors from 16 countries to share their extensive clinical experience and many clinical photographs to help other doctors in places with fewer cases. We have shown that the current international case definitions need to be expanded to add symptoms that are not currently included, such as sores in the mouth, on the anal mucosa and single ulcers,” said Chloe Orkin, PhD, of the Queen Mary University of London, in a university press release.

The study included clinical observations from 528 confirmed infections at 43 sites from Apr 27 to Jun 24 of this year. The median incubation period is 7 days in this outbreak, and the median age of a case-patient was 38. No deaths occurred, but 70 patients (13%) required hospitalization.

In the study, authors share many patients are presenting to clinics and hospitals for pain management or difficulty swallowing. Single anal sores have been recorded in several cases. One in 10 people had only a single skin lesion in the genital area, and 15% had anal and/or rectal pain, a symptom not typically seen in other monkeypox outbreaks.

A total of 98% of the cases documented were in gay or bisexual men, and while monkeypox is not an STI, per se, the authors said 95% of transmissions documented occurred during sexual relations. Seventy-five percent of case patients are white, and 41% are HIV-positive.

CNN: CDC reports the first two monkeypox cases in children in the US.

Two cases of monkeypox have been identified in children in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The two cases are unrelated and probably the result of household transmission, the CDC said.

One case is a toddler who is a resident of California. The other is an infant who is not a US resident. Public health officials are investigating how the children were infected.

Both have symptoms but are in good health and receiving treatment with an antiviral medication named tecovirimat or TPOXX, which the CDC recommends for children under the age of 8 because they are considered to be at higher risk from infection.

Vicky Mount

Painting by Vicky Mount

Since the monkeypox outbreak began in May, most of the cases have happened among men who have sex with men. However, anyone can catch the virus through close skin-to-skin contact. In the case of children, the agency said this could include “holding, cuddling, feeding, as well as through shared items such as towels, bedding, cups, and utensils.”

The CDC says the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine is being made available for children through special expanded use protocols. The agency has also developed new guidance for health care providers about identifying, treating and preventing monkeypox in children and teens.

Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said Friday that the cases in children were not surprising and that the US should be ready to respond to more.

Politico: Biden administration considering a public health emergency for monkeypox as cases swell.

U.S. health officials are discussing whether to declare a public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak as they work to make treatments and vaccines available to more people.

The discussions come as the virus — which is endemic in West and Central Africa but unusual in the United States — continues to spread across the country. As of Thursday, there were 2,593 cases reported, up from 1,470 last week. The federal government announced Friday it has shipped over 300,000 doses of the vaccine to states and cities to control the outbreak.

“We’re looking at … what are the ways the response could be enhanced, if any, by declaring a public health emergency,” White House Covid response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters during a briefing Friday.

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also working to make tecovirimat, the only treatment available for monkeypox (though only FDA–approved for smallpox), easier for physicians to prescribe to patients. A more streamlined process to get the antiviral is expected to be announced to providers next week.

The White House will also use a new research agenda, which was announced Thursday and consists of $140 million in ongoing projects, to study stretching limited monkeypox vaccine doses, find new testing methods and expand treatment options, three White House officials told POLITICO.

Lunch with cats, Pierre Bonnard, 1906

Lunch with cats, Pierre Bonnard, 1906

We haven’t talked much about the war in Ukraine lately, but it has caused a global food crisis. Yesterday Russian supposedly agreed to stop blocking shipments of grain, but the Ukraine and U.S. governments are skeptical that Russia will follow through. 

BBC News: Food crisis: Ukraine war: Deal signed to allow grain exports to resume by sea.

Ukraine and Russia have signed “mirror” deals which will allow Kyiv to resume exports of grain through the Black Sea.

The agreement will allow millions of tonnes of grain, currently trapped in Ukraine by the war, to be exported.

The world shortage of Ukrainian grain since Russia’s 24 February invasion has left millions at risk of hunger.

However, Kyiv refused to sign a direct deal with Moscow, and warned “provocations” would be met with “an immediate military response”.

Both sides attended the signing ceremony in Istanbul but did not sit at the same table. Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu signed Moscow’s deal first, followed by Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signing Kyiv’s identical agreement.

The deal – which took two months to reach – is set to last for 120 days, with a co-ordination and monitoring centre to be established in Istanbul, staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials. It can be renewed if both parties agree.

The blockade of Ukraine’s grain has caused a global food crisis with wheat-based products like bread and pasta becoming more expensive, and cooking oils and fertiliser also increasing in price.

In January 6 news, CNN’s Whitney Wild and Jeremy Herb broke a story yesterday on those missing Secret Service text messages: First on CNN: Secret Service identified potential missing text messages on phones of 10 individuals.

Secret Service investigators were scrutinizing the phones of 10 Secret Service personnel that contained metadata showing text messages were sent and received around January 6, 2021, but were not retained, two sources told CNN.

grandma-and-10-cats-in-the-bedroom, Linda Benton

Grandma and 10 cats in the bedroom, by Linda Benton

The scrutiny came after the Department of Homeland Security inspector general asked for the text records last year of 24 individuals at the Secret Service who were involved in January 6, but only one text had been produced. After the issue spilled into public view this month, the inspector general launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and lawmakers demanded answers from the Secret Service to go back and find out what happened to the texts that may have been deleted.

But the Secret Service’s internal investigation ground to a halt after a July 20 letter from the DHS inspector general informed the agency there was an ongoing criminal investigation, directing the Secret Service to stop its own probe.

Investigators had been working to determine whether the content of the text messages sent by the 10 personnel contained relevant information that should have been preserved, the sources said. Among the 24 Secret Service personnel under scrutiny, 10 other Secret Service personnel had no text messages, and three had only personal records, according to the sources.

The details of scrutiny of messages from 10 Secret Service personnel caps an extraordinary week of turmoil for the agency, which started with the inspector general

demanding answers about potential missing texts and led to a congressional subpoena and a criminal investigation into the matter.

There has to be a way to recover those text messages. I’m sure The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig, author of a book on the Secret Service, is working her sources to find out more.

Dakinikat covered the final January 6 Committee hearing yesterday, but here are some more follow-up articles:

NPR: The Jan. 6 committee isn’t done. Expect more hearings, revelations and reports.

The House Select January 6th committee made clear they are going to resume hearings in September.

Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., opened the final summer hearing by noting the progress the committee has made, but she added that there’s now new evidence and more witnesses to consider.

“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said.

Already, in the buildup to Thursday’s presentation, select committee aides had hinted future hearings could be on tap.

Kim Haskins, psychedelic cat

Kim Haskins, psychedelic cat

And Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters recently that the committee could issue an initial report in September, followed by a final report later this year. The findings would be accompanied by hearings, he said.

“We’re just getting a significant amount of information,” Thompson said. And the new evidence “pushes the timetable out.” [….]

Cheney also noted in this week’s hearing that the panel will now return to its investigative mode for the next several weeks.

“Our committee will spend August pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts, before convening further hearings this September,” Cheney said….

With plans to issue their findings in the form of reports and more hearings, the committee is racing to address new evidence along the way.

For example, the panel is now looking into allegations that the Secret Service deleted text messages during a two-day period surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari has claimed the messages were erased after a request by his office, while the Secret Service has denied these allegations, saying the deletions were part of a system migration.

The Hill: Jan. 6 panel shows few signs of slowing down despite midterm risks.

The select committee’s prime-time hearing on Thursday was widely expected to mark the end of a crucial phase in the panel’s probe of last year’s riot, capping six weeks of publicly aired testimony — almost all of it from Republicans — aimed at pinning culpability for the rampage squarely onto Trump’s shoulders.

But every new revelation seems to turn up as many questions as answers, and the panel has altered its schedule to accommodate what it calls a wave of new information in need of perusal. The arrival of new witnesses has been accompanied by successful committee efforts to fight stonewalling in the form of executive privilege claims, and the panel has recently issued new subpoenas for even more evidence.

“The dam has begun to break,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the select committee, said Thursday night. “We have far more evidence to share with the American people — and more to gather.”

The Owl and the Pussycat, 2009 by P J Crook

The Owl and the Pussycat, 2009 by P J Crook

With that in mind, the committee said it intends to use Congress’s long August recess to wade through the influx of new information, with designs to hold more hearings on its findings in September when lawmakers return to Washington. How many they’ll stage remains unclear, but the investigators are leaving themselves the flexibility to determine that schedule on the fly.

“We are pursuing many additional witnesses for testimony,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who participated in Thursday’s hearing remotely after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. “We will reconvene in September to continue laying out our findings.” [….]

“We’re not done. The information continues to come in. The evidence is continuing to flow in,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told CNN heading into Thursday’s hearing. “So this is … not the end of the story.”

More interesting January 6 stories to check out, links only:

Vicky Ward on her blog yesterday: What Trump World Really Thinks About Last Night’s Jan. 6 Hearing.

Alan Feuer and Michael Schmidt at The New York Times: The Jan. 6 Panel After 8 Hearings: Where Will the Evidence Lead?

Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Now we know the truth on what Trump sought to obscure about Jan. 6.

David Siders at Politico: ‘His life was threatened.’ But Pence isn’t talking about it.

Isaac Stanley Becker and Josh Dawsey at The Washington Post: Hearings test Trump’s clout and GOP’s wish to ‘forget about Jan. 6’

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: The Myth of the Good Trump Official.

That’s it for me today. I hope you’re all having a terrific weekend!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Happy Caturday!!

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 ParenthoodUltraVioletMoveOn 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.

f98f3f2f0a7f126cf8c3e9070096f64e“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”.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4fe6739970b-600wiWhat 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.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wiThe 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.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4f00414970b-600wiThe 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.”

88cba75816c3e74906a3af2d2eb71db4I’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: Easter Weekend Edition

53ae46d9428b919e891c8c0c0d65d246Good Morning!!

Easter, like other religious holidays, reflects symbolism from pagan feast days–part of the Church’s efforts to convert people from their ancient beliefs to Christianity. A few days ago, I read an interesting piece by anthropologist and folklore expert Tok Thompson, reprinted in Smithsonian Magazine: The Ancient Origins of the Easter Bunny. A scholar traces the folk figure’s history from the Neolithic era to today.

Easter is a celebration of spring and new life. Eggs and flowers are rather obvious symbols of female fertility, but in European traditions, the bunny, with its amazing reproductive potential, is not far behind.

In European traditions, the Easter bunny is known as the Easter hare. The symbolism of the hare has had many tantalizing ritual and religious roles down through the years.

Hares were given ritual burials alongside humans during the Neolithic age in Europe. Archaeologists have interpreted this as a religious ritual, with hares representing rebirth.

Over a thousand years later, during the Iron Age, ritual burials for hares were common, and in 51 B.C.E., Julius Caesar mentioned that in Britain, hares were not eaten due to their religious significance.

Caesar would likely have known that in the classical Greek tradition, hares were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Meanwhile, Aphrodite’s son Eros was often depicted carrying a hare as a symbol of unquenchable desire.

From the Greek world through the Renaissance, hares often appear as symbols of sexuality in literature and art. For example, the Virgin Mary is often shown with a white hare or rabbit, symbolizing that she overcame sexual temptation.

b0j5f-easter3But it is in the folk traditions of England and Germany that the figure of the hare is specifically connected to Easter. Accounts from the 1600s in Germany describe children hunting for Easter eggs hidden by the Easter hare, much as in the United States today.

Written accounts from England around the same time also mention the Easter hare, particularly in terms of traditional Easter hare hunts and the eating of hare meat at Easter. One tradition, known as the “Hare Pie Scramble,” was held at Hallaton, a village in Leicestershire, England. It involved eating a pie made with hare meat and people “scrambling” for a slice. In 1790, the local parson tried to stop the custom due to its pagan associations, but he was unsuccessful, and the custom continues in that village until this day.

As for the pagan origins of Easter and the Easter bunny,

In 1835, the folklorist Jacob Grimm, one of the famous team of the fairy tale Brothers Grimm, argued that the Easter hare was connected to a goddess he imagined would have been called “Ostara” in ancient German. He derived this name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who Bede, an early medieval monk considered to be the father of English history, mentioned in 731 C.E.

Here in the U.S., there has long been a tradition of an Easter egg roll at the White House. The event will take place this year on Monday, April 18 after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. CNN: Biden White House hatches plans for return of the Egg Roll.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are taking their first crack at the time-honored Easter tradition on Monday, which will mark the 142nd White House Easter Egg Roll following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme of the event, the first lady’s office says, is “EGGucation,” with the South Lawn being “transformed into a school community” for 30,000 visitors to enjoy, including military families from the USS Delaware.

c2d445c9da7f2aad39372d58cad7c473The American Egg Board is donating 90,000 eggs to the event as part of its longtime partnership with the White House, egg board president and CEO Emily Metz told CNN. That includes approximately 50,000 hard-boiled eggs that will be used for the egg roll races with wooden spoons, the egg hunt, and for dyeing and decorating. Those eggs were hard-boiled, dyed and transported from North Carolina to Washington on a refrigerated truck by Braswell Family Farms’ John Watson, where they will be stored over the weekend ahead of Monday’s festivities.

Forty thousand additional eggs have been donated to be used for food items for guests, Metz said….

The American Egg Board will also present its annual commemorative egg to the first lady, part of a 45-year tradition beginning with the Carter administration. Artist Russ Hagen, a member of the International Egg Art Guild, was selected to paint the 2021 and 2022 commemorative eggs, a months-long undertaking that included a design to match the “EGGucation” theme created by Mary O’Reilly and the inside of a real chicken egg being blown out through a special process, leaving the shell intact, before the decoration could begin.

This year, all 45 eggs that have been presented to first ladies over the years are being displayed together for the first time in a special “Colonnade of Eggs” in the East Wing of the White House for visitors to view on tours.

As I wrote above, the WH Easter egg roll has a long history. From The White House Historical Association: Origins of the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Since 1878, American presidents and their families have celebrated Easter Monday by hosting an ‘egg roll’ party. Held on the South Lawn, it is one of the oldest annual events in White House history. Some historians note that First Lady Dolley Madison originally suggested the idea of a public egg roll, while others tell stories of informal egg-rolling parties at the White House dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Beginning in the 1870s, Washingtonians from all social levels celebrated Easter Monday on the west grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Children rolled brilliantly dyed hard-boiled eggs down the terraced lawn.

However, by 1876, a concern for the landscape led Congress to pass legislation to restrict the public use of the Capitol grounds, effectively prohibiting any future egg rolling. The new edict went unchallenged in 1877, as rain cancelled all the day’s activities, but in 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes decided to open the South Lawn to egg rollers, as it had previously been reserved for the First Family’s private Easter activities. Thus, a new tradition was born. In 1974, the Nixons hosted egg roll races, an event which has become an Easter Monday favorite.

This morning, historian Michael Bechloss posted a photo of the 1926 egg roll.

I suppose I have to include some news in this post, although I’d rather just think about cats and bunnies and Spring flowers.

The only real good news I’m seeing is that the Boston Marathon will once again be held on Monday. CNN: Runners ‘pumped’ as Boston Marathon returns to April.

The Boston Marathon returns to its traditional April date for the first time in three years on Monday with the fastest field in the race’s history, boasting a star-studded slate of previous champions and Olympic medalists.

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir leads the women’s field hot off her Tokyo Olympic gold medal and New York City Marathon victory last year, while local hero Molly Seidel is looking to build off her bronze medal at that Olympics and triumph in her first Boston Marathon.

In the men’s division, Kenya’s Benson Kipruto is looking to repeat just six months after he won at last year’s delayed race, but will face tough competition from last year’s New York winner, compatriot Albert Korir, and 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia.

“It’s exciting. It’s always cool to feel like you’re coming to your hometown race. I’m really pumped to actually go at it on this course rather than just training on it,” Seidel, an American and a former Boston resident, told Reuters on Friday.

But will the Marathon be a superspreader event? Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly in the Northeast. We’ve had well over 2,000 new cases on each of the past few days here in Massachusetts. New York is seeing more than 5,000 per day. Those are undercounts, of course, because so many people are using home tests now, but wastewater testing reveals high levels of virus in Northeastern states.

dnknw-easter1The New York Times: The Omicron BA.2 subvariant has stalled pandemic progress in the U.S.

About 30,000 marathoners from 122 countries and all 50 U.S. states will hit the streets on Monday in and around Boston, where the city’s Public Health Commission reports that the Covid positivity rate has risen to 6.6 percent, passing its “threshold of concern” of 5 percent.

The agency urged residents to mask, to test before joining indoor gatherings, to gather outdoors if possible, and to get booster shots to protect themselves and others in the coming days as Easter, Passover, Ramadan and public school vacations converge. The city’s positivity rate has risen by 4 percentage points since early March, it noted.

This month the Omicron BA.2 subvariant has flattened the steep downward glide in official case counts that Boston and the rest of the country had been on after the BA.1 surge in the winter. The turn is not unexpected, but it comes as in-person gatherings have resumed, vaccinations have flatlined, officially reported tests are falling and politicians and many Americans want an end to most restrictions.

And while hospitalizations and deaths remain on the decline nationally, concerns are rising for unvaccinated and unboosted people, who remain more vulnerable to serious illness and death.

More Covid stories to check out:

Yahoo News: It’s not over: COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in US.

The Washington Post: New, highly transmissible forms of omicron may pose latest covid threat.

FiveThirtyEight: Do Americans Care About The Latest COVID-19 Wave In The Northeast?

s-l300I’m going to post more stories as links only because I just don’t want to think about bad news today. Here’s what’s happening:

The Washington Post: Ukrainian governor says Mariupol ‘has been wiped off the face of the earth.’

Radio Free Europe: Russian Soldier And Wife Discussing Rape Of Ukrainian Women Identified By RFE/RL.

The New York Times: How Russian Media Uses Fox News to Make Its Case.

Michael Kruse at Politico: The One Way History Shows Trump’s Personality Cult Will End.

Aaron Rupar: Ron DeSantis loves using very young kids as political props.

CNN: Rotting fruit, spoiled vegetables: How Texas just made the supply chain even worse.

The New York Times: As G.O.P. Candidates Face Accusations, Rivals Tread Carefully.

Raw Story: ‘Rot wasn’t just Donald Trump’: Neal Katyal says Jan 6. Committee has proof implicating GOP leaders.

That’s it for me today. I hope you all have a nice Easter weekend.