The mainstream media, led by The New York Times, is writing the Democrat’s obituary after Terry McAuliffe’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race, but I don’t feel like writing about that. I have no idea whether the loss will affect the 2022 midterms. I don’t really want to think about it, except that I hope the Democrats will finally do something about the filibuster. There has been some talk of changing Senate rules for voting rights legislation, after Republicans once again blocked debate on the Voting Rights Act.
The New York Times: Republicans Block a Second Voting Rights Bill in the Senate.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation to restore parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by Supreme Court rulings, making it the second major voting bill to be derailed by a G.O.P. filibuster in the past two weeks.
Despite receiving majority support, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the civil rights activist and congressman who died last year, fell nine votes short of the 60 required to advance over Republican opposition.
In the aftermath of the defeat, Senate Democrats said they would intensify internal discussions about altering filibuster rules or making other changes to allow them to move forward on voting rights legislation despite deep resistance by Republicans, who have now thwarted four efforts to take up such measures.
“Just because Republicans will not join us doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, after the vote. “We will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward.”
Yesterday the Federal Reserve announced plans to deal with inflation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been affected by the rising food prices. Even though we’re getting the biggest Social Security increase in a very long time, it isn’t going to be enough. The New York Times: Fed Takes First Step Toward End of Pandemic Measures.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took its first step toward withdrawing support for the American economy, saying that it would begin to wind down a stimulus program that’s been in place since early in the pandemic as the economy heals and prices climb at an uncomfortably rapid pace.
Central bank policymakers struck a slightly more wary tone about inflation, which has jumped this year amid booming consumer demand for goods and supply snarls. While officials still expect quick cost increases to fade, how quickly that will happen is unclear.
Fed officials want to be prepared for any outcome at a time when the economy’s trajectory is marked by grave uncertainty. They are not sure when prices will begin to calm down, to what extent the labor market will recover the millions of jobs still missing after last year’s economic slump, or when they will begin to raise interest rates — which remain at rock-bottom to keep borrowing and spending cheap and easy.
So the central bank’s decision to dial back its other policy tool, large-scale bond purchases that keep money flowing through financial markets, was meant to give the Fed flexibility it might need to react to a shifting situation. Officials on Wednesday laid out a plan to slow their $120 billion in monthly Treasury bond and mortgage-backed security purchases by $15 billion a month starting in November. The purchases can lower long term interest rates and prod investors into investments that would spur growth.
Assuming that pace holds, the bond buying would stop altogether around the time of the central bank’s meeting next June — potentially putting the Fed in a position to lift interest rates by the middle of next year.
John Durham’s “investigation” into the origins of the FBI/DOJ investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia is beginning to look like a real witch hunt. The New York Times: Authorities Arrest Analyst Who Contributed to Steele Dossier.
Federal authorities on Thursday arrested an analyst who in 2016 gathered leads about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia for what turned out to be Democratic-funded opposition research, according to people familiar with the matter.
The arrest of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, is part of the special counsel inquiry led by John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, the people said.
Mr. Danchenko, was the primary researcher of the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium of rumors and unproven assertions suggesting that Mr. Trump and his 2016 campaign were compromised by and conspiring with Russian intelligence officials in Moscow’s covert operation to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.
The people familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment of Mr. Danchenko had yet to be unsealed. A spokesman for Mr. Durham did not respond to a request for comment.
So this information was leaked without any indication of what the basis of the arrest was. What laws did Danchenko break? The last Durham arrest was hinky too.
The charges against Mr. Danchenko follow Mr. Durham’s indictment in September of a cybersecurity lawyer, Michael Sussmann, which accused him of lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for when he brought concerns about possible Trump-Russia links to the bureau in September 2016.
Mr. Sussmann, who then also worked for Perkins Coie, was relaying concerns developed by data scientists about odd internet logs they said suggested the possibility of a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked financial institution. He has denied lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for.
Today is the hearing about whether Trump has any right to claim executive privilege over documents related to the January 6 insurrection. CNN: High-stakes hearing Thursday in Trump effort to block release of presidential documents.
The power Donald Trump holds as a former president will be put to the test on Thursday, as a federal judge is set to hear arguments on whether Trump can keep secret records from his White House about his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump has asked the DC District Court to block the National Archives from giving more than 700 pages of documents to the House Select Committee investigating January 6. He’s claimed the House’s investigation is illegitimate, and that his role as a former President should give him control over reviewing and deciding upon access to the records.
The hearing may be the pivotal moment in a potentially historic legal fight about the authority of a former president, the House’s investigative power and the reach of executive privilege….
In the short term, the case also may have huge implications for the bipartisan House investigation, which is pushing for records and witnesses before the midterm elections take place next year. Without access to the documents, the House could be hampered significantly in its fact-finding.
In court, the House has cast its investigation as one of its most critical tasks in history. “In 2021, for the first time since the Civil War, the Nation did not experience a peaceful transfer of power,” lawyers for the House wrote over the weekend. “A peaceful transfer of power from one President to another is crucial to the continuation of our democratic government. It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome that pressing legislative need.
This happened yesterday in the trial of the Charlottesville rally organizers. Buzzfeed News: A Renowned Holocaust Historian Testified That Charlottesville Rally Organizers’ Messages Were A “Call To Arms”
Neo-Nazis Christopher Cantwell and Matthew Heimbach on Wednesday seemed almost to forget for a moment that they were in a court of law and defendants in a civil case that could potentially bankrupt them and take down the white nationalist groups with which they’re associated.
“What’s your favorite Holocaust joke?” Cantwell, who is representing himself in court, asked Heimbach, who was called to the stand by the plaintiffs as a witness, during cross-examination….
The strategy behind Cantwell’s line of questioning wasn’t immediately clear, and attorneys for the plaintiffs interjected before any jokes were uttered. But Cantwell, who had previously gone on bizarre courtroom tangents, and Heimbach spent nearly an hour talking about their adoration for Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, the dictator’s book Mein Kampf, and their belief that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Hitler, Heimbach testified, “did nothing wrong” in murdering some 6 million Jews.
The exchange between the two neo-Nazis contrasted sharply with the testimony by Deborah Lipstadt, an acclaimed Holocaust scholar and professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University.
On Friday, former CIA chief and retired General David Petraeus testified about the Benghazi attacks at a closed Congressional hearing that included members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Petraeus testified that after the attack, he immediately suspected terrorism, but initially it was thought that a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video had provided cover for the terrorists. The CIA prepared a draft of talking points that were then circulated to other intelligence offices for vetting. At some point a line that named some groups allied with al Qaeda was removed from the draft. According to the NYT, the references to the groups were removed in order to “avoid tipping them off” to the investigation.
“The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” said a senior official familiar with the drafting of the talking points. “There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly.”
Some intelligence analysts worried, for instance, that identifying the groups could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants — a fact most insurgents are already aware of. Justice Department lawyers expressed concern about jeopardizing the F.B.I.’s criminal inquiry in the attacks. Other officials voiced concern that making the names public, at least right away, would create a circular reporting loop and hamper efforts to trail the militants.
Democrats said Mr. Petraeus made it clear the change had not been done for political reasons to aid Mr. Obama. “The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California.
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, said that Mr. Petraeus explained to lawmakers that the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Mr. Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice was designated as the White House spokesperson who would appear on Sunday morning shows five days after the attack and explain what was known thus far. Rice used the talking points she was given, explaining that the investigations was ongoing. She did not say what John McCain keeps insisting she said–that the attacks definitely arose out of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by the film and by numerous demonstrations in Egypt and other countries. Here are the talking points:
“The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
“This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
“The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.”
Basically, Petraeus’ testimony exonerated Rice of Republican accusations that she deliberately covered up evidence that terrorists had attacked the consulate.
Why on earth would Rice have done that anyway? Who the hell didn’t consider an attack on a U.S. consulate and the murders of Ambassador Stevens and three other State Department employees to be terrorist acts? As Mitt Romney learned during the second presidential debate, President Obama referred to the attacks as terrorist acts the very next day in his Rose Garden speech. Why would the White House try to cover up a terrorist attack on a consulate? That makes no sense. There were many terrorist attacks on embassies during the Bush administration–did any of those lead to these kinds of accusations and conspiracy theories? This entire “controversy” is complete nonsense, and everyone knows it at this point.
But the witch hunt continues. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans were invited on the Sunday shows so they could continue their bizarre accusations against the Obama administration and Susan Rice.
Yesterday, according to TPM, McCain
said that nothing he learned in a closed-door briefing Friday with former CIA Director David Petraeus would change his criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s initial public statements about the Sept.11 Benghazi attack.
Asked Saturday at a press conference at the Halifax International Security Forum if anything he was told by Petraeus would change his assessment of what Rice knew and the statements she made, McCain said, “No, because I knew it was a terrorist attack from the beginning. People don’t go to spontaneous demonstrations with mortars and RPGs.”
Again, anyone with half a brain immediately knew that the attack was, by definition, terrorism. Duh! But we’re supposed to be impressed that McCain knew it too?
McCain reiterated that it should have been immediately apparent to the administration that the Benghazi attack was not triggered by Libyan demonstrators protesting an anti-Muslim YouTube video. “There were people who were at the consulate who flew to Germany the next day. They knew there was no spontaneous demonstration. They knew that. And they were interviewed. So there should have been no doubt whatsoever of that,” McCain said.
So? Why should we care about such a picayune point? President Obama has said that an investigation is needed and is ongoing. He has said that any and all information on the attacks and the investigation will be provided to Congress. Where is the beef here?
Yesterday Dana Millbank piled on, claiming Rice has a “tarnished resume” and that she’s “ill-equipped to be the nation’s top diplomat for reasons that have little to do with Libya.”
Even in a town that rewards sharp elbows and brusque personalities, Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad. Particularly in comparison with the other person often mentioned for the job, Sen. John Kerry, she can be a most undiplomatic diplomat, and there likely aren’t enough Republican or Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm her.
Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Among those she has insulted is the woman she would replace at State. Rice was one of the first former Clinton administration officials to defect to Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Rice condemned Clinton’s Iraq and Iran positions, asking for an “explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”
That may well be. I know very little about Rice, and I do recall she was aggressive toward Hillary in 2008–but that was her job as foreign policy adviser to an opposing candidate. Rice also insulted McCain in 2008, according to Millbank.
Rice’s put-down of Clinton was tame compared with her portrayal of McCain during 2008, which no doubt contributes to McCain’s hostility toward her today. She mocked McCain’s trip to Iraq (“strolling around the market in a flak jacket”), called his policies “reckless” and said “his tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s dangerous.”
I’d say that’s a pretty good description of McCain and his policies, even though it may seem harsh to Millbank. McCain is a publicity hound and he tends to go off half-cocked, as his campaign against Rice clearly demonstrates. But perhaps this does provide a bit of insight into McCain’s hatred of Rice. Apparently he will soon lose his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee, and he may simply be searching for away to remain relevant in the Senate.
This morning, Maureen Dowd claimed that Rice sought out the opportunity to speak for the White House on Beghazi.
Ambitious to be secretary of state, Susan Rice wanted to prove she had the gravitas for the job and help out the White House. So the ambassador to the United Nations agreed to a National Security Council request to go on all five Sunday shows to talk about the attack on the American consulate in Libya.
“She saw this as a great opportunity to go out and close the stature gap,” said one administration official. “She was focused on the performance, not the content. People said, ‘It’s sad because it was one of her best performances.’ But it’s not a movie, it’s the news. Everyone in politics thinks, you just get your good talking points and learn them and reiterate them on camera. But what if they’re not good talking points? What if what you’re saying isn’t true, even if you’re saying it well?”
OK, what if that were true? Does Rice deserve to be hunted down, tarred and feathered, and run out of Washington on a rail? Or should she be burned at the stake? What is the appropriate punishment for relying on unclassified talking points that didn’t reveal sensitive information five days after the attacks? Do tell, Maureen.
How much longer is this nonsense going to continue? Are we going to go through another “Whitewater” investigation, based on little or nothing of significance? It sure looks that way.
Let’s compare the reaction of the media and the Republicans to the Benghazi attacks and the reaction of the media and Democrats to the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 people. The Bush administration had innumerable warnings that attacks were coming, and they did absolutely nothing to prevent them. They pooh-poohed warnings by the Clinton administration that terrorism was a vital concern. After the attacks, the Bush administration resisted having Congressional investigations for two years!
There were no specific warnings about the Benghazi attacks, although there were many vague warnings and threats. Four State Department employees were killed in Benghazi–a terrible tragedy. But does anyone truly believe that John McCain cares about these murders? If he did, he wouldn’t be focusing on one supposed misstatement by Susan Rice or some minor disagreement about how talking points were prepared.
No, if McCain gave a shit, he’d be looking into ways to prevent attacks like the ones in Benghazi in the future. One way to do that might be to provide adequate protection for U.S. diplomats, right? But Republican refused to vote for increased funds for such State Department security needs.
Here’s an interesting piece at The Atlantic, in which David Rohde argues that both parties have ignored the “primary lesson” of Benghazi: Diplomacy Can’t Be Done on the Cheap.
One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security. Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us….
The slapdash security that killed Stevens, technician Sean Smith and CIA guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty started with a seemingly inconsequential decision by Libya’s new government. After the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s interim government barred armed private security firms – foreign and domestic – from operating anywhere in the country.
So the State Department was forced to cobble together inadequate protection for the Libyan embassy and its outposts, because they have become reliant on outside contractors instead of building their own in-house security corps. According to Rohde,
Resource shortages and a reliance on contractors caused bitter divisions between field officers in Benghazi and State Department managers in Washington.
One agent who served on the ground in Benghazi felt the compound needed five times as many Diplomatic Security agents, according to a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official singled out Charlene Lamb, the Diplomatic Security Service official who oversees security in Washington, for criticism — saying she rejected repeated requests for additional improvements in Benghazi….
Lamb’s superior, David Kennedy, has defended her. He argued that a handful of additional Diplomatic Security guards in Benghazi – or the Special Forces team in Tripoli – would not have made a difference.
To date, no evidence has emerged that officials higher than Lamb or Kennedy were involved in the decision to reject the requests from Libya. Both are career civil servants, not Obama administration appointees.
Now this issue would be well worth investigating and correcting! But it doesn’t involve political employees like Susan Rice who can be pilloried for the Republicans’ political purposes. I’ve always believed the use of contractors was a huge mistake, but the Bush administration even turned much of our war-making in Iraq and Afghanistan. So correcting this problem would be hugely expensive and would require bi-partisan cooperation.
Instead, Republicans will continue to focus on minor issues, hoping to build them into impeachable offenses. And Susan Rice may be the designated scapegoat if they can’t get to Obama himself.
This has developed into an overly long rant, so I’ll bring it to a close by saying that I’m no great fan of Susan Rice, and frankly I’d prefer John Kerry as Secretary of State. But the current nonsensical fight over the talking points Rice used on Sunday Shows is childish and ridiculous. I don’t know how much more of it I can stand.